Kes (Star Trek)
|Portrayed by||Jennifer Lien|
|First appearance||"Caretaker, Part II" (Voy)|
Concept and development
The character was among several which were originally included in the initial list for Star Trek: Voyager. Described as an alien "Mayfly", the character did not have an assigned gender, but was intended to live for only seven years with obvious aging taking place each season. She was intended to act as a scout for Voyager as it travels through the Delta Quadrant. In expanding the character, it was later suggested that there would be two "Mayflies"; an older one and a younger one. These two "Mayflies" were later separated into the characters known as Kes and Neelix.
A memo on August 17, 1993 by executive producer Jeri Taylor, suggested a superhuman ability for the Mayfly for the first time. The appearance of the character in the pilot "Caretaker" was also suggested in the same memo, as someone caught up in the fighting between two factions - a situation in which Voyager also finds itself. By September 15, the character was confirmed as female.
Kes is an Ocampa, a race native to the Delta Quadrant, with a lifespan of only nine years. In the series pilot, Kes is taken on board the USS Voyager crew with her partner, Neelix, who was responsible for rescuing her from the Kazon. Kes had been a slave of the Kazon after her attempt to escape the tedium of normal Ocampan life. She had also hoped to develop her psionic powers, which her ancestors were rumored to have possessed with great proficiency. The Ocampa's psionic powers were relatively unknown by that time because of the Ocampa lifestyle, which depended solely on the Caretaker for provisions and protection.
During her time aboard Voyager, Kes develops a close friendship with the Doctor while working as his assistant medical technician. Kes receives medical training and helps the Doctor learn how to interact more easily with the crew. She also helps him develop social skills, such as helping him get a date with Vidiian Dr. Denara Pel ("Lifesigns"), and supporting him when he deals with the loss of his "daughter" in a holographic family simulation ("Real Life"). Kes also becomes a friend and student of Tuvok, who helps her develop and learn to control her psionic abilities.
In "Elogium", Kes is affected by emanations from space-dwelling life-forms and prematurely enters the "elogium", the Ocampan female reproductive state. She states that this condition only occurs once in an Ocampan lifecycle, which would mean that her species is in decline, with only one child born to each Ocampan couple. This aspect of Ocampan fecundity is not explained, although it is possible that their dependant lifestyle or the ecological changes brought about by the "debt that cannot be repaid" referred to by the Caretaker may be responsible for this phenomenon.
In the episode "Warlord", Kes treats an Ilaran man carrying the consciousness of former Ilaran tyrant Tieran. As he lies there, dying, Tieran transfers his mind into her for his own goal of reconquering Ilara, prompting Kes to steal a shuttlecraft to go to Ilara. He makes full use of her mental abilities, but it becomes evident that Kes is battling with him internally for the control of her mind. Tieran is eventually purged from her mind, but Kes is left somewhat traumatized from the violent acts in which she participated. Tuvok tells her that she will have to learn and adapt from the experience, and that she will never be quite the same again. During this episode, Kes calls off her long-term romantic relationship with Neelix, under the mind control of Tieran during an away mission claiming he is too jealous, suffocating, and protective. Upon resolution of the conflict, Kes decides to not reinitiate their intimacy (the alien's original rationale was based on Kes' own subconscious), though the two do remain good friends thereafter.
In the episodes "Scorpion" and "The Gift", Voyager becomes entangled in a major conflict between the Borg and the mysterious aliens referred to as Species 8472. Due in part to her exposure to the powerful telepathic influx of Species 8472, Kes begins to "evolve" into a different state of being. She can no longer remain with Voyager, but before leaving, she uses her newly acquired powers to hurl Voyager and crew safely beyond Borg space, 9,500 light-years closer to Earth.
Kes later revisits Voyager in a story involving time travel ("Fury"). At this point, she appears much older, is much more powerful, and is vengeful towards the Voyager crew. She travels to the past and attempts to hand the past Voyager over to the Vidiians while she takes her past self home, but this attempt is thwarted. Using their new foreknowledge of these events, the present Janeway and Tuvok create a hologram of Kes at the time who reminds her future self about her affection for the crew and how much they had cared for her, thus showing Kes how irrational her hatred is. The episode ends with her taking her ship back to Ocampa.
Kes has psionic powers that primarily manifested as telepathy, allowing her to read minds and project her thoughts. When she encountered another group of Ocampans, her powers evolved quickly, and she developed pyrokinesis and almost incinerated her friends with psychic fire. With help, she was able to suppress her pyrokinetic abilities. Finally, Kes began to develop psychokinesis and could move objects with her mind. As her powers evolved, she began to lose physical form and was becoming a psychic entity, and she used her telekinetic powers to launch the Voyager light-years closer to Earth before she became living energy.
In the episode "Before and After", Kes participates in Voyager's year-long battle with the Krenim during the Year of Hell, becoming infected with particles from a chronoton torpedo. She later marries Tom Paris, and they have a daughter Linnis (named after Kes' mother). Linnis is married to Harry Kim and they have a son named Andrew, grandson of Kes. At the beginning of the episode, Kes is nine years old and ready to accept her death at the normal age for Ocampans. The Doctor, however, is not, so he devises a biotemporal chamber, which has the unintentional effect of reactivating chronotons dormant in Kes' body from her exposure to the chronoton torpedo several years earlier. This begins sending Kes on a backwards journey through her life. Kes becomes aware of what is happening, and once she has traveled back to the time corresponding to an earlier part of Voyager's conflict with the Krenim, she informs the Doctor in the past what is happening to her and relays the exact temporal frequency of the chronoton torpedo. This enables the Doctor to devise a treatment and restore Kes to normal temporal sync. It also renders the events of Kes' future, including her marriage to Tom Paris, as well as her daughter Linnis, into an alternate timeline that never comes to pass. She is, however, still able to inform Captain Kathryn Janeway about the coming "Year of Hell". It is left unexplained why Voyager's crew is unaware of Kes' warning when they encounter the Krenim later in season 4, during the episodes of the same name (season 4, episodes 8 and 9). However, the omission of her warning could have been due to Annorax's temporal alterations when Voyager reset the original timeline by destroying the Krenim vessel. Voyager was not attacked in the restored timeline, so the alternate reality when Kes got the warning would not have taken place.
In the 2005—2006 novel trilogy String Theory, it is revealed that the Kes who appeared in "Fury" was actually the manifestation of Kes' dark side, caused by a complex side effect of a confrontation with a renegade Nacene (the same species as the Caretaker). In the 2012 novel The Eternal Tide, Kes assists Q Junior in resurrecting Admiral Janeway after she is assimilated and the Borg Cube she was on was destroyed; Kes' actions restored Janeway's body to its most perfect state after Q was able to teach her how to pull her body back together.