Saturday, April 11, 2015

Voyager, Season 3: Favorite Son
Voyager, Season 3
"Favorite Son"
Airdate: March 19, 1997
61 of 168 produced
61 of 168 aired


Harry begins to exhibit genetic changes that seem to indicate he is really not human, but belongs to Delta quadrant species, and now must decide if he should stay behind on his new homeworld. Complicating matters is the fact the planet appears to be populated by nothing but attractive women.

 Why, yes. I was featured in People Magazine's list of Sexiest People Alive, 1997. Want to see my ceremonial scepter?


Kevin: I remember hating this episode when I first saw it, and neither time nor deeper analysis have changed my opinion. The set up of this episode is painfully stupid. First, I can accept that a species could reproduce by an exaggerated form of parasitism. That being said, I doubt that species would achieve space flight. It might have been more interesting had they explained this cultural behavior as the result of a sudden change in fertility or birth rates. Also, the idea that Harry was somehow meant to find his way back to the Delta Quadrant is so facially stupid that it makes it shocking no one questioned it sooner. Nothing in Harry's life or the apparent lifespans of these people make me think that birthing a baby seventy years away from home was a practical solution to a fertility problem.

Matthew: I thought exactly the same thing with respect to the reason for their reproductive method.If this were a response to some disaster, a la "When the Bough Breaks," there could have been a decent (if rehashed) ethical element to the story. I agree very much on the crew just accepting this ridiculous story too readily. At least throw us a bit more treknobabble when you're trying to justify it. Saying that all creatures have instincts is one thing. But can any level of genetic programming explain knowing star coordinates? Knowing social mores like hand gestures and rhythmic stick dances? Deciphering language? This trips the "aw, come on" circuit in the viewer, and as such it should do so in the characters, too. The story could have been more interesting if Kim were lobbying to stay, but someone else on the ship was dead set against the idea, investigating it behind the scenes. And you know, it's just as unbelievable that Kim would find his way from a few sectors over as it is that he would find his way from the Alpha Quadrant. Kim doesn't send the ship anywhere. He's a peon. Wouldn't it make more sense for his condition to spread to the other men on the ship, which might actually facilitate the ship being directed there (not to mention a more interesting "Odyssey" riff...)?

Kevin: The depiction of life on this planet put me in mind of "Let He Who Is Without Sin..." It suffers the same problem in that the episode wants to depict an unorthodox sexuality but pulls all its punches. Take for example the scene of the two women seducing Harry. I should never be required to describe a threeway as "milquetoast." Apparently, everyone stays fully dressed and they only kiss...and it's all a dream sequence anyway. I'm certainly not asking for something gratuitously graphic, but much like it's DS9 counterpart, but this episode seems to analyze human sexuality through the lens of a 12 year old boy still trying to decode what all the innuendo means. This episode was supposed to essentially depict sirens/succubi, but everything is so dry that you can't really imagine anyone being taken in by them, The entire tension of the story derives from either the idea that Harry might actually choose to stay or not realize the danger before they kill him, and the Taresians are so boring that neither possibility seems likely or interesting.

Matthew:Yeah, part of it is wardrobe, but much of it is how unconvincing the sexual advances and Kim's response to them were. Maybe Kim should have indulged. Then, we could have had a really interesting "reverse rape" sort of scenario (a la "Up The Long Ladder"), in which Kim's genetic material was stolen. How hard should he fight to get it back, how betrayed should he feel for having been seduced under false pretenses?

Kevin: A few clean-up nitpicks. I find it hard to believe that even if his DNA is being rewritten, it could encode something specific enough to make him think he needs to fire on an enemy vessel he's never encountered before. There's instinct, and there's silly plot devices. Also, the Doctor's analytical skills were a little wanting. His certainty in the genuineness of the DNA changes seemed to happen by fiat. He said it was 100% genuine and the 100% definitely not genuine at the precise moments the plot needed him to.

Matthew: The genetic engineering was supposed to give Harry complete knowledge of the marriage ceremony. He participates, and knows the rhythm and the dance pattern. But then, at the end, he's like "why did they tie him?" Sounds like a plot device, as you say. Harry lacks knowledge when the viewer needs exposition. Both the Doctor and Harry seemed to turn on a dime with respect to how much they believe the Taresian story. Neither development felt organic at all. This has the effect of making the story feel arbitrary and dumb. Another thing I fail to understand is how the "fresh infusion" of DNA helps at all. Everyone on this planet looks roughly the same. Unless we're to believe that this method only attracts people who look similar (which, to be fair, is true of the two men we see), then we must believe that the Taresians alter the genes so that they don't much around too much with the Taresian genetic profile. In which case, why do it at all? Can't they just find genes on their own world that will suffice?


Kevin: I find it hard to analyze Wang's acting on this one. The performance is certainly flat, but I don't think Laurence Olivier could have polished this turd. The story has no grounding, so all Wang is left to do is be attracted to blandly attractive women without making the attraction to manifest for a prime time audience.

Matthew: Can I ask who the random other dude was? You know, who looked completely human? Apparently, his name is Patrick Fabian. I can't imagine a better job of casting a lecherous dude-bro. I agree that Wang wasn't given much to work with. He was probably at his best in the scene in which he ties up the women, which had a pretty good comedic edge.

Kevin: In the end, I don't think any of the actors really rose above the story here. None of the Taresians felt like real people with real goals. The set up and execution was too attenuated to make anything really resonate, but maybe that could have been solved at least a little by actresses with a little more verve. Kamala from "The Perfect Mate" springs to mind as the example of how to nail the part of "being irresistible."

Matthew: Deborah May certainly has "creepy matriarch" down pat. She did it in DS9's "Sanctuary," and she does it again here. Indeed, I agree that none of the purportedly irresistible women on the planet really broke through their awful floor-length orange getups to register with this viewer.

Production Values

Kevin: This is one of the most egregious examples of an underrealized planet set. This planet of seductive women is apparently set in a dental office suite. Everything was a blandly decorated shade of grey with no windows. And all of the women were certainly attractive, but the costuming and styling choices left me with the impression Harry was being seduced by a JCPenny catalog.

Matthew: The lack of alien makeup and wardrobe called attention to how stupid the story is. The red spots were cheap and off-putting. The chesty lounge wear was stupid. The orange dresses were about as unflattering a guise as you can imagine for your sirens. The bedroom was ultra-bland, and the various meeting places were bland, too. One more production note - I have never found the "strip of fabric in mouth" to be a convincing gag. How could one little strip keep someone from screaming loud enough to be heard?


Kevin: We said in "Let He Who Is Without Sin..." and it holds here. For an episode than focuses on the irresistible allure of sex, the end result is painfully slow and bloodless story. I have liked a lot of Lisa Klink's other works, and even on the stuff I didn't, I at least saw the kernel of the idea. I am choosing to believe this started in a more interesting place and got rewritten out of from under her. This is a 1.

Matthew: I'll accept boring and well thought out. I'll accept stupid and entertaining. This was both boring and stupid, and so I'll have to agree with the 1 for a total of 2. Where is the riotously free-wheeling sexuality of TOS? I don't think this is as bad as "Let He Who is Without Sin...", but honestly, that's sort of a Hitler vs. Mussolini kind of thought experiment.

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