Star Trek: Voyager

"Favorite Son"

*

Air date: 3/19/1997
Written by Lisa Klink
Directed by Marvin V. Rush

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"What's your next trick, Harry? Pull a shuttlecraft out of a hat?" — Dumb line spoken by Chakotay (although it could be a worthwhile skill given Voyager's shuttle loss tally)

Nutshell: In a word: "Dumb." Silly, pointless, and implausible to the extreme. Not completely unwatchable, mostly because it's so darn laughable, but this is some bad science fiction.

I want to extend my congratulations to the Voyager staff. They have come up with yet another claim to fame: They have created perhaps the longest streak of consecutive bottom-of-barrel episodes by supplying the back-to-back-to-back offerings of (1) "Darkling," a superficial, one-joke, pretentious hour of substance-free plotting; (2) "Rise," a horribly executed, by-the-numbers "adventure" outing; and now (3) "Favorite Son," an utterly predictable paradigm of pointlessness, characterized by some of the most sickening displays of shallow silliness since DS9's "Let He Who Is Without Sin...".

Since there's plenty bad to say about "Favorite Son," let me go ahead and discuss the few good elements to get them out of the way. First, this episode started out okay. I have no real objections to the first two acts. These acts, of course, focus on the "hints" of the premise; they lead up to the story that will eventually follow. In short, the early passages demonstrate Harry acting weird. He fires phasers on some aliens called the Nizari with no apparent justification, yet he's absolutely sure they were hostile and had planned to open fire on Voyager anyway—and later he is proven right. Further, the region of space Voyager is travelling through feels very familiar to him—he is certain he has been here before. He also has weird dreams and develops a strange "rash"—neither of which can be coincidental to his bizarre insights.

"Favorite Son" director Marvin V. Rush—a regular director of photography for Voyager who also directed last season's "The Thaw"—shows some panache in some of the early scenes. While this episode didn't have the bizarre visuals that allowed Rush to show off the way "Thaw" did, he still exhibited some camera angles (particularly some low-angle shots, use of rack focus, and some surreal qualities in the dream sequences) that managed to be interesting without being distracting.

Unfortunately, that's about all I have to say in praise of "Favorite Son." The rest of the episode did fairly well for making itself one of the laughingstocks of the series.

The "premise" is another one of those devices that drops a "major character revelation" upon us and hopes that we'll take it at face value and ponder it for a few minutes. In this case, Voyager ventures into a region of space that Harry is sure will provide safety from the pursuing Nizari. This area is inhabited by the Taresians, a race of friendly-seeming aliens (who are entirely too human-looking for the sheer convenience of the plot) with a population that is 90% female. The "major revelation": Harry is really a Taresian himself, driven by instinctual urges to return home.

According to the Taresians, Harry was conceived on Taresia and his embryo was then taken to Earth and used to impregnate a human woman without her knowledge. (How Harry's embryo was taken to Earth is never explained. Apparently the Taresians have very fast ships.)

So what exactly is the problem with the way "Favorite Son" unfolds? In a word, everything. This premise allows for more Fun With DNA [TM], as Harry begins transforming into a Taresian a la the "Threshold"-esque idea that rewriting DNA can do whatever an episode requires. When Harry and the Voyager crew are greeted on the Taresian homeworld, there's a standard, interminable stretch of dialog that explains "everything"—and, unfortunately, every guest star portraying a Taresian delivers a perfunctory, sub-par performance.

One fundamental problem with the "revelation" aspect is that, really, it's inevitable that it will all be undone by the end of the episode. Or, in the case of "Favorite Son," not even the end of the show; the story only goes for about 15 minutes after the "revelation" before it's reversed by plenty of Doc's technobabble—who explains that Harry is the victim of some sort of virus that was set by the Taresians to rewrite his DNA. Why? Because they need to trick him into living with them so he will add to their gene pool. Honestly, who really thought that the writers would go through with the story that Harry is an alien? (Heaven forbid, that would have consequences!) I didn't buy it for one second. I was just waiting for the scene where the creators would let themselves off the hook. And the scene I envisioned was straight out of the Voyager textbook and as predictable as I could've imagined—maybe even more so.

Ask yourself, what is the point of doing any of this? The real story is not about how Harry reacts to being told he isn't who he has always thought he is. No, the show only spends about five minutes on that, and those five minutes aren't really even effective. Rather, this story is simply about following the dumb plot machinations of Harry on a world full of women who try to coax him into their trap—and it's about as transparent and shallow as it can be.

Lisa Klink's monotonous teleplay proceeds into redundancy with one boring sight after another in which Taresian women massage, caress, and kiss Harry. The intention here, I think, was to add a sensual, seductive feel to the episode. Unfortunately, the portrayal here is simply bad. The story supplies these scenes in such excess that everyone comes off looking silly, and the whole thing gets very old very fast. Maybe if I had believed for a microsecond that Harry might actually fall into this trap then I would've been more open to it, but the execution was just too corny and uninspired to work.

"Favorite Son" also treats us to plenty of cliches. Ws. Within the episode there's an obligatory Alien Ritual Scene, as well as plenty of Stock Battle Footage and Hard-Headed Aliens of the Week. These are typical Trekkian devices—and I'm willing to accept them as such and I will praise them when they're used effectively. But here they just sit idly.

The plotting-by-the-numbers documents Harry's realization that his situation is not as it seems. Before long he learns that he is a victim in a scheme where he must be slaughtered and used for his raw cells, as one Taresian explains he must die because Taresian women "must enucleate a large number of cells to gather enough genetic material to ensure conception." Yeah, whatever. How awfully convenient for a jeopardy premise. The actress who informs Harry of his fate speaks this line like a robot. Further dialog suggests that Taresian men are so rarely born that Taresian women must create compatible mates from males of other species. My question: If these Taresians are really this desperately in need of reproduction, just how did they survive long enough to develop their own solution to their problem—the supposedly awesome feat of genetic engineering? If they are such geniuses of genetic engineering, why can't they control the X and Y chromosomes and give birth to more men?

And more questions: Just how did the Taresians know Harry was from a place called Earth? Why would the Voyager crew buy into the Taresians' story so easily? One would think Janeway, or somebody, would be suspicious of a race who claims to carry an embryo 70,000 light years to conceive a child—especially considering this child conveniently gets stranded in the Delta Quadrant so that he can meet his creators. No one bats an eye at any aspect of Harry's predicament—making it feel just as falsely manufactured as it truly is.

I also don't care for the idea that the Taresians genetically pre-program their offspring to hate the Nizari. Does this strike only me as counterproductive to solving a long-standing conflict? Still, how would even this lead Harry to be so sure the Nizari are about to fire on Voyager in the opening minutes of the show?

On its own banal terms, what this story ultimately comes down to is the attempt of a society to convince an individual into believing a lie by supplying a large amount of contrived persuasive evidence. This is a firmly established storytelling device, but I don't think I've seen it carried out with as much cheese as "Favorite Son" lays on. For a far superior example of such a story on Trek, see DS9's "Second Skin."

I really hate to be trashing Voyager like I have been recently. (Honestly, I don't have an axe I need to grind upon the series. I'm just trying to think about the show critically from week to week.) But the last three episodes have been so bad that I really have had no other choice but to derive enjoyment out of doling out really low scores and appropriately harsh wording.

I'm very worried about the future of Voyager. I won't say anything else about it at this point; we'll just have to see how things go the rest of the season. But any optimism I had for season three turning around the disturbing slump that season two began officially ends here.

Previous episode: Rise
Next episode: Before and After

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27 comments on this review

AJ Krovakrian
Mon, Aug 4, 2008, 10:13pm (UTC -5)
Oh my God. This was the most awful Voyager episode EVER. I mean, you gave it 1 star, I would give negative if I could. I actually fell asleep during that pointless pampering of Harry by one dimensional female characters. I didn't finish the episode. Really, would the world have been a better place if I had finished it ?
Jake
Sun, Jan 24, 2010, 5:07pm (UTC -5)
"The actress who informs Harry of his fate speaks this line like a robot."

Interesting that you put it that way because that actress in question (Kristanna Loken) would go on to play the T-X in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.
Having said that, I agree that this episode sucked.
navamske
Fri, Aug 20, 2010, 7:04pm (UTC -5)
"While this episode didn't have the bizarre visuals that allowed Rush to show off the way 'Thaw' did, he still exhibited some camera angles (particularly some low-angle shots, use of rack focus . . . ."

I definitely like it when a director focuses on racks.
navamske
Fri, Aug 20, 2010, 7:06pm (UTC -5)
"one Taresian explains he must die because Taresian women 'must enucleate a large number of cells'"

She said "denucleate."
Nic
Thu, Nov 11, 2010, 8:32am (UTC -5)
Whenever a stinker like this comes along, the people I feel most badly for are the guest actors. Most of them only appear in one episode of Star Trek, and it has to be this piece of _____.

Surprisingly though, in the original premise, Harry would have stayed an alien permanently and there was no "blood-cell sucking women". Instead of changing the premise they should have jettisoned it completely. This episode was basically PG-rated porn.
Elliott
Wed, Mar 16, 2011, 12:53am (UTC -5)
A definite lowpoint for the season. I actually enjoyed the actress who portrayed the Matriarch blood-sucker, but the peons screamed "we're swimsuit models, not actors, look at us but don't listen!"

I actually enjoyed the last act the most (not because it was insightful or intelligent or meant anything important) for the pacing and camera work. The final beamout amidst the phallic tantra clubs was effective in that it was watchable excitement. But really quite a lousy episode.
Justin
Mon, Apr 2, 2012, 12:34am (UTC -5)
I can't believe I actually sat through this one again. This is quite possibly the worst Trek episode of all time. Even worse than "Threshold," and that's saying something. What kind of a wretched cavalcade of B-list soap opera rejects did they come up with for this show, anyway? They actually made Riker's man-whore scene from "Angel One" look like high art.

Seriously, I'd rather be strapped Clockwork-Orange-style to a chair and be forced to watch Nicholas Cage screaming for mercy in "The Wicker Man" over and over and over again than be subjected to this dreck ever. EVER again.
Jo Jo Meastro
Mon, Mar 18, 2013, 7:59pm (UTC -5)
At least this episode appears to be the last serious pitfall for season 3. Favourite Son was certainly a failure, but in some ways it attempted to do something new at the core of its concept and the sorts of atmosphere it sometimes manages to capture is very unique for Trek because it aims for the bizzare vibe and combining it with sexual subtext.

When I say it aims for that kind of atmosphere, that might be a misconception. It may have unintentional. I've got a habit of trying to see each episode in the best light, even in the likes of Favourite Son. But scenes and stretches of this episode which radiate that dreamy Lynchian atmosphere are were things almost work.

Take the last leg of the episode where a crazed Harry suggestively ties up his new wife and entices his second wife to join in a trick to escape...how often do you get a scene of that nature in Trek? And the sexual elements have a kind of creepy sinister undertone given the dark secret to the seemingly enticing planet. Whenever Favourite Son exhibits this sinister dreamy mood I wish the entire thing could have ran along those lines.

Unfortunately, the majority of the episode is made up of laughable failure and its only in isolated chunks when its truly effective (at least on a visual and atmospheric level). I probably enjoyed more moments in this than most though.

One thing is for certian, its a wierd one and a part of me wishes it hadn't been such a mess. 1.5/4

Now finally, next episode might be a return to some proper Voyager!
Sintek
Mon, May 27, 2013, 4:23pm (UTC -5)
Garret Wang was voted one of the 50 sexiest people in the world in 1996. Why? The following year he was voted one of the coolest people. The 90s were a blur for me, but what the holy fuck was going on?

I also learned Dwight "Barclay" Schultz is now a wackjob conspiracy theorist, the type who genuinely believes our president is a secret Muslim born in Kenya. Just search for his podcast if you don't believe me. Every topic is pretty much copy-pasted from Beck and Limbaugh. It ruined my day when I saw what he became.
T'Paul
Wed, Sep 11, 2013, 4:20pm (UTC -5)
In this case I do agree with you Jammer... totally justified criticisms this time.

Maybe if they'd had the guts to follow-up on the Harry is an alien story perhaps it might have been interesting, but this seems like a throw back to the worst of TOS in the sixties, without the excuse of being in the sixties - "sexy" women, silly rituals, blag, blah, blah. And amazing how the Universal Translator turns these "aliens" into Valley Girls... I'm surprised they didn't just invite Harry down to the mall for some Kimchi.

And I mean, please, since we're coming across quasi-Humans every 5 minutes why don't we just stick around with them? Oh that's right, because Earth is the only enlightened planet in the universe.

I do agree that the head evil one was a bit more interesting... a bit, but next to the rest of those blank canvasses that's hardly a miracle.

All we can say is thank God for the new crew addition at the end of this season, other wise VOY would surely have sunk.
T'Paul
Wed, Sep 11, 2013, 4:22pm (UTC -5)
I guess we have Hoshi to blame for the Universal Translator's California Conversion!
Jack
Fri, Dec 6, 2013, 3:49pm (UTC -5)
That Kim was able to reroute tactical to ops (without an authorization code or anything) when the tactical officer is right there is beyond absurd. The episode loses all 4 potential stars right there.
Ric
Thu, Apr 10, 2014, 3:31am (UTC -5)
A horrible piece of junk, no question. Let's not forget, however, the nice touch of seeing, by Harry's trick, that there is still sadomasochistic sex in the 24th century.

Yeah, maybe two stars...
Vylora
Mon, Aug 25, 2014, 8:16pm (UTC -5)
I can't. I just can't. This is easily among the worst. There's no rational explanation why this pile even exists. None whatsoever. I feel sorry for anyone that watches this show for the first time and sees this as a representation. I get that shows have good and bad episodes. But I have seen whole entire series where there were never serious clunkers. Breaking Bad, House, Lost, BSG, Six Feet Under all come to mind to name a few. Why does every single season (with a few rare exceptions) of every single Trek series have pure shit episodes? Do they just decide to throw one out there to meet some sort of season-length quota?

Zero stars.
Dave in NC
Mon, Aug 25, 2014, 8:39pm (UTC -5)
@ Vylora

I can think of a few stinker episodes of Lost (any Nikki/Paolo episode or the ridiculous finale) and I view House like I view Monk (the quirky lead doesn't seem like a viable human character so I don't like the show).

Anyways, the plot to this episode is pretty silly . . . the most egregious lapse being that anyone would genuinely believe Harry could be Taresian. Then again, Taresians apparently have really boring personalities, so maybe it's not such a stretch after all. ;)

Still, like others have said, this episode has kind of kinky horror vibe and I like that about it. A slightly better-than-average musical score adds to the Anne Rice/pulpy vibe.

I can't give anything this cheesy a score higher than ** ½ , but turn off your logic centers and you'll probably enjoy yourself.
Xylar
Fri, Mar 20, 2015, 9:03pm (UTC -5)
Intergalactic succubi! Because why not? Oh, and some nonsense about Harry being an alien or something.
Did they even try to explain why the Nizari hate the Taresians so much? I don't think they did. They just hate them because ... reasons, I guess.

Yea, no. Not worth rewatching.
Yanks
Mon, Aug 17, 2015, 11:50am (UTC -5)
A skipper for me. I only watched it last night to give a review here.

But I fell asleep :-)

What a dud.

Exactly Xylar, who knows?

.5 stars because I thought Rinna was kind of cute. She made me think of Fenna (DS9).
SlackerInc
Mon, Nov 2, 2015, 8:12pm (UTC -5)
LOST and BSG had clunkers aplenty after their first seasons . Six Feet Under never did, and Breaking Bad had only one, for my money ("Fly", which a lot of people really love) although the "berries" plot was a groaner.
John
Sun, Nov 22, 2015, 1:06am (UTC -5)
This entire episode was pretty much a plagiarism of the episode "The Lorelei Signal" from Star Trek: The Animated Series.
MartinB
Mon, Dec 28, 2015, 12:27pm (UTC -5)
I can't get past that the Taresians as aid they'd gone all the way to Earth to implant Harry's mother with him and no one thought they could trade Harry for whatever technology they had that could do make that trip? That's a price I'd be willing to pay. Even if they really could do that, why the hell would they? The Delta Quadrant isn't exactly deserted, there's plenty of easier victims to use, and it's not like they'd know they'd infected to begin with. The Vidiians do alright just in their own region after all. And the biggest issue, how did the Taresians know that Harry, their 70,000 light years away baby, would conveniently end up in the Delta Quadrant and passing their space? Did they know about the Caretaker and maybe even work with him to get Harry there? It would open up interesting possibilities given that the Caretaker was trying to do exactly what the Taresians are here! I don't expect the writers to have thought that far ahead, or at all, but it'd have been nice to have the crew at least speculate on what it all meant
Diamond Dave
Fri, Jan 29, 2016, 6:17am (UTC -5)
Wow, an idea right out of early TNG here. Replace Kim with Riker on the planet of women and Bob's your uncle. This offers further proof that you can't hang an episode on Harry alone because fundamentally the character is not interesting enough to support it. This is as plodding and predictable as can be - hands up who guessed the other guy was going to end up a drained corpse?

The irony is that I actually quite liked the premise, but the execution was lousy. Although as noted above, you don't see a crew member tying a woman to a chair every day. 1.5 stars.
robrow
Mon, May 2, 2016, 10:45pm (UTC -5)
I think that' B5s Patricia Tallman playing one of the women who attacked Harry just before the end. The only time I actually concentrated on this. Couldn't get over the stupidity of Taresian reproduction. Very poor.
Ivanov
Wed, Jun 29, 2016, 9:56pm (UTC -5)
I don't understand how this species reproduces. Do the males die right after sex? or did they kill them and harvest there sperm?
AA
Sun, Aug 14, 2016, 8:05pm (UTC -5)
They say they have to "de-nucleate" a number of cells. Fine, but why do they have to be male cells? In fact, why do they have to be sentient being cells? Couldn't they be cows? It just makes no sense.
mephyve
Tue, Aug 23, 2016, 4:53pm (UTC -5)
fun romp if you ignore the silliness (**)
mephyve
Tue, Aug 23, 2016, 4:55pm (UTC -5)
Ignore the silliness Jammer lol
George Monet
Fri, Sep 2, 2016, 12:33am (UTC -5)
Another episode where the writers refuse to accept what the level of medical technology means.

Like the Vidiians, there is absolutely no reason why the Taresians don't simply use clone cells or grow new cells or organs or whatever they need. Neither species needs to kill in order to harvest, they can simply grow all the cells/organs they need. Hell we can already do this now in the 21st century. If these species are such genetic wizards then growing cells should be mere childs' play.

The only reason why both of these species kill is because they like to kill as they clearly don't have any reason to kill.

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