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

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31 comments on this review

Bob
Tue, Oct 30, 2007, 8:22pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
Great moment in this episode seeing Neelix heart get broken
David Forrest
Sun, Mar 16, 2008, 12:01am (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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.
Skeptical
Sat, Feb 7, 2015, 9:45pm (UTC -5)
Heh, I think I liked this episode more than I should. Maybe it's just because the episode never presented itself as more than a lighthearted fluff episode. And for a lighthearted, fluff episode, it was very well executed. Some random comments:

- The scene inside Kes/Tieran's head was great. There was one nice subtle thing: at first, inside the mind, Tieran was sitting in his council room. Meanwhile, when the camera switched to Kes, she was on board Voyager. As she became more and more assertive, the scene behind Tieran changed into Voyager as well, indicating that Kes was winning the battle of the brain. Like I said, it was subtle, but effective.

- One thing that helped (probably accidentally) is that much of the cliched writing that one would expect actualy made sense here. For example, Tieran calling Kes a "little girl." Normally, it's something to indicate the evil bad guy is dismissive of the heroine, as we the viewers don't see the heroine as little or young or whatever. Yet, of course, Kes is 3 years old and Tieran is 300. Also, he refuses to switch bodies, even though logically one would think he would want to change (especially after the headaches start). Stupid arrogance on the part of the villain just to move the plot along? Maybe. But then again, now he can kill people with his brain. That seems to be quite a useful tool while starting an uprising, after all. So maybe it makes sense for him to keep Kes' body a little while longer.

- There's also the little cliche of turning the attractive heroine into a seductress as soon as she turns evil (see Mirror Kira as an example). Yet, again, I think this does make some sense. I get the feeling that Tieran had never transferred his brain to a woman before. Assuming similar gender differences to humans (don't blame me; Trek is lazy about this), Tieran is clearly a testosterone-filled alpha male, and undoubtedly knows the effect that female sexuality has on him. So with Kes' body, he expects he can use that power on others. The fact that he tries to be seductive towards his wife (which clearly creeps her out) and Tuvok (who he should know it won't work on) is just due to his arrogance and misunderstanding. But again, a cliche kinda works in this situation.

- It also helps that Tieran isn't COMPLETELY a two-dimensional creature. The prince acknowledged that his skills as a warlord were quite useful way back when, and he probably would have been remembered as a hero if he had simply gone away peacefully. Also, after gaining control, he starts talking about public works projects. Sure, it was basically for propaganda purposes, but it's different from the typical evil overlord. One expects that Tieran does want to be a loved ruler, and wants what is best for his people as well. It just so happens that he is too arrogant to realize that they don't necessarily want him too.

Like I said, everything about this episode was well-crafted. Can't argue with that.
Yanks
Wed, Aug 12, 2015, 6:28pm (UTC -5)
Jennifer's energy, yes Jammer, that's it.

But while I appreciate that energy, I thought she hammed it up to much at the end of the episode.

I just kept thinking during the episode... 'What a voice Jennifer has".

Was Kes possessed when she dumped Neelix? If so, do they address this in a later episode?

I can't rememeber.

I'll go 2.5 stars for Jen's energy.
Robert
Thu, Aug 13, 2015, 7:49am (UTC -5)
"Was Kes possessed when she dumped Neelix?" Yes.

"If so, do they address this in a later episode?"
No.

CONTINUITY ARGH!!!!!!!!!

I'm better now.
Yanks
Thu, Aug 13, 2015, 11:30am (UTC -5)
Robert,

lol ... we pretty much all universally didn't like the "Kes/Neelix" thing... then the writers finally give us what we want and the botch it.

:-)
Jason R.
Mon, Nov 9, 2015, 8:20pm (UTC -5)
I found Lien positively hokey in this one. As noted by others, the only real high point was Kes finally doing away with Neelix. Of all the awkward, painful, creepy romances, those two being an item has to take the cake. No, scratch that - awkward and creepy is what it would have been if I ever actually bought it in the first place. If the writers had ever really sold that concept to us, that would have been interesting. Creepy and wrong, but interesting. Fortunately for us, I don't think the writers believed it any more than we did.
Gin
Fri, Nov 27, 2015, 12:27am (UTC -5)
Skeptical I agree about him not wanting to switch bodies. It sure was causing him headaches trying to fight Kes off but the reward was like you said the ability to kill people with his mind. For some reason I was reminded of that 1984 movie Firestarter with a very young Drew Barrymore. More specifically her old man who had the ability to influence others too, only for him to deal with heaps of nosebleeds afterwards.

As far as the Kes/Neelix relationship, I felt Neelix became a good deal more annoying to watch after Kes' departure, to be honest. I'm not sure if he was meant to be comic relief or what but even so I'd say the Doctor already had a lock on that. The drama bit I'd say B'elanna already took first place with that. Maybe Paris too. Nothing against Ethan Phillips directly, I just thought Neelix was not one of his better roles.

Speaking of locks I was just about to give can't-get-a-lock kim the benefit of the doubt at the beginning of the ep...till a few moments later when he defaulted. Oops-yer-gone cuz I couldn't get a lock.

I liked seeing this side of Jennifer Lien. She could certainly act it up when she wanted to. Kinda wished Roxann had done that more often too (she looked dern good in that blue bikini btw :)). The only time we got to see that side of her was when she was literally split into her Klingon/human halves.

Anyways Kes still showed more acting range than chuckles and kim. Even if you were nonplussed by her hamming it up I can't say I was bored watching the ep. The old mind swap concept is hardly new, but then again neither is time travel. Variations on a theme is the closest thing to originality we'll ever get, especially nowadays.

So I can't say I've seen it done quite this way before. And to that end it held my attention.

Who says resistance is futile? (Well, aside from the Borg, whom Voyager all but neutered by the end of the show's run) Kes was fighting back against Tieran throughout his possession of her. She continuously showed deeper conviction than the writers ever gave her. It never once came off as inauthentic. I know some reviewers here would say otherwise but I must admit I was thoroughly impressed. Can you imagine what she would have been like in S4's 'Witness'? This ep gave us a minor taste of an "Evil Kes" if you will.

Oh, and don't get me started on what that ep would have done if Seska stayed a part of the crew. Damn, wish I could go back in time to rewrite history myself to have the best of all worlds just to see them in action in that ep. Yep, I'd keep Jeri Ryan. How could you not? But I would also have kept Ms Lien and most def Ms. Hackett as well. I agree the ep was easily 4 stars as it stands. Just saying with the other two ladies in it the ep probably would have been THE episode of the series!

Back to this ep. Creeped out by her affair w/ Neelix? Didn't give it a thought to be honest. Everybody needs somebody, why discriminate based on age? They are both adults and like Kes said in Darkling she can spend her time with whomever she chooses. As long as they are happy together (and not faking the chemistry just to secure a paycheck and ratings) I don't really mind. Nasty way to breakup, tho.

Her advances toward Tieran's wife was something different. I get he possessed her. But something about that scene and seeing her slink around in black leather...lol. Tres kinky.

Still, since Jennifer rarely got to extend her acting chops I didn't mind the leather prancing just to see if she could hold her own. I'm guessing the writers didn't mind, either.

She couldn't go back to the way things were, even before her departure. That's why I rate it ever so slightly higher. It would have forced the writers to show a maturing young lady. In that sense it raises it slightly above the standard alien of the week fare.

2.5 to a low 3 is what I'd rate it.
MartinB
Fri, Dec 25, 2015, 4:03am (UTC -5)
@Alex. Sorry I don't see the inconsistency. The original Tieran (at least the one that's beamed to Voyager at the start) using the transfer thingy in his arm to move to Kes when he died in sickbay. Then Kes presumably got fitted with the same thing after he escape from Voyager and take over of the Ilari government, which she used when Voyager stormed the throne room to move to Demmas' brother just before they could use the Doctor's dodad on her. However, as Tieran moved to the brother so quick, he didn't have time to have the arm thingy installed, so had no way to escape when the dodad was used again. Made sense to me anyway.

Shoutout for Ensign Martin, the goldshirt who got phasered by Kes, for having an awesome name! ;) Strange they shot him when he went for a phaser, but only knocked Janeway out while she was physically attacking them! Character shields up!

I liked the part with Kes and Tieran fighting over Kes's mind, Kes's background being Voyager and Tieran's being the throne room. Then as Kes wins the argument, the throne room behind Tieran changes to Kes's Voyager. Nice subtle hint as to who was winning the battle.
Diamond Dave
Wed, Jan 27, 2016, 9:38am (UTC -5)
Liked this a lot. It has no pretensions to be anything other than a straight re-tread of a fairly tired science fiction standby, and carries it off with a verve and energy that offers more than might be expected.

As noted, Lien's superb performance is what really keeps it afloat, and if it some points there's a bit of scenery chewing going on that can be forgiven. Leather Kes is certainly one of the more memorable things in the series so far. 3 stars.
dipads
Sun, May 22, 2016, 4:32pm (UTC -5)
Kes finally gets to act. She carried the whole show. Kudo to her. One observation though: Tuvok masquerading as a guard seemed hokey and out of character.

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