CollectiveBy Edward James Hines
Posted at February 16, 2000 - 6:00 AM GMT
Teleplay by Michael Taylor
Story by Andrew Shepard Price & Mark Gaberman
Directed by Allison Liddi
A Borg cube captures the Delta Flyer, and the Away Team is detained but not assimilated by five neonatal drones. The cube itself is heavily damaged and all the adult drones are dead, thanks to a spaceborne pathogen that infiltrated and adapted to Borg technology. The neonatal drones were protected inside their maturation chambers, but malfunctions caused by the deaths of the adults caused the chambers to open prematurely. The overconfident, blustering teenage First drone demands that in exchange for his hostages, he wants Voyager's navigational deflector, with which he intends to contact and regain a link with the Collective. Janeway and Seven of Nine stall for time until the cube's shields can be disabled. The First is killed but the four remaining drones (and a baby drone) are brought to Voyager to be "de-assimilated."
Gone are the days of Paramount being able to insert Borg into an episode and assume it will be great. "Collective" is inferior by several orders of magnitude to last season's terrific telemovie, "Dark Frontier." To its credit, however, "Collective" tries to succeed by using or building on the details of its predecessors. Like the Borg in Star Trek: First Contact, the neonatal drones need a navigational deflector to contact their fellows. Like Hugh's refugees in TNG's "Descent, Part II," the neonatal drones have been rejected by the Collective because they are considered "damaged" and, thus, unworthy of reassimilation. Also, like the events in "The Gift" and "Survival Instinct," Voyager becomes home to Borg who have been permanently separated from the Collective.
But it is "Survival Instinct" that "Collective" tries hardest to mimic - unfortunately without success. Seven doesn't seem to realize the similarity of the neonatal drones' situation to her own eight years ago, when she and members of her original unimatrix were stranded on an alien planet. The First, for all his adolescent peevishness, is trying to keep his little group together just like Seven did - unfettered by outside considerations, notions of individuality or the possibility that the Collective would never come for them. The story might have had more dramatic impact if Seven had picked up on the commonality and either refused to impede the drones' goal or demonstrated more sympathy. As it is, however, the First is such an overbearing bully that attention seems inevitably drawn to him and his histrionics like the gravitational pull of a black hole. There is no room for sympathy or opposition. If it wasn't for VGR's squeamishness about using force when necessary, then Seven could have punched the boy's lights out and ended the Mexican standoff before it got ridiculous.
If Seven was the first to balk at Janeway's idea to rescue the neonatal drones, then she's doubtlessly in good company with many fans. The prospect of seeing these characters again is about as exciting as revisiting the children from TOS's "Miri" and "And the Children Shall Lead." Following a group of drones as they emerge from the Collective is about as original an idea as VGR having a Vulcan and a Klingon as main characters. Been there, done that already in Star Trek.
And what about the idea of Voyager suddenly becoming a ship with children? It suggests that the "Braga bunch" is trying to have the best of both worlds - avoid the responsibility of the Voyager crew pairing off and having babies, but introduce kids anyway. It's too much and too late. Naomi Wildman (Scarlett Pomers) is a good-enough and unique-enough kid that VGR shouldn't need to clutter the cast with supernumeraries and possibly compromise the budding friendship between her and Seven. The time for Voyager families and derring-do has passed. Just get the ship home.
The "Memorial" boys (Chakotay, Paris, Kim, Neelix) are back together aboard the Delta Flyer for the teaser, but again, the poker game idea has been done before. Still, their camaraderie is appealing.
The "collective" voice of this particular Borg cube is the first to Americanize the pronunciation of "futile," aside from Data (Star Trek: First Contact) and, of course, Seven.
Mezoti (Marley McLean) is Norcadian (like the species from "Tsunkatse") and she appears in the final scene wearing what looks like Isabella's dress from TNG's "Imaginary Friend." The former Borg Second is named Icheb (Manu Intiraymi), while the silent twins are Azan and Rebi (Kurt and Cody Wetherill).
The Delta Flyer's retrieval from the doomed Borg cube - while assured - is a detail left unresolved in typical VGR sloppiness. Also, actually seeing the cube's destruction might have jazzed up an otherwise flat ending.
Finally, Voyager's possession of the pathogen that can neutralize drones casts some concern over future Borg shows. Would Janeway ever use it, or will the advantage be nullified by a mere scripted line that allows the Collective to adapt to it?
Edward James Hines writes weekly reviews of Voyager episodes.