Thursday, August 30, 2012

Simple Problems, Simple Solutions: “Favorite Son” Is More Mediocre Than Extraordinary.

The Good: Clever concept, Decent performance
The Bad: Where is Paris for the beginning of the episode?!, Predictable resolution, Somewhat limited make-up, Obvious ship reuses
The Basics: “Favorite Son” sets up conflicts and resolves them far too easily to be compelling or enduring television.

As I rewatch each episode of Star Trek: Voyager for review, there have been a few aspects of the show that I am catching this time around that I did not notice when the episodes were spread out during the original run. Primary among them is that there is a real relationship between Captain Janeway and Harry Kim that did not seem as obvious before. Harry Kim is quickly taken under the wing of Janeway and Janeway actually has some surprisingly maternal instincts toward Harry Kim.

With “Favorite Son,” a transition begins where Janeway stops protecting Kim as much as she did in the first two and a half seasons. While she takes some risks for Harry and gives him a huge benefit of the doubt at the outset of the episode, “Favorite Son” marks the transition where Janeway starts treating Kim like he is less special and, sadly, the character begins to slip into being more of a nonentity than he was in the first two seasons.

When Voyager enters the space of a seemingly peaceful race, Ensign Kim commandeers the controls and opens fire upon them. While the attack ends fast, Torres is severely wounded and Janeway relieves Kim of duty while Tuvok investigates Kim’s assertion that the friendly ship was anything but. Kim returns to his quarters, experiences memories and nightmares and awakens with strange markings on his face. Along with the markings and a strange sense of déjà vu, Harry Kim seems to know the area of space Voyager is now in and his hunch that the Nassari vessel was going to fire turns out to be a good hunch.

When more Nassari ships attack, Voyager is herded toward Taresia, which Kim recognizes. Harry Kim’s DNA begins breaking down and it becomes clear that he is Taresian and his return to Taresia begins to cause him to remember more and more aspects of the alien planet. Kim, Tuvok, Janeway and Paris beam down to discover Taresia is 90% female and Kim wrestles with the decision to leave Voyager and remain on his home planet.

“Favorite Son” has an interesting initial concept, but it quickly becomes distracted with elements that seem designed to kill time. While the marriage ceremony does help build Taresian culture, the drug scene seems a bit forced and like filler. More than that, much of “Favorite Son” is resolved in extraordinarily simplistic ways. Much of the last act is simply Harry realizing for himself what the Doctor tells Janeway in a prior scene. As the Taresians become more defensive, they establish a dampening field that obscures communications and blocks transporters. Despite it appearing initially impenetrable, Voyager simply flies closer to the planet – into the field – and suddenly the obstacle is completely overcome. Ultimately, this leads to a very unsatisfactory and easily-derived ending.

On the character front, “Favorite Son” is far more preoccupied with explaining itself than it is truly growing Harry Kim as a character. Kim does the standard Star Trek recap, in this case with Tom Paris, but it is a simple explanation for his experience, much like the rest of the episode is simplistic.

Paris’s presence at the climax and for a scene on Taresia highlights his absence at the outset of the episode. “Favorite Son” does not afford Paris the opportunity to express shock when Kim starts firing on an apparently benign Nassari vessel. Nor does Paris have the opportunity to try to stand up for Harry. There is a missing character element in the lack of a moment between Paris and Kim early in the episode.

One of the unfortunate aspects of “Favorite Son” is in the special effects. While the make-up is a remarkably limited effect – the Taresians are almost like Trill with broken up spot patterns. This is one of the least impressive make-up effects ever done in the Star Trek pantheon and it is accented by the quality of the make-up for the Nassari and Torres’s burns. Even worse are the starships. Anyone who is a devoted fan of the Star Trek franchise will easily recognize the Nassari ship as a recolored Romulan scout ship. With the Taresian ships, Star Trek: Voyager simply reuses the Miradorn Raider ship.

As far as the acting goes, Garrett Wang effectively carries “Favorite Son,” doing quite well both on his own and opposite the many female guest stars. In fact, Wang plays off Kelli Kirkland extraordinarily well. The two have decent on-screen chemistry. For science fiction fans, “Favorite Son” also has the novelty of including Kristanna Loken, who rose to fame in Terminator 3: The Rise Of The Machines (reviewed here!). Far from the badass she played in that, Loken is used to flirt with a Taresian male and provide a decent amount of exposition for the viewer.

Ultimately, “Favorite Son” is an initially ambitious episode in its concept that quickly mortgages that potential with easy answers and makes for an episode that is not unwatchable, but hardly superlative.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Voyager - The Complete Third Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the entire season here!


For other Star Trek reviews, be sure to visit my Star Trek Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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