Star Trek: Voyager “Favorite Son”
My return to recapping bad Star Trek: Voyager episodes continues with the third season episode “Favorite Son”, which shows Voyager encountering a planet of women who are out to lure unsuspecting men into a deadly trap. Yes, it’s another instance of the old “matriarchal planet” sci-fi cliche, and as such features a lot of uncanny similarities to “The Lorelei Signal”, an awful episode of the ‘70s Star Trek animated series previously covered on this site.
To be honest, the episodes are so much alike that I’m tempted to just copy and paste the closing paragraphs of my “Lorelei Signal” recap here, but the gist of it is that when you get right down to it, the “planet of lusty women” trope really only exists for the titillation factor that comes with men being kept as sex slaves, but titillation is one of those things (alongside comedy, or a consistent application of the Prime Directive) that the Next Generation to Enterprise era of Star Trek was just plain horrible at.
Also, it’s clear from the outset that this episode is going to be bad because it’s an Ensign Harry Kim episode. When Voyager premiered, Harry’s defining traits were his naïveté and inexperience. Three seasons in, his defining traits were his naïveté and inexperience, and by the final season, well… I think we all know how little the entire cast had evolved or changed over the course of the show’s seven years, with Harry being the worst offender. Though I suppose the crapiness of “Favorite Son” can’t be pinned entirely on him, because it also shows the rest of Voyager’s crew being just as dumb and gullible.
We open on Voyager mapping out a new star system. On the bridge, Harry Kim wonders if they’ve already mapped out a star system just like this one before. Captain Janeway suggests he’s only experiencing déjà vu, and of course this is but another example of that ham-fisted Voyager foreshadowing we’ve all come to know and love.
They’re approached by a friendly ship and the alien captain hails them and says he’s a member of yet another one-off Delta Quadrant race called the Nasari. Kim suddenly gets a panicked look on his face and announces that the other ship is about to attack.
Without waiting for a reply from Janeway, Harry transfers control of phasers to his station and fires on the Nasari. They fire back and we fade out on a very pissed off Janeway giving Harry a withering glare as she orders the ship to Red Alert.
Back from credits, the other ship continues to fire on Voyager, while Janeway has Kim relieved of duty. Voyager is taking quite the beating despite the small size of the Nasari ship, which is easily able to take their warp engines offline. Down in Engineering, a plasma conduit blows up, blasting B’Elanna right in the face. Janeway tries to hail the other ship to reason with them, but when that doesn’t work, she orders Voyager to return fire and the Nasari vessel’s weapons are quickly disabled and the ship moves away.
Harry’s obviously got a lot of explaining to do, and he insists the Nasari ship was about to fire on them, despite what the sensors say. Regardless, Janeway suspends him from duty. She sees he’s been injured and gets a security guard to escort Harry to Sickbay so the Doctor “can take a look at that cut,” and I love the way Mulgrew spits pure venom at the end of this line.
When Harry gets there, the Doctor and Kes are treating B’Elanna, who’s got massive burns to the face and appears to be on death’s door, but the Doc is able to revive her. Harry is obviously racked with guilt and later confesses to Kes that he started the fight with the other ship. Kes tells him he “can’t undo what’s been done”, which reassures him, somehow. He leaves Sickbay and that same security guard is right there outside to make sure Ensign Loose Cannon goes directly to quarters and doesn’t do anything else stupid.
Later that night, Harry is trying to sleep and having nightmares where he relives the whole experience with the Nasari, while also getting glimpses of an alien planet. He sees his mom in this dream, promising to make some soup for little Harry, who has chicken pox-like spots all over his face.
Next in the dream, Harry’s Mom is in Sickbay, and she’s pregnant [?] and yelling at adult Harry that they raised him to be “a responsible boy”, and she adds, “I’m suspending you from duty!” Whoa, lots of stuff to unpack here. I mean, we always knew Harry views Janeway as being like his mother, but I guess it’s a lot more literal than we thought.
Harry wakes up and stumbles over to a sink, and when he looks in the mirror, he’s suddenly got red blotches all over his face.
In Sickbay, the Doctor thinks it’s just a “rash”. Harry mentions his dream last night about being a kid and having the “Mendakan pox” (you gotta love Trek and its “futuristic” sounding diseases), and wonders if that might have something to do with his current condition. The Doctor replies with a sarcastic, “I’ve never considered dreams as a diagnostic tool before!” and proceeds to completely mock Harry for the very idea.
Harry asks if whatever he’s got might have “psychological effects”, and if it could be causing his constant déjà vu feelings, along with his weird behavior on the bridge. The Doctor offers to look into it, but then B’Elanna finally comes around. Harry tells her he’s sorry she got hurt, and comes close to admitting to what he did, but at the last moment realizes there’s a good chance she might rip his eyeballs out right here and now and decides otherwise.
Harry then reports to Janeway’s ready room to apologize fully for the incident. But Janeway stops him in mid-sentence, and reveals that following a closer analysis, the Nasari ship was in fact charging its weapons. If Harry hadn’t taken action, Voyager would have been seriously damaged. Harry is vindicated and says that he felt “suspicion and loathing” as soon as he saw the Nasari ship. He still can’t explain why, but he’s certain he’s been in this area of space before. Janeway suggests the spots on his face might be related. Gee, you think?
Then she gets word that three more Nasari ships are on an intercept course. On the bridge, Harry looks at a star chart and points out a nearby planet and says that Voyager will be “safe” there. The warp engines are still offline and so are their weapons, so Janeway has no choice but to set course for that planet.
As soon as they get there, Harry sees it’s the same planet from his dream and mutters, “Taresia.” The three Nasari vessels also show up, but then another ship comes up from the planet’s surface and fires on the Nasari and drives them away. Chakotay is impressed by Harry’s preternatural intuition here, and wonders if he’s going to “pull a shuttlecraft out of a hat” next. Nope, that’s what the writers of this show did for five seasons.
They get hailed by the Taresian ship, and a woman named Lyris appears on the viewscreen. She’s much more human-looking than the reptilian Nasari, but in a rare departure from cliché, this actually ends up being a reversal of the old “Ugly Aliens are Evil” trope, in that we’ll later find out the Taresians are evil and the Nasari are… well, less evil. Lyris, who I’ll just call the “Head Female” as a nod to something actually spoken in that TAS episode, has those same red blotches all over her face. She sees Harry and declares that he’s “one of my people”, and asserts that Harry is in fact Taresian, and welcomes him home.
Janeway leads an away party down to the surface consisting of Kim, Tuvok, and Paris. As soon as they beam down, they’re greeted by the Head Female and a whole bevy of nubile Taresian babes. Four of the women start hanging all over Harry, and stroking his arms and chest, and one of them even gives him a kiss on the lips. And the one who kisses Harry happens to be played by Kristanna Loken, who would later experience a brief bit of fame as the Terminatrix in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.
Harry is bashful at all the attention and talks about how the Doctor found some strange “genetic fragments” in his DNA. The Head Female says this is simply his Taresian genes “becoming active”, and explains that Harry was conceived on Taresia, and his “embryo” was taken to Earth and implanted into the womb of a human mother. As part of this process, he took on some of the DNA of his surrogate mother, making him look just like her natural child.
Then a Taresian guy steps forward, also with a sexy girl on each arm, and says he too was born on another world. And I don’t know if they specifically set out to find the most douchey, frat-bro looking actor to fill this role, but if that was indeed the goal, mission accomplished.
One woman then sharply tells another to get Harry a “drink”, and the annoyed look on her face shows that the jealousy is already brewing.
Tuvok asks if all Taresian children are born to alien parents, which seems kind of implausible, but it turns out to be true. So how exactly did this species reproduce prior to achieving warp, anyway?
Janeway points out the obvious, which is that Voyager only happens to be in the Delta Quadrant due to a total accident, and it’s impossible for Harry to have been subconsciously making his way back to this planet. But the Head Female just handwaves that all away, saying that Harry would have found his way back to Taresia eventually, and that “accident” only brought him here that much sooner. And you’d think Janeway would be very interested in whatever propulsion technology allows Taresian “children” to make it all the way home from the Alpha Quadrant and places like Earth in (presumably) less than 75 years, but at no point in this episode does she or anyone else bring it up.
Eventually, that one Taresian woman brings Harry a drink. In response, he boldly strokes her cheek with the back of his hand, which even inspires Tom “Miss Manners” Paris to step up and tell Harry to respect her personal space. But Harry instinctively knows that this is how “Taresians say ‘thank you’”. And I’m sure the other women will soon be jockeying for the opportunity to also show Harry how Taresians say “please” and “may I have some more?”
Later, Paris strikes up a conversation with that Taresian guy, who explains that the population of the planet is 90% female, and that’s why they roll out the sexy welcome wagon for the men in particular. But instead of getting instantly suspicious of this rather improbable gender imbalance, Tom replies with a smarmy, “Really.” Stay classy, Tom.
Janeway wants to know why the Nasari attacked them, and the Head Female says it’s because they detected the presence of a Taresian on their ship. Supposedly, the Nasari are determined to prevent all Taresian children from returning home, which is why the Taresians programmed a “defense mechanism” into their offspring, thus explaining why Harry fired on the other ship with no provocation.
Meanwhile, Harry is looking at the writing on the walls and starting to realize he can read the Taresian language. One of the women tells him that his actual, biological parents likely died a long time ago, considering how long it would have taken to get to Earth. Okay, so let’s suppose it took Harry’s “dad” roughly 75 years to reach Earth. Why would he bother to implant an embryo into a human woman? His son would then be (at least) 75 years old by the time he got back to Taresia, and not exactly prime breeding material. Of course, this will all be rendered moot when we inevitably find out (spoiler alert!) the Taresians are making all of this up, but there are so many inconsistencies and ludicrous elements in their story that Voyager’s crew should be instantly suspicious.
The away team is about to beam up, but Harry decides to stay on the surface for a while, and the women are besides themselves at getting more chances to drape themselves all over him.
Back on Voyager, the Doctor confirms that Harry Kim does possess Taresian DNA, and offers a technobabble reason why this wasn’t noticed in any of his previous medical scans. He then delivers more technobabble to explain how the Taresians were able to encode extremely specific knowledge into Harry’s DNA, including the name of his home planet as well as its language. And once again, despite the stupidity of it all, Janeway completely buys every word.
She and Chakotay then discuss the Nasari ships that are out there waiting to attack, and she thinks they might have a shot at peacefully resolving things without Harry aboard. She orders Voyager to leave orbit so they can deal with the Nasari directly.
Back on Taresia, Harry’s talking to the Taresian guy and finds out they have a lot in common, in that they were both really interested in being space explorers at a young age. The other guy, whose name is Taymon, says this is actually one of many uniquely Taresian traits, which also include a love of “math or music”, and Harry suddenly realizes this is why he totally loves music. Wait, you mean Taresians love music and want to be astronauts when they’re kids? Holy shit, I might be Taresian! As well as like 95% of the people reading this.
Then Taymon says that Kristanna will be his “first wife”. No surprise, given the 1:9 gender ratio on this planet, the Taresians are really big on bigamy.
Harry talks about his “human parents” and how they doted on him, and how he never felt special enough to deserve that kind of devotion. But Taymon says he was right all along: “You have been special, all of your life!” Hmm, is there some way this episode could significantly underline the fact that poor, gullible Harry is currently getting seduced by the stroking of his ego (as well as other body parts)? Taymon adds, “Feels pretty good, doesn’t it?” just as one woman comes up and starts massaging Harry’s shoulders. Okay, I think I get it now.
Meanwhile, Voyager is having a viewscreen conference call with the Nasari and trying to negotiate an end to hostilities. The Nasari captain vaguely alludes to “rumors” about the Taresians (which is all the explanation we get for why these two races are mortal enemies), and advises Janeway to forget her crewman and move on. He breaks off contact, so Janeway orders Voyager back to Taresia, but once they get there, they discover the Taresians have activated some sort of defensive grid that they can’t penetrate, meaning they can’t beam Harry up.
Meanwhile, Harry attends Taymon’s “joining” ceremony, with more candles set up than in that Police video. Taymon enters with his three future wives who are all wearing red veils, and everyone strikes wooden staffs together and walks in a circle, and someone puts red makeup on Taymon’s face. They also blindfold him and tie his hands together, and this is getting pretty kinky for a Star Trek episode.
Kristanna announces that the “joining is complete”, and Taymon and his betrotheds march off to presumably have a hot ménage à quatre. Harry asks one woman why they tied Taymon’s hands, and she responds with, “Do you find it exciting?” But Harry’s inner goddess is not down with the BDSM and he just wants to get back to Voyager. He tries to hail the ship and there’s no response, but the Head Female is around to tell him not to worry and rejoin the celebration.
Meanwhile, Janeway returns to Sickbay, and it turns out the Doctor has a completely different story to tell. More random technobabble follows in which it turns out his previous technobabble was all wrong, and in fact Harry was implanted with Taresian DNA much more recently, via a “retrovirus” that he encountered during an away mission. To no one’s shock, except for the characters in this episode, Harry Kim is not really Taresian after all.
Back on Taresia, one of the women shows Harry to his quarters all while continuing to fondle him, which then inspires Harry to ask if she’s going to “tuck [him] in”. He tries to explain what that means, but this woman couldn’t care less about his mommy issues and instead starts to spread the “essence of rikka flowers” all over his face.
She then kisses him and leaves and Harry sleeps, which leads to another pointless dream sequence where Harry sees all the Taresian women welcoming him home, and then Janeway telling him he’s been “special” his whole life, and then another vision of his mom accompanied by young Harry, while telling adult Harry to remember where his “real home” is. In his dream, a Taresian woman makes out with him, and then he looks around and sees another Taresian woman is there with him too.
He wakes up suddenly… and it turns out the two women he was dreaming about are actually in his bed. Totally in keeping with what any man would do upon dreaming about a threesome, and then waking up to discover said threesome is actually happening, Harry gets pissed off and demands to know what the women are doing here.
Harry says he wants to be alone, but one woman thinks he’s already spent “too many nights alone”. Well, these Taresians sure do have a good read on him. Harry responds by… going to put his shoes on. So both women drop to their knees and beg Harry to take them both as his wives, but he refuses.
And to get away from them, he actually does a hilarious Shatner-esque head-roll over the mattress, and insists he’s going back to Voyager. They argue that he has a duty and a loyalty to help further his species, but Harry says his loyalty is with Voyager and his family on Earth.
They close in on him and start making out with him, so Harry tries a different tack, saying that he’s thought about it and now he’s considering making them both his wives. He then takes the ribbon off one woman’s dress and uses it to tie up the other, reminding her of how she said this could be “exciting”. The first woman starts to grasp that this is a trick, so Harry (apologetically) knocks her out with a goblet or something and runs out.
He’s soon knocking at the door of Taymon’s quarters. Hey, hey, easy now. I think yah boy Taymon might be real busy right now, Harry. Regardless, Harry forces his way in, only to find that Taymon is now a shriveled-up, desiccated corpse. Yep, the sexy alien women are actually space vampires looking to suck the lifeforce out of gullible men. Who could have seen this coming? I mean, this has to have been a deliberate attempt to remake the animated “Lorelei Signal” episode, right?
Just then, Kristanna enters and Harry holds a sharp object on her, and demands to know what’s going on. She explains that they had to “denucleate” Taymon’s cells to collect enough genetic material for “conception”. So yeah. They basically drained his lifeforce to create more babies. Harry finally realizes that the planet isn’t devoid of men because they all traveled to other planets; instead, they were all killed.
Harry now knows he’s not really Taresian, and Kristanna helpfully explains that they’ve been transforming males of other races into suitable mates for quite some time. Just then, some other women enter and Harry shoves them all onto the bed with Taymon’s mummified remains and makes a run for it.
On Voyager, they’ve formulated a plan to get past Taresia’s defense grid so they can rescue Harry. As the ship heads closer to the planet, Tom Paris yells stuff like “Increasing power!” and the camera shakes for a bit, and that’s all it takes to get through.
On the surface, Harry enters the big welcoming chamber from earlier and is suddenly confronted by all the Taresian women, who emerge from every doorway carrying their big wooden marriage staffs. And in a truly goofy moment, Harry ends up rolling around on the floor and fighting off one of the women. He loses this scuffle and it seems they’re now ready to perform the denucleation procedure on him, but just in the nick of time, he gets beamed up.
On Voyager, they’re confronted by several Taresian ships, but then some Nasari ships show up and it appears the two alien races are much more interested in fighting each other. Voyager is able to quietly extricate itself from the situation and cruise away.
So, um… what about all the unsuspecting men of other alien races who are going to be infected with a “retrovirus” and drawn to Taresia and killed to generate more genetic material? It would appear Janeway couldn’t care less about trying to stop the Taresians or any of their future murderous plans. And why are Taresian women unable to reproduce normally, anyway? How did they arrive at a point where they have to kill alien men to further their species? Certainly they couldn’t have just evolved this way, right? Damn, even that stupid TAS episode that only ran 22 minutes was able to answer all of these questions.
Instead, we cut to the mess hall, where Harry is telling Neelix the story of Odysseus and how he was able to resist the Sirens’ song, I guess to make sure we understand just how old and tired the “land of predatory women” trope really is. Also, Harry’s spots have magically disappeared, but I guess we can assume the Doctor was able to remove all traces of Taresian DNA off-screen. Tom is also here and he totally sympathizes with Kim, because he’d “never seen so many beautiful women in my life!” But Harry says it wasn’t just the women; it was also the idea of gaining a “new identity” and being more than “Young Ensign Kim”.
Harry says he wishes he could be more “bold, and confident with women”, just like Tom. Tom says he shouldn’t wish for that, because there might be “prison time involved”. What? This is obviously an allusion to the brief time Tom spent in Federation jail for joining the Maquis, but what the heck does that have to do with being confident with women? Regardless, Tom Paris instead wishes he could be more like Harry, and whatever, just end this shit already.
I’m desperately trying to comprehend which part of this episode’s concept made the producers decide it was totally worth doing. My guess is their thought process was something along the lines of, “Hey, we get to bring in lots of hot chicks to play the Taresians!” And that they did, but it wasn’t nearly enough to salvage this worthless script.
Actually, according to Garrett Wang, this episode was originally meant to reinvent the character of Harry Kim, and establish that he actually was an alien all along. And given that this would have involved a major shakeup to the Voyager status quo, it obviously had very little chance of happening. Just as surely as every “potential way home” discovered during this show’s run was tried exactly once and quickly discarded, it’s obvious from the start of “Favorite Son” that Harry’s new alien heritage will turn out to be an illusion, and we’re just biding our time until Harry figures it out too.
And while it may be a total coincidence, it’s bizarre that both this episode and “The Lorelei Signal” are credited to solo female writers. I can’t even guess at what would motivate a woman to write a story in which all the female characters turn out to be conniving space-harpies.
In fact, I can’t guess why anyone would want credit for this Idiot Plot, which hinges on the Voyager crew acting even stupider than usual as they completely swallow all of the Taresians’ nonsense with little skepticism. Garrett Wang also claimed there was a lot of network interference on “Favorite Son”, including demands to add more sex and action, which is probably the best explanation for why Voyager cranked out so many dumbed-down episodes like this one aimed at the lowest common denominator.
Next up: Chakotay steps into the spotlight, as a special guest star visits Voyager in “Unforgettable”, perhaps the most ironically titled episode of the entire series’ run.