Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga and Bryan Fuller & Michael Taylor
Directed by John Bruno
Season 6, Episode 23
Production episode 241
Original air date: May 3, 2000
Captain’s log. Janeway surprises Tuvok with a birthday cake—and also with the knowledge that it’s his birthday, which she says she only discovered after significant research—and then Voyager detects a vessel. It’s Kes, looking much older, asking for permission to come aboard.
However, instead of docking in the shuttlebay, Kes instead makes a kamikaze run at the ship and beams on board, destroying bulkheads and throwing security guards around corridors before arriving in engineering and killing Torres before communing with the warp core and disappearing.
She goes back in time to 2371, altering her appearance so she looks like she did in the first season. She bluffs her way past Torres in engineering and the EMH in sickbay (the EMH is babbling on about what name he might choose for himself). Her trip to sickbay is to obtain a sedative to give on her younger counterpart, which she does in airponics, placing her comatose form in a weirdly convenient drawer under the plants.
Kes then goes to the mess hall to grab some coffee to bring to Janeway, breaking a date with Neelix along the way. She walks in on Janeway and Chakotay discussing the Vidiians, who have been pursuing them from a distance. After Tuvok summons them to the bridge, Kes “accidentally” spills some coffee, and stays behind to clean it up—and then use Janeway’s computer.
Wildman has devised a neural agent that would attack the Vidiians’ compromised immune systems, but wouldn’t harm any of the healthy folks on Voyager. Janeway likes this idea and tells her to work with the EMH to synthesize it.
When Kes leaves the ready room, Tuvok sees her and senses something odd. From that moment forward, Tuvok starts to get premonitions: he sees Naomi, Seven, Azan, and Rebi, and offhandedly mentions the yet-to-be-built Delta Flyer in a staff meeting. He shares this with Janeway, and they’re both concerned—while Vulcans are telepaths, they’re not precognitives. Janeway orders the ship’s computer to scan the region around Tuvok from this point forward. Later, Janeway is in sickbay where Wildman and the EMH are working on the neural agent. Janeway orders the EMH to reveal whether or not Wildman is pregnant, citing the security of the ship, and the EMH says that she’s having a girl. Now Janeway is really worried.
Voyager is trying to avoid the Vidiians by flying through a field of subspace vacuoles. The ship is going to be on autopilot, going at warp for a bit, slowing down, making course corrections to avoid the vacuoles, then going to warp, a total of 216 times. Paris goes to take a shuttle to thoroughly scan the vacuoles and finds Kes there. She’s plotting a course to Ocampa, though she bluffs Paris and says she’s just checking on her home out of curiosity. Kes also contacts the Vidiian captain and offers tactical data and their route through the vacuoles in exchange for a ride to Ocampa for two people. When the Vidiian asks why she’s sacrificing her crewmates that way, Kes says they aren’t her crewmates, that they abandoned her a long time ago.
As Voyager is navigating the vacuoles, Tuvok hallucinates Kes’s ship arriving five years hence. He then asks to be relieved, and finds himself in engineering, drawn to the warp core, while having auditory hallucinations of the events of the beginning of the episode. In engineering, he collapses, and Torres gets him to sickbay. He’s in synaptic shock and sedated for his own safety. Janeway checks the computer scan she set up at the time Tuvok collapsed, and detects a huge spike in tachyon activity around him. This could mean time travel.
The Vidiians ambush them and board the ship, having adjusted to Voyager’s shield frequencies and physically clamped themselves onto Voyager’s hull. Environmental controls are sabotaged, keeping them from unleashing Wildman’s neural agent. It’s obvious that the Vidiians have some help from on board Voyager. Chakotay detects an electromagnetic fluctuation in airponics, and then a scan reveals two Keses. Leaving Chakotay in charge of the bridge—where he works with Kim to shake the Vidiians loose—Janeway heads down to airponics.
There, she sees Kes taking her younger counterpart out of the drawer. Kes explains that she’s taking her younger self back to Ocampa. She claims she was a naïve child when she came on board, corrupted by Janeway’s tales of discovery and adventure, and found herself with powers she couldn’t understand or control. So she’s trying to change history in her favor. Janeway is forced to kill Kes. She, Tuvok, and Kes then hatch a plan to fix things, involving Kes recording a message to her older self.
Fast forward five years. Kes’ ship arrives just after Janeway gives Tuvok his birthday cake. Janeway mutters that she almost forgot, and she and Tuvok exchange a look. This time Janeway orders red alert and has deck eleven cleared. Janeway then confronts Kes in engineering just as the holorecording Kes made five years earlier plays, urging older Kes not to blame the people she loves for decisions that she made. Kes calms down and agrees to not go back in time, but instead to return to Ocampa as an old woman. Neelix, Janeway, and Tuvok see her off, the former giving her a care package of snacks.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? This episode establishes out loud what has always been implied by how warp drive has functioned: you travel at warp in a straight line without changes in direction. Paris comments that the first rule of FTL piloting is, “Faster than light, no left or right.”
There’s coffee in that nebula! Apparently, Janeway knew about Kes’ eventual fate and Wildman’s pregnancy and the construction of the Delta Flyer and pretended like she was surprised by the first two in “The Gift” and “Elogium,” respectively and resisted the notion of constructing the latter up until “Extreme Risk.” Sure.
Mr. Vulcan. Apparently, Janeway—who should have access to the service records of everyone under her command—took twenty years to finally figure out Tuvok’s birthday. Which, again, should be part of his service record. Sure.
Half and half. Torres is killed by Kes. This is barely acknowledged—Paris looks constipated on the bridge for a moment, at least. Then again, the other twenty-plus deaths on board have barely been acknowledged, so maybe Voyager is just filled with sociopaths…
Everybody comes to Neelix’s. In 2371, we see Neelix’s first hilarious attempt at a cheeseburger, and he also leaves dinner, music, and a set table in Kes’ quarters for when she goes off duty. In 2376, he gets to say goodbye to her, and it’s a very touching moment.
Please state the nature of the medical emergency. In 2371, the EMH is struggling to choose a name, and is considering Pyong Ko (a twenty-first-century surgeon who helped cure cancer), as well as Albert Schweitzer, Robert Jarvik, and Louis Pasteur.
Resistance is futile. Seven and Kes have their one and only face-to-face scene in the entire series when Kes shows up in engineering and Seven says, “State your intentions.” Kes’ response is to telekinetically toss Seven into a console.
No sex please, we’re Starfleet. In 2371, Neelix has reserved holodeck time for him and Kes. In 2376, Kes is incredibly cold to Neelix, even when he is all sappy and gives her a snack for the road.
“It was a fire hazard.”
–Tuvok’s justification to Janeway for blowing out the candle on his birthday cake even though it isn’t a Vulcan tradition.
Welcome aboard. It’s old home week, as we get lots of folks we haven’t seen in a while. The big one, of course, is Jennifer Lien, returning to her role as Kes, having not been seen since she “ascended” in “The Gift.” We’ve also got Josh Clark, who makes a cameo as Joe Carey, having not been seen since “Relativity” (and who’ll next be seen, finally in the present day, in “Friendship One”), and Nancy Hower as Wildman, having not been seen since “Once Upon a Time.” We also get appearances by recurring regulars Scarlett Pomers and Kurt & Cody Wetherill as Tuvok’s hallucinations of Naomi, Azan, and Rebi. And recurring extra Tarik Ergin gets a rare line of dialogue as Ayala right before Kes throws a bulkhead at him.
And finally we have the mighty Vaughn Armstrong as the Vidiian captain, making his third appearance on this show (after playing Telek R’Mor in “Eye of the Needle” and Lansor in “Survival Instinct”), and his sixth role all together, having also played a Klingon in TNG’s “Heart of Glory” and two different Cardassians in DS9’s “Past Prologue,” “When It Rains…” and “The Dogs of War.” He’ll be back in “Flesh and Blood” as a Hirogen and “Endgame” as a Klingon, and have the recurring role of Admiral Forrest in Enterprise (while also at different times playing a Klingon and a Kreetassan on that show).
The 2371 portions of the episode don’t have a stardate, though they are stated to be only fifty-six days after “Caretaker.” This sequence has to take place after “Phage,” since the Vidiians are a known hostile species, and before “Heroes and Demons,” as the EMH is still considering Schweitzer as a name, a possible choice that he no longer considers after the events of that episode.
In 2371, Paris offers to teach Kes how to fly a shuttle, something we’ll see him doing in “Parturition.”
Janeway comments in 2376 that Tuvok is approaching “three digits” in age, which contradicts both “Flashback”—which established that Tuvok was twenty-nine in 2293, which meant he’d have hit three digits back in 2364—and the upcoming “Unimatrix, Part II” that will firmly establish his age as 113. Of course, Janeway could be talking about Vulcan years…
In 2371, Tuvok’s uniform mistakenly has two solid pips and one hollow pip, indicating that he’s a lieutenant commander, when he’s still a lieutenant. Having said that, in the first season of the show, his uniform also mistakenly had lieutenant commander’s pips before it was fixed for season two, so is it really a mistake?
This episode was conceived by Rick Berman as a vehicle for bringing Lien back as Kes, though there was no story yet when he approached Lien about returning.
The EMH comments that Ktarians have an unusually long gestation period, which retroactively explains why Wildman’s pregnancy went on so frickin’ long, as Naomi was conceived prior to “Caretaker” but not born until twenty-one episodes into season two.
The String Theory novel trilogy by Jeffrey Lang, Kirsten Beyer, and Heather Jarman establishes that the being who appears in this episode isn’t actually Kes as such but a manifestation of her dark side that came into being after Kes went back in time to help create an Ocampa/Nacene hybrid being.
While this is Kes’s last on-screen appearance, she’s seen in both the novel The Eternal Tide by Beyer, where she helps one of the Q resurrect Janeway, and the short story “Restoration” by Penny A. Proctor in Strange New Worlds V, where she restores the Ocampa homeworld’s biosphere.
This is also the last on-screen appearance of Wildman, though Naomi will continue to recur. Wildman will also appear in several works of tie-in fiction after this, including Homecoming and Old Wounds by Christie Golden and Atonement by Beyer, and she’ll also play a part in Star Trek Online.
This episode establishes that Janeway and Tuvok’s friendship dates back twenty years and that Voyager is the third starship they’ve served on together.
Set a course for home. “Goodbye, Kes.” What an unmitigated disaster of an episode.
I can understand why my friends and colleagues Jeffrey Lang, Kirsten Beyer, and Heather Jarman figured out a way to establish that this wasn’t really Kes, because this episode is just an insult to the character as established in the first season. What’s worse is that the episode itself acknowledges this…
The notion of Kes deciding to blame Janeway and the gang for all her troubles could work if, at any point, we were told what those troubles were. If something happened to her that made her turn against Voyager. But we’re never told what that is. We just see Kes being pissy and blowing up corridors and killing Torres and then going back in time to keep herself from being corrupted by Voyager.
The middle part is a fun little exercise in “let’s revisit the first season,” with the EMH still limited to sickbay and Kes as his assistant and Janeway with her bun and fighting the Vidiians and no Naomi or various ex-Borg. I especially like the way Chakotay does a good job taking charge of the fight against the Vidiians as well as Paris’s comment to Kes that he’s one of the few people on board who’s in no rush to get back home. (“I get to fly a state-of-the-art ship and there’s no admirals in sight.”)
But then Janeway kills Kes, which seems to have no impact on the captain whatsoever. Indeed, the script acts as if the characters know that the reset button is going to be hit, so nobody seems to care all that much about the deaths of Torres or Kes, since they’re going to be resurrected anyhow. They can’t even be bothered to pretend to care.
Not that Kes should be killed by phaser fire. Her super powers are changeable depending on the needs of the plot that nanosecond, and change the subsequent nanosecond. First she can rend duranium with a thought and is resistant to phaser fire and can leap tall buildings in a single bound, and the next Janeway is barely affected by Kes knocking her into a bulkhead and Kes is suddenly vulnerable to phaser fire.
And then we have the idiotic time paradox. Somehow we’re supposed to believe that, during the entirety of the show since the mid-first season, Janeway, Tuvok, and Kes knew all kinds of things about the future, like that they’d get a bunch of ex-Borg on board, like that Wildman was pregnant, like that Kes would turn all glowy and powerful, like that they’d have a mid-range vessel called the Delta Flyer, and didn’t say anything about it, and indeed pretended like they didn’t know it. And somehow we’re supposed to believe that Kes would just forget about the message she composed to herself.
What’s hilarious is that that message feels like it’s coming from Kes to the four staffmembers who wrote the episode. Young Kes comes out and says that Kes is acting out of character here. And Kes just says, “Oh yeah,” and everything is fine. And then Kes doesn’t go back in time, and Torres is still alive—but how did Tuvok, Janeway, and young Kes find out about this attack if Kes never came back in time? Usually Star Trek, even with its wobbly and inconsistent relationship with time travel, has some manner of internally-within-the-episode consistency about temporal physics. But this episode doesn’t seem to give a shit.
Lien’s performance is terrible, too. We don’t get any sense of the titular fury, she just looks tired. Unfortunately, that extends to her brief portrayals of young Kes, too. There’s no emotional content to her performance, which is a problem insofar as the script hasn’t provided much of one, either.
There were so many wonderful ways to bring Kes back. Instead, we got this insult.
Warp factor rating: 1
Keith R.A. DeCandido has a story in the upcoming anthology Devilish and Divine, which features stories about angels and demons, which is now available for preorder from eSpec Books. Keith read his story, “Unguarded,” as part of his KRAD COVID readings series of short fiction readings on YouTube.