My reviews are highly opinionated, longer than your average Costner film, and prone to digressions. They retell each episode from beginning to end in excruciating detail, so if you haven't seen the episode yet and want to be surprised, run away.
But if you don't get Voyager in your area, this may be the next best thing to being there. That's my hope, anyway. Agree or disagree with the rants and raves, I hope you'll have fun along the way.
Fear and loathing in the Mutara Nebula.
Jump straight to the Analysis
In the mess hall, Seven of Nine takes a deep breath. She looks nervous about something. Then she approaches a table where Harry Kim and B'Elanna Torres are dining at a cozy table for two.
"Lieutenant, Ensign," Seven says pleasantly.
"Hey, Seven," says Harry.
"Have some dinner," suggests Torres amiably. "The potato salad isn't half bad."
"I do not require nutrition at this time," says Seven with only the slightest hesitation. "I would like to talk with you." Torres and Kim share a look, then a shrug, but they don't object.
"Ensign Kim, what is your place of origin?" Seven asks in crisp, drill sergeant tones.
"You mean, where am I from," interprets Harry, not taking offense. "Well, I was born in South Carolina..."
Seven interrupts him. Her steely gaze turns to B'Elanna. "Lieutenant Torres, explain why you became a member of the Maquis."
Thrown off guard, Torres nevertheless obliges. "Um, it was through Chakotay. I met him...Well, actually, he saved my life," she says, a smile emerging over the fond memory--
"List the sports you play," Seven demands of Harry, cutting Torres off.
Harry's almost amused by Seven's sudden inquisitiveness. Besides, guys love talking sports. "I've dabbled in quite a few: tennis, Parisses' squares...but my favorite is volleyball," he says, warming to the subject. "It's-"
"Specify the foods you find enjoyable," she tells him.
"Seven, what is this?" Torres asks, her curiosity finally getting the best of her.
"Describe the nature of your sexual relationship with Lieutenant Paris," Seven says clinically.
"Okay, that's it," Torres says, frowning--throwing in the napkin, ending her part in the inquisition.
"Computer, freeze program," a new voice says. The mess hall and all in it freeze, except for Seven-and the Doctor, who joins the scene. "Would you care to explain what you're doing?"
Seven looks confused. "I'm doing exactly what you instructed me to do."
"I hardly think so. I created this program to help you become more comfortable in social situations. Not to practice alienating people," says Doc with characteristic diplomacy.
"You made recommendations about carrying on a conversation," Seven says. "You said it's helpful if people feel you're interested in them, and that asking them about themselves is one way to demonstrate that interest."
"That doesn't mean subjecting them to an interrogation!" Doc says, exasperated. "You have to let them answer. Listen to what they're saying! Ask another question on the same subject. Take your time!"
Seven looks like she's taken more time on this than she cares to.
"Shall we try again?" Doc asks, smiling indulgently.
"I believe I am overdue for my weekly medical maintenance. We should go."
Doc is stunned. "Seven, you've never volunteered for a checkup before!"
Seven's lip curls as she views the holographic mess hall. "It is preferable to remaining here." She practically sprints toward the exit.
Doc sighs dramatically. So much for this week's edition of Socializing 101. He follows.
On the bridge, Janeway notices a big pink fluffy something looming large on the screen before her. "What have we got here?" she asks.
Ensign Kim reports that it's a Mutara-class nebula, with some tiny bits of other stuff the computer doesn't recognize. Tuvok reports that it's a big sucker-too big for the sensors to see beyond.
"Well, then I guess we won't try to go around it," says Janeway, clearly in a good mood this morning. "Tom, take us in at one-half impulse." Paris complies. A few seconds later, Harry's systems light up with new data.
Then he winces and groans slightly. Janeway asks if he's okay; Harry says it's just a headache.
Then he groans some more.
Then Tom joins in the low moaning. Then Tuvok. Then Janeway and Chakotay. Soon the bridge is alive with the sound of grunting. Here's a quote from the closed captioning, which ends the scene....
( moans ) Captain... ( groans ) ( moans ) ( moaning ) Oh, god! ( groans ) Oh... ( moans )
Sometimes, dialog alone just isn't enough.
The crew is in excruciating pain. Harry and others are getting radiation burns on their extremities, folks are collapsing on all sides, and a few nameless extras are bursting into flames.
The color is misleading. This particular nebula neither coats, soothes, nor protects.
* * *
Janeway, festering sores erupting on the back of her neck, urges Paris to get them the heck out of the nebula. But Tom collapses trying to reach the controls.
Janeway hails Sickbay, where Doc is up to his neck in wounded crewmen. "We need help!" she shouts, and Doc sends Seven to the bridge with dermal regenerators.
Fortunately, Tuvok manages to stumble over to the helm and change course before the whole bridge resembles the inside of a pit barbecue.
A few seconds later, the sounds of agony cease, and most everyone on the bridge regains the better part of their wits. Harry announces that they're no longer inside the nebula. Janeway calls All Stop.
Seven arrives on the bridge, and almost stumbles over a nameless-and now faceless--crewman. "He's dead," Seven reports, as Janeway and Chakotay rush over and view with horror the charred remains of yet another Starfleet canary in the coal mines of galactic travel.
We get a dang cool view of Voyager in a tiny, vaguely Voyager-sized brick of space, surrounded by other, equally-sized bricks. Then it pulls back rapidly, until the brick becomes a dot...then the area around the dot is swallowed up until it's a mere dot, until we see the whole of the Mutara nebula (well, not the Mutara nebula...).
In Astrometrics, Janeway and Seven view the nebula the way only the Astrometrics sensors can. The nebula appears on the Big Screen in the rough shape of a monstrous, pink, kneeling, mummified corpse laying on its side. To put things in perspective, the trip from Portland, Oregon, to Alpha Centauri, would be equivalent to the trip from one ear to the other on the tiny head of this gaseous giant.
"The nebula extends for at least 110 light-years, possibly more," concludes Seven.
"At the least it would take us well over a month to get through it--and more than a year to get around it," Janeway mutters.
"The crew was unable to tolerate the nebula for even a few minutes. They certainly could not survive a month."
Janeway's jaw sets. Her eyes glow with supernova brilliance. "We've come 15,000 light-years. We haven't been stopped by temporal anomalies, warp-core breaches or hostile aliens--and I am damned if I'm going to be stopped by a nebula." (Since "damned" means "stopped," I guess it's true either way you read it.)
Now that's the Action Kate we know and love. The orchestra swells as Janeway stares up at Seven, who can't help but snap to attention, stare forward, and swell with Starfleet Pride.
In Sickbay, Doc fills Janeway in on his analysis of the Energizer Nebula (you'll keep groaning, and groaning...) Essentially, it's a great pink fluffy cloud of death.
Janeway asks if there's anything he can suggest. Indeed there is: stasis chambers, one for everyone. "Are you suggesting," Janeway says, dubious, "That the entire crew be put in suspended animation? This is a drastic step, Doctor. Are there any other options--adjusting the shields, inoculations?" Doc assures her he's considered all possibilities, and this is the only one he can recommend.
Janeway accepts this for now. "There's more to getting through the nebula than monitoring the crew. Who would regulate ship systems, make course adjustments?"
Doc looks almost hurt. "I think I've demonstrated that I have a command of the rudimentary aspects of piloting," he says humbly.
"Of course, you have," she soothes, "and I know that you could do it. But you'll need backup. We have no idea what effect the nebula radiation might have on your Holomatrix. What if you went off-line?" (Foreshadowing...)
Doc has a ready answer. "There was only one crew member besides myself that seemed unaffected by the nebula."
And so, Janeway finds herself in Cargo Bay Two, filling Seven in on the plan.
"I want you to understand the seriousness of this responsibility. The lives of the entire crew will be on your shoulders."
Seven looks almost hurt. "You doubt my ability to fulfill this task."
"Ordinarily, not at all," Janeway assures her, "but this is an unusual situation." Her voice swells with understanding. "After being in the Collective...it wasn't easy for you to adjust to a ship with only 150 people on it, was it, Seven? How would you feel with only the Doctor for company?"
"Aaaaaaauuuugggghhh!!!!" springs to mind.
But Seven is made of sterner stuff. "I will adapt."
But Janeway can see the uncertainty in the former Borg's face. "Most humans don't react particularly well to long periods of isolation. Borg drones have even more difficulty."
"As you pointed out, I am neither human nor Borg," Seven reminds her testily. Then Seven's voice softens to an earnest, pleading intensity. "I can do this, Captain," she assures her.
Janeway smiles. That's all anyone can ask. "All right," she says. "I'll work with my senior staff to draw up a list of duties. But let me make it clear; the Doctor will be in command. You will follow his instructions just as you would follow mine."
'Scuse me while I laugh my butt off.... [splot]
Hoo, boy. Given Seven's track record with Janeway's orders, "just as you would follow mine" should be a piece of cake.
"Follow the orders of a Hologram," Seven repeats, disbelieving.
Janeway's formidable jaw sets. "He's our chief medical officer, and he is thoroughly grounded in Starfleet protocols. You will report to him."
Seven knows it's the only way she'll be allowed to stay out of stasis. "I understand." Janeway smiles, but Seven's dismay over the [perceived] lack of faith in her is evident.
What Seven doesn't see is that what she's being offered, though less than she'd like, is a tremendous gesture of faith.
Senior staff meeting. Janeway and Chakotay, Paris and Torres, and Ensign Kim. Doc and Seven are making preparations. Neelix is no doubt performing morale-boosting activities among the crew. Tuvok is probably making fun of Neelix somewhere.
Chakotay explains that the stasis units will be ready by around 1700 hours.
The rest of the staff looks very uneasy. "And how long will this be for?" Paris asks, looking particularly nauseous. Janeway says a month, maybe longer.
Torres asks about side effects. "The Doctor assures me it'll be like taking a nap," Janeway explains. "We'll go into the units; our cardiopulmonary systems will be slowed; neural activity suspended; and we'll wake up feeling like we'd had a good night's sleep." And the radiation scarring can be chalked up to bedbugs.
Harry chimes in. "There are things that can go wrong. At least, that's what I read."
"We will be monitored by Seven and the Doctor, who will check vital signs four times a day and take care of any other problems."
Paris' hands are moving as though with a life of their own; he looks ready to crawl out of his own skin. "I assume that we've explored all the alternatives," he says with a nervous, humorless chuckle.
The captain ignores him. "I think we're all feeling uneasy about this--and I'd be lying if I said I don't have concerns myself--and I think it's about loss of control." The looks on the faces at the table is confirmation enough.
"We always feel better if we think we're in charge of our own circumstances," Janeway continues. "In stasis, we're giving up that control--and no Starfleet officer likes to do that. But crews have been in stasis much longer than a month, and I think we can handle this."
She smiles. "All right?" Nobody objects out loud. She stands. "You're free until 1700 hours. I'll make a ship-wide announcement when the Doctor's ready. Dismissed."
Everyone rises to leave but Tom Paris, who leans forward heavily and grabs his chin anxiously, until Janeway gives him a one-hand-on-hip edition of The Look, which sends him scurrying. Of all the senior staff, he likes this the least.
Chakotay stays behind. Get ready for yet another edition of The Talk. Janeway notices, and folds her arms across her chest. "Something else?" she says, leaning toward him.
Chakotay makes sure that everyone's gone and the doors are closed. Satisfied, he turns back to her. They're standing real close. "I want you to tell me that this isn't a mistake," he says, staring at her with those big brown eyes of his.
"Your turn to get reassurance?" Janeway asks, eyes pouty.
"Maybe. But my concern isn't about going into stasis. It's about who you're leaving in charge." His biceps ripple beneath the tightness of his tunic, and her heart skips a beat.
"You're worried about Seven," Janeway says, fiery hair rustling in the gentle life support breeze.
"Maybe you need to step outside yourself for a minute," he says. "Look at the fact that here's someone who's butted horns with you from the moment she came on board--who disregards authority, and actively disobeys orders when she doesn't agree with them."
Janeway's eyes dance to the sprightly saxophone-inspired tune of the overhead lights. "And this is the person I'm giving responsibility for the lives of this entire crew. I suppose you want me to tell you I'm not crazy," she says, voice silky as the peach spring blouse on page 47 of the Victoria's Secret catalogue.
"In a nutshell," he confirms with a volcanic smile. (Hey, an "Unforgettable" reference! Bet you'd forgotten.) "I know your bond with Seven is unique, different from everyone else's. From the beginning you've seen things in her that no one else could. But maybe you could help me understand some of those things." His face flushes with anticipation.
The captain's chest heaves. "I don't know if I can. It's just instinct. There's something inside me that says she can be redeemed! In spite of her insolent attitude. I honestly believe she wants to do well by us."
Chakotay gives a shuddering exhale. He smiles, satisfied. "That's good enough for me."
Janeway places a firm, reassuring hand on his shoulder. "See you at 1700 hours," she says, smiling broadly.
Paris and Kim, Janeway and Doc and Seven are all that remain outside of the stasis chambers, which look like clear-faced torpedo shells. Paris is clearly reluctant, clearly agitated.
"If I have to take a nap for a month I really would rather do it in my quarters," he says, trying to lighten the mood-and prolong his state of wakefulness, pacing around like an ex
"Everyone's being relocated here to Deck 14 so we can monitor you more easily," Doc explains. "Hop in."
Harry, who has the next chamber over, is already settling into his. Come on, Tom. Sleepy time," Harry says, apparently looking forward to a month of nothing to do but dreaming about Seven.
Paris reluctantly climbs in, but as he does his agitation increases. "What if we...had to get out in a hurry?"
Janeway gives him a reassuring pat on the shoulder. "You can unlock the unit from inside, Tom," she reminds him. He sticks that bit of data on his Speed Dial as he slaps his hands on the clear lid of the stasis pod.
"Do I detect a hint of claustrophobia, Lieutenant?" Doc asks, enjoying his discomfiture.
Paris tries one last time to delay the inevitable. "Why do they have to design these things like coffins?" he demands to know. Behind him, Janeway gives a scolding look, but her eyes twinkle. Mama Kate always did like him best.
Harry smirks mischievously. "Should we replicate you a teddy bear?" he says. Janeway's Skunk Eye finds its way to him, but the New and Improved Harry Kim with Attitude keeps on smirking as he snuggles up to stasis. When door slides shut, the smirk freezes into place. At least he's going out happy.
Paris, meanwhile, looks ready to bolt even in stasis. Methinks we have a character trait just begging to be explored in a future episode.
Soon, it's done. Only Doc, Seven, and Janeway remain. Janeway strides bravely to her stasis chamber.
"Have no worries, Captain," Doc assures her. "You'll go to sleep, and the next thing you know I'll be standing over you telling you we're through the nebula."
Janeway smiles at the Borg and the Hologram. "I'm leaving this ship in good hands. I have every confidence in both of you." She smiles warmly, and Doc beams, and Seven stands a little taller. "See you in a month," the captain says, then settles in as Doc sends her into dreamland.
Doc sighs, and looks at Seven. "Well, it's just the two of us now."
Just a guess, but Seven looks like she'd eagerly switch places with Paris about now.
* * *
Voyager flies through the cotton candy nebula of pain. Inside, not a creature was stirring except for a certain hologram and former Borg.
Personal log: Seven of Nine, Stardate 51929.3. This is the tenth day of our journey through the Mutara nebula. I have created an efficient daily routine.
Seven strolls through the dark and empty corridors, to a dark and empty mess hall. She orders up a cup of liquid nutrition, "supplement 14-beta-7," and sips at it. The camera makes sure we realize just how dark and lifeless the mess hall is; all the tables are out, but all the chairs are empty, and no conversation fills the air as it usually does. Seven may not join in on those conversations much, but she fed off them as surely as she does Nutritional Supplement 14B7, and its absence makes her heart grow fonder.
Another corridor, another part of the ship. Engineering's bluish glow has nothing but equipment to reflect against.
Seven strides alone through another corridors into a desolate turbolift, which takes her to a ghost town of a bridge. She kicks away the tumbleweeds and adjusts the heading by .347 degrees starboard, allowing the computer to do the actual work--just to hear its voice.
Seven strides through yet another corridor...and finds Tom Paris, face down and unconscious. She hails the Doctor. "Lieutenant Paris has left his stasis unit and is unconscious."
I'll be right there, Doc says.
"Apparently, he's more claustrophobic than I thought--but he doesn't seem to have suffered any ill effects," Doc says as he and Seven put Paris back in his stasis chamber.
"Is this likely to happen again?" Seven asks.
"It's not unheard of for people to come out of stasis and start wandering. Leave it to Mr. Paris to be just as much trouble now as when he's awake," he says, keeping his Paris-bashing streak alive for yet another week.
Seven doesn't bother to hide her irritation. "You knew this might happen. Why complain about it?"
Doc's own irritation grows. "If you had even the slightest sense of humor you'd realize I was making a small joke." ("Very small," she grumbles.) He asks her with exaggerated politeness to take Paris' vital signs, which she does.
"I will continue on my rounds," she says once Paris is safely back in stasis, but Doc tells her it's time for a trip to the Holodeck. "I have no time for frivolous pursuits," she mutters.
"This isn't frivolous; it's essential!" Doc says, exasperated. "You've been getting more irritable and short-tempered with each passing day!"
"So have you!" she seethes.
"That's only because I'm having to put up with you! I think you need a little brush-up course in how to get along with people."
"There is no one here to get along with," she says sharply.
"I'm here! This isn't a suggestion, and it's not a request. It's an order."
Seven harrumphs, then pivots on her heels and marches away. Doc, exasperated, follows.
It's party time! The whole crew is in casual dress; Janeway's even sleeveless for the occasion. Neelix is passing around hors d'oeuvres, which Janeway compliments. (Yep, it must be a Holodeck program.) Soft music plays ("Only the Lonely," if I'm not mistaken).
Neelix notices Seven standing alone, tapping away at a PADD. He frowns, then puts on his Host Face. "Join the party, Seven!" he pleads. "It's no fun to stand there by yourself!"
"I have no desire to have fun," Seven says, as though he'd asked her to have a heaping helping of grub worms. Here's a girl who seriously needs to grasp the concept of leisure time. Neelix is befuddled by the attitude. Seven tries to explain that she's got a tricky engineering problem to work out, and-
Seven gets an idea. In a clear change of attitude, Seven's voice turns conversational. "I understand you have some knowledge of warp field theory. Perhaps you could assist me." She extends the PADD to him, the barest hint of a welcoming smile on her face. Neelix, always eager to please, jumps at the chance. Soon, he and Seven are chatting amiably about esoteric warp engineering.
Seven realizes that mingling can be fun when the topic of conversation interests her, and she calls over the captain, who is chatting with Doc. Janeway also jumps into the fun, and soon they're swigging Snapple and solving the problems of the universe, snarfing down popcorn shrimp, giggling over the men in the room's engineering prowess, and--
"Computer, freeze program," Doc says irritably.
"You're completely missing the point of this exercise!" he rages at her. "You're supposed to be mixing and mingling, not working on engineering problems!"
"You ordered me to participate in this program. You did not specify topics of conversation."
I gotta go with Seven on this one. She might not be yammering with holographic comrades about the Seinfeld finale, but she was discussing something of interest to her, with people who shared the interest. She was at ease as a result. Under less stressful circumstances, Doc might have seen this as a breakthrough, a small but important step to social integration. Expand on what works.
But what they have here is...failure to communicate. Doc chides her for not being more like he wants her to be. They yell at each other a bit, Doc with emotion, Seven with almost Vulcan restraint that exaggerates even the smallest deviation therefrom.
"Holodecks are a pointless endeavor, fulfilling some human need to fantasize," Seven complains. "I have no such need." (In the words of Tommy Smothers: Bolshoi.)
"What you need is some editorial skill in your self-expression," Doc says (great line). "Between impulse and action, there is a realm of good taste begging for your acquaintance!" (Another great line! And a good slogan for a fragrance: "Between impulse and action, there is a realm of good taste. Good Taste, by Calvin Klein.")
"I find your self-expression ponderous," says Seven. (She means Doc, but a certain Review Boy is momentarily chastened.)
They continue bickering, until the computer interrupts them; there's an antimatter emergency. She ship is ready to go Boom in a big way. There's nothing like a crisis to get these two to put aside their differences and work well together.
Doc goes to the bridge as Seven heads to Engineering. On the bridge, the situation looks bleak and getting bleaker. He urges Seven, who continues her march to Engineering, that it's too dangerous for her to get too close; the computers say the place is a veritable disco inferno in there.
But if things are exploding the way Doc is saying, Seven hasn't noticed. No explosion noises, no rumbling decks, nothing.
By the time Doc is convinced Seven can't survive, Seven opens the door to engineering-and finds it in perfect working order.
"Seven, do you hear me?!" doc shouts.
"It's all right, Doctor," Seven says, frowning. "False alarm."
* * *
If you guessed that the problem was with the gel-packs, pat yourself on the back. Doc reaches the same conclusion. The gel-packs are getting brain-damaged by the nebula, and the computers are hallucinating as a result.
Engineering problems, Seven's got no problem with. As Doc talks about what they need to do, Seven gathers what they need.
As they crawl through the Jefferies tubes, Doc complains-in a way that suggests he's enjoying the opportunity to complain-about the less-than-comfy layout of the tubes themselves. "It doesn't help to complain about it now," Seven points out. "I'll complain if I want to. It's comforting," says Doc.
When they reach the gel-packs, two of the three glow a healthy, Aquafresh blue. The third has a sickly, dead grayish look. Seven removes the pack, and Doc takes it for further study in Sickbay as Seven performs a bypass.
"This journey certainly hasn't lacked excitement," Doc says conversationally, ever the semi-patient teacher. "I can't complain about being bored." He smiles gamely.
"Since you find it comforting, you'll undoubtedly find something else to complain about," Seven says.
Doc looks ready to riposte, but thinks better of it. His brave smile returns. "No doubt. You really should try it."
Then the Fates intervene to give Doc something new to fret about. His emitter begins to sizzle. He begins to panic.
The merely uncomfortable Jefferies tubes now become dangerously cumbersome, as Doc scrambles to get back to Sickbay-"If the mobile emitter goes off-line while I'm out of Sickbay, my program may be irretrievable!"
"Don't panic. It's counterproductive," Seven says, hurrying.
"That's easy for you to say. You're not facing cybernetic oblivion!"
They finally exit into the corridors, and they begin sprinting. Doc fades out again. "If that happens again, I'm a goner!" They race their way to Sickbay.
Finally, they reach it. Doc sighs dramatically. "Home sweet Sickbay. I never thought I'd be so glad to see these walls!" Seven asks for his portable holo-emitter, and begins examining it. It's broke, a depressing fact Doc confirms. "You're right; it's worthless! I can't risk using it now. I'm stuck here."
"The nebula is having a deleterious effect on all the ship's technology," Seven agrees, discouraged.
"And we still have weeks to go." Doc puts aside petty bickering, and gives Seven an encouraging look. "It's up to you to keep the ship running. We can't afford to break down in this nebula."
Seven's eyes go wide. Even an annoying companion is better than none at all. But she squares her shoulders, takes a shuddering breath, and gathers her wits. "I won't disappoint you," she promises with all the sincerity she can muster.
As Voyager flies through the Pepto Bismol Nebula, Seven learns a fundamental truth: high heels and tundra don't mix. She finds herself all alone, ankle-deep in hard-packed snow and unable to move, in arctic desolation.
The computer wakes Seven up at 0600, her usual wakeup time. But unlike the efficient, early-rising Seven we saw in "The Omega Directive," this morning Seven looks more like the average Joe and Jill Cubicle at 6am on a Monday morning-like she's staring into the very pits of Hell itself.
Mondays will do that to you.
Seven takes a few deep breaths, then steps out of her alcove to begin her day.
Personal log, Seven of Nine: Stardate 51932.4. The 29th day of Mutara nebula. I believe I am beginning to feel the effects of this prolonged isolation. My dreams have been...disturbing. But I am determined to fulfill my responsibilities. With the Doctor confined to Sickbay I have taken on increasing duties. The ship's systems are beginning to require constant maintenance in order to avert disaster. This morning I must purge the auxiliary plasma vents. End log.
Yep, Seven's feeling the stress. Her morning's nutritional supplement is blended into an extra large coffee and a cold slice of leftover tofu-lovers pizza.
On the bridge, Seven orders a course correction. The computer doesn't respond immediately. When it does, it sounds like Doc looked when his emitter was on the fritz. It tries to do the course correction, but fails; Seven has to do it manually. She orders a level-four self-diagnostic as she enters the turbolift for Astrometrics, and when it's complete the computer reports that a third of the gel-pack relays are hosed. Seven reroutes them through sub-processor Chi-One-Four, after which the computer sounds like its old Nurse Chapel self.
In the dark and gloomy confines of Astrometrics, Seven asks for a visual display of Voyager's position in the nebula. "How long to complete passage through the nebula?" she asks.
Six days, five hours, the computer responds.
"Six days," she repeats bravely, and exits Astrometrics.
While marching through the barren corridors, Seven hears Tom Paris' anguished cries. She sees the flitting of a shadow on the periphery of her vision, but when she follows it, there is nothing.
She enters the area on deck 14 where the stasis chambers are. But all are present and accounted for. There's some fog on the clear windows covering the crew. Janeway's reads, "I'd rather be in the Big Chair." Crewman Yossarian's reads, "I yearn for you tragically. A.T. Tappman, Chaplain." Harry's got a crudely-drawn heart just over the spot where his real heart is, with a big number 7 smack dab in the middle.
Tom Paris' fog reads "REDRUM."
Then as unexpectedly as it appeared, the fog lifts, and the crew are as they always have been.
Seven curses the names of Kathryn Janeway and Juan Valdez and swears to switch to decaf.
The computer announces the arrival of a ship, and an incoming hail. Seven answers the call. (Doc may be confined to Sickbay, but he's still in charge. Odd that he wouldn't take the hail....) The alien introduces himself as Trajis lo-Tarik, and says he's looking for spare parts. "Would you consider a trade?" Seven asks why he's in the nebula; he says for likely the same reason she is-to get to the other side. Seven accepts this and asks if he has any liquid helium.
As it so happens, he does.
In the cargo bay, Seven looks for the equipment he'd asked for. Trajis-a big, beefy dude with a ponytail and a cast-iron forehead, with a lion-like bearing at once cunning, seductive, and deadly. He's in a chatty mood-understandable, as he is as alone on his ship as Seven is on hers. He makes small talk-and Seven, who's last in her class at Etiquette University, isn't exactly holding her own. He asks about her name; she says it's her Borg designation. "Never heard of them," Trajis says. He asks if she's alone; she says the ship's full of people, but they're all napping their way through the nebula. And there's Doc in Sickbay.
Trajis says his ship's pilot and crew are similarly indisposed. "Fortunately, I happen to be resistant to the effects of the nebula." (Hey, kinda like Seven! They've got lots in common!) Seven asks about his ship itself; he admits that the nebula keeps him hopping from one crisis to the next. He compliments her on making it this long; "three whole weeks," he says, impressed. (Four, actually, but why brag needlessly?)
He points out that nobody's ever crossed the nebula before; Seven says they're doing it out of necessity. Trajis says he's here by choice; he wants to see what's on the other side. "I'm determined to be the first to get through." (Does this make Voyager a threat? They're certainly closer to their goal than he is to his.)
"I want to see what's on the other side," he says. Seven says it's nothing special, but he says he'd be the first of his kind (and what kind is that?) to see it, and that's gotta count for something.
"Tell me," he says, voice dropping an octave, "how are you handling the loneliness?" He doesn't buy her what-do-you-mean. "You know what I mean. No matter what you say...You're all alone here. I've heard the drones can't stand being alone. They're too used to the Collective."
Hey, waitaminit....he said he'd never heard of them! "How could you know that?" Seven demands.
"It's true, isn't it? You said you'd never heard of the Borg. Don't be offended. I have no grudge with them." Trajis smiles carnivorously.
Seven invites him to get the hell off her ship.
"I thought we could keep each other company for a while--maybe have something to eat." Seven doesn't feel like company-this company, anyway. "And if I want to stay longer?" he asks, moving towards her.
Seven grabs a phaser and points it at him. "You will not be accommodated." She marches him out of the cargo bay at gunpoint.
"There's no need for this, you know," Trajis purrs at her. "I mean you no harm. I think maybe you're a little paranoid. That's what loneliness can do to you. You'd be a lot better off to spend some time with me. We could get to know each other." There's no question about what he's referring to.
But Seven has eyes only for Harry. "Quiet," she tells him.
She hears Paris' voice, calling for help. She looks in the direction of the sound, but sees nothing. She turns back toward Trajis-but he's gone as well. She runs in the direction he might have headed, and sees the shadow of movement.
She slaps her combadge."Seven of Nine to the Doctor: we have an intruder onboard."
* * *
In Sickbay, Seven performs internal scans while Doc tells her he's found no alien life signs or evidence of a ship. (After "Retrospect," he takes nothing she says about predatory aliens at face value.) "I've been working on my mobile emitter. I think I'm making progress but I still can't leave Sickbay. You'll have to try to track him down. Arm yourself and use extreme caution."
The computer announces that the deuterium tanks are getting uppity. The computer voice itself fluctuates between bass and first soprano. "Computer sounds like it needs a stimulant," Doc notes sardonically.
"It has been experiencing relay failures," Seven says, then admits, "I have not been performing my maintenance duties."
"Do what you have to but keep an eye out for the alien. We have to assume he's up to no good."
Seven's eyes widen, then she gives the barest hint of a nod. Doc picks up on it. His voice filled with compassion and understanding, Doc asks, "Seven...are you...frightened?"
If she is, she's not ready to admit it. "I am Borg," she says through clenched teeth, then marches out the door.
Next to Action Kate, wields a Betsy-class boomstick as well as Seven.
Seven stalks her way through the corridors, the light mounted on the phaser leading the way.
She hears things. Things go bump in the night. Trajis' whispered, Barry White voice rings through the deserted hallways, but she sees nothing.
Then other voices ring out softly, one at a time at first, but slowly blending into a cacophony of cries that would send even the sanest individual screaming toward a bottle of That Ol Janx Spirit.
"Seven, help me."
"We need you, Seven."
"Assist us." (That's gotta be Tuvok.)
"I'm dying, Seven."
"Dorothy, Dorothy, Dorothy, Dorothy..."
"The lives of the crew are on your shoulders."
"Poppies poppies poppies poppies..."
"Trajis to Seven of Nine." (Oh, wait, that one's real. It's coming over the comm channel.) "That's an unusual name. How did you get it? Don't want to answer me? It's all right. I don't mind. I know you're not yourself today but you might be interested in what I'm doing now. I know your sensors can't detect me. So if you want to know where I am, you'll have to ask."
His voice has that deep, Disney Theme Park Journey Into Microscopic Size Ride voice that narrated all those junior high science class films in the Eisenhower years. But Seven ain't playing. She picks up the pace, and ups the setting on the phaser rifle to roast.
"Playing stubborn? That's a mistake. It could lead to an unfortunate accident. Just to prove I'm willing to give you a fair chance I'll ask you, what would happen if the structural integrity around the warp coils collapsed? You wouldn't have much time to keep them from rupturing."
Seven's eyes double in size; she sprints to Engineering. But it's as empty and peaceful as before.
"I couldn't bring myself to destroy your ship," Trajis admits over the intercom. "I hope you're not afraid of the dark." The lights go down in Engineering.
"Where are you?" she demands.
"Finally! I'm glad you're responding. It's going to be much more interesting if we play this game together."
"Your location!" she shouts, her voice cracking slightly.
"A long way from you, on the bridge--command center of your ship, I believe. I can do just about anything from here."
Seven hears Paris calling for help again. She looks up, and sees Tom and Harry, both awake, both standing-and both in extreme distress. She runs toward a ladder and climbs it-and reaches Paris and Kim just in time to watch in horror as they collapse on the floor and burst into flames.
Then the flames cease, and Paris and Kim are gone as though they were never there. Seven shakes her head to clear her mind, and vows that the next time she enters the Holodeck, it won't be in the Hunter S. Thompson program.
She heads back downstairs. "Seven to Trajis. Are you still there?"
"Of course. Do you think I'd leave now?"
"I am enjoying this game. What's next?" She reaches a set of Engineering controls and begins entering commands with Borg efficiency.
"That's better. Well, let's just imagine that one of the photon torpedoes was activated but not ejected."
"I would have to get to the torpedo bay quickly," she says, playing along with Mr. 1-900-DANGER
"And even then, you might be too late but, of course, you have to try."
Seven completes the series of commands. "Let's play another game. Let's imagine that the oxygen on the bridge has been depleted."
"What do you suppose the results might be?" Seven asks, apparently enjoying the game even more now.
The voice on the other side of the intercom begins to gasp as the air runs out on the bridge. A bit of heavy breathing commences, followed by a last gasp. Seven seals the bridge with a level-three forcefield, and hails the Doc.
"I'm here," Doc says, strolling the corridors, wearing his newly-repaired portable emitter. She says she's taken care of Simba the Aggressive Alien. Doc asks where she is, and says he'll be right there; he's got news about the gel-packs.
Seven acknowledges, and grabs the phaser rifle. She looks pleased with the way things are going.
When the door opens and Trajis appears, she gapes.
"In your heart, you knew you'd see me again," he says smoothly.
Seven levels the weapon at his chest and fires.
The beam strikes Trajis full-on in the chest, but he doesn't even blink. "You can't defeat me. You're too weak."
"Don't come any closer," Seven demands, weakly.
"You couldn't stand being alone, could you? You felt vulnerable, afraid because you know what you are."
"At first, you thought you could become human, but now you know that's impossible, don't you? "You're Borg!"
The blue of the warp core changes to a familiar Borg green, as Seven's jaw drops about six inches.
"That's what you're meant to be--one of many," Trajis says. "Well, your days of power are gone. You're all alone now...Weak, pathetic!" He circles her like a predator, but makes no threatening moves. Only words she cannot bear to hear.
"Don't come any closer; I'll kill you," Seven says, looking as eager to kill as we've ever seen her.
Doc enters Engineering. "Seven?" he asks quizzically. Seven warns him that the alien is dangerous. But Doc looks-and sees Seven pointing the weapon at nobody in particular. And the warp coils are as blue as ever to his objective eye.
Suddenly, Seven can no longer see him either. "Where did he go?" Doc says there was no he. "Seven...You're hallucinating." Seven insists she'd seen him, but Doc talks her down gently. Reality begins to set in for her; "You mean I imagined him. I heard Lieutenant Paris call for help. I saw him and the others. Did I imagine them as well?"
"I believe so," Doc says gently. "When I studied the gel-pack I discovered the radiation was producing a degradation in the synaptic relays. I'm guessing there's been a similar effect on your Borg implants. The radiation could be altering the neurotransmitter levels in your sensory nodes. That would explain why you're hearing voices, seeing images."
Seven's not used to being unable to trust her own eyes and ears. "They seemed real...."
"Hallucinations usually are. That's what makes them so frightening."
Seven gets a faraway look in her eye. "Once, when I was a drone...I was separated from the Collective for two hours. I experienced panic...And apprehension." Her voice is small, frightened, like the little girl she never got the chance to be.
She swallows hard. Her voice is barely a whisper. "I am feeling that way now."
Doc promises to do what he can for her. "We'll get you to Sickbay. An anti-psychotic may help--at least until I determine just what neural functions are being affected." He puts an arm around her, takes the rifle, and walks her toward the door.
A nearby panel explodes. "Warning. Primary E.P.S. conduits are overloading," the computer reports, its voice again failing in a big way. Doc freaks. "I tied my mobile emitter into the E.P.S. conduits!"
Seven tries to access them remotely, but the nosediving computer can't comply. Doc starts to fizzle into oblivion. "My program's going off-line!"
"No!" Seven yells, and redoubles her efforts.
But the primary conduits overload. Then the secondary systems fail.
Doc urges her to hang on. "Repair the E.P.S. conduits. Everything depends on you now!"
"I cannot function alone!" Seven pleads.
"You have to! You're the only way we can survive!"
They are Doc's last words before he winks out entirely. His emitter clatters to the floor.
"Nooooooooooo!" Seven screams, as the camera pans up and back to show her as alone and frightened as she has ever been, as small and solitary as in the tundra of her dreams.
* * *
Days pass. Seven of Nine continues her efforts to keep the ship moving. She has her work cut out for her; the nebula continues to affect equipment. And implants.
One thing about hallucinations is, welcome or not, they can keep you company when there's nobody else around.
In Astrometrics, Seven is joined by a radiation-scarred Harry Kim, whose endless prattle is even more distracting than usual, because he says what's on her mind. Or in it.
She asks for a visual of Voyager's position in the nebula; they're real close now. "It doesn't matter," Kim says, with a mocking smile. "You won't make it."
She asks for an estimated duration until they're out; 17 hours and 11 minutes. "That's an eternity," Kim says with faux seriousness. She tells him to scram. "You can try to shut me out, but it won't work," Harry smirks.
The computer gurgles out a warning-propulsion-system failure in progress. She rushes on to the next emergency.
The corridors glow green. Now her company takes the form of a member of the Borg Collective. "Seven of Nine. Tertiary adjunct of Unimatrix 01. You have left the Collective. It was a foolish decision. Now you are alone. You have left the Many; you are only One. You have become human--weak pathetic."
Seven runs away. The same drone appears again in front of her, and marches toward her. "Humans do not have our strength. They are imperfect. Now, you are imperfect as well. You will not survive. You cannot survive without the Collective."
"I will adapt," Seven says, walking away, her back to the drone.
"By becoming weaker--less perfect."
"I will adapt as an individual."
"One. One alone. A Borg cannot be One."
"I will become stronger!" she says harshly, increasing her pace.
"A Borg cannot be One. She will die as One-" the drone calls after her...
"--weak, detached, isolated," he says, appearing in front of her again, blocking her way. She stops.
"One Borg cannot survive," the drone says.
"I am an individual. I will survive alone!" Her way is blocked, but she moves past the drone on the other side, and reaches the turbolift at the end of the corridor.
"No. You are weak."
The drone follows, but does not enter the turbolift. He stares at her. "You will die alone," he says as the doors close.
Trajis is here. "He is right. You're in pain, Seven," he whispers into her ear, caressing her cheek. "I can help you."
"Bridge," she tells the computer, doing her best to ignore him.
"You don't have to beg me. You don't even have to ask. All you have to do is make a choice."
"I can survive alone."
The turbolift doors open-into the Collective. The wide-open spaces of the Cube's interior calls out to her.
"That's home. That's where you belong," whispers Trajis.
"End your pain. Just walk through that door and you'll never be alone again," he says seductively.
"It's not real!" she insists.
The voice of the Collective calls to her. "Seven of Nine: resistance is futile."
"Bridge!" she shouts. The doors close and the turbolift rises.
The bridge is occupied; the charred but cheery senior staff, all save Neelix, are here to keep her company, to whisper sweet nothings to her of her imminent failure.
"You look a little worse for wear," says Janeway. Kim says he didn't know she was still around. Chakotay says he never wanted her here in the first place. Tuvok says she can't survive alone. Paris takes bets on how long she'll last. Chakotay says she'll lose it before they leave the nebula. Then everyone will die, says Kim. Well, blame me, says Janeway--I put my trust in her. I should have known better.
Seven's had six days of this?
The computer slurs that the propulsion is in the process of failing. Seven springs into action, ignoring the nattering nabobs of negativism; Paris asks who wants to bet she can do it; Harry bets she can't.
In a nice time warp, the ship's computers say they're only 41 minutes away now. (That's seventeen hours of "propulsion failure in progress." Dang.)
Too long, says Janeway; she won't make it. An eternity, agrees Harry.
Seven begins rerouting power from every system she can think of, but it's not enough. Soon, the propulsion systems fail completely, and all engines go off-line.
"She's got herself a real problem now," Kim says, and they all agree. They wonder aloud in their mocking voices what she'll do now.
"I know," says Janeway. "She's thinking if she could take power from the stasis units on deck 14, she might be able to get those engines back on-line." They state the ramifications-some of the crew would die. Kim says it wouldn't bother her much. Tuvok points out that "what matters to Seven is efficiency. Sacrificing a few to save many would be an efficient plan." Janeway agrees. "She's already killed millions; would a few more matter?"
Yeah, but who should die? If it's Ensign Deadmeat or Crewman Toast, nobody'd notice. They'd just chalk up the statistics in the Hosed Shuttlecraft Walk of Fame.
Well, whoever. Seven knows they're all dead if she doesn't do something, so she takes the top ten units off line. The engines come back up, and she tells the computer to floor it.
The voices gloat. "I win. I knew she didn't care about them," Paris says.
Seven sprints through the Borg-green corridors toward the stasis units. Janeway, face horribly burned, stands outside the doorway to greet her. "Come to watch them die?" she demands.
Seven enters. It just so happens that the stasis units she turned off include Tom and Harry's and Janeway's. The stasis units are smoking, and Paris and Kim are writhing in irradiated agony.
Seven asks how long until they clear the nebula. 11 minutes, she is told.
"They won't last that long," Janeway tells her. "What do you do now, Seven? It's all up to you."
Seven looks at her dying friends, then makes her decision. "Computer, cut life support to all decks and reroute available power to the stasis units." It's done; the stasis units reactivate, and the writhing within them stops.
"That will keep them alive, but what about you?" Janeway asks. "No oxygen; no heat. Good-bye, Seven."
The floor begins to writhe with swirling smoke. Seven's breath speeds up as the oxygen content diminishes. She hugs herself as warmth flees. She collapses against the wall, and slowly slides down it as consciousness slips away.
"I am Seven of Nine. I am alone...But I will adapt." It is spoken like a mantra, even a prayer of supplication--no doubt something she has said to herself many times in recent months.
"I will..." the sentence never completes as the cold overwhelms her.
There is a flash of brilliant white.
On the other side, Doc, Janeway, and Chakotay are waiting.
"She's coming to," Doc says.
Seven awakens to find herself in Sickbay. She sits up, but Doc puts a gentle restraining hand on her shoulder. "Not so fast. Get your bearings first."
Seven asks about the crew. Janeway, beaming like a proud mama, tells her everyone made it without a hitch. Chakotay says she was "the one we almost lost. When the ship cleared the nebula the Doctor came back on-line and found you unconscious. He reinitiated life support and woke the crew." He's also smiling broadly.
"He tells us you've had quite an adventure," Janeway says.
"It was...interesting," says Seven with classic understatement. Her voice is soft.
"Well, when you're rested, I'd like to hear about it," Janeway says. She and Chakotay leave.
Doc smiles at her. "I'm proud of you, Seven. You performed admirably."
"I am...glad I was able to help," Seven whispers.
The mess hall is teeming with life, as it should. Harry and B'Elanna are there, eating with Tom Paris. Neelix arrives with soup, which garners unexpected praise.
"It's my secret recipe," Neelix says. "I've never told anyone what's in it."
"Why does that make me nervous?" Paris asks.
"Oh, come on, Tom, where's your sense of adventure?" B'Elanna chides him.
"Not in my stomach. Food and mystery don't go together. I like to know what I'm eating."
"Coward," Torres growls through her smirk.
Seven of Nine stands nearby, gathering her wits, taking deep breaths in preparation. Then she walks over to the table.
"Lieutenants Paris and Torres, Ensign Kim," she says. They seem a bit caught off guard, but say Hi back. She asks if she can join them, which doubly surprises them, but Paris finally breaks the ice and says Sure. Harry offers her the seat across from him. Torres tells her to try the soup.
"I don't require nourishment at this time," Seven says.
Whoah; deja vu.
"I...felt the need for companionship," she adds softly. This really throws them for a loop.
Paris again breaks the silence. "Well, after a month with only the Doc for company I can understand it."
"Yeah," Harry says. "Uh, what was that like, anyway--just the two of you?"
"The Doctor was very helpful. I cannot fault him," she says.
"Well, we owe you one," Torres says.
"Yeah. Just think--we could have died in those coffins," Paris says, still not quite over the experience.
"I suspect you would have found a way out before that, Lieutenant," says Seven, voice a bit stronger, eyes twinkling slightly over one of the few amusing memories she had of the previous month.
"What do you mean?" Harry asks.
"Lieutenant Paris refused to stay confined. On four separate occasions, the Doctor and I had to put him back into his stasis unit." Seven's lessons with Doc appear to have paid off; she looks at everyone at the table, ignoring no one, including all in the conversation.
Harry blows soup out his nose with laugher. "Were you, um, locked in dark closets or something as a child?"
Paris takes the ribbing as well as he can. "I just don't like closed places. I never have. I don't know why."
Seven's eyes get a faraway look. "Perhaps you dislike being alone."
The technical side of this episode is a weak link. Time gets very, very relative in order to suit the story. Paris manages to leave his stasis tube four times and not get burned by the nebula. (Granted, the radiation is no doubt stronger in some areas of the nebula than others, and is probably at its most extreme at the edges. But still.) And with Astrometrics sensors, one would assume they'd have seen this roadblock from a lot farther away, and adjusted course to compensate much sooner. And don't get me started about entering a strange nebula before scanning it thoroughly, shooting in a probe, maybe losing a shuttlecraft or two inside.
And the cutting off of life support seems to have an effect far more immediate than one would expect from previous instances in Trek episodes. One would expect the existing air and heat to last at least eleven minutes. It's not like they're opening a window for vacuum-chilled ventilation.
But oh well. The technical is not a big part of the story. The equipment is essentially here to fail from time to time, and time is there to be depressing, to remind Seven of how long she'll continue to be alone Enough said.
The rest of it I enjoyed an awful lot.
This week was clearly the Seven of Nine show, but there was plenty for the others to do. As long as there is room for Holodecks and hallucinations, everyone gets screen time. In their roles as real people and as virtual people and as figments of Seven's imagination, everyone does a fine job.
But the big role is Jeri Ryan's.
We've seen an awful lot of Seven this year-too much, many say, to the detriment of the other characters. But when there's a good story it's hard for me to complain. This was a fun and occasionally fascinating look into the mind of Seven.
If you stretch your mind all the way back to Scorpion II and The Gift, you know what the drone Seven of Nine considered important. She mocked the humans for their smallness. She was hard-wired into a social organization of billions. Here are some snippets from that long-ago episode.
"This drone is small now...alone. One voice. One mind."
"One," Seven mutters to herself. Her voice is hollow, barely audible. "My designation is Seven of Nine--but the others are gone. Designations are no longer relevant. I am...one."
"I cannot function this way. Alone."
"So...quiet! One voice..." Seven wails, hunched over, grabbing her silent skull.
Given the title of this episode, "One," that fear is still present. There's nothing at all wrong with that, because as Janeway points out the human need for social contact is no less pressing. The question answered here is less a matter of whether Seven can handle a month in isolation, but rather of who she has become. Who she is and what she does and how she thinks when nobody is looking. The true test of character.
The moment Janeway goes to sleep, her only companionship is holograms. Then, even that goes away, and she is left with nothing but the products of her failing mind. Speaking from experience, we are often our own most virulent critics. Seven's anxiety closet is filled with a parade of guest characters: caricatures of her crewmates who speak frankly the words she worries they whisper when she's not around. Drones from the Collective who remind her of the social safety net (or crutch, take your pick) that raised her since childhood.
Trajis represents-what? The person she might wish to be? An individual who seems unaffected by loneliness, who is still invulnerable despite his individuality? Perhaps not; he was a jerk. Perhaps he represented her darker impulses. Certainly "weak" and "pathetic" were words she was quite capable of throwing at Chakotay in "Scorpion." Trajis' sexual aggressiveness toward Seven somewhat echoes Seven's own "take off your clothes" moves on Harry Kim in "Revulsion" and her pronouncement that sexual congress needs little more preamble than an expression of interest; Trajis' "efficient" advances might make her rethink that position a tad, to at least'mutual consent.' His at-times serpentine demeanor fits with his temptations-offering Seven physical distractions, mental distractions (playing games with her when there's work to be done), and outright bribery ("step through that door and you'll never be alone again"). Perhaps Trajis is her Id. Not complex, but certainly compelling.
Interesting that when Seven left Doc in Sickbay to hunt down Trajis, when Doc asked if she was afraid, she said, "I am Borg." So in her next round of sparring with Trajis, her Borgness began to be used against her. Her strengths became weaknesses as her cherished identity became a distraction from her duty.
She was forced to decide between who she had been, and who she would be.
In Babylon 5, when Sheridan took a swan dive into the center of Z'ha'dum, he was caught by the First One, and the question was posed over and over again: WHO ARE YOU?
In the Collective, she knew exactly who she was. She was We, the Collective. The body was This Drone, but the mind was the many and powerful WE. She had to work toward the point where she could say I, and she's still a long way from answering the Who am I? Question. But then, she's hardly alone on that score. Philosophers and poets have been pondering that questions forever. And the answer can change from time to time, because living beings change.
The last words Seven of Nine thought she would ever utter were these: "I am Seven of Nine. I am alone...But I will adapt." The use of the mess hall in this episode showed that Seven could be as alone in a crowded room as in an empty one. But her vow to adapt, to end her aloneness, was not forgotten, and she managed to begin the voluntary effort to integrate with the crew.
Difficult? Undoubtedly. But after what she'd been through, the alternative is demonstrably worse.
Identity wasn't the only challenge Seven faced. So was duty. Seven has always had a strong opinion on how things should be done. She has frequently "butted horns" with Janeway, Chakotay, Doc, Torres and Kim over courses and methods of action. She's proven herself resistant to everything up to and including direct orders. She's big on that "needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the One" outlook. She's been getting better lately, but it's often taken stern reminders and guilt trips from Janeway and Chakotay to get her back in line. But she found something here even more compelling: the desire to not let her crewmates, particularly Janeway, down.
Ironically, her decision to sacrifice some of the crew for that final kick outside the nebula is precisely the sort of decision Troi had to face to earn her promotion to full Commander. She kept failing a test until she realized what was being demanded of her: the willingness to send someone under her command to their death. Captains are faced with such decisions daily; Janeway's first trip into the nebula cost at least one crewman's life. But Seven's mind condemned the "efficient" decision-sacrifice some, or lose all-and compelled her to do the one thing she has called "unacceptable" since she began to put some value in her own life: to sacrifice it willingly.
This is a major step in the character's evolution. In "The Gift" she begged for death; it was preferable to life outside the Collective. In "Day of Honor" she offered herself as a sacrifice; she still had the Drone mentality that her individual life was meaningless, and leaving would benefit the whole. A similar choice to the one she makes here, but from a very different perspective. In "Raven" her Borg nature begins to reassert itself, but she does not assimilate anyone-in fact, she resists that Borg instinct, out of a growing respect for the crew, though she still felt the pull of the Collective. The more human she became, the more aware of her self she became, the less willing she was to give up her own life. She was even willing to kill to salvage herself, as in Prey.
So this act of self-sacrifice comes after a year of discovering the value of Self. And it was taken at a point where it did some good; prior to that last twenty minutes in the nebula, giving up her life or giving in to insanity would have doomed them all.
Jeri Ryan did a terrific job here. Her character is restrained by nature; outbursts of any kind require extreme duress. She manages to let the stress build, so that in the first part of the episode she seems as unflappable as ever, if a bit crustier for her close-quarter run-ins with Doc. She allows her performance to build, but never to go completely nuts. She has to do a lot with little more than the volume and steadiness of her voice.
Picardo also put in a nicely varied performance. He was at turns irritable and understanding. His foibles were on display as much as Seven's, and it's easy to see these two getting on each others' nerves. What as nice to see was Doc trying hard to be nice even when Seven was still in a cranky mood, learning to curb his own often acid tongue.
There were other nice moments. The inevitable discussion between Janeway and Chakotay. This one was more mellow than past discussions over Seven; they've no doubt had it enough times that the passion is gone. Chakotay is a bit less confrontational, asking only for something he can cling to for reassurance if he's going to put his life in Seven's hands. Janeway's reassurances aren't strong, but she's making a leap of faith herself, and that's about all she can offer Chakotay. But it's enough for him. Janeway's demeanor is confident, at ease, and that's awfully reassuring in itself.
Harry seems to have carried over that "new attitude" from last week. It worked a bit better for me this week. Poor Paris was the anxious one this week, with his claustrophobia. It was given so much attention I wouldn't be surprised to see them return to it in the future. Or, since Jeri Taylor wrote this script, we may see it mentioned in her novel PATHWAYS.
The hallucinatory alter egos worked generally well, and were generally true to character. Tom Paris' constant "who wants to bet..." lines weren't quite as convincing, though; he rarely did any wagering the last four years, and the most famous instance of it occurred when Paris was deliberately trying to ruin his reputation for the good of the ship. He was betting on captain's orders. That Paris was long gone by the time Seven came aboard, so that image of him seems off to me.
That's about all I can think of at the moment. Strong performances, a moving script that stays interesting despite the logic flaws, some very nice character growth for Seven, and a good bookend to "The Gift." Everyone got something to do in ways that didn't compromise their characters. The hallucinations confused me a bit at first, but I guess that's the nature of them. The use of imagery was terrific, particularly the parallel views of Seven in the mess hall as indicators of her personal development. Trajis was creepy, and well played, though I wasn't entirely clear on his purpose for being there. The nebula was, well, nebulous as a setting, but the visuals in Astrometrics were kinda cool, and the relentless sameness of its interior added to the mood.
On the four-star scale, I give this (* * * *).
Next week: Starfleet sends the crew a ride home?