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.
WARNING: This review contains repeated and frequently juvenile references to the physical attributes of certain characters. There was actually a point to this; it bothers me that Voyager, the one series in all of Trek that started out without all this stuff, which seemed in fact to discourage its use...has been moving more in that direction. The change in Kes' attire, the addition of the "resort" holodeck program, and the addition of a character expressly for the purpose of bringing "sensuality" to the show--seem to me to detract from and undermine Voyager's strengths.
Conclusion to "Scorpion, Part I." A little buttkicking, a lot of infighting, a new face, and a few interdimensional detours. Harry survives, and gets picked on.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Jump straight to the Analysis
The obligatory "Last time on "Star Trek: Voyager" clips are shown to bring the viewer up to speed.
The short version: Voyager finally encounters Borg space, only to discover that the most feared adversary the Federation has ever known this side of the Nielsens is embroiled in a battle to the death with an even more sinister enemy. And it is losing. Voyager's prior encounters with the Borg, and Harry Kim's latest near-death experience at the hand of the new species (designated Species 8472, or 47 for short), give it an advantage the Borg themselves do not have--a way to assimilate, or destroy, the little buggers. To the chagrin of JetCers everywhere, the captain and first officer have a strong difference of opinion about what to do next, and Chakotay tells the tale of the scorpion who drowns because his instinct to sting overrides even his survival instinct. Janeway starts the episode confessing the loneliness of command, and Chakotay says she'll never be alone; by the end of the hour, she is alone in body and in spirit, surrounded by Borg and convinced she's the only person in the quadrant who knows what's best.
In the conclusion, we hope, we'll find out whether she's right.
* * *
Shortly after the devastating 47 attack which left two cubes and one planet in tiny fragments, Voyager is still being towed at high warp by the scarred but surviving Borg ship.
On Voyager's bridge, Torres reports that Borg shields are down, and she's got a lock on the captain.
"Get her out of there, and break us free of the tractor beam," Chakotay orders. "Ready all weapons," he tells Tuvok. But the transport fails, and the tractor remains.
Tuvok reports an incoming hail. "Onscreen," Chakotay says.
The viewscreen shifts from the cube and the green haze of the tractor beam to the interior of the vessel and the looming, unsmiling face of Kathryn Janeway. "Commander, cut the transporter beam," she says without a trace of emotion.
"Captain?" Chakotay asks, confused.
"Do it." Her eyes are as dark as Chakotay has ever seen them--not the angry white-hot death glare we're used to, but a sleepy Trans-Lux ebony deadness that is even more disquieting.
Chakotay gulps, sets his jaw, then makes a quick, frustrated nod to Torres.
Satisfied, Janeway continues. "I have reached an agreement with the Collective," she says. "We're going to help them design a weapon against Species 8472. In exchange, they've granted us safe passage through their space."
On cue, Paris' helm computer chirps; he reports that the Cube has changed course for the Alpha Quadrant. Chakotay notes it without comment.
"That's part of the plan," Janeway says. "We'll work on the weapon en route; once we're across their territory we'll give them the nanoprobes. They're holding up their end of the bargain," she concludes. "I suggest we do the same."
"How do you propose we begin this...collaboration?" Chakotay asks, utterly failing to keep the skepticism out of his voice.
"I'm going to work here, on the Cube. They have technology that'll make the job go faster; I want to take advantage of it." (First the Delta Quadrant, then da Vinci's inner sanctum, now a Borg Cube--Janeway seems to have a scorpion-like instinct for going somewhere new...and carving out a piece of it for herself.)
Chakotay suggests (urges?) her to return to the ship. "It's part of the deal," she says with finality. "I work here."
Chakotay senses that discussion is over, and changes subjects. "As long as we're cooperating, maybe the Borg would be willing to disengage their tractor beam. We can match their course without a leash."
Janeway doesn't rise to the bait. "I'll propose it. Mr. Tuvok," she says, moving her gaze to her security chief, "transport to my coordinates." Tuvok acknowledges. But doesn't move.
Janeway's gaze levels back on Chakotay. "We're going to make this work, Commander. Janeway out."
Redheads aren't known for their tans, but at the moment most of the bridge crew looks paler than Janeway. Torres' eyes are as large as saucers. Chakotay shares a baleful look with Paris, then notices Tuvok is still on the bridge.
"You heard the Captain," Chakotay barks. Without another word, Tuvok exits.
Chakotay looks angry enough to chew duranium. The background music, heavy on the brass instruments, portends a score of conflicts in the coming hour.
And you thought the Borg/47 war was dangerous.
* * *
[After the credits, which list "Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine" as one of the show's costars, and "Jennifer Lien as Kes" as the lone "also starring" character....]
We see a congested grey sea of black twelve-legged nanoprobes. Chakotay is viewing them through one of Doc's med-lab ViewMasters. "I've got ten million of the little buggers, each reprogrammed to my specifications, each capable of targeting the alien tissue," Doc explains.
"Assimilating it," Chakotay says, switching off and stepping away from the viewer, asking up the question I had wondered about his solution in "Scorpion, Part I."
"Just momentarily," Doc says, readjusting the viewer's position slightly after removing the small canister with the sample nanoprobes. "After a few seconds the Borg technology will denaturate, taking the alien tissue with it."
Passing Kes who has been monitoring the now almost unrecognizable Harry Kim, Doc grabs a hypospray and inserts the canister. He tells Harry that he's going to inject something into the Ensign's carotid artery, that "you'll feel a tingling sensation--don't be alarmed." (I assume this is a joke. Harry is already enduring excruciating pain--I doubt a tickle will add much to his worries.)
The injection is made. Harry's sickly-yellow, tendril-covered eyes gradually change to the mottled grey of the Borg, followed a few seconds later by another shift to the off-white tint Harry's used to seeing in the mirror. Most of his face is still affected, but the antidote has clearly worked--47 DNA plus Borg nanotechnology plus Holodoc wizardry equals a win for humanity.
"Nice to see you again, Ensign," Doc says, smiling warmly, and Chakotay smiles at the boy as well. Harry's mouth is still covered, but his eyes flutter open and speak volumes of gratitude.
"It's working," Kes says happily. Doc orders another dose of nanoprobes. Chakotay gives Doc an attaboy and says to let him know when Harry's back on his feet. He turns to go.
Doc stops him. "I must tell you I have my doubts about this alliance. You may have convinced the Borg that the nanoprobes can defeat their enemy, but a medical treatment is a long way from a weapon of war."
"Leave that to the Captain," Chakotay says neutrally. He says the situation is unpredictable, and they're staying on red alert for the time being. "Keep all information about the nanoprobes stored in your holomatrix."
Doc assures the first officer that he'll delete himself at the first sign of trouble. "Well," he amends with a smirk, "maybe not the first sign." He rocks back on his heels, pleased with his effort to lighten the mood.
Chakotay gives a passable imitation of Janeway's glare-o-death before marching out of sickbay, leaving Doc with a "what did I say?" look in his eyes for a few seconds before he prepares Harry's next step back to genetic integrity.
Chakotay strides onto the bridge. His mood has been a thundercloud since the episode began, and forecasts for further funk are running at a brisk 100%.
Torres begins her status report as soon as she senses Chakotay's mood, several steps of the first officer himself. Tuvok is on the Cube; the Borg shields are regenerating. The tractor is still in place. Chakotay orders continuous transporter lock on both Tuvok and Captain. Torres says that it can't be done; the Borg will just match their frequencies and--
"I don't want to hear what we can't do, Lieutenant," Chakotay snaps. "Just find a way to get our people out of there if we have to."
Torres blanches. "Aye, sir." She actually looks scared of Chakotay in that moment. Or scared for him.
The ship lurches. Paris reports that the tractor beam has been severed. Chakotay orders Paris to match their course and speed. Paris remarks, "I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but it looks like the Borg are cooperating."
Chakotay looks at Paris sternly, but says nothing.
In Sickbay, we get a gratuitously lingering rear view of Kes in one of her form-fitting blue velvet outfits.
She's got her face centimeters from a Sickbay wall monitor, hands working the controls, as the camera approaches and slowly rises, taking its sweet time moving her backside out of the picture. (I have a feeling the cameraman is going to miss that girl.) By the time we finally get focus on the back of her head, a rasping noise and the hint of a reflection on the shiny monitor causes Kes to whip around and face her audience.
Kes looks around, but her section of Sickbay is deserted. She takes a few careful steps toward the center of the room.
And with the sound of thunder and heavy hoofbeats, a gigantic 47 is making its way toward her, looming and angry and bent on mayhem.
The least attractive thing by far about Kes is her scream. She could drop a yak at fifty yards with that utterly alien screech. Shields buckle, spinal columns decalcify, even Janeway's most potent glare is defused by that road-accident cacophany that is an Ocampa in distress.
She does an immediate duck-and-cover, that 1950s civil-defense gesture which guarantees safety from malevolent aliens, earthquakes, lava flow and nuclear blasts.
Doc is immediately at her side. "What is it?" he asks, concerned, clutching her shoulder protectively.
"They're watching us," she sobs. Doc's eye-widening subroutine kicks in about the same time as his brow-furrowing function. He knows Kes' mental abilities, knows that the 47's have been able to communicate with her already.
Unlike the dinosaurs, he knows, the 47's are likely not on a field trip.
Borg cubes all look pretty much the same. Variety is not a Collective priority. No Locutus posters line the walls, no fading photos of the old queen. Not even a "Best regards, V'Ger" autograph. Borg vessels are utilitarian, to be kind. But they get the job done, and at the moment the drones are going about their tasks in the most efficient matter they know how.
A couple of drones are escorting Janeway and Tuvok somewhere, though shoving them may be more accurate. One drone walks before them, his laser eye leading the way. Another follows from behind.
Tuvok asks where they're being taken. "Grid 92 of Subjunction 12," Janeway says with a touch of pride. "Our very own workspace; it's in the center of the Cube." She almost seems to be enjoying herself.
Tuvok hands her some of his findings about 47 bio-vessel composition, cross-referenced to Doc's medical findings. The big news is that they seem to be made of the same organic material. Janeway stops to confirm this, and they are shoved onward.
The Voice of the Collective announces their arrival in Grid 92 of Subjunction 12. The raised, blocking arm of a drone indicates that they are to proceed no further. "Proceed," the bodiless Voice says, from everywhere, from nowhere.
While Tuvok scans with his tricorder, Janeway speaks to the room itself, pacing, looking for some reaction. She reports that the alien ships seem to be composed of the same stuff as the aliens themselves, and this makes them (potentially) vulnerable to the same nanotechnology solution Doc has created. She suggests that they come up with a delivery system (read: weapon) that can be used to infect and destroy the ships at the micro--
A drone grabs Janeway and forces her to her knees. Another drone does the same to Tuvok.
"What are you doing?" Tuvok demands.
The Voice says, "we will begin." For maximum communication, the Collective announces, the two humans will be fitted with neural transceivers (like the one used on Chakotay in "Unity"). Drones fit them with neck-based linkups, mental modems as it were. "We will work as one mind. The link is temporary; you will not be damaged."
"No," says Janeway, "that wasn't the agreement. I prefer to communicate verbally, thank you."
"Your primitve communication is inefficient."
"On the contrary," Tuvok says more smoothly than could be expected under the circumstances. "We work better with our individuality intact. Surely we have proved that to you by now."
"Irrelevant; you must comply."
"We must do nothing," drawls Janeway. "Tell your drone to remove the transceiver."
In response, the drone moves to the activation controls.
"What about choosing a representative?" Janeway suggests. "A single Borg we can work with and talk to directly!"
A pause. "Elaborate."
"You did it before when you transformed Jean Luc Picard into Locutus. We will not be assimilated; choose a representative or the deal's off!" It is the voice of She Who Must Be Obeyed; there is no doubting her sincerity, or her determination.
When the activation controls are powered down, and the transceivers removed (Janeway's gently, Tuvok's a good deal less so), there is also no doubting the Borg's desire to preserve The Deal. Janeway's claim that "we've got the Borg over a barrel" would appear to be more than mere bluster.
Once again, the Borg submit to Janeway's demands. Once again, the Borg learn a valuable lesson:
Starfleet captains are formidable. So are redheads. Redheaded captains think the universe revolves around them...and damned if it doesn't.
When the attachment is removed, Janeway rolls her eyes in a mixture of relief and impatience. Tuvok's face shows merely relief.
The drones drag Tuvok roughly to his feet. It's a feeble gesture of strength. They let Janeway stand up on her own, I noticed. The Collective's respect for her seems obvious.
The other shoe drops. The Starfleeters' attention is drawn to an opening pod, where an impossibly-proportioned Borg female is in repose. Three miniature explosions sever umbilicals from her person, and she awakens quickly and strides toward Janeway.
The female is decked in the finest assimilated leather. (The term used online is "catsuit." And there is a Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns look about her--the pallor of her skin, the come-hither-at-your-peril look in her eye.) Her chest has been inflated to a minimum 45psi, and even the emotionless, centenarian Tuvok regards her with aesthetic appreciation. She's tall enough to make Janeway crane her neck just to peer over the Twin Peaks of Trekdom. She looks formidable, and she seems to be very aware of that fact. Her left eye and forehead are covered with a scanning prosthetic of some sort, her brain is wired for sound...but unlike most Borg, she seems to be in full possession of her original limbs.
If you had to be assimilated, you'd want her to do it to you.
"I speak for the Borg," the female says simply, doing her level best to be taller, bustier, prouder, deeper-voiced and smarter than a certain redhead.
These Borg are SO competitive....
* * *
I'll do my best not to obsess about the physical attrributes of the new cast member in future episodes...but I'd seem ungrateful to the producers for their casting choice if I didn't give heavy emphasis on Star Trek's answer to Xena.
They've gone to great lengths to find someone to fit the fantasies of the teen male demographic, since I seem to be one of the relatively few males on the planet who would walk a mile for a Mulgrew. So I might as well get this out of my system as soon as possible.
Since Jeri Ryan will likely be around for a while, the initial reaction to her appearance must eventually give way to an appraisal of her performance and of her overall value to the show. With luck, we'll see some glimmer of that before the hour is up. If not, the character--and the series--may be in trouble.
* * *
Janeway introduces herself and Tuvok.
"We are aware of your designations," the female says regally
"And what is your designation?" Janeway asks.
"Seven of Nine; tertiary adjunct to the unimatrix 01." (I've heard--though it isn't mentioned here--that the "Nine" of which she is Seven are fairly high up in the Borg heirarchy. She is clearly not your run-of-the-mill Spokesdrone.) Seven orbits Tuvok, breaching his personal space, appraising him as openly as he had her. He preens just a tad.
"But you may call me Seven of Nine," she continues, now orbiting Janeway in much the same way, and Janeway's posture straightens ever so slightly, knowing the Collective is watching.
"You are proposing a large-scale weapon. We concur."
"I thought you might," Janeway remarks dryly.
Tuvok suggests putting the nanoprobes into one of Voyager's photon torpedo tubes, in essence, turning them into "bio-molecular warheads."
"Your torpedoes are inadequate," Seven of Nine says. "They lack the necessary range and force."
Janeway asks if they have a better idea. "We are Borg," Seven sneers, as if the answer is obvious, and turns away without bothering to beckon them to follow.
"I'll take that as a yes," Tuvok says, his eyes all atwinkle. They follow.
Seven brings up a diagram. "A multikinetic neutronic mine. 5 million isoton yield." Tuvok notes that this would affect an entire star system. "Correct," Seven agrees simply. Janeway says that's a bit more than she had in mind; points out that Seven is proposing a weapon of mass destruction. "We are," says the ever-chatty Spokesborg.
"I'm not. You'd be endangering innocent worlds," Janeway says.
"It would be efficient," says Seven, walking away yet again.
Tuvok notes that it would take 50 trillion nanoprobes to fill such a weapon, and that would take weeks. "You're losing this war; you don't have that long," he notes.
Seven halts in her tracks and turns around.
"The enemy believes it's invulnerable," Janeway points out. "If we create smaller weapons--using our torpedoes--and destroy a few of their bioships, it may deter them, convince them to give up this war."
Seven sneers yet again. "You are individuals. You are small and you think in small terms..."
Seven stops her tirade in mid-rant. Her eye begins shifting back and forth, and it's clear the Collective is giving her an attitude adjustment. (Yo, Seven--ridicule is irrelevant. Shut up and listen to the redhead.)
As suddenly as she had walked away, Seven returns to the instrument panel where she had left Janeway and Tuvok, once again speaking for the pragmatic will of the Collective. "But the present situation requires that we consider your plan." Janeway says nothing, knowing once again that she's won a small battle of wills with the Collective, too gracious to rub it in.
Seven pulls up a new screen. "Voyager's weapons inventory," she begins, and Janeway and Tuvok share a shocked look. "Photon torpedo complement 32, class-six warheads. Explosive yield, 200 isotons."
Tuvok asks, "How did you obtain this information?"
Seven looks at him like he's an idiot. "We are Borg."
Tuvok shrugs. "Naturally." He and Janeway share a look. However well things seem to be going, they both recognize that their current collaborator is a formidable foe.
And, as they watch Seven of Nine at work, both recognize with chagrin that even among Borg ambassadors, diplomacy is irrelevant.
Voyager travels at high warp beside the much larger Cube, as stars streak by.
"We have disturbing news," Doc reports.
"At this point I'm getting used to it."
"Her telepathic visions are increasing," Doc says, "both in frequency and intensity."
It feels different this time, Kes adds, almost like they're right here in the room.
Another vision hits. Kes sees the alien in close-up, stares directly into its telepathic eyes.
"I'm trying to block them out," she says, "but I can't."
"There's another one," Doc says, as Kes' eyes roll up into her head. We see Kes reflected in the 47's monstrous, blinking eye.
"Every time she has a vision, specific regions of her cerebral cortex go into hyperstimulation. Memory engrams, perceptual centers...I can't be sure, but I think there's more going on here than just a simple Hello."
Sounds to me like the 47's are setting up a communications center.
While Janeway and Tuvok work on the detonators, Seven of Nine returns. "We must analyze the data on the bioship," she says without preamble. "Your Data." The inferred verb is "gimme," and Janeway reads it loud and clear. She purses her lips and hands over the padd containing the bioship information. Seven whirls around and walks away.
As Seven works at another console, Janeway leans against the bulkhead, regarding her, something approaching curiosity (or is it compassion?) in her voice.
"You're human, aren't you?" Janeway asks.
"This body was assimilated 18 years ago. It ceased to be human at that time."
"I'm curious; what was your name before--"
Seven cuts her off. "Do not engage us in further irrelevant discourse," she snaps.
The croak of an assimilated bullfrog notifies Seven that there's an incoming hail from Voyager. Seven activates a comm panel for Janeway. Chakotay's face fills the small circular screen.
"Commander, what is it?" Janeway asks, no hint of rancor in her voice.
Chakotay informs her that the aliens have hacked their way into Kes' brain, and are accessing her memory.
"If that's true, they may already know what we're planning," Janeway says. Chakotay says they've begun long-range scans for singularities, but nothing's shown up so far.
Janeway recommends to Seven that they change course.
"Agreed," says Seven, who stands silent for a couple of seconds. "Our course and heading have been changed," she says. "Match it," says Janeway, "and keep me apprized of any change in Kes." Chakotay acknowledges and the transmission ends.
As conversations go, this was their least strained of the episode. Nothing like a crisis--and an agreed-upon course of action--to get these two working well together.
Seven walks away and Janeway follows.
"We now require one of your photon torpedoes and a few million nanoprobes," Seven says with her usual cheeriness.
"One step at a time," Janeway reminds her evenly. "We're not safely across your territory yet."
"We must construct and test a prototype. Now. The risk of attack has increased." There is a hint of urgency in Seven's voice.
"Irrelevant," replies Janeway (ha ha!). "We had an agreement. You're asking me to give up our only guarantee that you won't assimilate us. I won't risk it." Janeway's tone is diplomatic, but resolute.
"Are you willing to risk a direct confrontation with us?" Seven asks in a tone as seductive as it is deadly. Janeway's eyes go wide. "If we were to transport 500 drones onto your vessel, do you think you could offer sufficient resistance?"
"We'd die trying," says Janeway, her mouth smirking and her eyes projecting their best make-my-day challenge.
And another domino falls. Seven, silent for a few seconds, takes the pulse of the Collective. "That won't be necessary," she says, and gets back to work on the launching mechanism as Janeway allows herself yet another exhalation of relief that the Borg know their survival depends on Janeway's cooperation.
The turbolift doors open, and Harry Kim steps out, looking pleased as punch to be alive and well again. Chakotay welcomes Harry back to the land of the living and orders him to his station; Paris offers a friendly "hey, you're not repulsive anymore!" And just when things are getting back to normal, B'Elanna leans in and says, "you've still got a tendril up your nose." (I hear there's an inside joke behind this line.) Harry's hand shoots up in panic, then he allows himself a brief smirk at the Gotcha.
The tender moment is broken up by Paris' announcement that a singularity is forming. Everyone knows what that means.
"We are under attack," says Seven of Nine.
Chakotay orders shields up and a transporter lock on Janeway and Tuvok.
But for once, the target of the 47's is not a Borg vessel or planet, but Voyager herself.
The bioship's weapons spank Voyager, hard. The Cube fires back, but it's clear the weapons have no effect; the energy blasts flow over it like water.
"Voyager has taken heavy damage," Tuvok reports.
Seven of Nine declares that the nanoprobes must not be destroyed.
When the bioship closes in for the kill, the Cube cuts in front of it, absorbing shots meant for Voyager. Energy discharges blow Borg from their resting stations. Janeway does a Duck and Cover, and another blast of electric death tosses her to the middle of the room, unconscious.
The Borg vessel collides with the 47 ship. Bioship and Borg go boom in a big way.
Crawling to his feet, Chakotay demands the Cube's status. "Destroyed," Paris reports bleakly. "It took the bioship with it."
Tuvok hails the bridge.
"Where are you?" Chakotay asks. Cargo Bay Two, Tuvok reports, struggling to maintain consciousness. "Along with Captain Janeway and a number of Borg. We beamed out just before the collision. We need medical assistance..."
Chakotay gets nothing further from the Vulcan. He orders the deck sealed, and has security meet him there with the Big Guns. He gives Paris the bridge. (Chakotay gives Paris the bridge? His mind must be elsewhere....) Paris acknowledges, but stays at helm. Right now, he wouldn't trust anyone else at his controls.
Chakotay, a medic and two security drones (whoops, did I say that?) appear in Cargo Bay Two, weapons drawn. One looks like a member of Right Said Fred ("I'm too sexy for the Borg...") after a few too many steroids.
The woman looks like That Girl. Only better armed.
Tuvok and Janeway are both lying unconscious. Janeway has a nasty, bloody gash along the length of her face. After sweeping that part of the room for hostile Borg, Chakotay nods to the medic and moves on with the big bald dude.
A long, slender, and no-doubt lethal arm points at them. "Lower your weapons," a familiar voice says.
Chakotay stares. So does the bald guy.
Seven of Nine lowers her arm. "We are here with your captain's consent," she says, standing in profile. The security guy begins to drool.
"It was necessary to sacrifice our vessel to protect yours," she says with no trace of emotion for her fallen comrades. She strolls closer to Chakotay, whose weapon has not lowered, nor his face registered any hint of comprehension at what she's saying. He seems paralyzed at the sight of Borg, overwhelmed by the memory of his own brief assimilation.
The Security Boy is now whimpering like a puppy, biting the palm of his hand and making Curly-like nyuk-nyuk noises.
Seven of Nine invades Chakotay's personal space. "We have an alliance, do we not?" she asks slowly, as if to a child, apparently deciding that the Commander hasn't quite evolved to the same level of intelligence as Janeway.
Chakotay's mouth slowly opens. Nothing comes out.
Seven of Nine rolls her eyes. "Men," she sneers.
* * *
In Sickbay, Doc works on Janeway while Kes examines Tuvok, who is seated on the diagnostic bed and looking much better. Chakotay fills Tuvok in on the current status of the Borg, and explains the counter measures they've taken. So far, they've completely assimilated Cargo Bay 2 and begun integrating their systems (the whole Borg subsection had been beamed aboard) with Voyager's power systems.
"But they've gone no further," Tuvok asks. Chakotay nods, still having a hard time believing that the Borg are sticking to the agreement. But even Tuvok, who has seen the alliance in action, has enough healthy paranoia left to recommend further security measures, such as extra security around sickbay--which Chakotay has already implemented.
Kes gives Tuvok a clean bill of health and lets him get back to duty. "And you, Kes?" Tuvok asks. She averts her gaze, stares at the floor, and says "I'm all right; the visions have stopped for now." She doesn't look even close to all right. She runs away.
Doc comes away from Janeway's bed, and whispers his diagnosis to Chakotay and Tuvok, who explains that the injury occurred when an alien energy discharge exploded near her, too potent even for the vaunted Duck and Cover. The burns, contusions, lacerations, breaks--no problem, Doc says. "But her neural pathways are scrambled, and it's going to take some...creative thinking to correct them." He says he'll need to put Janeway into a coma to faciliate the healing process, but unless luck is on their side, she may never recover.
Chakotay orders Tuvok to make sure the Borg stay put. Tuvok exits. Doc tells Chakotay the captain wants to talk with him--but please keep it brief.
Chakotay races to her side. She looks as bad as she ever has, even in "Before and After" when she died.
"The doctor...explained my condition. You are in command," she says groggily.
"I understand," he says softly.
"They'll push you; they'll threaten you; but they need you. They need this alliance." Janeway, half-lidded and possibly blind, raises her left arm, finds his shoulder, and grasps it.
"You have to make this work. I want you to make this work!" It's less an order than a plea from the depths of her soul. "Get this crew home..." she mutters with the fervency of a dying woman's last request.
Doc steps forward and says he must begin now. Chakotay clasps her hand in his and gently places it on the table. He gives no answer. Promises nothing. He knows that any effort to reassure her would be a lie.
Chakotay, That Girl and Security Boy go back to Cargo Bay Two, once again armed to the teeth. They note the bustle of Borg activity, the heavy construction, the doodads and thingamajigs and Rube Goldberg machines that are the Borg hallmarks. They finally locate Seven of Nine.
"Where is your captain?" Seven demands, no less arrogant than usual. "I must speak with her."
"In our medical bay, recovering," says Chakotay. "You'll be dealing with me now."
Ooh, that's intimidating.
"Circumstances have changed," Seven states. Chakotay agrees.
"The loss of our vessel requires that we modify our agreement," she says.
"I've been giving that some thought," Chakotay says. "I'm willing to let you stay on board. We'll continue working with you on the weapon. But once we're safely out of Borg territory, we'll give you the nanoprobes, shake hands and part company."
"Insufficient," says Seven, stepping off the platform and marching to a Borg computer column. "Our latest tactical projections indicate that the war will be lost by then." She slaps one of the controls to activate it. (The Borg use a Clapper?) She shows him the location of the nearest Cube--40 lightyears away. "You will change course and take us to it."
Chakotay points out that it's a five day journey at maximum warp, and in the wrong direction to boot. "We're not going that way."
"There is no alternative," says Seven. At least none she's willing to let Chakotay choose from.
At this point in the argument earlier in the episode, Janeway PROVIDED alternatives to Seven. Chakotay says "I'll abide by the original agreement, but going back is too dangerous."
Seven turns her torso toward him without moving her gaze, or her head. It's kinda cool in an Exorcist kinda way. "Denying our request is also dangerous," Seven says dangerously, her large, grey eye almost completely overrun with the infinite blackness of the iris.
The staring contest is brief. Chakotay blinks. "I'll think about it."
Seven's lip curls. "Think quickly," she says dismissively, and walks away. There's no two ways about it--Chakotay looks spooked.
The conference room contains all the senior staff. Chakotay sits at the head. The view makes the table look like a gigantic arrow, or pointed target, embedded in the Commander's chest.
Chakotay says the Borg demand to change course is too risky; the 47's know about them and what they carry, and they might as well have a target painted on the hull. He says Species 8472 considers them a prime target, and he won't make it easy on them by going back into the heart of Borg Space (where they are within Borg space, we have no idea. We know it's vast, and they're still in it, and they'd still be in it after 40 lightyears' travel. But they were in Kazon space for 2000 lightyears, approximately, just to put it into perspective.)
"What's the alternative?" Neelix asks.
"I'm ending the alliance. Here and now."
The faces of the senior staff register varying degrees of shock. For all the perils of the alliance with the Borg, they all know that so far, it's worked, and they've survived un-assimilated coexistence longer than any crew since Picard's when Hugh was aboard. For all their initial reservations about Janeway's plan, it's the only thing that's worked so far. The Borg just sealed their end of the bargain with an exploded Cube and the loss of all but a handful of drones to save Janeway and the agreement.
Chakotay says they will drop the Borg off on the next uninhabited planet along with the nanoprobes and they'll be on their way; a Cube can come pick them up. "I'm in command now, and I have to do what I think is best for the ship and crew." He tells Paris to find a nearby planet.
"Aye, sir," Paris says.
"The Borg will not go quietly," Tuvok warns.
"We'll see." He orders the female "drone" brought to him.
Chakotay explains to Seven, under heavy guard, what he'd told the staff about dropping them off on a planet.
"Unacceptable," Seven of Nine says haughtily. "We don't have time to--"
Chakotay cuts her off. "This is not up for discussion. I'm not turning this ship around." He regards her coolly. "You're getting what you wanted. I suggest we part ways amicably." He lowers his gaze to the padd in his hands, ending the discussion.
"There is another option," Seven says, continuing it. "We could assimilate your vessel--"
"If a single drone steps one millimeter outside of that cargo bay, I'll decompress the entire deck. You won't pose much of a threat floating in space."
Matching threat for threat. Not good. Shows weakness.
Seven of Nine's suspicions are confirmed: she's dealing with an inferior being.
"When your captain first approached us we suspected that an agreement with humans would prove impossible to maintain. You are erratic, conflicted, disorganized. Every decision is debated, every action questioned. Every individual entitled to their own small opinion. You lack harmony, cohesion...greatness. It will be your undoing," she drawls finally.
"Escort our guest back to the cargo bay," Chakotay says, probably thinking of a thousand examples in human history that prove the Borg's point, and coming up awfully short on counterexamples.
Janeway lies naked and comatose on the biobed, covered by a grey sickbay-issue sheet, when Chakotay enters (all we need now is a monkey). He leans over her, regards the unconscious figure who has changed his life so dramatically the past three years, and grimaces. The weight of responsibility is more than he seems capable of carrying, and he knows it.
"Well, I've made my decision. If it were only a matter of going against the orders of my superior officer...but you're more than just my captain; you're my friend. I hope you'll understand."
Even if she doesn't, he hopes she'll recover enough to throw him in the brig.
He hovers over her in silence a long time.
* * *
The battle rages between Borg and 47. Green Borg beams clash with orange bioship beams. The destruction is decidedly one-sided.
The Collective reports the devastation to Seven of Nine and the other drones. "Species 8472 has penetrated Matrix 010 grid 19. Eight planets destroyed. 312 vessels disabled. Four million six hundred twenty-one Borg eliminated. We must seize control of the Alpha Quadrant vessel and take it into the alien realm."
We understand, says Seven of Nine. Two drones open a Jefferies tube, and Seven of Nine crawls inside.
Paris reports that they've orbited a "class H moon--oxygen/argon atmosphere."
"That'll do." He tells Paris to secure orbit, and tells Tuvok to prepare to beam the Borg straight from the cargo bay onto the planet.
Harry Kim reports the Borg have accessed deflector controls. Chakotay tells Kim to shut them out.
Seven of Nine is part computer herself. She wins the hacker war with Kim without breaking a sweat. The deflector grid activates, and sends out a burst of Borg-green energy.
Torres reports that a singularity is forming. Chakotay hails the cargo bay, and warns them if they don't back off he'll blow their butts out the airlock. Torres and Paris react strongly to this, but say nothing. After counting to three (a very quick count), Chakotay gives the order, and Tuvok follows it without hesitation.
The doors to Cargo Bay Two open. A great rush of air exits, taking with it Borg after Borg (but no equipment or other flotsam, I noticed--odd). In the end, all the Borg get expelled from Voyager like snot from a particularly violent sneeze. (Okay, okay, so I need to work on my alliteration. Or is that a metaphor? Sigh.) The last thing they see (if they happen to be looking) is the exterior of the ship with nice raised "VOYAGER" lettering to the left of the cargo bay.
I never noticed it there before. Cool.
All the Borg, that is, but one. Or rather, Seven.
Resiliant little drone, isn't she? She's got spunk, I'll give her that. She manages to grab a handhold on the conveniently-ridged innards of the crawlspace.
Tuvok reports the cargo bay decompression is complete. Kim says he still doesn't have deflector control. Tuvok says that a single Borg apparently survived.
Paris shouts, "We're going in!" and Voyager gets sucked into the singularity (I didn't realize singularities were that big....)
They leave the universe and arrive...somewhere else.
No planets, no stars, Paris reports.
There is no space, Torres reports next. Only fluidic matter. (Speaking of snot....)
No wonder them 47's is so uppity. They live in BoogerSpace.
Seven of Nine hails Chakotay from the now-exposed Cargo Bay 2. Surprisingly, her voice carries pretty well in a vacuum. (Oh yeah, they're not in a vacuum anymore. They're floating in mucus.) She says they've entered the fluidic domain of species 8472, and orders him to Cargo Bay 2. (Have you noticed Chakotay gets ordered around a lot by powerful women? Janeway, Seska, Riley, that dinosaur matriarch, now a Spokesborg....)
Chakotay orders the cargo bay repressurized, takes Tuvok with him, and hands the bridge to Paris for the second time today. Perhaps their disagreements and bad blood are behind them.
Chakotay and Tuvok and the official episode security folks enter cargo bay two as Seven of Nine briefs them on their current locale. She tells them that their arrival has already been noted, and that vessels will arrive within a little more than three hours (three hours seventeen minutes, to be exact...hey, waitaminit...three plus the one from the tens place is four, then the seven in the ones place--DING DING DING DING! You gotta love those subtle Forty Seven references.)
Chakotay notes that she knows an awful lot about this area of space for...waitaminit. "You've been here before, haven't you? How else would you know about fluidic space?"
Seven of Nine ignores him, stating what they need to do to prepare for the coming confrontation, starting with the construction of those nanoprobe torpedoes.
Chakotay won't let the question die. He finally hits on the truth of it.
"You started this war, didn't you? What's the matter? Our galaxy wasn't big enough for you? You had to conquer new territory? But this race fought back. You found a race as malevolent as your own."
"Species 8472 was more resistant than we anticipated. Their technology is biogenically engineered; it is superior to that of all other species we have previously encountered."
"Which is precisely what you wanted," Tuvok suggested.
"They are the apex of biological evolution. Their assimilation would have greatly added to our own perfection."
"So instead of assimilating these aliens, you opened the door for them to our galaxy," Tuvok says.
Seven strides toward him. "There is only one course of action. Destroy them first." She explains that her link to the Collective is weakened by their location. "We cannot signal for help; we are alone." She repeats their need--warheads with nanoprobes. Now.
"I've got a better idea," says Chakotay. "Open that rift back up and send us back to the Delta Quadrant."
"If I do that you will no longer cooperate," Seven says, and nobody disagrees.
Doc hails Chakotay. "You're needed in Sickbay. Now."
Doc is smiling happily when Chakotay enters. The Commander's face is filled with conflicting emotions.
Janeway is alive, conscious, dressed, leaning against her former sickbed...and chewing nails, and deliberately averting her eyes from Chakotay.
"Captain?" Chakotay says. Thrilled she's alive and well. But not looking forward to delivering his status report.
Doc notices him and smiles even more broadly. "As you can see, I've repaired her neural damage. Mr. Kim, the Captain...I'm two for two!" He's understandably pleased with himself.
Janeway's voice is frighteningly calm given her body language. "Doctor, if you'll excuse us for a moment, please." Doc looks back at her in confusion, looks at Chakotay, looks back at the captain, mumbles a bit, then races through his order to the computer to deactivate him in a voice of unadulterated panic.
Smart program. Things is about to get ugly.
Janeway finally looks at Chakotay, padd in hand. "The doctor has brought me more or less up to speed on our current situation," she says, approaching him like a cheetah approaches a gazelle, "but he couldn't answer the question I really want to know. Why?"
Chakotay says defensively that the Collective ordered them to backtrack forty lightyears back into Borg space. "What would you have done?"
"I would have changed course and maintained the alliance as long as possible," Janeway says, her voice still cold and even. I'm just waiting for her to launch a kick straight at his temple.
"In my mind the alliance was already over," Chakotay says.
"You never trusted me, you never believed this would work, you were just waiting for an opportunity to circumvent my orders." She whispers the accusation. Flames shoot out her mouth and set his tattoo ablaze.
"Trust had nothing to do with it," Chakotay protests. "I made a tactical decision."
"And so did I," Janeway says, her voice rising for the first time.
"They've been taking advantage of us since Day One," says Chakotay.
"We made concessions; so did they," Janeway says.
"They lied," Chakotay says forcefully. "The Borg started the war with Species 8472."
Janeway has no response to this. As the first officer's words sink in, her eyes shoot right, then left, and she walks away, caught up in thought.
"We've only got one Borg left to worry about," Chakotay says. "We should try to disable her and get back to the Delta Quadrant. We might be able to use their equipment to open a singularity."
Janeway considers this new information, and Chakotay's recommendation. "No," she says finally, not facing him, her head in full profile. "I won't be caught tinkering with the deflector when those aliens attack."
She turns to Chakotay. "There is no other way out of this, Chakotay; it's too late for opinions, it's too late for discussion; it's time to make the call! And I'm making it. We fight the aliens in full cooperation with the Borg!"
I recall a time when Janeway made a similar unilateral decision, in Caretaker. Torres, angrily demanding to know what gave Janeway the right to make the call, was stopped by Chakotay. "She's the Captain," he'd said simply. Her ship, her commission, her responsibility...her call.
I have a feeling that if Torres were here now, she'd be telling Chakotay the same thing. She's not Captain just because Chakotay says so. It's unfortunate that he seems to have forgotten that.
Chakotay steps toward her. "I was linked to a Collective once--remember? I had a neural transceiver embedded in my spine. I know who we're dealing with! We've got to get rid of that last Borg and take our chances alone!"
She steps toward him. "It won't work." At this point they're practically nose to nose.
They break, walking in separate directions, passing on opposite sides of a medical panel ("bread and butter" they say to each other along the way--what does that mean, anyway?) each pacing with frustration.
"This isn't working either," Janeway says at last. "There are two wars going on out there--one out there, one in here--and we're losing both of them."
Chakotay reacts as if stung. He stares off into space, the words of Seven of Nine coming back to him. "'It will be your undoing,'" he quotes.
"What?" demands Janeway, who wasn't there when the line was originally spoken, and is understandably taken aback at Chakotay's words.
"Our conflicted nature," Chakotay explains, deflating like a balloon. "Our individuality. Seven of Nine said we lacked the cohesion of a Collective mind. That one day it would divide us and destroy us. And here we are...proving her point."
"I'll tell you when we lost control of this situation, when we made our mistake--it was the moment we turned away from each other." She smiles. "We don't have to stop being individuals to get through this; we just have to stop fighting each other."
Chakotay considers her words silently.
Voyager flies at impulse through the mucilaginous fluid space of Species 8472.
Tuvok escorts Seven of Nine to the bridge. When the Borg sees Janeway alive and well, her voice takes on a hint--just a hint--of hard-earned respect. "Captain Janeway," she says.
"I've relieved Mr. Chakotay of his duties and confined him to the brig," Janeway says. "I'm back in command."
"And you understand the situation," Seven says, more a statement than a question.
"Completely," Janeway says with a tight smile.
The captain turns to Tuvok "give her the nanoprobes; work with her. Build as many warheads as you can. And start modifying our weapons systems. I'd suggest we think about enhancing our defenses as well. If we're going to fight this battle, I intend to win it."
"We are in agreement," says Seven, glad to have a woman back in charge.
"Good." Like you got a choice.
Janeway addresses the bridge crew. "This is the plan. We engage the enemy here, in their space. We show them what they're up against; if they have any sense of self-preservation they'll back off. Pull their ships out of the Delta Quadrant."
Janeway allows herself a bit of gallows humor. She smiles. "That's provided the weapons are effective; if they aren't," she says to all, but looking straight at Seven of Nine, "it's been nice working with you." Seven rolls her eye in a universally-understood Oh-Brother.
Janeway lets her gaze lock on Seven of Nine for a few seconds more, then heads for the big chair. "We've got to get this ship armed and ready in under two hours." She sits, and crosses her legs regally.
"We're going to war," she says, passing the death sentence on Species 8472...or on themselves.
Kim and Tuvok share a look. Seven of Nine looks around, seemingly impressed with the activity around her. She sees the crew acting (for once) in harmony, cohesion.
As Seven paces behind Janeway's command chair, Janeway's eyes speak volumes about her frame of mind, about the events about to unfold.
* * *
Two hours later...
Kes is sitting in Chakotay's chair. Janeway is in the Big Chair. Tuvok and Kim are at their stations, as are Paris and Torres. Seven of Nine stands between Kim and Kes.
Kim reports that Borg modifications are complete.
"Bring them online," Janeway orders.
The hull of Voyager glows an unfamiliar green in a dozen places.
"Torpedo launch tubes active. Hull armor engaged. Shield enhancements stable," reports Kim.
"Biomolecular weapons are ready," Tuvok adds. "Thirteen standard photon torpedoes and one Class Ten armed with a high-yield warhead."
"All hands, this is the captain," Janeway says. "Ready your stations, seal all emergency bulkheads, and prepare to engage the enemy. Stand by for my order."
Four bioships fly towards the Starship. Paris so states.
(Say it along with her, kids!) "Battlestations," says Janeway. (That makes it official. It's a Voyager episode, and Action Kate is back.)
Kim's got a visual; Janeway orders it on screen.
While the crew looks on, the aliens hail Kes. We see a brief flash of the gargantuan, throbbing mantis-like skull and animalistic eyes. (Where's Space Ghost when you need him?)
"I can hear them," says Kes; "they want to talk through me. They say we've contaminated their realm." Her breath quickens; her eyes go wide.
"Tell them we had no choice; we were only trying to defend ourselves," Janeway whispers.
"They say our galaxy is impure; its proximity is a threat to their genetic integrity."
"Tell them we have a weapon; a devastating weapon that can destroy them at the cellular level. If they don't stop their attacks on the Delta Quadrant we'll be forced to use it."
Kes is rigid, forcing herself to remain calm. "They said, 'your galaxy will be purged.'" She looks at Janeway, frightened by the aliens, her eyes urging Janeway to silence the voices.
In come the bio-ships, weapons blazing. Voyager gets nailed. Hard. Bodies fly. Consoles smoke.
Kim reports what's offline. Tuvok reroutes power to the weapons. Paris yells that the aliens are coming around for another pass. Tuvok says the weapons are now locked, loaded, and ready to go.
"Fire," says Janeway.
Four green globes lash out from Voyager.
All four reach their targets, bathing the bio-ships in sickly green.
"Direct hit on all four vessels," reports Tuvok. He pauses. "No effect."
Janeway's eyes go wide. Oh, damn.
"They're charging weapons!" Kim says, expecting death at any moment.
One of the alien ships comes in, then stutters, crystalizes, turns the same sickly shade of green...and explodes.
The other three do the same within a few seconds of each other.
"The nanoprobes were successful...if not prompt," says Tuvok dryly. "All four ships have been destroyed."
"I think we've made our point," says Janeway, more casually than the situation merits. She turns to Seven of Nine. "Now open a singularity and get us out of here."
Seven of Nine walks over to a console, shoves a guy with the red shoulder pads of Command Track out of the way, and begins working the controls.
Janeway notes the Spokesborg's attitude toward her crew and drills eyeholes into the female's back. She may have allied herself with the Borg out of necessity, but she has no illusions about maintaining a friendship with them.
The singularity is created; Voyager exits.
And is immediately set upon by well over a dozen bio-ships (a very cool visual, BTW). Paris informs the captain.
"Kes, are you still in contact?" Janeway asks. She is. "Tell them if they don't back off we'll use the weapon again."
Kes is silent for a moment. "They're not responding."
Janeway tells Tuvok to ready the high-yield warhead in the aft torpedo bay, and tells Paris to begin evasive maneuvers.
The alien ships begin firing. Orange lightning nails Voyager's aft.
"Torpedo is ready, Captain," says Tuvok.
"Do it," growls Janeway.
A huge glob of green spits out from Voyager's neck, flying backwards at her pursuers. It detonates in the center of the approaching horde, and goes nova. The effect is a little more immediate this time; over a dozen 47's vessels are incinerated in telepathic agony.
"Kickass," the portly Ensign Cartman wheezes.
Voyager is rocked by the explosions, but comes out of it smelling like a rose. The only casualty is Ensign Kenny, who is decapitated when Torres giddily head-butts him to celebrate their survival. His remains are immediately beset by carnivorous mice.
"Oh my gosh, they killed Kenny!" yells Ensign Stan. Assistant cook Jimbo eulogizes the fallen comrade with a soulful rendition of "Love My Evil Woman."
(Whoops, sorry; I must have taped over this part with an episode of South Park.)
"Thirteen alien vessels have been destroyed," Tuvok announces. "The others are in retreat."
"You've messed with the wrong woman," Janeway mutters.
Seven of Nine speaks. "I'm back in contact with the Collective," she says.
Janeway turns to look at her. "What are they saying?"
Seven of Nine reports that all remaining Species 8472 vessels are returning to their realm. She smiles with satisfaction. "The Borg have prevailed," she declares.
"With a little help from us," reminds Janeway, being truly modest--Voyager could well have kicked '47 hiney without ANY help from da Borg, but the Borg couldn't have done it at all without the puny Alpha Quadrant vessel and its fractious crew.
Janeway stands, as Seven of Nine begins walking.
"Now, it's time for you to hold up your end of the bargain. I expect you to honor your grant of safe passage. We'll be on our way; you can take one of our shuttlecraft (we've got more than we know what to do with, after all) ."
"Unacceptable," says Seven of Nine, now facing Janeway, looking like the cat about to eat the canary. "This alliance is terminated. Your ship and its crew will be adapted to service us."
Seven of Nine advances toward the helm station. Paris gets out of the way, then fires his phaser. Her personal shielding glows green, protecting her easily; her forward progress isn't even slowed. She bats Paris aside like the girlie-man he is. (Interesting. Usually at least ONE phaser blast works before the Borg shields adapt.)
Seven of Nine plunges her two assimilation tubules into the helm controls. Kim reports what Seven is doing. Janeway orders Kim to block her out, but it's futile; that battle is over before it starts.
"Bridge to Chakotay," says Janeway. She whispers the last word: "Scorpion."
Doc fits Chakotay with a neural transceiver. He's done this before, so he plunges straight into a fairly one-sided conversation with Seven of Nine.
"Seven of Nine; stop what you're doing; you're a human," Chakotay says through the link. "A human individual. Our minds are linked; we are one. I can hear your thoughts."
"His link is stable but it won't be for long," says Doc to Torres, monitoring Chakotay closely. "You must hurry."
"Just a few more seconds," says Torres.
"I can see your memories; you remember being human," says Chakotay. He sees a happy little blonde girl running through a field.
"We are Borg," Seven mutters tightly, distracted from her efforts.
"I see a young girl; a family." She was a cute, giggling blonde girl, the daughter of two cute, laughing blonde parents, frolicking in a grassy meadow.
"Irrelevant," says Seven, to nobody in particular on the bridge. "Your appeal to my humanity is pointless."
"Almost there, Chakotay." says Torres. "You've got to keep her distracted if this is going to work!"
Listen to your human side; to yourself. The little girl.
Seven of Nine continues to struggle.
Seven of Nine--Anika! Her name was Anika, Trivia Buffs....
"He's losing the link!" says Doc. Chakotay starts to shudder.
"Initiating the power surge...now!" Yells Torres. She flicks a switch, and Borg machinery lights up.
Chakotay's neural transceiver starts to spark in a big way.
On the bridge, Seven of Nine snaps upright, paralyzed. Her eye goes wide. An arc of green lightning arcs between two nodes on her suit.
Chakotay's connection with the link is severed when the transceiver explodes in a fit of sparks. He screams once and falls to the ground, unconscious.
Seven of Nine's scream is the sound of her soul being ripped through the back of her skull, the forceful amputation of her useless limb from the Body Collective. Speaking of her skull...it also lights up in a shower of sparks, and she slumps over in a smoking heap like Michael Jackson in a Pepsi commercial.
Standing over the once-cocky Borg is Captain Kathryn Janeway, her eyes molten steel. Two ego-mad species now lie in smoking ruin at her command.
"Kickass," says Ensign Cartman.
Tuvok reports that Seven of Nine's link with the Collective has been severed. "Get her to sickbay," orders Janeway. Tuvok lifts and drags her to the turbolift.
Janeway hails the Doctor for status on Chakotay. "He'll be all right," Doc reports, "Though he may wake up with a bit of a headache." He smirks--he loves this bedside manner stuff Kes has taught him.
Janeway tells Paris to plot a course out of Borg space, Maximum Warp.
"Yes Ma'am," Paris says, exhaling his relief sharply.
Captain's Log, Stardate 51003.7. Three days and no sign of Borg or bio ships. We appear to be out of danger. But the crew is on edge, and so am I. Not even the calm of Master Da Vinci's workshop is enough to ease my mind.
Janeway composes her log with a quill pen and vellum paper, by the light of a dozen candles and a roaring fire. Venice is slumbering in the dark of a medieval night.
The electric whine of Holodeck doors indicates a visitor come calling. Janeway seems to know who it is. She rests her head in the palm of her hand, lost in thought.
"Am I interrupting?" asks Chakotay.
"Not at all. I'm just finishing up my log."
"The old-fashiioned way."
I wanted to get as far away from bio-implants and fluidic space and ... this feels more human somehow."
"I hate to spoil the mood," Chakotay says. He notes that it will take at least two weeks to remove all the Borg modifications--and that Torres says some of their systems are working better with the new setups.
"Leave them," Janeway says; why mess with improvements? "How is our passenger?"
(Poetic justice, I think. "Your technological and biological distinctiveness will be added to ours," I believe is how the Borg put it to Species 8472 at the beginning of this saga. Voyager has done exactly that with Borg technology and Borg biology...)
"The doctor says she's stabilizing. Her human cells are starting to regenerate."
"I wonder what's left underneath all that Borg technology," Janeway says. "If she can ever become human again."
"You're planning to keep her on board," says Chakotay, uncomfortable with the idea.
"We pulled the plug...we're responsible for what happens to her now."
"She was assimilated at a very young age; the Collective is all she knows. She might not want to stay." Chakotay, having shared her thoughts and memories, does have a bit of unique insight on the subject.
"I think she might," says Janeway, who walks over to the warmth and light of the hologaphic fire. "We have something the Borg could never offer...friendship." She regards Chakotay meaningfully.
Chakotay clutches one of da Vinci's high-backed chairs, struggling to find the words he knows he must say. "I want you to know that disobeying your orders was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do."
"I understand. And I--respect the decision you made, even though I disagree with it. What's important is that in the end we got through this, together. I don't ever want that to change."
"Agreed," says Chakotay.
"Good. Well. I think it's time we got back to our bridge."
"No argument there."
They exit the Renaissance, and reenter the 24th century.
Seven of Nine lies face-up on the diagnostic bed in sickbay. Still dressed in her impossible Borg attire, still fitted with all of her cybernetic Borg implants. Her face looks a good deal less mottled with Borg Grey than it had, and the pinkness of humanity is slowly returning. There's little sign that she's breathing (the outfit may not allow it.
The final shot makes it virtually impossible to ignore her incredible figure.
First off...welcome to the new season.
I think we could rename this episode, "Foolish Pride." And there's a lot of it to go around.
I may have to start with myself.
Naah. I'll save that for last.
* * *
Consider the Borg and their catch-phrase, "resistance is futile." That's a heck of a gauntlet to fling in the face of everyone you meet. It virtually guarantees resistance will be attempted. It makes your job harder.
And eventually, you're going to run into someone meaner than you are. Look for trouble long enough, you will find it.
We learn that the Borg brought their near-extinction on themselves. They wanted to "improve on [their] own perfection." They sought out Species 8472 because of what they saw as that species' genetic advantages. They didn't count on those advantages being too much for them to handle.
The Borg as a whole are represented only in part by Seven of Nine. Much of the pride she present is personal. It's not a Collective thing; Hugh, that adorable man-child barely out of his teens (if that) in "I, Borg," had none of this "Borg" arrogance. No, Seven herself is a haughty individual, one of the True Believers of the Collective. I'd say she's more than a mere drone; she speaks for the Collective because she wants to. She is what the Queen had wanted Picard to be. I wouldn't be surprised if we learn that there is an heirarchy within the Collective, and that Seven of Nine was part of the Collective's upper eschelon.
Consider also the 47's. "The weak will perish." This mission statement becomes a problem if the butts getting kicked become your own. The Borg may be anything but weak, but they do have a monstrous blind spot, and that's exactly where this species hits them. Their own blind spot, however, prompts them to underestimate Voyager until it's too late. A literal fly in the ointment, Voyager mucks up "fluid space" with their Alpha Quadrant cooties, and does serious damage once it commits itself. The pride of Species 8472 keeps them busy with the easy victories against the Borg (a few planets, a few hundred ships, a few million Borg) while the seeds of their destruction are sown. And when they do react...they send a single bio-ship. They save the overkill for the end, after the really high-yield weapons are prepped and in the launch tubes.
Chakotay's pride in this episode could be the most eggregious of all. If any one being could be said to have most endangered our galaxy, it would be him. He was so obsessed with the Borg, and what they'd done to him, that he couldn't conceive of the possibility that they could work together--however briefly. The fact that the last Borg that played him like a fiddle was also a cute, strong woman couldn't have helped his mood any; Chakotay looked like a deer in headlights nearly every time he looked at Seven of Nine.
His pride was personal; he has a long memory for betrayal, and he is never less admirable than when he's trying to salvage his self-esteem, in his own reckless way. It took him years to trust Paris at all, after his initial encounters with the young (and at the time, very rebellious) pilot. He may well have been the last person onboard who could tell that Paris had changed for the better; he still saw the Paris he wanted to see. He seems never to have truly forgiven Tuvok for being a spy onboard his Maquis vessel. He put the ship in peril a couple of times because of Seska. He puts the universe in peril because a Borg woman saved his life, only to exact a favor from him against his will. It colors all future dealings he has with the Collective, even when collaboration may be the universe's only hope for survival.
His problem wasn't that he saw that the Borg were duplicitous and not to be trusted. THEY WERE. His problem was that he thought that meant they couldn't work together. His advice to Janeway in Part I was sound, and a lot of rancor between the two could have been averted had she listened to his concerns and planned for the expected betrayal by the Collective. His actions after her decision was made, and when he was placed in charge...were not.
I remember complaining a lot in season 2 that Chakotay was being treated with less respect than his rank and position merited. I thought Janeway was treating him poorly (in fact, I still do). But what I didn't recognize as well then was that Chakotay had some significant character shortcomings that, in certain situations, are potentially devastating.
We know he's headstrong; he's a self-professed "angry warrior." He rebels against monolithic soulless organizations--he became a Maquis because the Federation abandoned his home planet, allowing the Cardassians to kill his father. (It was an "efficient" decision on the Federation's part; the treaty which ceded the planets to the Cardassians averted larger wars. I think the Federation abrogated a debt of honor by so doing...but that's better left to another rant.)
Chakotay left his People to join Starfleet; he left Starfleet for his People. He left the Maquis (in spirit) to become Janeway's Number One, compelling his own Maquis comrades to assimilate into Starfleet or suffer. And he maintained a respect for Starfleet protocols...until they got in his own way. His actions on New Earth seemed romantic in one way...but self-centered in another. When the choice comes between personal needs and the Need of the Many, I no longer trust Chakotay to make the right choice. (I don't mean to suggest he's incompetent, or unfit for duty. 99% of the time, he'll do the right thing. But I will be on the lookout for plots which involve one of Chakotay's hot buttons.)
I hate to say it, because I genuinely like Chakotay, and I want to respect him. But though he might have made a decent Maquis ship captain, he does not yet have the makings of a Starfleet Captain. He lacks--to quote Seven of Nine--greatness. He thinks of immediate needs and concerns--certainly important--but he has trouble seeing the big picture at times. And when he continued to argue with and undermine Janeway's decision once the plan was in progress, he failed as a First Officer as well. He undermined Janeway's authority, and he gave the enemy (the Borg) plenty of room to end their agreement.
In short...Chakotay ends this episode a notch or two down in my estimation. And that's a shame.
Let me be clear on this: Chakotay was RIGHT that the Borg could not be trusted. But he was WRONG to think that this meant they couldn't work together until the crisis with Species 8472 was complete. This mirrors Janeway's problem--she was RIGHT that Species 8472 was the more immediate threat, but WRONG to ignore Chakotay's concerns.
The problem was that the WRONG each character espoused was emphasised more than the RIGHT.
Janeway's pride is in the infallibility of her own opinion. Now, in a direct comparison of Janeway and Chakotay as leaders, it's no contest--Janeway wins every time. But too often she has either ignored or denied good advice from her subordinates, and her response has been so intractable as to make manageable situations more dangerous.
Consider the central point of disagreement between Janeway and Chakotay in "Scorpion."
Chakotay insisted the Borg were not to be trusted. Chakotay was right.
Janeway no doubt knew this. But she downplayed the concerns far too much, and forced Chakotay to step up his own vehemence to compensate, until both were shouting and neither were hearing. Janeway could easily have handled Chakotay's objections by acknowledging them, and telling him to prepare contingency plans--and by saying that they'd go into the alliance with both eyes wide open, prepared for Borg duplicity, but suggesting that until the 47's were dispatched, self-interest would keep the Borg in check.
Which is exactly what happened. Until the 47's bugged out, The Borg did all they could to continue Voyager's cooperation. Seven of Nine forced Voyager's hand, forced it to build the weapons and use them to assure its continued survival. As long as the Borg's existence rested in Voyager's hands, they didn't dare do otherwise. Janeway knew how to manipulate the Borg to her purposes.
What she ignored, despite Chakotay's arguments, was what would happen immediately afterward.
I believe Chakotay; the Borg would assimilate the crew as soon as they were out of danger. Which is exactly what happened. (Even if Janeway had been awake and in charge the whole time, I think Seven of Nine would have done what she did. And, it must be noted, Chakotay's blowing the hatches and killing all the Borg but one made resisting a whole lot easier.)
However, in Part II she redeemed herself in a big way. That confidence-inspiring leadership was there in abundance. She finessed the Borg when they needed finessing. She sledgehammered them when they needed a swift kick to the head. She stuck to her guns at all times; she kept the alliance together, found alternatives the Borg couldn't/wouldn't come up on their own, in essence led and commanded the Borg during the brief united front against their common enemy.
Almost like a Queen.
(I must admit, when Janeway first appeared on screen and told Chakotay to stop trying to transport her off the Cube, I thought the producers had borrowed a page from my short story.)
Janeway's pride, matched with Chakotay's, made the situation more dangerous. I give her credit for being the first to recognize the two-front war, which woke Chakotay up to his own complicity in the matter, and defused enough of the tension between them to come up with an answer to the Borg Question after the first crisis was done.
She recognized, finally, that she couldn't do it alone, and that no matter how right she was about Species 8472, she hadn't gotten it ALL right.
Janeway and Chakotay finally figured out that "we" are a lot smarter than "I." The Borg go about it one way, through assimilation and Collective minds. Humans do it by cooperation, teamwork, and friendships. We sometimes call it "synergy."
There was a scene in TNG when Picard, safely back on board after some nasty mind games, gives unspoken orders to his bridge crew, who comply and perform their duties in rapid silence. It was a show of the new Enterprise crew as a fully-functioning team, and it was impressive (even if the episode itself wasn't).
(Another interesting aspect of that episode: an alien had masqueraded as Picard, had seen just how far he could push the crew, make it do things Picard never would, had tested the crew for its balance between loyalty and self-preservation. Riker let "Picard" go pretty darn far. But when the ship was in actual peril for no good reason, he stepped in and countermanded the captain's order. Hard as I was on Chakotay, I do not doubt that he acted in what he considered the best interests of ship, crew, and captain.)
When Seven of Nine speaks of humanity's excess of individuality, of clamor and discord and personal agendas, she points out pretty much the whole history of humankind. We seem to be, as a species, in a perpetual cycle of conflict and resolution.
That resolution can be either constructive or destructive.
It should be pointed out that nuclear fusion releases more energy than nuclear fission.
The need for unity, or cooperation, has helped drive progress in the past. Consider phrases such as the following:
"United we stand; divided we fall."
"We must all hang together, or surely we shall all hang separately."
"E pluribus unum" (from many, one)
"Can't we all just get along?"
A united America never lost a war, conquered a continent, built an empire and landed on the moon. A divided America tore itself apart 140 years ago, and at times seems well on its way to doing so again. A divided Europe plunged the planet into two devastating shooting wars this century; a united Europe helped end a cold war.
In "Unity," we meet former Borg from myriad species. The Collective had managed to unite them in a way that mere association could not. Riley and her Cooperative had known freedom before and after assimilation...and willingly chose assimilation again. For them, conformity trumped freedom, and individuality mattered less than synergy.
The "heretical" Federation creed is, you can have it both ways. That you can act for purposes beyond yourself and still remain yourself. That you can be part of a well-oiled team, and not lose your individuality. That the galaxy can encompass diverse cultures, getting along voluntarily, putting selfish concerns behind, broadening the Big Tent of sentient siblings. IDIC.
I'm reading a book now, Birthright: The Book of Man by Mike Resnick. Resnick charts the rise of Man throughout our galaxy (and others), and its eventual downfall. It is mankind's destiny to pass between the twin poles of ambition and self-destruction every day of its existence. Like the blood coursing through his veins...mankind moves and retains his vitality, or he clots and dies.
"When Alexander saw the length and breadth of his domain he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer."
Empires expand, reach their peak, then they stagnate and contract, sometimes until nothing at all is left. Consider Ozymandius, king of kings. "Look on my works, ye mighty, and tremble."
Consider the greatness that was the Persian, Babylonian, Greek and Roman empires. And where they are now. And how, too often, they went from power to punching bag. Usually, it was infighting, corruption from within, the slackening of those muscles which got good use when their empires were expanding.
The worst thing that can happen is to achieve everything you set out to do, and run out of new goals to capture your societal imagination.
Consider the British Empire, on which the sun once never set...and which just this summer lost its lease in Hong Kong. (And yet, even in its decline as a global power, still has the emotional connection with even long-ago lost colonies, who today mourn the loss of the princess who captured our hearts and whose son is the hope for the future of the British crown.)
Consider the United States--a nation which once put a man on the moon, but would have a hard time doing so again. "All we have to fear is fear itself" has been replaced with "been there, done that." And I wonder what happened.
But I digress.
The point is, the Federation was founded on the concept of cooperation. Expansion was inevitable, given Man's insatiable curiosity concerning What's Out There. Man suffered many setbacks--bad First Contacts, wars preventable and not--but learned from its mistakes and ventured forth. At all times we've had a long way to go, but we can track forward progress in all the Trek series as the characters encountered their own obstacles and either navigated them--or tripped, and learned.
What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger.
Better living through cliche.
* * *
I don't even think I've answered the question of whether this episode was any good.
Perhaps I've been avoiding it.
My first time through, I was very disappointed. I didn't think much of the new character's performance, Chakotay's character was called into question, I still have a bunch of questions to ask the Stellar Cartography division about the extent and location of Borg space and whether they're still IN it (and by extension, how many more episodes Borg plots will be likely), what this portends for the Janeway/Chakotay relationship (personal and professional), etc.
In a way, the unanswered questions are a GOOD thing. It means (I hope) that we won't get a big push of the Reset button. It'll be hard to ignore this episode's events entirely, since we've got a new character onboard with a giant chip on her shoulder, so I have hope that the other issues will be addressed as well.
On subsequent viewings, I felt a bit better about "Scorpion, Part II." But I still think it's a disappointment compared to the cliffhanger.
In Part One, there were times when all I could do was whistle and say, "damn." Or Wow. Or whatever; they were jaw-dropping moments. The sight of a convoy of Cubes blowing by Voyager. The sight of those same ships blown to shreds. The scene of devastation and methodical brutality within one of the Cubes. The deadly effect of a single swipe by a 47 on Harry Kim. The view of an entire planet dying. Or of Janeway sticking to her guns...and the Borg yielding point after point.
This time around, the biggest "wow" came from watching the new character in full profile, the rear view of kes, and Janeway naked in sickbay.
And you thought the ORIGINAL series exploited women.
I think Jeri Ryan could be a great asset to Voyager. My opinion of her performance improved on subsequent viewings. I do have a major concern that they'll continue to focus overmuch on her appearance, to try to "sex up" the show. NONE of that was evident in "Caretaker," and throughout the first season the titillation factor was kept to a minimum. In season three, we saw several overt attempts to put Eye Candy into the show--the resort holodeck program, Kes' new outfits, "Favorite Son" and "Blood Fever."
It may have been an integral part of the other Trek series, but Voyager tried to be different. It bothers me that they feel the need to throw in more flesh...and from interviews I've read with some of the cast members, they feel the same way.
This is not to denigrate Jeri Ryan. I've seen her in Dark Skies, and I think she's a fine actress. My concern is that the camera and the costuming may conspire to turn a character into a caricature, in the name of ratings.
I've already received a couple of messages complaining about my excessive attention to Seven of Nine's physical appearance. I didn't intend to offend--though I did intend to point out the places where the outfit was particularly intrusive to me.
(Stepping off soapbox.)
Other Wows: the Class 10 warhead taking out 13 bio-ships at once was impressive. And the sight of those ships flying after Voyager right after it left the singularity was another highlight. And when Chakotay blew the airlock and sent a half dozen Borg to their doom, just as he said he would, my jaw dropped. It was stone cold, but a very Maquis thing to do, and in the long run it made the job of staying unassimilated a lot easier. Likewise, Janeway ordering Seven of Nine's violent disconnection from the Collective, and standing over the unconscious Borg like the female answer to David and Goliath.
Action Kate, indeed. This week, for Borg and 47 alike, you can call her Calamity Janeway.
The Delta Quadrant is a harsh place. And it has hardened these characters over the past three years. It's probably better for their survival, but it's not always pretty to watch.
In the first part, I wondered what Janeway was thinking. In this episode, I wondered what Chakotay was thinking. I guess it all evens out.
These two need each other. Janeway without Chakotay may be better off than the other way around, but she still needs him. She needs a first officer who supports her, but who isn't afraid to speak his mind. And he needs to learn to see beyond himself--to grasp the big picture, to earn the right to sit in the Big Chair and speak on behalf of crew, Starship, and Federation.
By the way--in "Before and After," it seemed that Chakotay indeed had reached that point. I'm not suggesting Chakotay is incapable of doing the job. I'm just saying that he's not there yet, and that this episode could well help him to get there sooner.
The "minor" characters got some good moments. Torres got to rib Harry. Doc and Tuvok got some nice one-liners. Seven of Nine, despite my bad first impression, actually did a decent, textured performance, and could prove an interesting addition to the cast. Paris didn't have much to do, and neither did Neelix, but Kes did--and aside from that one bone-shattering scream she did a nice job.
The 47s will likely never come back. Their aura of invincibility has been lost, and besides--they're too expensive. The Borg are another story. We could see them for a long time, depending on where the Powers that Be decide Borg space ends.
One question I've heard asked is whether Voyager has "ruined" the Borg as an interesting adversary. I think the season premiere helped restore some of that Collective malevolence. The Borg aren't just a victim of a superior force--they started the conflict with the aliens, looking to "improve on perfection." Their alliance with Voyager was made in bad faith, and was constantly being tested. And the second their bacon was saved by Voyager, they took all the credit and started assimilating the ship. Not nice people.
Whether they'll ever match the devastating quality of "Best of Both Worlds" is another matter entirely. But I think THAT is more TNG's doing.
Ah well. I've gone on long enough.
I took a lot of heat for giving "Basics II" a five-star rating, but the fact is, that episode entertained the heck out of me--it wasn't near perfect, but I was excited for the new season at the end of it.
This premiere didn't do that for me. It had a lot of good elements, some excellent scenes...but it didn't excite me. Nor did it move me. It was thought-provoking, and it brought into question some long-held notions about some of the characters. So guess that's a good thing, though not always pleasant.
After three full seasons, I'm looking for Voyager to do great things. My ratings may get a little more strict than they have been.
On a 0-10 scale, I'll give it a 7.00, or (* * *). Not a home run, but it does set the tone and some of the conflicts for the season. I'm curious to see what happens next.
Next week: Someone leaves the ship, and the show. Seven of Nine gets a serious makeover.
Do you think I was too hard on Chakotay? Too nice to Janeway? Too fixated on Seven of Nine? See what Julia has to say about this episode.
Think we're BOTH nuts? Check out Ashley Miller's review for a well-argued different take on the episode. I must admit...he made me feel a lot better about this episode, and about Chakotay. But not enough.