Having Seven Of Nine In Star Trek: Voyager Raised Concerns For Another Character

The first three seasons of "Star Trek: Voyager" featured a character named Kes, played by actress Jennifer Lien. Kes was an interesting concept for a "Star Trek" show: she belonged to a species called the Ocampa that only had a lifespan of nine years. If "Voyager" was to last for seven seasons (as "Star Trek: The Next Generation" did before it), then audiences would watch a two-year-old Kes grow from an adolescent to an old woman by the series finale. Her existence on the U.S.S. Voyager could serve as a symbolic microcosm for a whole human life. 

Kes was not a Starfleet officer but was given a provisional position on the Voyager serving as a medical assistant to the ship's snippy unnamed Doctor (Robert Picardo). The Doctor was an Emergency Medical Hologram that the Voyager had to employ out of desperation after the ship's medical staff all died in a massive cataclysm. In working with the holographic Doctor, Kes began to see that a personality was emerging from his programming, and it was Kes who posited that the Doctor might be alive. Indeed, Kes began to serve as the ship's conscience, offering compassion and gentleness when Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) opted to be brusque. 

Sadly, when ratings were flagging, Kes was written out of the show and replaced by Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) a catsuit-clad Borg babe in a corset. Not only did the Voyager lose its conscience, but the Doctor lost his primary teacher of tenderness. Picardo was concerned when Lien was fired. He liked Lien and appreciated the dynamic that had formed between the Doctor and Kes. In 2022, Picardo spoke with StarTrek.com about his concern over losing Kes, and how he had to conceive of a new relationship he would forge with Seven of Nine.

Kes vs. Seven of Nine

In addition to how the Doctor might relate to a new Borg character, Picardo was suddenly concerned that Seven would be given stories and character moments that might have previously been assigned to him. After all, the Doctor was a machine intelligence that had to learn how to become more human, and Seven was implanted with machines and had to learn how to become more human. Picardo said:

"[W]hat happened is that Seven's character was suddenly assigned storylines that would have been The Doctor's in the first three seasons. Had I realized they were going to do that, I might've been trepidatious. When I heard that Kes wasn't coming back, I did go in to Brannon's office and say, 'I'm concerned again.'" 

Brannon is Brannon Braga, one of the show's co-creators and key writers. Even if the executives at Paramount didn't like Kes, Picardo did, and he knew that his character was about to lose something vital. In the early episodes of the series, the Doctor was impatient and mechanical. Only Kes was able to help him explore his emotional life. A cold-blooded Borg character wouldn't be able to provide that. Picardo brought up his concerns succinctly, saying: 

"I explained that Kes had really been The Doctor's mentor. Officially, he's mentoring her as a medical assistant, but she has been mentoring him and developing his humanity. My concern was that she's been his emotional sounding board, his confessor. The moment she's gone, The Doctor is just going to go back to being a buffoon and a windbag. He'd never open himself up to another crew member at this point."

Braga, however, turned the new change back on Picardo, and encouraged him to think of it as an acting challenge. 

The new dynamic

Picardo got to brainstorming and had a solution for Braga the next day. If the Doctor could no longer be a student of humanity, he might be arrogant to think he can be a teacher. Picardo said: 

"Brannon Braga's exact words, as I recall them, were, 'Well, see if there is a unique way that you can relate to our new character Seven of Nine.' I gave it some thought, and I read the first script or two that they had available before we started shooting that season. I went to Brannon and suggested that we take the relationship that The Doctor had with Kes and we turn it around. So The Doctor thinks that the best person to teach Seven of Nine how to become human again is him. In other words, he's a better teacher on how to be a human being than a real human being." 

The Doctor, a machine intelligence made of light and forcefields, fancied himself an expert. It added a whimsical element of arrogance to the character, as well as a chance to learn from his (inevitable) mistakes. It also ensured that the Doctor and Seven of Nine wouldn't be similar and wouldn't have to share stories. As the series progressed, however, Seven of Nine kind of became the lead character of the show, featured more prominently than other characters. 

Seven was brought on to boost flagging ratings and, perhaps frustratingly, it worked. To give credit where it is due, however, Jeri Ryan gave a fantastic performance, and bravely had to squeeze into her uncomfortable outfit every day of shooting