UnityBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 2:33 PM GMT
See Also: 'Unity' Episode Guide
Following a distress call while returning in a shuttle from an away mission, a badly-injured Chakotay encounters a colony of former Borg, a small group fighting for survival against the disparate beings into which the collective has fragmented without the Borg mind link to unify them. As Voyager examines the drifting cube and tries to figure out what caused the deaths of so many Borg, Chakotay comes close to death and finally agrees to the radical treatment suggested by Dr. Riley Frasier, an attractive human scientist: he joins into a neural link with the colony, permitting them to help heal his injuries, and during the aftereffects, he discovers that he and Riley share a strong physical bond.
When Voyager arrives, Riley attempts to convince Janeway to help her link all the former Borg on the planet in the belief that such a connection will stop the fighting and enable them to work together again. Janeway refuses, in part because of the noninterference argument but also because the link would require that Voyager reactivate the Borg cube. Riley and the collective then commandeer Chakotay's brain, to which they remain linked, unbeknownst to him. He activates the Borg ship himself before being rescued by Voyager and released by the collective, now consisting of all the former Borg on the planet. Though the collective harbors idealistic notions about communal living, Chakotay can't help but wonder whether a group that was so quick to use him for their own ends won't lose their ideals in the face of the power they possess.
The best thing about "Unity," the most-hyped episode of February sweeps, is that it failed as a Borg episode. Audience feedback indicated disappointment with the dearth of Borg threat, so the producers scrapped their intended season finale to create "Scorpion Part I," a terrific episode both in terms of the Borg and in terms of the crew. "Unity" is far less successful with the characters, particularly Chakotay, who's shown himself to be much too vulnerable to any long-haired woman who comes along and says, "That's an order, Commander."
I suppose it was inevitable that sooner or later the writers would give Chakotay a Babe of the Week, but did they have to make him look like such a passive pushover? Robert Beltran's glassy-eyed performance didn't help (in fact I rather liked it, I got the feeling he didn't believe in the episode either). Chakotay, who's been given an inconsistent backstory in terms of his Starfleet committments and tribal heritage, hasn't really had a positive showing all season. Now he can't even keep faithful to his bond to Janeway -- unspoken in terms of romantic potential, perhaps, but did that speech in "Resolutions" not mean anything at all?
Despite her Barbie of Borg appearance, Riley comes across as a much stronger character. She's smart, a survivor, a natural leader, devoted to her people, aggressive, resourceful, sympathetic, and she knows how to have a good time. Reminded me of Janeway on a good day. Despite her cheap femme-fatale use of sexuality, I found her compelling.
"Unity" strikes me as a missed opportunity - an episode which could have tackled meaty questions about communist living and freedom of thought. There were interesting parallels between Voyager and the collective. They're both communities of necessity with scant resources, consisting of former enemies merged into a new society, led by former Federation science officers. It would have been far more interesting if Chakotay, who's always talking about "his people" and has apparently been looking for community all his life, had told Janeway he wanted to stay on the planet with the collective, instead of just asking his new girlfriend to come fly with him. This episode could have been about what it means to be a community, with Chakotay torn between people who've become his tribe and people who've invited him into their innermost thoughts.
Instead we got phaser fights and kinky mind control, two staples of Trek sweeps months, and they're getting boring. Classic Trek was about ideas even at its worst, when Kirk pontificated while Spock blew up alien computers. I'm starting to wonder whether Voyager is about anything at all, other than a bunch of people lost in space.
Janeway had a fairly good showing - she stood up to the Borg, though she also had to stand around helplessly while her first officer did their bidding. Yet I have no idea what this woman stands for. I watch her marching around with her big phaser rifle, denying herself friends while she hangs out with holograms, sighing to Q that she'd like to have a child, giving inconsistent orders when the bad guys show up, and I think, this is supposed to be my role model?
Rewind two weeks. Watch "Coda." Wonder what happened to this Janeway and Chakotay.
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.