Unimatrix Zero, Part OneBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 10:31 PM GMT
See Also: 'Unimatrix Zero, Part One' Episode Guide
On a Borg cube, a man's eyes flicker rapidly as he regenerates. When he is activated, he behaves like a standard drone. Later, the Borg Queen has her body put together piece by piece as she addresses Four of Twelve, whom she says has a disease. She demands the interlink frequency that binds him to others with the condition, but he says he doesn't remember. The queen orders his deactivation and dismantling so she can study his cortical array. On Voyager, Janeway restores Paris to the rank of lieutenant, but their celebration is cut short by a distress call. They arrive at a colony completely devoid of life signs, marked by Borg weapon signatures.
Seven of Nine walks through a lush forest, enjoying the sunlight and the laughter that trickle through the trees. A man greets her as Annika, but when he reaches to touch her, she comes to consciousness in the cargo bay. The Doctor is pleased that she has had her first dream, but Seven is uneasy with her uncontrolled reactions and wants her cortical array repaired. The Doctor says dreams are normal for humans, so during her next cycle she repeats her experience among the trees. This time the man greets her and welcomes her to Unimatrix Zero, where he tells her she has been before. His name is Axum, and they knew each other for many years before she was freed from the Collective. They share a mutation that allows rare Borg to enter this Collective-free space; everyone there is an individual with the characteristics of their races from before their assimilation.
Axum warns that the Borg can now detect the mutation, and if they can isolate the interlink frequency, the Queen will be able to eradicate them. The group wants Seven's help releasing a nanovirus to mask the mutation; it must be delivered by someone outside the Collective, because when the drones leave Unimatrix Zero, they have no memory of its existence. Seven meets drones who enjoy laughter and embracing, plus a human woman named Laura who was assimilated at Wolf 359. A Klingon warns Seven that she will be putting her starship at risk by assisting them, but she says she wants to help. Meanwhile, the Queen dissects the heads of dead drones to track the precise frequency of the carrier wave of the mutated Borg communications.
Seven tells the crew of Voyager she will take a shuttle and infiltrate the Borg alone, claiming that this is a Starfleet matter because they have received a distress call from Unimatrix Zero. Janeway agrees but wants to know more about how many drones are involved and what happens to them inside. Tuvok mentions the Vulcan technique of bridging minds, volunteering to serve as a conduit so Janeway can share Seven's experiences. The three meld in the cargo bay as Seven regenerates, allowing the captain to enter Unimatrix Zero, where Annika Hansen greets her. Janeway tells Axum she will help them protect the place, but she believes they need a better solution - the ability to stop hiding and to fight back against the hive. "Civil war?" inquires Seven. "A resistance movement," Janeway responds. Before they can discuss it further, drones enter the forest and begin to assimilate the individuals there. When Janeway picks up a Klingon bat'leth to defend them, the Queen recognizes her through a Borg interlink.
Janeway invites Chakotay into her ready room and tells him of her plan to stop the Borg from infiltrating Unimatrix Zero. She expects him to cite Starfleet protocols prohibiting their interference, but since the Borg can't take action since they can't remember the place when they're activated, she sees no choice. The captain says she knows the two of them have had their disagreements, but this can't be one of them: she won't do this without the support of her first officer. Chakotay says the safety of Voyager is a small price to pay in battle with the Borg. Janeway says she's glad because she almost talked herself out of it, which makes Chakotay laugh; he doubts she was in any danger of doing that.
The Doctor creates a cortical inhibitor virus which will allow the drones to retain memories of Unimatrix Zero. Torres suggests that if they send it through a central plexus, the virus will be transmitted instantly to all Borg nodes. Unfortunately the only Borg ship nearby is a class four tactical vessel, heavily armed. Janeway insists they must find a way aboard. Though she initially insists that she will go alone - Seven must remain connected through the regeneration cycles, while everyone else is needed on the ship - Chakotay pressures her to take Torres and Tuvok, who have already volunteered. Just then Kim hails from the bridge as the ship's lights flicker. The Borg Queen is onscreen, offering to help Voyager return to Starfleet with transwarp technology if her captain will "stay away from things that don't concern [her]." Janeway says thanks, but no."See you soon, Harry," the Queen taunts.
Janeway points out to Seven that she is different in Unimatrix Zero - she's more human - but Seven says it is irrelevant, though Janeway doubts Annika would agree. When Seven returns, more Borg drones have infiltrated, and she realizes in a tense moment that she and Axum were once lovers - something else she declares irrelevant. Paris, however, does not believe his relationship with Torres is irrelevant, and says losing his new pip to sabotage the dangerous mission and save his lover would be a small price to pay. Chakotay too is clearly concerned about the captain, but jokes that he can have the carpets cleaned while she's away. Janeway takes his hand and continues to hold it until they have stood up and she has left the bridge to him.
Axum tells the Borg inside Unimatrix Zero that if they establish individuality when they are active, they must collect tactical data on their ships. While Voyager draws the cube's fire, the Delta Flyer carrying Voyager's captain, chief engineer, and head of security coasts without power. Finally the Borg shield grid fluctuates. The Voyager crewmembers beam themselves aboard just before the cube destroys the Flyer. Watching on her viewscreen, the Queen says she expected more cunning from Janeway. Inside the cube, drones approach and assimilate Torres, Tuvok, and Janeway. The Doctor says that their life signs are destabilizing. Chakotay immediately orders Paris to get Voyager out of there. When we next see the assimilated crewmembers, they are bald Borg drones.
Axum is Morpheus, and Seven is the One who can save the Matrix...OK, it's a bit of a reversal, but the parallels are obvious. Not that I'm complaining. "Unimatrix Zero" is a fine episode, combining emotional character stories with a well-paced plot that we all knew from last week's previews would end in assimilation. It doesn't borrow from The Matrix any more than The Matrix borrowed from Star Trek, The X-Files, and the Bible.
The only real problem is that the Borg just aren't very scary anymore. Drones regenerating on Voyager are by now a domesticated sight: we see Seven do it, we see the Borg kids do it. We've already seen Picard kill one Borg Queen and Janeway trounce another in single combat. This Queen isn't all that impressive for all her gloating over dissected heads, either; she has to talk aloud to get the attention of her drones, rather than impressing her will into their thoughts as she should be able to do.
Janeway's walked into the jaws of Borg more times than I can remember, once to steal a transwarp conduit, once to rescue the kids, once to save Seven...so she's been assimilated, big deal. We're led to believe that the assimilations were part of a master plan. Chakotay ordered the ship away after the Doc said the life signs were destabilizing, without looking very nervous - I bet that means the virus is working. Ugly as Janeway looks without hair, she's just not a very scary sight, because I expect her to be rescued within the first few minutes of the fall season and take half the Borg Collective back with her.
Yet as season finales go, I prefer this one to the previous several. We didn't get the annual contrived Janeway/Chakotay confrontation usually reserved for season-ending episodes like "Scorpion" and "Equinox." In fact, we got the opposite - the captain and first officer holding hands on the bridge! I am sure Janeway/Seven fans were in heaven over Janeway's grin when she told Seven they were going to be turning in early, as well as the captain's pleasure over Annika's human charms. But overall this episode was a festival of heterosexuality, with Seven discovering she'd had a six-year love affair and Chakotay realizing the best way to keep Janeway's love is to do and say exactly what she wants. He was even more passive than his frequent sleepwalking during previous Voyager installments, and his offer to have the carpets cleaned while she was away made me laugh aloud. I'm trying to imagine Kira saying that to Sisko and failing miserably. Chakotay probably means it, however; he did most of the domestic work when they were stranded in "Resolutions."
Seven as Annika was a lovely revelation, and Jeri Ryan did a nice job making the transition subtle - "Are you telling me...?" she began incredulously, then slowly began to look and behave with far less rigidity than usual. Her pretty-in-pink self-actualization is less sexist than her catsuit. And although she's necessary to the resistance, it's nice to know that for once she cannot save the universe without her shipmates' help, so it's more fun to watch her getting acclimated in her former stomping grounds.
Next season? We've been promised a Borg movie in November. Sure would be interesting if Janeway actually stayed assimilated until then. Maybe we will see her only in Unimatrix Zero for awhile, leading the Resistance. It's interesting that even in the dream world, she saw herself in her Starfleet uniform...or maybe Seven saw her that way and projected it through the meld (let's not even wonder where Tuvok was in all this). The captain took a risk, and paid something close to the ultimate price, but it did not diminish her and it felt like the right choice. If only every episode could be that way.
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.