Child´s PlayBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 10:27 PM GMT
See Also: 'Child's Play' Episode Guide
At a children's science fair, Janeway is very impressed with ex-Borg Icheb's design for a sensor modification to scan for wormhole. Still, as she reluctantly informs Seven of Nine, they have tracked down Icheb's home planet and are en route to return him to his parents. The boy wants to stay on Voyager, and Janeway realizes that Seven has grown attached to him. Moreover, Seven associates Icheb's parents' failure to protect him from the Borg with her own parents' reckless behavior. When Voyager reaches Brunali, which has been savaged by Borg attacks, Seven is so overtly scornful of Brunali science that the captain must dismiss her from a meeting with Icheb's parents. Privately, Janeway agrees that Icheb can stay on Voyager if he so chooses, but only after exploring his own culture.
Icheb's mother cooks his favorite childhood meal, and the boy begins to warm to his family. He learns about how the Brunali use genetic engineering to improve farming on their hostile planet, enjoys sports with his peers, and fights with Seven to get a portable generator so he can stay overnight and star-watch. Icheb's father explains that he was taken four years earlier by the Borg when he went snooping into new Brunali technology that the aliens had come to sieze. Realizing that the family has suffered and that the boy genuinely wants to stay with them, Seven prepares educational padds for Icheb and reluctantly watches as he beams away.
After Mezoti worries that Icheb could be taken from his spaceship as he was before, Seven becomes concerned enough to study the cube's records. She wakes the captain to inform her that Icheb's parents lied: he was alone on a transport when the Borg found and assimilated him. Janeway tells Seven to let go, but Seven insists that she has a responsibility to ensure Icheb's safety; otherwise she's no better than her own parents. Meanwhile, on Brunali, Icheb's parents argue and finally agree that he must fulfill the destiny he was born for now that he has been returned to them. When Icheb gets home from playing sports, they give him an injection and launch him into space aboard a transport.
When Voyager approches and Janeway demands to speak to Icheb, the parents tell her he is fighting for his people, using the only resource they have - their skill at genetic engineering. Janeway realizes that Icheb is the source of the pathogen that killed all the adult drones on his cube. "We're trying to save our civilization," insist the parents, but an appalled Janeway sets out to rescue the boy as a Borg sphere emerges from the nearby transwarp conduit. Seven beams Icheb to sickbay, then blows up the Brunali ship to stop the sphere. When Icheb regains consciousness and studies his altered DNA, he tries to rationalize his parents' choices, but Seven says he doesn't have to forgive them. Then she allows him to continue to study, even though it is time to regenerate.
A good episode which could have been a great episode, "Child's Play" provided strong emotional content but shirked away from the compelling ethical questions it raised. This is one of my favorite Seven of Nine stories, exploring her ambivalent feelings about her parents and her difficulty in trusting authority figures upon whom her safety is dependent. She and Icheb played off each other very well, particularly before he had made his decision to stay with his parents, when Seven was forced to encourage him to keep an open mind against her own wishes.
I was annoyed that Janeway reduced the interaction to "maternal instincts" when Seven's feelings for Icheb are obviously so much more complex. He's sort of the younger brother she never had, someone who can relate to her feelings of alienation among the Starfleet crew, as well as her protectiveness towards the children - Naomi Wildman in addition to the ex-Borg. He's also obviously one of the few intellects on the ship who can keep up with Seven. It's rather irksome that her instincts were so obviously right while Janeway remained oblivious to the hidden motives of the Brunali, and that Seven singlehandedly got to save Icheb and Voyager after singlehandedly figuring out the deception. How is Seven supposed to get over her distrust of the people who care about her if she's the only one who can save them from themselves? How can she respond to Janeway as a maternal figure if she's already a better "mother" than the captain?
Regrettably, the episode gave no serious consideration to Icheb's concern that being assimilated was his destiny, literally written into his genes. His parents told Voyager they had no right to interfere with their weapon of choice against the Borg. Is this a Prime Directive issue? I think so. Picard considered using Hugh for a similar pathogen-based attack on the Borg, and although they ultimately accepted Hugh's individuality, many on the crew seemed to believe that the sacrifice of one ex-drone was a small price for the destruction of the deadly Collective.
Of course the Collective is looking a lot tamer these days, so it's hard to feel any fear when the "We are the Borg, resistance is futile" speech begins to play. But there was a time when the loss of one child expressly designed for the purpose of ending Borg tyranny would have seemed a small price even to Starfleet officers. Kirk let "Charlie X" go with less at stake. Janeway, who herself considered using the pathogen against all the Borg children a few weeks ago, might have chosen personally to rescue a child from parents she deemed irresponsible. But how come Chakotay - who joined the Maquis to prevent his planet from tyranny - didn't have anything to say about the rights of the Brunali to defend themselves against the Borg? Seven of Nine isn't going to be around to blow up the next sphere that comes through the transwarp conduit. Voyager may just have condemned an entire species.
A point of scientific curiosity: if the pathogen is generated by Icheb's body, why wouldn't it attack the nanoprobes in Seven of Nine's body (and presumably still in Neelix's from "Mortal Coil")? Will it begin to affect the young ex-Borg as they mature? Some more information about how the weapon works would have made the story more interesting, since we learned in "Collective" that the children were shielded only because they were in maturation chambers. It would be rather nicely ironic if Seven inadvertently killed her young charges because Icheb's genes are as deadly as they were intended to be.
Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.