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“Seven of Nine” was Jeri Ryan’s Greatest Role

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Although it makes me feel like a stalker, I try to keep up on what the actress Jeri Ryan is doing. So far, meh.

After Voyager ended, Ryan landed a temporary job on the forgettable legal drama “Shark”, where she tried not to be devoured by the crazed scenery-chewing of James Woods. After it was mercifully cancelled, Ryan kept busy doing supporting roles on “Leverage“, “Boston Public”, and “Dark Skies”. Again, meh. Allegedly, Ryan is co-starring in the upcoming medical TV series “Body of Proof“, but ABC has exiled the troubled TV show into that purgatory known as “hiatus” which is never a good sign. Can you imagine a room of bored network executives going “Meh”? Jeri Ryan is a talented actress, and she deserves better. Voyager is irrefutable proof of how good Ryan can be.

As a big-time Trekkie, I’ve had a warm fondness for Jeri Ryan ever since I saw her for the first time in Voyager, and I believe that the introduction of Ryan’s Seven of Nine character single-handedly saved the series from cancellation. Voyager wasn’t the worst Star Trek spin-off (no, that dubious honor goes to the infamous Enterprise), but it was an ambitious, ill-conceived and doomed experiment, and it precipitated the slow decline of the franchise.

The bad luck began when Geneviève Bujold dropped out, and the dull Kate Mulgrew was cast as Captain Janeway. Oops. As awful as that misfire was, it got worse. The cross-eyed and tone-deaf producers of Voyager continued to unerringly hit our collective thumbs squarely with a hammer by giving us an African-American Vulcan with an ugly haircut, The Dullest Klingon In The Universe, a guy who had Mike Tyson’s facial tattoo, and a motley crew of assorted non-entities in Starfleet uniforms. Add a few tasteless plots left from The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, toss in the microwave, and serve. Blah.

But the addition of Seven of Nine changed everything for the better.

A drone captured from the Borg collective, Seven of Nine became a member of Voyager’s crew and, other than Robert Picardo’s sly, charming and graceful portrayal of the ship’s doctor, was the program’s most compelling character. Bitterly resented by Mulgrew, and unfairly maligned as cheesecake in a skintight suit, Ryan gave Voyager humor, mystery, sensuality, and a subtle and tragic poignancy that wasn’t there before.

As with Spock, Data, and Odo, Seven of Nine was an alien being misplaced in a world of humans, searching to find her own identity. In return, these intriguing characters made us question our own assumptions about what humanity was.

Oboy, now we’re cooking. With so much to work with, the stories practically wrote themselves. For example, a gentle and heartfelt scene where The Doctor teaches a quizzical Seven of Nine to sing “You Are My Sunshine” is wonderful. Who cares if Mulgrew was pissed off? I’m sure David Caruso didn’t like it when Andy Sipowicz didn’t stay dead like he was supposed to; Dennis Franz was so good in NYPD Blue, people didn’t want to see him go. Jeri Ryan accomplished the same thing, and deserved her victory.

I hope “Body of Proof” is a good TV series, but I doubt it. As Sarah Michelle Gellar could never find a career after Buffy Summers, Jeri Ryan might be forever identified with Seven of Nine. Talk about being victimized by your success. Meh.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaYKx7Ry3z8