In the first episode of the seventh season of The Next Generation, Picard, Deanna, and Geordi try to convince Data not to make a terrible mistake. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For brief discussion of genocide.
WOW THIS IS FUCKED UP.
In a way, I view the second half of “Descent” as a chance for the show to do a rare follow-up to past choices. The ramifications of multiple episodes in recent seasons are shown here, and you wouldn’t have Hugh’s entire story without “I, Borg.” His appearance here gives us a plot we haven’t really seen before. What happens to the people whose problems are “solved” by the Enterprise crew? They’re nearly always forgotten in the grand scheme of things, and they rarely return to affect later stories. Yet in Hugh’s case, he was given a new form of life, and then left to his own devices. No one guided him through the confusing and bewildering experience of being an individual. Instead, he ended up “infecting” his fellow Borg with individuality, leaving an entire group of them in an aimless state of chaos.
It’s no wonder that someone as domineering and charismatic as Lore was able to exploit them. They were desperate for any kind of guidance because they’d never learned self-sufficiency. I imagine that Lore saw this and knew he could use these beings for his own end. So it’s not exactly a stretch to state that Hugh and his fellow rebel Borgs are the Enterprise crew’s fault. Obviously, they did not intend for this result, but they do accept it. That’s important because even if there isn’t a perfect resolution to their conflict, Riker and the others don’t try to shift responsibility away from themselves. I admit that with so much time spent on Data’s story, parts of Hugh’s story is compressed. I would have liked to see more of the experimentation that Lore did, and I think it would have been cool to get a sense for what the other Borg individuals were like. But this episode needed to accomplish a lot in a relatively short period of time, so I understand the choices made.
It’s too bad there’s not much left of this series because I’d love to see Hugh as the leader of the Borg rebels!
MY GODS, THIS IS SERIOUSLY ONE OF THE BEST THINGS THE SHOW HAS EVER DONE. I do like when roles are switched around in this show, but Beverly is in spectacular form here. She’s a natural leader, and we get the chance to see her in a new light in “Descent.” IT’S THRILLING! On top of that, the writers do a fine job with the skeleton crew left behind to run the Enterprise. It’s a shame we’ll probably never see Salazar or Ensign Taitt again because THERE WAS ACTUAL CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT FOR CHARACTERS THAT ARE USUALLY IN THE BACKGROUND. Ensign Taitt and Salazar are forced to adapt to a level of responsibility that’s frightening to them. They’re reluctant to commit to their decisions, and they are asked to improvise and plan out operations in a matter of seconds. I imagine that they hadn’t experienced half this shit outside of training simulations.
But Beverly guides these crew members expertly through this. God, I want AN ENTIRE EPISODE about them!!! WHERE IS THIS SPIN-OFF?
(Also, I now realize why Salazar looked familiar. That actor played Edgar on Supernatural!)
In hindsight, this episode was always going to have to end in heartbreak. Data had finally gained the ability to experience human emotions, but the manner in which this had happened was horribly, horribly flawed. It’s not long into the second half of “Descent” that we discover Lore’s manipulative means of giving Data specific emotions. And it hurt! It really did! I found it perfectly understandable for Data to react as he did while pumped full of the kind of emotions that would lead anyone to do unethical things. Data was full of rage, resentment, and jealousy. As Deanna said in the previous episode, these things could lead to positive outcomes, but Data chose to utilize these emotions to support the genocide of all non-artificial intelligent life.
Is that absurd? Of course it is. There’s an element to this story that relies solely on the shock of seeing Data do something he otherwise would never even consider. Yet that’s why “Descent” stings so much. It’s tragic irony. Data has finally gotten what he’s always wanted, and the experience will forever be tainted by Lore’s emotional manipulation. We all know that Geordi will forgive Data for nearly destroying him. Data literally was not himself during this time. Yet it’s still disturbing, and the entire affair will always be part of both of their memories.
The same goes for the eventual resolution of this conflict. While the actual device used to re-activate Data’s original programming made no real sense to me, I understood that in doing so, the team forced a confrontation that had to end in tragedy. Lore was a lost cause, utterly convinced of his own self-importance and of the destiny he’d invented for himself. I never expected Data to be able to use logic and reason to convince him otherwise. At best, Lore could have escaped, but Data’s presence threatened the whole project. One of them had to be eliminated. Despite being aware of that, I WAS NOT READY FOR LORE TO TELL DATA THAT HE LOVED HIM RIGHT AS HE AS BEING DEACTIVATED. How dare you, The Next Generation?!?!?! HOW DARE YOU DO THIS TO ME??? OH MY GOD.
And that’s it, isn’t it? Lore will be disassembled permanently, and Data has no real interest in using the surviving emotion chip that Dr. Soong made. Granted, Geordi convinces Data to keep it, but I don’t see him using it in the remainder of the show. It’s too possible that he might turn into his brother, despite his programming otherwise. It’s just not a risk he’s willing to take.
OW, MY HEART.
The video for “Descent” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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