|DELTA BLUES @ Reviewboy.com - Jim Reviews...|
Paramount pretty much owns everything you're about to read. It's their dialog, their characters, their franchise. For whatever reason, they've chosen to left me alone, and I thank them for it.
This is all meant in good fun, as though I were reciting the episode to you around the water cooler at work. You'll find the closest thing online to watching the actual episode, though I do sometimes take liberties when I think it will help the narrative. Any errors in fact or interpretation are my responsibility alone.
[Captioning sponsored by Paramount Television and United Paramount Network.]
As the U.S.S. Voyager enters a hazardous region of space being used as a weapons-testing range by unknown parties, the ship must count on Seven of Nine's long-range scans to steer it out of danger.
Seven of Nine, however, is becoming more and more distracted with a personal experiment, one that could change how she deals with her crewmates forever.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Note from Jim: As most of you know, Season Seven has provided plenty of opportunity for coauthors. This episode's collaborator is a guy who first grabbed my attention via some very amusing email. Russdog has a special fondness for Jeri Ryan and Seven of Nine, so this episode struck me as a nice tight fit for him (gratuitous catsuit reference withheld by request). He's also haunting the hallowed halls of UCLA (Go Bruins!) these days, which earned him a nice thumbs up from my brother.
As always, my thanks to my coauthor for the excellent assistance and his willingness to dive long and deep for that Extreme Detail y'all are so fond of.
As always, my thanks to my coauthor for the excellent assistance and his willingness to dive long and deep for that Extreme Detail y'all are so fond of.
[Russdog's Introductory Note and Disclaimer] First and foremost, I would like to give Jim Wright many thanks for allowing me to co-author a "Star Trek: Voyager" episode with him. Call it hero worship or what you will...but I have been a big fan of DELTA BLUES since its inception. In any case, thank you Jim. This review of "Human Error" may contain words and phrases that may be unfamiliar to the reader. If that is the case, feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com if you have any questions. With that said...on with the show.]
A metronome ticks off in the background...cool way to start off the episode if I do say so myself. It's reminiscent of Doc Brown's ticking clocks in Back to the Future. Before Marty McFly can come in and get his jam on, though, the camera pans around to reveal the interior of a mid-18th century Victorian living room. The window in the drawing room reveals that it is snowing outside. The camera continues to move towards a relatively familiar blond sitting at the piano; she's playing in perfect synchronization with the metronome.
The camera finally swings around to reveal our very own Seven of Nine tickling the ivories. She's not dressed like we're used to. In fact, she's looking rather human and implant-free. Nice dress, hair down. The song she plays is sad but moving.
[If anyone asks me what the song is...I'll go Postmaster General on your booty. So help me.]
The metronome continues to tick off time in the background. Then the perspective shifts it to the foreground.
This must mean something.
* * *
Baby Shower Time! The senior staff and some other expendable extras fill the mess hall and surround Tom and B'Elanna as the expecting couple opens gift after gift. Looks like quite the Hallmark moment.
B'Elanna picks up a precisely wrapped package that could only have come from Voyager's resident Vulcan. (No, not Vorik.) "Feels heavy," she says.
B'Elanna proceeds to examine the package and asks, "Baby's first tricorder?"
"Not exactly," Tuvok replies cryptically.
B'Elanna opens the package to reveal...hmmm. It looks like a 24th century answer to the Rubik's Cube. "I'm sure she'll love it," B'Elanna says, regarding the gift neutrally. Then, after an appropriate comic pause, she adds, "What is it?"
"A pleenok." Ah, that would have been my next guess...honest.
Tuvok explains the gift to all the non-Vulcans in (and beyond) the room, "Vulcans use them to train their infants in primary logic."
"Never too early to train those synapses, eh, Tuvok?" Tom Paris gives a chuckle at the Vulcan's efforts to put some logic into B'Elanna's and his unborn child.
Nevertheless, Tom is fair game when it comes to puzzles and the like, so he picks up the pleenok and begins to fiddle with it as he says, "Let me see that...I love a good puzzle."
Tuvok and B'Elanna watch Tom with amusement--and both silently pray to whatever gods apply to Klingon-human hybrids that the child will inherit its sense of logic from the mother.
Neelix hands another brightly wrapped gift to B'Elanna, "This one's from Mr. Kim."
B'Elanna opens the present and begins to laugh as she pulls out some authentic Federation Huggies. "Starfleet diapers!" she says, and giggles some more as she raises them high for all to see.
Harry is obviously proud of his gift. "Standard issue," he says with a grin, and the crowd roars.
Captain Janeway observes the party from near the window, standing next to Seven of Nine. As in the trailer, Seven is missing her facial implants...hmm. She's also dressed in...um, something slightly more yummerific than her standard catsuits. It's a nice, flattering dress--and it complements the warm expression on the former Annika Hansen's face.
Janeway turns to Seven. "Now that your Borg implants have been removed, you might think about having children of your own one day."
Oy! First things first, Gramma Kate! "One day," Seven says uncomfortably. "I have been considering some less radical changes in my personal life."
Janeway looks pleasantly surprised by her protege's progress. "Such as?"
"I realize I don't have a rank...but I would like to request a uniform."
Janeway beams. "Consider it done." Then the captain gives the audience some unexpected news as she tells her favorite Astrometrics Warrior, "The Doctor tells me you don't need to regenerate anymore. I can arrange some quarters for you--unless you enjoy curling up in the cargo bay," she adds with a sly wink.
To a certain Bruin's surprise, Seven of Nine agrees to this. "A bed would be more comfortable." Russdog reaches for his UCLA-issue temporal suspension device--
"Uh, I have a pretty comfortable bed, Seven. We can order in some Chinese, play a little 'Gran Turismo 3' on the PS2, go for a long and romantic walk on the Santa Monica Pier, and then I'll serenade you to sleep with a little Cuban love music--"
VCRs are irrelevant. Seven of Nine breaks out of Pause mode, excuses herself from the still-frozen Captain, and levels a Betsy-class spank ray at Russdog. "Not in this lifetime, college boy."
Before things can get nasty, the Russdog wisely retreats from this line of thought, and Seven returns to position, arching an eyebrow in warning.
Oh well. a guy can dream, right?
Seven resumes her talk with Janeway. "Since I arrived on Voyager, your guidance has been invaluable...thank you, Captain."
Janeway starts getting all metaphorical up in this piece, "All I did was chart the course. You're the one who made the journey."
Chakotay interrupts Seven and Janeway's tête-à-tête. "Seven, It's traditional for everyone to share their best wishes for the baby. I thought you might like to start."
Seven looks a little unsure of herself, but turns to address the room full of Starfleet folk. "To the newest member of our crew...may all her desires be fulfilled. Except for one...so she'll always have something to strive for."
Seven's toast is better than expected. Even B'Elanna smiles and accepts it with a nod; the others in the room shower the former drone with praise.
Seven notices Tom Paris struggling with the Vulcan pleenok and adds ruefully, "And may she inherit a sense of logic from her mother."
Couldn't have said it better myself.
Tom gets that dog-watching-Jeopardy look, while everyone laughs. "I'll drink to that," Harry says.
The scene shifts to Voyager's bridge. We see plenty of familiar faces from the baby shower, but in a very different context. Everyone's all business.
A console beeps. "That was strange," Tom Paris says.
Chakotay strides over to the conn to see what's up. "Care to explain?"
Tom tries to clear up the mystery. "I wish I could. Long-range sensors picked up an energy discharge, but now it's gone."
The console beeps on cue and Tom jumps on it. "There. There's another one."
Tuvok analyzes the situation from tactical. "They're occurring approximately 5.9 light-years ahead."
Chakotay asks the next logical question. "Source?"
Tuvok says they are too far away to get a clear reading.
Unidentified energy sources intrigue Janeway, who takes note of all that's transpired. "Bridge to Seven of Nine," she says.
Seven of Nine, still at the baby shower, responds to the hail. "Go ahead."
Whoa, hold the phone. Seven is still at the baby shower and the rest of the senior staff are back at work--including the proud papa-to-be? This is odd...
Janeway continues over the com system. "Report to the Astrometrics lab."
"Acknowledged," Seven says. "Computer, end program."
Ah. That explains it.
The baby shower and all attendees disappear, revealing the empty walls of the Holodeck...and the return of Seven's now-familiar implants.
But why wasn't Seven already in the Astrometrics lab analyzing the energy thingie? Hmm...
Janeway, Tom, and Tuvok join Seven in Astrometrics, where Seven breaks things down for them nice and proper. "I wasn't able to find the cause of the discharges. But the region ahead contains unusual amounts of subspace radiation and metallic debris."
Tuvok wants to know if they have someone (or something) to worry about. "Vessels?"
Seven allays his concerns. "Not within range. But I'll have more data once we move closer."
Captain Janeway--never one to be scared of energy emissions and the like--forges ahead cautiously. "I see no reason to alter course. Keep an eye on your sensors."
Seven complies. "Yes, Captain."
After the energy discharge business is taken care of, Janeway gets THAT grin on her face. "On to more pressing matters. Does B'Elanna suspect anything?"
Tom smiles as well. "Not a clue."
"Good," Janeway says. "Mess hall, 1400 hours. Be on time; I don't want to spoil the surprise." She turns to Seven and Tuvok as well. "I expect BOTH of you to show up." Vulcans and drones are notorious party poopers.
Seven, however, has some other plans. "I'll be busy here." She'd volunteer to scrub the hull with her tongue if it'd get her out of a social situation.
Tom takes a playful swipe at the drone. "What's wrong, Seven? No baby showers in the collective?"
Janeway hooks Helm Boy up with a Level 5 skunk eye (mild stun) that recedes his hairline another 5 centimeters. (Down, Rosie!) Janeway prods Seven, "I'm sure you can spare a few minutes." Janeway gives Tom another micro-skunk eye that zaps the remaining traces of blue from his gray eyes and then leaves Astrometrics with him.
After Janeway and Paris leave, Tuvok sidles up behind Seven and offers her some verbal support. "If it's any consolation, I share your discomfort with social gatherings."
Seven states the obvious. "They seem to occur with alarming frequency."
Tuvok concurs. "Mr. Neelix would argue that they improve morale." Ah, that's our little Talaxian Iron Chef...he loves to throw a party.
Seven, though, acquiesces. "I have been looking for ways to improve my social skills. Perhaps I'll attend."
Seven has slipped into something more formal--a Starfleet uniform, with blue shoulder pads. She's back to her implantless self, which suggests she's back in Holo-world.
She's not alone--Neelix is with her, looking over a Spartan crew quarters.
Neelix is at a rare loss for words. "Well, it certainly is, uh..."
He eventually finds the right term. "Efficient," he says, wishing he could say something more complimentary.
He continues his apt description of the room. "No clutter." Indeed, all the room has is a little countertop looking deal, a bed, and an end table. Seven has enough room to break dance...if she was inclined to do so.
Oy, what an image. Break Dancin' 47: Assimilated Boogaloo.
Neelix stretches and walks around in a circle. "Plenty of room to move around." He laughs to himself.
Neelix, jack-of-all-trades, begins to examine the room with a more cursory eye. "But it's a little--impersonal, don't you think?"
Seven is a bit disappointed; she thought she'd decorated rather well. "Explain."
Neelix tries to put it to Seven in a way she'll understand: a play on her uniqueness. "Well, these are your quarters, Seven. They should reflect your individuality!"
Uh-oh. Neelix begins to channel his inner Martha Stewart and transforms into a 24th century black belt interior decorator. He begins ticking off the potential home improvements he can come up with off the top of his head. "How about a table and a couple of chairs? Give yourself a place to work...Entertain guests. Uh...try to add a little color."
Seven begins to look queasy.
Martha Stewart's furry protégé marches on; he's on a roll now. "Photographs! artwork! KNICK-KNACKS!!! EGADS, WOMAN, WHAT ABOUT THE KNICK-KNACKS?!?!"
Okay...now he's frightening me.
Seven is clearly unfamiliar with the phrase "Knick-knacks?"
Neelix nods enthusiastically. "Like the wood carvings in Ensign Kim's quarters."
"I've never BEEN to Ensign Kim's quarters." Ouch. Even so, Seven earnestly desires to give this Starfleet Living thing a fair shake. "I suppose I could replicate some items and disperse them throughout the room."
"That's a start," Neelix says encouragingly. "Some people like to display pictures of family and friends."
Seven likes that. "There's a photograph of my parents in the ship's database. I'll make a copy and place it in a frame." Dang, I hope it's pre-assimilation. Otherwise, that'd be creepy. "You are in our thoughts. Obviously. Love, Four and Five of Twelve."
Neelix spurs her on. "Good, good!"
Ooh, Seven's cooking now. She looks around for another touch of Seven. "A multispectral starchart might enhance this bulkhead."
Neelix, not wanting to break up the momentum, offers an alternative. "Oooor, a painting..."
Seven likes that. "A painting of a starchart."
Poor Neelix--his inner diplomat is being run through the wringer. And he thought the Tak Tak were a challenge. "I was thinking of something more...abstract. More, uh, artistic."
Seven's blank stare doesn't look encouraging. He segues to the next decorating tip. The naked windows are a good choice. "Drapes! Nothing livens up a room like good window dressing. Not to mention the added privacy."
"Privacy? We're in space."
Neelix raises a valid point, though. "You never know when we'll be docking at a crowded space port." I gotta go with him on this one...I bet the Delta Quadrant has plenty of peeping Toms that would love to take a gander at the former drone on shore leave.
Neelix continues. "But we'll have to make sure that they match the carpet. I'm thinking of a Talaxian mosaic--tulaberry blue stripes with an orange inlay..."
Seven's gag reflex kicks in. "I appreciate your aesthetic insights," she says with characteristic tact, "but I believe I can proceed on my own."
Before Neelix can prattle on about chafing dishes, throw rugs, and doilies...the doorbell rings.
Seven looks relieved. "Enter."
Chakotay stands in the doorway with a small duffle bag in his hand. "Am I interrupting?"
Seven brightens at the commander's presence. "Please come in."
Chakotay moseys into the room and goes to the counter. "Love what you've done with the place." Smart aleck.
Seven glances at Neelix and smiles. My, what a gracious hostess she's become! Even Neelix is impressed. "We're in the process of decorating," she says.
Chakotay nods and brings something Indian looking over to the two. "Maybe this will help. Consider it a housewarming gift."
Neelix admires the gift even though he has no clue what it is. "It's beautiful. What is it?"
Seven takes the gift and starts dropping knowledge on the Talaxian like she straight had a PhD in Native American studies. "A dream catcher. According to Native American mythology it wards off nightmares."
Chakotay smiles warmly. "I'm impressed."
Seven looks pleased with herself. "I've familiarized myself with your culture." And why would she be doing that, hmmm?
Chakotay, ever the gentleman (grrr...), carries on. "Now that you'll be sleeping instead of regenerating, I thought it might come in handy."
Seven's personal shields begin to slightly buckle under the commander's tender ministrations. "I'm sure it will. Thank you."
Neelix, sensing his cue to split, bids farewell to Seven. "I'll let you two find a place to hang that." He smiles in a way that conjures imagery of spring, flowers blooming, and trains entering tunnels. "But it would look perfect right above the bed."
Neelix glances at Chakotay and then back at Seven and smiles knowingly before he leaves. "Pleasant dreams."
Oh, my. Seven and Chakotay alone. The sexual tension is a simmering cauldron of...something.
Excuse me while I weep into my Jeri Ryan Fan Club calendar.
This could get brutal.
Seven ignores the spastic college kid sobbing in one corner and a certain review boy drowning his sorrows in Yoo Hoo in the other. It's a tough job--there's no furniture to obscure the view, and the acoustics are a perfect echo chamber of grief. "It was thoughtful of you to stop by," she tells Chakotay.
Chakotay works his charm like a Mestizo Wilt Chamberlain. "On move-in day? I wouldn't miss it."
Seven smiles again and remembers her social lessons from Doc. "I suppose this makes you my inaugural guest. I'd be a negligent host if I didn't offer you a beverage. Tea?"
Chakotay has to decline the beverage by default, though. "That might be difficult. No replicator."
Seven sighs, truly embarrassed. "Another flaw in the decor."
But Chakotay has things covered. "I'll requisition one for you first thing tomorrow."
Seven begins to swoon. "I'd appreciate that, Commander."
Our man Chak grimaces slightly. "Chakotay. We're off-duty. We can drop the formalities." (That's ALL you'd better drop, lust boy. No trousers at half-mast....)
Seven beams playfully, "Yes, sir."
Chakotay continues his full court press. "I enjoyed your toast today. You've come a long way. I hope to see more."
Seven just nods. "You will." (The horror! The HORROR!)
The commander starts to leave. "Good night."
Seven hesitates and call him back. "Chakotay."
Seven ventures into the Undiscovered Country. "As you might know I've taken an interest in culinary science. I'm preparing a meal tomorrow night and I thought perhaps you could attend...to evaluate my work."
Chakotay beams. "I'd be happy to."
Seven practically floats. "1900 hours?"
Chakotay nods. "I'll bring the wine...and the furniture."
Seven can hardly believe the luck. "Then you accept?"
Chakotay's eyes grow playful--as if there was any doubt. "It's a date."
Russdog, the lone Bruin, screams incoherently with rage as he pulls out a handy Tek-9 (paintball edition) that he keeps in his desk drawer for just such an occasion. The Bruin unloads an entire clip into the bulkhead before he breaks down into a steaming puddle of salty desolation.
And he didn't even manage to graze the Commander. On the plus side, Seven's quarters now have a nicely Pop Art decor. In fact, it faintly resembles the set of the old Dating Game.
[we interrupt this review while Russ grabs some KFC and a gallon of Cherry Garcia.
A certain review boy, who has had seven years of coping practice, simply pops in a cassette of JAG and basks in the brunette glory of Catherine Bell.]
Three hours and a 10-piece bucket later...]
A certain review boy, who has had seven years of coping practice, simply pops in a cassette of JAG and basks in the brunette glory of Catherine Bell.]
Three hours and a 10-piece bucket later...]
Doc and Seven are in Sickbay while Doc runs some scans on Seven with the tricorder. Doc seems cheerful enough, but the song he is singing kind of creeps Seven out.
Rock-a-bye baby, in the space dock
When the core blows, the shuttle will rock
When the hull breaks, the shuttle will fall
And down will come baby, shuttle and all...
Seven asks the question that perhaps the audience would like to know. "Are you trying to soothe the infant, or traumatize her?"
Doc recognizes that his song should maybe be left on the back burner. "The lyrics are rather grim," he admits, "but it's the melody they respond to. I recorded 29 in all including a couple of Klingon lullabies."
Oy...not this guy and his music AGAIN...
Doc continues excitedly. "My favorite is 'qoung vaj ocht,': 'SLEEP, LITTLE WARRIOR!!!'"
Yeah, THAT'LL put the kid in a moood to sleep. Who needs to count sheep when you can have a pack of snarling targs baying at Praxis?
Doc seems proud enough. "I could tell by the look on their faces that my gift made quite an impression."
Seven shrugs wryly. "No doubt."
Doc starts to tell Seven what she missed. "I wish you'd been there. It was a lovely shower! Tom and B'Elanna were disappointed that you didn't attend."
Seven appears uncomfortable. "I was occupied."
Doc senses her reticence, and changes the subject. "Are you experiencing any shoulder pain?"
Seven admits it. "Yes."
Doc examines the medical display monitor. "Hmm. Your biradial clamp is out of alignment by 0.3 microns. I'm afraid it will have to be repaired."
Seven seems to want to skip the 27-point inspection oil and lube. "Can't you simply extract the component?"
Doc makes it nice and simple. "Not if you want to keep using that arm."
Seven sighs; and Doc senses her frustration over the human vs. machine war STILL going on inside of her.
Doc tries to console her. "I know it's an inconvenience, but until we can find a way to remove your cybernetic systems they'll have to be maintained. It's a minor procedure. We might as well take care of it now."
Seven, though, remains resolute. "I prefer to wait."
Doc, who we all know hates to skip medical procedures that should be done immediately, presses her. "We'll be done in an hour."
Seven looks ready to call for a beamout if necessary. "I have research to complete."
Doc finally backs off. "Oh," he says, disappointed, as though it's his company and not merely his medical attention she's spurning. "I suppose we can put it off until next week's physical."
Before Seven can leave, Doc brings up something else. "I also noticed that your electrolyte levels are down by 12%. Have you missed any regeneration cycles?"
BUSTED! Seven admits it. "Last night."
Doc is noticeable irked. "Don't tell me. More...research?" Doc's curiosity subroutine gets the better of him. "This must be some project. Mind if I ask what you're working on?"
Seven does mind. "It's complicated." BACK OFF, Egregiously Meddling Hologram.
Doc cannot leave well enough alone. "How do you mean?"
Seven, tired of people getting all up in her business, simply punks the Doc. "My personal life is none of your concern!"
Doc recognizes his gaffe and offers an apology. "I wasn't aware you had a personal life." Oh, now, there's the way to smooth those ruffled feather.
Before anything more can be said, Sickbay gets rocked by...something.
Janeway rolls up out of her ready room and barks, "Report!" She HATES it when her ship gets spanked without authorization.
Tom does the honors. "It was an energy discharge. 200,000 kilometers starboard."
Tuvok gives some even better news. "It produced a level-nine shockwave." Ooh, those are fun. Surf's up, Moondoggie!
Chakotay appears worried. "Some kind of weapon?"
Tuvok continues to scan. "Possibly."
Tom's station beeps and he jumps on it. "Another one, five million kilometers to port."
Tuvok reads out the results of the latest energy discharge. "A shockwave is approaching."
Janeway's not about to have any of this. "Full power to the shields."
BOOM! Voyager gets tossed a bit by the shockwave.
Ensign Kim gives the newest info. "Our warp field's destabilizing." Wonderful; they can't get out of there in a hurry if they need to.
Tuvok keeps monitoring things from tactical. "I'm detecting another. Distance: 50,000 kilometers."
Janeway tries to shield her ship as best as she can. "Turn our bow into the wavefront. It'll minimize the damage."
So much for that idea.
Tom sweats it out at the conn. "Sorry, Captain. There wasn't enough time."
Harry speaks up from Ops. "We've lost warp drive."
Tuvok reports in. "I'm reading another. Distance: 26 million kilometers. Too far to pose a threat."
Chakotay offers the first bit of bright news in the dilemma. "If they are weapons, they don't seem to be directed at us."
Janeway gets ironic. "Or whoever's firing them is a lousy shot."
Apparently russdog isn't the only one grieving over the budding C/7 romance...
When in doubt, go to Astrometrics.
Seven has the main screen going while she breaks it down for those who are assembled. "Astrometric sensors recorded the explosions. I believe it's a long-range subspace warhead. The debris in this region suggests that dozens have been fired in the last several weeks."
The picture on the screen shows the warhead lighting something up like a Tabasco indigestion fireball.
Tuvok notes the obvious. "The warhead destroyed something. What was it?"
Seven checks the readout. "It appeared to be an unmanned probe."
Janeway speaks up from behind. "This is all very intriguing, but I'd just as soon get out of here before we cross paths with another one of these things. Where do we stand on repairs?"
Tuvok gives the status report. "Subspace radiation from the explosions is making it difficult to create a stable warp field. Lieutenant Torres estimates 48 hours."
That's not good enough. Janeway also wants a warning method. "Can you find a way to detect the warheads before they emerge from subspace?"
Seven gives her the good news. "I believe so. The weapons create minor gravimetric distortions as they approach the subspace barrier but I'll need to recalibrate my sensors to isolate the effect."
The captain gives the order. "Do it. Even a few seconds' warning would help us."
Seven gets down to business. "Yes, Captain."
Seven is working by herself in the Astrometrics lab when my boy Icheb walks in.
Seven notices his earliness. "Your duty shift doesn't begin for two hours."
Icheb gives the reason for his arrival. "The Doctor sent me to relieve you early. He wants you to spend more time regenerating."
Seven appears mildly annoyed. "I see he's enlisted an ally."
Icheb stands still for a second then quotes, "'Don't kill the messenger.'" Seven just stares at him, so Icheb elaborates. "It's Sophocles. Oedipus Rex. I've been studying Earth literature as a part of my Academy training."
That's my man Icheb...student of the Classics. Now I know who to go see when I write my next paper.
Seven cannot get angry with her star pupil...especially when he spouts Greek wisdom. "Continue these scans of the subspace barrier. Look for any gravimetric distortions." After these instructions, Seven leaves Icheb to his work.
Seven is in Cargo Bay Two, and is programming her alcove for a good night's regeneration. Seven is about to step in, when something crosses her face.
Whatever's on her mind, it won't wait until morning. Looking disturbed, she leaves the Cargo Bay.
B'Elanna is spitting nails in Engineering as she hops from one station to the next, with Harry trying to keep up behind her. "Run another diagnostic on the injector ports. Make sure they're aligned."
Harry looks very tired. I'm guessing they've done this ten times already. "They're aligned! I checked."
B'Elanna's having none of it. "Check again." Harry sighs, but complies.
Seven marches into Engineering with a small box in her hand.
B'Elanna is in no mood for small talk. "Come to join the party? We're trying to cold-start the warp core...for the 15th time."
Seven looks like she is swallowing bile as she hands the box to Torres. "Perhaps this will enhance your day. It's a belated gift for your baby shower. I apologize for my absence."
B'Elanna is taken aback. "Oh," she says, not sure what to say. B'Elanna is kind of busy at the moment--they're stuck in the middle of a firing range, and all that. And she and Seven have never been all that friendly, which means the gift could be anything...
Seven seems sincere enough. Even eager for Torres to open it up right away. "Proceed," she says awkwardly.
B'Elanna looks around, makes sure everyone is doing their jobs, and then opens the package. She pulls a pair of Nike's infant Air Moccasins out of the box.
Seven senses B'Elanna's lack of enthusiasm, and does her best to pitch the gift. "They're lined with biothermal insulation. Your infant's feet will be protected even if the external temperature drops below minus 40 degrees Celsius."
That's what I'm talking about...Eddie Bauer edition...me likee.
B'Elanna is at a loss for words. "Well, they're...certainly unique. Thank you." Had Seven given them at the baby shower, it might have gone over better. Oh well--she is trying, and that's the important thing.
"You're welcome," Seven says. But Ms. Of Nine does not leave Engineering--instead, she follows B'Elanna to a console. "I wish to ask you a personal question."
B'Elanna suspects that this is when the other shoe will drop (ba dum boom). "Shoot," she says with a sigh.
Seven hooks Torres up with an honest compliment. "You have an appealing coiffure (I have never heard this word in my LIFE). What is your grooming regimen?"
B'Elanna is thrown off by the question. She really doesn't have time for this. "You're asking me what I do with my HAIR?"
Seven bites. "Yes."
B'Elanna gives Seven a quick lesson in Weaves 101. "Oh, well, nothing too elaborate. Sonic shower...a little engine grease." My kind of gal...get up and go, with no worry about the Do. B'Elanna seems intrigued by the question. "Thinking about a new look?"
Seven admits it. "Perhaps. I'll keep you apprised if you'd like."
B'Elanna notices that Harry is giggling, and she shoots him a look that would fell a yak. "Please do," Torres says, though her eyes are pleading with the replicant to go away and bring back the real Seven of Nine.
Seven does go away. After a few moments, Torres stops making the gaping fish look and turns to Harry. "Was that Seven of Nine?"
Harry is shaking his head in wonderment. "There must be an alien intruder on board."
Seven is in the holodeck doing some pre-program tweaking. "Computer, make the following modifications to holodeck file 'Seven of Nine alpha three, personal quarters.'"
The computer chirps. "Modifications complete."
Seven braces herself. Deep breath..."Begin program."
Ooh...the lights are dimmed, there's classical music bumpin' in the background, we have some candles on a table. In short, Seven's quarters now have a homey, lived in feel about them. I really like what she...<THUMP>
Sorry...that blond in the red dress made me fall out of my chair. Ouch, I think I landed on my graphing calculator. That mess hurt.
WHOA. Seven looks...well...I don't think my college vocabulary can do her justice. She's beauty personified. Yeah, that works for me.
Seven heads to the mirror to check herself out (my knees are kind of wobbly...FOCUS RUSS!) when a voice interrupts her from behind.
"You look perfect."
Oh man, why did HE have to ruin it?
Chakotay is struggling to open a bottle of White Zinfandel. "Give me a hand with this?"
Seven strolls over to him and jokes around. "I'm surprised your Starfleet training didn't include cork extraction."
[Jim bites back one pure-dee evil comment...]
Chakotay plays along. "I must have been sick that day."
They both fight the bottle for a few seconds more, and then give up on it.
"Looks like wine's off the menu," he says.
"Unless you brought a phaser," Seven smirks.
"Never on a first date," Chakotay smirks back.
[Jim: I haven't seen romantic sparks fly like this since the Connie Chung / Gary Condit interview. Yeesh.]
Seven enlists the Commander's help with dinner. "Assist me." Chakotay takes the order in the spirit intended, and cheerfully dives in.
Seven leaves Chakotay to a built-in kitchen by the wall (extremely cool, by the way). "Slice these vegetables transversally in five-millimeter increments."
Chakotay picks up the knife and begins chopping some carrots. "Aye, aye," he says, his eyes twinkling in the Ginsu knife's reflection.
The commander catches a whiff of something yummy. "That smells delicious."
Seven's getting all Julia Child up in this mess. "Our appetizer is braised leeks. Primary course: rack of lamb with wild rice."
Chakotay asks about something sweet. "No dessert?"
Seven teases him. "Dessert will be a surprise."
Chakotay looks a little TOO eager for my liking. "I can't wait." (I BET you can't, fella...)
Seven asks the commander's opinion on the sauce in the cooking pot. "Does this contain enough sodium chloride for your taste?" (translation: "too salty for you?")
Chakotay dips his finger in the sauce and tastes it. "Could use another 0.6 milligrams...But you're the chef."
Chakotay dips his pinkie finger into the sauce and extends it to Seven, who sloooooowly licks it off his finger.
Russdog places a call to Rosie from Terre Haute, who offers to launch an air strike on Paramount. After a moment's thought, he decides this might be excessive, and thanks her for her time.
Next, a call to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Adolescents), but he gets a wrong number. The group he mistakenly reaches is irate about the whole "rack of lamb" thing, and sends a crack team of paratrooping naked supermodels to protest the wearing of wool, or gyros, or something. Whatever the reason, naked paratrooping supermodels will no doubt end up as a segment of E!'s "Wild On..."
Still eager to mount some sort of effective protest against the finger-lickin' scene, Russdog settles for tossing an extra 0.9 milligrams of sodium chloride into the pot while Seven and the Commander are, er, otherwise occupied.
Too much salt in the broth. That'll learn 'em.
Seven seems to agree with the Commander. "I concur. More salt." They turn around when they hear snickering, but figure it was just the wind or something.
Chakotay tries to guess the composer playing in the background. "Liszt?"
Seven corrects him. "Chopin."
Seven starts voicing her love of music. "I've discovered that classical music has intriguing mathematical properties." She's such a sweet-talker.
Chakotay is genuinely interested. "Do you play an instrument?"
Seven tells him the extent of her work. "The Doctor's been giving me piano lessons."
Chakotay wants to see her in action. "I'd love to hear you play."
Seven gets self-conscious. "I require more practice."
Chakotay goes back to his carrots, but Seven's already noticed he sucks at chopping. "Your technique is flawed."
Chakotay takes minor offense. "Sorry. I'm a replicator man."
Seven invades the Commander's airspace (why Seven? WHY?!?!). "Use your left hand to guide the food. Observe closely."
Darned if she doesn't cut those vegetables like a Benihana Culinary Ninja Warrior.
Seven notices that the commander is eyeing produce other than the carrots on the cutting board. "Pay attention to the vegetable."
[Gratuitous Beltran's Acting reference omitted.]
Chakotay starts smothering on the adoration like cheese on a patty melt. "You're beautiful when you're chopping."
Seven moves away from the Commander toward the window.
Chakotay follows her and closes in for the proverbial kill. "I don't mean to sound like an old holo-novel...but you've got a wonderful smile."
Seven tries to play it off. "It wasn't a smile; it was a smirk."
Chakotay doesn't buy it. "Oh, no, it was a smile. I could check the internal sensors if you'd like." (The Police's "I'll be Watching You" begins to play softly in the background. Shudder.)
Seven holds Chakotay's hand and lets it travel up to his face. "Remain still."
Seven caresses the commander's face lightly, but with obvious passion. "You have...an intriguing facial structure."
To his credit, Chakotay does not melt into a steaming puddle of goo at Seven's touch. "I'll take that as a compliment."
Ever so slowly, Seven and the Commander draw closer, until their lips meet and they kiss...and kiss...and kiss some more. We're talking heavy on the violins here, folks...this bad boy's for the Emmy.
After they break, Seven speaks quietly. "I require more practice."
Once again, Chakotay amazes me how he can even be breathing, let alone standing after a kiss like that. "You're doing just fine."
The two go back to kiss for a couple seconds, but then there's a sound like sizzling insulation, and Seven pulls away. Her eyes go wide.
Chakotay can claim credit for short-circuiting the ultimate Fembot with the volcanic passion of his manly embrace. Now THAT'S a kiss.
Chakotay whispers to her. "What's wrong?"
Seven shrugs it off. "Nothing."
They continue to hold each other for a long time.
* * *
The metronome is ticking once again, and Seven is in the Victorian drawing room playing the piano again. But there is something decidedly sinister about this...
Seven's playing gets more insistent, and then Doc breaks into her practice--
The camera turbo zooms in on him. "I wasn't aware you had a personal life."
Oh SNAPS...I HATE the NightmareCam...it scares me every time.
Chakotay and Seven kiss, and then the fire in the fireplace turns from a cheerful orange to a sinister Borg green...and then flickers out all together...<whimper>
Seven in the red dress walks toward the mirror where she sees the fully Borged Seven of Nine from three years ago.
The camera swings back to the metronome, which is now constructed of Borg components and glows the same sickly shade of green. Then...
The nightmare ends.
You think maybe that metronome means something?
I smell a metaphor...
The comm system wakes Seven up. "Chakotay to Seven of Nine."
It takes Seven a few seconds to get her bearings. She's in her quarters on the holodeck, and she's wearing what she had on last night. Her hair's a bit mussed. She's been sleeping on the couch.
The commander's call is more insistent. "Chakotay to Seven. Respond."
Seven finally manages to snag her comm badge. "Go ahead."
Chakotay issues his order. "Report to Astrometrics. We've found something."
Seven acknowledges. "Yes, Commander."
Before Seven can leave, we discover that she's not alone on that couch. Seven gets a little more disoriented when she hears Chakotay's voice again, but this time a good deal closer and more intimate. "Good morning," he whispers into her ear.
Seven walks through the corridors at Warp 7, pinning her hair up as she rolls into Astrometrics.
Icheb and Chakotay are there, and Chakotay greets Seven. "Good morning." (whoa...creepy. Who'd have thought that Seven of Nine and Reg Barclay would have something in common?)
Seven ignores the proffered salutations. "You found something."
Chakotay explains their find. "At first, we thought it was another one of the probes. Then, Icheb picked up an automated transmission. It's a warning beacon."
A voice comes up on the speakers sounding like one of the broke down monsters from the Power Rangers. "You have entered subspace munitions range four-three-four. Evacuate immediately. You have entered subspace munitions range four-three-four..."
Icheb clarifies things for the rest of us. "Apparently, this entire region is an alien testing ground."
Great, Voyager has wandered into a gigantic, interstellar version of "Hogan's Alley."
Chakotay describes their efforts to date. "We've been sending out emergency hails but so far, no response. Whoever's conducting these tests could be dozens of light years away. Any progress detecting their warheads?"
Seven looks like she's just pulled an all-nighter cramming for finals at Kegger U. "Not yet."
Chakotay picks up on this right away. Perhaps it's the way she's looking at him, then not looking at him. "You seem a little distracted."
Seven ignores the commander's observation. "I'm fine."
Chakotay keeps on her. "It's not like you to be late for a duty shift. Rough night?" (If you ONLY knew, Tattoo Boy...)
Seven does not give any details. "Not at all." But the corners of her mouth twitch upward at a joke only she is likely to get.
Chakotay leaves the lab. "I'll be on the bridge if you find anything."
Icheb smirks over his shoulder at his mentor. "'Better late than never.' Titus Livius, A History of Rome."
Seven is not in the mood. "You're relieved!" she says, more harshly than intended.
Poor Icheb. You might as well slap a puppy. Seven sees the hurt in his face and looks apologetic. "Get some rest."
Seven is back in the Victorian main room, tinkling the ivories for Holo-Chakotay. Seven plays for a few more seconds, in perfect sync with the metronome...and then ends the song flawlessly, along with the ticking of the metronome.
Chakotay sighs in clear disbelief and respect of Seven's musical talents. "Bravo."
Seven looks uncertain of the validity of the praise. "You approve?"
Chakotay buries Seven's doubts. "Approve? I'm amazed. I was expecting 'chopsticks.' I had no idea you were so good."
Seven tries for a little humility. "The Doctor's an efficient instructor."
Chakotay sees a future in her playing. "It won't be long before you're giving a recital for the entire crew."
Seven has no immediate objection to the commander's suggestion. "The Doctor did suggest that I accompany him during his next operatic performance," she says, preening a little. Hologram or not, he's not without his charms.
Seven relinquishes the piano to Chakotay. "Your turn."
The commander looks wistful. "Mmm...Unfortunately, I don't play. But I'd love to hear you again."
Chakotay grabs a songbook and hands it to Seven of Nine. "And this...is one of my favorites."
Seven smiles and starts up the metronome, eager to grant the commander's request.
Seven begins playing the commander's request (I have no clue what song it is, but let's call it "unchained melody" just to be clever...)
Chakotay listens for about 5 seconds, frowns, then shuts off the metronome. Something is up.
Seven realizes something may be wrong. "You want me to stop?"
Chakotay is an enigma. "No. I want you to play."
Seven looks anxiously from the metronome to Chakotay, as though he's just thrown down the gauntlet. "I don't understand."
Chakotay grabs her hands and tries to articulate what he's thinking for Seven. "Look...your technique is flawless. But try to put a little more heart into the piece. More of yourself."
Seven doesn't like the idea of playing without the regulating metronome...but she's game. Seven starts the piano up again, but falters after a couple of moments and stops completely.
Chakotay laughs, obviously delighted that Seven is unwittingly showcasing some of her human imperfection. "That's all right. Keep going."
Seven of Nine resumes playing again at the commander's urging, but still has that uncertain look on her face.
The commander tries to guide Seven's composing. "Tell me what you're feeling."
Clearly, Seven is not pleased with the outcome. "My tempo is erratic."
Chakotay gets up and begins pacing behind Seven, coaching her like Jedi Piano Master. "Not what you're thinking. What you're feeling. Your emotions!"
Seven lets it all spill out. "Frustration, anxiety."
Chakotay looks a little frustrated himself. "Stop thinking about the notes."
This is too much for Seven to deal with, so she quits all together. "I can't."
The commander refuses to let his woman give up this easily. "Yes, you can. Don't you see what's happening? The metronome is holding you back. It gives you a sense of order, but it also cuts you off from your feelings."
This would appear to be a metaphor for the Borg Collective.
I never saw that one coming.
Chakotay continues. "Remember when you first came aboard? The thought of disconnecting from the hive mind terrified you. This is no different." He looks meaningfully into her eyes. "It doesn't have to be perfect."
So this is what it's about. Even in her musical endeavors...Seven still fights the rigid order and structure of the Collective...instead of indulging in the slightly chaotic, yet infinitely more gratifying humanistic approach. Man vs. Machine. Seven is STILL fighting this battle.
Seven still seems shaky...but she decides to go with it. She resumes her playing, and after a few shaky seconds, darned if her music doesn't sound like it's coming from the HEART.
A heart that seems to expand with joy right here on camera.
Meanwhile, back in the real world...
A couple of targets jump out of subspace, followed shortly thereafter by a couple more of those subspace explosives appear that track the targets and blow them to smithereens. The explosions produce a couple more of those interstellar earthquakes that promptly smack Voyager nice and proper.
Tuvok tries to stay on top of the target practice going on outside the ship. "800,000 kilometers off the starboard bow."
Chakotay stumbles to his seat and calls for some assistance. "Bridge to Seven of Nine."
Seven is caught completely off-guard, as she is still in the holodeck with Holo Chak. "Go ahead, Commander."
Chakotay and the rest want to stop the rough ride and continued explosions smacking the ship around. "We need those sensor calibrations."
Seven conjures up a quick retort. "I'll need a moment to return to my station."
Chakotay falls into his seat on the bridge and shares a surprised look with Janeway. "That would be a good idea."
The ship gets slapped by another shockwave and gets cracked open a little bit as Paris reports. "Hull fracture, Deck 12."
The Janeway looks pretty peeved right now. "Seven of Nine, report."
Seven is in Astrometrics and still hasn't had time to analyze the situation. "Stand by, Captain."
Seven begins rapidly tapping in commands on the Astrometrics consoles and issues an order to Tom. "Lieutenant Paris, isolate subspace band omicron theta."
Tom gets on it immediately. "Acknowledged."
Seven starts triangulating the source of the shockwaves like it's nobody's business. "Direct your sensors to coordinates 1-7-8, mark 2-6."
Tom follows the command and looks surprised with the results. "Nothing there." SWING AND A MISS!
Seven looks like she just swallowed a gerbil, but comes up with another set of coordinates. "Correction: 1-7-8, mark 3-6."
Ah, that's much better.
Tom announces to the bridge what's going down. "Two warheads are about to emerge. Adjusting course."
"Full power to the forward shields." The captain wants to make it out of this encounter in one piece.
Lieutenant Paris does the countdown for everyone. "Impact in five...four...three...two..."
The shockwave passes over Voyager, but it's their lightest run-in yet. Voyager wavers slightly as the shockwave moves on.
Paris gives the good news to the bridge crew. "Shields are holding."
On to more pressing concerns. "Why wasn't Seven at her post?" Janeway asks. A very good question, indeed.
Chakotay shrugs. Holograms aside, Chakotay has never been all that comfortable around Seven of Nine--too many painful Borg memories in his own past. "Good question. Maybe you should ask her."
Seven and Captain Janeway are in the ready room, and Captain Janeway is giving Seven a moderate dressing down.
Janeway holds her coffee cup in her hand while she speaks. Uh-oh, as if this meeting wasn't charged enough...why does there have to be java involved? "It was your responsibility to locate those warheads."
Seven answers coolly. "I succeeded." Yep, that she did.
Janeway pursues the subject of Seven's lack of focus. "Not before we took heavy damage. You told Chakotay you'd have those sensor calibrations hours ago."
Seven still manages to hold her own, but you can tell she is annoyed at the whole matter. "The work took longer than I anticipated."
Janeway continues to twist the knife. "It might've gone faster if you'd stayed at your post as you were ordered to do."
This statement draws blood from Seven. "I didn't realize I was confined to the Astrometrics lab."
"You were on duty," she reminds the former drone.
Janeway's right on this one...it's ALWAYS work before play on Mama Kate's ship.
The captain cuts right to the chase...no more beating around the bush. "This isn't the first time you've left your station over the past few days. Holodeck two? You've logged a lot of time in there. Mind if I ask why?"
OOH! SEVEN'S IN TROUBLE!!!
Janeway gets no rebuttal from Seven, so she proceeds. "Well, it must be something important, Seven. 49 hours in six days?"
Seven finally says something. "I was...running a simulation." Well, it's not EXACTLY a lie.
Janeway's jaw clenches. From the usually precise Seven, this is maddeningly ambiguous. "Of what?" Janeway demands.
Seven thinks quickly before responding. "A new gravimetric array I've been developing. I wanted to perfect the design before I brought it to you."
Okay, now THAT is definitely a lie. SHAME, SHAME SEVEN! At least she's beginning to behave more like a human...fibbing to cover her tracks.
Then again, cubicle drones across America do it all the time at work...so it can't be that bad, right?
Captain Janeway softens a bit at her crewman's desire to enhance the ship. "I appreciate your efforts to improve our systems. But I can't have you dividing your time right now. When the ship's on alert I expect you to perform your duties. If you need to leave your post, inform Commander Chakotay. Understood?"
Seven is suitably contrite. "Yes, Captain. I apologize for my lapse in judgment."
Satisfied that Seven has learned her lesson, Janeway softens. "We all make mistakes, Seven. I've even been known to make a few myself," she adds with a smile.
Mistakes? Janeway?!? Perish the thought.
Janeway stops Seven before she leaves the ready room. "It sounds intriguing. Your new gravimetric array. When this crisis is over, I'd be happy to take a look. Maybe I can lend a hand."
Seven just nods noncommittally and exits before her nose can sprout a new branch.
Seven enters Astrometrics where Icheb is already hard at work. Her protégé has obviously been very hard at work, and she just as obviously doesn't want to be here.
"I've analyzed the sensor data from that last barrage," Icheb tells her, eager for her approval. "I've refined your detection method. We'll be able to see the weapons 10.3 seconds earlier." Those extra seconds would certainly help.
Seven glances at Icheb's data and walks away. "The Captain will be pleased."
Icheb is unused to this much cold shoulder from his mentor. "Have I offended you?"
Seven confesses her earlier mishap to the boy. "No. You've done nothing wrong. I was negligent in my duties. As a result, Voyager was nearly destroyed."
Seven pauses and looks for a plum of wisdom from her young student. "I was hoping you could provide a quotation to help alleviate my guilt."
Icheb looks stuck. "I-I can't think of one," he admits. "But I'd be happy to search the database."
Seven just smiles at Icheb's eagerness and a look of resolve crosses her face. "That won't be necessary." Seven turns to leave Astrometrics. "Stay here until I return."
Icheb is naturally curious. "Where are you going?"
"To correct an error," she says, leaving Icheb to scratch his head.
Yo, Icheb. Here's a quote for you. "Merlin told me once, 'Never be too disturbed if you don't understand what a woman is thinking. They don't do it very often.'" (King Arthur, Camelot)
[Russ wants it known that the previous paragraph is solely Jim's doing.]
Seven, back in her stunning red dress, blows out the candles in her holographic quarters. "Computer, activate Chakotay simulation."
A second later, the door chimes. "Come in," Seven says, looking up.
Chakotay enters with a bouquet of flowers and a covered dinner tray; he strolls over to the countertop. "I hope you're not allergic," he says, showing her the flowers. "Antarian moon blossoms, Extremely rare. I had to smuggle them out of airponics. Don't tell Neelix." He smiles, and Seven can't help but grin as well.
"I thought I'd cook for you tonight," he says. "How does roasted chicken sound? I slaved over the replicator for hours."
Chicken. Ooh yeah. Finger-lickin' good...
Chakotay notices that Seven has said nothing since he came in. "Not hungry?" he asks, concerned.
Seven does NOT look forward to the next few moments, but she soldiers on. "I called you here...to thank you."
Chakotay is confused by this response. "For what?"
Seven begins what she knows she must say. "The past few days have been memorable." Yes! She's prepping the power-dump!
Chakotay moves in closer and holds Seven warmly in his arms. "To say the least." Ooh--holo or not, he suspects something, and he's turning on the charm.
Seven resists. She refuses to meet his gaze.
Chakotay notices. "You're ending this?"
Seven almost smirks--she knows something he doesn't. "In a manner of speaking, yes." (Computer, end--)
Hurt and questioning cross Chakotay's face. "Why?"
Oh, man, he's not going to make this easy. Seven is completely honest with the hologram. "Our relationship is interfering with my responsibilities on Voyager."
Hey, this is the guy in charge of the duty roster she's talking to. If that's all it's about, he's got it covered. "I could speak to the Captain," he says, snuggling up closer. "Have her cut back on your duty shifts." He begins grazing on her neck.
The look on Seven's face makes it clear this is not going to work.
Chakotay realizes that sweet-talking is getting him nowhere, and switches tracks. "Seven, the past few days have been more than memorable. They've been an important step forward--for both of us!" He does have a point.
His last sentence is a plea. "Don't throw that away."
Seven is resolved. Devastated, but resolved. "I'm sorry, Commander."
Chakotay won't let it end this easily. (One wonders how true-to-life this version of Chakotay is--and if he's really this persistent, how come he hasn't been more determined with Janeway the past seven years.) "You're making a mistake," he says, veering dangerously into stalker territory. Seven must have programmed him with more ardor than she realized.
But Seven is nothing if not stubborn. "No--I'm trying to correct one."
Chakotay walks around and stands behind Seven. "Ask yourself why you want to end this! Is it out of a sense of duty...or something else?" Yep, the commander doesn't take rejection easily...that's a given. Chakotay attacks Seven where it hurts the most. "Every time you move closer to your emotions you back away...like hiding behind that metronome."
Say it with me, kids: Foreshadowing...a valid literary technique. (That Berke Breathed was a goldang genius.)
Chakotay must have struck a chord. Or shorted out a circuit. Seven breathes deep and blurts out, "Your analogy is flawed!"
Chakotay isn't so sure, though. "Is it? I think you're afraid that embracing your humanity will make you weak...less than perfect. But think about what you stand to gain!" Besides a holographic version of a high-ranking boyfriend, you mean?
Seven shoots down all of that embrace-your-humanity-or-at-least-embrace-mine mumbo jumbo. "It's irrelevant!"
Chakotay can't take this anymore. He rushes around to Seven and grabs her forcefully by the shoulders. "No, it's not! Real intimacy with another person--nothing's more relevant!"
The commander's got that one right. As the French say, "C'est l'amour." (They just love them Wild West novels in Paris.)
Seven can't continue this conversation without breaking up inside...and outside. We hear the electric sizzle again from before. Uh-oh. I think he broke her. "I must return to my station," Seven says, looking like where she needs to go first is Sickbay.
Chakotay's not going to let her go. "Stay here with me!"
Seven fights him...and herself at the same time. "This ship needs me." The electrical sizzle persists, grows louder. Seven winces in pain.
Chakotay voices his needs. "So do I!"
Seven yells out what the audience is beginning to hear and understand. "I can't function this way!" The sizzle gets louder and more insistent.
Can't function is right. Captain Kirk couldn't have done better with the M-5. Chakotay's got Seven's logic circuits in China Syndrome meltdown.
Chakotay shouts what Seven has been desperately trying to live the past few days. "You're not a drone anymore! You're human!"
Seven can't take the conflict anymore, and she turns from the commander "Stop!"
However, before Seven can exit the holodeck, the electric sizzle finally fries something major in her cerebral hardware, and Seven looks on the verge of collapsing.
Holo Chak wants to know what's up. "Seven! What's wrong?"
Seven can barely utter her next words as she fumbles with her comm badge. "Sickbay...medical emergency..."
Doc is working on something in Sickbay when the call comes in. "Seven?" The Doc gets no answer from the drone.
Looking worried, Doc speaks with urgency. "Computer, locate Seven of Nine."
"Seven of Nine is in holodeck two."
Uh-oh...this could be bad.
Doc materializes into holodeck two and sees Chakotay with Seven. "What happened?" he asks.
Chakotay lets Doc do his thing, and tells all. "We were having an argument, then she just collapsed."
The medical tricorder gives a discouraging beep as Doc diagnoses. "Her cortical node is shutting down."
Now that's an argument. (I'm sure there are those who wish Chakotay could talk the captain into a meltdown from time to time. But the captain's blood is superconductive, if you know what I mean.)
Doc continues his exam, and notices something else. "She's going into neural shock..." Something strikes Doc as odd. "And what happened to her facial implants?"
The question startles Chakotay. "I thought you removed all her cybernetic systems!"
Doc puts two and two together. There will be time enough for questions later. "Computer, end program." Sure enough, Seven's quarters disappear, and so does Chakotay. Seven remains--and Doc notes with growing concern that her eyebrow node is sizzling like a thick slab of bacon.
* * *
Doc juices Seven with the hypospray and she slowly awakens.
"Commander..." Seven says, looking around, still a bit disoriented.
"If you're looking for your other holographic friend," Doc says wryly, "he's off-line at the moment."
Seven sits up on the diagnostic bed.
Doc fills Seven in on what happened to her. "Your cortical node began to shut down. Fortunately, I managed to stabilize it before there was any permanent damage."
Seven is baffled at this news. "It was functioning properly when you examined me two days ago."
This is what has Doc worried. "I'm going to run a diagnostic on your entire cortical array--but it might help if I knew what you were doing before you collapsed. Did you suffer a physical injury of some kind?"
Does a broken heart count? In any case, Seven doesn't want to volunteer answers. "No," she says curtly. Her lips are a thin line--no small feat, given their usual pillowy nature.
Doc prods further. "Were you exposed to any radiation?"
"No." A bit of heat behind this response, Doc notes.
Doc sighs and skips the yes/no queries in favor of something more open-ended. "What exactly were you doing in there?"
Seven keeps her answers simple and guarded. "Research."
Doc understands her desire for privacy, but with her cortical node is at stake, he's willing to risk irritating her. "That simulation of Commander Chakotay mentioned that the two of you were having an argument."
Seven says nothing, but her expression is clear enough.
Doc keeps his questions fairly neutral...then moves in for the kill. "Was that part of your research? I couldn't help but notice that you'd created some quarters for yourself...a new dress...dinner for two."
Seven knows there's just no fooling her holographic home slice. "I trust you'll respect Doctor-patient confidentiality," she says at last.
"Of course," Doc says, nodding.
Seven explains her latest experiment in humanity to the Doc. "I've been conducting simulations to explore different aspects of my humanity."
Doc's interest is piqued. "Such as?"
Seven elaborates a little. "Social activities. Friendships with the crew...intimate relations." She says this last one with some obvious discomfort.
Doc finally manages to piece it all together. "I take it our first officer is your 'romantic interest'?" he says it as neutrally as he can, but a trace of hurt creeps into his voice. (If it had to be a hologram, why not one you've known for years?!?)
Seven explains her decision. "Commander Chakotay seemed like an appropriate choice. He has many admirable qualities."
Doc agrees with her, but still wants to know WHY. "So he does. What prompted all this?"
Seven gives the reason for her love trials. "Unimatrix Zero. I've been trying to recreate some of the experiences I had there. Ever since it was destroyed, my life has...seemed incomplete. I wanted to feel those emotions again."
This makes sense. If you remember, Seven seriously enjoyed her time in Unimatrix Zero, hanging out with her man Axum and the other drones on holiday. It seems natural that she would desire to seek something similar out on Voyager.
Doc couldn't be prouder of his pupil, and it shows. "Well...this IS encouraging! You might be ready to start forming deeper relationships." (Keep dreaming, Doc...) "I'm proud of you, Seven!"
Seven doesn't seem interested in taking the cake, though. "Your pride is misplaced. I intend to delete the programs."
The Doc be shocked. "Why?"
Seven tells him the truth. "I can no longer perform my duties efficiently. My personal life has become a distraction."
Doc practically thumps Seven's skull like a melon in that universal HELLO, MCFLY! manner. "It's supposed to be a distraction! You simply have to find the right balance between work and recreation."
But Seven's as stubborn as a mule, and her mind is set. "Inform me when you finish the diagnostic," she says, and hops off the table to leave.
Doc calls after her, and she pauses at the doorway. "Seven...for what it's worth, you have excellent taste." He smiles as only a concerned friend can. "Your quarters...they suited you."
Seven is torn between gratitude and frustration--clearly she wants the holodeck dream house and Malibu Chakotay, but just as clearly it threatens the existence she's managed to carve out for herself. After a long look at the Doctor, she spins on her stiletto heels and exits.
The warp core begins to glow blue again. Harry works at a terminal and then walks over to where B'Elanna is standing. "Antimatter flow: stable. Injector ports: aligned. That should do it."
B'Elanna takes Harry's proffered PADD and then makes her report. "Torres to the bridge: looks like we've got warp drive back."
Janeway gives a rebel yell that wakes the dead. "Well done!" she says.
The captain looks to Tom Paris, who has been primed and ready for the word to be given. It is: "Tom--" Janeway says.
"With pleasure," he says, before she can finish the thought, and Voyager lays rubber in subspace.
Of course, it couldn't last. Tom frowns when his console beeps. "I'm detecting another subspace warhead," he says.
"Range?" Janeway asks.
"12 million kilometers. Closing from astern."
Chakotay calls for red alert. "Where's the target probe?"
Tom checks the boards. "It's on a totally different trajectory!" What the heezy? Where's the weapon going, then?
Tuvok lets Tom get back to flying by providing more analysis. "When we engaged the engines the warhead must have diverted from its target and locked onto our warp signature."
I believe Darian Fawkes said it best: Oh, crap.
Janeway orders up the usual. "Evasive maneuvers."
As good as Tom is, the missiles are very sophisticated, and very fast. "It's matching our course. Eight million kilometers."
"Can you get a weapon's lock?" Janeway asks.
Ain't no thing, Tuvok says. "Affirmative."
Coolness. Light that candle! "Photon torpedoes. Full spread."
Tuvok fires the torpedoes, but the warhead spits out a cool little Spidey-Web that detonates them before they can do any damage. "Our torpedoes have been neutralized," Tuvok announces.
Of course, of course...that would have been too easy. Besides, this is Seven of Nine's answer to "Hollow Pursuits," she's been chewed out for letting the holodeck get in the way of her duties...so she's got to have a hand in the ultimate solution...right? Redemption, honor, glory, and all that.
Tom ticks off the closing distance of the warhead. "Five million kilometers."
Janeway calls in the big guns. "Bridge to Seven of Nine."
For once this week, Seven is actually on duty when she's called. This is a good sign. "Here, Captain."
Janeway decides it's time for some unconventional thinking. "Can you get me anything on the warhead's internal circuitry?"
"Stand by..." Seven scans the weapon, and the huge Astrometrics display fills with data. "I have it."
"What can you tell me about the detonator?"
Seven works her magic. "The weapon is armed with proximity resonance circuitry."
"What's the activation frequency?" Janeway asks.
Seven isolates it. "4.84 gigahertz."
Tuvok runs with this new information. "I may be able to disarm it with an anti-resonance pulse."
Janeway gives her approval. "Do it."
Tom says the warhead is moving in. "Two million kilometers."
Tuvok gets down and dirty with the warhead. "Initiating the pulse."
The pulse is away...and...
Hmmm. That's one smart and spunky warhead. If it wasn't on target to pop Voyager like a zit, I'd be tempted to cheer it on.
Janeway isn't happy. "Seven, status?"
Seven's scanning like crazy. "The warhead's rotating its activation frequency. It's still armed."
"One million kilometers!" Tom says, losing some of his cool.
"Can you compensate?" Chakotay asks Tuvok.
After seven years, you can tell when the computer's beeping a Yea or a Nay. Tuvok's console is definitely giving a No beep. "Negative," he reports.
It's all up to Seven--and she's ready for the challenge. "Captain, I believe I can disarm the warhead."
Janeway is all ears. "How?"
"By extracting the detonator with our transporter."
Now that is thinking outside the box.
Janeway's ready for any suggestiion at the moment, no matter how wacko. But she's never been one for blind faith. "At this velocity? The device is too small, you'd never get a lock." Convince me, kiddo...
Seven isn't sweatin' it. "I can use the sub-micron imager to focus our targeting scanners." Good thing they've got that flux capacitor...
Janeway hesitates, but Seven's confident it'll work. "Please, give me transporter control."
"800,000," Tom says. He's flying Voyager like a stunt monkey, which is buying them some time, but not much. The warhead's on them like white on rice.
Janeway goes for broke. She nods to Tuvok, who complies. "Okay, Seven, it's up you," she says.
"I have a lock," Seven says almost immediately. Attagirl. Wouldn't ya know? Seven comes through in the clutch. "Energizing."
But no! "The detonator's protected by a tritanium shielding," Seven reports. Dang, boy, that warhead has more failsafes than a high-end Volvo.
But there's a silver lining. "I can penetrate it--but not at this distance. We'll have to wait until it's closer."
I believe Merlin said it best in TOP GUN when he said, "You wanna do WHAT?!?!"
The bridge crew tenses. Wait. Until it's closer. Dang.
"500,000," Tom shouts.
"Status!" Janeway asks. Seven's being a bit too quiet down there.
"Not yet, Captain." Aaargh.
Tom counts down. Someone's got to. "Four...Three...Two..."
Seven cuts it close, but finally the warhead gets close enough to spank, and the sub-micron imager gives the detonator the mother of all Hello-Sailors. Her fingers fly over the console.
In the end, there's nothing left to count to. Tom bellows for all to hear, "Brace for impact!"
We see the warhead make its final approach. It smacks Voyager square on the nose of the saucer section.
And flies apart.
But the important thing to note is...well, I think Marvin the Martian said it best: "Where's the Kaboom? There was supposed to be an EARTH-SHATTERING Kaboom!"
Alas, poor warhead, we hardly knew ye.
The good news is, Voyager is safe. Even better, Seven of Nine earned her replicator rations for the week. She's no longer in the doghouse.
Oops. Sorry, Russdog.
Seven is working in Cargo Bay Two when Doc enters.
"Doctor," Seven says, noting his pained expression. "You've come to deliver unpleasant news."
Doc sighs. "Is it that obvious?" Must have been...he has SUCKS TO BE YOU written all over his face.
He takes a deep, digital breath, then dives in with his prognosis. "I've completed my diagnostic. What you experienced was no malfunction. Your cortical node was designed to shut down your higher brain functions when you achieve a certain level of...emotional stimulation."
What-choo talkin bout, Schmullis? "Clarify."
"It appears to be a fail-safe mechanism...to deactivate drones who start to regain their emotions. Knowing the Borg, it makes perfect sense. Finding one's heart is the surest road to individuality."
I feel a metronome reference coming on...
MAN, that bites.
But...but..."I'm no longer linked to the hive mind."
"The technology's built into you node," Doc explains. "It simply remained dormant...until now." The irony is that Seven has had plenty of emotional extremes the past several years, but it's not surfacing until now.
I think the Church Lady said it best: "How conveeeeenient."
Then again, in the past most of those extremes were imposed on her; this was her first major attempt to venture out on her own. Perhaps the cortical node is smart enough to tell the difference.
But...diagnosis is the first step on the road to recovery, right? "Can you repair me?" Seven asks.
Doc doesn't look confident. "Possibly. I've been thinking about a way to reconfigure the micro-circuitry. I won't lie to you, Seven--it would entail multiple surgeries and the recovery might be difficult."
We are talking about brain surgery here, after all. The question is, is it worth it? Seven was already trying to return to her regulated, controlled, metronome-precise existence when she had her meltdown in the holodeck. We can tell from Seven of Nine's face that it's not a simple question to answer. It goes to the very core of her identity--and her potential as a person.
Doc offers a ray of hope. "But I believe we could eventually succeed," he assures her. Doc's all for sucking the very marrow out of life, and it's clear which way she'll choose to go. He takes her silence for assent. "I'll prepare the surgical bay. We can begin tomorrow morning."
With Seven of Nine, that assumption is always risky. "No," she says, stopping him.
Doc is crestfallen. "Without the procedure, you won't be able to continue your simulations."
"I've experienced enough humanity for the time being. They were only holographic fantasies, Doctor. An inefficient use of my time." Spoken like a true drone-all work and no play makes Seven of Nine an efficient cog in the Voyager machine.
"You don't really believe that!" Doc says, surprised, and a bit hurt. He's been her mentor for years, and has a stake in her successful transition to full-blown humanity.
Seven, though, puts the best spin on it that she can. "The fail-safe device will insure that I'm no longer distracted." (More on this in the analysis.)
Doc's voice rises a little. "That's the Borg talking...not you."
Doc tries one more time. "As your physician...as your friend...I'm asking you to let me proceed."
He means well, but what Seven seems to need most right now is time to think. And to rest. "I need to regenerate," she says, ending the discussion.
"Good night, Doctor." She averts her gaze, and Doc knows that for the time being, her mind is set.
Voyager is back on course for home, taking what we assume is a relatively wide berth around the subspace firing range. No need to tempt any more eager warheads into a course correction.
Seven of Nine, resigned to her fate, power-walks through Voyager's corridors. She's carrying a PADD to demonstrate her proven ability to multitask.
Chakotay--the real Chakotay--sees her, and rushes to catch up. "Where's the fire?" he asks amiably.
"Fire?" Seven asks.
Chakotay grins when she doesn't catch the reference. Drones and Vulcans--so literal. "You seem to be in a hurry."
"I have to finish my report on the subspace warheads."
All work and no play..."The ship is out of danger, thanks to you," Chakotay says. "You've earned a break. Why don't you join me in the mess hall? Neelix is going to give a cooking lesson: 'Talaxian tenderloin in ten minutes.'" Whoah, hold the phone. This is new behavior from Chak-man. Has he been scanning holodeck logs or something? Or is he just being coincidentally nice to Seven?
"I'm no longer interested in cooking," Seven says with a hint of sadness.
"Then come for the company," Chakotay urges. "B'Elanna's going to be there; Tuvok even promised to show up. It'll be fun!"
A shadow passes on Seven's face as she considers it. Here's the real Commander, good qualities and all, extending a gesture of friendship and possible interest. But the Doctor's diagnosis is too fresh. "I appreciate your offer," she says sincerely. "Another time, perhaps."
Chakotay seems a little hurt. Usually he has much better luck with blondes. "You know, you should try socializing with the crew a little more," he says. "It might do you some good."
Seven considers the irony of the advice as she continues down the corridor...alone, and uninvolved.
I'm going to leave this brief and let Jim analyze to his heart's content, because I have already said WAY WAY too much. Once again, I would just like to thank Jim Wright for giving me the opportunity to co-author "Human Error." It was a real treat to see what he has been going through, week after week, the past few years. These reviews are a long process...and I give Jim much props for doing them.
As a college student, I like the episodes of Voyager where the CGI is awesome, the action is rapid fire, and stuff gets blown up real good (i.e. "Scorpion I & II," "Tsunkatse," and "Flesh and Blood I & II"...to name a few). However, every once in awhile, an episode comes along with minor action, and a whole lot of heart. This episode was one of them.
"Human Error" showcased a struggling Seven of Nine desiring to step from the shackles of the Collective (an ensuing battle that she has been fighting for four years) and embrace her humanity. Seven faced a paradox: while this humanity fascinated her to the point of creating holographic environs and a fantasy with Chakotay...it was also this same humanity that drove Seven away, and made her embrace the familiar rigidity of the Collective mentality. Rarely, is human emotion so concise and crystal clear...ESPECIALLY where love is concerned, and I can definitely vouch for this from personal experience. It was this very same ambiguity of love and passion that confounded Seven to the point of breaking off all romantic and familial ties with the Chakotay hologram. Jeri Ryan is a very talented actress, and she depicted this internal struggle quite nicely on the screen.
The very title of the episode, "Human Error" is a conflict in itself. First, it can be taken to mean that there will ALWAYS be error where humans are concerned...especially when love is in the picture. While love is probably THE most powerful emotion (like Holo Chakotay said, "Intimacy with another person: there is nothing MORE relevant."), it also comes with its share of errors and misunderstanding. The other meaning of the title can be taken in the sense that Seven of Nine may have made a "human error" in breaking off her simulation and study into human relationships. This can be seen visually in the last scene, when Seven gets that anguished look on her face, and walks down the empty corridor...by herself. The visual imagery in this scene shows the audience that perhaps Seven will ALWAYS be alone to a certain extent. Indeed, that inner conflict between man and machine will always be within her, as long as events like these occur.
Thank you all for reading this, and take care of yourselves.
First, my deepest thanks to Russell (Russdog) for his help with this episode. I've appreciated all the coauthors' willingness to walk the mile in my reviewing shoes and recreate an episode on paper--it's an arduous process.
Russ went above and beyond the call, throwing in a lot of humor and creativity, and capturing my voice more closely than I expected. I almost hated to touch it, but my tweaker's obsession got the better of me. Thanks, Russ--you done good, and it's been a pleasure.
Now, on to the episode.
When I first viewed "Human Error," I was surprised by how quiet it was. I was even a bit put off by the pacing and the relative lack of suspense. They did try to ramp it up with the smart warhead near the end, but there was little doubt that Voyager would survive, and Seven's calm handling of the situation kept the thrills to a minimum.
The firing range idea is a decent one. I'm surprised we don't see more of them--space is big (really big) and you just can't have something that wide open and devoid of life without someone getting the irresistible urge to blow stuff up there. When I get the urge to punch holes in cans and shatter bottles, the desert's the first place I think of. (I'm not big on shooting animals; I once tried taking out a rat with a BB gun, and the pellet just bounced off. You don't know humilation until you've had a rat laugh at you.)
Whoever set up the firing range at least TRIED to warn away the unsuspecting traveler, but I'm glad they didn't solve this by just phoning up the species and saying, "cease fire." It would have been too easy. Likewise, they didn't get away with the usual bag of tricks, though they naturally had to try.
But then, as I watched it again, I had an epiphany.
Welcome to Seven of Nine's world.
The episode is all about how Seven is stuck within a finite, limited range of response. Love, hate, anguish, fear, frustration, adrenaline, estrogen...all are strictly regulated by her cortical node. Everyone else is white-knuckling their way through a near-catastrophe, and Seven isn't even breaking a sweat.
The munitions range is a metaphor for Seven of Nine's life as of now. When you least expect it, BOOM. Like the warheads, Seven's limitations and imperfections appear out of nowhere (subspace) to cripple her progress. And like Voyager at the end, which didn't get into its most serious trouble until AFTER they'd gone to warp and become a prime target, Seven of Nine didn't encounter the most serious threat to her existence until she made a deliberate and far-reaching attempt to put emotional distance between herself and the Collective.
This bears repeating. As long as Seven of Nine was moving along at her aloof, emotionally constricted pace, most of her external challenges were relatively minor. But when she took her first big steps to fit in, using her holodeck simulation, her cortical node slammed down like a firewall. In like manner, Voyager got slapped around by the shockwaves from those missile detonations, but were never directly TARGETED by those weapons until they entered subspace to go to warp. Just as they seemed to be on the verge of escape, they heightened their vulnerability.
Sometimes, it pays to play it safe...
But that's not the point of this episode. The firing range is simply a Big Boom parallel to what happens with Seven of Nine this week.
Now, first things first. Cool under pressure is a GOOD trait to have in a worker, drone or not. Good person to have by your side in a crisis. Folks like this tend to get things done. They don't freak out when things get tough.
Conversely, Seven's efforts to "get a life" had a negative impact on her work--she was sleeping in, blowing off duty shifts, and her mind wasn't on the task--EVEN IN A BLOODY MINEFIELD, when you'd hope she'd be especially alert. Getting a life is a good thing, as Doc points out, but balance is key. He learned that lesson in "Body and Soul" when he took Seven's body for a five-senses joyride.
Seven is hardly alone; there are many, many instances in Trek history where a character has let personal interest get in the way of the job at hand, and in almost every case they Suffered For It or they Learned A Valuable Lesson. All the characters are, after all, only human. Or humanoid. Or whatever politically correct variant of "humanoid" you prefer. Whatever you call them, they're people, and imperfect, and fallible, prone to mistakes and buckling under pressure and judgment impaired when a cute alien shimmies by...
When we first encountered Seven of Nine, still a part of her beloved Collective, she saw human failings as a weakness. In a sense, she's right. Human error gets in the way of the work from time to time. In some cases, darn near constantly.
But there's something to be said for human error. For one thing, it's a great way to learn and to mature. Human experience creates humans, and every shattered bone, skimmed knee and broken heart adds to the evolving nature of each individual Self.
"Life is pain," The Dread Pirate Roberts said in Princess Bride. He's half right. Without pain, pleasure would be meaningless. Without having the occasional Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, we would have trouble appreciating the great days. Life need not be a nonstop Mountain Dew commercial to be worth living, but a life with very little variation in emotion is less living than merely existing.
Seven of Nine, for the most part, merely exists. Her life is her work. Anything else is a distraction, a deviation from the Perfection she seeks.
Her developing humanity, though, yearns to expand her experience, and sees value in making the attempt. For the first time, we see her not merely submitting to the Doctor's "fitting in" lessons, but reaching out on her own, developing her own simulations, taking actual risks (though still in a semi-controlled environment).
Like Barclay, in the Holodeck she's a bit more confident, a bit more loose, and a bit more social. She's not necessarily the life of the party, but she does GO to parties, and her dress and her implant-free appearance and her quarters suggest a clear hope of reaching out more to those around her. Unlike Barclay, however, it's not a night-and-day difference from the real world; she's not a completely different person, just a bit more of the self she'd like to be--she's stretching, learning to lengthen her stride, but she's not trying to be something she's not.
This is the cruel part about the Borg's failsafe device: it doesn't kick in until you think you're on the verge of finally kicking the Borg habit for good. Like the metronome, it locks you into a fixed pattern of behavior, safe in one sense, but so limiting in another. You can exist, but you can't truly live.
I almost hate to bring this up, but it seems to apply.
In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier--no, wait, come back, I won't dwell on it, I promise--Spock's half-brother Sybok goes around picking up followers by taking away their pain. Whatever their greatest sorrow, shame, or regret might be, he shared it with them, and dissipated the torment. By this simple act, he turned vagabonds, patriots, even professionals (Sulu, Uhura, Chekov) into his loyal followers, breaking bonds of fellowship that spanned decades.
The only folks who seemed immune were the holy trinity of TOS: Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. McCoy he almost got by "freeing" him from the anguish of euthanizing his father mere months before a cure was found for the disease that crippled him. I say almost, because the bonds of friendship were too strong with Kirk and Spock. Spock, Sybok discovered, had already reconciled himself to his greatest anguish, and was unswayed by the "sharing."
Captain Kirk refused to let Sybok touch his pain. "I NEED my pain!" he said. The agonies of his life were part of what made him who he was. We have enough hours of TOS to think of a few of them--mistakes made, passions surrendered, loves lost, lives taken.
Sybok was looking for followers, and found them by taking away their pain. Captain Kirk became a leader--even a legend--because he recognized the need to USE the pain, not deny its existence or bury it too deep to feel for now.
Some may argue that Kirk could have used a good nurturing hug or two and a few less chips on his shoulder. Perhaps so. But by choosing to remain the captain of his soul, he avoided the fate that so many others fell to--they sacrificed a deeply held part of themselves, and in the process lost a bit of their volition, and handed it over to another.
Sybok rarely gave them the choice--he imposed this "gift" on his followers. Few--I suspect, at least in Starfleet--would have accepted it willingly if given the option.
In this sense, he was a lot like the Borg. He took away something negative, but intense--and in the process, assumed control of their free will. What the Borg accomplish with nanoprobes and vinculums, he did with a smile and good intentions.
That little side trip is important to note because Seven of Nine has been stripped of the ability to live life on the edge. She can't push the envelope. Until now, she didn't WANT to, and had voluntarily lived within the constraints imposed on her, so she had no idea she was in any way limited.
Self-imposed limitations are often the most constricting of all.
Even before she learned that the Borg had the last laugh on her, we saw her internal struggle. The Chakotay hologram urged her to break free from the metronome and risk an imperfect performance, and it took some convincing before she was willing to try--and she was ready to quit a few seconds into the first attempt. Fear is a powerful motivator to avoid risk.
Later, when she got chewed out for not being her usual diligent self at work, it was enough for her to throw up her hands and quit. She risked, she goofed, she got spanked--game over. Interestingly, though, she was determined to withdraw from her involvement the old fashioned way, rather than simply delete the program.
This is a risk worthy of remark. Seven has often run away from emotional attachments, but the way she did so here was an indicator of how far she's come. She cared enough about the simulation she'd created to try to see it through, but she programmed it a bit too well. She hoped to learn how to deal with acceptance, but in the process also anticipated her tendency to withdraw and accounted for it. Thus Chakotay was obstinate in his refusal to let her simply back out. He pushed and prodded, challenged and parried, and forced Seven to deal with emotions that she wasn't prepared for.
The simulation was a success--it accelerated Seven of Nine's development. It exposed limitations she didn't even know she had. She took a risk, and she got burned, but she learned something about herself in the process. Something that will likely take her time to come to terms with.
In this regard, I'm VERY happy with the episode, for not neatly wrapping it all up into a bow. It was in perfect character for Seven to back away. But it's the start of a new stage for her, and the failure simply underscores the heartbreak that often comes with daring to be human.
At this point, Seven isn't ready for the next step. For a time, she'll use the knowledge of the failsafe mode to keep her distance, as a crutch to avoid major pain. But you just know (he said, writing this after the end of the season) that this won't be the end of it. Eventually, Seven will find a reason to take the next step, and risk the procedure to reverse the Borg's Last Laugh.
Who knows--maybe next time, she'll fall for a Real Boy.
But that's a tale for another time.
Let's wrap this up with a discussion of performances.
Jeri Ryan was terrific in a nuanced performance. Seven of Nine is a character with a lot going on under the surface, but with a surface that's known chiefly for reserve. as in music, a lot can be said about an actor by how they play the quiet moments, and Ryan shines here. She was believable throughout.
As to the other major player...well, you know the argument: How dare Chakotay romance Seven of Nine! He's JANEWAY'S MAN, for heck's sake!
Earlier in the season I might have written "relax, she was chatting up a hologram, is wasn't the real guy," but "Endgame" ruined that argument. In a sense, this is a prelude for the series finale, where we get darn near carbon-copies of the same scenes, but with a slightly different outcome.
All the fan-impact issues aside, Beltran put in a good performance. He and Ryan had good chemistry together--more, in fact, in the non-passionate scenes than in the ones with kissing and finger-sucking, which I found gratuitous. (I'm still rusty when it comes to modern dating rituals. Perhaps it's hard to believe someone's really interested unless they swallow your hand or mash lips like you're sharing a chocolate-covered singularity.)
The remainder of the cast was also fine. In particular, Dawson and Wang were amusing in the baby shower and engineering scene with Ryan, and Picardo put in a nice serious turn as Seven's mentor and physician and friend. Manu's Icheb also had some nice moments in his scenes with Ryan, though the quotes idea was probably better on paper than in practice.
All in all, not a bad week.
Call it 3.5 stars.
Next week: Twice the Q, Twice the Fun..."FOR ME TO POOP ON!!!" (DOWN, Triumph!)
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