Ranking Star Trek: Voyager’s characters from worst to best.
Star Trek: Voyager was a show of extremes. Even though it was remembered as the runt of the litter of 90s Star Trek, it had its highlights. Back in the days of episodic TV, when there were 26-odd episodes to a season, there was a lot of room for both highs and lows, and on Voyager, the highs were high, and the lows were low. Just like Voyager had both great and terrible episodes, it had both great and terrible characters.
It’s hard to know where to start in talking about what was wrong with Kes, easily the worst character in the main cast of any Star Trek show. Kes was a big nothing of a character. She exemplified what was wrong with the writing on Voyager, in that nothing was made of some potentially interesting ideas.
Kes’s people, the Ocampa had psychic abilities which they’d lost and all but forgotten when they were forced to live underground after an ecological disaster. As the first Ocampan to leave the homeworld in generations, her powers were beginning to manifest, and even she did not know how powerful she’d become. Foreshadowing that she may become too powerful for the safety of the rest of the crew went nowhere, which was frustrating, as that would’ve given her a darker side. Instead, she remained blandly two-dimensional. The one time she almost displayed a sense of humor, it turned out to be a hallucination.
It may be tempting to lay the blame on actress Jennifer Lien (it still tickles me that “J. Lien” rhymes with “alien”), but reading the production notes on the character, it’s clear that she was written that way. Lien was actually doing a remarkable job of giving the producers what they (for some reason) wanted. Those production notes describe her as “fragile” and “childlike”, which speaks to the now-unavoidably problematic nature of the character. The Ocampa only live to about eight or nine years old, so as a young woman, Kes was only two. The resident hottie was canonically only two years old. Whose idea was that, and are they allowed within a hundred feet of schools and playgrounds?
It’s hard to imagine that when they needed to get rid of a character to make way for Seven of Nine’s introduction in season 4, they considered getting rid of anyone but Kes (more on that later).