Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Warlord"

**1/2

Air date: 11/20/1996
Written by Lisa Klink
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I won't stop until you're broken and helpless. There's nowhere you can go to get away from me. I'll be relentless and merciless just like you." - Kes to Tieran, battling for her mind

Nutshell: A corny, pedestrian plot, but Jennifer Lien makes it entertaining enough to chew through an hour—and has energy to spare.

First things first—I have to get something off my chest that's somewhat off the topic. I need to say that I'm quite tired of Voyager's advertising campaign. It's smug, self-important, hokey, and it never does justice to any episode it advertises. Week after week we're fed lines like "Voyager is better than ever!" and "You won't believe what happens!", and every fourth show seems to come advertised as a "special" episode. Enough already. Can't the promo producers be a little more low-profile and just tell us what the episode is about—like, say, the way the DS9 previews function?

The trailer for "Warlord" made it look like the epitome of silliness and triviality. And while this admittedly isn't the deepest episode to hit the screen this year, it's certainly not bad. In fact, there are some virtues here that prove quite entertaining.

Among these virtues is not the plot. The premise is pretty tired and dull—yet another alien who takes control of the mind and body of a Star Trek character. It happened on DS9's "The Assignment" just a mere three weeks earlier, and was done there with much better dramatic effect. On the other hand, "Warlord's" take on body snatcher milieu is another Voyager example of silly, fast-paced fun—and displays more energy than "The Assignment" could muster even with its textured Colm Meaney performance.

In "Warlord," the Voyager beams injured Ilari survivors off a damaged ship. One of the Ilari dies, but before he does, he transfers his mind (using a mysterious, concealed device) into Kes' mind and then steals her body, claiming it as his own. After escaping Voyager with the assistance of his faction of followers, he begins harnessing Kes' undeveloped mental abilities to his advantage, sometimes to manipulate his own followers (like any villain would). As it turns out, this man is a tyrant named Tieran, and he's been transferring his mind from host to host for centuries. Now he wants to reclaim an ancient Ilari throne and rule the world forever! (Pardon the tongue-in-cheek factor.)

Who cares about the plot? I sure don't. The internal politics of this world have about as much ultimate relevance to the series as what I ate for breakfast yesterday, and are about as interesting. The scenes between Janeway and the Ilari official on the Voyager who wants to see Tieran stopped are the same old standard negotiate-and-plan scenes that I'd expect in any random episode.

What makes this show worth watching is its hyperkinetic pacing and attitude. This is without a doubt the biggest show Jennifer Lien has had to carry to date, and by far Lien's most interesting performance. I'd say the best way to describe this performance is "Jennifer Lien in crazy mode." Her performance is gleefully over-the-top and stylized at times, but it's gutsy, engaging, and so full of energy unlike anything she's ever done on the show. What can I say? I liked it—a lot.

One thing Lien really has going for her is that wonderful, throaty voice—I just loved that voice in this episode, because she commands it so well. Another thing I enjoyed was Lien's use of expressive body language. She darts around the room, throwing herself into the role with such exuberance and energy that at times I was able to overlook the hokiness of the plot.

For forty minutes, Lien is Tieran. And Tieran is seductive, manipulative, power-hungry, and ruthless. What the writers have Tieran do is hardly important compared to how Lien conveys Tieran's actions. Did I care whether the evil Tieran would keep his throne? Not really. Did I enjoy watching Lien attempt to seduce two people in two minutes, and threaten to kill five others in five? You bet.

This type of show sometimes demands looking at the superficial qualities while ignoring what little lies beneath. Actually, in all fairness, there are a few, isolated subsurface elements here. The idea of a mental battle of wills proves to be the show's most effective story point. You see, Tieran may have control of Kes, but somewhere in the back of her brain, Kes is fighting back—fighting to regain her stolen mind. Tieran scoffs at her and dismisses her—in a dream he tells her that no little girl is going to beat his superior strength. The point here, however, is that this is a fight that isn't won by brute strength or weapons—it's won by the superior will. And Kes, despite her quiet, fragile outer appearance, has the determined strength to see that this villain does not escape.

The scenes between Tieran/Kes and Tuvok also work pretty well. Tieran attempts to use Kes' mental connections along with some seductive intentions against Tuvok, but Tieran fails. Here is revealed a man who thinks he is bigger than he truly is. He's not up to the challenge of superior intellects.

Other than the mental battles and the impressive Lien performance, there's not much else to scrutinize here. I really could've done without the hopelessly-dumb-and-transparent-as-usual Neelix holodeck scenes. If there's a more pointless teaser in the history of Voyager than the one that opens "Warlord," then I've missed it (and I'm positive that hasn't happened). And as far as the scene where Neelix and Kes "break up" goes, it hardly matters. I doubt it "really" happened; the writers never make it clear, but it seems to simply be a side effect of the Tieran-takeover plot. That's too bad; I for one am sick of Kes and Neelix fawning over each other. It's trite, it's annoying, it goes nowhere. At least separating them for a while could've had story possibilities.

Fortunately, such annoying sequences are few and far between, and as compensation the episode supplies a reasonable amount of thin but entertaining moments, mostly fueled by Lien's respectable energy.

Previous episode: Future's End, Part II
Next episode: The Q and the Grey

Season Index

22 comments on this review

Bob - Tue, Oct 30, 2007 - 8:22pm (USA Central)
Jennifer Lien = HOT in this episode. I can't believe that they kicked Kes to the curb for Seven of Nine as Voyager's token sex symbol. Sadly, Neelix doesn't kill himself after getting dumped in this episode, thus forcing us to endure him for the rest of the series.
mlk - Fri, Dec 21, 2007 - 5:15pm (USA Central)
Great moment in this episode seeing Neelix heart get broken
David Forrest - Sun, Mar 16, 2008 - 12:01am (USA Central)
After watching this episode I was going to hope the writers were going to make Kes a little more fun as you described in your review. She would have been great to have around with Seven of Nine. They could have played off each other really well. I still enjoyed the character of Kes, and you are right in the regard that Lien carried this episode wonderfully.
David Forrest - Sun, Mar 16, 2008 - 12:05am (USA Central)
For what it's worth (and not to be a total nitpick!) the teleplay credits are:
Teleplay By
Lisa Klink
Story By
Andrew Shepard Price & Mark Gaberman
Dirk Hartmann - Wed, Apr 9, 2008 - 2:31pm (USA Central)
This is undoubtedly the best performance we got from Jennifer Lien on Voyager. It's a bid strange to find that this was only possible within a setting that allowed her to act out of character. In the end, this goes a long way in proving that the character "Kes" was simply too weak to retain - even as good an actress as Lien was not able make the role worthwile. So, in the end, I guess it was inevitable that Kes had to go.
Mike - Wed, Oct 22, 2008 - 9:52am (USA Central)
As a Kes fan I have to disagree with Dirk. Perhaps her character didn't show as much potential as Seven, but neither did Harry (Mr. Boring) or Chakotay (unless you want more 'Chakotay travels the woods with his father' plots). Not to mention the worst character by far: Neelix, who remained almost unwatchable from season 1 to 7.

I think keeping Kes would have allowed for some amazing Seven/Kes plots; the two actresses might have been quite interesting together, and it would have enabled the show to stay more ensemble and less Janeway/Seven/Doctor.

I think season 3 was really setting Kes up. I think she had improved dramatically as an actress since season 1 (Warlord would frankly have been a disaster in season 1), she had dumped Neelix, her psychic abilities had improved....there were a lot of directions the show could have taken her.

Incidentally, it's interesting that they basically kept Kes' dumping of Neelix, even though she dumped him under the influence of Tieran. It's almost like the writers wanted us to forget (or new viewers to not know) that Kes and Neelix had ever been involved, probably because they were planning on giving her a lot more screen time and episodes.
EP - Thu, Feb 19, 2009 - 11:23pm (USA Central)
This episode was as lame as TNG's Power Play. Same exact plot, same flimsy excuse for the people to act out of character. Can't the writers come up with *legitimate* reasons for characters to come into conflict with each other?
Bella - Sun, May 24, 2009 - 5:55pm (USA Central)
I liked this episode, but after the first part it was pretty hard to concentrate because I made the mistake of watching a repeat with a guy who has a massive crush on Roxann Dawson. Needless to say, he wanted to see more of the first part and kept asking if she would be in a swimsuit again.

Some people...
Nic - Wed, Apr 21, 2010 - 8:34am (USA Central)
Every time I see this episode I am amazed by Lien's performance (except in the dream scene, where she's supposed to be Kes but sounds more like Kes). That moment early in the episode where Kes takes out her phaser and begins shooting everyone really gets your heart beating. I wasn't reminded of "Power Play" or "The Assignment" when watching this. The only other episode that comes to mind is "The Passenger" which, let's face it, was trash compared to this.
kevin - Tue, May 25, 2010 - 1:43pm (USA Central)
By far, the best Kes episode in the series (sadly, that's not saying much)...

It's such a shame that the writers couldn't flesh out Kes more than they did. Jennifer Lien did a great job with the role, and I would have enjoyed seeing more of her.
Nic - Sat, May 29, 2010 - 12:26pm (USA Central)
Sorry I meant "she's supposed to be Kes but sounds more like Tieran". I should reread myself before posting.
Matthias - Sun, Aug 28, 2011 - 3:05am (USA Central)
I hadn't really been on board with the Neelix hate so far but the start of this episode, with him making baby sounds while getting his stupid rubber feet rubbed? Yeah, okay, count me in.

Chris - Fri, Dec 9, 2011 - 12:49pm (USA Central)
I have to admit...this episode made me fall in love with Jennifer Lien...she was amazing and sexy...and that voice...wow...anyway other then her the rest of it was kind of blah, especially the Neelix parts. I don't hate Neelix like most seem to but the beginning of the episode really bothered me...all that cooing...ugh...
Alex - Tue, Mar 20, 2012 - 10:10pm (USA Central)
I'll agree that Lien's performance turns the episode into a net positive—while reminding me of mirror universe's Kira Neris.

Did anyone notice the inconsistency that occurred when Starfleet 'exorcised' Tieran from his new host at the very end? The very idea of using a technological device to draw out his psychic presence was predicted on micro-dermic implants that facilitate transfer to a new host. If you remember, Kes was given these as soon as 'she' attained the throne, and there's no way the new host could have had them in time for the good guys to zap the evil spirit out of him.
Justin - Sun, Mar 25, 2012 - 11:58pm (USA Central)
Jammer's so right about the ridiculous, overwrought, and too often misleading Voyager previews on UPN. One particular egregious example comes to mind, but I'll save that for the episode in question when I come to it.

Suffice to say this episode was one of the better possession episodes mainly due to Lien's performance. Too bad Kes was never properly developed.
Sintek - Sat, May 18, 2013 - 3:17pm (USA Central)
This episode appears to have been filmed at a higher frame rate. The onacreen motion is both smoother and quicker, which may be why it seems more energetic.
Dusty - Thu, Feb 6, 2014 - 1:18am (USA Central)
I love this episode. It was fun, fast-paced, and a good use of the body-stealing trope. Kes was never more interesting and Jennifer Lien never gave a better performance. I wish she had stayed Tieran! Kes was usually so bland, but slinking around in that black outfit trying to draw everyone into the dark side (I know, wrong series)...for once, she was downright sexy. Even if she was possessed.

Sorry guys, I still don't hate Neelix. xD He's not that bad as a character, he just suffers the most at the hands of the writers--next to Kim who is thinner than a sheet of paper, and Chakotay who has nothing to do.
Dave in MN - Mon, Feb 10, 2014 - 12:16pm (USA Central)
Liked the episode, but why does Star Trek always hire such bad actors for guest roles? The guy who played the insurgent that Tieran/Kes attacked with mental powers was terrible!

BTW, that may have been the first time I can recall a threesome being mentioned so blatantly in dialog, so bonus points for that.
K'Elvis - Fri, Mar 21, 2014 - 1:31pm (USA Central)
I think it was a mistake to ever have had Neelix and Kes to be a couple in the first place. Kes generally is so sedate that it seems out of place for a species that lives only seven years. You don't have much time, so you had better be quick about it. Her performance is good, and she certainly looks good in that tight black suit. That doesn't mean that I would want her to portray Kes like that all the time, even though I think she could have been a little more intense, like she's in more of a hurry.

It was a shame that Kes left, I think she should have dies. Don't get me wrong! I'm not anti-Kes. But her natural lifespan was such that she would have died before the end of the series. That's her story. If she would have stayed, we would have had the opportunity to see a character's entire life story. Her death wouldn't have been any more terrible than any other person dying at the end of their natural lifespan.

Of course, when the introduced the second Caretaker, and gave those Ocampa expanded lifespans, it seems they were backing away from the lifespan the had been set out at the beginning. As it was, she was off the show too soon.
Ric - Thu, Apr 3, 2014 - 2:18am (USA Central)
It is not that I dislike Voyager so far (this is the first time I watch it). Sure the show had its flaws and the usual lack of continuity sometimes sucks. But the show also had its strong moments here and there, very good overall argument and premise, promising characters such as the Doc and Chakotay, a fairly decent acting regarding the capitain, among other things.

However, I can't handle anymore transport problems to beam up or down, or how easy people, aliens and intruders escape any security measure in Voyager, gets any shuttlecrafts, disable tractor beams, and so on. Nothing never Works! I don't know who should be responsible, but certainly there are a few officers that deserve to be released from duty when the ship gets back to the Alpha Quadrant...

That said, this episode was not totally bad. One or two interesting political issues, good acting. The bissexual nature bt Tieran at some point is suprising. And Lien seated at the main chair, screaming alone "stronger than ever" really reminded me of Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones, hehe. Overall, sure the episode lacked a bit of depth for an episode dealing with the questions it touched, but ok.
lizzzi - Sat, Aug 16, 2014 - 12:36pm (USA Central)
It reminded me of the Mirror Universe episodes in DS9 and to some extent, Enterprise. I think Warlord paled in comparison though. Not a bad Kes episode, but that's not saying much. meh
Vylora - Mon, Aug 25, 2014 - 1:16am (USA Central)
Certainly their were some great Kes moments here. However, their were some hokey ones as well. It all becomes a mixed bag performance-wise. The plot itself was average and nothing to write home about.

One of the highlights of the episode was Kes telling Neelix that they should spend some time apart. The look on his face said a thousand words and I definitely felt bad for the poor guy.

And, no, I do not subscribe to the I Hate Neelix Bandwagon Fan Club. He obviously cares a great deal for Kes and he genuinely is a good person that cares also for the crew. He does nothing short of trying to help wherever he can. Of course he has annoying moments and it's pretty shitty the writers didn't do more with his character than they had. But being annoying a bit here and there doesn't make someone a bad person. And really that's all it is. Just moments. Removing the "Neelix-hate" filter while watching will reveal a good character with relevant dialogue, humorous moments, and some endearing qualities. And, yes, he CAN be annoying.

I guess I get tired of reading through fifteen Neelix-bashing comments on every episode. I could avoid them, yes, but I like finding posts that have something relevant to say. That's what makes forums such as this so great at times.

Digression aside, it was an entertaining enough hour I suppose, but I couldn't help but feel a sense of boredom the whole time despite Lien's energetic performance.

2 stars.

Submit a comment

Above, type the last name of the captain on Star Trek: TNG
Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my e-mail on my post

Season Index

Copyright © 1994-2014, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of any review or article on this site is prohibited. Star Trek (in all its myriad forms), Battlestar Galactica, and Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc., NBC Universal, and Tribune Entertainment, respectively. This site is in no way affiliated with or authorized by any of those companies. | Copyright & Disclaimer