In the sixteenth episode of the sixth season of Voyager, baby Borg. What the hell. If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.Â
Well, I wanted Voyager to stay weird, didn’t I? Time for me to journey into an uncertain future because I absolutely did not expect this outcome at all. I assumed the show wouldn’t do anything too terrible to a bunch of kids and teenagers assimilated by the Borg, but I also couldn’t imagine any sort of happy ending for these characters. How could the writers resolve Voyager’s conflict without harming those kids?
By not giving them an ending.
“Collective” is a fascinating if awkward attempt at addressing something I’d simply not thought of: what are younger drones like? Why have we never seen one, despite that we know that kids are assimilated? We’ve gotten a flashback sequence for Seven, but have only seen her as an adult drone before. This episode answers that question well and then presents us with a bizarre conflict. After a pathogen wiped out all the drones on a cube, five young drones were accidentally let out of their maturity chambers. Thus, they’re underdeveloped. How does an underdeveloped drone behave?
Turns out, not much different than a human teenager! Each of the five drones we meet here is a distinct form of teenage angst. There are the silent twins who are so young and shell-shocked that they barely react. First is an unrepentant jerk, though I also got the sense that he was terrified. Mezoti alternates between wielding her power and wanting to trust Seven. And Icheb is the most inquisitive and curious of the bunch, the most willing to consider the things that Seven tells him.
That is not to suggest that this is without a whole lot of strangeness. There are stretches here where the acting and characterization are awkward. Like, I’m only speculating that the twins’ fear kept them silent. It felt bizarre to me that this went unexplained for the entire episode and then… nothing in that final scene! They had nothing to say to Seven?
The unnamed drone (who pretty much went by First) was written a little better, and I thought it was clever that since he was slightly younger than Icheb, he was actually more chaotic. Icheb felt like he was the perfect age to be receptive to Janeway’s proposition: that the kids abandon the collective and seek out individuality aboard Voyager. The same goes for Mezoti, though I’d say she was just young enough to have not reached the insufferable period First was in. It was also fascinating to me that he was most convinced of Borg supremacy. Sure, Mezoti said what she was supposed to, but that came off more as her doing what was expected of her than a convincing display of her morality.
Indeed, the fact that these five established a hierarchy before anyone showed up is convincing evidence that they had already begun exploring a rudimentary form of individuality. Without the collective, what were they? And given that the Borg collective had already ignored their rescue request, what would they choose to become? I honestly assumed this would end with the children refusing Seven’s offer for help. It was such an ambitious idea that – and I’ll be honest with y’all – I did not believe that the writers would be willing to commit to it. That’s a huge thing to do, and yet, HERE WE ARE. Not only that, but I assumed that none of the kids would die, that in the end, First would come around to the group’s way of thinking. (My logic being that First would have preferred to stay as a single unit rather than be the lone dissenter.) YET THAT DID NOT HAPPEN EITHER. First dies while openly defying Seven, and Voyager is left with a completely new story avenue: there are now four liberated Borg children on the ship. FOUR. Seven herself has transformed into something like a maternal figure, and I am HERE for it. Is this really happening? I still can’t believe it!!!
The video for “Collective” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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