Star Trek: Voyager: The Raven   Rewatch 
September 14, 2017 3:06 AM - Season 4, Episode 6 - Subscribe

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, / Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before…

Details from this quaint and curious volume of Memory Alpha lore:

- The working title of this episode was "Resurrection". Staff writer Bryan Fuller recollected, "The first draft [from Harry Doc Kloor's pitch] was called 'Resurrection,' and it was all about Seven of Nine being resurrected as a Borg. The aliens du jour abduct her and tweak her, and essentially she goes on this mad killing spree. The first draft had all these huge chase sequences of the crew trying to get her before she got to Engineering to blow up the warp core, until this last final moment where she's crawling towards the core–Torres has essentially blown her legs off–and Janeway is saying, 'Stop this' while Seven pleads, 'Please kill me.'" Fuller also recalled of the episode, "It started out as a story about Seven of Nine being reactivated as a drone – all the nanoprobes in her system reassimilate her and she goes on an assimilating spree. I actually wrote a full draft for that story." Co-executive producer Brannon Braga remembered about the installment, "That story started out as a much more shallow, action-oriented story. In fact, Bryan Fuller [who was a freelance writer at the time] wrote a draft in which [Seven] was captured by aliens, and they exploited her abilities, and turned her into unstoppable, drone, Terminator-woman."

- The producers of Star Trek: Voyager did not like the first draft. Brannon Braga explained, "When we got the draft in, it was evident that it was a soulless, empty kind of show, and that it had to be about something." Fuller also remarked, "It was just too big of a step, it was too comic bookish. But they liked the writing enough that they were going to give me the rewrite."

- Brannon Braga had a flash of inspiration to use a specific movie as an influence on the episode. "I was struck by the Citizen Kane image of 'Rosebud,'" Braga related. "At the end of this strange journey of rebellion she makes a shocking discovery and faces her past in a Citizen Kane-type way. The raven image actually turns out to be the name of the ship when she rubs off the dust."

- The script was thereafter given a rushed rewrite over six days by Bryan Fuller. The second draft was the version that made the transition to screen. In a 2013 interview, Fuller stated, "It's so surreal to look back at it. As a staff writer, there are chunks of me in there [as well as contributions from many other people who participated in the writing of the episode] [....] Looking back, it was an amazing lesson in imagination, funneled through the rigors of television production. What was originally going to be this big, broad episode became smaller and more intimate. It was such a dramatic evolution [....] To look at that episode and see how it started, where it was going and ended up, is to see three different journeys." Even though he had pitched two successful story ideas to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and had been momentarily assigned to rewrite the script for VOY: "The Gift", this episode constituted Bryan Fuller's first work for Voyager that made it to screen. It was shortly thereafter that he was employed as a full-time writer on the series.

- The filming of the mess hall scene in this episode – which includes the first direct interaction between Seven of Nine and Neelix in the series – was a hilarious experience for Jeri Ryan, due to Ethan Phillips. Prior to the scene being shot, Ryan had heard about how funny Phillips was, but had only briefly met him. "So, during our first episode together, I thought I was going to die; I didn't think we would ever get through the scene," Ryan remembered. "I could not look him in the eye and keep a straight face, so I had to do half the scene looking over his head or looking past him, because I had tears rolling down my face just trying to get through one take."

- Once Tim Russ learned the details of this installment, he formed the opinion that the plot involves Seven actualizing a concern of Tuvok's. "He is always on the lookout for her to mess up, and in 'The Raven' she did," observed Russ, following the episode's production. He also believed that, at the same point in time when Tuvok learns about and understands what happened to Seven, those two characters "form a bond."

- This episode marks the second of four appearances of Annika Hansen's parents, they having been briefly shown in the fourth season premiere "Scorpion, Part II". Although they are not named in this episode, they are later named as Magnus and Erin Hansen in the fifth season's "Dark Frontier" and Season 6's "The Voyager Conspiracy".

- Seven of Nine's silver bodysuit is replaced, in this episode, by a more understated brown one. Besides the color change, this bodysuit is also different from the previous one in that its neckline is much lower. In addition, the brown suit was less constrictive for Jeri Ryan than her previous silver costume.

- The B'omar were named by Bryan Fuller. According to Larry Nemecek, he named them after a group of aliens, the "B'omarr", in the Star Wars film Return of the Jedi. [Ed.: The B'omarr are never seen in any Star Wars film; they were the previous owners of Jabba's palace, and I think the spider-droid-thing in there is supposed to contain the preserved brain of a B'omarr monk, in case you were wondering why you've never heard of the B'omarr. My guess is Fuller saw the term on a toy, or read the novelization or something.]

- This episode shares some commonalities with TNG: "Brothers", wherein Commander Data – as the result of being summoned by his creator, Dr. Noonian Soong – takes over the USS Enterprise-D.

- Neelix's cooking skills in this episode are somewhat questionable. He asks Seven how she would like her chadre'kab – including the option of stir-frying – but then decides that steamed would be easiest on her stomach. He then immediately proceeds to stir-fry it.

- No explanation is offered as to how the Hansens, who were from Earth, were able to reach the Delta Quadrant in just a few years. This is explored later in "Dark Frontier".

- Jeri Taylor was delighted that, for this episode, the choice was made to explore Seven of Nine's backstory, believing such an exploration was a good pay-off to the episode's mystery. "I thought that worked wonderfully," she enthused.

- Many viewers believed that Seven's self-examination in this episode and her facing of her inherently Human nature was too soon in the character's evolution. Bryan Fuller agreed, "I think that episode took her a bit too far, and we pulled her back immediately after that. She became so vulnerable so quickly. We thought, 'Oh my God, we're blowing it. We have to mine this a little more.'"

"The first rule is: don't be afraid of the clay."
"I fear nothing."
"I mean you can't concern yourself with making a mistake."

- Kathryn Janeway and Seven of Nine practicing sculpting

"Your biological and technological distinctiveness was added to our own."
"I hadn't realized that."
"A small freighter... containing a crew of thirty-nine. Taken in the Dalmine Sector. They were easily assimilated. Their dense musculature made them excellent Drones."

- Seven of Nine and Neelix

"Curious sensation."
"You'll get used to it. Have some more."

- Seven of Nine and Neelix as Seven learns to eat

"It happened here. This is where it began. This is where I was assimilated. This was our ship. We lived here. We lived here for a long time. My father did experiments. They were very important and we had to travel a long way. I had my birthday here. My cake had six candles on it and... and one more to grow on. And then the men came. Papa tried to fight them, but they were too strong. I tried to hide. Maybe they wouldn't find me because I was little. But they did. And then Papa said we were going to crash and the big man picked me up and then suddenly, we weren't on this ship anymore. We were somewhere else. And then I became Borg."

- Seven of Nine

Poster's Log:
I'm of two minds on the question of whether this episode develops Seven's backstory too fast. On the one hand, I think the visit to her actual ship could indeed have waited, even though it'd be a less interesting episode if her flashbacks had been triggered less directly. On the other hand, the whole "wild child" aspect of the character could have been overdone if they stretched out her "domestication" much longer than they did. In terms of her uncontrollable quality, really, I'd say it's a rare example of the show both remembering previous characterization aspects/extents and pacing future development appropriately.

I liked Seven's scene with Neelix, and not just because she attacks him. Ryan makes the novelty of eating seem real. I didn't like the story's similarity to the TNG episode "Brothers", as mentioned above, and also to "Birthright, Part I" (the one where Data pursues a phantom raven with a symbolic connection to his family through the corridors of his ship).

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
Check out this rare photo of an early concept for Seven of Nine's backstory.

Borrowed Star Wars Name Tally: 3 (Gree, Botha, B'omar)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (11 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
OK, so you've got someone who's seriously damaged in some way, who experiences dreams and visions of a raven and feels compelled to go on a dangerous quest to discover the origin of their emerging powers... but enough about Brandon Stark.

But seriously, though. I thought that this was quite good. They filled in a bit more of Seven's backstory, although reserving some of it for later; "Dark Frontier" will be in the next season. It had been long enough that I misremembered the bits with the Hansens from "Dark Frontier" as happening in this episode, although we get little glimpses of them. I still have to wonder, especially with the criticisms of the Enterprise-D for taking children along on potentially dangerous missions*, about the Hansens deciding to take their daughter on an exploratory mission involving a potentially deadly alien culture, but discussion of that can wait until we get to "Dark Frontier."

This episode concentrates on the idea of Seven having the equivalent of a chronic illness with both physical and behavioral aspects; I'm glad that they didn't go with the idea of Seven assimilating other crew, as that may have been a bridge too far in terms of Janeway either having to kick Seven off the ship or face a possible mutiny, but they still do a lot of good work in showing Seven flipping from eating the equivalent of Talaxian baby food (and I thought that it was a nice bit with Neelix walking her through the process of eating without literally feeding her, which would have made for a weird mix with the toned-down-but-still-there fanservice**) to simply walking off the ship with no one being able to stop her, thanks to the reactivation of the energy-nullifying force field--that One Weird Borg Trick That Security Officers Hate. We've talked before about Seven stealing some of Tuvok's thunder, but he's got some good Action Guy scenes here, from trying to stop her (including beaming aboard her shuttle) to talking her into dropping the force field, even though she's already threatened to have him assimilated, to the bits aboard the Raven. It shows that the flipside of the crew insisting on keeping Seven from rejoining the Collective despite her previously-expressed wish to do so is that they're also willing to take some risks by keeping her on the ship.

Other bits: Janeway encouraging Seven to at least take a whack at expressing herself artistically; the scene reminded me a bit of Kira on DS9 trying to hew to her traditional djarra in "Accession" and having limited success, but hey, you never know until you try. (Another way to do the scene would have been for Seven to do a very lifelike, but somehow still lifeless, sculpture.) And the B'Omar are amusingly frustrating to deal with; I kept wanting Janeway to snap and say, "Fuck it, we're going straight through, and I dare you to try to stop us, motherfuckers"; even though Seven has extended her Borg field to cover the shuttle, it was still pretty obvious that the B'Omar weren't much of a much when they couldn't stop one little ship. But, even though a Maquis-controlled ship probably would have done it, that's not how Starfleet rolls.

*Actually, when people in other forums have objected to the E-D taking kids along when they'd be in danger, I've often argued the other way, that not only have we seen people in colonies get attacked (even assimilated by you-know-who), suffer famine and epidemics, etc., but also the kids might be safer aboard a Galaxy-class vessel that's highly mobile and well-armed. But there's a difference between a capital ship and something like the Raven that looks to be about runabout-sized.

**One thing that I'll give the producers is that, even though the Barbification of Seven is still in effect, they didn't extend the neckline down to show cleavage. I've been working my way through Community and am most of the way through S3, and one thing that's been distracting is that, for whatever reason (I mean, besides the obvious), they've been showing Annie's cleavage a lot.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:15 AM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've been working my way through Community and am most of the way through S3, and one thing that's been distracting is that, for whatever reason (I mean, besides the obvious), they've been showing Annie's cleavage a lot.

Annie's pretty young, we try not to sexualize her.

(Okay, that literally pops up on any Reddit post that so much as mentions Annie, but I couldn't help myself. Besides, Star Trek could use a little Community influence now and again.)

We're veering way off topic, but I have to disagree. They dress Annie pretty modestly, especially compared to the typical Hollywood representation of a college aged woman. The only times I recall them egregiously flaunting her cleavage is when it is part of the, er, plot. (However, I am open to proof to the contrary. *groan* Sorry.)

Bringing it back to the show at hand... I have kept an eye open during this rewatch to see how strongly they hypersexualize Seven. Aside from the skin tight uniform and a couple of awkward interactions I honestly don't see a whole lot worth complaining about. Even the said interactions are not over the top - and to completely ignore her sexuality would be worse - as she would be discovering her sexual feelings for the first time in her life, the same way she is discovering compassion, or the need for tact, or hunger.
posted by 2ht at 8:59 AM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Let's call the whole thing off

posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:49 AM on September 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

They dress Annie pretty modestly, especially compared to the typical Hollywood representation of a college aged woman.

True, and it's also not atypical for someone to vary their mode of dress over a few years, especially in college; in fact, Annie is more realistic in that way than most of the study group (although you could imagine that Shirley, Pierce, and even Jeff are kind of past that phase). To bring it back home, it's kind of like watching two episodes of Voyager a week and not counting for the fast-forward time dilation.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:52 AM on September 14, 2017

Also, WRT whether or not Seven is hypersexualized, I've mentioned the Bikini Armor Battle Damage Tumblr before, which has copious examples from other media, particularly video games; another Tumblr that's instructive in how far comics in particular has gone down that road, by gender-flipping the characters, is the Hawkeye Initiative (marginally SFW).
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:01 AM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Particle of the Week: The Borg nanoprobes remaining in Seven's system, apparently able to re-assimilate her on command.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Seven's antics in the shuttle are the sort of thing that happen when a well-equipped endgame player sets one up.

Ongoing Counts:
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 17.
* Shuttles: Down 8 - they recover Paris', but not the one Seven stole.
* Crew: 142.
* Other: 46 bio-neural gelpacks remaining, maybe 25-50% of the escape pods should be gone at this point.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 9. Being on the correct path to be anywhere near the Raven is a pretty big coincidence, even more noticeable after The Gift.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful.

* The early stuff here felt much more like 'how they should treat Seven.'

Janeway's attempt to engage Seven in artistic/leisure activities rang pretty true to me: this is exactly the kind of therapy I'd expect a layman to try with an ex-Borg drone. It's probably something I would try in that situation. I feel like Janeway didn't offer a good enough explanation for why leisure and relaxation are important to non-Borg, but I guess most people would flub that kind of explanation because they don't think about it much - since basically everyone wants it, few people examine why in any depth. Anyway, the bit with the clay was pretty funny, Janeway being a big Da Vinci fangirl was funny. The whole thing worked fine for me.

I also about died at the scene with Seven and Neelix: Ryan's good here, Phillips is good here. The idea that Neelix would just sort of smile and shrug off Seven talking about the assimilation of Talaxians is completely believable to me. I do feel like they missed a joke about his cooking being so bad it reactivated her Borg defensive systems, but I guess it just means I get to make it here instead.

* The B'omarr are pretty funny.

This sort of negotiation was pretty plausible and pretty funny. I loved the zigzagging course so that Voyager wouldn't intersect whatever boring pedestrian secrets they thought were so important, and I loved their assertion that not a single mote of dust could cross their border without them knowing, right before Seven chumped their defense force. I also loved their reaction to Janeway harboring a former Borg drone.

This was all good stuff.

* Seven's interaction with Tuvok was pretty good.

Her nerve-pinching him got an actual laugh outta me. I also appreciated him being willing to go to the surface with her: Tuvok was the right guy for that job, because I'd expect anyone else to be apprehensive about it, while he could be matter-of-fact. Plus, Tuvok was the one guy on the crew who wasn't going to treat this like a damsel-in-distress story, and could keep his take on Seven's panic professional.

* Stuff with the Raven was a bit soon, and a bit convenient.

I don't mind Seven being panicked and whatnot - her becoming vulnerable and going stoic again is fine in the context of a trauma survivor. One step forward, two steps back. However, physically encountering the ship her parents used to bring her to the Delta Quadrant felt like much too big of a coincidence. The raven imagery was also overplayed - I noticed the TNG parallels as well.

I think going with the B'omarr inducing this change might've worked better for me, even though the details of the original script do sound pretty over-the-top.

* About Seven's hypersexualization:

It's pretty clear that some people wanted that, and other writers really wanted to skip that. Events here were pretty good on that score - it even looks like Harry stopped being a jerk about her, although it seems to me that he never got that he was in the first place.

All in all, The Raven is a decent, if derivative outing. My favorite bits were Seven's scenes with Janeway, Neelix and Tuvok, which definitely made this worth a watch.
posted by mordax at 11:40 AM on September 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

For me, this episode is pretty much a total misfire. Aside from the Neelix and Seven interaction I'd be content to forget it existed. Russ and MacNeill were fine, and Ryan did well enough, I guess, with what they gave her, which was nothing good. The Bro'marr weren't terrible in concept, nice to see a fussy and ineffective group for a change of pace, but there was just too much foolishness around their use to make them work beyond concept much for me.

As for the rest of the episode, it's definitely better than Fuller's shitty idea, but so much of it doesn't make a lick of sense and the origin/I'm a Borg thing was a mistake to do so soon after introducing Seven. Burton's direction was leering and dumb and the overall return to Voyager: Ship of Incompetence was not welcome. Bad ideas, bad execution.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:36 AM on September 17, 2017

Bad ideas, bad execution.

Hehe. Also fair.

I suppose one place I'll defend Voyager - mildly - here: I'm not sure Voyager and the B'omarr were incompetent so much as completely outclassed. One conceit common to the entire Trek franchise is that technologically superior beings can use more primitive tech in novel ways with very little preparation. This dates back to TOS, with stuff like Kirk building a cannon or Scotty somehow being a magnificent typist despite never using a keyboard. It also comes up repeatedly when small groups of Borg drones are loose - Regeneration on Enterprise is a particularly egregious example.

The shuttle Seven uses displays a green flash when struck consistent with Borg shielding, meaning the B'omarr were trying to deal with adaptive/immune defenses.

I'll grant you this is a silly notion that you're under no duress to enjoy, I guess all I'm saying is 'at least they're consistent about this portion of the story.'
posted by mordax at 11:02 AM on September 17, 2017

Oh, that's definitely true, but then it just becomes Borg magic, or whoever, where things can happen out of vague notion of "superiority" even when that makes little sense. Voyager being completely unable to control their own tranporters and shuttles is just lazy writing, and if the Borg have this superior shield tech, then why doesn't Voyager have it now that Seven is working with them? This is like the shield boost SuzyQ taught them, but which they conveniently forgot once the episode ended, except a more constant irritation as they choose not to provide any consistency to Borg capabilities and they're much more involved with the series. But even absent all that, little things like the Bo'marr wandering onto the bridge in the middle of Seven's freak out or even being allowed to hear the info transmitted to Janeway in the first place about Seven is just incompetence on display that gives the writers easy outs for writing they shouldn't have and makes the crew seem completely foolish and weak.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:04 PM on September 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Eh, I mean if it had added up to something more, or if it wasn't such a regular crutch for them to fall back on, maybe I wouldn't be so annoyed, but it's just so lazy and for no gain for the characters that it really annoyed me a lot this time. Why they even took Fuller's script as a starting point is beyond me.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:29 PM on September 17, 2017

This is like the shield boost SuzyQ taught them, but which they conveniently forgot once the episode ended, except a more constant irritation as they choose not to provide any consistency to Borg capabilities and they're much more involved with the series

Completely fair.

(Obligatory plug for Stargate SG-1 as a franchise that didn't forget these sorts of advances.)
posted by mordax at 5:27 PM on September 17, 2017

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