Star Trek: Voyager: Unity   Rewatch 
July 24, 2017 4:04 AM - Season 3, Episode 17 - Subscribe

Yessir, there ain't nothin' in this here universe like good ol'-fayshioned Texas barbecue. Hold this here axonal amplifier ag'inst yer temple, wouldja son? And mah mah, them bluebonnets sure are purty in the springtime. Wellsir, now yer gonna feel a slight drillin' sensation in yer brain stem…

We are the Memory Alpha Cooperative. You will be assimilated, if that's okay. Resistance is unfortunate.

- The decision to create a Borg episode for Star Trek: Voyager, specifically one that would air in the all-important February sweeps period, was made in May 1996 or thereabouts. After this decision was made, the prospect of the Borg appearing on Voyager influenced many story ideas that were pitched to the series. Staff writer Kenneth Biller explained, "We wanted to bring them back, and we got loads of pitches."

- In coming up with this episode, Ken Biller wanted to make the Borg more interesting than their essentially one-note nature of relentlessly pursuing and consuming their enemies. He commented, "When you think about the Borg, they're interesting and cool, but they're just relentless and keep coming at you. How do you get under their skin? That was the question I had to ask." The writer did some research by reading a script for Star Trek: First Contact, which was yet to be released at that point.

- Ken Biller then hit upon the concept that the Borg could, in some way, be collectively deBorgified. "I suddenly got this image of the Tower of Babel," he explained. "This incredibly interwoven, complex community had been created, and once you knocked it all down you would have all these people who spoke different languages, and couldn't communicate with each other. It occurred to me that a group of ex-Borg would be a very interesting community to explore." It was when considering how the episode should depict the Borg that Biller struck upon this solution. "That's when I came up with the Tower of Babel idea of 'What would happen if the Borg were severed from the link?'"

- Ken Biller considered Riley Frazier to have worthy motives, noting, "[Riley's] motives were really noble." This was not, however, how the character was viewed during production. In fact, Chakotay actor Robert Beltran was advised to think of her as a truly evil character. Director Robert Duncan McNeill recalled, "I told Robert [Beltran] that a real powerful image for me was that he was being seduced by the devil. The Borg woman is beautiful and sweet and sincere, but deep down, she is the devil. It was great when he got that." McNeill also commented, "For me, 'Unity' was about Chakotay being seduced by the Devil, and that's what I told Robert Beltran. I said, 'let's make this kind of a film noire. Here's this dangerous woman, but she doesn't appear very dangerous in the beginning. She's very seductive. She's very sweet. And ultimately she turns out to be the Devil. She's still one of the Borg and part of that dangerous collective, and he's seduced by her. That was the story that I wanted to tell."

- The Borg appliances were typically time-consuming to apply. Citing one particular example of this, Robert Duncan McNeill said, "We had a Borg with a working arm. He had an arm that was supposed to look like scissors, and the cables weren't working. All of a sudden you look at your watch and an hour or two has gone by and you haven't done anything because you're playing with cables." This mechanical arm was one of the costume pieces that had previously been used in Star Trek: First Contact.

- Due to the fact that this episode's depiction of the Borg is a metaphor for the disintegrating Soviet bloc, Robert Duncan McNeill researched the history of that subject shortly before directing the installment. "I actually did some reading about that, about Russia and all the politics that went on," he revealed. "I think some of those ideas did come out in the story, even though it wasn't a really heavy, political episode. Yet there were some references and you could connect that to contemporary issues, individuality as opposed to group needs or desires."

- The fact that the Borg were only to be shown minimally in this episode, despite the installment having been eagerly anticipated over a long stretch of time, put extra pressure on Robert Duncan McNeill. Shortly after working on the episode but before the installment was aired, McNeill recalled, "What was most frightening for me was knowing that it was a Borg episode, but the Borg were only on two and a half pages of the whole script. The rest was all the mysterious ex-Borg. I said to the producers, 'You know, you're giving me a Borg episode, but we never get to see the Borg. I need more Borg or the fans are going to go crazy.' So I tried to give the same sort of suspense and mysterious quality that you get from the Borg. I tried to give that through the whole piece, so hopefully the fans will still feel that same tension without actually seeing the Borg for the whole piece."

- In the moment between Janeway and Chakotay in the briefing room, Janeway paces the room as if she is Chakotay's conscience or guardian angel, while he ponders his situation. Explaining how this unscripted action came about, Robert Duncan McNeill recalled, "Kate Mulgrew came into the scene and said, 'I think this is a very delicate fishing expedition for Janeway with Chakotay. It's a very intimate moment.' She wanted to sort of move around and keep moving. That was not at all what I had planned. I had a completely different plan, and she did this movement and tried a feeling that I hadn't expected at all for that moment." The action influenced the filming of the scene. "Because of what she did," McNeill continued, "that shot came to me. I said, 'If that's what you want to do there, and I think it's working, let's do something different with the camera. Let's stay in real tight and have it just pass back and forth.'" McNeill concluded, "It's a much more intimate, mysterious shot than what I had planned, and it was really exciting to me when that happened."

- Torres' suggestion that the Borg may have been defeated "by an enemy even more powerful than they were" seems to foreshadow the introduction of Species 8472, who went on to make their first appearance in VOY: "Scorpion" at the end of the third season. This was, indeed, the intention of "Scorpion" co-writer Brannon Braga: to tie the two episodes together, while leaving the events of each episode independently understandable. Braga said, "'Scorpion' definitely ties in with an event in 'Unity' but not such that you would have to have seen that episode to understand it. In 'Unity', we find a disabled cube. It was really never made clear how the cube was destroyed, and now [meaning in 'Scorpion'] you'll find out [....] So 'Unity' is only a hint of things to come."

- This is the first episode to establish that at least some of the Borg could continue to function following the defeat of their queen and some drones in Star Trek: First Contact. In fact, prior to the writing of this episode, there was considerable debate as to whether the Borg should make an appearance in Star Trek: Voyager, after the events of that movie. While the series' team of writer-producers were considering this possibility, First Contact co-writer Ronald D. Moore expressed a belief that the film should be the last appearance of the Borg, whereas Brannon Braga, the film's other co-writer, divulged his support for what happens here – apparently "dead" Borg being revived. With regard to this issue, Ken Biller said, "I think Rick [Berman] is very clear that just because we saw Borg destroyed in the movie doesn't mean that the entire collective was destroyed. We leave that an open question. There are other Borg in the Delta Quadrant."


"You know, they ought to rename this region the 'Negative Expanse'. We haven't run across anything interesting for days."
"If you're bored, Mister Paris, I'm sure I can find something else for you to do. The warp plasma filters are due for a thorough cleaning."
"Now that you mention it, Captain, I find this region of space a real navigational challenge."

- Tom Paris and Captain Janeway


"I must say, there's nothing like the vacuum of space for preserving a handsome corpse."

- The Doctor, talking about the Borg corpse


"They saved us from that cube, and they let you go."
"But they didn't hesitate to impose their collective will on me when it served their interests, did they?"
"No, they didn't."
"I wonder how long their ideals will last in the face of that kind of power..."

- Janeway and Chakotay


Poster's Log:
And the neutering of the Borg begins, and right out of the gate, too—I'm not referring to the Cooperative, but to the Species 8472 foreshadowing. This may be the show's single biggest missed opportunity. Consider the possibilities: a whole season of Borg Space looming all around them…the ship using Unstable Jury-Rigged Phlebotinum to sneak between their worlds and starlanes, submarine-warfare-style, constantly on the verge of discovery and assimilation…whisperings among the crew about their scary odds, and what happens if they fail (maybe even some Captain Quint-style musings from a crewman who survived an encounter with the Borg in a previous assignment). And after the stress has really advanced to the dysfunction stage, THEN, and only then, do you introduce the possibility that the Borg are losing a war with a more potent force—which means the ACTUAL reason the ship survived for the past twenty-some episodes is this greater enemy! *collar tug*

Instead, the possibility of Borg-busters is raised in literally the very first Borg-centric episode. If I were one of the writers of "Q Who" or "Best of Both Worlds," I think I'd be pissed off.

Now, maybe this was done on purpose, due to fears that the Borg were at risk of being played out after their (relatively few!) TNG appearances and First Contact. But that excuse, even if based in any kind of fact (for which I've seen no evidence in MA so far), misses the point, I think. In a hypothetical season-long crossing-Borg-Space arc, you don't actually use the Borg much—they're just constantly in the back of everybody's mind, and all the scarier for it. Like, I remember the first time I watched this part of Voyager, thinking "Hey, alright, Borg, kick-ass, yeah," and by about the middle of "Scorpion, Part I," I'd realized there was no getting around imminent disappointment (at least in terms of the Borg; 8472 likewise showed promise, and were likewise neutered early and quickly IMO, but I'm getting ahead of us).

As a world-builder myself, I wouldn't be surprised if part of the impetus to get the Borg over and done with ASAP was driven by the writers' desire to play in their own sandbox, not somebody else's. But again, that's just me speculating. More plausibly? The suits wanted VOY to not just bring in the Borg ASAP, but to do so with lots of action and explosions, and the writers took that to mean "Voyager must confront the Borg directly, which means they need some method of surviving"—which brings us to "Scorpion," so I'll suspend my rant here.

Anyway, as far as this episode goes, I thought the A-story was a compelling concept, reasonably well-executed, and with solid guest actors. And I've always thought it an effective way to ease us into a Borg-heavy period of the show. Plus, the "dead" Borg in sickbay being revived is both scary and well-suited to the whole zombie-ish quality the Borg have. In fact, this might just be my *favorite* VOY Borg episode—yes, even moreso than "Scorpion"—if only because it precedes the worst of the Squanderings (and Jim Henson's Borg Babies, the inclusion of whom always reeked of desperation to me).

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
I am filling in for Halloween Jack today, which means three in a row from me, and, starting a week from today, three in a row from Jack, after which we return you to your regularly scheduled programming.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (16 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
This was a really interesting choice for an episode, introducing the Borg to Voyager, but doing so by humanizing them (and Klingonizing, Romulanizing, and so on) through providing a reminder of the Borg being largely made up of unwilling victims forced to act against their will, which changes the response the collective a bit. (I said largely made up of, but there must be some actual Borg of some form or another too, I'm just not sure how one identifies them separate from the captured now that I think about it, other than the Queen of course.)

This is something that paves the way for Seven's introduction, but it also does defang them in some ways, while making their "culture" more interesting as a thing in itself rather than just a threat perhaps, but, in hindsight, seems also another example of trying to have it both ways too. The Borg as enormous threat, the Borg as understandable culture. Voyager waffled back and forth on those in some episodes in ways that weren't always satisfying, but, to their credit, or that of the Borg creators, never completely diminished their threat and added some reasonable longer term viability to them. It's a mixed result, in other words, but not an entirely faulty direction to take. Adding species 8472 also was a clever move, but, yeah, I think hinted at a bit too early and taken up and then finished a bit too soon. Given the uncertainty about the show's future though I suppose their was some practical reasons for the choices that I won't knock.

This episode has a bit of a filler/intro feel to it, not quite managing a sense of feeling complete or quite right as a stand alone, but not feeling like it's leading to anything more other than as a re-introduction either. As such, the deborged colonists dilemma doesn't quite have the weight it could, where the decision to reborg for the benefit of all is made by the few without the consent of the rest, paralleling their original abductions, while also seeming to perhaps be the only way to gain peace and safety at that point, even if the dilemma is a bit artificial. The death of Kaplan and Chakotay's trauma over the implant lacked some resonance due, I think, to their being introduced before the Borg as Borg made their return. And any Soviet breakup metaphor is so diffuse as to be barely discernible other than in maybe a nod of, Oh, yeah, I guess I can see that" once it was mentioned.

MacNeill does an odd, but somewhat interesting job as director here, showing the kind of ambition new directors have, which is often noticeable for its insistence as much as anything else. Having Chakotay play this as a quasi-noir, is observable in some moments, and weirdly so, while in others not as clear either way. The scene with Janeway circling behind Chakotay, talking over his shoulder is the sort of set up one tends to see in moments where one character is trying to disorientate the other, take advantage of them, or manipulate them into telling hidden truths. MacNeill seemed to suggest as much, but it doesn't read right for the relationship between Janeway and Chakotay, even as it might were she interrogating one of the colonists or other less known individual. All this stuff sticks out as visual ideas, but without the clearest connection to the relationships as written. It feels more abstracted from the show than it should in that way.

Nonetheless, it is an interesting enough episode, as one might expect when bringing the Borg into the series. There are enough new little ideas, a clever enough central conflict of ideals, some possible hints to pick up, and the promise of more direct confrontation later to make the episode an easy one to get through, even if it isn't entirely satisfying as a stand alone.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:33 AM on July 24 [3 favorites]


Particle of the Week: The Borg neuroelectric field, which has properties that I can only describe as magical - it "was often successful in healing both organic and inorganic body parts."
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Being one of the most popular things in the entire Trek franchise, the Borg are everywhere in Star Trek Online and I could go on about how that all works (or doesn't) for days. Rather than get into a huge derail, one choice that they made was to offer liberated Borg player characters... but only with a lifetime subscription that normally runs like $300. As a result, I have never personally played one, and only met one player who did.

Ongoing Counts:
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 23.
* Shuttles: Down 4. I was a little surprised they scavenged it instead of stealing it outright - seems like a working warp-capable shuttle would be a great way to find someplace better instead of building more Mad Max shelters on their present hellhole.
* Crew: 142. Alas, poor Kaplan. Her mistake was getting into a shuttle with Chakotay.
* Other: 46 bio-neural gelpacks remaining, maybe 25-50% of the escape pods should be gone at this point.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 8. Per last thread, I'm not counting any contact with the Borg due to the gigantic domain of space they have been observed in - I wouldn't be surprised by a Borg encounter literally anywhere in the Milky Way galaxy, and possibly not even further than that.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful.

Notes:
I have a lot of opinions about the Borg. Indeed, a couple years back, I went through every TV/movie Star Trek property to feature the Borg in order of airing to examine what happens to an idea like that when passed from writing team to writing team over the course of years. (Totally normal thing for me to be doing.)

Offhand, two major problems stuck out, both of which are evident - though not overwhelming - in Unity.

1) The Great Nerfing, aka Villain Decay.

Cheeses has already gotten into this, of course. It's impossible to talk about the Borg without getting into how they got powered down over time. When they first showed up, they were plainly so powerful that Picard actually begged Q to rescue the Enterprise-D, and they're only beaten in The Best of Both Worlds by some clever hacking that hinged completely on Locutus being complacent in their custody.

They're basically a galactic-level threat in early depictions, the sort of thing that should encourage factions like the Klingons, Romulans and Federation to team up.

By their appearance on Enterprise, TNG-era Borg left over First Contact are dispatched by hand weapons from Captain Archer's crew. The Queen in First Contact was worse, too: she's literally the exact opposite of how Borg had worked up previously, giving them a single point of vulnerability when they were always a completely distributed entity before. I'm very disappointed to hear that Ronald Moore wanted to eradicate the entire species after First Contact because it makes no sense in the context of literally everything that happened up until that moment.

Unity doesn't really indulge in this too badly, but B'Ellana's suggestion that they got taken out by something worse was subtle like an anvil dropping even at the time, and so I was already bracing for it.

I get why this happened, too - writing a nearly invulnerable character or race in interesting ways is hard, and gets harder as you use up each good idea, and so there's a temptation to just water them down instead of either passing on using them (not lucrative), or coming up with better stories. I think some of this was probably inevitable, but not as much as what happened.

2) The Borg becoming magic zombies, aka Flanderization.

In their first appearance, the Borg aren't even interested in humans or Klingons or the like. All they want to do is see if the Enterprise-D has any stuff they might want to loot. Q describes them as the 'ultimate user.' Basically, the encounter in Q Who is just an opportunistic mugging.

When they took Picard in The Best of Both Worlds, this was clearly a one-off sort of process. He wasn't a zombie exactly, and he wasn't contagious. He didn't ever try to assimilate anyone or anything himself, and the procedure was shown to be surgical, not easily done by one drone. Further, 'locutus' is literally from the Latin for 'talking,' and Locutus described himself as a facilitator to help bridge the gap between the Borg and Federation species.

However, the body horror there was pretty visceral, and I understand the temptation later writers had to make them just take everyone in their path as a kind of magic-tech zombie. Unfortunately, by making the Borg even more powerful and horrifying in one way, it fed into the need to nerf them at the same time - circa Q Who, the Borg just wanted your ship, and maybe you could give it to them and hide. Later, it hit the point where they would just take everyone and everything, meaning they were an even more implacable foe that's even *harder* to write for. I mean, by the time they hit Enterprise, a couple of drones managed to 'infect' the ship itself, using Borg nanites to just rewire whole engineering consoles instantly. Plus, even by Unity, they have literal psychic powers capable of healing tech.

So that made their nerfing happen even faster, in a vicious feedback loop: the stronger they got, the bigger their Achilles Heel/Kryptonite needed to be because it got harder and harder to tell dramatically interesting stories about them.

I'll talk about this more as they continue to appear. With as much complaining as I'd like to do about this, I should probably pace myself. Expect this to come up again and again though.

Other stuff:

* Some recurring themes with Chakotay.

Man, it's fun to talk about Chakotay and not have to feel bad for him about racism. Unfortunately, I still have to feel bad for him, because there are some cliches specific to Chakotay at work here:

- He loses a shuttle. Dude was harder on those than anybody else in the crew, IIRC.

- He's tricked by someone close to him again. I mean, Tuvok did it. Seska did it. Riley did it here. I don't think of her as the Devil, but she certainly used him pretty badly - I'd argue this is just a more acceptable rehash of what amounted to rape in the Seska plotline. (Better here because Riley's conflicted and complicated, and not a leering villainess. Like, I think she legit liked him and wasn't just buttering him up because that would've come out in the link.)

Either way, poor Robert Beltran. Again.

* The Borg Cooperative rescue Voyager from the cube, but they don't help.

We already know that the Borg have transwarp capabilities at this point. If nothing else, Riley was taken at Wolf 359, right near Earth, and they've found her in the Delta Quadrant mere years later.

This was the shortcut Voyager was looking for to get home, and Riley and Orum and all the others absolutely knew that because they were rummaging around in Chakotay's brainpan. They had the technical expertise and possibly even tech access (before destroying the cube) to send Voyager home in a reasonable time period, and they didn't even offer.

I feel like this was a case of the writers not thinking about stuff much versus the characters being dirtbags, but it still rubbed me the wrong way, them talking about 'our deepest gratitude' and not going, 'by the way, transwarp works like [this].'

* Unity is still probably my favorite Voyager Borg story.

In fact, this might just be my *favorite* VOY Borg episode—yes, even moreso than "Scorpion"—if only because it precedes the worst of the Squanderings

This is kinda where I'm at with this. Taken as a standalone story, Unity is honestly pretty decent. The problems that occur here are mild, especially compared to later stories. These guys are interesting, they're complicated. In the fashion of all good Trek stories, I can see the point of view of every participant pretty clearly, and why they can't all just get along.

Also:
MacNeill does an odd, but somewhat interesting job as director here, showing the kind of ambition new directors have, which is often noticeable for its insistence as much as anything else.

Yeah. I liked what he did here. It was a little different, and that was fun too.

So a single hour of Trek, Unity works just fine. Taken in a big picture sense, I find the story sort of frustrating, especially in that it portends other, worse frustrations.
posted by mordax at 1:32 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]


Oh, also: thanks for pinch hitting, Cheeses! As ever, these posts are fantastic, and I greatly appreciate you and Jack collaborating to keep this moving at such a brisk pace. :)
posted by mordax at 1:34 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]


Thanks from me as well. I'll be brief, both because I'm tired from piloting the HJB Mothra (I've named my bicycles after kaiju for the last 20 years) across 75 miles of the Iowa Quadrant, because I hate writing lengthy comments on my phone, and because a lot of what I'd say has already been said. I think that it's a very canny episode in that it shows how the Borg mindset can re-establish itself even with just a handful of ex-drones acting under the best of intentions; we know that we're doing the right thing, and if you're not down with it, tough teezy, just sit tight and all will become clear... And yeah, this may be one of the best Borg episodes in the series. Unfortunately. Not super happy to see Chakotay playing the sap yet again, though.

Finally, another way that the Borg could have become less space zombie-ish, but still problematic: http://angryflower.com/349.html
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:01 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]


Nice intro to your Borg thoughts mordax. I'll be looking forward to more discussion about them from you.

It is a tricky thing for Voyager's writers to deal with, making the Borg a workable long term threat while still allowing enough room for closer examination or growth/change in the relationship between Voyager and them to provide viable ways Voyager can outwit/escape/best them in continuing encounters. That's something TNG didn't have to deal with to the same extent.

The side question around your ongoing counts of whether this stretches credulity as an Alpha Quadrant encounter is kinda fun to think about. I mean while there is certainly no questioning the Borg's reach, so there is some plausibility to the meeting, there is the additional more mathematical wondering over how many humans the Borg have collected, the likelihood of any one of them being on a defeated Borg ship, escaping and them being able to contact our sad little shuttle pilot Chakotay. I have no idea how to quantify that, but it is a lot of extra circumstance to be explained while maintaining plausibility. I'm not actually questioning your count, just wondering how to think about the Borg as assimilators.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:24 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]


I think that it's a very canny episode in that it shows how the Borg mindset can re-establish itself even with just a handful of ex-drones acting under the best of intentions; we know that we're doing the right thing, and if you're not down with it, tough teezy, just sit tight and all will become clear...

Oh yeah, meant to address that and didn't: I found the ex-Borg wanting to go back to a neural network, but not the *official* Borg network, extremely plausible. It's actually a really good story hook, and a thing that I appreciated about Seven later too. It makes sense that people who got used to living that way might prefer it, and conveniently overlook the ethical ramifications of it.

Also, the Bob the Angry Flower cartoon is dead on, haha.

Nice intro to your Borg thoughts mordax. I'll be looking forward to more discussion about them from you.

Thanks! On that note: meant to thank you for the intriguing thoughts about Vulcans as these discussions have continued. :)

I have no idea how to quantify that, but it is a lot of extra circumstance to be explained while maintaining plausibility. I'm not actually questioning your count, just wondering how to think about the Borg as assimilators.

I really agree, haha! This is actually a complicated topic, obfuscated by the fact that the Borg were not always magic zombies. In their earlier appearances, a lot of their activities tended to center on their cubes running around and raiding things.

* In Q Who, the Enterprise-D is sent "7000 light years" from wherever they had been, but no direction is given. According to the episode, they end up near former El Aurian space, where Guinan and the bad guy from Generations are originally from. The Borg still have a cube there, but it's unclear if they maintain any additional forces because the Enterprise has to run.

* In The Best of Both Worlds, the Borg are depicted as literally scooping colonies and outposts off the surfaces of planets and consuming/using them. They don't appear to stick around much after the fact, and it's implied they're behind the missing outposts along the Neutral Zone from earlier in TNG's run, maybe a lone cube just investigating that portion of space.

So basically, because they frequently do not stop to create holdings and their ships are so fast and powerful, a lot of places might plausibly be in what the Borg consider 'Borg space,' but it wouldn't necessarily be obvious to the local inhabitants apart from 'we just lost planet [whatever].' (Indeed, there's no indication that the Borg maintain a planetary presence anywhere at all until First Contact, when they assimilate Earth.)

Really, until First Contact, the Borg feel less like conquerors, and more like a Great Filter, swooping in and destroying civilizations when they're whatever the Borg consider 'ripe.' (Kind of Mass Effect-ish?) Like, Locutus tells humanity that their culture 'will adapt to service us' in The Best of Both Worlds, but it's unclear if that means they'll be pressed into service (maybe a vassal state that maintains dry docks for the Borg?), press-ganged onto cube crews via assimilation or... what the Borg actually need from them, apart from technological advancements and processed materials. It isn't even clear if Locutus is telling the truth, since he also goes on about how they're trying to 'raise the quality of life for all species' - humanity might plausibly just be facing genocide.

It's only later - First Contact and later Voyager - where we get the idea that the Borg actually maintain control over any part of space in particular or have any sort of quadrant-based weight to the likelihood of their appearances.

So... yeah. Interesting to think about and speculate. I suspect we've already thought about this more than the original writers did, but that also sort of makes sense to me because these guys got passed around to multiple writing teams, so it's hard for one person to create an idea that doesn't get diluted or changed too much.
posted by mordax at 12:10 AM on July 25 [1 favorite]


D'oh, keep hitting post too soon. Additionally:

This may be the show's single biggest missed opportunity. Consider the possibilities: a whole season of Borg Space looming all around them…the ship using Unstable Jury-Rigged Phlebotinum to sneak between their worlds and starlanes, submarine-warfare-style, constantly on the verge of discovery and assimilation…whisperings among the crew about their scary odds, and what happens if they fail (maybe even some Captain Quint-style musings from a crewman who survived an encounter with the Borg in a previous assignment). And after the stress has really advanced to the dysfunction stage, THEN, and only then, do you introduce the possibility that the Borg are losing a war with a more potent force—which means the ACTUAL reason the ship survived for the past twenty-some episodes is this greater enemy! *collar tug*

This was my hope for Voyager S4, but we all know how that went. I think they really could've milked this if they'd been willing to maintain the level of continuity-lite already on display here - no need for a big DS9ish arc, just tense and thematically related stories with a scene or two to link each thing to prior events or foreshadowing stuff.
posted by mordax at 12:14 AM on July 25


It is a tricky thing for Voyager's writers to deal with, making the Borg a workable long term threat while still allowing enough room for closer examination or growth/change in the relationship between Voyager and them to provide viable ways Voyager can outwit/escape/best them in continuing encounters. That's something TNG didn't have to deal with to the same extent.

That's a great point, and I'm sure you're right. But I'm also…fairly sure that these writers were in fact up to the task, based upon some of the show's achievements. However, you're also probably right about pressure (explicit or implicit) on the creators to Get to the Good Shit Immediately in case of cancellation. Combine those two factors, and it's indeed understandable and forgivable that we got what we did w/r/t the Borg. And it has to be said that the show did wring SOME further story juice out of the Borg, via Seven.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:02 AM on July 25 [1 favorite]


I said largely made up of, but there must be some actual Borg of some form or another too, I'm just not sure how one identifies them separate from the captured now that I think about it, other than the Queen of course.

Even the Borg Queen was assimilated. In Unimatrix Zero, Part II she says she was assimilated as a child and identifies her species as "Species 125" (a low number for a Borg species designation in the show, but not the lowest). When I originally saw Unity I thought the the writers were hinting at the Borg's origin (i.e. the Borg originated as an inadvertent emergent phenomenon of some technology invented to efficiently coordinate the actions of a group), but I'm pretty sure the origin of the Borg is left unexplained, even as hints, by the television shows and movies.
posted by RichardP at 5:56 AM on July 25 [1 favorite]


Even the Borg Queen was assimilated. In Unimatrix Zero, Part II she says she was assimilated as a child and identifies her species as "Species 125" (a low number for a Borg species designation in the show, but not the lowest).

Really? That is interesting! So, at least according to Voyager lore, and through continuity to the other shows/movies, we might actually never have seen a "native" Borg? That's nifty. They could be, for all we know then, not initially, a species bent on conquest, but one arising from a desire for conformity perhaps. Zeligism gone haywire, or something other like their popular interest in parasitism and viruses, or one where conquest/survival was always the main driving force. There is something pleasing about them leaving their origins somewhat vague in that regard.

I wonder, did the Trek books make any further claims about them? I seem to remember stumbling across some story where Janeway's actions at the end of Voyager lead to a Borg invasion of the Alpha Quandrant centuries earlier than it was "meant to happen" and thought there was a mention of some more backstory in that, but I might be mixing part of that up with the Qs or whatever the big DS9 threat was.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:57 AM on July 25 [1 favorite]


We have never seen "Species 1." Here's a list of known Borg species designations. Scroll down to see in which episode each designation was noted. (Memory Alpha's list is incomplete.)

Note that Talaxians and Ferengi are quite low on the list numerically. Members of their species were assimilated quite early in the Borg's existence.
posted by zarq at 9:08 AM on July 25 [1 favorite]


And it has to be said that the show did wring SOME further story juice out of the Borg, via Seven.

They did. It wasn't *all* bad news. If not for the nerf/overpower cycle I talked about, I probably would've considered them a welcome addition here even though they didn't go the direction that I wanted. I liked Seven, despite some unfortunate choices they made there. Jeri Ryan did a great job with the material, IIRC.

(Like Cheeses, I would've objected to the Borg Babies though.)

I'm pretty sure the origin of the Borg is left unexplained, even as hints, by the television shows and movies.

This matches both my memory and memory alpha's article about their history. The only ones who claim to have an inside track were the Vaadwaur from The Dragon's Teeth, who claimed to have been familiar with them when they were 'young,' but that's about as close as we get to anyone even claiming to have answers. (Odds are good that those guys didn't know either, based on the timeframe.)

They could be, for all we know then, not initially, a species bent on conquest, but one arising from a desire for conformity perhaps. Zeligism gone haywire, or something other like their popular interest in parasitism and viruses, or one where conquest/survival was always the main driving force.

Yeah, I always took them for an advancement in communication that got out of hand - neural networking between humanoids to maybe create an advanced intelligence, but it decided things like that were so good that everybody should be on board.

There's no canon statement about that one way or the other, but it amuses me.

Upon preview:
Jinx, zarq. Heh.
posted by mordax at 9:09 AM on July 25 [2 favorites]


When it aired, I thought this was one of the best episodes that Voyager had produced to date. The tension, dread and foreboding felt realistic. The Borg cult plotline made a lot of sense -- and the ramifications of Riley's actions and that of her group -- both in using Chakotay and of restarting their own collective without the permission of other former Borg were not ignored.

This episode gave us a fresh perspective of an old Trek villain with a foreshadowing promise that they were now not only going to be part of the show, but would be quite a bit more complex than we had previously seen. I liked RDM's directing. The special effects and makeup were top-notch. Freeze-dried Borg corpse. Lots of people in various states of de-Borgification. It almost made me miss recapping Trek -- I'd have the opportunity to start a Joe Bob Briggs Monstervision / Drive-In Review-style statistics paragraph. (See the opening of this post of mine for an example.)

There was a lot to chew on here. Great episode.
posted by zarq at 9:24 AM on July 25 [3 favorites]


In terms of secret origins for the Borg, there are a couple of possibilities within Trek (albeit one of them in a non-canon novel). The first is that novel, which I can't remember the name of but had a collective consciousness that was not strongly hegemonic and may have been psychic rather than technological in basis; it came out sometime before TNG. (Sorry to be so vague, but it's been literally decades since I read it.) The other was from one of Shatner's ghostwritten books, and has a connection between V'Ger and the Borg.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:35 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]


Vendetta? It was by Peter David. I think I still have a paperback copy somewhere.

* Memory Alpha
* Memory Beta
posted by zarq at 3:04 AM on July 27


That novel had an interesting premise, by the way:

The eponymous planet killer from TOS' *The Doomsday Machine" was designed as the ultimate weapon that could eradicate the Borg. But it was only a prototype. Another had been launched decades or centuries ago, was rampaging through the Alpha Quadrant and now the TNG crew had to try and stop it. It fed on planets to recharge, was filled with powerful, disembodied psychic alien intelligences and had a massive (anti?)proton beam that the Borg could not adapt to.

It was well written. (Peter David wrote excellent ST novels,) and the ending was innovative. Totally non-canon, though. From Wikipedia, something I didn't know:
The novel was subject to a dispute between Peter David and Richard Arnold, who wished the Borg character Reannon to be removed, with the logic that Borg could not be female. This was prior to a regular female Borg character, Seven of Nine, appearing in Star Trek: Voyager. Because of this, the novel was printed with a disclaimer making it explicitly apocryphal.

posted by zarq at 3:46 AM on July 27 [2 favorites]


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