In the first episode of the seventh season of Voyager, this is a wild ride. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For body horror
There’s a lot going on here, and I mean that in the sense that the second half of the “Unimatrix Zero” arc is quite ambitious. To stick three major characters within a Borg assimilation is already a lot to deal with. But this episode pushes the story in a couple challenging directions on top of that, and then, in the end, it hints at a difficult future. That’s a good thing, though, because this isn’t rushed. There’s no easy conclusion for the liberated drones, and there shouldn’t be.
But the journey to that point is a surreal adventure, one where Tuvok, B’Elanna, and Janeway must cope with having gone through the assimilation process. I admit that there’s a part of me that wishes we saw more of that, though I understand why the show chose the more shocking option of showing us the end result. We do get to see a very brief moment of Janeway’s surgery, and that’s when the first uncomfortable question popped up in my mind:
Were these characters conscious of the changes happening to their bodies?
If there’s any flaw in the storytelling here, that’s where I’d focus my attention. This is such a huge moment for these characters, a violent line that is crossed by pitching these three into a horrifying world. B’Elanna briefly addresses the voice modulator that was installed within her, and we do watch the uncomfortable struggle as Tuvok fights against the neurosuppresant that begins to wear off. But there’s not much of an acknowledgment that these characters became Borg. Instead, it comes off as an almost inconsequential means of getting them on that Borg cube so they can push the plot forward.
Now, that part of “Unimatrix Zero, Part II” is a lot more satisfying. I’m glad the writers knew that having Janeway and the Borg Queen face off was where this story should go, and it was electrifying to watch. The Borg Queen is written in a stereotypical manner for a villain, but Susanna Thompson takes this material and KILLS IT. I’m referring to the fact that she is written with that classic form of manipulation: she tries to appeal to Janeway’s sense of complicity and guilt. After the Voyager drones successfully inflict the Central Plexus with the virus that severs drones from the collected, the Borg Queen talks a lot about choices. Namely? How she doesn’t have any. It’s a classic tactic of highly manipulative people because it’s about placing the onus for her behavior on others. She never truly made the choice to order those Borg ships to self-destruct. No, she didn’t have a choice! It was Janeway who forced her to do it, so doesn’t she feel guilty about all the death she caused?
For what it’s worth, you can see the guilt on Janeway’s face (bless Kate Mulgrew’s performance), so the audience knew she was conflicted by the Borg Queen’s escalation. In that sense, the Queen’s manipulation was nearly perfect! She knew that Janeway would value the life of every drone. But Janeway was one step ahead of her, and I loved the dramatic irony that she handed the Queen exactly what she wanted: the destruction of Unimatrix Zero. But in doing so, Janeway granted these drones freedom. She allowed them to exist away from the hive mind and with their individual consciousness awake and alive. Again, as I said before, it’s the promise of potential that pleases me so much! There’s no completion to the rebellion, and instead, we’re left at the start of something huge. Did the Borg Queen die? Did she escape at the last second after ordering her cube to self-destruct? What will come of all the rogue drones? Will they be able to infect others or will they have to find another way to liberate the other drones?
And then there’s Seven, who must deal with the emotional ramifications of all this. On an objective level, I can appreciate the irony and drama given to her. To find out that she had pursued and been a part of this huge relationship long ago was a shocker, and I’m glad to see the show further pushing her into her humanity. Yet Axum just… bored me. Most of his story happened off-screen, and I’m not sure that actor had much chemistry with Jeri Ryan. So I understood why this hurt Seven and confused, but I had a hard time caring about it. Perhaps she will see Axum again, and more exposure to his character might interest me more, but as of now? I’m kinda glad he isn’t going to be around. I’M AWFUL, I KNOW IT.
The video for “Unimatrix Zero, Part II” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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