Voyager steals a Borg transwarp coil, but Seven of Nine goes back to the Collective. B'Elanna calls it a fair trade, but Janeway has other ideas.
Jump straight to the Analysis
The UPN logo fades to black. We see nothing.
But we hear plenty. We hear the familiar, semi-mechanical baritone of the Collective.
A vessel has been detected. Unimatrix 4-2-4, Grid 1-1-6. Activate.
Ah, lights on. Much better. They must have put the Collective on the Clapper.
We get the green-tinged BorgCam™ view of a Collective vessel's interior. From the blurred funhouse-mirror optics and lurching motion, I'd say we're seeing the world through the eyes of an assimilated, pre-rehab Charlie Sheen.
Alter course to intercept, the Voice says.
The vessel interior bristles with activity. Drones saunter, meander, lollygag, loiter. Not a Hugh or a Locutus in the whole Chex-mix of assimilated souls. These drones look like they were assimilated at a Pearl Jam concert but forgot to pick up a crate or two of Mountain Dew before they left.
Nevertheless, the Collective welcomes all comers (unless you're Kazon), a galactic group-consciousness Hotel California. This crew is dutiful if not all that efficient.
We follow one particular drone, which sidles up to a computer pillar and taps in a few commands with its non-mechanical hand.
Vessel identified. Federation Starfleet; Intrepid Class. 143 life-forms. Prepare for assimilation.
(Only 143? Just last week Voyager had 152.)
The targeted vessel appears on the Borg monitor. Then a communications link is established. We see the bridge crew of the , with its redheaded captain--hands on hips--standing front and center.
We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.
Captain Janeway doesn’t look at all impressed. "Break off your pursuit, or we'll open fire." There is an undercurrent of giddy hostility in her reply: Blow it out your implants, drone boy.
"Is it? You've scanned our vessel. You know we can match your firepower," says the spunky fireball.
You will be assimilated, the Voice repeats weakly, sounding like Satan's Robot after Paris whacked it with his spank ray. ("…vaders…")
The transmission ends, replaced with a live shot of the spoon-shaped starship.
We finally see why Janeway seems so confident. When the scene cuts to an exterior view, we see (or at least sense) that the Borg vessel is little bigger than the box Voyager came packed in. Without that many styrofoam peanuts for padding. Compared to the full-sized St. Bernard-sized cubes Janeway’s stared down before, this little yapping wiener-dog of a Borg ship has all the intimidation factor of Assimilation Lite. Rather than ram spikes into your neck and coerce you into an eternity in the hive mind, these guys just give you a hickey and make you tell them a few embarrassing personal secrets.
The two ships converge.
Coherent beams of green light lash out at Voyager.
Voyager provides a few choice angry-orange replies.
Borg consoles and controls explode. A few drones stagger, but soon regain their footing and continue their stroll.
Regenerate primary shield matrix. Remodulate weapons.
You would think that the marriage of biology and machinery would make it possible to do those things without lifting a finger. But instead, we see a drone amble over to a pylon, and do precisely that—lift a finger. It presses a single button, then wanders off to push another button.
So much for Borg efficiency.
While the Borg shields are down, a coffin-shaped photon torpedo is beamed inside the Borg vessel, near an occupied regeneration alcove. The Collective identifies it and sends a bomb-squad drone over to disable it. With a few deft manipulations of its mechanical limb, the torpedo's controls are revealed.
We see the inside. We see the red progress bar that suggests that whatever's about to happen, will happen soon.
The indicator goes up to eleven.
Say it with me: Boom.
First we see the inside of the Borg vessel as it fills with fire, tossing drones about without mercy.
Then we get the view from space as the ship fragments in an orgy of flame.
On Voyager, there is . . . disappointment? Gee, most folks at least look relieved when they avoid getting assimilated.
But this is Janeway we're talking about. Survival is assumed. Opportunity is the relevant question.
"I thought we were trying to disable it," Chakotay says, looking harshly at Seven of Nine.
"The torpedo detonated near the power matrix," Seven of Nine explains. (Well, why’d you beam it there, then?) "It caused a chain reaction." D'Oh!
Janeway quells a flash of irritation, then gets back to business. "Survivors?" None, Tuvok says a moment later. She asks Harry about the debris, who reports that there are some intact but damaged components.
Janeway sets her jaw. A mischievous twinkle appears in her eye. "Begin a salvage operation."
Commander Chakotay's eyes widen. "Captain?"
"There might be something we can use--weapons, a transwarp coil . . ." The edges of the captain's thin mouth curl upward. "I don't know about the rest of you, but I feel lucky today." With a final, confident grin, Janeway heads for her ready room.
Mr. Fontaine, if you please? Luck be a Janeway tonight . . .
Tom Paris casts a worried look at Chakotay, who shakes his head with disbelief.
Borg. He hates those guys.
* * *
The cargo bay is filled with the remains of the Borg craft. Voyager's crew crawls all over the debris looking for something useful. The raw material alone could be beneficial for patching up the ship after future encounters.
Captain Janeway enters like a conquering Queen. "Now, this is how I prefer the Borg: in pieces." She also loves it when a plan comes together. And she loves the smell of napalm in the morning.
Ladies and gentlemen, Action Kate has entered the room.
Chakotay tells her that though most of this junk is hull fragments, they have recovered some functioning power nodes and plasma conduits. The big score, though, is a transwarp coil--the equivalent of a tenth gear for a Ferrari. They could idle at warp 47 with one of those puppies and shave tens of thousands of light years off their trip.
You just don't take on the Borg unless there's a potential for huge payoff. A transwarp coil just might qualify.
Janeway picks up a small spherical thing that looks like it wants to float around and shoot darts at Luke Skywalker. "It's lighter than I expected. It must be some kind of polytrinic alloy." Janeway smiles with a confidence Chakotay doesn't share. "Let's hope our little skirmish got back to the hive mind. Maybe they'll think twice before they attack us again."
Chakotay is clearly uncomfortable when his captain treats the Collective so cavalierly. "It was only a probe. Next time, we might not be so lucky." Janeway sticks her tongue out at him; Tattoo Boy can be a real party pooper sometimes.
Harry Kim notices Janeway holding the sphere and rushes toward her. "Captain! Don't touch that!" Janeway, unfazed, asks what it is. Harry takes it from her and gingerly sets it down. "I don't know, but a few minutes ago it was crawling around the floor. I think it's some kind of auto-regeneration unit." Janeway, shuddering a little, takes a step back and pats Harry on the shoulder. "Thanks for the warning."
Janeway looks around the cargo bay. "By my count, we've added at least two years to our journey by avoiding the Borg. I'm tired of turning tail every time we detect a cube."
"Better safe than assimilated," Chakotay says with a smile that belies his concern. I suspect they've had this conversation a lot, and from "Scorpion" it's a fair guess they still don't see eye to eye.
Janeway begins idly fiddling with her combadge. "Mmm," she says, seeming to mull Chakotay's words.
Chakotay sighs. "Maybe I should go to Red Alert and get it over with." Janeway, still fiddling with her combadge, gives him a questioning look. "You're about to drop one of your bombshells," he tells her.
Janeway, playing with her insignia the way Queeg rolled steel balls around in the palm of his hand when the strawberries went missing, glares at her Number One. "Now, what makes you say that?"
"The way you fiddle with your combadge. You do it every time."
"Well, I'll have to keep an eye on that," she says.
Janeway puts her hands on her hips. She tosses her hair. She rolls her eyes, then focuses them like a laser on an unsuspecting crewman, who spontaneously combusts from the level-ten skunk eye. She turns up her nose. She smiles with a purity that makes hearts melt. She strokes, pats, pounds and otherwise touches every officer and alien within reach as she speaks with them. A monstrous mug of coffee beams into her grip, and she takes a swig that measures on the Richter scale.
Of all the well-known, catalogued, indexed and cross-referenced Janeway Gestures to point out, they picked one we've never noticed before?
Well, in a nutshell . . .
A happy Doc arrives, Tom Paris in tow, waving three arms around--Doc's two, and a Borg prosthetic. He got it off a dead drone, and he couldn't be happier. "This could revolutionize the way that I perform surgery," he drools, waving the thing in Janeway's face until she tells him to move it or lose it. The arm looks evil enough to scare Crell Moset. Tom, just passing through, says, "No Federation Sickbay should be without one," which earns him a flawless Mama Kate Reaction #4, a rolled-eye head tilt with a maternal oh-that-boy sigh.
Janeway looks to see if they picked up an intact vinculum. Could come in handy for when her ex-drone gets uppity.
The scene shifts when the captain hears Torres and Seven making unhappy noises. They walk over and find the Borg and the half-Klingon hacking and cursing over the magical transwarp coil. It's hosed, Torres says. Seven elaborates: "When a Borg vessel is critically damaged all of its vital technology self-destructs. The coil is beyond repair."
Janeway growls; she looks for something to kick, and sees that now-scurrying sphere. With a healthy boot, the thing goes scurrying, even providing a satisfactory yelp. Chakotay tries to look at the bright side: "At least the Doctor found a new toy."
But though the transwarp coil is bad news, there is other good news. Seven shows Janeway some Borg data nodes. "One of them is a drone manifest. The other contains tactical information." Chakotay asks what kind of information. "Long-range sensor telemetry, assimilation logistics and vessel movements for a radius of 30 light-years," she says.
Janeway's eyes light up. Information is as valuable as stuff, particularly where the Borg are concerned. Seven says she can have the data converted in a couple of hours. "Do it," Janeway orders, with a hungry grin.
Chakotay catches the captain fiddling with her combadge. Janeway catches Chakotay catching her. They share a quiet chuckle.
Ah, workplace fraternization. You gotta love it.
Seven manages to recover 62% of the data, which she presents to Janeway and Tuvok in Astrometrics.
Though it has no bearing on the episode, I noticed in the previous scene that Janeway, Torres and Seven of Nine all have hair colors veering into the red part of the spectrum this week. Human auburn, half-Klingon burnt sienna, and the strawberry blonde of former drone. But it's all red--red, I tell you! Haha!
Seven of Nine's outfit is also somewhat different. Similar in style to the brown "Raven" outfit, but a subtle blueberry-juice violet color that is more or less pronounced depending on the light. Looks good on her.
But I digress.
Seven shows Janeway what she's got--telemetry data that shows exactly where the Borg are near them, and whether there's any need to worry. The short version: they don't. But though trouble isn't looking for them, Janeway's got that combadge-fiddling thing going on, so you know trouble's just around the corner anyway. She sees a ship flying off by itself not too far away that she asks Seven to magnify.
It's a sphere, not unlike an under-construction Death Star, only smaller; Seven calls it a scout ship, of the sort we saw in "Drone" and First Contact. Seven reports that it's heavily damaged from an ion storm and traveling at low warp.
Janeway smells opportunity. "Limping home." In a manner of speaking, Seven agrees.
Drooling like a hyena spotting a wounded gazelle, or a Ferengi in the Divine Vault, Janeway turns around.
She has dollar signs for irises in her cash-green eyes.
"I want a detailed schematic of this vessel, down to the power distribution nodes. I think we've just struck gold."
Gold? Isn’t that the shiny worthless easily-replicable junk they press latinum into?
In the conference room, Janeway extends the gold metaphor. "So what we have here in two simple words is...Fort Knox." Hmmm. I’d have said the Dirty Dozen, but what do I know?
Tuvok furrows his brow with snickpiddlement. "Captain?" Janeway asks Tom Paris, resident 20th-century guru, to
translate; he's only too happy to oblige. "Fort Knox--the largest repository of gold bullion in Earth's history. Over 50 metric tons worth over $9 trillion U.S. dollars." (Is that adjusted for inflation?) Janeway prompts him to keep going. "Well, uh, when the New World Economy took shape in the late 22nd-century and money went the way of the dinosaur, Fort Knox was turned into a museum."
"And no one ever managed to break into that facility, right?" Janeway asks, knowing the answer.
Paris smiles. "Well, a couple of Ferengi tried about ten years ago," (anyone we know?) "But other than that, it's considered impenetrable."
Chakotay, smirking, asks the captain if she's planning a heist. Janeway's eyes dance. "As a matter of fact . . . Except we're not chasing gold. We're going to steal a transwarp coil. Think it might come in handy?"
Torres doesn't hesitate. "If I could equip our engines with even one coil we could shave about 20 years off this trip."
Last week, they were 50,000 light years away. They started out 70,000 away. With even one transwarp coil, they'd be more than halfway home in less than five years. Heck, at this rate, Harry might still be an Ensign when they get back.
So might Tom Paris.
["You're walkin' a thin line, Review Boy!" shouts Rosie from Terre Haute, dialing up her Helm Boy Liberation Front comrades for a little search and destroy mission, in case the Tom Paris slurs don’t cease and desist pronto.]
The threat of assimilation is scary, but the prospect of looting the Borg and taking a giant leap homeward is just too tempting to ignore. Fortune favors the foolish.
Provided it's doable--and that will take some convincing. "Do you believe the Borg sphere is damaged enough for us to penetrate its defenses?" Tuvok asks.
Janeway certainly thinks so. "Long enough to take what we want and get out in one piece. But we'd have to plan this operation down to the millisecond. There would be no margin for error. As I see it, we plan an intercept course that won't attract their attention, then create a diversion to keep them occupied so we can send in an away team to obtain the technology."
Chakotay offers to turn their tactical data into a Holodeck simulation so they can practice the maneuver; Janeway hands it to him without hesitation. "We need to mask our warp signature," Torres says. "I've got a few Maquis tricks up my sleeve. They're not exactly Starfleet-approved, but..."
"This is no time for protocol. Get started," Janeway orders. Yeah. Protocol is for wussies. Besides, the Borg eat Starfleet for breakfast; how many Maquis have they assimilated?
My point exactly.
Of course, the next time Janeway hides behind protocol or uses it as a bludgeon against one of her minions, I hope someone whacks her over the head with "this is no time for protocol."
Janeway locks eyes with everyone in the room and hands them their assignments. "The sphere is three days away by maximum warp. "Set a course. Chakotay, I want an outline for our heist by tomorrow morning. We've proven ourselves against the Borg once before--twice before--but we're always the ones under attack." Janeway's glare takes on a manic edge. "I think it's time to do a little assimilating of our own, hmm?"
Daaaaang. The Janeway is hard core this week . . .
The next phase of Janeway's plan requires a somewhat more private meeting with Seven of Nine in the captain's ready room. The confidence she exudes for the sake of her crew is more subdued with Seven, who puts more emphasis on content than on style. The captain seems to expect this meeting to be a challenge.
Let’s see. Action Kate. Captain Kate. Mama Kate. Now Ambassador Kate. It’s like that Dr. Seuss book. Too many Kates. Calamity Janeway . . .
Kiss me Kate . . .
Ahem. Moving on.
"I was hoping you'd be a little more vocal," Janeway tells Seven. "Any thoughts?"
Indeed, Seven doesn't look too keen about the mission. "Your plan is…ambitious. There are many variables, but it can succeed."
Janeway's voice softens. "I'd like to narrow that list of variables. I was hoping your parents might provide us with a few insights." Seven tenses. This is one of those subjects she would really rather not discuss. Janeway presses on. "I've been looking over the records we found on the U.S.S. Raven. Your parents kept extensive field notes--detailed journals. There are over 9,000 log entries alone."
"The information is irrelevant," Seven says too quickly, struggling to suppress her irritation at the reminder that before she was Borg, she was a human child with parents.
Janeway's voice drops to a near whisper. "On the contrary, Seven. They spent their careers studying the Borg. They tracked a cube at close range for what? Two years?"
"Three," Seven corrects, through gritted teeth.
"Well, I'd say that made them experts. I want you to study their research. Look for any data that might give us a tactical edge." Seven snorts. "My parents were assimilated. Obviously, their tactics were flawed."
Janeway's nostrils flare, but anger gets her nowhere with Seven. She tries a little smile therapy. She picks a theme song—but it’s the theme from Psycho. Bad idea. She tries another approach. She whips out the Marlboro Country voice. "Look...these records have been collecting dust in our database for over a year. You say they're irrelevant--and I say you've been avoiding them."
Seven doesn't budge. Janeway shakes her head. "You're the best person for the job, but I'll assign it to Chakotay if..."
"No," Seven interrupts, more harshly than intended. Seven reins in her temper. "The information belongs to me. I will read it."
Janeway is magnanimous in victory, the better part of valor. She knows it's only a matter of time before their next confrontation.
Seven, examining one of the Borg data nodes, looks up with irritation when Neelix enters her cargo bay, carrying a large container with both arms. "You're late."
"Sorry. It took longer than I expected to download these records. This is only the first batch." He plops the container down where Seven is working and pops off the lid to reveal a little over a dozen PADDs. "Your parents sure had a lot to say. I organized the information by category--field notes, personal logs, bio-kinetic analyses."
Seven of Nine and Neelix both stare at the collection of data from the Raven, each lost in their own thoughts.
Neelix says what's on his mind. "I don't mean to pry, but is it true your parents were studying the Borg?"
"Yes," says Seven, still staring at the PADDs. "The Hansens were exobiologists."
"Fascinating!" Neelix says. "They must have been very courageous."
"They were misguided," Seven says bitterly.
Neelix shakes his head sadly. "A faded holo-image," he whispers. Seven gives him a questioning look. Neelix continues to stare at the PADDS. "That's all I've got left of my family. A picture of my sister. Except, of course, what I keep in here." He spares Seven a brief, sad glance before looking back down on the massive collection of data. "What I wouldn't give for a treasure trove like this." Seven looks at Neelix with new appreciation; it's a side she doesn't often see.
Neelix clears his throat and says he needs to prepare the rest of the Raven data, and leaves Seven alone with the last, best remnant of her pre-assimilated life. Taking a deep breath, Seven gingerly removes one of the PADDs and activates it, listening to the voice from the past she thought never to hear again.
Magnus Hansen: field notes, U.S.S. Raven, Stardate 32611.4: It's about time. The Federation Council on Exobiology has given us final approval. Starfleet's still concerned about security issues but they've agreed not to stand in our way. We've said our good-byes, and we're ready to start chasing our theories about the Borg.
[I thought we first learned about the Borg in Stardate 43000 or so when Q threw Picard and crew into First Contact. Either Starfleet Command has a very short-term memory or the Borg were the best-kept secret in the Alpha Quadrant. Let’s just say that as nits go, this one’s big enough to hollow out and ride out a 40-day flood in.]
We see a Borg cube against a background of stars.
"Zooooooooom … zooooooooooooooom"
It turns out a little blonde girl is waving a replica of a Cube in front of a window.
An older man enters the room and carefully extracts it from her hands. "Aah... Put down the cube, Muffin. It's not a toy."
"I won't crash it," the little girl promises. She's a shy little thing. Lots of teeth. Kinda familiar.
The man, Magnus Hansen, leads his daughter to the couch. "Remember when I said that you, me and Mommy were going on a very long voyage? Well, we're leaving tomorrow and we won't see Earth for quite a while."
"Are we going to see the Borg?" Muffin asks. "If we're lucky," Papa Hansen says, eyes gleaming.
"Do the Borg have kids, too?" Muffin asks. "Nobody knows. We'll be the first humans to study them up close."
"What do they look like?" she asks. "We're not sure, exactly, but we think they might look a lot like us but with technology inside their bodies." The little girl--Annika--struggles to get the word out. "Cy-ber-netic?" Papa laughs with delight.
"Are they friendly?" she asks. "Well, they're different. They don't talk like us, or even think like us, but...we're hoping to make friends one day."
"I hope so, too, Daddy," Annika Hansen says with three- to four-year-old sincerity.
Magnus: field notes, U.S.S. Raven, Stardate 32623.5: we've been tracking stray readings for nearly eight months now, but there's still no sign of a vessel. I'm beginning to wonder if the Borg are nothing more than rumor and sensor echoes.
[Eight months passed between 32623.5 and 32611.4? According to my calculations, that's only four DAYS. Maybe this took place in the "Gravity" universe.]
The Hansens are having the same argument that couples have been having since the invention of the wheel. Mama Hansen, Erin, wants to pull over and refuel. Papa Hansen, Magnus (Latin for "Great"--talk about an ego) wants to keep going, even if they have to turn off the heater and the in-dash CD player to save energy, and get fueled up later.
Oh, sure, the fuel has gone from hay or oats for the horses to premium unleaded for the Chevy Suburban to dilithium for the starship, but some things will never change.
"We're getting close," Magnus insists to his wife. "If we stop now, we might as well just turn around and go home."
"Home? To what?" Erin counters. "We have deviated from our flight plan, crossed the neutral zone, disobeyed a direct order to return. Our colleagues obviously think we are insane. We have burned our bridges, Magnus."
So much for the intergalactic adventures of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. ("Uh oh, a cube has locked on tractors--Jim's in trouble now! Time for a station break.")
While these two tall, slender, t-shirt wearing free-spirited space hippies mull their fate, the little blonde Annika, pretty in pink, emerges from her bedroom. "I can't sleep."
Magnus calls his daughter over, and drops her on his lap when she does. "Why can't Annika sleep? The greatest scientific mystery of our time," he says, smiling at his wife.
"I have a hypothesis. Her noisy parents are keeping her up," Erin suggests. "Hmm. Sounds plausible," he agrees.
The nice family moment is interrupted by a beep from the Raven's sensors. We got Borg! Soon little Annika is forgotten, sent to her room as the elder Hansens get their first good look at a real live Cube. The little vessel rumbles in the subspace wake of the cubic monster.
"It's massive," Erin breathes. "28 cubic kilometers, 129,000 life-forms on board."
Annika makes it to the bedroom door, but hangs there, watching her parents--and the big alien ship.
"We're being scanned," Erin Hansen says with alarm. But a few seconds, she adds, "They haven't altered course." This surprises her. "This could prove our theory," Magnus says. "They ignore any life-form until they consider it a threat. Or a target," he adds melodramatically. Soon, the cube moves off.
"Let's match their course and speed," Erin Hansen suggests. "Keep a distance of five million kilometers."
Little Annika continues to stare.
Big Annika, now Seven of Nine and two lifetimes removed from that innocent little girl, also stares straight ahead, lost in thought.
She's summoned to the bridge by Commander Chakotay. It takes her a few seconds to respond. "On my way."
Seven of Nine emerges from the turbolift, but hangs in the doorway to the bridge. The crew bustles with activity. On the forward viewscreen is a Borg sphere. Mama Kate and Papa Chakotay and all the Starfleet siblings work on studying the heck out of the thing.
Whoa. Déjà vu.
"Looks like they took a real beating," Chakotay says, looking at the severely damaged sphere.
Janeway raises a hand, which moves toward her combadge. "They could still pose a threat. Let's not get too close."
Janeway looks to Tom Paris. "Match their course and speed. Keep a distance of ten million kilometers."
Yowsa. Double déjà vu.
The captain tells Seven to scan the Borg vessel. "I want to know their current status."
Seven does. "Their weapons array is regenerating but shields and transwarp drive are still off-line." She adds, at Janeway's prompting, that they will have transwarp capability back in 72 hours--that's how long the crew has to pull off their Great Transwarp Heist.
Janeway tells her crew to hop to it. "We may not get this opportunity again and I don't intend to miss it, whatever it takes. Double shifts, round-the-clock simulations. I want to be ready."
Seven sighs. Here we go again.
* * *
Janeway and Seven, Tuvok and Harry, weapons and other gadgets in hand, march with a purpose through the corridors of a Borg vessel. From the bridge of Voyager, Chakotay counts down from two minutes. The operation will require expert timing.
While Tuvok and Harry take out the shield matrix, Janeway and Seven rip off the transwarp coil.
It's going well--drones ignore them while they work--but Chakotay warns that they're running behind schedule, six seconds and rising.
Darn that "no running through the corridors" rule!
The charges are set. The transwarp coil, approximately the size and shape of a bundt cake, is secured.
Boom. Down go the Borg shields.
Zzzzzzt. Away goes the transwarp coil in a quick transport.
Now begins the stroll back to the main transport coordinates for the away team. Tuvok and Harry are already on the way; Janeway and Seven leave as soon as the coil is safely aboard Voyager.
Unfortunately . . . time continues to tick down.
Three . . . two . . . one . . .
"You're out of time," Chakotay shouts at the away team.
The drones no longer ignore the intruders. They advance.
Tuvok aims one of the top-of-the-line GruntMaster 6000 phaser rifles and fires. One drone, then another, collapses.
They keep walking.
Janeway and Seven run into a pair of drones as well, but they're not so lucky. The phaser beam strikes nothing but shield. "They've adapted," Janeway yells. "This way."
But Seven looks suddenly spooked, frozen in place as the seconds tick away. "Seven!" Janeway barks. Eventually, Seven returns to her senses, and they continue their meandering toward the beamout site, where Tuvok and Harry wait.
They beam back to Voyager--but so do a quartet of Borg, right onto the bridge, and they aren't leaving.
"Computer, freeze program, both holodecks," Chakotay orders.
Whew. This is only a test.
Chakotay hails Janeway. "We got the transwarp coil but we also picked up some uninvited guests." They had two minutes once they disabled the Borg sensor grid; they took twelve seconds more than that. The question is, how to cut down their time. "We were efficient," Seven says, not mentioning her little freeze-up in the corridor--but technically, that was after the two minute warning limit.
"What if we beam directly into the transwarp chamber?" Harry suggests, but Janeway says there's too much shielding; it requires pattern enhancers just to get the coil, and they can't carry any more stuff than they are already. They also consider modifying the transporters, but Janeway says she's looked into that but doesn't think it'll work.
How about RUNNING, folks? (there may be a good explanation--rapid motion might set off the Borg that a threat is aboard--but if time's an issue, people, just lengthen your stride or pick up the pace. Speed-walk, for gosh sakes. Sheesh.)
"12 seconds...Might as well be an eternity," Harry grumps. But Seven speaks up, hesitantly, pointing out that the Hansens were able to remain inside a Borg cube for several hours without being detected--though she doesn't know how yet. "Well, keep investigating," Janeway orders, and Seven reluctantly agrees.
"Computer," Janeway commands, "End program."
In the corridor, Janeway and Seven walk together. "I don't know about you but I’m glad to be back on Voyager. Borg vessels make my skin crawl."
"It was a Holodeck re-creation," Seven reminds her.
But Janeway can tell Seven shares the sentiment. "Close enough. We've just spent the last three hours dodging drones. It didn't bother you?"
"Your point?" Seven doesn't deny it. "You seemed a little nervous in there," Janeway says. "The last time I was on a Borg vessel I was a drone. The re-creation was unsettling," Seven admits, still looking spooked.
"You were reluctant to look at your parents' research and now I sense you're a little reluctant to go on this mission. Maybe I’m pushing you too fast." (Foreshadowing . . .) Seven insists she'll adapt. "It's easier said than done," Janeway suggests. "It's been over two years since you came face-to-face with the Collective. Are you sure you're up to it? I need everybody working at peak efficiency." [And by the way, how's that soul-wrenching in-depth research project into your own parents and past that I forced on you?]
"You doubt my ability to function?" Seven asks. No, Janeway says, "I’m simply voicing my concerns." They are unjustified, Seven insists. Janeway's eyes lock on Seven's. "I hope so--because the next time, we won't be on the Holodeck." Seven swallows hard. "Understood."
Janeway looks after the former drone as she marches away, eyes full with apprehension.
In Cargo bay 2, Seven unloads another batch of Hansen PADDs for study. She looks at them the way Superman looks at blue kryptonite.
The door opens and Naomi Wildman enters. "I had a bad dream. Can I stay with you for a while?" She promises not to bother Seven, and Seven agrees--she almost seems glad to have the company.
Naomi looks around the cargo bay. The debris from the Borg probe still fills the room. "It looked just like this," Naomi says somberly. "In my dream. There was Borg stuff everywhere." At Seven's urging, Naomi recounts her dream. "I went on the mission--the one my mom told me about, the Borg sphere--but it didn't work. Everybody got assimilated."
Seven looks distinctly uncomfortable. "Nightmares are caused by irrational fear. They're not real. They can't damage you. Try to ignore it."
Naomi asks what they're planning to steal from the Borg; Seven tells her it's a transwarp coil.
"Will you be on the sphere?" Naomi asks. Yes.
"Are you scared?" Seven evades the question. "We will succeed." Naomi presses. "But what if you don't? What if they make you a drone again?"
Seven is clearly agitated now. "Naomi Wildman, you agreed not to bother me."
Naomi stares hard at Seven. "What's it like to be a drone? Does it hurt?" Whoa. Déjà vu. Annika's very words to her papa.
"You will terminate this line of questioning," Seven demands of the six year-old. (Actually, she's only two, but Ktarians grow up quick, and Naomi picked that talent up from her dad.)
"Do the Borg have kids?" Naomi asks. Seven starts to freak; another question right out of her own past. "What do they look like?" And another! Seven's eyes grow wide as saucers; her memories are being replayed by another little blonde girl. Only this one has horns. And none of the sparkling child's personality Naomi is famous for.
"Are they friendly?" Naomi says, following the ancient script to the letter. Stop it, kid, you're scaring her.
"Return to your quarters immediately!" whispers Seven, voice cracking, pleading.
But Naomi advances. Her eyes are cold. "Resistance is futile." To prove her point, a Borg implant explodes through Naomi's cheek and attaches itself in a starburst pattern a lot like Seven's own.
Seven's eyes explode with panic. When she recovers, the cargo bay is filled with Borg. "Seven of Nine to security.
She hears a voice, Borg--but not exactly the same voice. Female, ancient but young. Timeless. They can't hear you.
"Who are you?" Seven demands.
I am the Borg. Uh oh. Seven of Nine, tertiary adjunct of Unimatrix Zero-One, you've become weak.
"This is a dream," Seven tells herself. "I’m regenerating."
It's not a dream. We've accessed your neural transceiver. Our thoughts are one. We know about Voyager's plan to invade the sphere. It will fail.
"If that's true, then why haven't you assimilated them?"
We've come to make you an offer. Rejoin the Collective…and we'll spare Voyager.
Because. You are Unique.
And with that, the cargo bay returns to its former state. The Borg, Naomi, the smoke and the BorgCam™, all gone. Leaving Seven alone with her thoughts.
* * *
Magnus: field notes, U.S.S. Raven, Stardate 32629.4: after three months of tracking our Borg cube, the vessel entered a transwarp conduit. We followed in its wake. Our sensors tell us we've traveled all the way to the Delta Quadrant, the Borg's native territory.
[Yes, I'm going to be mean. This is a passage of only 5.9 Stardates from the last entry, which is barely 2 days. Exactly when did they reform the Stardates to make them consistent?]
On the Raven, Erin Hansen sits at the controls with little Annika on her lap. "Magnus, you're breaking up."
On the Borg cube, Magnus Hansen skulks about, wearing an ultra-portable recording device that resembles a monocle.
He's observing the drones. "Just some bioelectric interference. Stand by. Is that better?"
"Much," Erin says. "How's Junior?"
Magnus observes a youngish drone, dragging itself with obvious effort toward its regeneration alcove. "He took a real beating when that plasma conduit blew out. He's regenerating."
Two new drones appear. "Wait a minute. Something's happening. Bill and Needle Fingers just arrived. This is odd." He notices that they're doing stuff to the regenerating drone. "They're making repairs to Junior." (Aw, look, Miz Goodall, they’re grooming each other!)
"I thought drones from different subunits didn't interact," Erin says, surprised. "Looks like we were wrong," Magnus agrees.
The two drones, Bill and Needle Fingers, step away. Magnus shakes his head with wonder as Junior falls to the ground. "They deactivated him. Maybe he was too badly damaged. They're dismantling him. They must be salvaging the components." We watch as Junior gets methodically stripped for parts.
Magnus begins to get sparkly all over. "Your bio-dampener is losing power," Erin tells him. "It's time to come home."
But Magnus checks the thing on his arm and says he should be able to hold out for another minute or so. "Stand by. We may not get another chance to observe this behavior."
Seven of Nine shows the design specs of a device to Tuvok and Doc. "It prevented the Borg from detecting them. They referred to it as a bio-dampener. The device creates a field around the body, which simulates the physiometric conditions within a Borg vessel." Camouflage, Tuvok calls it. Precisely, Seven says. Tuvok tells Doc to replicate four of them; Doc says it'll take a few hours. Tuvok tells him to get right on it, and leaves.
"Ingenious design," Doc tells Seven. "The Hansens were resourceful," Seven admits. "Sounds like you're warming up to your folks," Doc says with a smile. Seven frowns; "It was merely an observation."
But Doc presses. "This is an important stage of your social development, Seven. Try not to think of it as simply a research project, but as an exploration of how you were raised."
Seven's nostrils flare. "My parents underestimated the Collective. They were destroyed. Because of their arrogance, I was raised by Borg."
Doc gapes. Seven storms out of Sickbay.
And keeps storming until she finds an unoccupied, darkened place to hide in.
Where she struggles mightily to avoid weeping; she hyperventilates, swimming with emotions she cannot name.
Captain's Log, supplemental: Operation Fort Knox is ready to proceed. All departments are standing by and I've given the order to begin at 0600 hours.
Seven is in the captain's ready room. "Coffee? You look like you could use some," Janeway offers. Seven declines. Janeway clucks at her. "It's a human vice you might want to try one day. Keeps you sharp." (What does she get, royalties?) Seven shrugs. "One day."
"I've been fine-tuning our game plan for tomorrow morning," Janeway tells her. "And I've decided to reassign you to the bridge."
This brings Seven up short. "Captain...?"
"I'm concerned about Voyager's safety," Janeway tells her. "And if the sphere decides to attack I'll need your expertise at tactical." Seven insists that she should be on the away team; Janeway says that B'Elanna will fill in just fine. "You may encounter unexpected obstacles--force fields, encryption codes," Seven point out. "I'm the only member of this crew who can anticipate them."
Janeway glares. "You underestimate the rest of us?"
Seven glares back. "And you underestimate the Borg."
Janeway's tone softens a bit. Mama Kate takes over. "This is more than just a question of tactics. I'm concerned about your well-being...and your ability to perform on this mission."
Let me get this straight. Janeway force-feeds Seven of Nine a few billion pages of data that compel her to confront her own childhood, and then wonders why Seven seems a little off balance? Yeesh.
Seven brushes that aside, but Janeway persists. "I'm not the only one who's worried about you. Chakotay, Neelix, the Doctor--we've all noticed changes in your behavior. You are preoccupied, agitated. And you're making mistakes." That seems to hurt Seven most of all, because she knows it's true. Awareness of her imperfection cuts her to the quick.
Janeway gives her a sympathetic look. "Don't get me wrong. I appreciate your efforts, and we couldn't have come this far without your help...but it's obviously taken its toll." She sighs. "If I'd realized how those journals were going to affect you I never would have pushed you to read them. And I'm not about to ask you to face the Collective in your present frame of mind."
Janeway is surprised by Seven's determination. "The past several days have been difficult," Seven admits, "but I must join the away team and I assure you I will not make another mistake."
"I've made my decision, Seven."
"If I don't go, this mission will fail!" Seven says with a vehemence that makes Janeway blink.
"You sound awfully certain about that," Janeway charges. "I know the Borg," Seven insists. "And I know you. There's more to what you're saying. What's wrong?"
Seven considers her words carefully. "Over the past two years, I have become familiar with the individuals on this vessel. Voyager is my collective now. Your survival is important to me. I am willing to risk my own well-being if it increases our chances of success." That's a big admission for her; Janeway is deeply moved. But it also hints at something on Seven's mind that Janeway does not pursue and may not have picked up on.
Seven's voice is almost inaudible. "Assign me to the away team." She swallows hard. "Please."
Janeway turns away from Seven of Nine. Slowly, she sets down her coffee. Slowly, she turns back around. Slowly, she nods.
Seven lets out a shuddering breath. "Thank you." She turns to go.
Janeway stops her, and walks over to her. "Seven...you've made remarkable progress as an individual and as a member of this crew. For what it's worth...Voyager wouldn't be the same without you."
Seven nods gratefully, and exits.
In blackness, we hear the Collective voice. A vessel has been detected. Unimatrix 4-2-4, grid 0-3. Activate.
Apparently the Borg can operate in suspend mode until needed. Efficient.
The sphere bustles with activity. The Collective reports. Vessel identified. Federation Starfleet Class Two shuttlecraft...Three life-forms.
On the bridge of Voyager, Torres reports. "The sphere's maintaining course."
"Move the shuttle in closer," Chakotay orders.
"The Borg are still ignoring it," Tom says a moment later.
Chakotay sighs and taps his combadge. "Bridge to Transporter Room Two. They're not taking the bait."
Janeway shakes her head. "Shuttle status?"
"All systems go. False bio-readings are holding steady."
Harry suggests a phaser shot across the sphere's bow. (Can a sphere HAVE a bow?) "Might grab their attention," says Action Harry.
"No," Seven says. "The shuttle would be perceived as a threat and they'd destroy it."
"Commander," Janeway orders, "increase the energy output of the shuttle's warp profile. That should present a more inviting target."
It does. Warp signature detected. Prepare for assimilation. Relevant technology. Engage tractor pulse.
"They've got it," Paris reports. "They're pulling it in, toward a docking port along the central radius. 500 meters...200...They're dropping shields!" Chakotay orders the away team beamed to the Sphere, and they succeed. Doc reports that the away team's bio-dampeners are functioning. "They're as good as invisible."
The sphere's shields go back up, Torres says, and adds that the shuttle is being assimilated. Chalk up one more to the Shuttlecraft R.I.P. list.
(Why would the Borg assimilate a shuttle without people in it, you ask? Remember the very first encounter between the Enterprise-D and a Cube; the Collective didn't even care about the people. All they wanted was the Enterprise, which they carved like a Thanksgiving turkey. They look for both biological AND technological distinctiveness to add to their own. They wouldn't ignore a fascinating piece of equipment just because it's unoccupied.)
The countdown begins.
The mission proceeds as it had in the Holodeck simulation, only better. Harry and Tuvok, Janeway and Seven, move around without detection. But suddenly Seven stops in her tracks. She sees in her mind's eye an Alcove. Occupied. By Seven of Nine, before she was dissimilated by Janeway. She sees herself, and hears the voice of the Queen.
Never forget who you are.
Janeway touches Seven's shoulder, calls out her name. Seven gasps loudly, practically jumping out of her skinsuit.
"Are you all right?" Janeway asks, worried--if Seven loses it, they're all in trouble.
Seven returns to her senses, and tries to cover it by looking annoyed. "Proceed." Off they go.
Up go the bombs. Up go the pattern enhancers. Down goes the transwarp coil. All set.
Boom go the bombs. Zzzzzzt goes the transwarp coil. All done.
Almost too easy.
Now, to get the heck out of Dodge.
But as they head toward the beamout site, Seven of Nine hears the Queen's voice again. Seven of Nine...
(A reminder of what the Queen had said. Rejoin the Collective…and we'll spare Voyager.)
Seven stops in her tracks. When Janeway realizes that Seven isn't right behind her, she turns around. "Seven, keep moving!"
"No," Seven says. "I wish to stay." She's not convincing. "I intend to rejoin the Collective."
"I can't let you do that," Janeway says.
"You have no choice," Seven says.
Janeway aims the GruntMaster 6000. "Keep moving. That's an order!"
A forcefield appears between them. Two drones appear behind Seven. "Go!" Seven pleads.
Chakotay reports in; the sphere is altering course to intercept Voyager, weapons locked and loaded. This is not good.
Janeway, weapon still raised, shouts, "I'm not leaving without you!"
"Then you will be assimilated!" Seven's tone makes it clear that's the last thing she wants to happen.
Janeway finally bows to the inevitable and takes off, fuming, blowing away every drone that gets in her way.
Meanwhile, Tuvok and Harry discover that the drones are no longer ignoring them. Not good. But how could the Borg know? Neither has an answer.
Fortunately, they aren't accosted, and they're able to take a detour to the transport site. Janeway joins them a moment later.
"Bridge, we're in position. Three to beam up," Janeway orders.
"Three?" Chakotay asks. But Janeway's in no mood to answer just yet. "Energize!" she growls.
Janeway, Tuvok and Harry arrive on the bridge. "Where's Seven?" Chakotay asks.
"She had a change of heart," Janeway says, her tone making it clear she doesn't want to talk about it right now. "Report."
"The sphere's changing course. They're retreating," Chakotay says. Torres says the Borg are firing up the transwarp coils. Follow that sphere, Janeway orders. Phasers on "Emergency Brake." But no go; the sphere glows green and takes off like a transwarp comet.
Tom Paris sighs sadly. "They're gone, Captain."
I think Janeway's the only person this side of fluidic space who actually shows disappointment when the Borg get away from her.
Seven is led under drone guard through the corridors.
The sphere drops out of transwarp in an area of space that looks filled to bursting with Borg installations, a floating unicomplex that looks too large for any one planet--perhaps even solar system--to handle. To give a sense of perspective, the Cubes which hold nearly 130,000 drones apiece flit about the complex like gnats. The connected structures number in the millions.
This scene would have been impressive even in a feature film. The puppy is huge.
The sphere flies into one of the main complexes.
Seven and the drones eventually appear at a doorway, with a circular symbol that looks vaguely Klingon. It opens into a large chamber, which they enter.
Seven's jaw drops at what happens next. A creature descends from the ceiling, little more than head, shoulders, and visible spinal column that wiggles like a tail.
A torso and four limbs appear from the floor. Separately. They are assembled, first the arms, then the legs. Then the head, which continues to descend. The spine wiggles a bit as though testing the waters, then slips inside the torso. Like a coat hanger going into a T-shirt for hanging up in the closet, the collar of the bodysuit widens to receive the shoulders, then constricts. Clamps like tiny meathooks secure the head and shoulders in place.
The Queen rotates one shoulder. Then another. Works out the kinks, I suppose.
Satisfied that everything is in working order, the Queen walks over and extends a mechanical hand, and caresses Seven of Nine's cheek.
She gives Seven of Nine a very, very alien smile. "Welcome home."
The Queen gives her former drone a thorough visual scan with her glittering mercury eyes. "You've changed. Your exo-plating...your ocular implant. They've taken you apart...And they've re-created you in their own image." Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. "Hair...Garments...But at the core, you are still mine." The Queen does act awfully possessive.
"The Borg have changed as well," Seven observes. "I expected re-assimilation, not conversation."
"I see they've also given you a sense of humor," the Queen says, moderately amused. "My humor is my own," Seven insists.
"Spoken like a true individual. The last two years must have been a remarkable experience. You are unique." The Queen's voice is carefully moderated. Unearthly in its evenness. Omniscient but deceptively detached.
"My experience will add to your perfection," Seven suspects aloud. Yes, the Queen confirms. "That is why you removed me from Voyager," Seven says.
"That is why we put you there in the first place."
Seven does a double-take. Wha-wha-WHAT?!
"You believe that Voyager liberated you from the Collective. Did you really think we would surrender you so easily?" The voice is even but the inhuman eyes dance.
Sounds like the Queen's a regular Mama Borg. Who knew she and Janeway would have something in common?
Seven demands an explanation. But the Queen isn't ready just yet. "You must be tired. It's time to regenerate. We've adapted an alcove just for you. Go. It will help order your thoughts. When your cycle is complete, we will continue our conversation."
"Comply." No passion, no emotion of any kind. But the command, gently delivered, is obeyed. Seven enters the alcove and goes rigid as the regeneration cycle begins.
The Queen of the Borg Collective gazes fondly at the sleeping individual. The prodigal daughter has returned.
Cargo Bay Two is hopping. Crewmen are cleaning the place out. All that probe debris is just taking up space. Janeway watches the activity, in a pensive mood.
Chakotay enters the cargo bay. "No sign of Borg activity. We made a clean getaway."
So did the Borg, Janeway doesn't say. "The sphere?"
"It hasn't shown up on long-range sensors or subspace telemetry. It could be anywhere in the quadrant by now." Janeway orders a probe launched to scan for transwarp signatures. Chakotay doesn't look happy about it, but acknowledges.
"Why choose this moment to rejoin the Collective?" Janeway asks rhetorically.
"Maybe she'd been planning it all along," Chakotay answers anyway.
This earns him a scolding look. "She's had any number of opportunities to leave before now."
"But never direct access to a Borg vessel," he reminds her. " 'I will betray you.' That's what she said two years ago when you disconnected her from the hive."
"Two days ago, she told me Voyager had become her Collective," Janeway says. The captain and first officer stare at each other. They've never completely agreed where the Borg are concerned.
Chakotay looks at a drone and sees a fate worse than death. Janeway sees opportunity.
Neelix breaks up the tension with a matter of business. "Captain...we've cleared out most of the debris, but before we vaporize it I'd like to melt down the larger fragments and extract the polytrinic compounds." Janeway agrees without much thought; Neelix's suggestion makes sense.
Neelix continues, reluctantly. "That leaves just one item: Seven of Nine's alcove. It requires a lot of power--over 30 megawatts. Should I…deactivate it?"
He has to strain to hear the captain's response. "No, leave it alone." He nods with understanding and moves away.
Chakotay gazes at the captain with concern. Janeway's return look is one of unfettered determination.
No need for the captain to fiddle with her combadge to know exactly what's on her mind.
In her ready room, Janeway is poring over sensor logs with the help of the computer. "isolate the sensor readings for time index 114.6 and identify source," she commands. Random subspace energy fluctuations, the computer replies. "Isolate the sensor readings for time index 166.2. Source?" Again, random subspace energy fluctuations.
"Computer, run a transpectral analysis on all subspace fluctuations," Janeway orders.
The door beeps. Tuvok appears in the doorway. "A member of the crew has requested an appointment with the Captain. I informed her that you were occupied, but she was insistent."
Janeway's not in the mood for visitors; she's busy. "Whatever it is, I'm sure Commander Chakotay can handle..."
The insistent visitor peeks out from behind Tuvok. Naomi Wildman.
You can practically hear the captain's heart melt. "Request granted. Send her in." Tuvok nods, his eyebrows performing a Wave of paternal mirth.
Naomi hands the captain a PADD. "Permission to submit a proposal for your review," she says gravely. Proposal? Janeway asks. "It's a rescue operation for Seven of Nine." Janeway is impressed by her initiative. "Oh...you created this plan all by yourself?" she asks.
"Yes, ma'am. You see, if we change our long-range sensors to Seven's cortical implant frequency maybe we can find her." Janeway points out that the Delta Quadrant is a very big place and Seven is likely a long way away by now. But Naomi isn't out of ideas yet. "What if we boosted our sensor range with power from the main deflector?"
Janeway smiles, a tired but genuinely affectionate smile. "You've been spending too much time in Engineering. I'm afraid it's not quite that simple. But thank you, Crewman. Your initiative is duly noted."
Naomi heads for the door, then stops. She turns around. "Captain? You're not going to give up, are you?"
Oh, dang. Puppy-dog eyes. Resistance . . . weakening . . .
Janeway's heart melts again. She gets up from her seat, leans down to her youngest crewman. "There are three things to remember about being a Starship Captain: keep your shirt tucked in, go down with the ship . . ."
Janeway leans in closer to whisper in Naomi's ear. "And never abandon a member of your crew." (At least one with their name in the opening credits.) When Janeway pulls back, she and Naomi are smiling. Naomi knows the captain won't give up. And Janeway knows there's at least one other person on board who hopes she succeeds.
And wouldn't you know it--hope can perform miracles. The computer beeps to indicate the transpectral analysis is complete. Janeway moves back to her desk and smiles. "Take a look at this, Naomi. What do you see?" Sensor logs, Naomi says, providing the literal truth.
But Janeway sees more. "These aren't random energy fluctuations. They're Borg com signals. And they were all directed at Cargo Bay Two."
Naomi catches on quick. "You mean the Borg were talking to Seven of Nine?"
Janeway smiles. "It sure looks that way. Come on."
"Good morning," the Queen says.
Seven wakes up with a whole new view of the world. "My visual cortex...it's been altered."
"We've enhanced it with Borg technology. You've seen through human eyes long enough."
Seven touches the back of her head; something is there that wasn't before, a small disc not unlike the neural transceiver we've seen from time to time. "It's a neural processing adjunct designed to increase your synaptic efficiency," the Queen explains.
"Remove it," Seven demands. "You prefer to remain small," the Queen says sadly. "I prefer to remain unique," Seven corrects.
"Don't be afraid. We won't turn you into a drone. You're much too valuable to us with your individuality intact," the Queen tells her. "But you've left humanity behind. Try to abandon their petty emotions as well. Fear...Anger...Vanity. They've corrupted you...but the damage can be repaired."
"You've expended significant resources to capture me. Why?"
"Isn't it obvious? You're going to help us assimilate humanity."
"We failed in our first attempt to assimilate Earth." (And the second, Queenster, don't forget the second. How do you think you got this job?) "And we won't succeed the next time unless we understand the nature of their resistance. We want you to be our eyes. Let us see humanity."
"While I was regenerating, you assimilated my memories," Seven says. It's not a question. The Queen doesn't deny it. "Our thoughts are one."
"Then you already possess all of my knowledge. What more do you want?"
"You are the only Borg that has ever returned to a state of individuality." That depends on what the meaning of the word "only" is. Locutus (Best of Both Worlds), Hugh (I, Borg), his entire Cube which became individuals only to fall under the spell of the Cult of Lore (Descent), Riley and her Cooperative (Unity), even, in some measure, Data (First Contact) beat Seven to the punch.
Though I guess you could say that Seven of Nine is the only one who got dragged kicking and screaming from the Collective, a True Believer, a Lifer who eventually changed her mind.
"We want to keep you exactly the way you are," the Queen tells her. "Otherwise, you would lose your human perspective. We don't want another drone. We want you."
"I will resist," says Seven. "I know," says the Queen, patiently.
The ground moves under their feet. "What's happening?" Seven asks.
"Our vessel is disengaging from the unicomplex. We're setting a course for grid 5-3-2."
"State our purpose," Seven demands. The Queen responds: "Assimilation. Our presence is not required but I thought the experience would be a rewarding one for you."
The air shimmers, and a large view of an alien world appears in midair. "Species 10026," the Queen says by way of introduction. "How many life-forms?" Seven asks. 392,000, the Queen says.
"You're experiencing compassion--a human impulse. You've forgotten what it means to be Borg. Those lives will be added to our own." To the Queen, this makes perfect sense. The lives won't be lost--merely transformed.
But to Seven, who knows all about what that transformation entails, it's a distinction without a difference. Her eyes widen with sympathetic terror.
A wall in the unicomplex opens. An entirely new Borg craft appears--a diamond-shaped, fancy-looking vessel that could only be the royal Yacht. It resembles a flying engagement ring.
The Borg Diamond exits the unicomplex and heads toward its rendezvous with destiny.
* * *
Field notes, U.S.S. Raven, supplemental: it's been a busy week. The cube linked with another Borg vessel and received over 50,000 new drones. We now begin the dangerous task of identifying the newcomers.
Erin and Magnus Hansen examine a drone on the Raven. Erin reads the stats. "Species 6961...Ktarian...Tritanium infrastructure. He's a tactical drone."
"Take a look at his proximity transceiver. Let's check his previous designation," Magnus suggests.
"Three of five. Tertiary adjunct of...Unimatrix One!" Erin breathes.
Magnus' eyes light up. "I want to keep an eye on this one. Let's tag him. Bring me the subdermal probe, will you?" he asks his daughter.
"Is he special?" Annika asks as she hands Papa the probe. Magnus smiles. "Very special. We think he used to work near the Borg Queen. If he ever goes back there...we'll be able to track him now."
"Does the Queen have a throne?" Annika asks. "Nobody knows," Magnus says. "We think she's more like the Queen of an insect colony," Erin adds; "She helps coordinate all the other drones."
An alarm buzzes. "His regeneration cycle's almost complete. We better get him back," Magnus says. Annika waves goodbye as a transporter beam sends Three of Five (color me sentimental; call him Hugh) back home.
"He's in his alcove. Nobody missed him," Erin says, breathing a sigh of relief. "Enough drones for one day. Anybody hungry?" Annika's hand shoots up in the universal ME! ME! gesture. Magnus tells them to go ahead. "I want to read through his cranial transceiver logs, see if he was ever in direct contact with the Queen."
"Don't be long," Erin says with a smile.
We see an image among the logs that Magnus pulls up. It's a very distinctive shape. It's also huge.
Twenty years later, Chakotay stares at the same image.
"It turns out his hunch was right--the drone had been receiving direct commands from this...Borg Queen. I analyzed the com signals. Look at the transpectral frequencies."
Janeway does. "They match the ones that were sent to Seven. What did the Hansens learn about this--Queen?" (While the concept of a Borg Queen might be familiar to the viewing audience, it's apparently quite new to the captain and crew of Voyager.) "I'm afraid they never got a chance to find out," Chakotay says.
"One thing is certain," Janeway says. "She contacted Seven of Nine--and the next day, Seven rejoined the Borg. Obviously, she exerts some influence."
"You think Seven was instructed to leave Voyager?" Chakotay asks.
"Instructed...Coerced. Seven insisted she join the away team. She was adamant that if she didn't board that sphere our mission would fail. Sounds to me like she was being threatened." Janeway shakes her head. "My instincts told me she was holding something back, but I...I didn't pursue it. I let her go." Her voice trails off.
Chakotay gives her a compassionate look. "If you hadn't, we might all be drones by now."
But Janeway is projecting her thoughts toward the unseen, unknown Queen. "What's running through that Collective mind of yours? You've got thousands of species to choose from. Billions of individuals! Why Seven of Nine?"
The captain grits her teeth. "You should've assimilated us while you had the chance."
Uh oh. The Queen just crossed the wrong woman. It's time for a little Redhead Rampage.
When Janeway turns around her eyes are blazing. "I want you to keep analyzing the Hansens' database. Compile a list of every technology they created to track the Borg. Assemble a team of engineers to assist you."
"If you're planning a rescue mission that research will only take us so far," Chakotay says carefully. Oh? Janeway asks.
Chakotay measures his next words. "I've studied their log entries long enough to realize that as brilliant as the Hansens were, they made a fatal mistake. They became overconfident." His meaningful look at Janeway is hardly subtle.
"We won't make the same mistake," she assures him.
Janeway addresses her crew. It's time for action, it's time for teamwork.
It's time for the Human Collective to kick some serious Borg booty.
There's an overlay of Janeway's voice as the crew works hard in preparation for what lies ahead.
"This will be a long-range tactical rescue. It could take days, even weeks, before we find our missing crewman. Lieutenant Torres is equipping the Delta Flyer with the transwarp coil. An away team will take it into transwarp space where Tuvok believes we can track the sphere that abducted Seven of Nine. Thanks to the Hansens, we'll be well prepared for an encounter with the Borg. Their multi-adaptive shielding will make the Flyer virtually invisible to Borg sensors, and narrow beam transporters will allow us to penetrate the sphere."
Janeway addresses the away team next. "Mr. Paris, you'll man the helm. Commander Tuvok, tactical. Doctor, there's no telling what condition Seven will be in when we find her. You'll come along."
"I'll be leading the away team," Janeway says on the bridge. "The rest of you will remain on Voyager and maintain position at the threshold of our transwarp conduit. We may need tactical support when we return. You'll be taking your orders from Commander Chakotay." She pats his arm in a vote of confidence.
"We'll be searching for one individual among thousands of drones. But she's one of us...And I'm not about to let her go."
Janeway looks at each of her compatriots. "Let's get started."
Delta Flyer takes off. Ensign Proton to the rescue. [Kidding, Rosie.]
"All systems go. We're ready for the jump," Tom Paris reports.
"Bring the coil on-line. Prepare for transwarp," Janeway orders. The coil gets uppity for a moment, but Janeway compensates and soon all is ready.
"We're at critical velocity," Tom says. 88 miles per hour. The flux capacitor is charged and ready.
"Engage, Mr. Paris," Janeway commands. Paris counts down. "Transwarp in four...Three...Two..."
It's a rough trip, but soon they're zooming through a fluorescent green universe.
"We've crossed the threshold," Tom Paris says.
Uh oh. Shuttle. Threshold. Transwarp. Tom and Janeway together again.
["Lounge Lizard Lovin' " by Louie and the Budfrogs plays in the background.]
"Steady as she goes," Janeway says. She notices the Doc looking a little queasy. "Doctor...Are you all right?"
"Just a little motion sickness. I'll need to adjust my matrix to accommodate for extreme velocity," he says, reaching for the nearest digital sickbag.
"I'm detecting residual transwarp signatures," Tuvok reports shortly. "They match the Borg sphere."
"Adjust our course and follow it, Mr. Paris," Janeway orders.
It's not a smooth course adjustment. Doc, blowing a few data packets into the sickbag, casts Tom a baleful look. "I believe the Captain's order was 'steady as she goes.' " Paris smirks a little.
"Full speed ahead," Janeway says.
The Queen's yacht, and two very large Cubes, arrive at their destination.
The Queen looks for Seven of Nine. "We've arrived. Are you ready?"
Seven looks up from a console. "I have familiarized myself with the species."
"Tactical weakness?" the Queen asks. "Their vessels lack maneuverability," Seven says.
"Tactical strength?" the Queen asks. "They've developed a modulating phaser pulse that can penetrate our shields."
"How do you propose we adapt?" the Queen asks.
"You are the Borg. You tell me." Uh oh, Seven's getting' uppity again. Let's see how Mama Borg's parenting skills compare with Mama Janeway's, shall we?
The Queen doesn't raise her voice. Her facial features change not a whit. She simply describes the events as they unfold. "39 of their vessels are converging on our position. They're firing weapons." The vessel gets hammered; stuff sparks; Borg drones run around engulfed in flame.
The Queen continues to stare, unwavering, at Seven of Nine. The battle seems to concern her not at all. "Our shields are failing. We will be destroyed," the Queen tells Seven. "How do you propose we adapt?" she repeats.
Seven's survival instinct kicks in. Frustrated by her own weakness, Seven nevertheless blurts out, "Triaxillate our shield geometry to absorb their phaser pulses."
The Queen smiles. "I was thinking the same thing." She tilts her head to port. A second later the pounding of the vessel fades to nothing. "Adaptation complete. They're no longer a threat."
Dang. This woman is cold-blooded. But she does have a reptilian look about her, so perhaps that's to be expected.
"Go to the primary assimilation chamber. You'll monitor the bio-extraction process," the Queen orders. But she notices Seven of Nine's eyes go wide with terror.
"You look reluctant. Maybe I've been pushing you too quickly." (Whoa - déjà vu.) "You can assist with the repairs to our shield matrix instead." Seven doesn't shudder quite as much at that task. She nods, and walks toward the door.
"Seven of Nine...Be efficient."
Wow. Janeway could learn a thing or two from the Queen. She rolled Seven like a pro.
Seven marches through the corridors choked with drones and conquered aliens--avoiding who she can, pushing aside whoever she can't. She reaches her assigned station and gets to work, trying her best to ignore the screams of anguished assimilation taking place all around her.
A blast knocks Seven to the floor. Two drones yank her back to her feet. Seven tries to resist as a wicked Borg prosthetic arm is waved in her face--then stops struggling as she realizes that it's a medic drone, who efficiently heals the small wound on her forehead. The "repairs" complete, the drones leave her alone. She takes a deep breath, regains some semblance of composure, and returns to her duties.
Seven notices some of the new alien creatures as they walk by under heavy guard. They are almost Vulcan in dress and appearance, most of them stoically--or resignedly--marching to their fate of a lifetime of menial labor with a few trillion new best friends. One alien, however, tries to escape--only to be halted in his progress by Seven of Nine, who grabs him by the tunic in an irresistible duranium grip.
When she realizes what she's done, she recoils in horror and loosens her grip. But it's too late. The drones the guy escaped from catch up, and one plunges his assimilation tubules into the guy's neck. His eyes go huge with pain and rage, and we get a real-time view as the black oil that passes for Borg body fluid replicates at an inhuman rate and courses through his bloodstream, further speeding the assimilation process.
Seven runs away, looking for a place to dissimilate her lunch.
But she ends up in a room where a medical drone is working on a guy while he's still relatively unassimilated and therefore more than capable of feeling pain. His right arm has been removed, but nothing has taken its place yet. It's just a stub, with a few implants there to interact with the yet-unattached prosthetic limb. Four other aliens stand and watch, either too much in shock to do much of anything, or just not all that bright. They look really, really detached.
Seven deactivates the drone. It slumps, and Seven discovers it's too heavy for her to move by herself. "Assist me," Seven tells the aliens, who look at her with the same dazed disinterest they've shown the whole time.
Seven growls with frustration. "I am not Borg. I will help you escape. Assist me!" This wakes them up enough to provide some help moving the drone out of the way.
Seven goes to a terminal and enters some commands to get a read on the status of the invasion. "I'm detecting one of your vessels. It's heavily damaged. The crew is dead. The Borg are ignoring it. Its propulsion system is still functioning. I will transport you aboard. Remain there until the Borg leave orbit. Then set a course on a heading of 121 mark nine. Do you understand?"
They nod. Good enough. Seven beams them out.
In the aftermath of the invasion, the Queen finds Seven of Nine, who looks not at all happy. "Congratulations," the Queen tells her.
"Assimilation is complete."
Seven's nostrils flare. ""300,000 individuals have been transformed into drones. Should they be congratulated as well?"
The Queen doesn't rise to the bait. "They should be. They've left behind their trivial, selfish lives--and they've been reborn with a greater purpose. We've delivered them from chaos...into order."
"Comforting words," Seven spits. "Use them next time instead of 'resistance is futile.' You may elicit a few volunteers." (I like it. Good comeback!)
"You cling to sarcasm because you are afraid to see the truth. Species 10026 is already adding to our perfection. You can feel their distinctiveness coursing through us...enhancing us."
The Queen's glistening, reflective eyes bore into Seven. "Stop resisting. Take pleasure in this."
"I will not take pleasure in the destruction of a race!" Seven shouts.
For the first time, the Queen raises her voice, irritation's first stirrings bubbling up from the surface. "Human sentiment...compassion...guilt...empathy...They're irrelevant!"
"Not to me."
" 'Me'? There is no me! There is only us...One mind."
"My thoughts are my own," Seven growls.
Um, Seven? I think you forgot that thing on your neck…Seven's thoughts aren't exactly her own. The Queen's got her brain bugged.
The Queen demonstrates. "We've overlooked something--a ship...four life-forms...They're trying to escape." The floating viewscreen appears, and we see a tiny vessel moving away from the massive Cubes. "How do you suggest we proceed? Destroy the vessel or assimilate it?"
Seven tries not to give away her emotions. Her voice is as neutral as she can make it. "Neither. There are only four life-forms and the vessel is heavily damaged. It would be an inefficient use of our resources. We should ignore it."
The Queen gives her a grim look. "In this case, Herbert, we are not One. If those individuals are allowed to survive, species 10026 will survive and continue to resist us..."
A hard edge enters the Queen's voice. "But that's what you were hoping for, wasn't it? You tried to mask their life signs...But I detected them."
The small vessel is caught in a tractor beam.
Seven drops the act. "Release the vessel!"
"I'm sorry this lesson has to be so painful for you, but you are a difficult pupil." She's got that right. "Abandon your human frailties. They are the cause of your pain."
"Let them go...Please," Seven begs.
The Queen regards Seven quizzically. She looks at the screen.
She makes no gesture. She doesn't need to; she's the Queen. The tractor disengages, and the little vessel that could, does--it high-tails it out of there. The Borg do not pursue.
The Queen looks back at Seven. "I thought compassion was irrelevant," she says.
The Queen offers no reply. But from that alien, maddening face, there is not a trace of compassion detectable.
So I guess the question is, why the heck did she do it?
* * *
The U.S.S. Raven, which looked nice and shiny when the episode began, now looks on its last legs. We hear the voice of Magnus Hansen.
Field notes, U.S.S. Raven, Stardate 32634.9: the raven was hit by a subspace particle storm. We took heavy damage and our multi-adaptive shielding went off-line for 13.2 seconds. Unfortunately, it was long enough for the Borg to perceive us as a threat.
That can't be good. Sure enough, it's not. Raven is on the lam, and the Borg vessel Conformity isn't far behind.
The elder Hansens are working furiously at their controls, trying to both run away and find a place to hide.
"I found something--a nebula," Erin says. It's a Mutara class about three light-years away. "I'm setting a course."
Magnus warns against it. "The particle density's too high. Our hull would breach."
"We can reinforce structural integrity," Erin says. Magnus is adamant that they look elsewhere. Erin is adamant that they have no time.
While they argue, little Annika is in bed, eyes wide, frightened out of her mind. She can hear everything. It's a small ship.
Even if the Borg hadn't come along and assimilated her, this girl would have been destined for years of therapy.
"It's been three hours and the cube hasn't found us yet. As long as we can keep masking our warp trail..."
But Erin cuts him off. "The entire Collective knows about us by now. They'll send more ships."
"The nebula's too dangerous! We've had close calls before. This is no different. Remember when the transporters failed?"
Erin can't help but grin. "And you had to spend the night in a maturation chamber with 52 neonatal drones?" (Man; these two really need to get out more.)
An alarm blares. Erin checks the readout. "A transwarp conduit, 2.3 light-years starboard. It's a cube heading right for us."
"Time to intercept?" Magnus asks. One hour, maybe less, Erin says.
Annika cries out for her papa. "Be right there, Annika," he calls out. "Start looking for an M-class planet. We'll abandon ship if we have to."
Hmmm. I wonder what the Bomar would have to say about that . . .
Papa Hansen enters the darkened room. "Hey," he says, moving close to his daughter.
"Are we going to be assimulated?" Little Annika asks.
"Not if I can help it. Go back to sleep. Your mother and I have work to do."
"Are the Borg mad at us?" she asks. No, he assures her. "Then why are they chasing our ship?"
Magnus searches for the best way to explain it without scaring her. "They're curious about us...Like we are about them. But don't worry. We won't let them get too close."
"I want to go home."
"Soon," he promises. He rises to leave.
"Papa? Will it hurt to be a drone?"
"Sleep," he tells her.
Janeway reads the Hansens' logs from a PADD. What little I can see is pretty dry text.
Doc arrives with some suggestions for modifications to the communications array. "I've studied Seven's cranial schematics and I've isolated the frequency of her interplexing beacon. When we catch up with the sphere we might be able to send her a brief message."
Not a bad idea. I'm sure he wouldn't mind that Naomi Wildman came up with it first.
Oh dang. Is she gonna be the next Wesley Crusher?
"What if she's already been linked to the hive mind?" Janeway asks about the message they plan to send. "Every drone has its own translink signature," Doc explains. "Only Seven will be able to hear our message."
Cool. "I'll give you a hand," Janeway says.
Doc notes the contents of the PADD. "The Hansen Diaries--not exactly light reading." Not exactly with approval in his voice, either.
Janeway gives him a tired smile. "I've been poring over their last log entries for any details we might have missed. I want to make sure history doesn't repeat itself."
Doc frowns at the twenty year-old logs, and the people who wrote them. "They should have quit while they were ahead. Ten million teraquads of data, three years in the wild."
"They could have studied the Borg for another three decades and still have barely scratched the surface," Janeway says. "I agree their methods were unorthodox, but…that's been true of most great explorers."
Doc doesn't look at all happy. "Most explorers don't take their four-year-old daughter along for the ride." Hard to argue with that.
"We'll get her back, Doctor...with her parents' help," Janeway assures him.
An alarm goes off on the Delta Flyer. Paris reports. "Captain, I've got a fix on the sphere's location. It's in a region about 200 light-years from here."
"Red alert," Janeway orders. "Bring the multi-adaptive shielding on-line. Set a course for those coordinates and prepare to disengage transwarp drive."
The Flyer drops out of transwarp and appears not that far from the googleplex. The first thing all of them notice is how goldurned big it is.
"Report," Janeway says.
"I'm detecting thousands of integrated substructures, trillions of life-forms...All Borg," Tuvok says.
"There's a cube coming up fast off our port bow." The monster grows until it fills the screen . . .
And it blows right past them.
"Did they detect us?" Janeway asks, but Tuvok doesn't believe so. "Any sign of our sphere?" Janeway asks.
"Yes, ma'am. Its ion signature leads directly to that...whatever it is," Paris reports.
"Take us in, Mr. Paris. Minimum thrusters. Begin scanning for Seven, Tuvok."
The Queen approaches Seven of Nine. "I have a task for you. We're planning to deploy a new mode of assimilation designed for highly resistant species. I want you to program the nanoprobes."
"Your technology has changed since I left the Collective. My knowledge is insufficient."
"Your knowledge for the target species is invaluable," the Queen counters.
A hologram appears nearby, and begins to rotate along the vertical axis like a luau pig on a spit. It's life-sized, male, wears only a Speedo, and is built like a cologne model. Unconsciously, Seven purses her lips in approvingly.
The Queen fills her in. "Species 5618. Human." (Ah. I was wondering where we ranked.) "Warp-capable. Origin: Grid 325. Physiology: inefficient. Below-average cranial capacity. Minimal redundant systems. Limited regenerative abilities."
Hmmm. Picky, ain't she? Why, then, is she so hot on assimilating them? Well, we do got spunk.
"Our previous attempts to assimilate them were all direct assaults. They failed." Perhaps that's why. Nothing says "assimilate this" like good old-fashioned human stubbornness and infinite adaptability. "So we've created a more--surreptitious strategy."
Uh oh. Subtlety from a Borg? That could make them very dangerous indeed.
Seven finally gets what the Queen is hinting at. "You intend to detonate a biogenic charge in Earth's atmosphere." (Kinda sounds like that final Babylon 5 movie where the Shadows' lackeys "poisoned the well," doesn't it? Oh well, if that could launch a whole new series, it could well give Voyager something to worry about for a season or two when they finally get home.)
"It would infect all life-forms with nanoprobe viruses. Assimilation would be gradual. By the time they realized what was happening, half their population would be drones," the Queen says. Ah. So it's like the Internet and roller derby and the Springer show.
"Inefficient," Seven says. "The virus would take years to proliferate."
"We've waited this long," the Queen says. She looks like the patient type.
The holographic human disappears.
"Interface with the central alcove," the Queen commands. "Begin programming the nanoprobes. Be sure to enhance the viral sequencers."
Seven still looks danged squeamish. "You've been involved in hundreds of assimilations," the Queen reminds her. "This is no different."
"To you, perhaps. Part of me is still human. I will not assist in their destruction!"
"We all originated from lesser species," the Queen says. "I myself came from species 125. But that's irrelevant now. We are Borg."
"I am an individual!"
"You're only repeating their words. You sound like a mindless automaton." As opposed to the nonconforming Bohemians of the Collective, you mean? Yeesh.
"Comply or we will turn you into a drone." A bunch of drones converge on Seven.
Go assimilate yourself, Seven says. (Well, she actually says, "Proceed if you wish." But her tone is as insubordinate as we've ever heard from her.)
"You're torn between your desire to be one with us and your loyalty to them. It's time for you to complete your task." The drones come closer. "All of your emotions--grief, guilt remorse, compassion--will be irrelevant once humanity is assimilated."
The Queen's tone gets a little nasty. "Forget Voyager. They were never your Collective."
Seven gets her dander up. "I am Annika Hansen--human!" She shouts it to the rafters.
"I remember Annika. Does she remember us?" the Queen asks. Seven has a flash of an ancient memory--of little Annika standing silently in the doorway, getting her first look at a Borg cube. The memory disorients her.
"She wasn't afraid," the Queen mocks. "Why are you?"
"You attacked us. You murdered my family!" Seven screams at her.
"We did no such thing! We gave them perfection." The Queen inclines her head. A drone steps forward.
I know that dude . . . So does Seven. Her face is a mask of anguish. "Papa?"
"Your family's here. You're here. Be one with us again."
It's about as hard a sell as anyone ever got. Seven's resistance begins to crumble.
But then she hears a voice. A voice she never expected to hear again.
Mama Kate. "Seven of Nine, we're searching for you. Try to hang on."
"Captain . . ." Seven whispers, clinging to the word like a lifeline.
"What did you say?" the Queen demands. "Nothing," says Seven, with redoubled resolve.
The Queen's features darken. "Janeway," she grumbles, dragging out the syllables.
She shakes her head with disbelief. Redheads. She hates those guys.
* * *
Janeway discovers that their transmission to Seven is now being deflected.
The battle of wits and wills has begun in earnest.
"I've isolated Seven's position," Tuvok reports. "She's inside a large infrastructure approximately 600 kilometers away." Janeway orders Tom to set a course.
The Queen, Seven of Nine, her assimilated parents and random extras mill about.
"She's close," the Queen says. She sniffs at the air metaphorically. "Her com signal originated within this spatial grid. But we can't detect her vessel."
Seven allows herself a smile.
The Queen, though, nods toward her father. "He knows why. Your father designed the technology Captain Janeway's using. Multi-adaptive shielding--your perfect defense against the Borg," she sneers.
The Queen's smile sends chills down Seven's back. "But we assimilated that knowledge, didn't we? We will adapt easily."
Tom Paris goes downright translucent. "The cube has altered course. It's heading straight for us!"
"They've detected us," Janeway realizes. "Remodulate the shield, evasive maneuvers!"
Tom works his magic. A few seconds later, a massive rumble increases--then decreases--in volume. "It flew right past us," Paris says with palpable relief.
"We won't fool their sensors much longer," Janeway grumbles. "Tuvok?" Seven is in a large chamber, Tuvok says. "Can you get a lock on her?" Janeway asks. Not at this distance, Tuvok says. "Take us to within transporter range," she tells Tom.
"We have their ship--a federation shuttlecraft--three life-forms, one hologram," the Queen declares.
Seven of Nine's lip curls with contempt. "If you've captured their vessel, you'd have assimilated them by now. I would sense their presence in the Collective." She smiles with triumph. "Captain Janeway is eluding you."
The Queen looks pissed. Dang redheads.
The Delta Flyer is quite near the Chamber, but Tom has bad news. "The chamber is too heavily shielded. I can't get a lock on her."
"Can we beam into one of these adjoining corridors?" Janeway asks. Probably, Tuvok says.
Time for an away mission. "Time for the bio-dampeners. Tom, hold our position. Target that chamber with full weapons. Stand by to fire on my command."
Tom turns around and looks at her. "Ma'am, won't you be down there?"
Tom doesn't argue. I've noticed he's been awfully compliant this week--barely a single smart-aleck comment out of him.
What a suckup. Probably bucking for Lieutenant again.
Janeway and Tuvok, Betsy and Bertha at the ready, march through the corridors in the heart of Borg Territory. This is Unimatrix 01. This is the Pentagon of Borgdom.
And security sucks. The two go about their business unmolested.
Shields do go up, but Janeway has some ideas about that. She sees one of the drones walk through the force field like it's not even there.
Janeway tells Tuvok to hand her a subdermal probe (one of Magnus' inventions). She's got an idea.
The Delta Flyer is visible on a floating screen. Things look bleak.
"It's not too late to save them," the Queen says.
Seven says nothing.
"As you wish." The Queen's words have the same tone as "may God have mercy on their souls."
This could get ugly.
On the Flyer, another alarm goes off. Paris swears, a Ferengi epithet about overextended credit that would get him shot in half the taverns on Ferenginar. "They've isolated our shields again. Three vessels are converging."
But he's not sunk yet. Paris reaches for the controls. "I'm remodulating."
The vessel disappears from the Queen's monitors.
"You underestimate them," Seven says, rubbing it in.
The Queen scowls. "It's time for a more aggressive approach."
Explosions rock the Flyer from all sides.
"I thought they couldn't see us!" Doc says over the din.
"They can't!" Tom Paris says. "They're firing blind!"
It's nerve-wracking, but it's better than the Collective knowing where they are.
Janeway injects the subdermal probe into a slumbering drone. "Wake him," she tells Tuvok.
When the drone activates, it begins walking. It halts at a forcefield, makes an internal adjustment, and walks through.
Bingo. " Field modulation is 324.95," Janeway reports. If you know the frequency, you can compensate, and just do the walk on by.
Tuvok works some magic, and Janeway walks through the field.
One small problem. Her bio-dampening armband got disabled in the process.
"You'll be detected," Tuvok tells the captain.
"Then I'd better hurry. You've got to disable the shield matrix around that chamber."
Betsy in hand, Janeway rushes toward her rendezvous with destiny. She's got a crewman to rescue.
The Delta Flyer is in deep doo-doo.
"It's no use!" Paris shouts to Doc. "They've locked on to our shield modulators. They're adapting the second we change frequencies."
The familiar Collective baritone calls out to them. We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.
Resistance is futile.
We see the Borg Queen making the announcement in her own voice. The baritone of the Many echoes her words. One of the cubes has the Flyer in a tractor beam.
The Queen turns to Seven of Nine. "You have failed them."
"No," Seven insists. She rushes the Queen and rears back with the mother of all backhands.
The Queen catches it without even breaking a sweat. Even though it's Seven's exoskeleton-enhanced hand, the Queen begins to squeeze, and Seven's face contorts with pain.
"We believed you would be an asset to us. We were wrong." The Queen gives Seven a sad look. "You are weak."
Seven is on the verge of believing her.
"Don't listen to her, Seven!"
All heads turn toward the new voice.
Janeway is in the doorway, the BFG1000 in her hands set to Mulch. "She's irrelevant," she says to Seven about the Queen.
The Queen snarls.
Janeway aims at the Queen's chest. She takes a few steps into the room. "Call them off or I'll destroy you."
"Your weapons are useless," the Queen declares. The drones begin a slow approach to Janeway.
Janeway doesn't bat an eye. "Don't be so sure. My tactical officer is disabling the shields around this room." She fiddles with her combadge. "Tom, status."
"We've targeted the chamber, Captain," Paris reports.
"Let her go, or I'll give the order to fire," Janeway says with the voice of authority.
"You would be destroyed as well, along with your crewman," the Queen says, doubting Janeway's got the guts for it.
"Better than being one of you," Janeway says, ratcheting the weapon's settings even higher. The gun practically begs to be used, making an "Ooh! Ooh!" noise whenever it's aimed at something perishable.
Janeway and the Queen lock eyes in the mother of all staring contests. Not even Conan O'Brien could win this one. Janeway's hair gleams. Her eyes blaze. "Tom, high-yield torpedoes full spread. Fire on my command."
The Queen of the Borg blinks.
"Captain, they've disengaged the tractor," Tom Paris reports.
"Hold your fire. Beam us out of here."
But it's not over yet. A shadow passes over the room. Seven notices it. Even Janeway gets the hint that something bad just happened.
"A dispersal field just activated around the chamber you're in. I can't get a lock," Tom reports.
Janeway looks at Seven. "Seven, shut down that field."
"Don't listen to her!" the Queen orders. "She's poisoned your thoughts long enough."
"I'm giving you an order," Janeway says in her best you-must-comply tone.
"One order, one voice!" the Queen scoffs. "Insignificant."
The Queen looks at Seven of Nine.
Janeway looks at Seven of Nine.
Seven of Nine looks at the Queen. Then at Janeway. Then at the Queen. Then at the drones that used to be her parents. A flash and she remembers her stuffed animals from the Raven, and notices in the here and now that one of the drones is holding an assimilated Teddy Drone.
She picks Janeway.
While the Queen gapes, Seven runs over to a nearby computer column. Ramming home with her assimilation tubules, Seven takes the dispersal field down.
Janeway smiles. "Tom, energize."
But before he can, Seven notes the look on the Queen's face. The shadow returns. "She's adapting!"
"The field went up again, Captain. I can't beam you out," Tom reports.
The Queen throws her head back imperiously. "You will assist the Collective as drones. Assimilate them!"
The drones advance.
Seven thinks fast. "Captain, target the power node directly above this alcove. It will disrupt her command interface."
The Queen, horrified, casts an accusing glare at Seven of Nine.
Seven stares right back. "Our thoughts are one." In other words: I can read your mind too, mama.
Nobody has to tell Janeway twice. She fires. The weapon leaps with joy; its beam flies straight and true as the Queen looks on in anger.
Seven of Nine and Captain Janeway disappear in a shower of blue energy.
Leaving the Borg Queen alone. Drones, drones everywhere, but not a brat to think.
Individuals. They may be annoying as heck, but they do tend to liven up the place, don't they?
Somehow, you just know the Queen hasn't given up yet.
Delta Flyer hauls hiney, chased by a trio of very large cubes.
And the Royal yacht, which shoots out of the unicomplex, gaining ground.
"Welcome back," Doc says to Seven, clasping both her shoulders after running a medical scanner over her. She nods her gratitude, then takes her position.
"Three vessels, closing fast!" Paris says.
One really nice thing about the Delta Flyer--it can actually show off Tom Paris' piloting skills. Unlike the steers-like-a-manatee Voyager, the Delta Flyer actually looks like it's performing evasive maneuvers as it wends its way through the unicomplex and into open space.
The Borg fire, knocking out the Flyer's weapons. But they don't need weapons where they're going. Janeway tells Tom to prepare for transwarp.
It's a horse race. The Flyer is ahead, but not by much. Tom counts down. "Transwarp in four, three, two..." the shuttle glows green, and takes off like a shot.
But the royal Yacht follows. The three cubes are left behind as the Yacht surges ahead and into the conduit.
"A vessel entered the conduit with us just before it closed," Paris says. Tuvok reports their engines are being targeted. "Maintain course," Janeway says.
The Borg continue to fire, and they score a lucky hit. "Direct hit on the port nacelle," Paris reports. "We're venting plasma!" Tuvok reroutes emergency power. "It's not enough," Paris says. "I'll need 30 teradynes at least or we'll lose transwarp."
Janeway makes a decision. "Reroute power from life support." Doc objects, but Janeway makes it simple. "I'd rather suffocate than vaporize. Do it!"
Meanwhile, back on the U.S.S. Voyager . . .
Torres answers the blaring alarm. "I'm picking up transwarp signatures. There's a conduit approaching--30,000 kilometers off our port bow."
Chakotay puts his hands on his hips as he stares at the forward viewscreen. His face is grim.
The lights go dim. The red lights flash.
The Commander's eyes burn with intensity.
Twenty seconds away from normal space, the Yacht is still on their tail, and gaining.
The Borg lock on with a tractor, but Seven manages to deflect it in time.
Delta Flyer zooms back into normal space.
Torres reports the good news. "They're through."
"Voyager to Delta Flyer," Chakotay barks. "Report!"
"We've got Seven," Janeway says, "But there's a Borg vessel right behind us."
Chakotay tells B'Elanna to break out the big guns. "Target the threshold perimeter. Photon torpedoes, full spread."
Even Torres is shocked. "Commander?"
"It should destabilize the matter stream and implode the conduit for at least a light-year."
That's all she needs to hear. "Torpedoes locked."
Chakotay leans toward the viewscreen. His fist slams into his open palm. "Fire!"
Voyager lets loose with a good half-dozen torpedoes. They go Boom in a big way. Transwarp space reacts angrily.
I'd hate to be inside that conduit.
"Voyager, report," Janeway says.
"We collapsed the conduit. No sign of Borg activity," Chakotay says.
"Clear us for docking. We're coming home," Janeway says.
But something new is happening. "Commander," Torres says, "I'm picking up Borg signatures--lots of them."
"Source?" Chakotay asks. "The conduit," she says. "I thought you collapsed it," he says. "So did I."
The DANGER WIL ROBINSON music starts back up. "Stand by weapons. Captain, raise shields. We've got company."
"Here they come!" Torres yells.
The transwarp conduit opens. The diamond-shaped Royal Yacht appears.
Barrel-rolling. In about a trillion and a half pieces.
Just the way Janeway prefers.
The really good news is, there's a debris field here fit for a Queen.
The $64,000 question is . . . was the Queen aboard? Or will we see her again?
Captain's Log, Stardate 52619.2: we got another 20,000 light-years out of the transwarp coil before it gave out. I figure we're a good 15 years closer to home.
The week before, they were 50,000 light years away from Earth. According to this, they're now only about 30,000 light years away. By even conservative estimates, they're more than halfway home from their original 70,000 light years starting point near Ocampa.
"I see you picked up some bad habits," Janeway says, entering Cargo Bay Two. She's smiling--Captain's in a good mood. They're much closer to home, everyone's accounted for, and all's right with the galaxy.
Seven is hard at work--as usual. She doesn't quite catch the joke. "Captain?"
"The Doctor told you to regenerate for at least two days. You're violating a direct medical command." Not that Janeway seems all that upset about it; she's disobeyed that direct order plenty of times herself.
"I will comply--when my work is completed." Janeway takes a look and smiles again. "Borg tactical data?"
"During my time at Unimatrix One I acquired a vast amount of knowledge. It may prove useful in our future encounters with the Borg. I am downloading it into Voyager's database."
Seven does stop working for a moment, though. She looks at the captain. "The Borg believed I was unique. That I understood humanity. They were obviously mistaken." So was I, Seven doesn't add. She looks grateful, but amazed, that she's back on Voyager. She never expected to see the Little Starship that Could again.
"How so?" the captain asks.
"I betrayed the crew of Voyager--threatened you with assimilation! I did not expect you to return for me."
"Looks like you still have a few things to learn," Janeway says warmly. Then she turns on the maternal overdrive. "Time to regenerate."
"When I am finished."
Janeway smirks. "No, now. That's an order."
Seven must be in a good mood. She actually lets Janeway win an argument. "Yes, Captain." She stops what she's doing and walks over to her alcove.
Janeway activates the controls, and Seven of Nine goes rigid in sleep. "Sweet dreams," Janeway says.
The Queen of the Voyager Collective gazes fondly at the sleeping individual. The prodigal daughter has returned.
So . . . what did you think?
For me, this was one of those turn-off-your-brain-and-hang-on outings. It's much more entertaining if you don't think too much.
The three words that came to mind most often for me were "but what about . . ." Continuity with previous episodes, both of Voyager and TNG, went right out the window.
The first item is relatively trivial. In "Scorpion, Part II," we were told that Seven of Nine was assimilated 18 years before. In "Raven" we learn that she was assimilated on her birthday; she has the memory of a birthday cake with six candles "and one more to grow on."
We're told here that Stardate 52619, is roughly the 20th anniversay of when the Hansens left to study the Borg. but it should also roughly be the 20th anniversary of when Seven and her parents were assimilated. But we were told they studied the Borg for three years. And we were told by Doc that she was four years old when they left, which would have made her seven when assimilated.
Generally speaking, the chronology is difficult if not impossible to reconcile. Dramatically, not a big deal, but it is a stumbling block for those who like to pay attention to the details.
Then there's the stardates. At least a year's worth of the Hansens' journey (and some subtle suggestion that we saw darn near all three years' worth) took place in the flashbacks, but all the events were given with ship's logs in the Stardate 326xx.x range. Now, unless Stardate calculations changed dramatically in the ten years between the flight of the Raven and the launch of the Enterprise-D, we'd expect a year to equal a Stardate variance of 1000. (that's why each year we see a new second digit.) That we only saw a Stardate variance of less than a hundred is a fairly obvious (if meaningful only to those who pay attention to the dates) error.
The stardates given of the Raven records were just plain goofy. The date of the first entry, 32611, is roughly 20 years earlier than the Stardate given at the end of the episode, 52619. But the following entries suggest they took place within the same 326xx range, and that they covered a minimum of 11 months.
On a somewhat more substantive level, we have the Holy Grail of propulsion technologies, transwarp. So many technologies, theoretical and practical, have been picked up by the crew over the past few years that it's hard to keep track of them. In "Day of Honor" Seven was going to try to help Voyager create a transwarp conduit using modifications to its existing technology. Perhaps they've come up with an answer here; they can do it, but they need Borg equipment to pull it off. (Harry used a similar trick in "Timeless" with the Borg way-back machine.)
This is fine, I like that they can do it, but it does bring up other questions. If they have a mostly-working transwarp coil, could they repair it? Apparently not. If they have a completely working coil, can they replicate it? They never said. They know enough to use one if they get one; can they not take the next step? Is there raw material they need but do not have?
Then there's the remnants of that Borg vessel that came through the conduit at the very end. A good part of that was intact; did they raid it for parts as well? Could any more coils have been found in that wreckage? If one can get them 20,000 light years closer, two would have gotten them within spitting distance of the Alpha Quadrant, if not actually in the AQ, and three would have let them coast home with coil to spare.
There could certainly be reasons for not checking out the broken ship--those other three Cubes who could converge on them at any time, for example, could be just minutes away. Or whatever. But a brief explanation of whether they did and/or why could have made a nice wraparound to the teaser. "Here's a lot more pieces, Captain, just the way you like them--are you still feeling lucky?" "Commander, there's a time to let it ride, and a time to hold. I think it's time we took our winnings and headed for home."
And of course, we have to wonder if this is their first opportunity to pick up a Transwarp coil. They picked up a dead drone in "Blood Fever." They picked up another in "Unity," and for a time had an entire deactivated but mostly intact Cube to plunder. Scorpion gave them ample opportunity--a Cube graveyard of more than a dozen Borg vessels after 8472 got through with them, and so on.
Now, perhaps knowledge is power. Until Seven came along, they didn't have a great idea about how to use Borg stuff, or even if it was safe to. Seven was able to help them narrow their grocery list. She would know both the Borg, and Voyager, and know which would be most useful to them and also the safest.
Other inconsistencies. There's the "crew complement," which has ranged from 142 to 153 or so depending on the episode. Perhaps away teams don't count. Another--they got "20,000 light years, cutting 15 years off our journey." This is different from previous assertions that it takes a little more than a year to go 1000 light years. Unless their top speed is faster these days, 20,000 light years should have cut more than 20 years off their journey, not a mere 15. Now, maybe that's a net gain--Janeway did say they'd added "at least two" years by avoiding Borg. Maybe she's factoring it in. But it struck me as odd.
This might not be an inconsistency, but it is a question. Where does the Delta Quadrant end and the Alpha Quadrant begin? How close is Earth to the "state line" between Alpha and Delta? If they were 70,000 light years out when they began, and they're now right around 30,000 away, that's a good deal more than halfway home. (And I'd argue that they're actually somewhere in the 25-30 thousand range, what with all the smaller jumps forward in addition to the two tens and a twenty.) Are they still in the Delta Quadrant now that they're over the halfway hump? And for me, who's a novice in the ways of subspace, but who knows that subspace communications have a much longer range than propulsion, when will they hit the threshold and begin to be able to communicate with Starfleet? What is the subspace communications range? It's probably written down somewhere, I just don't know it. I do remember in "Where None has gone before," that Traveler episode, when they zoomed way the heck out of their normal warp range, they could have sent a message but it would have taken months or years to arrive. At how many years out will they be able to send and receive messages?
Granted, there are two answers possible. The technical, and the dramatic. Dramatically, they'll do it when it makes sense to let it happen. My guess is we won't see it happen until the final "homecoming" arc begins, or shortly before or after.
A pretty big inconsistency is the fact that the Queen is shown, and that she looks the way she does. In short, she looks a heck of a lot like the Queen from First Contact, right down to the near-total lack of flesh, little more than a head and shoulders, and the mostly-Borg spinal column.
Is this the "same" Queen we saw in First Contact? Does the episode complement the film, conflict with it, pretend that it didn't exist? A little bit of each, I think. The Voyager crew wouldn't know about the events of First Contact, though Seven of Nine would (otherwise, her comment about the "Phoenix" in "Year of Hell" wouldn't have been so intriguing). Also, Seven of Nine was a tertiary adjunct to Unimatrix 0-1, so she (like the drone the Hansens found) should have known about or even worked with the Queen, though she looked surprised by her introduction and didn't recognize the voice of the Queen when it first came to her. (And are we really to believe that the Queen intentionally let Seven go as some sort of deep-cover agent?)
Of course, since we saw the Queen's flesh vaporized and her Borg parts snapped into pieces at the end of First Contact, this is either a successor--or a diversion from TNG history. I don't mind the idea of her being a successor, really--if she's the "coordinator of the hive" as Erin Hansen suggests, it's a position that can be filled by anyone who can fill the suit. Whether that necessitates a complete spinectomy and full-body amputation is anyone's guess. I also liked the Voyager suggestion that an assimilated creature can become Queen--as a member of species 125, this Queen almost assuredly was not the first--else what did the Borg do when they were assimilating the first 123 species. Perhaps it was an anarcho-syndicalist commune of shared consciousness. Or a Vulcan daisy-chain mind meld. Or a bunch of guys on the Internet with PalmPilots.
An interesting issue brought by this episode: the Borg still want to take over humanity, and they're looking for a new way to do it by seeding Earth's atmosphere with an assimilation virus. That's an intriguing idea, and it's got terrific long-term potential. If you wonder what Voyager could do after they make it back to Earth, dealing with a renewed Borg threat is certainly a possibility.
Perhaps the greatest inconsistency, though, is the whole premise of the Hansens.
In "The Gift" and "The Raven," the Hansens were called "unconventional" "scientists" and "explorers" who wanted nothing to do with Starfleet or the Federation. Here, they are portrayed as "exobiologists" who launched their mission with the full approval of the Federation Council on exobiology and concern but not hostility from Starfleet. They did eventually become renegades, but this came about over time.
Early on, we had little information. Chakotay was able to find out Seven's birth name in "Scorpion." Janeway was able to find her file, and her parents, in "The Gift," though she said the data was fairly sketchy. By "The Raven" they were "famous" for their "scientific theories" but most of the data they were said to have came from the Federation databanks. But in this episode they're said to have had quadrillions of bytes of data, scores of thousands of log entries, and so on, in their computers for more than a year--how? Where did it come from?
The most likely explanation is "The Raven," though this isn't mentioned--and in that episode, they were under attack by the B'omar and left mere minutes after retrieving their people, leaving behind the partially-assimilated, derelict U.S.S. Raven that fell off a cliff under alien attack. Yet here we have a "treasure trove" that's been sitting around in the computers for at least a year.
Just a few things that make you go Hmm.
On the other hand, they actually did answer questions I had during "The Raven." How the Raven got into the Delta Quadrant, for example. Here they say that they followed a Borg vessel through a transwarp conduit, which is eminently plausible, given the Hansens' purpose. I'd assumed they were chased into the DQ. Speculation arose that maybe the Borg picked up transwarp from the Hansens--who were, after all, scientists and explorers. It made some sense, but I like this explanation better. If the Hansens were interested in studying the Borg, it would make more sense for them to follow the Collective into the DQ than to be followed there. It was reported last season that the Hansens did point themselves toward the DQ, and this is about as good a reason to do so as any.
And for the trivia buffs, the reccurrence of prime numbers 2, 3, and 5 has some consistency with the past. The Raven was given the registry "NAR-32450" in "The Raven." here, we had Janeway discovering a field modulation of "324.95" (round to 325), humanity's "grid of origin" is "325", one of the Hansen logs was recorded on "32623.5" And the folks that got assimilated by the Queen were in sector "532". Perhaps 32 (is this a Michael Jordan thing?) is a new magic number.
If the Hansens had been such big Borg Watchers, I find it inconceivable that they'd have let that data just sit and gather dust for an entire year, especially if it was known (as suggested here) that this is what the logs contained. Especially early on when Seven was being such a PITA, and the data could have been employed to practice good Borg parenting or something. But if they were such famous scientists with unconventional and experimental ideas, it would seem the Delta Quadrant would be the perfect place to try out some of the more potentially useful theories. Those ideas for shields, persnal bio-dampeners, etc. have particularly interesting applicability for away missions.
I do like that Janeway saw the potential in this episode, and did make use of the Hansen logs. I also fault her a little for not considering the likelihood that ALL the Hansens were assimilated, and that therefore all their study would be as well known to the Borg as they were to her and her crew. It did make for some nice dramatic moments, though, and I liked both that some of the ideas did indeed work--but that they didn't work perfectly or for long, that the Borg did have counters for the strategies so they had to keep thinking on their feet, continue to adapt just as the Borg do.
Dramatically, it played like a chess match of sorts. The Queen was a better player but supremely overconfident--and Janeway benefited from a boatload of luck, which sometimes can make all the difference in the world. The luck of James Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard were legendary. One of my chief complaints about Voyager's early seasons was that Janeway's crew was the crew "that luck forgot" because events that almost always fell the Enterprise's way virtually never worked out right for Voyager. Well, now they're catching some lucky breaks, and they're starting to make their own luck by taking advantage of opportunities, both small and large.
The battle for the heart and soul of Seven of Nine made this episode a keeper. It was nice to see that the former Annika Hansen was a handful both for Janeway and for the Borg Queen. She was a pretty meek and mild, moderately inquisitive and brave but normal child before her assimilation. But when she grew up, she got herself an attitude. Given that what we saw of her parents told us that they were both willful, opinionated, and very bright, it's not a stretch to say that the apple of the Hansens' eye didn't fall far from the tree.
There is something to be said about the Golden Child. Not everyone is worth risking it all for; there is a Food Chain of risk. Janeway's assertion to the contrary, she's not going to risk 150 lives for Crewman Whoever down on Deck 14. The "Top Ten" crewmen, absolutely. Janeway had invested a lot of personal effort into Seven of Nine, and considered her as valuable as a transwarp coil, even more so because she risked that coil in an effort to save the girl.
Likewise, the gamble the Queen makes with Seven is not one she would make for one of the drones who was just as brain-dead as an individual. "You are unique," the Queen said of her. Seven's head was a Fort Knox of sorts, a potential key to the vault of humanity. The Borg assimilated plenty of humans. But they wanted a Picard for similar reasons. The problem the Queen discovers is that those who are good enough to help, are also good enough to offer serious resistance.
The difference between the two Stepmoms? Janeway does command obedience from time to time, but her ultimate goal is to make Seven after her own image: human, individual, a voluntary member of the crew. The Queen, on the other hand, wants to use Seven, and though she'd prefer a voluntary assistant, if she can't have that she'll take Seven as a drone.
Both did push Seven too hard this week. But the differences give a strong suggestion why Janeway earned Seven's loyalty, but the Queen was incapable of anything but coercion.
This was a problem with the show, actually. I'd have preferred a somewhat more seductive Queen. The Queen of First Contact made you wonder whether Data was still with the Good Guys until the very moment of truth. But Seven of Nine, though giving the occasional indication that she would comply with the Queen's directives when the need arose, never seemed tempted to join with the Queen as an ally. We didn't see any of the "upside" to Borgdom, and this was a golden opportunity. Remember Chakotay in Unity? That moment of intimacy when his body was healed and his mind was touched by a half-dozen members of the Cooperative, and he had the Best Sex Ever with Riley because their minds were still united a bit as a residual effect of that healing link?
Consider the potential had Seven "linked" with her parents as a gift from the Queen. Felt the Perfection of the Group mind which she went on about so much last season. Felt again the greatness that she missed so terribly when first disconnected from the link. Seen the horror of the assimilation, but contrasted that with the "Welcome Party" in the Group Mind as the transition from Chaos to Order gives those 300 thousand new drones their first taste of near-infinite knowledge? Instead, the sight of Assimilated Dad was a horror-show moment that turned her against the Queen for good.
Instead, all we get is sarcasm from Seven (a great line) about how changing their slogan might elicit a few volunteers. (I think that'd make an interesting episode--a species that really, really wants to be assimilated, a Kazon-like bunch rejected by the Collective as unworthy of the "honor" who feel offended and demand a second chance.) It took nearly a year for Seven of Nine to stop thinking of the Collective as Home, and even now Chakotay argued that her defection might have been inevitable (which contradicts what he said in "Infinite Regress," but oh well).
It would have been nice to wonder which way Seven would go when Janeway showed up. It would have been nice to have seen Borg life the way Seven saw it when she was a True Believer, more Borg than the Borg whose rhetoric had to be moderated a little by the Group Mind because she was too hardcore. For her to experience an upside of some sort.
The nature of the Queen might also have been nice. This Queen wasn't quite as omniscient as one would have hoped, though it did help the crew escape. She seemed capable of remarkable things, but also seemed to have some blind spots. With a Unicomplex of trillions of drones and thousands of installations and oodles of Cubes, they should have been capable of scanning the entire spectrum simultaneously to counteract just about any cloaking or dampening system. The location-specific nature of her powers also interested me--that one phaser blast could render the Queen so helpless, like Trelaine's mirror or Apollo's temple.
And I do have that final question--did the Queen die? That was the Queen's vessel that chased them into the wormhole. We never saw the Queen go far from her Big Chamber, where the source of her power apparently is. If so, will there be a new Queen, or is there another power vacuum, and another opportunity for Species 8472 to come back and do some more Drone damage?
With an episode this ambitious, logical problems are probably inevitable. The casual viewers are the majority, though, and most of them probably don't care even if they did pay enough attention to recognize the inconsistencies. Not that they're not bright people--they're just not Professional Fans who treat episodes like sports fans view playoff games and who swap nitpicks the way ESPN takes the proctoscope to every highlight clip on Sportsnight. My friends at work who watched it thought it was pretty cool.
Likewise, when I watched it to watch it, I enjoyed this episode quite a bit. I enjoyed the performances a great deal, particularly Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan and Susanna Thompson as the Queen. Scarlett Pomers also put in a good turn (as usual) as Naomi, and as the nightmare. This Janeway is the Janeway I like best--authoritative, thinks on her feet, plans for multiple contingencies, isn't a stickler for protocol for its own sake, and in general is having fun being Captain. "It's good to be the queen." She takes risks that seem worth taking, not just because "risk is cool." This was Janeway In The Zone, swaggering, seductive, running a perfect team. The Janeway Collective, when it runs on all cylinders, you can almost believe capable of kicking the Borg's butt, even in their home territory.
In short, I like Janeway when she's larger than life. Though we often saw the foibles and frailties of James Kirk, he also got to be the Legend from time to time, and we've seen Janeway in similar moments. Seven of Nine, while a terrific character, should be more like the Spock to Janeway's Kirk, complementing her, "adding to her perfection" rather than making her look like a doofus as has happened a little too often. I think that happened here--she sacrificed herself for the good of Janeway and her crew, and when given the choice, she returned with the Captain, where she preferred to be.
Okay. This puppy has already set records for size, so I'll wrap up. On a 4-star scale, I'll call it (* * * *). There were some epic, cinematic moments to this, and there were also some nicely personal ones. I hope we haven't seen the end of either the Borg, or of the Hansens. We saw Seven declare herself Annika Hansen, Human, a repudiation of the Collective that had been her family for 18 years. It could be fun to see her explore her past more, now that some of the demons have perhaps been exorcised. She has plenty to study, and as Neelix says, it's a record of personal and family history that he truly envies. There's some useful stuff there, but there's also some good character stuff there.
So--if you need to turn your brain off for a couple of hours, or just that part that looks for the plot holes, it's worth the effort. This episode is by no means perfect, but it is nevertheless a lot of fun.
ADDENDUM: The first batch of feedback is in, and it's clear I forgot something crucial.
In FIRST CONTACT, history was changed.
Zefram Cochrane's flight of the Phoenix included two pssengers, Riker and Geordi LaForge.
Cochrane's partner, Lily Sloane, had her own First Contact with the Borg on board the Enterprise.
Although it would be hard to expect a great deal of that first-hand information to survive intact over the next several centuries, it might well be plausible that Lily would tell some folks about the Borg--at the minimum, Cochrane himself.
As the centuries progressed, there could be a notation somewhere that a species from the future had come back in time. Maybe all they know (or think they know) comes from Picard's explanations and Lily's own 400 year-old perceptions, but it's enough to get the curious thinking. Modern archaeologists often get started witth less.
I can't believe I didn't consider that myself. Thanks to those who pointed it out.
Next Week: Harry Kim has lust in space.