the story: Harry is given command of an alien ship.
what it's all about: This is the definitive character study of Harry Kim. Of all the characters in the series, he was difficult to comprehend by incredulous fans who never understood why a perfectly dependable officer never got promoted during the course of seven seasons. Here's why.
Simply put, it's because he never understood the human element, and had never been in a position where this was exposed. Janeway's crew functioned perfectly for having been cobbled together, but there was a reason why personnel settled where they did, and worked together as they did. Just as Chakotay's role as first officer became redundant in a crew accustomed to sharing the burden of command under a visionary captain, everyone tended to slide into the roles that were needed. If someone like Neelix proved ambitious, they were granted additional responsibilities. You'll see that Harry never left his post as operations officer. Tom Paris and Tuvok, meanwhile, did handle multiple responsibilities, and were promoted accordingly.
But more than that, it's really about Harry's self-confidence, which is exposed as being disproportionate in some areas, so that it becomes overconfidence. That's why he's an ensign, because he's still got a lot to learn. In a way, he really was the crew member who lost the most being lost in space. He gained plenty of experience, but never realized what he lost in the bargain.
So that's what "Nightingale" is about, helping him realize that. Interestingly, there's a subplot about Icheb naively believing B'Elanna has a crush on him. Again, it's innocent inexperience that's the problem, and a rare instance in which the main and subplots of a Voyager episode reflect each other.
franchise- Won't particularly appeal to casual fans. series- Apparently there was a plan to keep Harry on that alien ship, much as Neelix later split off from the crew before the end. But obviously that didn't happen.
- character - Harry explained.
- essential - A darn clever way to do it, too.
Manu Intiraymi (Icheb)