Jennifer Lien: How Things Have Gone Downhill Since Star Trek

Jennifer Lien was Kes on Star Trek: Voyager, but she lost her role and has been involved in a number of police-related incidents since.

By Rick Gonzales

Jennifer Lien is a name Star Trek fans know well, though not for reasons the actress would necessarily appreciate. It’s an interesting story about how one person’s career fate can be decided by another’s. That’s the case with Lien who saw a major role disappear because of some odd timing around superfluous awards. The fall is never graceful. It can, in fact, be quite painful. For actress Jennifer Lien, painful is a mild way of putting it.


The beginning for Jennifer Lien, before acting, was not an easy one. She grew up on the South Side of Chicago and had to learn early on how to survive.

She told Soap Opera Weekly in a 1992 interview, “My childhood was wild because I was very uncomfortable living where I lived (the South Side of Chicago). It was very industrial – if you didn’t fit in you got your ass kicked. I was just my own person, and I adopted this really tough skin because I had to if I wanted to survive. A lot of my friends were into drugs, and I saw a lot of them die.”

But she looked at those days from a philosophical perspective. “Every little experience counts. And there’s so much out there to experience. I embrace every little change I can make. I know that the good days are coming, so I don’t let the bad ones get to me.”

Jennifer Lien

For Lien, the “good days” did come. She knew early on that acting was all she wanted to do. She was 13 years old when she joined the Illinois Theater Center and 16 when she grabbed her first acting role in the soap opera Another World. “I always knew I wanted to be an actress,” she admitted to Soap Opera Weekly. “I know everyone says that, but I had a clear picture of what I wanted to do and this driving ambition that would not let me stop.”

When it came to Another World, Lien recalled her audition: “I went on this general audition for Vicky/Marley and they said, ‘You’re too young to do the part, but we’d like you to meet some people from the show.’ So I went to New York, and they liked me.” She ended up getting the part of Hannah Moore that she held onto for a year while also completing her high school studies.

Jennifer Lien moved on from Another World to the short-lived TV series Phenom which also starred Judith Light (Who’s the Boss) and William Devane (The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training, Knots Landing). This was also the time when Lien began doing voice work.

Her first voice gig came on the series The Critic but it certainly wouldn’t be her last. She was also heard on the animated series Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man, The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, Superman: The Animated Series, The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride, and Men in Black: The Series.


Kes on Star Trek

Jennifer Lien’s claim to fame came in 1995 when she nailed the role of Kes in the series Star Trek: Voyager. She played an Ocampan, an alien life-form that has telepathic abilities but has an average life span of only 8-9 years.

Initially, the character of Kes was to be more of an androgynous species but that was changed early on. Lien was one of the first cast members hired and was also the youngest.  She enjoyed a great three-year run until the producers wanted to shake things up by adding another character, Seven of Nine, played by Jeri Ryan. Someone had to go.


Jennifer Lien
Jennifer Lien as Kes on Star Trek: Voyager

At first, it was deemed that actor Garrett Wang, who played Ensign Harry Kim, would be the one released from the show. Jennifer Lien wasn’t on their radar to get the axe.

But during the show’s hiatus, Wang was chosen as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World by People Magazine which caused the producers of the show to shift their thoughts away from relieving Wang of his duties. A target was then painted on Lien and she fell victim to Seven of Nine.

Harry Kim
Garrett Wang as Harry Kim

Jennifer Lien’s departure was felt by many in the cast, some of whom weren’t on board with her exit. Kate Mulgrew, who played Captain Kathryn Janeway on the show, spoke up for Lien via the Star Trek: Voyager magazine saying, “I’m very, very sorry to see Jennifer go. She was a part of the family on the show, but I’ve been in this business a long time, and nothing surprises me.” She added, “[I was] sad about Jen, and I’ll tell you exactly why – ’cause I think she’s a hell of an actress. [I was] sorry to see her go, sorry to see her go the way she went, knowing that she was a wonderful actress. That was tough.”

Amazingly, Jennifer Lien was brought back one more time to play Kes. This came in Season 6, three seasons after her initial departure, and it was for one episode, titled Fury.

Jennifer Lien

Acting for Jennifer Lien pretty much ended after Star Trek. She did a little voice work, as previously mentioned, and one gig in the feature film American History X playing the younger sister to Edward Norton. She got a role in the movie SLC Punk! and then life took a nosedive.

Jennifer Lien stepped away from acting in 2002 when she gave birth to her son. Since that time, she has not appeared in front of the camera. She has, unfortunately, continued to make a name for herself, but for all the wrong reasons.

Jennifer Lien in SLC Punk

Jennifer Lien has found herself consistently on the wrong side of the law since her retirement from acting. She has been charged with various crimes including domestic violence and numerous vehicle-related offenses. Based on these criminal entanglements, the former actress was ordered to undergo mental health treatment.

During one of her many vehicle-related issues, Jennifer Lien was accused by the arresting deputy of spitting on him. Roane County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Wes Stooksbury explained via Roane County News, “I did detect an odor on her person believed to be associated with an alcoholic beverage,” the officer said. “I asked again if she had been drinking and she stated she was drunk.”

She fought with the officer as he attempted to get her into the back of his car and once he finally did, out came the waterworks. “We placed her into the back of my patrol car and put her seat belt on,” the officer explained. “She continued to spit in the back of my patrol car while in transport. She was taken to the Roane County Detention Facility. She repeatedly asked to be killed.”

Jennifer Lien

Over the course of seven years, Jennifer Lien has been involved in no fewer than eight separate incidents. One of her more notable ones, even more than her spitting, was a case of indecent exposure in front of children.

It all started when Jennifer Lien began a tirade at her home because a neighbor’s child was crying. According to reports, she began yelling, then flashing her breasts, eventually turning on the neighbor and dropping her pants. When the police arrived, they stated Lien was completely nude.

Jennifer Lien

According to the police report via Variety, “The offender stated she wasn’t going any f–king where and we needed to leave her alone.” She also, according to the filed report, threatened to shoot and kill the police.

Let’s hope Jennifer Lien finds and receives the help she so clearly needs.

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