In the twenty-fifth and penultimate episode of the fourth season of Voyager, help. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of hallucinations, unreality.
I’m so fucked up.
There’s a lot here I want to compliment because this episode is one of those rare Star Trek achievements that should not work – there are so very many pieces here that could have gone wrong – yet it’s a stunning achievement of acting, casting, writing, and directing. And it’s fucking terrifying, not because we think it will end terribly, but because we have never, ever seen Seven of Nine so vulnerable.
Without Jeri Ryan’s performance and the writing of Seven over season four, “One” just wouldn’t be this strong. It wouldn’t! We have to know that she’s been struggling with assimilation and adaptation. We have to have the experience of her not understanding how to be human again. We have to have seen her be more Borg than anything else over this season. It all gives us the emotional history to understand why the events in “One” are so progressively devastating to her.
This is, as far as I can recall, the first time that Seven has been truly alone since she was liberated from the Borg. Jeri Taylor’s script is unflinching in its portrayal of that, namely because Taylor tries as honestly as possible to address what would happen if Seven was truly alone. Initially, I took “One” to be more humorous than anything else; I thought we were being set-up for a conflict between the Doctor and Seven over the course of the month that would culminate in a huge fight over what was best. THAT’S WHERE MY BRAIN WENT, OKAY.
Instead, the awkwardness between the Doctor and Seven is a precursor to the bigger problem that looms over everything. The reason they were disagreeing so much was a hint to the fact that Seven was experiencing difficulty in solitude. How much of her day was spent alone? How frequently did she miss the daily interactions with the crew that helped her ease into life outside of a collective? Even worse, the radiation from the nebula was deteriorating part of her Borg implants, which was giving her hallucinations.
Look, I can barely tell what was a hallucination and what wasn’t here. Did Trajis actually come onboard, or was he invented by Seven? Was his weird cat-and-mouse game real to a point, or was that part of her paranoia and terror, too? I imagine there’s a line you could draw between reality and the hallucinations, but I also see a value in this being a horrifying experience that isn’t easy to categorize. That’s why it hit so hard; all of Seven’s anxieties and fears regarding her post-Borg life came spilling to the fore, and she had to address them.
Look how specifically she is tormented here. She goes from loneliness (her interactions with Trajis are evidence of that) to inadequacy. When the images of her crew mates appear behind her, they’re criticizing her choices, as if she stands in judgment perpetually while onboard Voyager. In a way, isn’t that a version of the truth? This very episode demonstrates that after all this time, she’s still judged by everyone else; Chakotay isn’t exactly thrilled that Seven will be left awake, you know? Obviously, what happens here is an exaggeration of this, but it wouldn’t be as scary and upsetting as it was if there wasn’t something real and genuine within it.
And my gods, Jeri Ryan is unreal here. More than anything else I’d like to praise, her acting is the best part of “One.” It’s hard enough to portray a character who can often be cold and unsympathetic, but to have that character behave so vulnerably and frightened is even more difficult. We had to believe that she was scared, that these experiences were upsetting and disturbing. Ryan sold it to us, and I think this is a fitting character development for Seven as season four comes to a close. For the first time this whole season, she sought out companionship from the crew solely for the reason of wanting it. She understands it now, and yes, this was a horrible thing for her to go through to get to that point. I’m hoping that this is also the proof that the crew needed that Seven is a true member of the team. She saved all of their lives at great expense to herself. She survived the trauma of this experience. And I believe it changed her.
The video for “One” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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