Nutshell: A pointless mess of a story punctuated by nice-looking, pervasive, pointless special effects.
The best shot in "Fury" is the one right before the opening titles, where an aged Kes walks down a Voyager corridor with a calm look on her face, as the walls behind her explode and crumble. It's the sort of shot that a storyboard artist might be excited about—comic-book cover art that gets its hook into you.
Alas, the shallowest aspect of "Fury" is the titular fury. For most of the hour we're thirsting to know why Kes is going berserk, and when we finally get the answer, it's ... well, pretty lame. The wrath of Khan was sold on a deliciously believable, obsessive conflict. The wrath of Kes is arbitrary. The character, whom we haven't seen in two-and-a-half years, is reduced to a cardboard villain with dubious motivation. And for what?
The episode delivers, I guess, on its promise to be full of apocalyptic action, mayhem, and special effects. But it fails as a story with characters we can care about. Yet again we have the characters, especially Kes, reduced to the mechanics of the plot, one that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The key questions I figured might be important for a return-of-Kes show would be what she had evolved into in "The Gift" and why, and what returning to revisit the Voyager crew might mean for her (and the crew).
Welp, might as well just throw those questions out the nearest window, because they're the least of this story's worries, which instead is built upon paradoxical time travel, mistaken identity, deception, and a big showdown with the Vidiians—in other words, "action," the hallmark of Voyager.
The episode's action requires that we accept Kes as a villain. I suppose it's slightly easier to do that when upon beaming aboard Voyager she immediately knocks down walls, buries security officers under tons of rubble, kills Torres, absorbs energy from the warp core, and then vanishes without a trace to travel back in time with an Evil Plan. She travels back to "season one," at a point when Voyager had been in the Delta Quadrant for eight weeks. She renders the Kes of this time frame unconscious and assumes her place.
Why? Sorry—won't find that out until the big Janeway/Kes showdown in act four, although we get the general idea when Kes contacts a Vidiian ship that is tracking Voyager and agrees to help them capture and "harvest" the crew in exchange for safe passage to Ocampa for her younger counterpart. (I always liked those Vidiians, probably the series' best original alien bad guys.) She explains to the Vidiians that her crew "abandoned me a long time ago."
"Fury" is mostly interested in the mechanics of Kes' plan and the crew's investigation of the oddities that arise as a result of it (and action, of course). Some of the procedural aspects of the story are actually fairly well constructed. The plot utilizes Tuvok's telepathic abilities, giving him premonitions of things to come, in a way that probably makes little logical sense but is believable on its terms nonetheless. Janeway and Tuvok begin an investigation that follows the clues competently.
But other moments aren't so skillfully handled, like when bad Kes, pretending to be good Kes, walks into sickbay and steals a hypospray, duping the Doctor by hiding it all too obviously behind her back. Doc's degree of lacking observation is the sort typically reserved for sitcom characters and played for laughs. ("Is that a hypospray behind your back or are you just glad to see me?" Cue canned laughter.)
Kes undermines the crew by giving the Vidiians information that will help them capture Voyager, which is traveling through some sort of anomaly that will permit the upcoming battle to take place in front of a more interesting-looking background than a black starfield. When the Vidiians board the ship, we get lots of phasers in the corridors and big mechanical Vidiian clamps that attach themselves to Voyager.
The real confrontation is of course between Janeway and Kes, where we finally get our explanation about why Kes is doing all this (confusion, loneliness), at which point my reaction was, "That's it?" The story makes Kes come across as an unreasonable ingrate.
As for Kes' powers, it would seem they are controlled solely by the Plot Gods. At the beginning of the show she can crush walls. By the time of her big showdown, she knocks down Janeway, and Janeway gets back up. Repeat. Repeat again. Why is it Kes can't knock the phaser out of Janeway's hand? How do these powers work? Are all Ocampa like this in some way? Why can Kes absorb a warp core but not a phaser beam? How is it sometimes she can control computers? Why didn't she simply travel back in time and prevent herself from leaving her homeworld rather than messing with Voyager? The answer to all these questions: Her powers constitute the perfect flexible plot device which is limited or unlimited at the writers' will.
And can somebody please tell me why Lieutenant Carey (Josh Clark), that guy who vanished in the first season, vanished in the first season and now only shows up in time-travel episodes that take place during or before the first season (this episode and "Relativity")? And no, we never saw him die; you're probably thinking of Ensign Hogan if you say he was eaten in "Basics II."
There's of course a time paradox in "Fury" that beggars logical analysis, so I'll resist trying. Okay, I won't. Where does the circle of events start (or end), and if Kes never goes back in time to ruin the Voyager crew, how can information of her plan be remembered in order to prevent her from going back in time in the first place (last place, no place, etc.)? Usually somewhere in the dialog is a joke about the time paradox, but here it's ignored completely, hoping we'll do the same. I dunno. Somehow—and I'm not sure why—that approach seems wrong. In any case, this is one of the least convincing time paradoxes in a long time. It turns the story into a mess.
This episode also furthers the series' crusade of reducing any possible trace of Voyager's long-term credibility to zero. There's a sequence here where a section of the hull on one side of Voyager is literally ripped off by the Vidiian clamp, and twisted metal goes spinning off into space and a fireball shoots out the side of the ship. Presumably, significant areas on several decks are destroyed. It's an elaborate CG effect, yes, but is it believable in the slightest? No, because it's the usual FX Sans Consequences™, destruction brushed off as a non-issue when it should mean hell to pay. (Ironically, these events happen during what was season one, when matters of supply and damage were actually taken halfway seriously; remember the bio-gel packs in "Learning Curve"?) Maybe I should just let it all go and assume the Voyager crew can fix anything—but by this point, I'm guessing the crew could self-destruct the ship, and then build another one during four or five rerun weeks.
There's plenty of plot to nitpick, but I wouldn't bother if there was enough actual story underneath to keep me interested. I should probably point out that "Fury" possesses some technical skill. Stylistically, under John Bruno's direction, the episode looks good (except for the corny bouncing off the walls in the Janeway/Kes encounter). But if you scratch the surface, there's nothing underneath. I'll go back to the central problem with "Fury"—Kes' wrath. I simply don't buy her pulling this 180. This is the same Kes who gave 10,000 light-years to the crew she so much loved in "The Gift." Why is she now so hell-bent on vengeance? I might buy it if the story had bothered to supply the depth necessary for her anger, but it doesn't. The explanation of her loneliness isn't nearly enough; it gives the character the stature of any crazed random alien.
The show tries to bribe us with visuals and chaos when what we really want to care about is Kes. In the end, we're saying goodbye to Kes again, after time paradoxes and heartfelt understanding have given her a second chance to reach peace with her former crew (pulling an arbitrary 180 on top of a 180, making it a hopelessly dubious 360). She decides she is now strong enough to return home. But so what? We said goodbye to her once already, nearly three years ago. Now we do it all over again, having learned no more about her. (Y'think she'll make it back to Ocampa in her remaining few years of life? After all, she's only got 40,000 light-years to cover in that little shuttle of hers. Maybe it can go warp 57. Maybe her powers can make it go warp 57. Maybe she could've made Voyager go warp 57 and helped gotten her friends-turned-enemies-turned-friends home. Or maybe she doesn't forgive them that much.)
Another problem, which I actually found very surprising, was that Jennifer Lien's performance was sub-par. The scene where she (sort of barely) tears up her quarters is almost laughably phony. And in other scenes, Lien seems to be underacting when going over the top like she did in "Warlord" might actually have been better. (As played by Lien, a better title for this show might've been "Mildly Miffed, But Everyone's Gonna Die Anyway.") Lien seemed approximately as convinced of her character's motivation as I was.
Ultimately, "Fury" is an expensive-looking episode that's missing the center it needs—an actual story about Kes. When Lien was written off the show when Jeri Ryan was written in, there was much speculation as to why. I never found out the real story, though I've seen enough traffic on the Internet to conclude she was probably forced out more than she wanted out. I always felt the writing had been what failed her character. In "Fury," when Kes accuses Voyager of abandoning her, one almost begins looking for the ironic self-allegorical subtext. But never mind—that was "Muse."
Next week: In the trailer, Jeri Ryan says "sexual activity," so that's probably all UPN really needs you to know.
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