Friday, January 15, 2016

Voyager, Season 4: Scorpion, Part II

Voyager,  Season 4
"Scorpion, Part II"
Airdate: September 3, 1997
68 of 168 produced
68 of 168 aired


Voyager is on the run from Species 8472, working in collaboration with the Borg. Their tenuous ceasefire is under threat when Captain Janeway is incapacitated, and the Borg disagree with Chakotay on strategy.
Eyes up, kemosabe!


Matthew: The way I see it, there are three major parts to this episode's story. First is the conflict between Janeway and Chakotay. There is a lot of nice stuff for his character, things that should have been more a part of his story earlier on. He has at times been willing to disobey Janeway based on a different approach to problems. He is willing to use violence and threats of violence to a greater degree. I like his threat to decompress the cargo bay if the Borg fail to comply, and then the fact that he followed through. I also like very much that Choakotay was right about the Borg remaining true to their nature, reneging on their collaboration deal. Janeway seems a bit naive, really, thinking that they wouldn't, and I think she was wrong on her willingness to go out of Voyager's way to preserve the deal. I think the episode ended on a good note, that they need to stay together for their shared voyage to succeed.

Kevin: I really think that this should have been their relationship through much of the first two seasons. He seems to step in line as her second in command really easily, and maybe that makes sense given that he was a Starfleet officer before joining the Maquis and there aren't exactly any Cardassians, save one, to fight, so I could get if he ended up deciding to play along with Janeway as a practical matter. Given the tension they can muster here, I think the first two seasons would have been much better served by some more direct head-butting.

Matthew: The second, and probably most major part of the story in terms of effect on the series, is the introduction of Seven of Nine. Janeway's suggestion of a representative, even without later (retroactive) continuity is a bit odd. Why was she cooling her heels in an alcove until this suggestion, and why was she on this particular cube at all? Nonetheless, there was really good, crackling conflict between Seven and our principals. Dialogue indicates she was assimilated 18 years ago, at age 6, making her 24. I dunno. I think Jeri Ryan is wonderful, but can she play 24? The time frame signals an expansion of continuity prior to Q Who. This raises questions of course, since the Borg were totally mysterious before Q Who, but we can't fault this episode too much, since these are the same questions raised in Generations. I like that her "rescue" is left ambiguous at the end of the episode, letting things proceed at a more gradual pace in the following shows.

Kevin: I think it helps that the Seven character had some substance before the rescue. It's odd to attribute personality to a drone, but like Picard could color the performance of Locutus, Seven has some hints at her later depths here. I agree that the continuity doesn't quite work out, but given that the ship had already sailed with Generations and the El Aurians, we can't be too mad, can we?

Matthew: The third part of this tale, Species 8472, takes a bit of a backseat. They remain a menace, but we don't learn much about them. Apparently, they are motivated by the proximity of our galaxy to fluidic space, which jeopardizes the genetic integrity of their realm. Huh? There was an indication that the Borg invaded fluidic space, precipitating the conflict - I would have liked these two ides to be tied together better, that Species 8472 would never have invaded the Milky Way without the perceived threat of the Borg.  

Kevin: There is always the underlying problem of trying to portray something as truly "other." How do you do that effectively? Too little dialogue and they are too vague. Too much, and they seem too familiar. In the end, I think they were better portrayed in the first half of the episode because they, like the Borg once were, more mysterious. The thing that gives the Borg nightmares? Sounds awesome. Unfortunately, there's probably no way to actually show it in a way that would be satisfying.


Matthew: Kate Mulgrew had a tough job to some degree - being wrong for part of the episode, comatose for the other, and maintaining our respect throughout. I think she accomplished all of these quite well. She played very well against both Beltran and Jeri Ryan. What can be said about Ryan? She possessed almost a fury to her line readings. Her delivery was excellent, and she handled technobabble with aplomb. Concerns over stunt casting have almost been allayed from the outset.

Kevin: I like watching Janeway in the handful of times she gets real close to the edge. Mulgrew can handle the material, and it becomes an interesting look at the nature of command. Her job is to make the decision and do so quickly and not brook argument, and its interesting to see the drawbacks of that model portrayed. As for Ryan, I agree that I was concerned that it was done more as teenage boy fan service than anything, but Ryan can sell the dialogue, can't she? Even under a thousand pounds of makeup, she can really sell the bite to her character.

Matthew: We don't sing Robert Beltran's terribly often, so we should here. Chakotay gets great scenes with both Janeway and Seven. I think playing against Seven of Nine in particular showed Chakotay taking her criticism to heart, thoughtfully, but he also got to show some steel in the action sequences. His pleading with Janeway for understanding, but not relenting in his opinion, was excellent, too.

Kevin: There will come a point where Beltran has clearly checked out (Hint: I bet it's the boxing episode) but here, he does have some energy, and you can see how might be able to successfully lead his ragtag crew of Maquis against overwhelming odds. It's a shame they didn't give him material like this more often.

Production Values

Matthew: The Borg sets, both on the cube and on the ship, were quite effective. They had good atmosphere but allowed the viewer to feel like they were a real place. The Borg drones also had the detailed look of the recent movie. Their body shield effects were cool, too. All in all, it was a really effective costume and set episode.

Kevin: Agreed. The set in the cargo bay was really well realized, and the lighting quality in both Borg sets was really good. It set off the necrotic looking feel of the Borg make-up. I also liked a lot of the Borg modifications to the ship as well.

Matthew: On the optical/CGI front, things were pretty good. Fluidic space certainly looked fluid, though it was a bit bland. The space battle, which appeared to feature a CGI and practical model mix, was excellent. Energy effects and explosions were crisp and exciting. I think the best graphic of the show was the cargo bay decompression. It was a neat look at a portion of the ship exterior. By the way, the "tense battle music" cue was effective. Bum bum bah bah bah baaaaaahhhh!

Kevin: I think the weakest spot of CGI was Harry's recovery. They've done it worse before, but the magic disappearing effect of the vines was really hokey.


Matthew: This episode really did what it needed to to set up and advance all three aspects of the story I mentioned above. It lacks greater sci-fi ambition to some degree, which probably keeps it from the upper echelon for me. But all in all it's a crisp, rollicking 45 minutes of television, and I can't see it rating anything less than a 4.

Kevin: I think the episode cleanly earns the 4 based on its energy alone. This a fun and interesting hour of television and gives the show plenty of places to go. That makes a total of 8 for this one, and an auspicious start for the season.



  1. I am surprised it only got a 4 from each of you. I consider all the Scorpion episodes to be the best of "Voyager" as a whole, if they don't get 5's what does?

    1. Well, looking over the scores, the only two tens we've given Voyager are The Phage and Death Wish, and I think what pushes those episodes into the 5 territory is that both episodes engage the morality of the Federation in a direct way.

      Janeway has to balance her personal and cultural views about death, in both episodes coincidentally, and the debate is well portrayed on both sides. The Vidiians are not mindless sociopaths, they've been pushed to desperate action out of a desire to merely survive. Every side of Quinn's potential suicide gets examined, and watching Janeway struggle to chart a course through both episodes is fun.

      Both parts of Scorpion have energy and a economy in their storytelling that makes them super fun to watch, but I don't think that they have that extra "reach" for a bigger issue that tends to be what we give a 5 to in any of the series.

      We gave 8s to both parts of Redemption, and I think that's a fair comparison. They are taught martial and/or political stories, but we don't really dig into any Big Questions that Star Trek is at its best when it does.

      If I had to predict where our next five would be, I think Year of Hell has a decent shot, on the grounds that really turning the screws on Janeway's sanity and the exploration of cause and effect might push it into a 5.

      Living Witness is a personal favorite of mine since it manages to be a fairly light hand at the issue of even unintentional revisionist history. The only fly in the ointment is the ethical issues of casually duplicating a being we have de facto deemed sentient.

    2. Yep, lack of big questions. I would have been satisfied with: an origin of the Borg; a deeper investigation of Species 8472; a greater emphasis on "weapon of mass destruction" morality.

      It was a whiz-bang show, but it was mostly action and character drama. I want a little more to declare something Top Decile.

  2. I like Chakotay a lot and he has been sadly underutilized. In fact I hear Robert Beltran himself was very vocal at the time, complaining that most episodes focused on Janeway and/or Seven discovering her humanity at the expense of other characters and I tend to agree with that assessment. I like Seven just fine, but I do feel that they focused on her a lot to the exclusion of other characters. I guess that she was screwing Brannon Braga did not help (anyone else but her).

    And what they did with Chakotay is unforgivable. First they killed off any prospects of a romantic relationship he could have had with Janeway and after "Rsolutions" never brought it up again (which was odd) and then they sort of forgot about him until they paired him up with Seven, of all people, in the last final episodes. Completely absurd.