Mark Watches ‘Voyager’: S03E26 – Scorpion, Part I

In the twenty-sixth and final episode of the third season of Voyager, the weak shall perish. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek

Trigger Warning: For body horror.

It’s clear that “Scorpion” marks a new chapter in Voyager, and I really don’t think I’m over exaggerating here. Over the course of season three, we’ve gotten numerous warnings that Voyager was bound to move into Borg space. It was only a matter of time, right? And yet, the writers for this show still found a way to introduce while also answering another mystery:

What’s powerful enough to destroy a Borg cube?

Thus, the show ties together the breadcrumbs and the unanswered element of “Unity” into what I consider one of the finest hours of this show. This is going to be hard to top because it’s exciting, utterly terrifying, and contains my single favorite Janeway story/performance that I’ve seen so far. Just… how do I deal with “Scorpion,” y’all? HOW?

The Northwest Passage

In hindsight, it’s still amazing to me to look at the pacing of this episode. The writers waste no time ramping up the tension, starting with that cold open. Borg cubes are destroyed in a matter of seconds, and in another context, that might be exciting. Something that can stop them! Except no, that’s not actually what we want because that “something” is the LITERAL WORST THING.

From here, a future is given to us. We have no idea how long the Northwest Passage – the part of Borg space without Borg ships in it – actually is. Is this a journey of a few days, weeks, or months? No one knows. All we’re given is that this is the only way for Voyager to avoid the Borg. Just from the beginning, loneliness is an important part of the narrative. The ship has no one else to rely on: no friends, no allies, no way of contacting home. It’s a scary thought, and the show exploits this because they want me to suffer. BADLY. Even if “Scorpion” had just been about the nerve-wracking experience of avoiding the Borg, I’m sure I would have been terrified. But once we learn why the Northwest Passage exists… no. Just no.

Visions

Kes’s visions might have otherwise been a gimmick, but I think in the context of the story – specifically since Species 8472 is telepathic – they’re necessary. From a storytelling standpoint, they’re brilliant. The visions of the future are horrifying without context. Take the pile of Borg bodies. It made no sense, unless Voyager had suddenly become Hannibal. And yet, we later learn how the unnamed alien species is capable of that kind of brutality. So, if that came true, what else will come true? See, I misunderstood the visions; I thought Kes saw things right as they happened, but they’re actually prophetic in nature.

So… everyone on Voyager isn’t going to die, right?

First Contact

I’m still in awe of what this show pulled off in what must have been a remarkably short period of time. I’m referring to a slew of digital effects that, given the time period and how long they had to complete them, are more than passable. It helps that the writers and editors created a sequence where’d we’d only see Species 8472 in a horrified glance, but it’s enough. We know that there’s a reason that frightening bio-ship is attached to the cube. Then, Kes’s visions heighten the terror when she glimpses Harry being attacked. It is an expertly filmed horror sequence because of the unknown. Because of the inevitable. Because of the reveal that Species 8472 IS NOT HUMANOID. FINALLY. I DON’T CARE IF PEOPLE THINK THE EFFECTS DON’T STAND THE TEST OF TIME. I’M JUST SO PLEASED THAT A NON-HUMANOID SPECIES IS ON THIS SHOW.

And this episode’s example of first contact is like the polar opposite of the film with the same name. It’s brutal and scary and entirely about how one race wants to destroy all the others. Why? Because they’re weak. That’s it. Well, not so much, and now I want to get into why “Scorpion, Part I” is perhaps one of the strongest stories we’ll ever get from this show.

Thinking Outside the Cube

This whole episode is about loneliness.

Species 8472 is alone. According to Kes, there is no other lifeform aside from them in their universe, and so they use gravitational distortions to travel to the Delta Quadrant. Now, it may seem weird that a lonely, solitary race would greet others with hostility, but their isolation gave way to a cold, bitter hatred of all other things. It’s one extreme end of the spectrum.

Voyager is alone. Their home is over 70 years away. They cannot contact anyone, they have no allies, and they are utterly alone.

And then, near the end of the episode, Janeway is alone. I’m a huge fan of her scenes with da Vinci because they highlight her need for a companion like him, someone who can challenge her and inspire her. In a sense, that is who Chakotay represents, and you can see him do just that with her in this episode. But after Janeway suggests an absolutely ridiculous plan – a partnership with the Borg for safe passage in exchange for the Doctor’s research – she is alone. Virtually no one on the crew supports her, despite that she has a strong case for taking this opportunity now. And when Chakotay does not shy away from completely disagreeing with Janeway about her plan, she feels more isolated than ever. It’s heartbreaking to watch, especially once we get to that horrifying cliffhanger. Chakotay and Janeway have largely agreed with one another, but even if they haven’t, he’s always enthusiastically supported her.

But now? This is huge. Janeway has never had to deal with this, and I don’t know how the show is going to, either. Is this also a new chapter in Voyager? NO, PLEASE DON’T, I SHIP THEM SO HARD whoops who said that.

Capability

What a bold cliffhanger, y’all. The episode is deliberately unfulfilled, and yet it feels complete. Janeway’s journey to loneliness is a huge arc in just 45-minutes, and watching her negotiate with the Borge felt even bigger. No one had ever successfully negotiated with them like this. And she does it. She sticks to her guns, and she gets the Borg to agree to listen to her. So what does Voyager do?

They show us how powerful Species 8472 are. BECAUSE THEY CAN COMBINE SHIPS AND DESTROY PLANETS. Oh my god, oh my god. HOW. HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO ME.

Because they can. I guess Voyager is now going where no Star Trek has gone before.

The video for “Scorpion, Part I” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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