Saturday, August 24, 2013

Jennifer Lien Turns 39: A Portrait Of Kes

                               Within the vast world of Star Trek characters,I cannot think of one particular character more under-appreciated then that of Kes. She was portrayed by Jennifer Lien,a former daytime drama actress who showed tremendous range and versitility in a role that was somewhat unique even in the history of Star Trek: a character whose lifespan would only extend for nine years. At first Kes seemed to be written in to be a romantic foil for Neelix,who was predicted long before Star Trek: Voyager actually aired it's pilot to be the shows break out character. When that concept for Neelix didn't pan out,the character of Kes grew in more ways than one.

                             The crew of the U.S.S. Voyager first encountered Kes during Neelix's attempt to barter with the Kazon Ogla for water in order to facilitate her release from the Ogla's servitude on the Ocampa home world from which she came. Following Captain Janeway's destruction of the Caretaker's array, Kes managed to help convince Neelix that they should stay on and help the crew that had rescued both of them in their long journey home. While attending the crews first conference after being stranded in the Delta Quadrant,Kes suggested that an hydroponics bay be constructed in order to grow fresh fruits,vegetables and grains to amend their shortened food supply. She also subsequent became a student medical assistant to the ships EMH doctor.

                               During her time on Voyager, Kes made some very unexpected discoveries. For one,an alien influence was almost able to induce premature labor in her years before expected. Not only that but,following an encounter with an array of Ocampa under the influence of the Caretakers partner Susperia, she began to learn of her unused and advanced psychokinetic abilities.  Weary of her lover Neelix's jealousy towards her friend Tom Paris,Kes broke off their relationship following an evil alien warlords manipulation of her emotional thought processes. She began to develop her own life and experiences-at one point even living backwards from the moment of her own death. Following her encounter with the Borg and Species 8472, Kes found her psychokinetic abilities evolving to the point where she decided to leave the Voyager crew and evolve to a higher level. Although this resulted in a revelation that left her vengeful to Janeway and her crew,an encounter with her past self changed her mind in the end as she returned to her home world.

                              Though characters leave shows all the time, the outing of Jennifer Lien's Kes character was far from happy or willing. Speaking strictly as an outsider reading what was said in various publications at that time, Voyager was not fearing particularly well critically as a series in it's second and third seasons. And the character of Kes was constantly blamed as one reason. Lien portrayed the character with a sweet,gentle manner and a quiet intellect. Someone who was often the voice of reason when some of the different characters on Voyager were in conflict. Despite all this and a character who was full of surprises,fact is she just didn't quite fit the criteria of the shows presumed 18-35 year old male viewing demographic. She was rather unceremoniously replaced by Jeri Ryan's Seven Of Nine-originally intended seemingly to up ratings as a cat suited half human chanteuse  Though Ryan's equally strong acting acumen made her more than a worthy addition to the show, Kes remains by far one of my personal very favorite Star Trek characters.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Cirroc Lofton Turns 35: A Portrait Of Jake Sisko

                           In keeping with Star Trek's second generation tradition of showcasing family life in Starfleet's 24th century galactic ventures, the first post Gene Roddenberry spin off Deep Space Nine presented an idea that was somewhat the reverse of how Wesley Crusher was presented in The Next Generation; a widower single father in a very trying command situation. Cirroc Lofton,who is celebrating his 35th birthday today, portrayed the character of Jake Sisko. He lost his mother in the battle of Wolf 359 with the Borg as a preteen. When Jake first arrived on Deep Space Nine, he found the conditions less the satisfying. Like Wesley Jake was what we might refer to today as a "space brat"-a child raised on different starships travelling from this sector of the galaxy to that. However his destiny would be somewhat different.

                           Whereas Wesley was a wunderkind with unique abilities that needed to be nurtured, Jake Sisko was a fairly typical teenager who was more interested in his immediate concerns than in hyper achievement. His father,played by Avery Brooks, continually expressed concern not only at his academic laissez faire but in his choice of best friend-the lascivious miscreant Ferengi teenager Nog. Interestingly enough it was Nog's later drive to attend Starfleet Academy that contrasted strongly with Jake's career decision. He made it clear that he didn't wish to follow in his father's footsteps in Starfleet-speculatively because of the death of his mother on a Starfleet vessel. Finding during his years attending the station school run by Keiko O'Brien a talent for writing, Jake realized he had a fertile imagination and started to contemplate a serious career as a writer.

                               This ambition came to a head when the Cardassians,original owners of the station,joined forces with the imperially corrupted Dominion from the Gamma Quadrant  decided to take back Deep Space Nine. Though his father and the other Starfleet personnel fled, Jake stayed behind as a journalist. Of course during the proceeding year he had gained much field experience in that direction as a free lance correspondent during the conflict with the Klingons. When his father left Deep Space Nine to live with what turned out to be his own people in the Bajoran Wormhole, Jake stayed behind on Deep Space Nine-the space station his father worked to rebuild,to continue pursuing his own life. I would like to wish Mister Loften a wonderful birthday and good luck on the hip-hop CD he is supposed to be recording at the present time.