I have the impression that the people in charge of Star Trek: Voyager have finally decided to get serious. After the first two shaky seasons which introduced only two new noteworthy races, and one of which was none other than the carbon copy of the Klingons, in this second part of the third season it seems to me that the series found its ground. True, for now we are not moving away from what has been the biggest source of ideas in the series so far, namely The Next Generation, but I have the impression that there are solid ideas behind this introduction of the Borg!
Only in the previous episode (Blood Fever) a frightened Chakotay showed a decades-old Borg corpse to Captain Janeway, and already in this Unity (once again directed by Robert Duncan McNeill, and not surprisingly Tom Paris is hardly seen here) there’s a whole Borg Cube! But let’s start from the plot.
First of all, we are officially in the Nekrit Expanse introduced some time ago in Fair Trade (episode number 13). Apparently, it’s a vast, sparsely inhabited territory where it’s difficult to navigate even with the sophisticated Starfleet technology. At the beginning of the episode, Chakotay is on a together with a random red shirt, Ensign Kaplan (Susan Patterson). Receiving a message that only someone from the Alpha Quadrant could have sent, they head to a planet where, once on the surface, they are surprised by an ambush. Both are hit by unknown weapons and, while for Kaplan there’s nothing to do (what a surprise!), Chakotay is saved by… a human! The beautiful blonde girl called Riley (Lori Hallier) takes care of our commander, but it’s clear that she’s hiding something… She claims to be from the Bolian sector where she was attacked by hostile aliens only to find herself here in the Delta Quadrant. She’s in the company of Romulans, Cardassians and Klingons, as well as other members of unknown races. Riley says that her group is a cooperative and there are other hostile groups engaged in a constant war. Chakotay discovers the mystery behind this whole story as soon as he manages to sneak out of the makeshift infirmary: the group of people who saved him is made up of ex-Borg!
Meanwhile, the USS Voyager finds a Borg Cube adrift in space. They discover that it has been there for five years, that there is no Borg on board, but it’s not clear what happened to it. B’Elanna suggests that they may have lost a fight with someone stronger than them, what a scary hypothesis! To understand more, the Doctor performs an autopsy on a perfectly preserved Borg drone and discovers that the death was due to an energy discharge. Also, the corpse may come back to life thanks to a backup facility.
Meanwhile, Riley and Orum (Ivar Brogger), a Romulan, explain to Chakotay that an electrokinetic storm from the Nekrit Expanse broke their contact with the Borg mind and so they decided to create a colony on the planet, but they quickly divided into many factions in constant war with each other. Furthermore, there appears to be only one way to save Chakotay whose conditions are rapidly deteriorating: by joining him with the collective consciousness of the cooperative to activate some healing abilities. After an initial resistance, Chakotay accepts and this experience changes him, as he acquires all the life experiences of the members of the cooperative. He understands that the intentions of Riley’s group are good, they want to bring together all the factions into a single mind (thus forcibly annihilating the individual consciences of the members of the other factions!), but to do so they need the collaboration of Voyager and the use of the disabled Borg Cube. Janeway refuses to take such a big step out of fear of starting a group of Borg that could eventually develop hostile intentions, so Riley, Orum and their companions use Chakotay to get what they want. They do so and then self-destruct the Borg Cube before it activates its weapons against Voyager (a side effect of Chakotay’s actions is the awakening of the intact Borg drones on the Cube!), thus proving that their intentions were sincere. However, as Chakotay and Janeway rightly note, they had absolutely no hesitation in using the poor commander as a puppet for their purposes, however noble!
The episode works great, there’s action, there’s tension, there’s suspense, and there are also interesting moral implications around the question of the end that justifies the means. But there are a couple of things that I didn’t like… the Borg Cube was far from the planet, right? Otherwise Chakotay and Kaplan would’ve seen it! So why is it so close to the planet afterwards, so much so that it is next to the orbiting Voyager? And the ex-Borg all come from that Cube? I assume not, otherwise they could explain what happened five years ago. But if they come from another one, how do they know of the existence of the deactivated Cube? Did I miss something? In any case, I expect great things from the return of the Borg! Ciao!
PS: we have to add yet another lost shuttle. I had made some calculations in my review of the sixteenth episode Blood Fever, it seems that so far we have lost a random number between four and seven. How many shuttles had Voyager on board to start with?
PPS: Chakotay says he’s a vegetarian in this episode! He just earned a thousand points on my special character rating scale!
PPPS: The Delta Flyers podcast shout out: Robert Duncan McNeill criticizes a lot himself as a director here, explaining that he didn’t find the script particularly inspiring. There are some good moments, however, and both he and Wong point out that the scenes with the Borg are 100% horror, which was precisely the intention of the good McNeill.
Previous episode: Blood Fever
Next episode: Darkling