I have reached the Voyager watershed that is "The Gift," and I feel like I understand why so many people hate 7 of 9. I also kind of want to vomit.

Let's start, shall we, with the conversion therapy that Janeway inflicts on 7 of 9 in complete violation of her free will. Here's a fun exercise: watch the episode but imagine you can replace "humanity" with "the life that the Lord has planned for you" and replace "the Borg" with "being gay." I honestly don't think I can put other words together right now to express how profoundly disgusting I found this plotline.

And while Pray the Gay Away camps were still perfectly acceptable to mainstream culture in 1997, I would hazard that a lot of viewers watching this episode could still tell, could still feel how gross this plotline was, and how completely outside of Janeway's character the episode required her to go. So 7 of 9's introduction was pretty much tainted from the outset: the way she joined the cast was abhorrent.

As if that wasn't enough, the episode's other plotline is Kes' departure from the cast. The plotline of Kes' departure is basically the rest of her character arc, compressed down from the years of slow development into twenty minutes. Oh, were you looking forward to seeing Kes grow up in an organic development, rich with introspection and character interactions? Well, too bad, let's just fast-forward to the end. Ta-da!

Worse, the episode makes it very plain that Kes, a character who viewers had grown to love, was being traded off for this gross thing that makes Janeway disgusting by proximity. While the decision was no doubt intended as an upgrade–a patented 90s Hollywood "shake it up and make it fresh!" gambit–I can't imagine it felt like anything other than a betrayal to viewers, not to mention a threat to the character of Janeway. Suddenly she's gone dark, taking despicable actions to preserve her sense of proper humanity. That's an intriguing character, but it's not Janeway, and thus another layer of betrayal gets laid down.

This episode was a whole lot of laying pipe and making "necessary" changes to the show's premise, and did so in a hackneyed, slap-dash fashion that I wish I could say was beneath the talent of the Voyager writer's room. Unfortunately, though, it ranks among the worst episodes, but not the worst.

(Despite all that, when Kes threw the ship beyond Borg space, I still got a little tear in my eye. Bye, Kes.)
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