Mark Watches ‘Voyager’: S04E02 – The Gift

In the second episode of the fourth season of Voyager, two transformations occur, and one heart is broken: MINE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Trigger Warning: For talk of consent, nonconsensual medical procedures, kidnapping.

I’m fucked up.

Seven of Nine

The easiest way for me to talk about this is by character, though I want to start here: Janeway is in nearly every scene, and this episode is just one giant example of how Kate Mulgrew is one of the best things about Voyager. Her performance is raw, frightening, and powerful, and I cannot imagine this show without her. On a smaller scale, she is the force that ties “The Gift” together, too, since she’s the character who interacts most with both people transforming here.

And it’s fascinating to see how she treats Seven of Nine differently than Kes. There’s a moment during one of their first interactions where we see Janeway’s toughness come through, and it struck me. Why did she speak to Seven of Nine that way when normally, Janeway is the one quickest to empathize or sympathize with people in difficult circumstances? The answer to that lies in how Janeway views Seven of Nine. Repeatedly throughout “The Gift,” Seven of Nine refers to the Borg in exactly the way we expect. She speaks as if she is still part of the collective because it’s all she’s known.

But to Janeway, the Borg happened to young Annika. To Seven of Nine, it’s her identity. That’s the key distinction here, and thus, Janeway operates in a completely different context. It’s why she spoke to Seven of Nine in ways that echoed commands of the Borg. That doesn’t make this episode any less uncomfortable, of course, since they main conflict is about consent. Janeway and Starfleet and humanity in general values free will above practically anything else, yet Janeway appoints herself as the one to make decisions for Seven of Nine. And on its face, how does that seem fair? Even the show itself addresses the hypocrisy, both through Seven of Nine’s dialogue and by showing Janeway refuse to make Kes’s decision for her. The Doctor vocalizes his discomfort with Seven of Nine, too! He’s ethically obligated to not treat someone if they tell him not to.

So Janeway frames it differently: Annika was kidnapped as a child by the Borg and assimilated, so therefore, at heart, she is still human. Logically, no human would willingly consent to that, so the Borg’s influence is too strong in Seven of Nine. She cannot fully understand what was done to her because practically all she knows is eighteen years of being a Borg drone. Therefore: Janeway makes her decisions for her. At the same time, the writers do not make this easy for literally everyone involved, but especially for Seven of Nine, who is subjected to treatment she does not want. It is agonizing to watch, and at the very least, I appreciate that was portrayed as such. Even as Seven of Nine begins to slowly accept her fate onboard the ship, she still doesn’t transition easily. And why should she? If this was going to happen, the show should not make the decision smooth for Janeway. (Was anyone else getting “Tuvix” vibes from this episode?)

For the most part, this isn’t rushed. At the end of “The Gift,” we only have a vague sense of Seven of Nine’s humanity. I did expect that her physical transformation would take a lot longer, so I found it strange that she looked so human in that final scene. Still, it looks like she’s gonna be around for a long time on this show, so I’m very eager to see her development. AND TO GET A BILLION SCENES OF HER WITH JANEWAY BECAUSE OH MY GOD, THEY HAVE INCREDIBLE CHEMISTRY.

Kes

Not only did this show knock it out of the park with Janeway and Seven of Nine, but KES FINALLY ADDRESSED HER BREAK-UP WITH NEELIX TO HIS FACE. It’s way overdue, but FINALLY. Of course, the context of that conversation is heartbreaking, and I admit to feeling a little weird that as the show gains a new character who is a woman, we have to lose another one. MORE WOMEN ALL THE TIME. Still, I can say that I’m just glad that Kes wasn’t killed off, and I’m even more pleased that her character was given a full arc. I have no clue what behind-the-scenes shit explains why Jennifer Lien left since I don’t research that stuff to avoid being spoiled. All I’ve got to go on is the story itself. Does it work? Is her exit meaningful? Did it respect her character?

While the development of Kes’s psychokinetic powers were a tad rushed, they were still there, and they were definitely hinted at for a long, long time. Her transformation here is the result of a thread planted in the very beginning of the series. The Ocampans never got to explore their full potential as psychic beings, and Kes, by leaving home, got to access a part of her that her people never did. In doing so, she still acknowledged the importance of her travels on Voyager and her relationship with Neelix, too. These things are not ignored. As she evolved throughout “The Gift,” we also got to see her overjoyed with her transformation, a stark contrast to what Seven of Nine was going through. But you know what? I needed to see that. Kes’s exit was not a sad one. Bittersweet, yes, and her huge goodbye scene with Janeway made me cry. (Whew, please don’t cry again, Janeway, THANKS.)

However, her character got to make the choice in this story. She didn’t leave solely because her fluctuating state was a danger to the ship; she left to become something more. I have a thin hope that this means she can come back at some point along the way, and I’m not ecstatic that her character is gone so soon. But hey! She’s not dead, and Kes got to go out on her own terms.

WHICH INCLUDES USING HER POWERS TO SEND VOYAGER OVER 9,500 LIGHT YEARS AHEAD AND CUTTING TEN YEARS OFF THEIR JOURNEY. I’M NOT CRYING WE ARE CRYING. A collective cry, I tell you.

The video for “The Gift” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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