Star Trek: Voyager – Season 5, Episode 15 and 16 – “Dark Frontier, Part 1 and 2” – The Temptation of the Borg

   “Dark Frontier, Part 1 and 2” is one of the best stories to come out of “Voyager.” This is a story that explores Janeway, Seven of Nine, the Borg and gives us consequences of Voyager and their need to get home. I’m reviewing “Part 1 and 2” as a single episode since Netflix had it as one single watch and even Memory Alpha lists both episodes together rather than as a “Part 1” and “Part 2.” I think this worked for the narrative and really strengthens the story. This is easily one of the best episodes in “Voyager” and is one of my favorites.

The episodes were directed by Cliff Bole and Terry Windell and written by Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky.

When Janeway discovers an injured Borg Sphere she sees an opportunity to get them home faster with the Sphere’s transwarp coil. Things are not as they seem as when she puts her plan in motion Seven begins to hear the voices of the Collective as she investigates her parent’s research into the Borg.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Threat of the Borg – The Borg feel like a constant threat in this story. We see this first in how the crew who are supposed to hijack the transwarp coil from the Sphere keep failing. It is this failure of the Borg adapting too quickly that really raise the stakes and lead to Seven delving into the research into the Borg that her parents did into the Borg. These flashbacks presented with her parents also establish this threat as it is in them remaining off sensors that keep the Borg from assimilating them for a long time. We also see the threat in how Seven willingly gives herself up to the Borg in order to protect the crew and during her time on the Cube, an assimilation of a species. This story is really what I wish “First Contact” could have been. There are stakes in the Borg tempting Seven to come back and the stakes remain focused and high.

Janeway’s Plan – Janeway’s plan makes sense. Her ultimate goal is to get her crew home and a transwarp coil would cut down there time in Borg Space and in the Delta Quadrant immensely. This being a high stakes heist kept me engaged and I could see why Janeway came up with the plan in the first place. It was risky, but feasible and the pros would outweigh the cons.

The Temptation of Seven of Nine – Temptation has spent more of her life in the Borg Collective. We see this in that she was assimilated as a child and her parents were assimilated too…so in that way their voices were still always with her. This twisted connection is what the Queen uses to tempt Seven back to them and from here she offers Seven more of what she’s always strived for on Voyager, to be more and to grow. The Queen is lets her keep her free will but connects her to the Collective as she attempts to re-indoctrinate her and train her….it is never said outright, but I think to become a future Queen.

The Borg Queen – The Borg Queen feels like a threat in this. This is the first time watching her where she has felt like one. This is done through us seeing the crew fail in their holographic runs to take the transwarp coil, the fact that the Queen knows about their plan and her ability to use Seven’s empathy against her. I wish we could have seen her do this with Picard and Data in “First Contact.” She is Seven’s evil mentor in this, opposite of Janeway and she makes a good argument for the Borg by demonstrating their power and the Collective knowledge that they are. For this reason I can see why she has so many scenes with Seven. If only “Voyager” could have kept her this smart and cunning after this. I’m not a fan of the Queen and like the Borg as Collective Mind that is otherworldy and “We,” but I salute this episode for making the Queen compelling and a threat.

Captain Janeway – Captain Janeway is both mentor and mother figure for Seven in this. In this we see her deal with the conflict of the need to protect the crew as a whole versus her overall connection to any single one member…like Seven. In the end she of course chooses Seven as it was her decision to go forward with plan and let Seven be a part of it that lead to Seven going back to the Borg in the first place. I thought this was handled well and Janeway never felt overpowered or smarter than everyone else. She was flawed and human while also being courageous and cunning. This is a great Janeway episode.

Seven of Nine – Seven’s arc is what drives the story as we see her face the temptation of the world of the Collective she knew before versus her desire for freedom and individuality she’s been exploring on Voyager. Jeri Ryan is fantastic as we see her tackle her inner conflict as well as her complicated relationship to her parents, who were assimilated like her and where the reason she was assimilated because of how obsessed and reckless they were in relationship to the Borg. It is because of them most of her life was spent in the Collective and it is this temptation that the Queen uses to bring Seven back to them. From here we see the Queen seeking to mentor as Janeway did, except it is mentoring in how to become a Queen. It is the immoral act of assimilation and destroying species that lead to them clashing and why Seven returns back to the crew when they come to rescue her. I loved this arc. Seven and The Doctor are my favorite characters on “Voyager” and this story is a big reason why.

Okay:

The Ensemble Cast – The rest of the cast has things to do for Janeway’s heist and the later rescue of Seven, but we don’t really learn anything new about them. I’m not putting it as a con though as I appreciated everyone was given something to do over the course of this story. If some minor characters had been explored a bit more, whether pushing against Janeway’s plan or providing an alternative plan it would have been a perfect episode.

This is “Voyager” at it’s best. We have an amazing threat in the Borg, Seven and Janeway get developed and the stakes remain high through the entire 2 episodes. The only thing it needed was a little more exploration of some of the ensemble cast and it would have been the perfect 2 parter. It is a shame the Borg Queen will never feel this threatening or smart after this, as this is the only episode that I really saw the potential of what that character brought to the Borg Collective. If you are a “Voyager” or “Star Trek” fan this story is well worth your time.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10 A near perfect “Voyager” story.

 

Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 8 – “Broken Pieces” – When the Past Returns

Image result for Broken Pieces Picard

      “Broken Pieces” is one of the best episodes in “Picard” thus far. We get information on what inspires are baddies, the crew of the La Sirena gets development and we get some of the best character development for Seven of Nine. This episode is full of a lot of moving character pieces and has to give us a fair amount of lore and it manages to achieve it amazingly. If you’ve been watching the show up to this point, chances are you will at the very least, enjoy this episode.

The episode was directed by Maja Vrvilo and written by Michael Chabon.

The story follows Soji’s arrival on the La Sirena, triggering memories in Captain Rios, leading to an investigation by Raffi into his past. Seven also arrives on “The Artifact” searching for Hugh.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Elnor – Elnor gives us one of the purest perspectives on “Star Trek.” Due to being raised in a culture where emotion is always shown and expressed fully his hugging Seven when she saves him at the beginning was perfection. He is also there to bring her back too when he asks her if she’ll assimilate him when she’s connected to the Collective and controlling them. It is well done and I like the dynamic he has with her.

Raffi – Raffi’s arc involves investigating Rios’s backstory and discovering why he reacted so painfully to seeing Soji. It is done really well as we see her talk to all the Holograms, that each have Rios’s face and puts together what happened on his ship. Michelle Hurd does a fantastic job and I liked seeing her and Rios together, she’s clearly the First Officer in this mission and helping Rios put the pieces of himself back together was handled beautifully.

Zhat Vash Inspiration – In this episode we see what inspires the Zhat Vash as “Narissa” meets with her Aunt, the Ex-Borg Ramdha who Soji talked to. It is here we see that an ancient civilization left a warning that creating synthetic life will eventually lead to the end of all organics. This is why the Zhat Vash are so driven in their quest. It gave dimension to “Narissa” seeing her with her aunt and her wishing that her ship had been assimilated instead. This was development that was badly needed. It was also in the flashback we see Oh is the leader or one of the leaders of the Zhat Vash and that the Romulans are responsible for hacking the synths and the attack on Mars.

Captain Rios’s Backstory – Captain Rios’s backstory is powerful. We learn that Starfleet security ordered his Captain to kill the Synth diplomats. He does all this and kills himself too. Captain Vandermeer was like Rios’s father and what his Captain did to innocents was too much for him to take. He buried this trauma and it is only in Raffi’s investigation and learning the truth for herself that leads to him opening up. Santiago Cabrera really shows how amazing of an actor he is in this…from playing the different Holographic versions of himself, and in his opening up about the trauma from his past.

Soji and the Synths – This episode gives us the issue fear versus trust and Soji is at the center of it. We see it in Raffi questioning Picard’s trust of her and also in Soji’s taking over of the ship until Captain Rios stops her. In this we see the potential danger that is posed but also the potential for peace that is there as Soji gives us a unique perspective. She’s been betrayed by organics but has also found allies and friends too. She represents the same potential in her people.

Seven of Nine and the Borg – This episode sees Seven of Nine take control of the Borg cube in order to fight the Romulans. In this we see her questioning even doing this as she questions she might enjoy being part of the Collective too much and not want to give up those she’s assimilated. When she does become “Queen” of the Cube it is powerful and we see her speak with one voice. In the end she comes out of it as either her individuality was too strong or the Borg on that Collective see her having a future role but that can only be achieved later. “Annika still has more to do” are the Collective’s parting words to her. It is chilling and I think sets up that their next evolution might be through some role Seven is to play later.

The Cons:

Starfleet Resistance – When Picard reveals to Admiral Clancy all he has figured out she says she will be sending a fleet to Deep Space 12. This help is still offered with so much resistance to Picard that it felt ungenuine. My thoughts hearing it were that Oh was going to use this opportunity to use Starfleet against the Synths as they had been used against them before when Rios’s Captain killed the Synth diplomats on his old ship. More scenes with Clancy could have solved this and seeing things from the Starfleet perspective as we did before with the Oh reveal in the early episodes.

Agnes’s explanation – Agnes killed Maddox because she saw hell coming and Oh apparently put up a mind block? I felt this was a cop out so that she wouldn’t have to take full responsibility for what happened. I’m still rooting for her character having some sort of redemption but getting away from having her take responsibility via Oh’s actions is not the way to do it.

This is my favorite episode besides “Absolute Candor” and the Pilot in “Picard.” We get amazing character development, the lore gets deeper and the action doesn’t stop moving. This story stands strong on it’s own and I can’t wait to see how the different plot threads payoff in the end. The Romulans are one of my favorite races in “Star Trek” and I’m a huge fan of Borg stories when they are handled with respect. This episode gave both of these groups the exploration I’d been wanting from “Star Trek” for a long time. I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

Star Trek: Voyager – Season 6, Episode 16 – “Collective” – Finding Connection Beyond the Borg

Image result for Star trek voyager collective icheb

   “Collective” is a solidly good episode. The tension is real, we get some wonderful character development of the Voyager crew and the Borg we meet. Before I get into story details, if you are a fan of “Voyager” you should check this episode out. It brought back memories for me watching it as it was in Middle School I’d catch episodes on UPN when I got home from school. This is later in the show and is a great example of how “Voyager” could still put out quality episodes, even as they were winding down.

The episode was directed by Allison Liddi with teleplay by Michael Taylor and story by Andrew Shepard Price and Mark Gaberman.

The story follows Voyager as they seek to rescue Harry, Chakotay, Tom and Neelix when a Borg Cube run by assimilated children captures them.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Captain Janeway – This is a good Captain Janeway episode. In this we see that she cares about the Borg children but also is doing all she can to save her captured crewmembers. She’s stern and powerful and works masterfully when she confronts the First, the leader of the Borg children. Her point freaks him out so much that he refuses to speak to her again. This episode shows why she was Captain of Voyager.

Harry Kim – Harry Kim is the only member of the crew who the Borg children haven’t captured initially. Thanks to Janeway he puts a plan in motion to shut down the Cube so that his crewmembers can be rescued. Sadly he is captured and experimented on by the Borg. I enjoyed seeing him take charge though and wish he’d gotten a win. Harry usually always has bad stuff happen to him, which is a shame as there is so much potential in the character.

The Drones – The Drones are fascinating as what drives them is the desire to be back with the Collective. It is only Seven showing them there is another away and Second (Icheb) taking charge that shows them that they can have another life free, on Voyager. The one thing I’ll say against them is I wish First had been explored more. He’s threatened by anyone who questions him but we don’t know his backstory, just that he wants to rejoin the Collective more than anything. The drama between him, Voyager and the other drones is compelling though.

Icheb and Seven – The strongest part of this story is the relationship between Icheb and Seven. Seven repairs him, as the First says he is not fit to lead because of how his tech. is acting up. This leads to trust between them and we see him come to realize his individuality and potential future in what Seven shares. She is his mentor and friend in the episode and I like that we’d see more of this relationship in future episodes. She was the first to show him a life outside of the Collective.

Connection Beyond the Borg – The main fear of the drones is that they will be alone if they do not rejoin the Collective. It is that leads to the botched assimilations they were trying on captured aliens and why they tried to bargain with the hostages for Voyager technology to fix the Cube. Seven is the one who shows them that there are other ways to make connections and that they shouldn’t care about the Collective as it abandoned them. Over time this reality seeks in and the surviving Borg children join the Voyager crew after First fails in keeping control.

The Cons:

Neelix – Neelix was on the Delta Flyer and I don’t see any reason why he should have been. He’s the cook and they are far beyond his area of space so him even selling himself as a diplomat feel cheap. He’s not as annoying as he can often be in this episode but he is still a con.

I really liked this episode. We get to learn more about the Borg, Seven has some great character development, we are introduced to Icheb and Janeway is a great captain in this episode. This episode sets up major stories in the last of the season as Icheb will play a bigger role and we will learn more about how he got assimilated in the first place. Icheb and Seven is one of the more intriguing relationships on “Voyager” as they are both former drones and Seven comes to be an awesome adoptive mother as she embraces the best aspects of the Borg and humanity.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10