Scorpion, Part TwoBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 3:01 PM GMT
See Also: 'Scorpion, Part Two' Episode Guide
The Borg try to create a neural link with Janeway as the first step in an alliance, but she demands that they communicate through a spokesperson. New castmember Seven of Nine makes her first appearance as the Borg representative, who works with Janeway and Tuvok on a weapon to defeat Species 8472, until said species attacks. Seven of Nine's Borg cube permits itself to be destroyed to protect Voyager, still carrying the nanoprobes which Borg and Starfleet alike hope will diminish Species 8472. A number of Borg and the captain are rescued by Tuvok.
Seriously injured in the battle, Janeway implores Chakotay to maintain the alliance with the Borg they've rescued. But when she must relinquish command for medical treatment, he countermands her orders and prepares to ditch the Borg on an inhabitable planet. Seven of Nine and her cohorts use Voyager's deflector dish to take the ship into Species 8472's domain, where the prototype nanoprobe weapons are successfully tested, though not before Chakotay kills most of the Borg on Voyager by depressurizing the cargo bay where they're working.
When Janeway regains consciousness, she's livid with Chakotay, but realizes that their own dissent is as damaging as the various aliens assaulting them. Telling Seven of Nine that she's thrown him in the brig, Janeway gets the assimilated woman to return Voyager to Borg space, then has Chakotay form a neural link with Seven of Nine, trying to contact her human memories. Seven of Nine's link with the Borg Collective is severed, Species 8472 stops interfering with the Delta Quadrant, and the Borg collective leaves Voyager alone. Score one for the good guys, sort of.
There were things I liked about this episode, but it also pointed out every drawback of Voyager as a series. Well, not every drawback. I was pleasantly delighted by Jeri Ryan's debut as Seven of Nine. She came across stronger, smarter, and more likeable than I ever expected, so much so that I stopped noticing her enormous prosthetics (no, I don't mean her eyepiece) after a few minutes. Torres was acting as a competent engineer instead of a lovestruck Klingon, the Doctor had some funny lines, the junior crew looked smart and well-prepared. The only characters I have real gripes about were the Captain and First Officer, but more on that later.
The action in this episode was well-paced and visually exciting. But we've seen too much ship-in-peril stuff on Voyager for it to make a real impact. We've seen so many quantum singularities and hostile aliens on this show to take any new ones seriously, even traditional villains like the Borg, even scary newcomers like 8472. Winrich Kolbe's direction was a little bombastic--Seven of Nine made her entrance through smoke and mood lighting that would have befitted the Borg Queen. There were lots of claustrophobic closeups of faces, and at the end, Chakotay appeared to be sitting on an aluminum foil throne.
But there was no doubt that Voyager was going to come through, so there was little suspense. And, much as I hate to nitpick about things like disappearing shuttles and reappearing medicine bundles, how is it possible that Voyager still has a full complement of photon torpedos after the ones they used to blow up Dreadnought and to fight the Kazon and Vidiians? It's hard to take the ship-lost-in-space premise seriously when the writers keep ignoring what should be supply and personnel problems, giving the ship endless replicator energy and apparently recyclable weapons. (It's also really hard to take "fluidic space" seriously, but it was a very Classic Trek concept.)
On a character level, the events were more intriguing, but there was a depressing lack of depth to the interactions. As I predicted, the CO and XO were both right: Janeway was correct that seeking an alliance with the Borg was the best route to getting passage through Borg space, and Chakotay was right that the Borg couldn't be trusted to honor that agreement. Still, they both looked awful at moments. Janeway's decision to stay on the Borg ship strikes me as rotten for crew morale, which ought to be pretty low in the first place, given her mediocre track record at getting them closer to home.
This wasn't a terrible Janeway episode, given that she was in a coma for some of the critical decisions, but she seems awfully uncaring about anything other than her mission, defined by her own narrow little parameters. What happened to the woman of all the color and passion of the early series? When is she going to stop hiding in her holograms? When the Borg had her over a barrel, about to assimilate her, it was hard to understand why her entire crew didn't jump ship before they ever entered Borg space. We're in this together, announces Janeway, whose body language at the end is screaming that she'd rather be alone. It's very odd that this captain apparently trusts the Borg more than her first officer.
So it makes sense that Chakotay doesn't seem to like working with her, but in this episode, he looked tough at the expense of his real strengths. The best thing to recommend him as first officer has been his loyalty to Janeway; even when he's disagreed with her, he's kept the quarrels private and stood behind her on the bridge. He's generally been the one who's quick to trust people - almost to a fault, given his faith in the Kazon in "Initiations" and the primitive aliens in "Basics." In the past, he has abhorred violence, despite his Maquis terrorist past. This was a man who's put down his phaser and used negotiation every chance he got; he even encouraged Janeway to make a risky deal with the Kazon.
Yet though alliance with the Borg seemed to be Voyager's best chance of getting safely through their space - and seemed to be working - Chakotay chose prejudice and narrow-mindedness. He went against the captain's wishes from the moment she lost consciousness, then dumped live Borg into the vacuum of space when it was already too late to stop the crisis they'd precipitated. He may have salvaged his macho image, but this is not a guy I'd feel comfortable with as captain - and not a guy I'd ever trust as my first officer, especially not if I were a control freak like Janeway.
I realize that there's not much tension in a lost-in-space show without ongoing peril and crew conflict, but I really miss the warmth and humor of the first season. Janeway showed a strange lack of passion both over Chakotay's betrayal and his later apology, and Chakotay sounded unconvinced both when he said Janeway was his friend and when he told her how difficult it had been to betray her. The entire crew seemed too fearless at the start, too complacent in the end. Given that two things on this show are a given - they're going to get in and out of sticky situations every week, and they are not going to get home - I'd like to see more drama generated by relationships which mean something.
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.