Survival InstinctBy Edward James Hines
Posted at September 29, 1999 - 5:00 AM GMT
"Survival Instinct" is little more than a simple Star Trek: Voyager morality story in which Seven of Nine feels remorse for unwittingly having shortened the lives of three former Borg drones. With a little help from Chakotay, she ends up "doing the right thing" by recognizing the difference between "surviving" and "living" and giving her former mates a brief taste of the freedom of individuality before their deaths. The episode was Ronald D. Moore's only solo writing credit for Voyager.
This was one of those shows that, because it was short on story, had to resort to background gimmicks to carry things along. Seven had once spoken of a time when, as a drone, she was separated from the collective, and that piece of back story is nicely integrated here and gives us another look at Seven in her Borg getup. Voyager herself is docked at a sprawling and impressive Markonian outpost with lots of ships flying about, which means there are also lots of aliens roaming around the ship (including, for some reason, an Alpha Quadrant Dopterian). There is even a silly scene in which Chakotay is lugging a large, ungainly alien racquet while Janeway is being attacked by a plant; later, Paris and Kim get busted for brawling.
Still, however, the episode bears the unmistakable stamp of the Borg. The most interesting bit of back story is that Seven's Borg sphere crashed eight years ago in 2368, when she was probably 19 or 20. Coincidentally (or not?), this was the same year that the Enterprise-D picked up Hugh in TNG's "I, Borg" and introduced his unimatrix to the concept of individuality. It is perhaps this knowledge that the Borg were trying to keep from Seven and her fellows when they were "re-assimilated" into the collective, their memories of the crash suppressed.
Also interesting was Seven's outstanding resistance to individuality immediately after the crash, as opposed to her fellows. The reasoning is that Seven was assimilated as a child and more accustomed to the collective than her unimatrix mates, who were assimilated as adults. By this same logic, we can infer that Hugh had only recently been assimilated (at Wolf 359?) when the Enterprise found him, since he quickly took to the notion of individuality.
The best scene is obviously the one in which Seven argues with the Doctor for her comrades' freedom. She wins with an impassioned plea by deftly juxtaposing her friends' situation to the Doctor's one-time isolation in Sickbay.
"Survival Instinct" boasted a return to "Star Trek" for all three guest actors. Vaughn Armstrong (Two of Nine) has performed in all three contemporary series variously as a Klingon, a Cardassian and a Romulan. Bertila Damas (Three of Nine/Marika) played the Vulcan gunrunner "Sakonna" in the DS9 two-parter, "The Maquis." Finally, Tim Kelleher (Four of Nine) played "Lt. Gaines" on the futuristic Enterprise-D in TNG's finale, "All Good Things."
Marika, a Bajoran, mentions having served on the Federation starship Excalibur as an engineer. Presumably, given the time frame, she was assimilated at Wolf 359. Curiously, though, the Ambassador-class Excalibur appeared in TNG's "Redemption II," subsequent to the Borg attack. The ship, which was just out of spacedock, was either new or largely repaired after Wolf 359. Marika, who chooses to remain aboard Voyager in the time left to her, has been neither seen nor mentioned in any episode since.
The pecking order within a Borg unimatrix seems to be quite confusing. Interestingly, after the crash, Seven is not referred to by any designation. For all we know, she may have been One of Nine since she seemed to be in charge and her surviving comrades were designated Two, Three and Four. However, to heighten the confusion, Two of Nine is the primary adjunct of Unimatrix 01. One would think that if Seven's designation was One of Nine after the crash, she would also have been the primary adjunct.
Earlier Borg episodes in TNG and Voyager have seen engineering crews scrambling to dampen a captured drone's homing signal. For some reason, after the crash depicted eight years prior to "Survival Instinct," Seven and the survivors had to build a homing device.
Finally, just as TOS's Vulcan IDIC medallion became a hot convention seller after its television debut, expect the "Voyager Medallion" to be featured in merchandising and convention media in relatively short order. Thank you.
Edward James Hines writes weekly reviews of Voyager episodes.