The Good: Good character development, Good performances
The Bad: Moments that seem more like a parody than a compelling a-plot, Moments of character issues, Problematic ship reuse.
The Basics: Harry Kim commands a small alien shuttle on a mission out of territory that is disputed in a mediocre Star Trek: Voyager episode.
Say what you will about the characters on Star Trek: Voyager, but actor Garrett Wang and Harry Kim had arguably the toughest job. While most of the other characters were cribbed from Star Trek: The Next Generation characters or earlier Star Trek franchise character concepts, Harry Kim was a blank slate. Sadly, most of the writers did not really know what to do with him and he ended up as a support character with very few arcs. It’s also probably why in “Nightingale,” Kim can credibly note that had Voyager not gotten lost in space, he probably would be a Lieutenant or Lieutenant Commander by this point in the series.
It has to suck to be a StarFleet Academy graduate who has a dropout best friend who not only outranked him once, but outranked him, was demoted, then re-promoted, well before he ever got his promotion to Lieutenant j.g. And yet, in “Nightingale,” Harry Kim gets his chance to shine. There is no small amount of irony in the fact that LeVar Burton, who played a concept character who was so weakly conceived that it took until the seventh season of the series before the writers squeezed out a family backstory for the characters, directed the episode that takes the time to focus on Harry Kim’s first solo mission. Unlike the episode, which fails to proper distinction, “Nightingale” is not Harry Kim’s first command; Kim commanded the mission in “Warhead” (reviewed here!), at least until it turned into a hostage situation.
“Nightingale” finds Voyager planetbound on an arid world where the crew is busy making repairs and doing general tune-up activities to the ship. Harry Kim, Neelix, and Seven Of Nine are off in the Delta Flyer searching for dilithium. When the Delta Flyer is on its mission, it intercepts a distress call and finds a small ship under attack by an Annari vessel. The medical ship is Craylor, a race the Annari are at war with. Against protocol, Kim intervenes and comes to the aid of the medical ship. Cloaking the medical ship, Kim arrives back at the planet where he finds Annari vessels in orbit and is concerned. Appealing to Janeway, Harry Kim volunteers to command the medical ship back to Craylor space.
While Icheb worries that Torres might be romantically interested in him, Kim commands the Nightingale, the medical ship. Failing to delegate, Kim quickly appears incompetent and when the Annari attack, casualties ensue.
“Nightingale” is a good idea that creates an unfortunate conflict. Harry Kim becomes a micromanaging douchebag the moment he is put in command of a little ship. Writer Andre Bormanis does not seem to know what to do with Ensign Kim any better than most of the other writers as “Nightingale” has Ensign Kim acting in a most un-Kim manner.
This is especially unfortunate for Garrett Wang, who plays Harry Kim. Wang has the ability to play Kim in an interesting and fun way. Sadly, in “Nightingale,” he is poorly used. Bormanis even “fills” the episode with a scene where Kim has a ready room established on his ship and has it filled with personal mementos. Seven Of Nine calls him out on it, but it is still obvious and ridiculous, feeling almost like a parody of the idea of Harry Kim having his own ready room. Wang seems to be struggling with the material, save the presentation of the ethical arguments, which is why Ron Glass (the ship’s “doctor” Loken) overshadows him whenever they go toe to toe with one another. Glass is great in his own right as the alien Loken, but it helps that he is playing off Wang, who is not given particularly stellar material this time around.
The b-plot is fun, though quickly resolved.
“Nightingale” is all right, though the Craylor ship is a clear reuse of a Maquis fighter. As for the rest, it is an unfortunately contrived episode that undermines what could have been Harry Kim’s finest; after all, how cool would it have been to see Harry Kim’s first command where it turned out he had a real aptitude for it and had actually learned all he needed to from Janeway?!
[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Voyager - The Complete Seventh Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the final season here!
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© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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