Star Trek: Voyager: Survival Instinct   Rewatch 
February 22, 2018 3:03 AM - Season 6, Episode 2 - Subscribe

"Hey, Seven of Nine! Long time no see! This is gonna be a great opportunity for us to reconnect."

Are you thinking what Memory Alpha's thinking?:

- This is the first of two Voyager episodes written by TNG/DS9 writer Ronald D. Moore.

- Bertila Damas (Marika) previously played the Vulcan Maquis member Sakonna in DS9: "The Maquis, Part I", "The Maquis, Part II". Vaughn Armstrong (Lansor) also appeared on DS9, playing Danar in "Past Prologue" and Seskal in "When It Rains...", as well as appearing in TNG as Korris in "Heart of Glory" and having several other roles in Voyager, notably Telek R'Mor in "Eye of the Needle". He later played Admiral Maxwell Forrest on Star Trek: Enterprise. Tim Kelleher (P'Chan) previously had portrayed Ensign Gaines in TNG: "All Good Things...".

- Amongst the visiting aliens from the Markonian outpost in this episode are several Voth from VOY: "Distant Origin".

- When the three former Borg are in the mess hall and again later in the turbolift, a member of the Evora species (from Star Trek: Insurrection) can be seen.

- Marika mentions she served on the USS Excalibur. The Excalibur was the ship commanded by Commander William T. Riker in TNG: "Redemption II", also written by Ronald D. Moore.

- Traditionally, Bajoran names have the surname first, personal name second. However, the group refers to the Bajoran, Marika Wilkarah, by her surname, Marika. It was noted in "Ensign Ro" that some Bajorans changed their names to have the surname last in order to better assimilate into non-Bajoran society.

"It's never a good sign when the patient feels the need to comfort the doctor."

- The Doctor, to Seven of Nine

"We wanted to broaden our understanding of alien cultures and ..."
"Skip the recruiting speech. You were looking for a bar."

- Paris and Janeway, who isn't buying his explanation of how he and Kim got arrested after a brawl on the station

"The biomatter is ready."
"It tastes similar to a bird I once ate..."

- P'Chan and Marika Wilkarah, (as a recent drone) eating the campfire-roasted animal, apparently referencing the old "chicken tastes like everything" joke

Poster's Log:
I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that, according to the show's continuity, Voyager is now well beyond Borg space. I don't say this to criticize this episode's premise—the trio had obviously moved around the quadrant a lot, so it's an internally-consistent way to enable the writers to return to the Borg well. I say this because the writers Are gonna keep returning to the Borg well, with mixed plausibility IIRC. (The book Star Trek Star Charts, which is surprisingly accurate if unofficial, factors that in and is deliberately more vague about the Borg's territory than the show seemed to be; I recommend the book to any map nerds reading this.)

Anyway, the Markonian outpost is cool in concept and appearance. By this time in the series, I think it's safe to say that one of the goals the series achieved decently was giving the Delta Quadrant its own character. (In fact, they made the Delta Quadrant more distinctive than DS9 did the Gamma Quadrant, but whether the latter was an actual goal of that series is arguable.) And speaking of worldbuilding, the story took a welcome look at the nature of Borg-ness from a different angle.

There's a potentially significant plot hole here, though: all those Maquis on board and nobody notices the new Bajoran?! I would suspect this was a subtle dig by Moore about how VOY always forgets about the Maquis, but that's awfully oblique.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
Bernd at Ex Astris Scientia notes that Seven referenced being cut off from the Collective for two hours in the season 4 episode "One", which could actually be a reference to the events of this episode. I also like Bernd's remarks about this episode, though my own praise might've been less effusive: "This excellent episode shows the struggle between individuality and common consciousness more impressively than all other Borg stories so far. Especially the camp fire scene when the four drones begin to remember their former lives is very touching. This is even more remarkable considering that it could easily have turned into silliness if fully armored Borg suddenly don't behave like drones any more and start talking about their childhood or family. Writer, director and actors did a great job to prevent that from happening. When I first watched "Survival Instinct", it temporarily reconciled me with the Borg after some of the previous episodes where they were wasted in that they were first presented as formidable enemies but then eluded much too easily. It clearly doesn't need a direct Borg threat to make a good Borg episode. [...] [I]t wasn't the drone Seven of Nine, but surprisingly rather the little girl Annika that reassimilated the other drones, because she was afraid of being alone. She was not really less of an individual, but she behaved like the little child she was at the time of her assimilation."
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (13 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah, I'd thought of that thing with Marika just walking around and no one even commenting on it; we know that there are several Bajorans on board, even if the most prominent one was a fake. Best No-Prize solution that I can come up with is that there have been so many DQ races that looked completely human, or really close to it, that the crew simply thought that it was another race that simply looked Bajoran. Still, it would have been a nice plot point if someone had done a quick surreptitious scan of her, just to check, and found out that not only was she Bajoran but also semi-Borged out and maybe even gotten her name. (Voyager's data files seem to be pretty extensive, and they've looked up information about Starfleet personnel before; especially with their being in the DQ and having already encountered assimilated and previously-assimilated humans, besides the obvious one, they'd be on the lookout for that sort of thing.) I did wonder what Borg encounter she would have been taken in, since we know that the Excalibur wasn't at Wolf 359; it shows up later in TNG, and all the ships at Wolf 359 were destroyed.

Anyway. Great episode, as it hinges on Seven being stricken with guilt for being the one to betray the others, and yet her actions making perfect sense given her assimilation as a child. There's more than a bit of pathos in the fact that the other re-de-assimilated former members of the Nine decide to go their separate ways in their final days, but that makes a lot of sense, too. I thought it was a bit questionable that Seven put Naomi on the spot with the "are we family" thing, but this isn't the weirdest thing that Naomi has seen Seven do, and she's probably used to her cool older sister occasionally coming up with stuff out of left field now and then. I also liked the bit with her and the Doctor having something in common WRT their growing sense of individuality.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:39 AM on February 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

Also, of possible interest to Voyageristas: Lost in Space is getting a series reboot on Netflix.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:11 AM on February 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


Voyageurs, surely
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:34 AM on February 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

Particle of the Week: Borg nanoprobes. Been awhile.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: It's pretty clear to me that Voyager was in an MMO style trading hub during this episode, where you can find side quests and vendors.

Ongoing Counts:
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: -6.
* Crew: 137.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 12. This counts - following Voyager involves a number of very convenient jumps, which means these guys should've had a lot of trouble tracking them down. (It's not beyond the bounds of reason, but definitely lucky.)
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful, 2 games of chicken, 1 ramming speed.

* Minor nitpicks.

The Borg don't eat. Prior outings (dating back to Locutus) have drones unable to consume food because their implants provide sustenance, and Voyager notably had the crew literally teaching Seven how to chew not that long ago. Borg drones also shouldn't need heat - they're able to operate in hard vacuum without further protection, dating back to First Contact. I'd bet they don't need campfires either.

I liked most of that flashback stuff, (particularly their slow reveal on the memories), but that was a lot of prop work to set up the aforementioned 'tastes like chicken' joke against continuity.

I was also surprised nobody commented on a Bajoran being on board, but I think it's plausible in the press of guests. Probably nobody got much of a bioscan, and Marika would've known how to dodge casual detection.

Finally, I was surprised by 'return them to the Borg' being seriously considered. In fairness to Voyager, only the Doctor brought it up though - I'd like to think nobody else would've taken it seriously.

* Overall, good story.

This is a good palate cleanser after Equinox: on the antagonist side, our ex-Borg drones are just trying to save themselves, and they even debate the merits of just asking for help. Once Seven offers it, they cooperate fine. I feel like Tuvok's gag about the security report lampshades this all pretty well in the opening. Also, it was nice to see Voyager meet some legitimately friendly aliens with no secret hidden dystopian problem - the show needed more of it, and I'm grateful for instances like this, where there's no other shoe to drop.

On Voyager's side, I was grateful that they just helped. I mean, shots were fired and everything, but once they understood the stakes, Seven and the Doctor just helped, and they did the right thing for the right reasons. Seven accurately gauged what her former co-drones would want, and their reactions were reasonable. (I even liked that they didn't agree on how to feel about her, afterward. Having them split between 'I'm too eager to enjoy life to care,' 'I won't hold a grudge' and 'I hate you' was very appropriate.)

The flashbacks were grim and dark, but the appropriate level - the brain rewiring is a little implausible, but it's in service to a dramatically coherent story, and so no big deal, IMO. I believe Seven's underlying motivation, and that's fine.

This is a good, Trekky episode.

I do disagree with this:
This excellent episode shows the struggle between individuality and common consciousness more impressively than all other Borg stories so far.

Unity was still better, but it's nice to argue which of two episodes was cooler instead of worse.
posted by mordax at 8:28 AM on February 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

Oh, and bonus points for further good use of Naomi Wildman.
posted by mordax at 8:30 AM on February 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Also, of possible interest to Voyageristas: Lost in Space is getting a series reboot on Netflix.

As an even more oblique aside, If you're a fan of computer special effects that have aged extremely poorly I cannot recommend enough the 1998 Lost in Space. It opens with an incredibly bad space dogfight that looks like it was ripped directly off a B-tier Wing Commander CD-ROM. It's incredible how poorly it compares to other effects-heavy sci-fi movies of its era, like The Fifth Element.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:24 PM on February 22, 2018

If you're a fan of computer special effects that have aged extremely poorly I cannot recommend enough the 1998 Lost in Space. It opens with an incredibly bad space dogfight that looks like it was ripped directly off a B-tier Wing Commander CD-ROM. It's incredible how poorly it compares to other effects-heavy sci-fi movies of its era, like The Fifth Element.

Was that the one with the all-CG purple space monkey?
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:41 PM on February 22, 2018

Well to be fair, reviewers were dunking on the terrible special effects when the film was still in theaters.
posted by zarq at 1:16 PM on February 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've always sort of wanted to see the film just for Gary Oldman as Dr. Smith. (The Dr. Smith in the new series? Parker Posey, can you dig it?)
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:47 PM on February 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've always sort of wanted to see the film just for Gary Oldman as Dr. Smith.

IIRC he seemed mainly bored.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:32 PM on February 22, 2018

IIRC he seemed mainly bored.

William Hurt turned in a terrible, wooden performance. The rest of the cast wasn't much better. Oldman vacillated between chewing the scenery in INTENSE HAM mode and as you say, looking bored. Which was odd, because he was the first person to sign on to the film. I remember that he'd said he did Lost in Space and Fifth Element because he wanted to be in films he could watch with his son.
posted by zarq at 8:48 AM on February 23, 2018

Crewpeople, I am cleared to run. Starting Monday I'll be fiddling about with putting miles in on the treadmill. I'll drop a line here and there. Current plan is to finish the DG view and drop back for some pickups. Given that this is a Ron Moore episode (could these be his last work for Trek?) I might just start here and THEN hit my DG stuff.

I won't swear to it, but I believe DIS premiered and completed S01 between the time I was struck by a car (December 1) and now.
posted by mwhybark at 11:54 PM on February 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

Not really too much to add to what everyone else has already said about this episode. It's s good one for any Trek, nice balance of argument and emotion, ending on a melancholy note, something welcome that they don't do as much as they could. Ryan and the writing of her character are quite good here, with Seven still maintaining, what I take to be her learned Borgish persona even as she goes farther into disavowal of that history than she had previously.

Voyager gets good mileage out of the Borg, better than TNG did after coming up with the concept, and this episode fits nicely into the larger Voyager continuity about Seven and their other Borg episodes without damaging the larger ideas.

The rest of the episode worked pretty well too, with the stray talk about the various difficulties and pleasures of their encounters, both hosting and on shore leave. The supporting dialogue for Seven's story was solid, with arguments raised but not shifted into conflicts, just kept as possible alternatives Seven would be able to choose instead of the path she feels the need to follow.

The initial plan by the three to force Seven to help wasn't much, but it didn't really detract much either and it made enough sense to keep as a feint towards other possibilities to hold viewer interest, at least in theory. The only thing I was a bit disappointed in was the directing of the episode, not that for the actors, but the lack of visual interest left this one feeling a little more flat than it should given the strong story. Some better pacing or visual corollary to the emotions would have helped, but they did spend more on effects for the ship crashing, space station, and planet scenes, so I can't be too surprised they didn't find the chance to enliven the other material as much.

Oh, and I don't want to forget to mention how good Scarlett Pomers is as Naomi Wildman and how well her relationship with Seven continues to work for the show. It's remains my favorite development for the character and Naomi is a good in her other uses as well.

All in all it feels like a good quality but understated episode that maybe could have been a touch more forceful if the directing matched the other elements. I'm thinking of a few doctor and B'Elanna focused episodes that got that extra little charge and were helped out by it. Still, it's a welcome return to Voyager's better side after the last episode.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:17 AM on February 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

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