Voyager not only broke the mold of previous series of Star Trek for introducing the first woman captain as a lead, but had several important female friendships throughout the series – Captain Janeway and B’Elanna Torres, who bonded over their scientific backgrounds; Janeway and Kes, where the captain guided Kes; Janeway and Seven of Nine, which combined elements of both friendships; and more – yet because Kes left the series in season four just before Seven joined the series, audiences were never allowed to see a friendship that could truly have made the later seasons of Voyager even greater – Kes and Seven of Nine.
Kes’ almost naive and trusting nature interplaying with Seven’s almost aloof and logical nature could have taken elements from other ‘odd couple’ pairings that have been part of Trek from the beginning. Yet it would’ve pushed the formula further by setting Kes and Seven up as awkward friends who guided each other instead of rivals who butted heads over their differences, à la McCoy and Spock or even Voyager’s own Neelix and Tuvok. Kes and Seven could have helped each other grow as characters while not resorting to barbs and snark.
Kes spent her four seasons on Voyager often being written as the audience surrogate who asks questions or considers the emotional side of things. Take her early bond with the EMH where she often advocated for his rights and spoke up on his behalf, when the other members of the crew wrote him off since he was a hologram, such as when she advocated to Janeway for the Doctor to have the right to turn himself off when not working.
Yet Kes also kept the Doctor in line by reminding him his patients had emotional needs he needed to address, such as improving his bedside manner (“Tattoo”). This sometimes limited Kes’ role to being the emotional core of the crew, whereas other characters were allowed to have multifaceted roles in an episode, barring the few episodes where Kes had a more complex and central role, such as when she was possessed by a military dictator (“Warlord”). Her alternative roles as medical assistant to the doctor, especially in situations where the doctor could not be deployed, or as the founder of the hydroponics bay that provided necessary food for the crew, were woefully underutilized when those could have yielded wonderful plotlines. We could have seen a plot where Kes had to make a critical medical decision without the Doctor to guide her, then having to consider the consequences of her decision, or Kes’ attempts to improve the infamous leola root, leading to a sentient plant and more. Her culture was also underutilized, as the audience barely learns about the Ocampa besides the fact the Caretaker caused irrevocable damage to the community to the point they might die out.
Seven of Nine spent most of her tenure on Voyager relearning about humanity and trying to unlearn nearly two decades of life as part of the Borg collective. Unlike characters like Spock from TOS or Data from TNG, Seven had plotlines outside of her relationship to humanity and whether she wanted to reject or embrace it, including her maternal role to several children that had been living as part of the Borg collective for years, helping them on the same journey to rediscover humanity she was also undergoing. Seven may have spent many episodes in Spock-mode where she called out how emotional her crewmates were and derided their need for ‘play’ (“The Raven”), but she also slipped into Data-mode in some episodes, such as when she tried to research human sexuality then ended up asking her crewmates several uncomfortable questions (“Revulsion”). As Voyager continued, Seven formed many distinct bonds with the crew – occasional rivalry with B’Elanna, protégée of Janeway, odd not quite explored relationship with Harry Kim, the Doctor as a surrogate father figure, an eventual romance with Chakotay, and more. Yet throughout her time on Voyager, Seven never got to have someone who was a direct contrast with her. Almost everyone in the crew had certain facets of her personality – Janeway and B’Elanna were also involved in the sciences, Harry and the Doctor both struggled in social situations, and so on.
Kes’ more emotional nature contrasted with Seven’s more logical nature could have yielded a new type of friendship underexplored in Trek. The common trope of “characters with opposite personalities must work together” is well represented in previous Trek, including McCoy and Spock in TOS as well as Quark and Odo in DS9. Voyager even had their own version of the “odd couple” with Neelix and Tuvok. However, these characters all interacted through conflict – some traded barbs and acerbic comments, others scoffed at each other. Kes and Seven could have had positive interactions with each other as they used their unique skill sets to help get Voyager home, or worked with the rest of the crew. A prime example would be Kes asking Seven about her childhood while doing a project with Naomi Wildman and Seven replying that she was assimilated as a child, but Kes then talking about her own childhood and eventually Seven revealing a childhood memory, creating the opportunity for them to compare their memories. Seven could also ask Kes about her life among the Ocampa, allowing Kes to have a fuller backstory while also comparing Seven’s life in the Borg collective to Kes’ under the Caretaker. Kes could also have asked Seven questions about different species the Borg had assimilated in other quadrants to learn new information that could help Voyager get home, such as the trading routes other species used and following those to avoid Viidian colonies or finding areas with plenty of dilithium to mine.
Throughout Voyager, many diverse female characters were developed – Captain Janeway, B’Elanna Torres, Kes, and Seven of Nine among them. Many of these great female characters got to play off each other, but unfortunately, one of the relationships that never got to develop was between Kes and Seven of Nine. Set against Trek’s history of antagonistic odd couples – e.g. Neelix and Tuvok or McCoy and Spock – Kes and Seven could really have been the star awkward friendship of Voyager.