Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Voyager, Season 5: Drone, Season 5
Airdate: October 21, 1998
95 of 163 produced
95 of 163 aired


A transporter accident fuses some of Seven's nanoprobes with the Doctor's holoemitter. The result is a hybrid Borg drone built with 29th century technology. Can the crew integrate this drone into their collective? And what happens when the Borg find out?

 Insert Witty Caption Here


Kevin: The set up of the episode has a lot of tropes going on. We have the transporter accident. We have said accident creating a hybrid, albeit not as big as Tuvix. We also have yet another appearance of the Borg in what I am now comfortable as tapping as the beginning of the end for the Borg's credibility. We have spent the last year getting even further from Borg space and between Kes' 'gift' and the last kick out of Arcturus' slip stream engine, we really should not be seeing them on the regular. Also, in terms of tropes, did anyone not believe the drone would die dramatically and most likely nobly by the end of the episode?

Tropes are tropes for a reason. If an engaging story gets told that is initiated by a few tropes, it's not the greatest sin. This story is engaging. Yes, the ship should be beyond Borg space. But is that really an excuse to tell no more Borg stories? They have a Borg on the damn ship, and they'd be leaving a lot of drama on the table if they didn't mix her up with them again. They retconned it anyway with a subspace tube network or whatever. I agree entirely that One's fate is basically sealed once we know that he is sought after by the Borg, he has the Doctor's emitter, and Seven of Nine cares about him. So the question becomes how much this rather predictable story tells us about Seven of Nine.

Kevin: Now that that is out of the way, there is a lot to recommend this episode. The core emotional work for Seven is the really point of the episode and there, the episode excels. There's a saying that the best way to learn something is to teach it. Having to break down key concepts of humanity for One shows us how much she's grown and internalized those beliefs, and without getting too schmaltzy, we do get to see a nurturing side of Seven that is a nice addition to the character.

Matthew: I really liked the interplay between them, and thought the way they made his questions basically child-like, but mixed it with adult intelligence and recall of a supercomputer, was interesting. Because I care about Seven of Nine, and she cared about One, I cared about him as well.

Kevin: More generally, this episode does show that the series has definitely hit a stride where all the component parts can be reliably expected to work without having to focus on them. The Doctor's (understandable) self-centeredness about his holoemitter works. B'Elanna's one-liner about the Borg's new tactic being showing up and looking helpless really got a chuckle out of me. All the of the crew did well with their one or two scenes of introducing themselves and the ship to One. So, I know I leaned pretty hard into what I feel are the somewhat rehashed set up and obvious conclusion, it's still noteworthy that the show can produce a solid, entertaining hour even with those issues.

Matthew: Yeah, this is a solid show. It was paced well and developed interestingly with each act break, the action was tight and entertaining, and the aforementioned character interactions were touching and illuminating. Extra shout out to the mention of the uncomfortable class 2 shuttle, which was then surpassed next episode with the Delta Flyer.


Kevin: Ryan is the obvious standout. I really liked the bookends of her practicing smiling and expressing genuine grief. She played both perfectly, the first for humor, the second for pathos, and both were perfectly understated.

Matthew: The way she smiled in the beginning, the act of "practicing" to smile, was really well achieved. Jeri Ryan, because of her physical appearance, had probably been judged a lightweight by many (including, apparently, some cast members). But you know what? She went to Northwestern and graduated with a theater degree. She immediately pursued acting full-time. She is no dilettante. She is a professional, and it shows.

Kevin: J. Paul Boehmer doesn't exactly have the biggest range here, but that's more the script. He's supposed to be a tabula rasa and he achieves that without being off-putting, but I certainly wouldn't put him the class with Spiner or Nimoy or Ryan in their ability to evoke strong emotion by its absence. I will say I did enjoy the final scene in sickbay.

Matthew: I really liked Boehmer, actually. He was great as a Nazi, and he is great as an adolescent Borg in a man's body. The way he lilts his voice is really pretty unique, and it created both a disconnect and some real emotion by the end. I would compare this performance to Hallie Todd's Lal in TNG. They are very similar in both form and function, and both were effective.

Production Values

Kevin: One's outfit was pretty straightforward as a slightly sleeker version of the standard Borg costume, and insofar as that, it works fine. I liked the science bay set if only for a new space, but I wonder what it could be for other than incubating drones, but that's a small complaint.

Matthew: I think they did a competent job of making it look Borg-like, but different. The pulsating lights were cool, and the eyepiece was nice. I personally think they should have grafter the emitter on the outside or something, to indicate that it could eventually be extricated. Could they have done more with effects today? Sure. But it was perfectly competent.

Kevin: The effect of the baby Borg in the chamber was pretty clearly CGI, in that the image was pretty grainy. I understand they can't put a real baby in unset Jello and film it. This isn't the 1930s when you could treat child actors like that, but it still pulled me out of the moment. Some kind of practical effect would have worked better. The nebula effects were quite pretty. Not your standard monochrome haze at all.

Matthew: I thought all of the space shots were well done. The Borg interior was really interesting, too. I don't think it was a re-use of First Contact, but if so, hey, it looked nice and was integrated well.


Kevin: I think some of the set up and resolution of the episode are pretty pat and predictable at this point in the series and the franchise as the whole. That all said, the through line of exploring Seven's own emotional growth is pretty well done, and by the end, more effective that I had assumed it would be going in. I think this lands in the fat, middle part of the bell curve, and in good company with how we described a lot of the heyday of TNG. Even if the story this time is fairly routine, the strength of the acting and the general easy chemistry of the actors carries a lot of interest. I am going with  a solid three.

Matthew: I think this squeaks into 4 territory on sheer entertainment value. It was an engaging teleplay, very ably acted, with competent effects. It told us something valuable about the Seven character. So that makes our rating a 7.


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