ImperfectionBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 11:14 PM GMT
See Also: 'Imperfection' Episode Guide
"Imperfection" Plot Summary:
After Seven says farewell to Rebi, Azan, and Mezoti as they rejoin the twins' pre-assimilation culture, Icheb notices her weeping. She tells the Doctor her ocular implant must be malfunctioning and asks that he not tell the captain. Though Seven insists that the problem is minor, she cannot regenerate and collapses in the mess hall. Her cortical node is breaking down, causing her body to reject its Borg implants. She will die without a node to regulate her vital functions. Janeway orders the ship to find a Borg debris field so that they can take the Delta Flyer to retrieve a cortical node from a dead drone.
With Tuvok, the captain beams aboard the remains of a cube and cuts open the head of a corpse to extract the needed device. When aliens arrive to claim the right of salvage, she threatens one with a laser scalpel, triggering a fight in which Tuvok is injured. With Paris at the helm of the Flyer, they fight their way past the alien vessels and return to Voyager. But in repeated simulations, Seven dies when the Doctor tries to implant the node, which was inactive inside the drone for too long. Janeway tells the Doctor she'll take another cortical node from a live drone if she has to, but the Doctor can't countenance ending one life to save another. "I'm not giving up on her," Janeway insists tearfully.
Seven hides in engineering, immersing herself in work and in discussions with Torres about the afterlife. Then she finds Icheb, who wants to take the Starfleet Academy entrance exam. She gives him the names of crewmembers who could tutor him, but Icheb is appalled that she has left herself off the list. Seven believes she is dying, and says he is too dependent on her anyway. The young ex-drone starts his own simulations, then goes to Sickbay to ask the Doctor to give Seven his cortical node -- because Icheb emerged from a Borg maturation chamber before he was fully assimilated, he can probably survive without it. Meanwhile, Seven tells Janeway that she feels she has failed the captain's mission to make her fully human.
The Doctor summons Janeway and Seven to explain the procedure Icheb has proposed, but Seven won't allow Icheb to take that risk, and the captain refuses to order Seven to submit to the surgery. Seeing no other option, Icheb disengages his cortical node to prove that he can live without it. He argues with Seven, telling her that he won't accept her insistence that he learn to rely on others when she won't accept help from anyone else on the crew. Seven says he's still a child, but Janeway doesn't think so anymore. Finally Seven agrees to accept Icheb's node before it ceases to function. After six days of regeneration, she has recovered and Icheb's condition is improving. When Seven tells him to prepare to study for the Academy exam, she weeps. Icheb fears her ocular implant is malfunctioning again, yet the Doctor says it's functioning perfectly.
This episode packs a lot of action and emotion into less than 45 minutes, giving Seven and Icheb a powerful lesson in relationships while creating an ethically fraught situation for Janeway and the Doctor. Some scary words get spoken aloud, like the names of the many crewmembers who have died so Janeway can brag about getting her ship closer to home. I'm hopeful it's a sign that the show will continue to address such fraught issues as the ship moves closer to Earth. Seven's facial degeneration is depicted horrifically, with disgusting squishing noises to accompany the necrotizing skin around the implants. Again, that's not a problem: illness and death are often sanitized and made pretty in the media, so there's no sense of real suffering. It's easy to believe in Seven's vulnerability because her condition looks so pathetic.
I don't much like Janeway in this episode. She starts out appearing grandmotherly as Seven says farewell to her young charges. Then she marches onto a ruined cube prepared to cut open the face of a drone, despite the fact that she was a drone herself not long ago, with a similar implant that for all we know is still inside her skull. By pulling a weapon on salvagers without trying to negotiate or trade with them, the captain gets Tuvok injured unnecessarily, though to her credit she takes orders from Paris when he devises a plan to escape the aliens. In the implant simulations, Janeway monitors the computer while Wonder Boy Paris assists the Doctor -- I hope they wash their hands between piloting and surgery, but even if they do, can no one else on the ship read a computer screen or hand instruments to the Doctor? The crew must go berserk over Janeway's elite favorites, particularly when she regularly risks all their lives for her Borg protegee.
At moments, we see the return of Crazy Captain from last season -- not all that surprising given that the last time we saw Janeway, she was still recovering from having been assimilated to save Borg individuals, though she and Tuvok seem to have forgotten all about that when they board the Borg ruins. The Doctor defuses Janeway's plan to hack up a live drone, yet it's appalling she would suggest it in the first place, and does she honestly believe Seven would ever forgive her? Too bad Seven's Borg boyfriend Axum's no longer around to donate his cortical node. That would show more togetherness and more affection than their half-hearted romance.
I'm sure we're supposed to be moved by the captain's devotion to Seven, but as the Borg Queen pointed out to her in the previous episode, all drones were individuals once and could be again. The Doctor won't kill a drone even to save the woman he loves, just as he refused to separate Tuvix to save Tuvok and Neelix -- an action Janeway took for him. She insisted on saving Torres' life against Torres' wishes by allowing an unscrupulous doctor to treat the engineer in "Nothing Human." And she insisted on humanizing Seven against Seven's own wishes in "The Gift." Still, she won't order Seven to accept Icheb's offer of his cortical node. What does the woman who spouts Prime Directive to Captain Ransom and tries to teach humanity to Seven really believe about the nature of individuality and the limits of command?
I have issues with the Doctor's condescension as well. While it was amusing to listen to him insult her in order to get her to relax with Neelix, it pointed out all the reasons that the Doctor, even more than the captain, would have a tremendous conflict of interest because of the power dynamics should he have a relationship with anyone on the crew. Though I know his unrequited love for Seven is popular, it continues to make me as uncomfortable as Janeway's overbearing interest in Seven's development. Seven's oft-repeated fear that she has let the captain down should be a red flag to Janeway that Seven depends too much on her opinion, just as Seven fears Icheb does with herself.
On the other hand, Seven and Torres had some of their best interaction ever, finding common ground in their dislike of vulnerability and their need to feel useful. I love it when Torres shows that she can be empathetic without forced scenes of her trying to be a people person. I was surprised Torres doesn't believe more strongly in Sto-Vo-Kor after "Barge of the Dead." Given the events of "Emanations" and "Mortal Coil," it's too bad Harry Kim and Neelix didn't get to talk to Seven about the afterlife. People die or come close to death on Voyager an awful lot; maybe this is why I appreciated Seven switching from a viewscreen image of Janeway's home town to a list of crewmembers who won't ever see Earth again.
I really like it when this show tackles weighty material and doesn't try to oversimplify the consequences of difficult decisions. The fact that I can rant in this much detail is proof that "Imperfection" works as a thoughtful, provocative episode.
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.