The following is an ALL-SPOILER Review. Teaser to closing credits, I give you the whole dang episode, blow-by-blow. If you want to be surprised when you finally see it, leave now. If you don't mind having the whole enchilada spelled out for you, pull up some shuttle debris and enjoy the ride.
I rate each episode based on how much I enjoyed it--not necessarily on how good I think it is; I leave the objective takes to others. I don't claim to be accurate or objective, though only on occasion will I deliberatly try not to be. (this week, for instance.) But with luck, you'll enjoy yourself along the way whether you agree with me or not.
So kick back and toss another shrimp on the barbie. Fatherly Uncle Jim's in a storytellin' mood.
The Hirogen get more interesting. Species 8472 gets more sympathetic. Seven of Nine gets spanked.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Jump straight to the Analysis
What, no corridor?
For that matter, no Voyager?
This episode could be different.
Two ships tear through space. Both look familiar. One is a Hirogen ship, like we saw last week. The other--I can't quite place it. (Okay, I can--but we're building suspense here.)
We see the inside of the Hirogen ship. As before, we see two very tall, gravel-voiced creatures who are in full Hunt mode.
But as soon as the Alpha (the leader) speaks, we get the feeling at least one Hirogen is worth taking seriously. His voice is seriously creepy in a "Candyman" sorta way.
They continue pursuit. The other Hirogen (Beta) begins an intercept course, but Alpha doesn't want to make it too easy. "His ship is damaged. He's injured. Let him bleed."
Beta frets they'll lose the moment, but Alpha takes pride in his work. He wants a face to face kill.
The alien fights back, but it's a middling effort at best. No damage to the Hirogen vessel.
The alien high-tails it for an asteroid belt. Beta frets, but Alpha knows this is the prey's last stand. Beta's scanners confirm this. Guess that's why Alpha's the boss; he knows his stuff.
The prey has landed on an asteroid and left the ship. Alpha grunts with satisfaction.
He goes to a wall with a set of weapons Action Kate would drool over. There's a selection of spank rays from the screaming cricket to the PlanetKiller to "incredibly stupid weapon--do not use" which he wisely avoids. Then his jet-black eyes fall on Ole Blue.
Remember that scene in TERMINATOR 2 when Arnold is in the Mexican arms locker and finds that weapon that just screams Take Me, I'm Yours? Remember the look on Arnold's face? Alpha has that look now, and he cradles Ole Blue--a two-meter gunmetal blue cylinder of apocalyptic potential--like the prize puppy in the litter.
When he dabs on the white coat of hunter's primer, Alpha's eyes dance.
Alpha and Beta skulk through the asteroid's maze of tunnels. The prey is scattering their sensors, which only pleases Alpha more. He suggests they disengage sensors and do it the old fashioned way.
We finally see the prey, and--oh, dang. Species 8472.
They've been hunting this? I'm impressed.
The 47 approaches, looking irate. And if you recall from Scorpion, these bad boys can do damage.
But Alpha doesn't even blink. Down goes the barrel of the weapon. He squeezes off a couple of shots--and the 47 actually winces.
Beta joins in. They pommel it with huge concentrations of hot death.
Species 8472...goes down. And doesn't get up.
Alpha looks down on what's left of his prey. "A flawless kill," he mutters with satisfaction.
Dang. I can't wait to see the chicks he picks up with this creature's innards....
* * *
Seven is in Sickbay, and is speaking in a most un-Seven-like fashion.
"Please remain still so that I can treat your injuries. Thank you."
"I'm sorry. Did that hurt? I'll try to be more careful."
"Thanks for being a patient patient."
Has Paris been replaced in Sickbay again? Or--horrors!--is she being added to the staff, making way for a potential romance between Helm Boy and Borg Girl, leaving our poor longsuffering chief engineer in the...
Just kidding. Please lower your weapons.
Seven continues: "'Have a pleasant afternoon--' this is absurd."
Ah. We see that she is reading from a PADD. Without much enthusiasm.
Doc encourages her to continue, but Seven balks. "This vernacular is not applicable to my duties," she says. Doc says they can customize her phrase list later. "Right now, it's the sentiment that counts," he says. Seven doesn't see the relevance.
Doc explains. "I created these exercises three years ago to familiarize myself with the social graces. I found that if I repeated them several times each day the words became almost second nature. Let's continue. Exercise two: 'The Workplace Encounter.' Kes used to help me with this one. Now I'll be the nurse--" he grabs her and scoots her from his left shoulder to his right, much to her annoyance-- "You be the doctor."
Hey, a Kes reference! And it's not even from Neelix!
Seven decides to tough it out. "'Please hand me the hypospray,'" she reads.
"'Of course, doctor, immediately.'"
"'Thank you. [Looks at instrument--]'"
"No, no," says Doc with almost enough patience in his voice. "Don't read that part--only the dialogue."
Seven sighs. "'Excuse me, nurse. This is the wrong hypospray. Would you mind finding the correct one?'"
"'Not at all,'" says Doc cheerily.
"'Thank you....Did I mention you look lovely today?'" Seven recites, rolling her eyes.
"'Oh, doctor, you're so charming--'" Doc says, fully into his Kes role (and raising issues probably best left forgotten, though darn it--it made me smile).
Seven says she's had enough. Doc does his best to assure her that there is genuine benefit from these seemingly simplistic exercises. "I know it's awkward--for me it was even painful--but you'll find the rewards worth the effort. The ability to put others at ease...make them feel more comfortable around you. You're a lot like me when I was first activated. If I'd had a mentor things would have gone a lot more smoothly. I'm willing to share my wisdom but, if you're not interested..."
Doc is offering to mentor Seven in the social graces? Talk about the blunt leading the blunt.
Seven isn't convinced. Doc sighs like a longsuffering martyr, crosses his arms and casts his eyes heavenward. "Fine. I'll stick to your physiological maintenance...."
Seven relents. She extends her hand for the PADD. Doc hands it to her happily, suggesting she "Pay special attention to Exercise 17: 'Bridge Banter for Beginners.'"
Seven nods and heads for the door, and Doc smiles, pleased with their progress. Before she exits from view, she stops and turns around.
"Have a pleasant day," she says, awkwardly but sincerely, then exits.
Doc grunts appreciatively. He likes initiative in a pupil.
The bridge is abuzz with activity. A Hirogen vessel is on an intercept course.
"Evasive maneuvers?" Paris asks hopefully. But Janeway decides it's time to bury the hatchet, and they take steps to let the aliens catch up. Paris calls off the narrowing distance with increasing agitation, and attempts to contact the vessel fail. Red alert is invoked just in case.
As the vessel nears, it slows...then stops. It doesn't charge weapons. The engines go dead. They scan she ship and detect a single--weakening--life sign.
"This could be a trap," Chakotay notes. Janeway plays it relatively safe--she orders a long range scan, and Harry reports no other Hirogen in the area.
Janeway gets that look in her eyes. A collective gulp is heard throughout the ship.
"Take us within transporter range," the captain orders.
"You intend to board their ship," Seven says, and Janeway nods. "The Hirogen vessel is a potential threat," Seven says. "We should destroy it."
Janeway gives Seven a longsuffering smile. "Seven, what you call a threat I call an opportunity. To gain knowledge about this species--and in this case, maybe even show some compassion."
"Our experience with the Hirogen indicates that compassion would not be reciprocated," Seven notes.
"And all of my experience says we've got to take that chance anyway," Janeway says.
You know, very few people get away with that level of dissent on the bridge. Seven's just lucky she's the captain's latest "reclamation project."
Janeway wins the staring contest and hands the next step over to Chakotay, who picks Tuvok and Paris to join him on the away team.
Harry breathes a sigh of relief.
Today's word, kids, is Deja vu.
The Hirogen vessel looks a lot like that trashed Borg cube in "Scorpion." The interior of the vessel is not nearly as festive as it was in the teaser. It's darker, cluttered, and spewing smoke from a dozen places.
It's vewy, vewy quiet as our hewoes hunt Hiwogen.
Chakotay notes the decor. Weapons both ultramodern and timeless, from particle beams to big rocks. Hammocks full of skulls and other bones.
And a large vat of...something. A boiling carrion Jell-O cauldron.
Tuvok approaches the vat, and Chakotay jumps practically out of his skin. Tuvok doesn't let on that he enjoyed doing that. Chakotay says the vat contains the body parts from at least nine species. "It's all being broken down by some sort of enzyme."
"Perhaps this is their method of denaturating their prey," Tuvok suggests.
"Either that," Chakotay says, struggling to regain composure, "or it's dinner."
Meanwhile, Paris also looks around, marveling at the collection of death instruments and the creatures they were used on. Then he notices a pile of distinctive Hirogen armor on the floor. "Looks like somebody lost their helmet," he says to himself, picking it up.
Then he notices that the helmet isn't empty. The blank-eyed, open-mouthed, severed head of the Beta Hirogen stare past Paris.
Naturally, he shouts. But he regains his composure faster than you can say Ensign Kim.
He summons Chakotay and Tuvok and introduces them to what's left of Hunter #2. "I'm not picking up any weapon residuals. I'd say he was physically torn apart." It's clear from his tone that he doesn't want to meet anything that can strip a Hirogen for parts.
They finally track the life signs to a separate room. When they get the door open, they find themselves staring at one seriously large individual. But by the way he spends all his effort struggling for breath rather than taking aim with Ole Blue, they realize he won't be much of a threat.
Safely back on Voyager, Chakotay and Tuvok deliver their report to Janeway and Seven. Chakotay has Tuvok put up a map of the Hirogen vessel's flight path the previous five years--a Chutes and Ladders, Jeffy's-trip-to-the-store trajectory of near-Brownian proportions. It covers scores of light years. And over 90 star systems in the past year alone.
And you thought Deadheads were hooked on road trips.
Chakotay begins Step Two of the info dump. "I analyzed their logs. From what I can tell, this is a hunting species. We saw the skeletal remains from dozens of alien races displayed like trophies. There's also evidence they may be using some of their victims for food. The entire culture seems to be based on the hunt-- social rituals, art, religious beliefs. They're nomadic. Their existence is driven by the pursuit of prey. It's carried them across huge distances."
Tuvok chimes in. "There is no evidence of a home planet. Their ships travel alone or in small groups. On occasion several will join forces in a multi-pronged attack."
"Like wolves," Chakotay adds. Or Spammers. Take your pick.
Janeway asks about the "wolf" in sick bay. Tuvok says he's still unconscious, and stuck behind a
level-five force field.
Janeway gives Seven of Nine her best schoolmarm look. "You were right, Seven. This species is a threat. But despite the risk of sending an away team we know a lot more about who we're dealing with now."
This must be why Seven's in the room. Doc's mentoring her in the social graces. Janeway's mentoring her in the subtleties of command.
It's too bad that over the past four years, Captain Kate's Command 101 syllabus is about as hard to follow as the Hirogen's flight records.
Seven takes in the moral of the story. "You were correct, Captain. It was worth the risk...This time."
Janeway sighs; it's going to be a long semester. She stands and turns to Chakotay, violating his personal space in a big way--and they both know it. My remote control bursts into flames from the searing, Mark Johnson-free sexual tension filling the briefing room.
"There's one question remaining," Janeway says, looking deep into her first officer's eyes. "Who's hunting the hunters?"
We get a cool view of Voyager's hull. The camera zooms in slowly, and as it does we see something moving on the hull.
As the camera continues to close in, recognition dawns.
Species 8472. It's back...and it's mad.
* * *
In Sickbay, Doc gives Janeway a brief update. Security types stand by, armed to the teeth with Betsy-class Boomsticks. But armed for bear (or Wolf) as they may be, they still shudder at the hulking creature before them. Even statue-still, Alpha is one imposing dude.
"I was trying to remove his body armor to treat the internal injuries," Doc says, "when he suddenly regained consciousness. He's not happy to be here." At Janeway's query he says he's tried to sedate the guy, but "his immune system neutralizes everything." (Kinda like Species 8472!) He says he could whip up something stronger, but by then the guy would likely be dead from his massive injuries.
Janeway marches up to the invisible forcefield separating her from the Hirogen. Surprisingly, he winces a bit--either from pain or from the red hair is anyone's guess. She tells the still-silent Alpha that his comrade is dead and his ship is hosed, but she's brought him here out of the kindness of her heart to patch him up. (In other words, if it wasn't for us, you'd be dead by now.)
The pleasantries done with, she grills him with questions. "What happened to your ship? Who attacked you?"
Alpha just stares at her.
Janeway shrugs. "The first time I met your species it wasn't on the best of terms, but that doesn't mean you and I can't find a way to change that."
If he doesn't know who Voyager is, all this talk is fairly meaningless. But if he does, Janeway's message is clear: Don't mess with me, Stilt Boy. We're the folks who shocked one dude into being held back a grade; trash-compacted eight of your too-tall buddies and their ships into a space the size of a Susan B. Anthony dollar; and crashed your whole 100,000 year-old quadrant-wide sensor net.
And we got you cornered.
He finally speaks. "Our prey," he rumbles, voice like an earthquake going through the basso-profundo phase of puberty.
Hey, it's progress...
"You were on a hunt," she says, encouraged.
"Yes," he says in his grinding-rock voice. "A formidable alien. We captured it two days ago but it broke free of its restraints...attacked us. Release me. I must continue the hunt."
Janeway clucks her tongue at him. "Not without your ship, and not in this condition. You'll die without treatment .Let us help you."
The Hirogen finally nods. Janeway nods in turn, and Doc steps up to the plate.
"All right...I'm going to enter the force field now and start with a few scans of your midsection. You should know I'm a hologram and can't be bent, spindled or mutilated. So don't bother trying."
Alpha makes no aggressive move, so Doc steps through the forcefield. So far, so good. He suggests the Hirogen lie down.
"Or remain standing," Doc says, not pressing the issue. He begins his scans, and Alpha--holding his immobile right arm--merely regards him quizzically.
Janeway arrives on the bridge in time to hear some bad news. Six Hirogen ships are coming at them from all directions.
"The one in sick bay may have sent a distress call from his vessel," Tuvok says.
Janeway asks how long they've got; four hours at most. She tells Tom to start looking now for ways to maintain evasive maneuvers.
"I want to buy the doctor time to treat our Hunter. If I gain his confidence, he might call off his friends. Good old-fashioned diplomacy could get us out of this yet," Janeway says.
"From what I found in their database, diplomacy isn't a part of their lifestyle," Chakotay warns her. "They don't see us as equals. To them we're simply game."
Janeway grinds her teeth. "It's time we convince them otherwise--or like any other cornered animal, we'll show our teeth."
[Irony alert!!!] Yep, there's a strategy that's worked so well for them before... [Irony off]
At that moment, the ship shakes a little. Tuvok reports a hull rupture on Deck 11, Section three. They increase power to the structural integrity field. Another rumble, and he adds that a bulkhead in Jefferies Tube 84 has just collapsed.
"This wasn't caused by any power surge or system failure," Harry adds. Janeway sends Tuvok and Kim to Deck 11 for a look-see.
The two officers crawl through the cramped Jefferies tube. They finally reach their destination--and find a shredded bit of bulkhead, exposing the stars beyond the hull. A few meters in from the former wall, another bit of broken stuff hangs from the ceiling. Along with a pile of something goopy.
Tuvok analyzes the goopy stuff. "It's a dense mixture of DNA and polyfluidic compounds." Kim shivers as though someone had walked over his grave.
Tuvok hails the bridge. "We may have an intruder on board. I'm analyzing what could be a sample of its blood. The readings are consistent with species 8472."
Chakotay springs to action, rushing over to Tuvok's vacated post at tactical. Janeway calls Intruder alert and orders Security to seal off decks 10 through 12.
Chakotay reports that internal sensors aren't detecting any intruders. Janeway didn't expect them to; "the last time we ran into this species it was impervious to our scanners. We'll have to track it visually." She grabs a wimpy hand-phaser from the back of the Big Chair and heads for the turbolift.
"How did it get past our shields?" Paris asks to nobody in particular.
"We'll worry about that later," Janeway says just before the turbolift doors close. "You have the bridge, commander. I'll be on deck 11."
Seven helps lock down engineering. She and Torres are working well together for a change. Torres barks orders with cool efficiency. "I want every one of these consoles secured-- authorized command codes only. I'm going to lock down the warp core."
Before she can complete her orders, B'Elanna looks up to check out a scraping noise. There above her, crawling down the warp core, is Species 8472.
She doesn't have time to scream.
It leaps at her.
* * *
Janeway and a security team arrive to find Engineering in shambles. Seven is caring for an unconscious Torres. Inexplicably, nobody is dead, though there are four wounded crew.
"Species 8472 accessed engineering through the antimatter injector," Seven reports. "Our phaser fire was insufficient. It attacked us then escaped through Jefferies tube 17-alpha."
After Janeway rattles off a new set of orders, she motions to Seven to come with her. They exit Engineering.
"It would seem that the Hirogen underestimated their latest prey," Janeway notes.
"You believe they were hunting the creature," Seven says.
"Yes. When the Borg were fighting Species 8472 did they ever engage in physical combat?"
"On many occasions," says Seven, looking spooked. Janeway prods her for more information. "Each time they boarded a Borg vessel they went directly to the central power matrix and disabled it."
Janeway notes that the creature was just in engineering but didn't touch any of their power systems."
"It's obviously adjusted its strategy," says Seven, shuddering at the thought. "Species 8472 is devious and highly intelligent. It will seek the most efficient means of destroying us."
Janeway doesn't want to hear it. "Let's get to sick bay." They continue covering each other with their measly hand-phasers and make it to a turbolift.
Doc says Torres will be just fine.
Satisfied, Janeway turns to Alpha. "Is it alone? Have you seen any others like it?"
"Why?" Alpha asks.
"Six months ago, this species invaded our galaxy with thousands of ships. We were barely able to fight them off," Chakotay says.
"Your prey could indicate another invasion," says Janeway. "If it does, we're all in trouble. How many ships have you seen?"
Alpha, apparently well on the road to recovery, seems more talkative. Could be the subject matter. "Only one. Damaged. We tracked it across 50 light-years. We thought that we had killed the creature but this prey is unlike any other. It has many lives." His voice doesn't change perceptibly, but he seems even more imposing now. "Lower the force field and I will finish the hunt."
"Your attempt to destroy it will fail," says Seven. "Species 8472 is highly resistant to all technology. All but one...Borg nanoprobes." Janeway looks impatient with her outspoken pupil, but says nothing.
Alpha repeats the word, confused. Chakotay explains that nanoprobes attack the species on a cellular level, and that it was quite effective the last time they used them. Seven volunteers to modify Betsy to fire nanoprobe bursts.
Janeway approves it, but adds, "I want you to incapacitate the creature, not kill it. Can you make that modification?"
Seven's jaw drops. "Yes, but it would require additional time. We must stop it as soon as possible."
Alpha agrees with Seven. But Janeway feels like understanding all of her enemies this week, and she wants to know why the creature is back. (There is good reason for this--if the 47s are bent on conquering our universe again, it could be bad. Best to find out early. Besides, it worked so well with Alpha here.)
But Seven's not convinced. "You will be exposing this crew to unnecessary risk," she says sharply. Janeway disagrees. Seven objects.
Janeway makes it an order. Seven complies.
Man--major friction this week.
Janeway turns to Alpha. "Six of your vessels will be here in under four hours. I hope you'll let them know that we saved your life and that we want to avoid any further conflict with your people."
If Alpha knows from gratitude, he doesn't show it. He's looking for a specific gesture of goodwill. "Let me resume the hunt, and I will grant your request." Chakotay doesn't like the sound of that. Alpha points out that he's been tracking the beastie for the last six months, and knows more than anyone how to hunt it down. Just so his priorities are clear, he says, "Let me continue or I will have the others destroy you."
No bluster. Just statement of fact.
And there's not a quantum singularity in sight.
Like that's ever stopped Cap'n Kate. Her fabled death glare elicits a blink.
Tuvok hails Janeway from section 94 but the creature has accessed the environmental controls. We see the corridor go dark--then we see Tuvok floating. "Deck 11 is losing life support. Artificial gravity has also been compromised."
Cool--we haven't seen that since Star Trek VI: Klingons Bleed Pepto Bismol. Janeway gives him more orders and signs off.
"He's trying to barricade himself," Alpha says. "He did the same thing to us."
Janeway gives Alpha a hunting license. She puts Chakotay in charge of him. "If he steps out of line," she says, walking out the door, "shoot him."
The force field goes down. Alpha steps out, and towers over Chakotay.
"My weapon," he says.
Chakotay, admirably, doesn't even blink.
Chakotay and Paris suit up in environment gear--the white Stormtrooper stuff we saw in "Day of Honor," I think. Or close enough. As they run through the checklist, Chakotay asks if the Hirogen's body armor is up to the task.
"It can defeat most hostile environments. I once tracked a silicon-based life-form through the neutronium mantle of a collapsed star."
"I once tracked a mouse through Jefferies tube 32," Paris offers helpfully.
You can practically hear the crickets as Alpha, then Chakotay, stare blankly at Paris.
Chakotay hails Tuvok. "We're ready to go." Tuvok and Seven, in another part of the ship, acknowledge, and fire up their Betsies.
Chakotay and Paris put on their helmets, as Alpha adjusts his mouthpiece. The First officer gives the go-ahead, and tells everyone to maintain open channels.
Seven says a Level 5 nanoprobe spanking should stun but not kill the creature. They adjust their weapons' settings accordingly.
They enter the hatchway to the affected section. They activate their magnetic boots (no cool sound effects--just cheesy clomping around. Oh well) and go once more into the breach.
Five people stalk through the darkened, spooky deck. We note that Seven's got an itchy trigger finger, and that Alpha isn't used to being ordered around by anyone. He gets in a brief pissing contest with Chakotay over who gets to be point--and Chakotay wins. Alpha falls back, but makes it clear to Paris he won't give up the #2 slot. Paris doesn't bicker; taking up the rear is fine with him.
Seven at one point sees a glint and a bit of motion down a corridor. She fires. Tuvok takes a look. A single PADD floats harmlessly. "You missed," he notes wryly.
"Since species 8472 invaded the ship you've become increasingly agitated," he notes, not unkindly.
"They were the only species to offer true resistance to the Borg. They destroyed millions of drones hundreds of our worlds. I have reason to be agitated."
Ah hah...this is personal. Seven's as skittish about the 47s as Chakotay was about the Borg in "Scorpion." But she continues on.
Chakotay, Paris and Alpha find a bunch of floating glop down another corridor. "The prey is wounded," Alpha says.
Paris notes that Deflector Control is the only thing down there. "He's got nowhere to run." Alpha points out that this prey doesn't run--he waits, picks his moment, and attacks. "He'll probably try to sneak around and nail us from behind," Alpha says (more or less).
Chakotay tells Tuvok and Seven the alien's in section 59, and they rush to back up the first team.
Chakotay, Paris and Alpha find the 47. It's also floating in air, parallel to the ground, moving in a slow counterclockwise--but making no aggressive motion.
It's clearly in a lot of distress, and Chakotay says so.
"The prey is resilient," Alpha says. "He will strike with his dying breath. We must kill him now." He takes a step forward.
Chakotay tries to stop him--first with words, then by blocking the shot. Alpha knocks Chakotay off his feet with the barrel of Ole Blue--then he takes aim at Paris, who is also raising his weapon.
The Hirogen is faster. Paris goes down--sorta. They're in a weightless environment and his magnetic boots are working perfectly, so Paris just hangs there in an upright but unconscious position.
At this rate, Harry may be the only one to avoid injury this week...
Alpha begins blasting away mercilessly at the 47, who makes a feeble effort to avoid being hit. But in midair with no foothold he has no chance of escape.
The battle ends when Tuvok shoots Alpha in the back, blowing the Hirogen off his feet with a few blasts from Betsy.
Apparently those nanoprobes work pretty well on him, too.
Seven does nothing--but from the look on her face you know she's tempted to keep firing at the injured prey until there's nothing left to target.
* * *
The situation must be desperate--Tuvok heads down to the mess hall and personally recruits Neelix for security duty. "Turn in that spatula for a spank ray, Food Boy--it's booty time."
Man--the writers have got to stop reading my reviews. I'm a bad influence.
Naturally, Neelix jumps at the chance--whatever the circumstances, Tuvok's rare gesture of confidence means a great deal to him. He asks for his assignment. Tuvok tells him...
But in mid-sentence he stiffens.
Images of the 47 flash through his mind. Up close and personal. We've seen these images before--when Kes was contacted by the species in "Scorpion."
Neelix asks if he's okay. Tuvok, voice hoarse, says "You have your orders" and leaves as quickly as he came.
Janeway exits from a turbolift and is instantly flanked by Doc and Chakotay. She asks for an update. Chakotay says the Hirogen is back in sickbay behind a forcefield, and Species 8472 is walled in behind a force field of his own -- "basically, we've turned this entire section into a brig." Janeway tells him to have Torres work on a way to transport the creature just in case they need to beam it off the ship. (So she's okay.)
She asks Doc about the 47, but Doc says he's at a loss. "Its body is generating some sort of bioelectric field making it impossible to scan so I could only make a visual diagnosis. It's conscious but immobile. Its epidermis displays any number of injuries-- punctures, energy burns-- and its demeanor is that of a wounded animal."
Almost makes you feel sorry for the thing. In fact, Janeway seems openly sympathetic. Janeway asks if they can help the creature, but Doc says he wouldn't even know where to begin.
Paris (so he's okay, too) and Seven are waiting for them near the wounded prey. They show her that the creature was trying to access deflector control to open a singularity (how they move between their space and ours).
"It was trying to get home," Janeway says. She can relate to that desire all too well.
They continue on and find Tuvok standing very close to the forcefield and to the 47, who is slumped over in a seated position, looking like death warmed over. Tuvok tells her he is in telepathic contact with the creature.
"Its ship was damaged during the conflict with the Borg. When the other members of its species retreated into fluidic space...it was left behind. It has been trapped in the Delta Quadrant ever since...alone...pursued by Hirogen hunting parties. It has no desire for further conflict. It only wants to return to its domain. It is dying, Captain."
As Tuvok speaks, we see what Tuvok sees--the images of Species 8472 emerging from singularities, attacking Borg cubes...and later a lone ship being pursued by Hirogen.
Janeway's eyes go all dewy-eyed, and for a moment you wonder if she'll try to reach out and give the 47 a big ole motherly hug.
"You have nothing to be afraid of," she tells it. "We're going to help you get back to your realm." Tuvok assures her the creature understands.
The alien just sits there and bleeds, groaning pitifully from time to time.
Janeway presses on. "It will take time to open a singularity and we have no way of treating your injuries but if there's anything you can tell us about your..."
Like many species before it, Species 8472 responds to Janeway's question by lapsing into unconsciousness.
Janeway and Tuvok enter sickbay. Doc and two well-armed security guys are already there, guarding a clearly unhappy Hirogen.
"Where is my prey?" Alpha demands.
"Lying at the end of a corridor on deck 11," Janeway says coldly. "Nearly dead, thanks to you."
Guess who's side she's taking.
"Take me to it," Alpha demands. Janeway delivers a firm No.
"Take me to it!" Alpha yells, losing control of his temper for the first time.
Janeway tells him that by the time the other Hunter ships arrive, they'll have already sent the thing back to its own territory.
Alpha doesn't take that news well. He advances toward Janeway. "Surrender the creature to me and you will not be harmed."
Janeway's having none of it. "This isn't a hunt; it's a slaughter. And I'm calling it off right now."
Alpha ventures still further, making full use of his height and bulk. "We will not be denied our prey. Give us the creature....Or your crew will take its place."
Janeway doesn't blink. She folds her arms. She aims her ocular death glare at the Hirogen, holds it long enough to show she's not impressed, and then marches out of Sickbay with Tuvok in tow, leaving Alpha with his dark, predatory thoughts.
The Hunt is the thing that means most to this species. And there is no greater offense than getting in the way of that.
Janeway tells Tuvok to send Seven to her ready room. Tuvok knows why--Seven knows how to open those rifts into 47 space--and he warns Janeway that she is not likely to cooperate.
"We'll see," says Janeway, supremely confident in her powers of persuasion.
Seven of Nine arrives as ordered. Janeway is seated at her desk. She neither rises nor offers Seven a seat.
"I've made a decision about Species 8472," Janeway says. "I'm going to return it to fluidic space. In order to do that, I need you to open a quantum singularity."
Seven gives the captain an odd look. "I don't believe that is a prudent course of action."
Uh oh. School is back in session.
"I realize it may be difficult for you to help save this creature's life," Janeway says. "But part of becoming human is learning to have compassion for those who are suffering. Even when they're your bitter enemies."
Seven asks the inevitable Why. Janeway proceeds to tell a story from her past to illustrate. She gets up and walks around the room as she speaks.
"I remember when I was a lieutenant. It was during a Cardassian border conflict. My away team was cut off while we were defending a Federation outpost. We'd been exchanging phaser fire with a group of Cardassians for about three days--a stalemate."
"One night, during a break in the fighting...we could hear this low moaning sound coming from somewhere in the brush. We knew that none of our people were out there so it had to be a wounded Cardassian. Well, you have to understand--we'd been killing each other for weeks on this planet. It was brutal."
"But our commanding officer decided...that we couldn't just sit there and listen to that poor man suffer. So he ordered me and an ensign to crawl out there and bring that Cardassian back to our camp. I thought he was crazy. He was risking our lives for someone who would have shot us without hesitation. But we did it...and the Cardassian lived."
"Three days later we secured the outpost. It was a major victory; we were all decorated by Starfleet Command. But in retrospect...the thing I'm most proud of was the night we saved that man's life."
"Explain," says Seven, still not getting the message.
"A single act of compassion can put you in touch with your own humanity." She and Seven are standing toe to toe now.
Chakotay would be proud of Janeway in this moment. Good story, good moral...good point.
And it's about as persuasive as Chakotay's Scorpion story was.
"You are trying to justify your present decision," Seven says.
The room chills.
"No," says Janeway, frustrated. "I'm trying to help you see this as an opportunity to grow. I know you don't want to do it, Seven--but I'm telling you as your Captain, and as your friend. You won't regret it."
"No," says Seven. "Your decision is tactically unsound. We will be surrounded by Hirogen ships in approximately two hours. If we do not surrender the creature they will destroy us. A lesson in compassion will do me little good if I am dead."
"It is wrong to sacrifice another being to save our own lives."
Tell that to Tuvix, Cap'n.
"I have observed that you have been willing to sacrifice your own life to save the lives of your crew," Seven points out.
"Yes, but that's different. That was my choice. This creature does not have a choice."
"It invaded our ship!" Seven says. "Put our lives at risk to save its own. In my view it has already forfeited its freedom."
The temperature drops yet again.
The diplomatic approach a complete failure, Janeway resorts to the chain of command. "I'm giving you an order. Report to deflector control and begin working on creating a singularity."
"I will not comply," Seven says sharply. "I have agreed to remain on Voyager. I have agreed to function as a member of your crew. But I will not be a willing participant in my own destruction or the destruction of this ship."
I can't think of anyone who's talked back to Janeway this forcefully. Wow. If Seven hasn't learned Janeway's philosophy of life, she's certainly picked up on the captain's indomitability.
"Objection noted," says Janeway. "We'll do this without you."
"You will fail."
"And you have just crossed the line."
What I can't believe is that Janeway had set the line that far out with Seven.
"End of debate. Report to the cargo bay and remain there until this is over. Is that understood?"
Seven exits without another word.
Janeway sighs. Her latest pupil isn't quite the teacher's pet she'd hoped for.
'Scuse me while I scrape the ice off the television....
* * *
The Hirogen ships arrive. And they waste no time. Voyager gets hammered repeatedly by weapons fire, and its own weapons are pitifully inadequate. Paris reports that the gang's all here -- six Hirogen vessels, and no escape trajectories left.
Shield strength continues to weaken under the barrage.
"They are hailing us," Tuvok says.
"Better late than never. Open a channel."
Another Hirogen--this one with green stripes on his helmet--speaks with a similar low rumble. "You've taken our prey and one of our hunters. Surrender them."
As if. "Call off your attack and we'll return your crewman. As for your prey, it's under our protection now." Janeway's gaze is steely. The Hirogen say the creature is theirs; Janeway says it belongs to nobody. "Order your ships to withdraw and this can end peacefully."
The Hirogen salutes crisply.
Did it work?
"All vessels are firing." The ship rocks some more.
Nice try, Cap'n.
Meanwhile, Tuvok's still having trouble finding chinks in the Hirogen armor.
Doc watches in shock as the 47 wakes up, then stands up, reaching heights even the Hirogen can't lay claim to. He hails the bridge; the prey is regenerating, it would seem. "I'm no exobiologist," he adds, "but I'd say this fellow is becoming highly agitated." Janeway asks if it can be sedated; Doc says he'll need more nanoprobes. Janeway calls Seven and orders her to the 47's location with a supply of nanoprobes.
Seven has no problem complying with this order. Nanoprobes are for firing at the creature; she's more than happy to assist with that.
Chakotay asks B'Elanna for a report; she says they can lock onto the 47 whenever, but the singularity issue is still a couple hours away from resolution. Paris tells Janeway he doubts he can promise more than a couple more minutes of evasive maneuvers.
To illustrate the point, the ship gets hit again, and things on the bridge start exploding. First the EPS manifold, which means main power. "Force fields on all decks are off-line!"
This is bad news indeed.
"Switch to auxiliary power," Chakotay orders.
"Done. Force fields have been restored but I don't know how long they'll hold," says Kim.
Janeway calls to Doc, who reports that the creature is still behind its forcefield.
The call to Sickbay isn't so encouraging. Two security guys are down, and Alpha is out the door, already getting used to the feel of Betsy in his hands.
Chakotay sends more Security after the Hirogen.
More explosions. Paris reports the loss of the port nacelle--then the starboard nacelle.
"They've crippled us," Janeway says, changing tactics. She tells Tuvok to divert warp power to the phaser banks.
Seven arrives, packing heat. Doc asks about the nanoprobes; "armed and ready," Seven says.
"Not a moment too soon," Doc says, relieved.
The two security guys behind Doc and Seven get zapped, and they fall to the ground, of no further use to the story. Alpha rounds the corner, Betsy in hand, and demands the prey.
"Lower your weapon or I will destroy you," Seven says coldly.
But the Hirogen is a pretty good judge of character. "I don't think you will. You want me to destroy this creature," he says, his husky voice almost seductive. "I saw it on your face earlier in the medical bay. It's a look I've seen a thousand times. Stand aside."
Doc stares at Seven, shocked at the allegation. To her credit, Seven does not comply; she stands her ground.
Another round of jolts knocks everyone around the corridor. Seven turns around to see the force field go down--and Species 8472 advancing at a rapid pace.
It backhands the Hirogen right off its feat. But Alpha manages to hold his own in hand-to-hand with the creature.
Seven wastes no time; she pulls a panel off the wall and starts entering commands at a fevered clip.
Attagirl, Seven! Mama Kate knew you'd do her proud in the end!
Doc asks what she's doing, but Seven does not respond. She just keeps tapping those controls.
Harry reports that someone's accessed transporter controls.
Hmmm. That wasn't in the How To Make Janeway Happy handbook....
Janeway tells Harry to stop it, but you know it ain't gonna happen. He can report that the command overrides are Borg-encrypted.
Et tu, VII?
Seven completes her commands. The Hirogen, and the 47, locked in a mutual death grip, fade away in a bluish haze.
Voyager stops taking hits. Janeway has a sinking feeling she knows why.
Kim reports that the two interlopers have been beamed to one of the attacking ships--and now that they have what they want, they're high-tailing it out of there.
"Tom, can we pursue?" asks Janeway. But Paris says apologetically that their warp engines are still down. Janeway tells him to resume their previous course, full impulse.
Janeway walks back to her chair. Chakotay catches her halfway there, whispering softly, "Seven of Nine?"
"Seven of Nine," Janeway agrees.
Wisely, Chakotay doesn't say I Told You So; he's been warning Janeway from the beginning that Seven is very much her own creature.
But from the look on the captain's face, he knows he wouldn't survive the attempt.
Captain's Log, Stardate 51652.3. It's been 12 hours and our sensors show no sign of any hirogen vessels but their people are scattered throughout this region and something tells me that the "hunt" for voyager is far from over.
Alone, Captain Janeway enters Cargo Bay Two. Seven is regenerating in her alcove. Janeway takes a deep breath, then taps in a few commands.
A few seconds later, following a series of whirrs and clicks, Seven awakens. "Captain," she says.
"Step down, please," Janeway says--voice low, words clipped, eyes locked and loaded for a galaxy-class dressing down.
"Seven, you disobeyed my direct orders and as a result you condemned a sentient being to its death."
Question: which direct orders did Seven disobey? The last direct order Janeway gave Seven (a countermanding of her earlier order for Seven to stay in the cargo bay), she obeyed immediately. The orders she disobeyed were refusals to assist in sending the 47 back home.
Perhaps that's the one. Had Seven made the singularity, the creature would have gone home to die before the Hirogen arrived.
And Voyager would certainly be dead. Or crippled, and its crew turned into prey, just as Alpha vowed.
Seven is unrepentant. "By doing so, I also diverted the Hirogen attack an attack which would have destroyed us."
"Maybe not," says Janeway, more dismissively than Seven's point merits. "In any case, the decision wasn't yours."
"The creature broke through the force field. I had no choice."
"I didn't come here to debate your decision," Janeway says crisply. "I came here to inform you of the consequences."
Her voice softens slightly. "When you first came to Voyager I decided to grant you the same liberties and freedoms of any crew member, because I wanted you to be a part of this family. And I've been willing to accommodate your...unique way of doing things, even when you rubbed somebody the wrong way or violated protocol."
Spare the rod, spoil the child...
"But this time, I can't accommodate you."
Oh fine. Now you read her the riot act.
"From this point forward you will no longer have access to any primary systems on this ship-- not without my direct authorization. If you attempt to circumvent me I'll throw you in the brig. I still need your expertise in the astrometrics lab if you're willing. If not, you can spend your time here in the cargo bay. Is that understood?"
Seven takes a few seconds to respond. "Yes."
Janeway turns on her heels and walks toward the exit.
"It is puzzling," Seven calls after her.
Janeway stops. "What's that?" she asks, not turning around.
"You made me into an individual. You encouraged me to stop thinking like a member of the Collective to cultivate my independence and my humanity. But when I try to assert that independence, I am punished."
"Individuality has its limits...especially on a Starship where there's a command structure."
"I believe that you are punishing me because I do not think the way you do. Because I am not becoming more like you. You claim to respect my individuality--but in fact, you are frightened by it."
Janeway stares long and hard at Seven. "As you were."
She exits the cargo bay, leaving a steely-eyed Seven to stare after her.
Hoo boy...where to begin.
First--I loved this one. A lot.
The moral dilemmas posed here are on par with Worf's in "The Enemy" (where Dr. Crusher needed him to provide blood for a Romulan, and he refused) and many DS9 episodes (such as the one where Bashir and O'Brien found themselves at serious, sincere odds over an effort to find a way for the Jem'Hadar to survive without Ketracel White). Even Voyager's own Scorpion, where Janeway and Chakotay both had part of the solution, but were too @#$%% stubborn to see the other's concerns...Chakotay at least in part because Janeway chooses an alliance with a group that gives him the screaming willies.
It also bears some similarity to the TNG episodes where Worf kills Duras, and where Ro defects to the Maquis. In each, Picard felt let down by people he'd come to trust, but Worf and Ro felt they had done the Right Thing.
In this episodes, Janeway feels let down by Seven. But you know what? It's the captain's own danged fault. And they did a dang good job of showing that--not just in this episode, but in the weeks leading up to it.
Let's take this a piece at a time.
First: General comments.
The Hirogen this week are a good deal more menacing, compared to the rather bland Big Bad and Dangerous to Know guys from "Hunters." A lot of the credit for this goes to the performance of Tony Todd, and to the teaser scene that shows just how nasty these guys can be--taking down a Species 8472 alien is impressive by any measure. They were rather cartoony last week; it was easier to take them as a serious threat this time.
The return of Species 8472 was a pleasant surprise. I don't think it hurt the species much to show an individual--even dying, still formidable enough to take down its captors--in a compassionate light. While it's easy to hate in the aggregate, it's a bit tougher to do so on an individual level. This 47 may still be dangerous, but it's instructive that he killed nobody on Voyager, even when he had ample opportunity. This made it easier to side with the "prey" rather than with the "hunters" despite the dismembered Beta on the Hirogen ship.
The special effects were superb, as usual--the scenes with the 47 were particularly effective.
Tuvok recruiting Neelix for security duty--also an unexpected surprise, but a nice step forward in the evolution of their relationship.
Doc taking it upon himself to mentor Seven in the social graces--an amusing idea, but not a bad one. He would know as well as anyone how difficult the road to civility can be. And anything that promotes more Doc scenes is fine in my book.
The scene on the Hirogen ship with Tuvok, Paris and Chakotay--nicely done. It was on a par with the creepiness levels of "Scorpion I".
Hirogen weapons--drool-worthy, in look if not in function. I noticed Paris took a hit and was up and functioning the next scene. But maybe that was an "Act of compassion" on the Hirogen's part, a rare use of the Stun setting.
The Janeway/Seven dynamic: dynamite. Destined to be the most controversial element of the show.
The dilemma: intriguing. Not all that clear-cut. Good arguments for both sides. Nicely murky.
All in all, this episode had a good deal going for it. In my opinion, one of the best of the season.
Now, for some specifics about Janeway, Seven, Janeway and Seven, etc.
Someone who wrote me about "Prey" put it this way. Janeway takes the moral high road--and completely ignores the Bridge Out sign.
From a moral standpoint, it's certainly easy to side with Janeway. Compassion is a Good Thing. Extend an act of kindness and it may be reciprocated. It's the Federation Way to extend the hand of friendship whenever possible. Even former enemies can be turned into allies; just look at the Klingons.
But there is a flipside: no good deed goes unpunished. And that's sadly true here.
Question: How would (could?) this episode have played out had Seven not been aboard?
Can you think of anyone on the crew who would have acted as Seven did? Anyone who would have even considered disobeying Janeway's orders, much less talking back to her?
In terms of sufficient 47-phobia, Harry Kim comes closest--he was eaten alive by their alien cells. But the closest he's ever come to mutiny was with Captain Tuvok, and the closest he's ever come to talking back to the captain has been in the jovial banter in "Hunters" over the contents of Starfleet's message. He worships Janeway; it's not likely he would have transported the alien to the Hirogen on his own.
Nobody else comes to mind.
It would have been a completely different episode without Seven. More than likely, Janeway would have saved the day--directly, for example, as she did last week with her release-the-black-hole strategy. Or indirectly: the 47 would likely have been returned to fluidic space, and the Hirogen would either have been defeated (maybe by a pack of other 47s blowing them all to hell in response to Janeway's compassionate act). Or she'd have found another way to keep the Hirogen off their backs, because (naturally) it's the captain's job to Save The Day. It just ain't Trek otherwise.
Frankly, I think this episode is far more compelling than one of those possibilities.
In the interest of space and my own sanity (I admit I was scared straight by the thought of the "You have 250 lengthy and irate messages" dialog box the next time I logged on), I've deleted my epic rant about the less savory aspects of Janeway's character as written the past four years. (and no, you can't see it--I deleted it, used government-level disk wipers to zero out the space taken by the file, and had my own memory of it hypnotically blocked. Don't even ask.) The short version: too often the scripts have attempted to claim that "the Captain is Always Right," but they frequently fall short of proving it to the audience's satisfaction. The captain is fallible, but nobody has the nerve to tell her so, and too often they try to pass off poor decisions as good ones. Make no mistake: mere survival does not indicate that the course of action was the best choice. That reason I was so pleased with this episode was that Seven of Nine was willing to take the fiercest of Janeway's stares and keep staring back and sticking to her guns.
I hope that Seven will continue to question Janeway's actions in the future--and be right at times and wrong at other times. What Janeway sorely, direly lacks at the moment is a vocal, contrary opinion--a Bones to her Kirk, as it were.
A few words about Seven's "crossing the line."
Seven of Nine--separated violently from the Collective on Janeway's orders, made human by Janeway's command despite her wishes, then given free rein on the ship even when she steps on toes or violates Janeway's cherished protocol or even steals a shuttle and causes an interstellar incident in the pursuit of her individuality--is raised without proper parental supervision. Does anyone dispute this?
Janeway urges Seven to banter at parties (with disastrous results, "Mortal Coil"); she encourages Seven to disagree with her ("Random Thoughts"), she even comes when summoned without complaint, and even avoids admonishing the girl when she zaps the first Hirogen they meet in mid-discussion ("Message in a Bottle"). By her own words, Janeway "decided to grant you the same liberties and freedoms of any crew member because I wanted you to be a part of this family. And I've been willing to accommodate your...unique way of doing things-- even when you rubbed somebody the wrong way or violated protocol."
Seven was starting her individuality from Ground Zero--was it really wise to grant her that level of lenience? I'm sure Janeway may well be regretting it now. When Janeway tells Seven, "You just crossed the line," I (and not only I) was amazed--not so much that Seven had crossed the line, but that Janeway had even drawn one. I was beginning to wonder just how far she'd let the former Borg go.
Seven, now six months old as an individual, was never taught by Janeway (by word or by deed) that her actions had consequences. Torres complained frequently and bitterly about Seven's disruptive behavior, but under captain's orders, nothing was done. Now that Seven has finally found the line to cross, is it a surprise that Seven feels she's being punished unjustly? Whose fault is it that she hasn't yet learned to toe the Starfleet line?
Oompa, loompa, loompah dee do
I've got another puzzle for you
Oompa, loompa, loompah dah dee
If you are wise you'll listen to me
What do you do when your Borg is a...BRAT?
Pampered and spoiled like a Siamese...CAT?
Killing an alien is such a big...SHAME
You know exactly who's...to...BLAME!
The CAPTAIN and CHAKO-O-TAY....
Or to put it another way (from Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein):
"Suppose you merely scolded your puppy, never punished him, let him go on making messes in the house...and occasionally locked him up in an outbuilding but soon let him back into the house with a warning not to do it again. Then one day you notice that he is now a grown dog and still not housebroken--whereupon you whip out a gun and shoot him dead. Comment, please?
"Why...that's the craziest way to raise a dog I ever heard of!"
"I agree. Or a child. Whose fault would it be?"
"Uh...why, mine, I guess."
"Duty is an adult virtue--indeed a juvenile becomes an adult when, and only when, he acquires a knowledge of duty and embraces it as dearer than the self-love he was born with."
Seven has not yet learned duty. She's just moved beyond thinking like a drone--having no regard for her own life--to thinking like an individual who values her own survival more than "doing the right thing." For her, the Right Thing is to survive. Concepts like compassion are new to her, and she doesn't value them nearly as much as those she has come to value.
I've had many readers contend that Seven of Nine is an adult. I beg to differ. Emotionally, she's still a child--maybe an adolescent. And yet, she's got a Collective-level experience with life, the universe, and everything. She has a vast store of knowledge--what she doesn't have yet is perspective or psychological maturity.
Seven's scene with Doc is instructive. Seven is eager to fit in better, and she does want the captain's trust and approval ("Hunters"). But she doesn't yet know how. Doc tries to help, but until he puts it into terms she can truly appreciate, she finds the exercises pointless. She takes little at face value; she demands justification for every suggestion.
Even the things that other members of the crew may simply take for granted. "Captain's orders" are enough for everyone else on board, from Neelix to the former Maquis to the Doc. Some came about this trust the hard way. Some (Seska, Michael Jonas) never got it, and died fighting her.
Seven missed most of those incidents. She's coming in with a fresh perspective--and as such has the opportunity to point out when the emperor has no clothes.
Not that I expect Janeway to need contradicting every week. Like I said, Janeway needs a Bones to her Kirk--McCoy's perspective wasn't always correct, but it was still valuable to hear, because some of us were thinking the same thing.
When Seven tells Janeway at the end that the captain is just upset that Seven didn't turn out more like her, it's not entirely true.
The two are very much alike.
Both are stubborn. Both hold their own opinions in supreme regard. Both look good holding compression phaser rifles. Neither listens very well.
Their differences are minor, though significant. Seven is not even in the chain of command; Janeway sits at the top of the food chain. Janeway is given the benefit of the doubt (those four pips aren't just given away, after all); Seven is barely trusted, and by some crewmen she is barely tolerated.
Is Janeway frightened by Seven's individuality? I doubt it. But I think she is disturbed that Seven hasn't turned out as much like her in philosophy as she is in temperament.
Did Seven truly condemn the 47 to death? That's not absolutely certain--the creature had been thought dead before, but came back to do serious damage on its captors. It was holding its own pretty well with the Alpha Hirogen at the time Seven beamed it away. It regenerates at a nice rate--more quickly than the Hirogen--and could well keep fighting for quite a while longer.
I'll put it this way. If Janeway can say "maybe" when Seven says the ship would have been destroyed if she hadn't acted, then Seven has as much cause to say "maybe" when Janeway says the 47 is as good as dead.
As to Seven and the 47s. We do have some reason to suspect that Seven has a personal vendetta -- or at least a well-justified fear -- of the species. The Hirogen recognizes "the look" he sees in Seven's eyes. I don't think there's any question Seven wouldn't mind seeing the creature dead.
That she manages to rein in her instincts for survival and revenge at all is impressive. She doesn't actively harm the creature; she even follows Janeway's orders to modify the nanoprobes to be nonlethal, despite her objections. If she doesn't go out of her way to assist the 47, she doesn't really side with the Hirogen, either. Had the forcefield held, I imagine she'd have shot the Hirogen if he'd gone any further.
This episode marks a turning point in the relationship between Seven and Janeway. Each realizes the other isn't exactly what they'd hoped for. And though Janeway has the power to restrict Seven's liberties on board Voyager, the one thing she cannot control is the one thing she forced on Seven when she severed her from the Collective--the power to think for herself.
The stated theme of this episode is compassion. Janeway risks much in the name of compassion: sending an away team into hostile territory to offer assistance if needed (and gather information while they're there--tactically sound move); extending a hand of friendship to a species (Hirogen) that is clearly unenthusiastic with the concept; offering to send home a 47 even when it's guaranteed to put Voyager in harm's way. Her memory of risking her life (under orders) to save a wounded Cardassian's life. And her compassion toward Seven, trying to turn every command decision into a teaching moment, in an attempt to further the girl's steps toward her own sovereign humanity.
It begs the question--what are the limits of compassion? We know Janeway occasionally sets such limits out of necessity--Day of Honor is one example. There comes a point where self-sacrifice yields to self-abuse: if you can no longer sustain yourself, you're no good to anyone, including those you seek to serve.
In the battle of the Trek Cliches, there is also this old favorite to consider: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." The question is, who are the many this time around? Who the few?
In the short term, I think it's clear: the "many" are the crew of Voyager. But in the long term? You never know. Recall that the sacrifice of the Enterprise-C in defense of a Klingon outpost prevented a later war between the Federation and the Klingons ("Yesterday's Enterprise.") And the consequence of making sure that history repeated itself, with only slight modification (sending Tasha Yar back so she could have a meaningful death rather than a gratuitous death-by-oilslick) resulted in later troubles with the Klingons and the Romulans. As long as there's a writing staff looking for good ideas, every aired script is potential "prequel" material. This could be a watershed event--species 8472 might take the death of one of its own at Hirogen hands as a sign that they shouldn't consider returning, and could have viewed the return of one of their own by Voyager--which gets crippled or destroyed as a result--as a sign that the quadrant is ripe for takeover again.
It all depends on who's doing the writing. When dealing with such utterly alien minds as the Hirogen and Species 8472, compassion may well be the last thing you want to show.
But that's not the Trek way, is it?
In "Trouble with Tribbles," Scotty beams an Enterprise-full of furry critters onto a Klingon ship, "where they'll be no Tribble at all." The bridge crew laughed; it was a happy ending for all...all, that is, but the Klingons--and the tribbles. The consequences of Scotty's act are fairly obvious: he condemned every blessed one of the wee beasties to death by Klingon hands. (Unless you can honestly forsee a tribble mutiny...)
And in that episode, the Enterprise wasn't even in mortal danger. Just terminal inconvenience.
On a 0-10 scale, I'm giving this a 9.75, or (* * * *).
Next week: Seven gets abused, and demands payback.
If you want a second opinion, check out Julia's, or head on over to the lounge where Kris and some of her pals offers their musings from the Rec Room O' Reviews.
May I also recommend Jamahl Epsicokhan's review?
For a very different take on "Prey," check out KT Mastin's comments.