Saturday, November 17, 2012

Harry Kim’s Sexual Relationship With An Alien Is Outed In “The Disease.”

The Good: Make-up, Concept, Moments of performance, Decent character moments for Harry Kim, Generally decent acting
The Bad: Character/protocol aspects create a ridiculous conflict
The Basics: In “The Disease,” Harry Kim’s personal relationship with an alien puts him in conflict with Captain Janeway.

One of the exciting aspects of going back through all of Star Trek: Voyager for my reviewing purposes is catching the episodes I did not give my full attention to or even see the first time. “The Disease” was one such episode. My hope with catching a new to me episode is always to find a gem I missed or did not appreciate as much the first time around. “The Disease” is not the hoped-for gem.

As a rare episode that focuses on Harry Kim, I actually had some hopes for “The Disease.” During the heyday of Star Trek conventions, actor Garrett Wang became a staple of one of the companies I traveled with and I had numerous opportunities to interact with him. It’s always my hope to discover an episode that he was featured in where he is used well, able to shine with some of his innate and developed talents as a performer. Sadly, “The Disease” is not that episode, though to be fair to Wang, the problems with the episode have nothing to do with him.

Opening with Harry Kim romancing an alien woman, Captain Janeway reveals that she and the Varro have been working to repair the Varro ship. The Varro are nomadic and are deeply suspicious of outsiders. After 400 years in space, Janeway argues with the Varro leaders to gain access systems that will allow them to repair the multigenerational Varro ship. Harry Kim sneaks around with the Varro assistant engineer, Darren Tal. He worries during their rendezvous that they will be caught and when Kim returns to Voyager, he contacts Darren Tal and is only saved from embarrassment by Tom Paris.

While scanning the Varro ship with Seven Of Nine, Harry Kim begins to experience a medical problem that is related to his sexual relationship with Darren Tal. After Janeway reams out Harry Kim for having a relationship with the Varro engineer, Neelix brings evidence to Tuvok that a stowaway might be aboard Voyager. Confronting Darren Tal, Harry Kim learns what caused his bioluminescence and he struggles to terminate the relationship while Voyager’s crew finds itself embroiled in an internal conflict with the Varro.

Arguably the most fun of the episode is when Tom Paris lists off the failed romances of Harry Kim. It’s cute and foreshadows well the problem that Harry Kim will have with his current relationship. The concept that Harry and Darren Tal discovered some sexual incompatibilities, despite appearing humanoid, is a nice touch.

“The Disease” is somewhat insulting, though, beginning with Paris’s litany of people Kim has failed at relationships with. He defines Darren Tal as incompatible because she is a member of a xenophobic species, completely minimizing her value as an individual. It’s a racial stereotype that is accepted without being reasonably challenged.

Janeway, especially, seems like a jerk in “The Disease” and it’s hard to buy, especially after her mentoring of Ensign Kim for the first three full seasons (until he gets bumped in her attentions for Seven Of Nine). Chakotay actually seems pretty gutless when he confronts her about the formal reprimand Janeway put on Kim’s record after he had the affair with Darren Tal. When Janeway points out that Kim is just an ensign, I was hoping beyond hope that Chakotay would pitch promoting the young man with the previously spotless record. No such luck.

“The Disease” has competent acting, though the chemistry between Garrett Wang and Musetta Vander (Darren Tal) is minimal. Having recalled Vander from an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer that aired around the same time, it is neat to see her given more to do than simple appear as an object of lust. Wang plays Harry Kim as a bit more guarded than honestly passionate. That said, when Harry Kim confronts Captain Janeway, he presents a character who is passionate and viable, hinting at his true potential.

“The Disease” is enough to make one wish that Star Trek: Voyager was not gutless in its denial of serialization. Harry Kim constantly moralizes and puts himself in his place over the relationship with Darren Tal (hardly needing Janeway to reprimand him, his internal conflict is enough) and he presents the arguments well enough that the viewer just wants Darren Tal to run away with him and Voyager and the resolution to the episode is particularly unsatisfying in that regard.

Ultimately, “The Disease” feels like a belabored portrayal of a student getting reamed out by a grade school principal and it becomes tiresome as a result. The show, Harry Kim, and Garrett Wang deserved better.

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


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

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