Jennifer Line

Kes: Like an Ocampa Scorned

By Rich Handley

    If you only had nine years to live and two of them were already past, what would you do with the remaining seven? Why, spend them aboard the U.S.S. Voyager, of course!
    At least that was the plan when Jennifer Lien joined the Voyager cast as the two-year-old Ocampa named Kes. Grateful to her Talaxian boyfriend Neelix and their Voyager saviors for rescuing her from the Kazon, the earnest and innocent Kes decided to use her remaining years exploring the galaxy with her newfound friends as thay tried to find a way home. However, Kes's stay did not ultimately last the full seven years, for Lien left the series after three seasons.
    "I was on for a few seasons, then they asked me to leave," Lien recalled. "They decided not to renew my contract. I didn't ask why I wasn't being renewed. I just said 'okay' and moved on." Thus, the fourth season's second episode, "The Gift", found Kes's dormant telekinetic powers raging dangerously out of control, forcing Janeway to abandon her in a shuttlecraft for fear that her continued existence could destroy then all. That decision would have major ramifications for both Kes and the Voyager crew two seasons later.
    Make no mistake, though: Lien has no regrets about the decision to remove her from the show, nor about being "replaced" by Jeri (Seven of Nine) Ryan. Instead, the actress said, she is happy to have been aboard for three years. "It was great. It was a lot of fun. I had nothing but good time, and I got introduced to the world of Star Trek!" At the time that the decision was made, Lien was filming American History X, in which she played Davina Vinyard, a young woman troubled by her brothers' involvement with Neo-Nazis. Starring Edward Norton and Edward Furlong as brothers Derek and Danny Vinyard, the film also featured fellow Star Trek alumnus Avery Brooks. Lien said she loved the film and is very proud of her work in it.

Jennifer Lien     Born in Illinois in 1974, Lien began her acting career at age 13 when she took part in summer theater and Shakespeare festivals. At 16, she landed a guest-starring role on Oprah Winfrey's 1990 series Brewster Place, then joined the cast of NBC's Another World as an orphan named Hannah. After a year-and-a-half on that series, she left and forged a career in voice work. Since then, she has appeared on Adam Sandler's comedy album They're All Gonna Laugh at You!, as well as in the animated series Duckman, The Critic, Men in Black, Spawn, Superman: The Animated Series, and The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest. Most recently, she voiced the adult Vitani in Disney's direct-to-video sequel, Lion King II: Simba's Pride. But it was work as Roanne, a starring role on ABC's 1993 short-lived sitcom Phenom, that gained her notice from Voyager's producers.
    Lien's time on Voyager was relatively short, ending after 70 of the series' 172 episodes. However, like Grace Lee Whitney, Denise Crosby, Gates McFadden, Diana Mulder, Wil Wheaton, and Terry Farrell before her, Lien made a permanent mark on Star Trek before her departure - and like most of the above, she eventually made her way back, in the sixth-season episode "Fury". Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, they say, and this episode made that abundantly clear. Vengeful and angry, an aged Kes returned to punish the Voyager crew and sell them out to the Vidiians for abandoning her two years prior. This unexpected twist on Kes' character intrigued Lien, who gladly returned to the role. "It was good to come back," she said. "It was nice of them to invite me." Though she has not kept in touch with any of her former castmates, she said she has only good feelings for them, and that "it was good to act with them again."
    These days, Lien attends Chaffey College in California. "I wanted to get a degree to have variety in my life," she explained. She graduates in 2004. In the meantime, she still accepts roles here and there that interest her. Hitting theaters soon, in fact, is High Crime, a film she recently completed with Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman. Though she's pursuing a college degree, she has no plans to give up acting and no regrets about the path her life has taken. She fondly looks back on her years on Star Trek, even if fans at time could be a bit "overwhelming," and she says what stands out most about those years is "being an actress on a series for that long and having nothing bad happen."


Text from Star Trek Communicator - Issue #134 - August/September 2001 - Page 54
Article used without permission.