Category Archives: Borg

“Unimatrix Zero”

“Trust me, we were totally having a Unimatrix Zero fling. You don’t remember but you had a thing for vaguely lumpy foreheads.”

Seven is pulled into a dream world where a small percentage of Borg — including Seven, prior to her escaping the collective — can live as individuals while regenerating. The sort of safe zone is called Unimatrix Zero, and it’s populated by Borg who in real life are scattered across the galaxy (a cool concept, FWIW). Axum (Mark Deakins), the sort of leader within the realm, apparently had a romantic relationship with Seven back in the day, and needs her help now in the real world as the Borg queen (Susanna Thompson) is closing in on the sanctuary. Janeway agrees to help Axum’s group, as they’re in distress and because she hopes that waking the drones in the real world could start a Borg resistance movement (hmmm). Then, things go really off kilter as Janeway, Tuvok and Torres go aboard a Borg ship with the idea of being assimilated (yes, you read that right). While they look like Borg, the Doctor has equipped them with “neural suppressants” or something that keeps their individuality intact, and they’re able to unleash a pathogen developed by Axum (where and how he did this is never explained) that starts waking the drones from Unimatrix Zero in the real world. Eventually, Chakotay is able to rescue the away team with the help of a “rebel” Borg sphere led by a Klingon from Unimatrix Zero. But the safe zone — and Seven’s connection to Axum, who is on the other end of the galaxy — must be sacrificed. Back on board Voyager, Janeway, Torres and Tuvok are (FAR, FAR too quickly) recovering and Seven and Janeway discuss the possibility that the rebel Borg could have a lasting impact on the collective. One guess as to whether it actually does …

Why it’s important

Well, Voyager’s interactions with the Borg in the final four seasons are all pretty important. This episode at least teases the idea that Voyager might be destabilizing the collective with its actions. More on that, of course, in a moment.

As a side note, Paris regains his rank as lieutenant in part one after being reduced to ensign back in the underrated “Thirty Days” in season five. Sadly, this appears to be a way for Paris to be Chakotay’s de facto first officer while Janeway et. al are on the Borg ship posing as drones in part two. It almost feels like the dialog between Paris and Chakotay in part two was being written and one of the creators looked up and said, “Wait — we made Paris an ensign a couple years ago. Better change that!”

Janeway reflects upon the doctor’s miracle follicle stimulator, and wonders if her skull got bronzed while she was assimilated.

What doesn’t hold up

Well, let’s start with “posing as drones” idea. What absolute and unmitigated stupidity. Janeway, Tuvok and Torres could have easily lost an arm, an eye, a leg, etc. And the fact that the Borg queen isn’t immediately concerned that she can’t hear their thoughts after they’ve been “assimilated” might be the biggest stretch in the history of Voyager — and that, my friends, is quite a statement. As soon as the three were “assimilated,” the queen should have either been able to read their thoughts — which would have allowed her to know their plan and stop it — or she should have realized that the “neural suppressant” was keeping her from having that knowledge and done something about it. You just don’t go undercover on a Borg ship, folks. It should NOT have worked.

Keep in mind that the queen does eventually get through to Tuvok — when the suppressant wears off — but for whatever reason, his knowledge of the plan that she should have accessed doesn’t allow her to stop Janeway and Torres. Of course, the queen DOES get Tuvok’s command codes, and uses them to disable Voyager. Somehow, Chakotay and the gang didn’t have the good sense to change those codes upon the away team’s departure — which seems to have been common procedure in similar situations, dating back to TNG (see “Gambit”).

What nonsense. We’ve not been too kind to Voyager on this site, but it REALLY got into comic book territory in seasons six and seven. Continuity was disregarded, logical stories became harder to come by and Janeway became absolutely reckless. Since the middle of season five she 1) Threatened to kill a Starfleet officer for information and offered to trade another Starfleet ship for Voyager’s safety 2) Stole a Borg warp coil and put the entire crew at risk to save Seven in the process and 3) Allowed herself, Tuvok and Torres to be (essentially) assimilated. And those are just the ridiculous items off the top of my head.

Someone reading this is getting mad and thinking that, in each case, Janeway’s plans worked. And that’s true — because the creators can make them work by disregarding continuity and basic logic. Janeway’s “victories” over the Borg all serve to defang one of Trek’s best enemies. The Borg queen — admittedly, a goofy concept introduced during “Star Trek: First Contact” — becomes the embodiment of this, as she appears more like a mustache-twirling Klingon/Cardassian/Kazon than the center of an absolutely implacable foe.

And, of course, the Borg civil war amounts to absolutely nothing after this episode, as the collective seems just fine and dandy when we see them later in season seven. What garbage.

Shame, creators. Shame. It’s not that Voyager couldn’t be compelling and watchable. It’s just that the creators came across as lazy, unambitious and short-sighted, especially as the series wore on. Hell, even Robert Beltran called them out on this in the final season.

Final thoughts

I think we’ll leave it at that.

Coming later this week …

A (logically flawed) nod toward continuity and a good performance by the always watchable Robert Picardo.

“Dark Frontier”

I just watched an old earth film called "Ocean's 11" and now I'm in the mood for a zany heist.
“I just watched an old Earth film called ‘Ocean’s 11’ and now I’m in the mood for a zany heist.”

Janeway gets it into her head to try to steal a transwarp coil from a Borg ship (Bad Idea Jeans, Kathy). She enlists Seven to help with the mission, and asks her to read the diaries (somehow) obtained from her parents’ ship back in “The Raven” as background research or something. As the crew prepares, Seven is contacted by the Borg Queen (Susanna Thompson, apparently replacing the Queen we met in “Star Trek: First Contact”) who tells her that she’ll assimilate Voyager unless Seven comes back to the Borg. During the mission, Seven does just that — despite a puzzled Janeway, who does manage to get the warp coil. Later, the Queen tells Seven that the Borg actually LET Seven leave the collective and join Voyager’s crew (back in “Scorpion”) as a way to get more information about humans in hopes of actually successfully assimilating humanity (uh-huh). Janeway equips the Delta Flyer with the transwarp coil and manages to find Seven and eventually rescues her by convincing her where she really belongs (for like the 100th time) outsmarting the Queen (or something).

I find it helps to picture a species naked when addressing a crowd of them.
“I find it helps to picture a species naked when addressing a crowd of them.”

Why it’s important

We learn a lot more about Seven’s backstory — which is actually a lot of the human/Borg backstory. Her parents, the Hansens, weren’t just zany explorers who ran into the Borg. They were commissioned by the Federation to go LOOK for the Borg. Hmmm.

Meanwhile, Voyager gets access to transwarp technology in this episode — and does get 20 years closer to home before it gives out. So, even though Janeway’s plan is ridiculously dangerous, it does sort of work. Hmmm.

What doesn’t hold up

The Hansen backstory is, simply, infuriating. It’s classic Voyager in that it re-wrote Star Trek history in ways the creators must have (wrongly) thought would increase the drama. Joe Menosky, one of the top people at Voyager back in the day, said (essentially) that continuity should be disregarded when it gets in the way of a good story. That could be one way to look back at Voyager as a series — except that more often than not, the creators didn’t have to disregard continuity to achieve their ultimate goal.

This episode, like so many others, was a situation where the creators could have had their cake and eaten it, too. The Hansens didn’t need to be explorers looking for the Borg. They could have just been unorthodox explorers who happened upon the Borg, which was sort of the implication when Seven was first introduced in “Scorpion” and when her backstory was fleshed out in “The Raven”. That way, the idea that Picard and Co. (and, presumably, the Federation, generally) didn’t know about the Borg back in “Q Who?” could have been preserved. That said, this episode does try to explain how the Hansens got to the Delta Quadrant, which was an open question back in “The Raven”, with a line of dialogue about following a Borg ship into a transwarp conduit.

There’s also the whole idea that the Borg let Seven leave as part of a bigger plan. Assuming the Queen wasn’t just lying to manipulate Seven (possible, I suppose) it seems like a goofy idea. How many times was Voyager almost destroyed since “Scorpion”?

But the biggest thing that blows my mind is that Janeway would attempt to take on the Borg and steal a warp coil, putting her entire crew at risk against an implacable foe. Voyager’s captain has had some pretty questionable decisions over the years, but I wouldn’t have called her “reckless” until this episode. It’s just unbelievable that she would risk having the Voyager “family” assimilated — and that she would then risk the much-coveted warp coil (not to mention her own life, Paris, Tuvok and the Doctor) to save Seven and Seven alone. The idea that Starfleet captains don’t leave their crew behind isn’t a bad one — but when going after one of them puts everyone else in SUCH great risk, you have to question Kathy’s judgment.

There are issues with some of the Borg Queen’s dialog. She says the Borg have tried to assimilate Earth once (actually twice) and that Seven is the first human to leave the collective after being assimilated — and that’s just laughably false. Jean-Luc Picard says “hi.”

Last thing: The Borg Queen, in an effort to convince Seven that she belongs with the Borg, brings out her father, who is still a working drone. While this is a shocking moment, it’s not used to much effect. And wouldn’t Seven have tried to save her father — or been more torn apart by seeing him after she’s saved?

Last, last thing: The Hansen diaries that Janeway has Seven read allegedly came from Seven and Tuvok’s visit to the Hansens’ ship in “The Raven”. But Seven and Tuvok didn’t download anything while in the ship in that episode — and they barely made it out with their lives as it was being destroyed.

Last, last, last thing: On the Borg ship, Seven’s connection to the collective seems like not much of a connection. She actually saves a small group of no-name aliens from being assimilated — a group that seems to be far too down with what’s happening to them, BTW — but the Queen doesn’t figure it out until after it happens. So much for “Our thoughts are one.”

Hello. Daughter Unit.
“Hello, Daughter Unit.”

Final thoughts

All complaints aside, this is an entertaining two-parter — provided you leave some logic at the door. It’s about as cartoonish as Voyager gets, as even the Borg ship looks more colorful and less mechanical. The most poignant moment, though, comes when Seven questions her parents’ ridiculous decision to go after the Borg with a young child in tow. Janeway doesn’t exactly defend them, but she does give them credit for their ingenuity. I suppose they did manage to surreptitiously monitor and study the Borg for a while, but ultimately, they were complete failures and their YOUNG DAUGHTER BECAME A BORG.

Coming later this week …

Another Starfleet ship in the Delta Quadrant? Jigga-what?

“The Raven”

Incoming message / From: The Borg Collective / Subject: We'd like to add you to our professional network on LinkedIn
“Incoming message / From: The Borg Collective / Subject: We’d like to add you to our professional network on LinkedIn …”

Janeway is negotiating passage through a part of space controlled by the B’omar, possibly the stupidest (and worst dressed) aliens we’ve met in all of Star Trek. Meanwhile, part of Seven’s Borgness reasserts herself, she steals a shuttle and makes off into B’omar space for what she thinks is (in effect) her Borg mothership, which is summoning her with a homing beacon — making her think she should return to it and be re-assimilated. Tuvok and Paris take off in another shuttle to retrieve her, again violating B’omar space. Turns out Seven actually was being summoned by the ship (the Raven) that she and her parents used to travel to the Delta Quadrant, which was partially assimilated by the Borg (or something) and then crashed on the planet. The encounter makes Seven relive her original assimilation, but Voyager attacks the B’omar and saves Seven, Tuvok and Paris. Back on Voyager, Seven begins to think about her human origins.

Even we don't know what these things on our faces are for. But they're telling us you need to slow your roll Janeway...
“Even we don’t know what these things on our faces are for. But they’re telling us you need to slow your roll, Janeway…”

Why it’s important

This one’s open to interpretation.

At this point in Trek, Seven is pretty clearly the first human ever assimilated by the Borg. So, learning how that happened is important. That said, there are a lot of reasons why that doesn’t quite make sense.

For one thing, if Seven, her parents’ ship and possibly her parents were assimilated “nearly 20 years” earlier, it means the Enterprise’s encounter with the Borg nine years earlier (in “Q Who?”) was a lot less significant. Up until this episode, there was enough ambiguity around Seven that maybe you could figure she became a Borg without the collective knowing about Federation technology. But “The Raven” clears that up, which is really stupid ret-conning as it undercuts one of TNG’s best episodes and the suspense leading up to the original Borg invasion.

What doesn’t hold up

Putting aside what I noted above, Janeway really goes over the line in this episode with her interactions with the B’omar. She essentially declares war on a space-faring people (!) to save Seven. Or, at least, she won’t respect sovereign boundaries.

Now, sure, the B’omar are ridiculous, stupid and petty — and their demands before Seven takes off make very little sense (why would they require Voyager to go at a slow warp velocity if they want the ship to get out of their space as soon as possible?). But that doesn’t really matter. Janeway, acting as the ranking Starfleet officer in the Delta Quadrant, discards borders and attacks B’omar ships in their space. That she dismisses their hails late in the episode because she doesn’t “have time for this” is frankly alarming. Kathy’s certainly not helping the Federation’s Delta Quadrant reputation in this episode. But why start worrying about that now, right?

Then, there’s the matter of Seven’s parents and their ship. Back in “Scorpion”, information on Seven’s parents seemed pretty minimal. But here, Janeway sure knows a lot about them (this gets worse in future episodes, by the way). And why did the Borg “partially assimilate” Seven’s parents’ ship and then leave it behind? There are some ways this might have worked, but the creators don’t really try to address it. And, without the “partial assimilation,” Seven’s homing beacon wouldn’t have been activated.

Oh, and how did Seven’s parents even get to B’omar space? We’re talking 60,000 light years from the Federation! Again, there are ways this could have been explained, but the creators opt not to. Huh.

Lastly, Voyager loses yet another shuttle in this episode. Unreal.

Why do they bother locking the doors to the shuttle bay when we have an unlimited supply of them!
Why do they bother locking the doors to the shuttle bay when we have an unlimited supply of them!

Final thoughts

This is such a weird episode, as there are a lot of good things despite the goofiness. I really liked the scene in which Neelix tries to teach Seven to eat solid food (Ethan Phillips really brought his top form) and Tuvok’s interaction with Seven as they approach the planet where the Raven crashed.

But Janeway just comes across as so dumb and hard-headed. It’s a shame.

Coming later this week …

Andy Dick. For serious.

“The Gift”

“I require something… sexier… to wear.”

The crew is getting used to its newest addition, Seven of Nine (introduced in the previous episode). Unhooked from the Borg collective, Seven’s human physiology is beginning to reassert itself (hmmm) so the Doctor is removing a bunch of her Borg stuff. Meanwhile, Kes’s mental powers (noted sporadically throughout the first three seasons) are beginning to get kind of crazy, as she can see beyond the subatomic. Seven, who wants to go back to the Borg, eventually sends a partial signal to the collective and Voyager is faced with the likelihood that they might end up in nanoprobe town. Meanwhile, Kes is phasing in and out of reality and is affecting the ship, so Janeway puts her on a shuttle (which are like Pez to this crew, but whatever). As Kes phases out of reality, she sends Voyager 10 years closer to home and out of Borg space. As the episode ends, a now mostly human Seven begins her life on Voyager — in a skin-tight catsuit that made pants tighter for nerds for the next four years.

Why it’s important

From a production standpoint, replacing Jennifer Lien’s Kes with Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine is a big domino. But from a Star Trek universe perspective, this is the first time Voyager gets appreciably closer to home. We’ll see a few landmarks like this one in Voyager’s next four seasons, and we’ll likely review them all.

Please, great producer in the sky. Let me stay!
“Please, great producer in the sky. Let me stay!”

What doesn’t hold up

Well, putting Seven in the catsuit was pretty ridiculous. Granted, sexy women have been a hallmark of Star Trek since “The Cage”, but it’s too bad that the series that took the step forward of having a female captain — and had a cast that was notably PC — took a step backward and so objectified its newest character. Jeri Ryan probably doesn’t get enough credit for making Seven a strong and sympathetic character given the hand she was dealt.

Also, it’s interesting that the Voyager is said to have been taken out of Borg space by Kes’s gift, considering we see the Borg so often the rest of the series. I suppose Janeway was unaware at this point of what the Borg could do to get around the galaxy — we learn about their transwarp hubs later — but getting out of the heart of Borg territory really wasn’t that big a deal. By way of the Borg’s attacks in Federation space, Janeway should have SOME idea of the Borg’s abilities to cover vast distances.

I’m frankly not convinced about the whole idea of Seven’s human physiology “reasserting itself” once she was cut off from the collective. We didn’t see anything like that happen to Hugh in “I, Borg” or to the Borg freed from the collective by Hugh and led by Lore in “Descent”. The creators could have just had Janeway order the Doctor to remove all of Seven’s Borg stuff instead of making it seem like something the Voyager crew had to do. I’m not sure why they wouldn’t have done that, as they make a big deal about how Janeway has to act as a de facto guardian to Seven who’s not yet able to make her own choices.

Another thing with the Borg, which we could have discussed in our last review: Does it strike anyone as odd that there’s no discussion of where the Voyager crew was during the events of “The Best of Both Worlds”? Remember that 40 starships were destroyed as the Borg made their way to Earth. We know that some Starfleet personnel escaped and we know that there were many unaffected Starfleet ships (given how many we see in late TNG and DS9 that couldn’t have been built after Wolf 359). Would it have killed Voyager’s anti-continuity creators to have had some dialogue about where Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok, Paris, et. al, were during the attack at Wolf 359? Voyager hadn’t been commissioned, of course. But those four were all in Starfleet during the Borg invasion (with the possible exception of Paris, who might have already been kicked out of the service). Maybe one of them could have been on a ship in the battle and managed to escape — or maybe one of them would have been on a ship that was too far away to get there on time? Why the Voyager creators constantly avoided this kind of easy point of continuity just blows my mind.

I find this appropriately... sexy.
“I find this appropriately … sexy.”

Final thoughts

Although Seven joining the cast looked like it could have been a disaster, it basically turned out OK. Her character added a lot to the series — especially her relationship with Janeway — and added some life to a struggling show. The worst thing about Seven over the years was that she often learned big lessons about being human and then needed to learn them again.

OTOH, Voyager became a show centered mostly around Janeway, Seven and the Doctor over the final four seasons, marginalizing some characters (with Chakotay and Tuvok faring worst). And that’s too bad, because Robert Beltran and Tim Russ both were good in their roles and the writers could occasionally find good vehicles for their characters (Tuvok in “Meld”, Chakotay in “Maneuvers”, etc.).

Coming next week …

Seven’s origin story and (possibly) the Borg’s first interaction with humanity.



Part one: A long-range probe shows Voyager is finally entering Borg space. To avoid being assimilated, the crew heads down an area with no Borg activity, but stumbles upon a battle between several cubes and a new enemy that appears more powerful than the Borg. The enemy is called Species 8472, and the Borg are at a loss for how to stop them. After Kim is attacked by one of the 8472s, he begins to be transformed into one of them, but the Doctor finds a treatment that would use reprogrammed Borg nanoprobes (salvaged during “Unity”) to fight the infection. Janeway (despite objections from Chakotay) seizes the opportunity to trade the nanoprobes for passage through Borg territory. The episode ends with Janeway on a cube, negotiating with the Borg, with an attack by 8472 looming.

Part two: Janeway and Tuvok work with the Borg to develop a weapon based on the Doctor’s nanoprobes. The Borg appoints Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) to be a liaison, and Janeway quickly determines that Seven used to be human and was perhaps the first human assimilated by the Borg. As the work commences, 8472 attacks and the Borg transport Janeway, Tuvok, Seven and a few drones to Voyager before the cube makes a suicide run at an 8472 bioship. Janeway is seriously wounded in the attack, and Chakotay takes over and decides to leave the Borg on a nearby planet after he learns that the Borg started the war by invading 8472’s fluidic space region. Then, Seven forces the ship into 8472’s realm, drawing Voyager into the fight. When Janeway (miraculously) recovers, she and Chakotay clash, and it briefly appears that Janeway has relieved Chakotay of duty. Voyager uses the nanoprobes and fights back 8472 — but then Seven attempts to assimilate the ship. Chakotay, working with Janeway, interfaces with Seven, separating her from the Borg collective. Out of immediate danger, Janeway and Chakotay reconcile and wonder what to do with their newest crew member.

Fluidic space — otherwise known as water here on earth.

Why it’s important

With the exception of some baddies here and there (the Hirogen, the Krenim) the Borg become Voyager’s main nemesis the rest of the way. Seven’s inclusion on the cast is a huge domino, as well, as her presence becomes key in the Borg interaction (and the direction of the series). It’s also interesting that we learn that Seven was assimilated before Picard and Co. encountered the Borg in “Q Who?” That undoes some of the tension of the TNG/Borg interaction, as the Borg were likely aware of humanity 10 years earlier than was previously known.

What doesn’t hold up

Well, Kim and Janeway both recover FAR too easily, based on the Doctor’s initial comments. In both cases — particularly regarding Janeway — the creators didn’t need to amp up the tension as much as they did.

There are also some weird editing issues. At one point, Kes somehow gets from sickbay to the bridge without any sort of transition, and there’s a scene in engineering in part one in which Chakotay tells Torres and Tuvok to “get the captain,” without that actually happening.

Finally, the notion that the Borg needed to appoint a liaison to work with Janeway and Tuvok is pretty goofy. It was necessary to bring our favorite shapely Borg into the fold, but it was still unlikely. Also, the fact that the Borg essentially have discussions about what they’re going to do instead of reaching automatic consensus among the collective is dumb — although it’s something that Trek started doing with the Borg around this time.

Ladies and gentleman, lets give Kess a hand!
Ladies and gentleman, lets give Kess a hand!

Final thoughts

We’ll get into it more in our next review of “The Gift” later this week, but adding Seven of Nine to the cast was a big change to the Voyager status quo. Otherwise, this is a strong two-parter, which made good use of the bond AND the differing philosophies of Janeway and Chakotay. Kate Mulgrew and Robert Beltran do a nice job in both episodes (though Janeway tearing up in one scene and declaring that she “really is alone” was over the top). The tension between the two characters would go on to be a nice, if inconsistently used, part of the series, as we’ll get into in later reviews.

Coming later this week …

Voyager loses one of its original cast members and aims to bring in anybody who wanted to see a sexy Borg.