The following is a SPOILER Review. If you have not seen the episode yet and do not want to have the plot (and everything else) given away, stop reading now. (But you probably know that by now.)
I reserve the right to be wrong, and to change my mind later. The following is my opinion at the moment I wrote it. And boy, do I have opinions. Kick back, roast up a s'more, because Fatherly Uncle Jim's got a story for ya, which may or may not resemble the episode that actually aired.
Voyager hitches a lift through Borg Space.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Jump straight to the Analysis
Terror accompanies the name wherever it is known.
Few species who encounter them survive the experience intact. When you make "first contact" with the Borg, they rarely let go. The Federation has encountered four cubes that we know of, and survived each encounter by the barest of margins...and only as inside jobs (Picard/Locutus, Hugh, Riley, Data). With these anomalous exceptions, the Borg mantra would seem to be less bravado than a statement of fact: Resistance is futile; death is irrelevant.
In all the times we've seen the Borg in action--the dozens of ships reduced to debris, the thousands-to-billions of lives lost to death or assimilation, the entire colonies wiped from the face of their respective worlds--the damage has been done by a single, nigh unstoppable cube. One is sufficient for their needs.
Which makes the sight of two cubes--a Trek first--particularly disconcerting. And since this is Voyager, a lone Starship in a sea of strangers, we can only imagine that this turn of events is very bad news for them indeed.
"We are the Borg," the cubes speak in pluribus unum through the vastness of space, to someone in particular. "Existence as you know it is over. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own." They continue to advance until they fill the screen. "Resistance is..."
Twin flashes of angry energy strike the cubes. Then two more. The Borg discover, as their technological and biological distinctiveness is rendered explosively indistinct, that resistence from the unseen newcomer is the least of their problems.
* * *
An elderly, cranky voice fills a large and cluttered Renaissance-era studio. We see sketches both familiar and unfamiliar, all manner of inventions and ideas in various stages of development. Anatomy illustrations. Flying machines. We hear the sounds of the city. The voice tells the tale of a "grateful" cardinal who saw no need to compensate him for his heroic feats of artistic embellishment.
Long before we see the source of the voice, even before we reach the first draft of the Mona Lisa, we know who the voice belongs to. The credits helped. We're in the workroom of one Leonardo da Vinci, played to curmudgeonly perfection by John Rhys-Davies. Leonardo, we see, is working on a wooden, mechanically functional version of the human torso and arm.
He is not alone. Captain Janeway listens raptly to the story told by the old master. As da Vinci concludes his story with a flourish, the captain repeats her proposal, and the offer for monetary compensation. She wants a little corner of the master's cluttered world for her own projects--painting, sculpture. "Just being in your company is inspiring to me," she says, her eyes large as Magic 8 Balls.
"Money is irrelevant, Katarina," da Vinci says mechanically. "Flattery is irrelevant. You will be rebuffed."
"Oh, come on, Flint, pretty pleeze?" Janeway whispers in sotto voice.
Leonardo flinches. "Shhh!" he commands. "Don't wake the Trekkies. We're hoping they've forgotten 'Requiem for Methuselah.'" Suitably abashed, Janeway falls silent.
Da Vinci gives her the opportunity. He activates the torso, and the gears click and whir. The arm moves up and down. He is pleased, and Janeway's eyes light up.
"What do you call it?" Katarina asks.
"The Arm of Hephaistos," he says grandly.
"The god of the forge," Janeway replies, pleased to be here to witness history in the making. The arm continues to move up and down.
"Every blacksmith who has ever swung a hammer will thank me for this creation."
"Someone once said," Janeway says, "Every invention is but an extension of the body of man."
Leonardo, machinist's tool in hand, begins waving it at her. "Just because I have enjoyed your company here today does not mean I am willing to turn my workshop into a traveler's inn," he scolds. Janeway's look is appropriately chastened, though her eyes sparkle with giddy mischief, much as Mickey Mouse in The Sorcerer's Apprentice just before the sorcerer turns in for the night.
The Arm of Hephaistos abruptly stops. Leonardo mutters in Italian. Janeway offers to help him fix it, but the old man warns her of the goose grease. "Good for the skin," she says merrily. Leonardo pops out a wooden cog with two busted teeth, and searches for a stronger replacement, while Janeway continues to explore Leo's World.
She finds a sketch for a flying machine. One of his few failures, da Vinci says, pointing to an early prototype hanging from the tall ceiling. Janeway, with the benefit of a millennia's hindsight, points out that his invention attempted to mimic a bat, or a swallow (which, as you know, must beat its wings 47 (!) times per second in an unladen state to maintain air speed velocity...and that's before the coconut is added to the equation). Katarina suggests the hawk as a better model.
Leonardo stops what he's doing. There is, it would seem, more to this perky youngster than he had originally believed. He offers her the chance to work on the new design together. "I'll need a place to work," she says with a smile. "A bench? In the corner?" he asks, his merry eyes twinkling. They strike a deal; Leonardo's got a roommate. And Kathryn Janeway looks like a kid in a candy store. Or a smart kid at Bill Nye's house.
(Amazing the chutzpah of these Starfleet people, ain't it? "Hey, Leonardo, you're a pretty smart cookie, just like me. Mind if I hang out with you?" It's not so much that they recognize the greatness of these figures, but that they presume to belong in such august company. Holographic or not. If I had the chance to meet one of the greats of literature--Mark Twain, say, or Dave Barry--I'd be hard pressed to form complete sentences in his presence. I wouldn't be offering to coauthor something with him.)
Chakotay interrupts her fun; there's something she needs to see. "On my way," she says, ending the holoprogram.
"One of our probes," Chakotay says, "is missing." They'd sent out a long-range probe a few months before (it's nice to know they're planning ahead) when it stopped sending. Torres was able to salvage the last few seconds of feed, though. Janeway and Chakotay and Torres watch the monitor as the view of space is suddenly filled with Cube, then the image shifts to the interior of a cube, then shifts again to show the ugly mug of a Borg with an even uglier probing tool. Then static is all that remains.
"This is it," Chakotay says. "Borg space."
Janeway explains to her senior staff that the heart of Borg Space lies smack dab in the way of their route home. "Borg Space fills thousands of solar systems," she says. "More cubes than a Rubik's convention. There's no way around them. But there just may be a way through."
Chakotay pulls up a schematic, showing lots of Cubes on both sides of a meandering corridor where nothing identifiable as Borg resides. "We call this corridor of space the Northwest Passage," he says. He adds that it's filled with churning gravitational waters, quantum singularities, and other subspace potholes that make driving through it tricky.
"Better to ride the rapids than face the hive," Paris says, licking his chops at the prospect of piloting through the Northwest Passage. It's the sort of occupational challenge he lives for.
Janeway goes through each of the department heads. Harry says he's got the scanners remodulated to check for the Borg's transwarp activity. Doc says the Borg corpse they appropriated three months earlier has been analyzed down to the millimeter, and he's getting closer to biological defenses against the Borg assimilation techniques. Neelix says he's working on ways to extend their supplies and replicator rations, since they likely won't be able to restock anytime soon. Torres says her wee bairns are operatin' as well as a proud parent could ask (there's something about Engineering that brings out the brogue in everyone).
Janeway looks around the table. She says the Borg have one of their probes, and know they're out here. "We'll do what we can to avoid a confrontation, but if we do I have every confidence in our ability to succeed." The camera pans around the table. Few seem as confident as the captain does. They remember what the one cube did at Wolf 359 back in the Alpha Quadrant, and they know what even nice Borg were willing to do to Chakotay to achieve their ends. Facing an entire quadrant filled with the soulless wonders does little to improve their mood.
Janeway recognizes this. "I have faith in each and every one of you," she says earnestly, meeting every gaze. "Let's do it!"
Voyager is abuzz with activity. Every corridor is filled with people going somewhere deliberately, usually with something in hand. Engineering is beefing up and backing up. Security checks the Big Guns while Janeway looks on. Chakotay and Kim go over tactical options in case the Borg invade the ship. Tuvok practices saying "Neelix is irrelevant." Neelix prepares welcome-aboard hors d'oeuvres guaranteed to disable any Borg. Paris is in the Holodeck, playing Flight Simulator 3000 with the Northwest Passage add-on. They face the inevitable defiantly.
Doc lifts the hand of the former Borg, whose biological components have long since been folded, spindled, mutilated, catalogued, and filed away. Only a few relevant spare parts remain.
Doc explains to Kes the way the assimilation process works. The gloved hand includes two nasty looking spikes, which if you saw First Contact you know is thrust into the body--usually the throat, since it looks really nasty--of the being to be assimilated. Like a rattlesnake plunging its fangs in you, the two spikes unleash a bunch of "nanoprobes" which attack the bloodstream first. He pulls up a visual, showing blood floating around, and Borg thingies latching onto them like Alien onto a human face. They change from a healthy red to a gunky grey, and soon the whole bloodstream looks black-and-white with evil.
Doc explains that the needles themselves are pretty much unstoppable, but that a beefed-up Borg antibody could well be the answer. Slow down or halt the progress of the blood conversion, and you could stop the assimilation process altogether.
As Doc continues his work on the antibodies, Kes examines the Borg parts strewn about on the diagnostic table.
And has a Frank Black (Millennium) moment.
In bits and flashes, Kes sees Borg. Piles of them. All dead, dismembered, and piled up like monuments to their irrelevance. Bad as the Borg are, it's an unceremonious end, and it speaks of possibilities unthinkable to the Voyager crew: Borg as victims.
Kes tells Doc what she sees, upset by the vision.
Tuvok arrives on the bridge with news of Kes' condition. "For the past two hours she has had numerous visions of dead Borg and the destruction of Voyager," he reports. They consider the implications: Kes does have telepathic abilities, but even she doesn't know the extent of them, much less have the ability to tap into or control them. They wonder if it is a premonition, a view of an unshakeable future, or simply an excuse to leave the ship.
Voyager starts to tremble. Harry Kim reports that there's some transwarp activity a few light-year away, and coming up fast. Voyager drops out of warp; the subspace turbulence makes it impossible to sustain a warp field. Harry reports that a Borg ship is dropping into normal space.
No, make that two. No, wait, three. Um...four?
Would you believe fifteen? That's a heck of a lot of cubes.
Janeway orders a visual. The rear of the ship is seen, with monstrous cubes bearing down on them with a vengeance. Or so it would seem.
Thanks to Paris' deft piloting skills, Voyager doesn't get trampled like Mufasa at a gazelle stampede. But rather than attack Voyager, they blow past it like a skateboard at the Long Beach Grand Prix. We get some stunning visuals, showing the relative size of the cubes and the good Starship.
Let's just say Voyager isn't the big kid on this block.
Grateful to be alive, the crew still has one question--what the HECK is going on?
One of the Borg cubes stops long enough to scan the ship. A thick greenish polaron field rips through the ship. "Alright everyone...think happy thoughts," says Janeway as the field passes over her.
When the scanning is complete and the cube joins its identical siblings, and they continue their course away from Voyager, Janeway looks half-tempted to complain.
Death and assimilation are terrible prospects. But being ignored is the last thing she expected. And it rubs her the wrong way.
Hell hath no fury like a redhead scorned.
Watch out, Borg Dudes.
* * *
The danger past, things quickly return to normal. There was no damage in the recent fly-by, and subspace has settled down enough to allow for warp and shields again. Janeway takes their recent "near miss as a good omen." She orders Harry to keep tabs on the Welcome Wagon. "Yes Ma'am," Harry says. Janeway gives Chakotay the conn while she retires to her ready room.
Janeway pores over Starfleet records of the Borg and of Borg encounters. Chakotay rings and she admits him. He says things are still pretty quiet, and the Northwest Passage still looks nicely Borg-free.
He notices Janeway's tired expression and chin dented by resting too long in the palm of her hand. "According to my calculations," he reports, "neither of us has eaten since last night. Care to join me for dinner?" [I hear you JetC folks dancing at this line. Go ahead, enjoy it--you've been waiting patiently for this.]
"No thanks," Janeway says. "I'm not hungry. I've got a lot of work to do." [D'Oh!]
Chakotay nods curtly. "I see." He turns to leave.
[Oh, stop your howling. The scene's just begun.]
Janeway, sensing Chakotay's about to go away, calls him back a little too loudly by talking about the work she's been doing. Not saying she wants him to stay, but not needing to. Chakotay knows a cry for company when he hears one. [That's better now, ain't it?]
She says she's been reading everything she can about the Borg, and Starfleet's commentary about them. She reads to Chakotay from Picard's logs, as Chakotay takes a seat.
"In their collective state," she reads, adopting Picard's inflections, "the Borg are utterly without mercy. Driven by one will alone--the will to conquer. They are beyond redemption, beyond reason." Despite the words, Chakotay smiles.
Janeway further quotes Captain Amisov of the Endeavor, changing her reading style ever so slightly. "It is my opinion that the Borg are as close to pure evil as we've ever encountered."
Chakotay chuckles. Janeway demands to know what he's laughing at. Chakotay says she sounded an awful lot like Amisov when she was reading his report. "I was not!" she protests.
"Were so," Chakotay teases. "And before that, you were doing a passable Picard."
Janeway's weariness collapses a bit, and she slides into a smile. "Was I?" she asks, flattered that he'd think so, her eyes warm and fuzzy as twin puppies chasing butterflies on a spring day. [Breathe, J/Cers! Breathe!]
"There's no shame in that," Chakotay says, smiling broadly. "Imitating the greats--Ensign Hickman in Astrophysics does an uncanny Captain Janeway." [Ooh, flattery most foul! He's laying it on thick now, baby! The air is thick with the scent of simmering hormone! Paramedics, get those defibrillators ready, there's some fans what's gonna need it!]
Janeway leans back in her seat. "If we survive the next few days, I'm going to have a chat with Ensign Hickman," she promises, wagging a finger as Chakotay's grin grows toothier. "Imitating the captain must violate some Starfleet protocol." She seems truly grateful for the moment of levity.
It soon passes. "This day was inevitable," she says, rising from her chair, pacing. "We all knew it, we did our best to prepare for it." She faces the great wall-high windows, showing the streaking field of stars. "But at what point is the risk too great? When is discretion the better part of valor?"
Chakotay walks over to her. They stand toe to toe. Seven JetC'ers collapse from sensory overload.
"When is it better to consider calling it a game, retreating back to friendly territory?" [They've FOUND friendly territory?] "Could the crew accept living out the rest of their lives in the Delta Quadrant? I've tried consulting my colleagues--my comrades in arms over in those reports--but the truth is...I'm alone."
[If you're in the Chak-Kate-yay Coalition--grab onto something. Now.]
Big closeup of the First Officer. "If that moment comes, we'll face it together. And we'll make the right decision. You're not alone, Kathryn."
Kate melts like a popsicle in a pulsar. She smiles like the Mona Lisa. "Three years ago I didn't even know your name," she whispers, her voice cracking. "Now I can't imagine a day without you."
[There are, at last count, four JetCers left standing at this point. The rest are floating in the air like that cartoon dog who ate the biscuit.]
Tuvok calls Janeway to the bridge. Without a word, she places her hand on Chakotay's chest, lets it linger, and lets it slide over him as she walks away. Chakotay smiles.
[That sound was the last four hitting the floor. We have just had, in one scene, more actual passion than in the entire hour of "Resolutions." And no monkeys to ruin the mood, neither.]
Kim and Tuvok report that all those Borg ships are now "dead in the water."
"Cause?" she demands. "Unknown," they admit.
Janeway orders Paris to head for the Borg's last known position, warp two. Paris calls her Captain. He must be nervous.
If you have a copy, go back and take a look at "Best of Both Worlds, Part I." Fast forward to the part where the Enterprise encounters the aftermath of Wolf 359. The Last Stand of the Federation against a single Borg cube. As you'll recall, bits and pieces of Starships were everywhere, sparking and smoking and red-hot from still-cooling weapons discharges.
Anyone who survived that encounter--and Janeway is quite possibly one of them--knows what the Federation Starships were capable of, and how little that seemed to matter to the Borg. Resistance was futile. Death was irrelevant. Assimilation was inevitable.
Multiply that by fifteen. Then switch positions. Perhaps a part of Janeway could look out on the field of debris that was once hundreds of thousands of sentient--if soulless-beings in mighty vessels, and get some twinge of satisfaction at the turned tables and the deja vu.
But when one's own survival is the issue, there is also a concern. Whoever can inflict this level of damage on the Borg could be even more dangerous.
Janeway and Chakotay share a look of fascinated horror. Kim reports that there are a few life signs, but they're erratic. Tuvok reports that there is evidence of two weapons discharges. "One is Borg; the other is of unknown origin."
"Who could do this to the Borg?" Paris asks. He actually looks nauseous.
Voyager flies through the debris field, dwarfed even by the broken pieces.
* * *
"Something more powerful than the Borg? It's hard to imagine," says Janeway, apparently forgetting for the moment the sights of the long-dead Borg on the planet's surface ("Blood Fever") and the heavily-damaged Cube and planet of former Borg ("Unity"). History doesn't lie. It just gets forgotten, or disremembered.
Harry seems the only one enthused by the sight. "Hot dang! Fifteen hosed cubes! I think we just found ourselves a new best friend, and a first-class ticket home!" He rears back to high-five Tuvok.
Tuvok isn't in the mood. Neither are Janeway or Chakotay. "Don't jump to conclusions, Ensign," Chakotay warns.
Tuvok scans for and finds some alien technology, attached to the remnants of a Borg cube. They move to investigate.
"Hey look, Vorlons!" Kim says. The view screen shows a long, yellowish, squid like ship, smaller than the Cube and (I'm guessing) Voyager. It is attached to a partially-intact Cube.
It's partly biological, Kim reports. But they can't seem to scan it. Janeway orders a hail, but there's no response. Transporter locks and tractor beams also fail. "It's impervious to our technology," Kim adds uselessly. Opinions are offered: a space creature? Normal folks using the remains of a space creature as a spaceship? A biological weapon?
"I want to know what kind of weapon could destroy the Borg," Janeway says, her voice rising.
The Cube still has some atmosphere left, and some sketchy Borg life signs. The bioship or whatever it is, is connected to the hull, and they may even be able to take a look inside it. Janeway tells Chakotay to assemble an away team: love interest First Officer, hyper-paranoid security chief Tuvok...and beleaguered young Ensign Kim, galactic whipping boy and trouble magnet. (Oh dear, did I just give something away? Oopsie!) She says they'll maintain an open channel and an active transporter lock.
For those playing the drinking game (or the M&M game, or something similar) it is worth noting that Janeway touches Chakotay's chest again with her fingertips while giving him the away team assignment. If it's possible for a captain to purr while sending someone to their likely death, she did so. Thumbs up.
The Borg are in a world of hurt.
Their ship is a shambles. Gases swirl at foot level, over and around the bodies of fallen Collective units. Sparks fly. A lone Borg lies at an incline, its heart light beating an arrhythmic red. It is into this scene of devastation that the away team dematerializes.
Not all the Borg are disabled. A few work to facilitate repairs. Tuvok warns his comrades to lower their weapons; the Borg tend to avoid all but direct threats on an individual level.
Yet another Borg is locked into place, engulfed in voiceless spasms of obvious pain and mechanical distress. The team does its best to ignore him.
Chakotay says the bio-readings they're here to track are getting closer. He lets the tricorder lead the way. Harry's compression phaser rifle is at the ready, and he looks scared. Real scared.
But not as scared as he looks when he encounters something unexpected. He calls the others over, barely able to keep his eyes from defecting from his head and finding someplace where the view isn't so hideous. Chakotay and Tuvok see the source of his fear.
A pile of dead Borg, disassembled, mutilated, and stacked neatly. Well, not so neatly; blood oozes freely from the flesh that was, until recently, on the INSIDE. It looks like the aftermath of a really successful Highlander gathering.
"Curious," says Tuvok.
"Not quite the word I had in mind," says Chakotay.
Tuvok explains that this matches Kes' vision of a few hours earlier.
"Didn't Kes say we were all going to die?" Harry squeaks.
Chakotay moves them past the carnage.
They find the source of the biomass ("hunk of life"?)--apparently, a living conduit leading from the Borg Cube into the alien vessel. A Borg is there, doing its best to assimilate the thing, but being shocked and rebuffed at every turn. Doesn't stop him from trying every few seconds in an obscene dance of futility, though. You almost have to admire his tenacity.
Borg: Resistance is futile. (Plunge with the Borg Fangs)
Alien "bio-mass": (shocking the snot out of the Borg)
Borg (after recovering): Resistence is futile. (Plunge with the Borg Fangs)
Alien "bio-mass": (shocking the snot out of the Borg)
and so on.
They scan the interior of the alien whatzit. Antimatter--apparently it is a ship. No life signs. Might be safe to look around. Chakotay calls the captain and suggests this. Janeway says Go For It. But they leave Harry behind to grab as much info from the Borg databases as he can.
The alien vessel has a skeleton. "Electrodynamic fluid" flows like blood through capillaries. Neural peptides flow through synthetic synapses. "Bitchin," Tuvok breathes.
Harry hears some scraping noises and stops downloading for a bit to investigate. All he sees are malfunctioning Borg. As if that's not creepy enough. He gets back to work.
Tuvok points to a hole in the wall. He tells the commander that the Borg disruptors did this, but his readings indicate that the wall is healing itself. He goes through, and finds something even more disturbing:
A Borg. Dead or unconscious. Being transformed before their very eyes into something else entirely.
Harry finishes downloading the Borg tactical data. A Borg lurches past him. Harry hears more scraping, readies his weapon, and goes hunting.
Kes, carrying a tray of something breakable, drops it when she receives a clear, overpowering vision of Harry screaming in agony. She drops the tray and falls against a diagnostic bed. Doc rushes to her asking what's wrong. She says the away team is in danger and yells at him to get them out of there. Doc hails Janeway.
Kim calls out for Chakotay and Tuvok. They run after him. "There's something in here, with us, and it's not the Borg. It's close."
"Perhaps the pilot has returned," Tuvok says coolly.
Janeway hails them with news that they're about to be beamed back. "Good idea," says Chakotay.
Only it doesn't happen. Torres says there's some sort of bio-electric interference--that's coming toward the away team.
Chakotay doesn't have to be told twice. He gets the team moving away from the readings, which are only seven meters away now. Harry guards their rear, backing away from their past position as Chakotay and Tuvok lead the way.
Janeway orders Torres to narrow the confinement beam, but it's no good. Torres suggests a "skeletal lock," wherein she gets a firm reading based on the minerals in the away team's bones. "I just thought it up," she says.
"Whatever works," the captain says, hoping it will.
The Borg are on the move. They don't bother with the humans or the Vulcan. They have their own collective hides to preserve. Chakotay uses them for cover. Harry is looking more and more agitated--a Borg corridor is claustrophobic enough as it is.
"The reading's only five meters away now," Chakotay says. Harry rushes out, guns blazing, ready to open a can of medieval butt-kicking with his phaser.
The wall explodes. Out pops a very tall, two-legged, long-tailed alien that had to be computer-generated because ain't no actor going to fit in a suit like that. Its arms are twice as long as a human's. Its musculature is heavy on the tendons, and its head (and overall appearance) suggests nothing less than the evolutionary conclusion of the preying Mantis.
It's big, it's weird, and it's pissed off. Its eyes suggest sentience--but not kindness. It's not armed, but it doesn't need to be; it can slap Harry past payday without any help from armaments. To prove it, it slaps a couple of Borg, who immediately crumble to the deck plates and begin writhing in obvious discomfort.
It then turns on, and backhands Harry, who falls to the deck, screaming like--well, exactly like he was screaming in Kes' recent premonition. Agonizing, excruciating, soul-annihilating pain.
The creature reaches in for a second swipe, when the still-screaming Harry and the others are beamed to (relative) safety. The creature seems irked to have been robbed of the chance to inflict some more anguish.
"A skeletal lock, eh?" Janeway asks, giving Torres a congratulatory look. "We'll have to add that one to the transporter manual."
Paris reports that the bio-ship is powering up, and seems to be activating a weapon. The bio-ship does look that way. It's lighting up, and rods are extending like a Klingon blade.
At this moment, Kes--who is on the bridge--gets another impression. This time, she sees the alien. Clearly. It's looking straight at her, and appears to be communicating.
Kes collapses into Janeway's arms.
"Get us out of here, Mr. Paris! Maximum warp!"
"Aye, Captain!" Paris' fingers fly over the controls.
The alien fires. The tell-tale lightning bolts of death we saw take out the Borg.
Good thing Voyager has shields. And that they decided to work for once.
But it still rocks the ship, sends it tumbling (a mixed blessing, since it helps them avoid further blasts) and sends everyone on board scattering to the floor.
Torres in Engineering, and Paris on the bridge, do their best to return to their stations. Together, working as if psychically joined, they make the necessary commands to right the ship long enough to form a warp field and go zooming off, destination away-from-here.
Danger, momentarily, past. Paris reports that the alien is not pursuing.
Janeway moves back toward Kes, who is seated. Kes says she had a brief moment of communication with the pilot of the bioship, which is a telepathic species. (One creature did ALL that damage to the Borg--impressive.) "It's not the Borg we should be worried about," she says.
"Did it say anything to you?"
It said, she says, "The weak...will perish."
* * *
Captain's log, Stardate 50984.3. It's been 12 hours since our confrontation with the alien life form. There is no sign that we're being pursued, and we've had no further encounters with the Borg. I've decided to hold our course. The Northwest Passage is only one day away, and I won't allow fear to undermine this crew's sense of purpose...even if that fear is justified.
Janeway enters Sickbay to see Doc working on Harry Kim inside a bio-containment field. Harry's face is being transformed before our very eyes, just as was the Borg that Tuvok found. Harry is in terrible pain.
Doc tells Janeway that what began as a few stray alien cells inside the chest wound have now infused his entire body.
"It looks like he's being transformed in some way," Janeway says. Doc says it would be more accurate to say that Kim is being eaten alive, one cell at a time. (That'll teach Garret Wang to show up late to work. But then, it wouldn't be Voyager unless Harry Kim suffers mightily at least once per season. By that standard, this has been one HECK of a season....)
Janeway actually twitches in revulsion. She notes Harry's eyes are wide open. "He's still conscious, Doctor!" she hisses, outraged at the agony Kim is enduring. Doc says that every attempt he's made to put Kim out of his misery has failed--the alien infection is that pervasive, and that sadistic. Janeway barely suppresses a gag reflex.
Doc shows her a visual of the alien cells. They are, he says, over a hundred times more complex than human DNA. "It's the most densely-coded life form I've ever seen. Even I would need years to decode it all."
But the implications are easy to point out now, and Janeway catches it. "They have an extraordinary immune response. Anything that penetrates the cell membrane--chemical, biological, technological--it's all instantly destroyed! That's why the Borg can't assimilate them!"
"I'd say in this case, resistance is far from futile," Doc says drily. "Nevertheless, I think the Borg technology holds the key to helping Mr. Kim."
His voice and demeanor changes, moving from the somber tone of a physician treating a patient to the more abstract medical researcher he loves to be. He explains that the Borg nanoprobes might be able to be modified and unleashed in Kim's bloodstream to eradicate the alien cells. He says he's been studying the Borg nanoprobes-- "efficient little assimilators, you can't help but admire the workmanship"--and they're generally very good at what they do...just not good enough to defeat the alien DNA.
However, Doc says, he's managed to hack into one of them and access its recoding mechanism so it can operate undetected. He shows Janeway another visual of the modified probe at work, sinking is teeth into the alien cell and Borgifying it.
Doc says it will work, but it will take a couple of days before he can modify enough of the probes to help Kim.
"Does he have that long?"
"I wish I knew."
Janeway looks at Kim, paralyzed with pain. "Fight it, Harry; that's an order."
Harry's only response is to shed a single tear as the alien feast continues.
Torres shows Chakotay the Borg database. "They refer to the alien species as Species 8472," she reports. (There's that 47 again! Gulp 'em if you got 'em!) Tuvok says the Borg have encountered them on a dozen occasions in the past five months, and were stomped each time. Torres says the Borg don't know much about them, since they get most of their information from assimilation.
Chakotay asks if they know where the species is coming from. "Yup," says Torres, hating her role as the bearer of bad news. She pulls up a visual.
Chakotay reacts strongly as well. "Get the captain," he breathes.
"The Northwest Passage." Janeway says slowly, observing a stream of the Species 8472 bioships (I'm going to abbreviate this as "The 47s" from now on). No wonder there are no Borg there, Chakotay observes.
Tuvok says there are 133 of the 47s...and counting. Janeway asks if he can pinpoint the source. He says they're appearing out of a quantum singularity. Chakotay says, On screen.
They see the singularity, and ships appearing at regular intervals. Oh dang.
Janeway asks Kes if she's getting anything. Kes says she can sense them. She gets images in bits and pieces. She reports that where they come from, they're the only species--nothing else lives there. She doesn't know the answers to Chakotay's question about parallel universes; she's become a Blonde Troi: "I feel a malevolence, a cold hatred...'The weak will perish....' It's an invasion! They intend to destroy everything!"
Janeway orders a reverse course, maximum warp back to about five light-year away, then hold position. Tom complies. With a word, Janeway has Chakotay follow her to her ready room.
When they've strategically placed themselves in front of the field of stars, and the door closes behind them, Janeway sighs. "That moment we spoke about? It's here. Any thoughts?"
"Just one," says Chakotay.
Fifteen sweaty minutes later, they return to the bridge.
[Whoah, wait. That can't be right. Rewind.]
! ! !
Janeway orders a reverse course, maximum warp back to about five light-year away, then hold position. Tom complies. With a word, Janeway has Chakotay follow her to her ready room.
When they've strategically placed themselves in front of the field of stars, and the door closes behind them, Janeway sighs. "That moment we spoke about? It's here. Any thoughts?"
"Just one," says Chakotay. "Flying into that corridor would mean certain death."
[That's more like it.]
"Agreed," says Janeway. "The Northwest Passage is no longer an option. So now the choice is between, facing the Borg in their space, or finding a nice planet in the Delta Quadrant and giving up on ever getting home." It's fairly clear that, despite the danger involved, she prefers what's behind Door Number One.
"We'd be turning around but we wouldn't be giving up," Chakotay says. "We could find another way home."
Janeway's look is absolutely lethal. In that moment, even a 47 would be lucky to survive her galaxy-class skunk eye. She mutters something wordlessly (the closed-captioning didn't fare well; it read "!@#%less wonder") and turns away from him before she sets her glare on maximum.
"I'm not going on that bridge and telling the crew we're quitting; I can't do that, Chakotay, not yet." She slaps the railing. "There must be another alternative!"
"Kathryn," Chakotay says, placing one of his huge hands on her shoulder. She's in a mood, though, and gives him an Absolut Zero cold shoulder. Chakotay's left arm freezes and disintegrates in a puff of angst, clear up to the shoulder. He leans against the railing with his other hand, doing his best to lean in close without freezing anything else off. (Look at the scene; I swear it's true.)
"You haven't slept in two days. Get some rest, clear your head. We're safe for the moment. We can tell the crew tomorrow." She says not another word; just leans over the railing, cold shoulders stooped, jowls protruding, doing an amazingly poignant impression of Richard M. Nixon: The Last Days.
"See you in the morning," she finally says, and he exits. Janeway moves back toward the window, puts her hands on her hips, and ponders her next move in the uncomfortable solitude of her quarters.
In the darkness of her quarters, Janeway can't sleep. Good thing she's still in uniform. She gets an idea, and gets up.
Next stop: Leo's house. Where, coincidentally, it's also night. Candles illuminate the villa.
"Maestro? Leonardo?" She says in the emptiness of the house, her voice echoing. She climbs the stairs. We see a strategically-placed crucifix in the camera's sights.
Maestro is there. "Katarina?" he calls. "Buona sera." He points to a wall. "What do you see?"
"Candlelight reflecting off a wall," she says, smiling kindly at the old man. "What do you see?"
"A flock of starlings. The leaves on an oak. A horse's tail; a thief with a noose around his neck. And a wall with the candlelight reflecting off it," he adds with a smile.
He stands. "There are times, Katarina, when I find myself transfixed by shadows on a wall," he says, caressing those shadows on the wall, "or the splashing of water against a stone. I stare at it; the hours pass; the world around me drops away, replaced by worlds being created and destroyed by my imagination. A way to focus the mind."
He gestures. "Sit and tell me why you've come."
"There is a path before me," she says, sitting. "The only way home. And on either side, mortal enemies bent on destroying each other. If I attempt to pass through them, I'll be destroyed as well. But if I turn around, that would end all hope of getting home. And no matter how much I focus in my mind I can't see an alternative."
"When one's imagination cannot provide an answer," Leonardo says, "one must seek out a greater imagination. There are times when even I find myself kneeling in prayer."
He rises. "I must deliver a bronzetto to the monks at Santa Croce. Come with me, Katarina," he says, taking Janeway's hand. "We will awake the abbot, visit the chapel, and appeal to God."
"Somehow," she says, smiling, "I don't think that's going to work for me." She squeezes his hand kindly.
Then squeezes it harder as the shadows on the wall speak in a language only she seems to understand. Unless I'm just dumb; I stared at a freeze-frame of the wall for several minutes and came up blank.
Janeway rises. In the view we see only the captain's head and the crucifix, illuminated by the faint glow of a couple of candles. This shot cannot have been accidental.
"But there is an alternative I hadn't considered...What if I made an appeal...to the devil?"
* * *
[I figure you'll never forgive me if I'm not fairly detailed during this section...so bear with me if you've already seen the episode. Or skip to the Analysis. This one's for the folks without Voyager access, so I'm stepping into Cyber-UPN mode.]
"The Borg?" Paris asks, incredulous.
"More like...an exchange," Janeway explains to the entire room of command staff. [Paris and Torres are on opposite sides of the room, I noticed...Hmm. Sorry, folks, I guess this means their "romance" is over. (JUST KIDDING!!!)] "We offer them a way to defeat their new enemy, and in return we get safe passage through their space."
Janeway points out the Doctor's accomplishment which makes the exchange possible. Doc points out that it hasn't even been tried on Harry yet. In other words, she's wagering all of them with a paycheck she hasn't earned yet. Janeway tells him it's the Borg's nanotechnology; they could provide them the blueprint for producing the little buggers on a massive scale.
"In theory, yes," Doc says, emphasizing his hesitation to join Janeway on the limb she's gone out on. But right now, Janeway only cares about the possibilities, not the obstacles.
She turns on (I mean, toward) Torres, leaning against the same chair back that Chakotay's hand is resting on. "The Borg don't have this info, right?" she asks, pointing at her with the same two-fingered pistol she's waved at Paris and the Doc already. Torres acknowledges that the Borg gain knowledge through assimilation, and "What they can't assimilate, they can't understand."
Janeway slaps a chair. "And we don't assimilate; we investigate! And in this case, it's given us an edge. We've discovered something they need."
Neelix points out that the Borg aren't known for their diplomacy. He and Kes are standing together (are they dating again? Hmm....) "Can we expect them to cooperate with us?"
Kes speaks up. "Normally the answer would be no. But if what I'm getting from the 47s is true, the Borg are losing, and losing big. The 47s are opening up a whole chain of whupass franchises in the Delta Quadrant."
Janeway says that in one regard, the Borg aren't that different from them--they're struggling to survive. (Never mind HOW they survive--by assimilation and conquest.) "I don't think they're going to refuse an offer that will help them do that."
Tuvok asks why she thinks the Borg won't simply assimilate this information directly when they carve up the ship for raw materials. Janeway points to the Doc, her ace in the hole. "We'll transfer everything we know about the aliens and how to combat them into the doctor's programming. If they go back on their word, we'll simply erase Doc and they're totally screwed." So, it must be noted, will the Doctor. His eyes go wide.
"But it won't come to that," she assures him. He doesn't look assured.
"It's in the Collective's own interest to cooperate," she insists. Her senior officers don't look convinced. Only Kes seems even remotely on her side, aside from Chakotay--who has been markedly silent and poker-faced throughout.
"Voyager is only one ship. Our safe passage is a small price to pay for what we're offering in exchange." It's clear that she will ignore any and every attempt to dissuade her. Janeway has made her decision, and the time for offering options is past. All she expects now is unquestioned obedience from each and every one of them--something three years of working together guarantees her.
But what she wants is understanding and appreciation for all her valiant efforts to get them home in the face of impossible odds, and that may be more than they can give. The Borg and the 47s both terrify them.
But of course, so does Janeway when she gets like this. And she's in the room. The Borg and the 47s are several light-year away. The crew crosses Janeway's path, and there won't be anything left for the hostiles to terrorize.
She tells Torres to transfer the data into Doc. "Yes Ma'am." She tells Paris to locate the nearest Borg ship and fly towards them with all due speed. "Yes Ma'am."
After everyone's filed out, Janeway states the obvious. "You were awfully quiet."
"I didn't want them to hear what I have to say," he says, moving closer and resting his arm against the chair she's also resting against. "But I think what you're proposing is too great a risk."
"How so?" she asks, quietly.
Chakotay relates a parable I've heard a bunch of different ways. I'll tell it mine, just because I'm the guy at the keyboard.
A scorpion scrambles along a riverbank, eager to get to the other side. He encounters a fox, and asks if he can hitch a lift on its back as it swims across. The fox balks; "If I do, you'll sting me and I'll drown," the fox says. The scorpion says, "If I sting you, we'll both drown. I want to get to the other side." The fox finally relents, the scorpion hops on, and away they go.
Halfway across the river, the scorpion stings the fox. As the poison courses through its veins, the fox begins to sink. "Why?" it asks, finally.
The scorpion's final words before drowning are, "I'm a scorpion, you idiot--it's what I do."
The moral of the story: You can't deny what's in your nature.
"I understand the risk!" Janeway hisses, desperate for Chakotay to understand. "And I'm not proposing we try to change the nature of the beast! But this is a unique situation. To our knowledge the Borg have never been so threatened--they're vulnerable! I think we can take advantage of that!"
"Even if we do somehow negotiate an exchange, how long will they keep up their end of the bargain?" Chakotay asks. "It could take months to get across Borg territory. We'd be facing thousands of systems--millions of vessels!"
"But only one collective! And we've got them over a barrel. We don't need to give them a single bit of information--not until we're safe! We just need the courage to see this through to the end."
Chakotay leans in close. "There are other kinds of courage. Like the courage to accept that there are some situations that are beyond your control! Not every problem has an immediate solution!"
Janeway's eyes grow even colder. "You're suggesting we turn around."
"Yes! We should get out of harm's way. Let them fight it out! In the meantime, there's still plenty of Delta Quadrant left to explore; we may find a way home!"
Or me way find something else! After six months? A year down the road? After Species 8472 gets through with the Borg? We could find ourselves right back in the line of fire. And we'll have missed the window of opportunity that exists right here, right now!" She's pacing like a caged tiger now.
"How much is our safety worth?"
"What do you mean?" she demands.
"We'd be giving an advantage to a race guilty of murdering billions. We'd be helping the Borg assimilate yet another species just to get ourselves back home! It's WRONG!!!"
"Tell that to Harry Kim! He's barely alive thanks to that species. Maybe helping to assimilate them isn't such a bad idea. We could be doing the Delta Quadrant a favor." She marches away from Chakotay, argues from a distance.
"I don't think you really believe that. I think you're struggling to justify your plan because your desire to get the crew home is blinding you to other options." He walks toward her. "I know you, Kathryn!" His voice softens significantly. "Sometimes...you don't know when to step back."
"Do you trust me, Chakotay?" she whispers.
"That isn't the issue here."
"Oh, but it is. Only yesterday you were saying that we would face this together--that you'd be at my side." It's an accusation.
"I still have to tell you what I believe; I'm no good to you if I don't do that!"
"I appreciate your insights, but the time for debate is over. I've made my decision, now..do I have your support?
"You're the captain. I'm the first officer; I'll follow your orders. But that doesn't change my belief that we're making a fatal mistake."
"Then I guess I am alone, after all," she says, her voice barely above a whisper. She cocks her head, a sad ghost of a smile on her face. "Dismissed." Chakotay leaves, and she allows herself a look of private desolation.
[I'll reserve my comments on Who's Right for the Analysis section.]
Voyager approaches a system with a few planets and several Borg cubes. The planets are inhabited with billions of Borg. Tuvok reads out the above. "A ship is approaching," he adds.
"All stop," Janeway commands. "Shields up."
A Borg cube blots out the sun. It dwarfs the Starship.
"They're hailing us," says Tuvok.
"We are the Borg," they hear. "You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile."
"Tell that to Locutus," Janeway says, smirking.
"And Riley," Chakotay says, a wistful smile on his face.
"And Hugh," says Tuvok, who's up on Enterprise-D trivia.
"And let's not forget your last queen," says Q, popping in for a two-second cameo before flashing back to who-knows-where.
"You have a queen?" Janeway asks.
"Films are irrelevant," say the Borg.
A familiar green-hued tractor beam locks onto the ship.
Janeway rises from her chair and marches to the forward view screen. "This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Voyager. I have tactical information about Species 8472. I want to negotiate."
"Negotiation is irrelevant."
Janeway nods to Torres, who e-mails the video clip of the Borg nanoprobe puncturing a Species 8472 blood cell. "What we're sending you," Janeway continues, "is a taste of the information we can provide. If you don't back off, I will have that information destroyed. You have ten seconds to comply."
There is no response, relevant or otherwise.
Janeway tries to sound conciliatory. "We know you're in danger of total destruction, and that this information is vital to your survival. Turn off the tractor b--"
Janeway dissolves in a flash of green.
And appears in the middle of a long catwalk in the middle of the vast empty interior of the Borg vessel.
Scorpion and fox in the river, indeed.
State your demands, the Borg say. (Well whaddya know? Negotiation wasn't irrelevant.)
"I want safe passage through Borg space. Once we're on the other side, I'll give you the research."
Unacceptable, the Borg say. Borg Space is vast. It would take too long. We need it now.
"If I give you the data now, you'll assimilate us."
Species 8472 must be stopped. Our survival is your survival. (What's good for M&M Enterprises...) Give us the technology.
Janeway hesitates. Got you over a barrel, she reminds herself. "No. Safe passage first, or no deal."
A pause. State your proposal.
Janeway exhales in visible relief.
"Let's work together. Combine our resources. Even if we do give you the technology now, you'll still going to need time to develop it. By working together we can create a weapon more quickly. If you escort us through your space we can perfect the weapon as we--"
The cube is rocked. Hard. Janeway darn near falls over the railing to a certain death in the vastness of the cube's interior.
A single 47 ship strafes the cube--oddly, ignoring the Starship still tractored in place.
But because of the tractor, Voyager feels the Borg's pain. They also shudder from the attack.
Tuvok reports that a singularity has appeared a mere 20k light-year away, and more alien ships are approaching. The original attacker is now on course for the planet. Torres says the Borg's shields are weakening, and they might be able to break free if they try. Chakotay asks if they can beam back the captain; "Not yet," says Tuvok.
"What's going on?" Janeway demands, as the Cube continues to dance uncertainly under her feet.
Species 8472 in da house.
Nine 47 ships hurry to catch the first. They fly in starburst formation. Finally the nine fire, aiming their weapons at the first, which channels the combined energy toward the planet below.
The planet glows red. It expands. Then it explodes.
Two Borg cubes are consumed by the hurtling planetary debris. The third--the one with Janeway and Voyager attached--hauls hiney away from the devastation.
That's all, folks. See you next fall.
This episode reportedly cost a bundle. I believe it. We saw over 20 cubes in a single hour. Only one of which was still intact by the end. Add to that the computer-generated ships, and aliens, and all the computer images on Voyager's data terminals, and we're talking serious coin. Most of it ends up on screen, I'd say. Visually, this puppy was a stunner.
The aliens, it has been said, look a lot like shadows, and the ships look like Vorlon ships. Both of these, in case you don't know, are on Babylon 5. This is sensible, given that the folks who designed the aliens and the ships for "Scorpion" also designed the Vorlons and the Shadows for Babylon 5. So it's no coincidence. However, the look did not conflict with the Voyager look and feel; it didn't look like B5 making a guest appearance. The textures fit.
And these new aliens are butt-kickers of the first order. Not just powerful--they're mean, right down to the DNA. A mere flesh wound to a lesser species means death by Ebola Cubed. And they wouldn't have it any other way. "The weak will perish." The assumption being, "we aren't the weak. Therefore, you will perish." You being anyone but us. These are not nice creatures.
We don't know where they come from--we only get to see the doorways. Kes (acting a bit too much like Deanna Troi this episode) says they come from a place where they're all alone. They're bored. They just wanna have fun.
At our expense. They likely won't quit until all the weak--in all the quadrants--have perished, and they've piddled in our playground until there's nobody left to pick on.
So, who's scarier?
This isn't an idle question. Which is worse--to be merely killed, or to become assimilated? Picard might suggest, with some authority, that the latter is infinitely worse. Death is the end. To exist, stripped of individuality, forced to do to others what has been done to you, over and over, a billion times on end--that's a fate worse than death. Assimilation swallows your soul.
And yet--the 47s will destroy everything. It's not just the death of millions or billions or trillions...it's the death of everything. The Lone Mantis' of the Apocalypse destroying everything in their path--and their path covers everything.
And yet--follow Janeway's plan, let the Borg assimilate the 47s--and you could conceivably end up with the Worst of Both Worlds.
This question is important, for one simple reason: it's driving our poor Kate and Chakotay apart! The heck with the entire universe; what about their relationship--professional and personal?
This one's already got people banging heads against walls and arguing furiously.
Janeway and Chakotay started out this episode as close to giving each other sponge baths as we've ever seen them. "I didn't even know your name three years ago," Janeway says, "and now I can't imagine a day without you." Long looks. Physical contact. Wow.
Then, along come the dang Borg, and the dang new aliens, to make them mad at each other.
You want to talk ultimate threat? You want to talk about the most dangerous group in the universe? It's probably a coordinated group of JetCers scorned.
Hmm....I smell a fanfic.
But seriously. Of all the unresolved threads in this episode, the relationship between captain and first officer is certainly one of the most important in the long run. The Borg may be around for a few episodes next season, or not. The new aliens may stick around, or not (my guess is not--they're too expensive to use frequently). But one dynamic we expect to continue from now to the end of the series is Janeway and Chakotay, so it must be resolved, and the season premiere is the logical episode for that. (The resolution may be that they have strained dealings for a while, but something will happen to bring this drama to a head. This episode merely made it clear that there IS a problem.)
You may be wondering, which of them is right? Could both be? Could neither? It wouldn't be the first time that misguided decisions were made with the best of intentions. The question is to decide who to side with.
So let's take a look.
Janeway wants to get her ship and crew home. She's proven time and time again that she'll plow through any obstacle in her way. She'll river-raft through the heart of hell itself if it means not taking any detours.
However, as any airline pilot can tell you, the shortest distance from A to B is not always a straight line.
Chakotay's point that they could find a way home by veering slightly off course is well worth considering. There may be shortcuts, cool technology, and friendly aliens a few dozen light years to their right or left. Any course automatically excludes them from all other possible courses. But in something as vast as the galaxy, it's laughable to assume there's only one way home. There may be "the most direct route," but it's not "the only way."
I side with Chakotay on this point. Her monomaniacal devotion to forging ahead in this direction no matter what is a bad thing. She should focus more on the ultimate destination than on micro-managing every leg of the trip. A detour, a step back, is not an admission of failure or abandonment of the ultimate goal. As a scientist, Janeway of all people should know this.
It is to be hoped that da Vinci can teach her this lesson. And that it will sink in.
Janeway's point about the new aliens being an even more immediate threat has a lot of validity.
What if, way back in the distant past, someone could have stopped the Borg before they conquered the lion's share of the Delta Quadrant? Janeway has that chance, in the here and now, to stop the new aliens. However slim its chances for success might be (though, given the name of the show, those chances are actually quite good).
It's the classic philosophical query: would you kill baby Hitler if given the chance? In hindsight, we know he was a monster. But we also know he did as much toward the end to screw up his country's chances for victory as anything. We have no guarantees that by killing a Hitler, we don't make it possible for an even more effective monster later on. Similar arguments are bandied about concerning Saddam Hussein and Iraq. A weakened Iraq might pave the way for a resurgent Iran, which scares some people even more than Hussein.
And you thought 3-D Chess was tough.
Better the devil we know than the one we don't. We know the Borg. We've conquered the Borg. We have some conception of their weaknesses. The new aliens are an unknown quantity, but we do know they're dangerous. So obviously we gang up on them, even with our (all too recent) adversaries as allies.
On this point, Janeway is absolutely correct.
Chakotay's fears of the Borg are well-founded. He's been compelled to act against his nature as part of a Borg Collective--something Janeway can't say. His terror comes from first-hand experience. He knows they go back on their promises, because they lied to him repeatedly when it suited their needs. "We're scorpions, you idiot. We can't deny our nature."
Allowing the Borg to assimilate the new species could be a bad thing, or a good thing. Janeway says they could be doing the Delta Quadrant a favor. The Group Mind could well overwhelm the 47s "the weak must perish" attitude.
Or, the reverse could happen.
This is a tossup, until we get more information. And we'll have to wait for the season premiere for that. It could go either way. But both Janeway and Chakotay have valid arguments.
I think, in terms of "what's good for Janeway's Ego is good for the whole ship," that Chakotay's right in one regard--Janeway does need to take a step back once in a while. She was so set on doing this deal with the devil (her term) that she didn't see the look on her crew's faces. At the beginning of the whole Borg thing, before they knew about the 47s, she said, "I have faith in each and every one of you."
At the end, she had faith only in herself. She ignored all opinions that didn't match her own. She basically told the Doc that he would be the first to die if the Borg so much as sneezed. She relied on the HOPE of a successful treatment as the basis of all her plans. This is not just premature. This is dangerous. She's relying on the very people whose concerns she's ignoring to carry out her wishes.
Where's Alfre Woodward and her Captain Ahab accusations to put things into perspective? Because this episode reminds me a lot of First Contact, and Janeway closely resembles the tortured, pre-Melville-quoting Picard. But Chakotay's too nice to goad Janeway into throwing something breakable to get her mind off things.
And, I hate to say it, but Janeway was flat-out WRONG in the way she treated Chakotay in that final scene they had together. She basically laid out an ultimatum: If you truly love me, you will endorse me wholeheartedly. You won't just follow orders; you'll agree with me that this is the best thing to do.
Idiocy. Emotional blackmail.
I said as far back as "Resolutions" that Janeway doesn't give her first officer the respect he deserves. She didn't let him say goodbye to the crew, and that made me mad. It was the capper to a whole season of Janeway trampling on her first officer's opinions and recommendations. I'd hoped that she'd moved away from that this season.
They can disagree; it's the captain's job to decide, even if it means overriding the First Officer's recommendations. It's not that the captain does it--that is inevitable--it's how. Here, Janeway expects more than mere obedience. She expects endorsement. And she exerts emotional blackmail to get it. "Don't you trust me, Chakotay?" "You said you'd be with me every step of the way" "I guess I really am alone."
Thank heavens Chakotay stuck to his guns.
There are those who say that Janeway and Chakotay should NOT be relationshippers precisely because of conflicts like this. Where a simple command decision can get blown out of proportion because of personal emotional involvement.
The "joke" was that if they have a lovers' quarrel, she might toss him in the brig.
This is the opposite. A professional difference of opinion--with no clear-cut answer--resulting in a serious strain in the command relationship because of personal involvement. Disagreements get personal. Words get thrown back in faces (which is exactly what Janeway does here). Motives get associated with opinions. People start to analyze everything to death....
Anyway. The point is, there are those who want there to be a relationship between these two (and within that camp, those who want them to be sexually involved, and others who simply want them to be intimate but platonic friends) and those who don't. This episode might go a long way to bolstering the position of those in the latter camp.
However... (I'm saying this a lot, aren't I?)
This same disagreement could have come at anytime in the series. The intensely personal parts of the argument could have been stripped away, and the argument itself remained. Janeway has pretty much always been like this. "Alliances" showed them disagreeing, back when they were far from close, and it was pretty much the same result; Chakotay gave the best advice he could, and Janeway ignored him, at times with hostility. "I know best; nobody else knows squat," was the message she gave then.
And, unfortunately, we saw that here as well.
I yelled at Doc for his treatment of his holo-family in "Real Life." The scene where he comes in, thrilled that he's solved all their family problems by--completely rewriting their lives. He was genuinely shocked when they didn't bow before him and thank him for his enlightened leadership.
Janeway, essentially, does the same thing here. She acts as if she's the only one with a valid opinion. She acts unilaterally, not letting her first officer know her plans--so they could have this argument beforehand--before springing them on the whole crew. And she seems oblivious to the fear in their faces or the fact that the "faith" she has in them is nowhere to be found now.
Home has become her White Whale. And it can't just be Home--it has to be Her Way Home. She wants to do it. She won't take the help of Q, or follow up on Paris' transwarp flight (even after the Voth and the Borg already prove the viability of that means of travel), or hitch a lift with those who do. She won't get alien technology as she vowed in Caretaker they'd look for, unless it's practically forced into her hands.
This is her fatal flaw. The one thing most likely to get her an/or her people killed, the ship destroyed, the ultimate goal lost. "My way, or no way." She seems determined, as in Sacred Ground, to make the ordeal as excruciating as possible.
Perhaps she thinks it's more heroic that way.
I'm giving Janeway a hard time here, because I think she's acted for all the wrong reasons. She may well be doing the right thing--we'll have to wait and see. But her motivations, and the way she ignored (and I do mean ignored) every opinion but her own, shows bad command skills.
It's not the actress' fault. It's the writers'. They seemed so eager to set up this confrontation, they set it up in a way that makes Janeway look very bad. The basic idea is fine, but the execution was flawed. In my personal opinion. It diminished Janeway as a leader in my eyes, after a season's worth of improvement.
It will be interesting to see what the second half brings. If the episode ends with "see, I was right all along," I may well give up on the series entirely.
Because no matter how it ends, Janeway owes Chakotay one Hell of an apology for their last conversation.
Okay, I've ranted enough. Suffice to say, I do think Janeway's "third option" is the correct decision--but I also think she handled it badly, especially with Chakotay. She lost a lot of loyalty points with that last speech of hers. Agree or disagree. We've got all summer.
The da Vinci program is designed to be a replacement for Janeway's holonovel, I'd gather. It makes sense; da Vinci was more than just an artist. He was a Renaissance Man. At her best, Janeway is a Renaissance Gal. She's a scientist, an artist, a philosopher. And as I've been arguing that Janeway needs a sounding board of some sort, da Vinci provides a pretty good one. His is a wholly new perspective for her. If only she'll take advantage of it.
He's also a man of faith--something Mulgrew surely appreciates even if Janeway might not. Since he's a 15th-century character instead of a 24th-century character, it's okay for him to be a believer as well as a scientist.
I give high marks to John Rhys-Davies for his portrayal of da Vinci. He and Mulgrew play quite well off each other.
The Borg get stomped in this episode, but they're still a threat. Janeway's not kidding when she calls it a deal with the devil. Voyager isn't an enemy to them--the ship and crew are simply unassimilated resources. There's nothing personal to it. We can understand the 8472 creatures with their "weak will perish" mantra--humans have said this many times before. It's a concept we're familiar with, even if we don't like it. The Borg mentality, though, is entirely alien.
The Borg don't really act (though the scene with the away team did give a few folks a chance to be individual Borg in varying states of dysfunction), so the credit here must go to the special effects people. And I give them high marks. The multiple cubes were very, very cool. Ditto the alien ships, and the aliens.
Someone said this new species breaks some cardinal Roddenberry rule: if it can't be played by a human, it can't be an alien in my universe.
Poppycock. Need I point out the talking Jell-O molds in "the Gamesters of Triskelion," the Horta, the glowing beach balls containing the essence of Sargon and company, the Medusan ambassador, the Organians, tribbles, etc? And in The Next Generation, the first episode dealt with gigantic space jellyfish, and we had sentient grains of sand and other wildly improbable non-human lifeforms every bit as sentient and sometimes even "cuddly" as humans. Roddenberry was all over these episodes.
I don't want to see Species 8472 every week. I still prefer story over special effects. But I don't see the inclusion of them here as some sort of heresy against Gene. "Human" aliens is a good general rule, but it shouldn't be considered inviolable when it never has been before now.
Alas, poor Harry. And you thought Tom Paris got hurt a lot. Wang did a decent job throughout, but his most powerful moment was the single tear shed as he lay paralyzed in sickbay. It said what all the screams would not--though the scream was pretty darn convincing as well.
Everyone else does fine, though the stars of this episode are Beltran, Rhys-Davies, and Mulgrew. Especially Mulgrew. My complaints about Janeway aside, Mulgrew was stunning in her portrayal. The conflicted emotions, the quiet moments with Chakotay, the good/bad/ugly of her character--she was at all times Janeway. Her vocal and facial expression ran the gamut, and were at times heartbreaking. These past three years have been a roller-coaster in my impressions of the captain, but my opinion of Mulgrew has gone steadily upward from the beginning. She's a heck of a performer, and this show wouldn't be the same with someone else at the helm. I can't imagine it without her, in fact.
Well, folks, it's been a heck of a season. Season two had its problems, but the hideously depressing ending of Basics Part I virtually guaranteed that things could only improve from there. Sure enough, season 3 saw us dump the Kazon and Vidiians, move past the last of the space Neelix was familiar with, rarely give us more than a single look at any one species (which, whatever you may think, does give a nice illusion of forward progress), not a single threat or attempt to blow up Voyager, and more "happy endings." Voyager, and her captain, began truly winning battles, succeeding rather than merely surviving. Relationships formed or ended (amicably), hairstyles changed (mostly for the better), and Janeway even managed to get them back to Earth...if a little early--and save the Home Solar System from the evil that is Ed Begley, Jr. Most of the right butts were kicked, a number of innocent victims were rescued, and only a few territorially-defensive species got in their way--only to regret it. Characters grew stronger, and began to get some really meaty plots devoted to them. Some were better than others. Most were at least good. Oh, and we saw Q again, which is always good in my book. We tied up some ancient TNG plot threads, picked up another (the Borg home systems), expanded some existing Trek staples, and introduced whole new ones.
All in all, not too shabby.
One final thought. Just as in Best of Both Worlds, the captain ends the season on a Borg ship, leaving the first officer in charge. With the fate of mankind hanging in the balance.
We may learn next season who the real Scorpion is. The scorpion could even be the fox (the fox is the redhead, who else?)
Anyway. It's been fun. I'll see y'all in September. I will likely not be utterly silent in the summer, but unlike last year I don't have any old episodes to catch up on. All the reviews are caught up, so I can have some time to play a little. I don't want to give anything away, so all I can say is stay tuned.
Oh, yeah, the score. On a 0-10 scale, I'll give it a 9.50.
Next week: repeat of "Fair Trade."