the story: Kes is possessed by an alien warlord.
what it's all about: Something of an update of Next Generation's "Power Play," "Warlord" is a very curious episode indeed. Most of it is spent exploring the conflict of the aliens-of-the-week, with Kes thrown in, sort of, and Tuvok, too. Sort of.
The oddest thing, by the way, is that it technically concludes a longstanding element of the series, the relationship between Neelix and Kes, in such an offhand manner as to be laughable in hindsight, considering Neelix really has nothing to do with the episode otherwise, which seems...pretty much what the whole episode to be about. Or pushing the Tuvok element further. Or...basically doing something other than trying to make Kes more edgy. Because that's basically what the episode really is.
Famously, the series wanted to axe a cast member at the end of the season, and it was going to be Garrett Wang (Harry) until he was named to one of People's sexy lists, so the producers instead decided to eliminate Jennifer Lien (Kes). You can see how they struggled with her during the third season. "Warlord" is obviously an excuse to reinvent her, while "Before and After" looks like a life summary for a character whose species lives about as long as a Star Trek series ran at that time (seven seasons/years, though Ocampa best case scenario live about ten years). As one of two Delta Quadrant natives to become a passenger of the ship, she took on considerable significance in giving the series its unique identity in the early seasons, and since those seasons didn't seem to please the fans too much, like Chakotay's reduced role starting in the third season, Kes seemed like a logical focus for change, too. Unlike Neelix, who kept showing new shades and ways of defining his role, Kes had become static, inevitable, too...comfortable. "Warlord" ultimately proves that the producers saw little potential in her relationship with Tuvok, and the Doctor had just won a get-out-of-sickbay card, thereby freeing him to interact with anyone, and not just her.
That "Warlord" dithers and wastes time as an episodic story that wastes its potential, it's like the first sign of the Ocampan apocalypse...A true low point of the season.
- franchise - This is a familiar story that might amuse casual fans.
series- But it'll frustrate more committed ones. character- It wastes valuable Kes time on a pointless spotlight. essential- And doesn't really explain why she gave up on Neelix even after the problem is solved.