Friday, April 13, 2012

Harry Kim: The Whipping Boy of Star Trek: Voyager

For those of you reading this blog for the first time or with short memory-spans, I'm a huge nerd. In 1995, when I was in the third grade, I was super mega ultra excited for the premiere of Star Trek: Voyager on the brand new UPN.

After 10 years in which Voyager's been off the air, it's reputation hasn't improved as is the case like other series in the Star Trek universe, like Deep Space Nine. I was mostly blind to this until after the show went off the air but do I hate it? Hardly. It's a show you can watch if you're bored and want to kill some time because it's raining outside and you're too lazy to do anything else.
If you're not familiar with the back-story of ST:V, I'll try to summarize it as best I can: A crew of Starfleet officers and outlaws (The Maquis) must join forces to make the long journey home across 70,000 light years of space, cut off from any back up. Oh and they pick up a hot ex-cyborg along the way who saved the show from being cancelled.
In the future women's fashion becomes air tight for some reason...


But also on the show was a young, inexperienced officer, fresh out of Starfleet Academy, eager for his first deep space assignment...and of course he gets stranded halfway across the galaxy and thus will probably never see any of his friends, family or fiancee ever again. This was Ensign Harry Kim.
And his character was constantly getting fucked over.
That look of possible fear and dread...that's normal for Harry

So I'm going to take a look at the history of this character and how he was constantly getting screwed by the people around him who were supposed to be his friends and colleagues. There are probably too many examples to list, so I'm just going to give you the ones that stick out to me the most.

1) Graduates are Good but Drop-Outs are Awesome: In the second episode of the series, after realizing how boned they are since they're 70+ years from backup of any kind, the crew has to replace the original chief engineer who was killed in the first episode.

Before I go any further, I should address one major problem with Voyager. The Maquis are outlaws who were Federation citizens who chose to stand up for themselves after the Cardassians kept messing around with them. Starfleet was against the Maquis and declared them outlaws, prompting a lot of Starfleet officers to join them in the process. These are the outlaws who join the Voyager crew and become part of the Starfleet system. The problem is that it happens too quickly. Hell, at the end of the pilot, all the Maquis are in uniform with no problem at all. I mean, sure, they felt the Federation turned a blind eye to all the crap going on in the DMZ, but why let that get in the way of sub-par story telling?

Anyway, one of the members of the Maquis crew is B'elana Torres, a half-human, half-Klingon who assaulted a fellow crew-member in the second episode. She was either dropped out or kicked out of the Academy (They never could get the story straight) and yet somehow this person ends up not only becoming chief engineer...but also gets a promotion to Lieutenant even though she didn't even make it through her second year at the Academy.

So think about that: Captain Janeway knows that Harry has worked to be in Starfleet his whole life and yet makes him subordinate to someone who not only couldn't graduate but even fought against the ideals of Starfleet. Oh and that fellow crewman she assaulted? Yeah, he was actually next in line to be chief engineer.
"Life's a bitch, even in the 24th century."

2) Betrayal is Bad but Blue-Balls are Worse-In a later episode we discover that not only was Harry Kim a promising young man on his first assignment, but he was also dating a lovely young woman back on Earth named Libby.

Now, when the love of your life is halfway across the galaxy and probably thinks you're dead...you're gonna play the field. Sadly Harry Kim sucked at relationships and it became a bit of a joke to his best friend, Tom Paris, later in the show. The dude had gone so long without any Starfleet snatch that he fell in love with a hologram. That's right. He fell in love with a computer simulation.

Although he did get a chance to score with one of the hottest babes this side of the Delta Quadrant, Seven of Nine. You might think, "Well, what's the problem?"
I said he did get a chance...but he never took it.
 For a while Harry was attracted to this ex-Borg who was doing her best to regain her humanity and at one point she was willing to go all the way...and Harry declined. Not only did he decline, but he did it in a way that you would have thought she was going to scoop out his eyes with a rusty spoon. Harry, when Seven of Nine offers you sex, you say "YES!!!" Any blue balls after that point are your own fault.


Seriously, Harry...why?

Enter the episode titled "The Disease". He has intimate relations with a member of an alien species without consulting his doctor (A big no-no in the 24th century which didn't exist when Kirk was banging any female that moved a hundred years ago) and more or less picks up VD. I should note that's not entirely what the title of the episode is referring to...give it a watch, you'll understand.
The funny thing is, she was white before Kirk had sex with her

Captain Janeway is not very pleased that her golden officer has broken a rule and gets so pissed off at him that she puts a full reprimand on his file which could affect his future in Starfleet (FYI: It doesn't).

Compare this to the Doctor's actions in the episode "Flesh and Blood". The crew encounters a group of holograms who kidnap the Doctor (A hologram himself) but later return him when they see that he is not a slave. However when he finds out that the Voyager crew are planning to destroy the holograms, he betrays them and sides with the holograms, who also kidnap Torres as well.

I won't go into too many plot details but by the end, the Doctor realizes the error of his ways returns to Voyager. He submits himself for punishment...but Captain Janeway blames herself and says that she is just as responsible. She even goes so far as to call it an "Away mission".

Harry Kim gets laid, does no damage to anyone but himself...full reprimand.
The Doctor betrays his friends and colleagues, does damage to his vessel and endangers many lives...not even a slap on the wrist.
And wait, I recall an episode where the Doctor himself got laid! OK, granted it was...with another hologram. But still...shit!
"Take off your clothes and step into my office."

3. With Friends Like This, Who Needs Enemies?-Within the first episode of Voyager a sort of bromance was established between Harry and former Starfleet/Maquis member Tom Paris. Tom was originally just an observer, on the mission to offer advice on where the Maquis might be hiding. But afterwards when most of the crew was killed, he was given a full promotion to Lieutenant (Just like Torres) and made chief navigator.

I don't have too much of a problem with that because Tom graduated from the Academy and had a career before he was discharged for covering up an accident that killed three officers. He later joined the Maquis for something to do and was arrested on his first mission. But he proved himself a worthy officer for the job and never had any problems.

Except the one time he hijacked a shuttlecraft to launch a terrorist attack against an underworld society that he fell in love in the hopes of saving it and was only stopped thanks to absurd timing on behalf of Captain Janeway, who demoted Tom to the rank of Ensign.

But hey, don't expect to last for too long because less than 18 months later he was back to being a full Lieutenant with the ability to boss Harry around all he wants.
And in that time, there aired an episode titled "Warhead" where a weapon of mass destruction took control of the Doctor's program and was using Voyager to carry him to complete his mission to destroy a civilian settlement.

Locked in Sickbay with the weapon, Harry is able to uncover that the mission has been cancelled and convinces it to abandon it's mission and destroy other weapons on the same mission. So great, Harry saves not only his shipmates and ship, but probably hundreds of thousands (If not millions) of lives...and stays an Ensign.

Garret Wang, the actor who played Harry, actually brought it up to the creators of the show that his character probably should be promoted but they told him that, "Somebody's got to be the Ensign."

I should note that when Star Trek: TNG and Star Trek: DS9 had their series finalies, there were no characters who had the rank of Ensign. Yeah, even a supporting character like Nog, who went to the Academy later than him would get to Lieutenant before Harry did. And to be fair, Harry only got his promotion in paperback books after Voyager went off the air.
"Harry, get your best friend-me-some beer. That's an order!!!"

4) Getting Screwed in Real Life-After Voyager went off the air, Garret Wang has been pretty critical of the show and how it was run and I don't blame him. During the last two years, Star Trek: DS9 felt like it was about a whole group of people on this massive space station.
During the last two years on Star Trek: Voyager, it felt like the show was only about Janeway, Seven of Nine and the Doctor. Wang wasn't a bad actor on the show, none of them were (Except for guest stars) but as characters they weren't given any development sometimes and Harry Kim is the biggest example.

Wang is also the only actor in the history of the franchise to be denied the opportunity to direct an episode of Star Trek. Why that is, I have no clue. They could have done more with his character and had a great opportunity when Wang was named one of People magazine's 50 sexiest people alive.

Harry Kim was a character that could have had a lot of potential but instead he was always getting screwed by the people around him which was a result of the writers and producers. But things could have been worse...he could have been a character on Star Trek: Enterprise.

When two characters have obvious chemistry, the best thing to do is make sure they don't hook up