ImperfectionBy Edward James Hines
Posted at October 19, 2000 - 4:56 PM GMT
Teleplay by Carleton Eastlake and Robert Doherty
Story by Andre Bormanis
Directed by David Livingston
It is a "bittersweet" day aboard Voyager as a Wysanti vessel arrives to claim former Borg children Azan (Kurt Wetherill) and Rebi (Cody Wetherill). Mezoti (Marley S. McClean), while not a member of their species, joins them. Icheb (Manu Intiraymi) remains on the ship.
After the children's departure, Icheb notices Seven of Nine tearing from her ocular implant. She dismisses this as a technical malfunction, but privately she has been suffering from headaches and other bodily discomforts. When she learns that she can no longer regenerate in her alcove because of an incompatible interface, she tries to work through the night in the Mess Hall, but collapses when Neelix arrives in the morning.
It turns out that Seven's primary cortical node is malfunctioning. Her body is beginning to reject her Borg implants because the cortical node can no longer regulate them. Tragically, Seven will soon die because these particular implants control her vital bodily functions. Unfortunately, neither replicating nor fixing the existing cortical node are viable options because of the complexity of Borg technology.
Janeway resolves to find another cortical node. She, Tuvok and Tom Paris take the new Delta Flyer back to a Borg debris field that Voyager passed several days earlier. After encountering some resistance from alien pirates, who claimed the debris for themselves, the Away Team returns to Voyager with the cortical node from a dead Borg drone. Unfortunately, after several failed holodeck simulations of the replacement procedure, the Doctor concludes that Seven's body would reject a cortical node that has been inactive for too long.
Seven takes the news hard but attempts to continue performing her duties. When Icheb requests her help in preparing for the astrometrics portion of the Starfleet Academy entrance exam, which he has decided to take, Seven insists that he seek help from other crewmembers because he relies on her too much. Stung by her rejection and sensing that she has given up hope, Icheb resolves to find a way to save her.
After extensive research, Icheb determines that his own cortical node could be removed and given to Seven. Since his body is younger, having been removed prematurely from a Borg maturation chamber and never fully assimilated, it stands a good chance of adapting without the cortical node. Seven refuses to go along with this plan if there is the slightest chance that Icheb will come to harm. He soon takes matters into his own hands and deactivates his own cortical node.
Icheb is rushed to Sickbay but manages to convince Seven that she, too, must learn to rely on others and accept help from those who care for her. The surgery is successful for both patients, and after each has taken sufficient time to recover, Seven promises to help Icheb study for his Academy entrance exam.
Whether by accident or design, "Imperfection" is the fourth-consecutive No. 2 episode in a season to focus on Seven of Nine. This informal quadrilogy which includes S4's "The Gift," S5's "Drone" and S6's "Survival Instinct" comprises story lines that depict Seven in some kind of emotional crisis. In "The Gift," it is the shock of being separated from the Borg Collective. In "Drone," she is overcome with grief at the death of the futuristic Borg drone named One. In "Survival Instinct," Seven feels remorse for having condemned three former drones to death because of actions she took several years earlier.
"Imperfection" depicts Seven confronting her own mortality and the regret she feels not only for herself, but also for Janeway. It seems strange particularly after her jolted emotional awareness in "Unimatrix Zero" to see Seven still denying her emotions in the real world, even after three years as an individual. Nevertheless, "Imperfection" is a touching episode that capitalizes on the vibrant emotional interplay not only between Janeway and Seven, but also between Seven and Icheb. Actor Manu Intiraymi has an undeniably moving quality that infuses Icheb with vibrancy too powerful to ignore. Thankfully, he survives not only the "general housecleaning" that saw the abrupt exit of his fellow Borg youngsters, but also what could have been the expected, hackneyed denouement resulting in his death.
Existence Is Futile
The hasty disposition of the Borg children is the most troubling element of the show. Their summary dismissal makes the teaser most akin to the "imperfection" bespoken by the episode's title. Who saw this coming?
If you think about it, however, the story works better if there is only one ex-drone aboard Voyager who can offer Seven his cortical node. Also, the departure serves to stifle the doubtlessly annoying question of why the Borg children, when they are not involved in an episode, are conveniently missing from the cargo bay when Seven comes home to regenerate (as in "Unimatrix Zero"). Still, there is no denying that the "Imperfection" opening sequence seems rushed to the point of "let's be done with this unpleasantness and get on with the story as quickly as possible."
Surprisingly, and unforgivably, neither Neelix nor Naomi Wildman are present in the Transporter Room to say goodbye to their friends. Neelix, in particular, would never absent himself from such an important event, especially given all the time he has spent with Naomi, these Borg children ("Ashes to Ashes," "The Haunting of Deck Twelve") and other alien children ("Counterpoint"). Actor Ethan Phillips has little enough to do as it is without the producers missing an obvious opportunity to include Neelix in such a crucial farewell.
Also terribly strange is that the Wetherill twins are given no dialogue for their final scene as Azan and Rebi. Granted, they were never given much to say anyway, but this is a special occasion. How about a simple "thanks" and "we'll miss you"?
And what headquarters genius decided it was time to get rid of Mezoti? It is at least understandable that Azan and Rebi should leave, since they were rarely used, but actor Marley S. McClean always brought such a wonderful precociousness to Mezoti that it is difficult to understand why the producers would want to give her up. The Wysanti weren't even her people. Her departure seems more like an afterthought, i.e., "While you're at it, Madame Wysanti, could you please take this little girl, too?" This seems especially unfair to Naomi, who is once again bereft of a playmate.
This general confusion seems to be part of the inexplicable "master plan" behind VGR to avoid developing an "extended family" of recurring characters. Of the three contemporary Star Trek series, this concept should work best on VGR because it features a small, enclosed environment of about 150 people who are stuck together. Ironically, however, the idea flourished on DS9, which, as a space station, should have seen different aliens always coming and going. Regardless, DS9's main characters were often revealed more clearly via their interactions with frequent guest stars. This has not happened on VGR, and as a result, after almost seven seasons, we know surprisingly little about most of these people.
Despite the questionable circumstances around which the Borg children are sent packing, the scene at least plays well. Actor Jeri Ryan usually betrays such little emotion as Seven that when she does allow the character to be moved, even slightly, the expression is unmistakably apparent. The hugs that Seven exchanges with Mezoti, Azan and Rebi seem to affect her so much that in the very next scene, she is anxious to deactivate their regeneration alcoves under the guise of conserving energy. But we know better.
Three Generations of Janeways
At this point in the series, Janeway and Seven's teacher/student, mother/daughter relationship has been well-documented. In "Imperfection," however, Seven shows continuing signs of maturity by assuming responsibility for her own health, insisting that the Doctor adhere to physician/patient confidentiality without informing Janeway of Seven's earlier, minor medical troubles.
Later, when the situation worsens, there is a poignant sequence in which Janeway perfunctorily excuses the Doctor and tries to calm an agitated Seven. Janeway as "mom" also demonstrates the extraordinary lengths to which she will go to help Seven. As in "Dark Frontier," Janeway proposes to infiltrate a Borg ship and, this time, take a cortical node from a living drone, if necessary. The Doctor, of course, objects to this unethical option and catches Janeway off-guard with his vehemence a nicely performed scene.
But there is a new extension to the Janeway family tree Icheb, who similarly shares a son/mother, student/teacher relationship with Seven (begun in "Child's Play"). With her back turned to him in the Astrometrics Lab, we can see Seven's almost-imperceptible beam of pride as Icheb expresses interest in greater challenges, wanting to work on the Bridge and even take the Starfleet Academy entrance exam. Later, in her naivete, Seven hopes to spare Icheb the pain of her death by pushing him off onto other crewmembers (and out of the nest) when he needs help. Icheb's retort that Seven must also learn to rely on others recalls Worf's early problem of having to depend on people, especially with his life (TNG's "Coming of Age").
Icheb's budding relationship with Janeway is expectedly tentative at this stage with just the suggestion of a grandson-to-grandmother slant especially when Seven rejects Icheb's plan and he appeals to Janeway to overturn Seven's rejection. After all, what is a boy to do when mom won't listen? Hit up grandma, of course!
The most enlightening scene between VGR's celebrated mother/daughter combo involves Seven's concern that, in death, she will have failed to live up to Janeway's expectations of her as an individual. Obviously, this assumption is erroneous to Janeway, who instead marvels at Seven's development over the last three years. Seven, however, still seems to be thinking as a Borg drone in pursuit of "perfection," and that her failure to successfully "assimilate" the role of a "normal individual" will not only damn her in Janeway's eyes, but also make her time among the Voyager crew irrelevant and unmemorable. This, to a Borg drone, is unimaginable, because even if the drone were to be deactivated, its memories would continue to reside in the Collective's consciousness. Seven, now disconnected from the hive, worries that her contributions as an individual will be lost and forgotten if she dies. This is why she feels a greater impetus to succeed and be useful, running herself ragged day-after-day in pursuit of a "perfection" she doesn't realize she will never achieve. It simply isn't the nature of humans to lead "perfect" lives. In the 24th century, humans pursue the betterment not the perfection of themselves and their communities.
Surprisingly, the perfect example of the "typical human" is Neelix who is obviously not human but he shares an important characteristic with Seven. He, too, runs himself ragged around Voyager, wearing many different hats and making a grand life for himself and the people he serves. Still, the difference between her and him is that he can kick back, relax and enjoy some time off. When he and Seven are playing the game in Sickbay and she asks him if he has something better to do, his answer is the pat "Nothing that can't wait." This is an important lesson for Seven to learn. Some things take precedence over the successful performance of duties.
The astonishing "heart-to-heart" conversation about death that Seven shares with B'Elanna Torres should probably have been assigned to Neelix, who has actually died ("Mortal Coil") and grappled with the faith-shattering experience of finding "nothing" in his afterlife. Torres, despite her epiphanic experience in "Barge of the Dead," has butted heads with Seven too often in the past, rendering this heartfelt "girl chat" too unbelievable to take seriously. Still, Torres has been known to have "windows" of calm in her usually fiery personality, so maybe Seven just got lucky this day. Maybe some of Paris' gentleness has finally rubbed off onto Torres. Who knows? The advice and encouragement that Torres imparts to Seven are right on the money. Chalk it up to seventh season sentiment.
Perhaps the most interesting detail in "Imperfection" is that the crew has already built a new Delta Flyer, so obviously some time has passed between the end of "Unimatrix Zero" and now. Thankfully, the producers included Paris' playful quip that Janeway should probably be supervised while taking the super-shuttle out on a mission. But for this brief exchange, however, the issue of the once-destroyed Delta Flyer would have been left glaringly dangling.
In this same scene, Chakotay acts like a broken record by once again insisting that Janeway not undertake a dangerous mission by herself.
The most glaring costuming gaffe in "Imperfection" involves Paris wearing a wedding band during Seven's simulated and actual surgical procedures. Was "Imperfection" supposed to be shown after the next episode, "Drive," with coming attractions featuring Paris asking Torres to marry him? Apparently not, according to the episode production numbers. "Imperfection" is 248 and "Drive" is 249.
Icheb recalls that Tuvok was once an instructor at Starfleet Academy ("Flashback"). Also, in his proposal to the Doctor, Icheb suggests that without his cortical node, genetic re-sequencing should help his body regulate the remaining Borg implants. In TNG's "Bloodlines," Ferengi DaiMon Bok re-sequenced Jason Vigo's DNA to convince Picard that Jason was his son.
The Doctor continues to be a hologram with extraordinary abilities. Not only can he create an amusing play on words ("Persistence is futile"), but also, thanks to Torres having tweaked his program, he can sob when attending the holographic opera. Last season's "Blink of an Eye" also revealed that the Doctor can sire a child, but no one has figured out that one yet.
Regarding the Doctor's handiwork, Seven's ocular implant is capable of tearing but then again, so were Data's artificial eyes (Star Trek Generations).
Seven's recollection of some of Voyager's dearly departed include Ensign Marie Kaplan, who died in "Unity," and Ensign Lyndsay Ballard ("Ashes to Ashes"), who, technically speaking, really isn't dead. The deceased crewman Timothy Lang is different from the female Ensign Lang from "Blood Fever" and "Displaced."
Janeway's hometown in Indiana is finally revealed as Bloomington, which is also home to Indiana University.
Finally, the greatest overlooked detail of all is still about what happened to the Borg baby from "Collective." Nobody can find it. Does VGR know where the rest of its Borg children are? (Last-minute update: Brannon Braga now tells us that the Borg baby was returned to its people off-screen a predictably cheap workaround.)
Behind the Scenes
For the first and last time, Marley McClean uses her middle initial "S." during the guest star credits.
Also, Brannon Braga's status is finally adjusted to "consulting producer."
Copyright Edward James Hines
18 October 2000
Edward James Hines writes weekly reviews of Voyager episodes.