Friday, April 3, 2015

Voyager, Season 3: Unity
 Voyager, Season 3
Airdate: February 12, 1997
58 of 168 produced
58 of 168 aired


Chakotay is injured when he discovers a planet of strange refugees. He later discovers that they are former Borg drones - when they try to heal him using Borg technology.

Uh-oh... maybe a quick shot of inaprovaline will fix this...


Matthew: This episode gives us a relatively fresh take on Borg, giving us the story that perhaps "Descent" (i.e. Borg disconnected en masse from the collective) should have been, and showing us (finally) a plus side to communal consciousness. I enjoyed the mix of cultures trying to live together, with varying degrees of success. It makes perfect sense. I also liked the ethical dilemma presented to us, re-initiating a collective to end ethnic violence. On that score, I liked the note this episode struck - these are well meaning people, but taking on that sort of power might lead to corruption over time.

Kevin: I really liked how gray the ethics of all this were, and that the episode doesn't land on a single answer as being correct. Normally, you could argue that forcing any kind of structure, even a benign one, on people is unethical, but you could also make the argument that as former drones thrust into then out of the collective, there may be some actual defect in their ability to handle the world, so the imposition of some kind of order becomes acceptable. I also completely agree that the positive spin on the collective was really useful to flesh out the Borg themselves as an interesting villain.

Matthew:  The storyline of the Borg cube and Voyager's attempts to learn about it was so-so. I liked the atmospherics generally, and of course some hints were dropped about a villain superior to the Borg in power. But I did not like the way the Borg were re-vivified by just essentially flipping an on-switch. It makes it seem as though the biological component is unnecessary, which belies the whole "cyborg" element to the race.

Kevin: What nagged me in terms of nitpicks was that so many Alpha Quadrant species were here, and apparently survived being assimilated from the cube that was destroyed in Best of Both Worlds. The Queen making a quip about three dimensional thinking in First Contact was fine, but seriously, did any drone die on that cube?

Matthew: Although this story tells us nothing about Chakotay specifically (perhaps that ship has sailed for the writers?), this was still a nice Chakotay episode. The romance was developed reasonably well, and Chakotay's ambivalence over helping the colony was nicely brought out. I wish perhaps that we could have gotten one or two minutes of Riley (and by extension us) learning something new and interesting about Chakotay through the mind link. Speaking of which, though I thought it was mostly reasonable as a healing mechanism (granting the existence of "neural energy"), the residual telepathic effect later didn't pass muster for me.

Kevin: I think that Chakotay serves as a placeholder for the story. I think the episode would have been much better if we learned something about or changed Chakotay in some way. I mean, he's a resistance fighter. He should really have a strong and specific reaction to the idea of a benign hegemony imposing order. And yeah, the residual intergalactic telepathy was just a convenient plot device.


Matthew: Although the story lacked some Chakotay detail, Robert Beltran did a good job in this episode. His reticence to joint he link was believable, and his later bemusement after having been used worked for me. I thought he had good chemistry with Lori Hallier. Apparently earlier versions of the script had her as more villainous, and the actors had been given those notes. For me, it just worked as straight caretaking romance.

Kevin: We've kind of defined this dividing line for Beltran's performance, where he does well at human interactions, but falls flat on the technobabble, so focusing on the human relationship was a good call, and I agree, he had a nice rapport with Riley. I liked Hallier herself as well. Her delivery on the lines about growing up in Texas were colored with just the right about of nostalgia, and she had a quiet competence that felt very Starfleet, even a little Janeway, so it almost makes sense Chakotay would respond to her.

Matthew: Kate Mulgrew had some nice moments with Beltran, too. She really played the "counselor" and confidante role quote well. Ivar Brogger certainly had presence as the Romulan Orum, too. This was really a Chakotay heavy episode, though, so most cast members were relegated to bit roles.

Production Values

Matthew: This episode made extensive use of CGI for the shuttle, some ship shots, the Borg Cube, and the "expanse" backdrop. I would say that really only the shuttle was obviously computer generated, and for the most part everything looked good. The video montage was just OK - the venerable matte "colony" painting from TNG makes an appearance. I guess it makes sense that thousands of former human or Federation Borg would have lived there.

Kevin: The shuttle CGI pulled me out of the moment a little, but I don't have much to add to your comments.

Matthew: I really liked the planet sets. McNeill, who directed, says that his sets were very small, but he shot them well. They looked much bigger on screen. The lighting was rich with shadow, but was not dark and boring. The Ex-Borg makeup was apparently made of remnants from "First Contact," and it came off well. The Voyager team also had to replicate the new Borg shield effects from the movie, and I think they did a bang-up job.

Kevin: I have to praise McNeil's direction here a lot. The numerous small sets really felt like an expansive colony. The make up was great for me too. While I do question where Riley got such a gorgeous wig, I have to say, it looked fantastic.


Matthew: I think this one just squeaks into 4 territory. Although I was not a big fan of the way the Borg were just turned back on as if they were automata,  there was a nice tension and pacing throughout the episode that kept me entertained. I bought the romantic angle, and there were even some big ideas, with a sort of "Tower of Babel" mish-mash of cultures, and an ethical dilemma in re-uniting them.

Kevin: I think this stays in 3 territory, but I see the argument for a 4. (Sidenote: This is our first disagreement this season.) I think the lack of something more for Chakotay's character keeps this from the higher echelons. Still, the episode is entertaining, well-paced, and the ethics are entertainingly explored. That makes a total of 7.

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