Monday, January 14, 2019

Voyager, Season 6: Survival Instinct, Season 6
"Survival Instinct"
Airdate: September 29, 1999
119 of 168 produced
119 of 168 aired


When Voyager visits a trading outpost, they happen across three former Borg with a mysterious connection to Seven of Nine.

We've been telepathically linked to this unreasonably handsome, buff old man for years now!


Matthew: So this episode continues in the trend of retcon backfill storytelling for Seven of Nine's history before reaching Voyager, which has so far included "The Raven" and "Dark Frontier." I think for the most part these stories have been successful at building her character, while perhaps have been less successful at maintaining the Borg as a terrifying menace.  What I like most of all about this episode were the scenes in which the 4 survivors were beginning to recall their past selves prior to assimilation. I especially liked the Marika Wilkarah character, who was an engineering officer on the USS Excalibur. Her revulsion and "look what they've done to me" sentiments were really emotionally charged and effective. The other characters were well drawn, too. And so the contrast between them and Seven of Nine, who was abducted as a child, is telling. She doesn't have as much of an identity to wish to return to, and has the emotional maturity of a child to look back on. It makes her fearful reaction and decision to railroad the others into re-assimilation really work.

Kevin: I agree that this is an interesting addition, but I think Seven is reaching the tipping the point of how many interesting things can have happened to this one anonymous drone out of billions. It's just one too many coincidences that all these things happened to her. That said, I agree the emotional angle on the show is pretty solid. The reactions make sense that adults would want their lives back and Seven would regress.

Matthew: I think the overall pace of the episode was a bit sluggish. I have never been a big fan of dark flashback scenes set in caves or jungles, and that's what we got here. The way the survivors spoke to each other mentally on the ship was also a bit dramatically inert. I think the episode would have been better served by an argument between some of the crew members, perhaps about how much Seven of Nine owed these people for her actions under extreme duress.

Kevin: I think what got me was that the conversations between the three drones were so somnolent. They all spoke in that hazy half-dream voice and it just slowed down every scene they were in. Also, kind of like that chorus from Loud as a Whisper, the overlapping sentence finishing just makes for a weird scene.

Matthew: There was a classical ethical question addressed when the former Borg's options for survival were laid out. Would you rather live but not be engaged as an individual sentient being, or would you rather die soon but be a fully realized person? The way John Stuart Mill formulates it is "to be a pig satisfied or to be Socrates dissatisfied." The problem with this episode, as with many Borg shows, is that they don't make the Borg option appealing at all, so it is no great surprise when they opt for a few weeks of individuality. I really wish there were a way to dramatize the Borg that explained the appeal of their system.

Kevin: I think they never made enough of Q's line describing the Borg back in Q Who --- the ultimate user. It adds a level of choice to the Borg I think they should have explored. Is this the natural end of a hyper connected society? Not to overly draw comparisons to our own social media age, but the idea of a society going too far in being able to share every single thought would be an interesting take on the Borg.


Matthew: While the ensemble cast overall got a fair number of scenes to shine, this was a very heavy Jeri Ryan show. As per usual, she delivers in spades. I especially liked her Borg work, which showed us her vulnerability and fear. Scarlett Pomers deserves special mention, as she nails every scene she's in. Almost certainly she is the best young child actor in the franchise.

Kevin: Jeri Ryan verging on a panic attack in the crowded mess hall was great and she and Scarlett Pomers have a really nice relationship on screen. I'll also say again, she can really act under all that make up. Once again, she manages to make herself seem physically smaller.

Matthew: For however boring and slow the staging was, I enjoyed the guest actors whenever they were on scree. Vaughn Armstrong has a really imposing screen presence, and it works here with his implacable leader character. I really dug Bertilla Damas as the Bajoran Starfleet officer, as well. I'd watch a whole show about her, really. Tim Kelleher brought a nice low-key energy. I especially liked it when he said that they were desecrating the Borg drone body against the will of Brothra.

Kevin: Vaughn Armstrong was a little wasted for me here. I think he did the best with the set up that he could, but that sleepy tone just got on everything. We know he can do more, so I would have liked a little more variance in the performance here. Damas was great. Like you say, I was really affected by her revulsion at the violation of the Borg modifications.

Production Values

This was almost entirely a bottle show, with an exterior shot of a space station (which looked fine) and a planet jungle set (which was pretty boring). The drone costume work was good (featuring the return of Hugh's eyepiece). Overall, this episode was nothing to write home about in terms of production.

Kevin: I found the body makeup to be a bit heavy. It's a tough job to make something look like scar tissue and not tumor and they largely get there, bit it was on the heavy side of acceptable.


I think this is a 3. It was an adequate hour of television that got me emotionally involved in guest characters, which is a feat in itself. But it also suffered from some sluggishness, and it didn't go far enough on certain questions for me.

Kevin: I agree with the 3, for a total of 6. The idea is thought provoking and acting is pretty good, but the overall product is just a little too much on the slow side for a higher score.

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