Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Voyager, Season7: Unimatrix Zero, Part 2, Season7
"Unimatrix Zero, Part 2"
Airdate: October 4, 2000
145 of 168 produced
145 of 168 aired


The assimilated Voyager crew works to disable the Borg's attack on Unimatrix Zero before its members are destroyed.

"I assimilated a PlayStation 3 from the future to score this sweet blue light."


Matthew: For me, a good portion of how to evaluate this episode comes down to how it answers the questions raised by the first part. How did this simulated world arise? Why does it persist and seem to have geography? What are the rules of this simulated world ? Why would whacking someone with a stick make them get kicked out? In this episode, there are new questions that could stand answering, too. Why is Tuvok more susceptible to the collective? Personal reasons? Technological? Maybe they should have said that they were intentionally given the same mutation. How can they "isolate" Unimatrix Zero to destroy it? Would it still exist if everyone left simultaneously? Ultimately, very little of this is explained, and I can't help but feel disappointed by the result. It's not that there aren't some good scenes here, but they're not connected by a story logic that makes sense to me, and thus I am a bit underwhelmed by the whole.

Kevin: My critiques from the last episode stand so I won't rehash them here too much, beyond a general critique that the entire idea of Unimatrix Zero is clearly reverse engineered from what the writers want to do rather a more organic story idea.

Matthew: There are things that work in this episode. I absolutely love the scene with the Queen finding the kid and talking to him. The Queen being faux-maternal to the kid, and especially holding hands with him, was deliciously creepy.  The Seven/Axum relationship also works. I think they got some nice "teasing" scenes which bolstered the realism of the romance. I also liked the Doctor giving Seven advice to pursue things with Axum. 

Kevin: I think my problem is that scenes like the Queen and the Axum romance work in isolation, but don't really fit into a larger story. Particularly the romance angle. Seven is chronologically in her early 20s, but developmentally has only lived a few years of life, even adding on the Unimatrix Zero time, so I would have liked a little more digging into what her personality is like. It's not that I dislike per se the idea she would form relationships here, but given how difficult that has been in the real world, I wanted a little more direct engagement with what makes Unimatrix Zero Seven more open.

Matthew: From a larger standpoint, there are things this two-parter does to the Borg that I dislike. I'm not a huge fan of the idea that all Borg are waiting for a malfunction to rebel. I liked much better the idea that some people would be more receptive to Borg control than others. I wish the Queen's soliloquy on how being with the Borg was "fun" would have been expanded.The Queen's harsh containment tactics of the virus are an interesting, if seemingly foolish, demonstration. Why not just use loyal Borg on the ships to kill each silent Borg? I didn't like how personally she seemed to be taking things.T

Kevin: I always thought the one story that could have been an interesting wrinkle is the crew encountering people who want to be assimilated. That would more directly put the Federation's commitment to individual liberty at odds with not allowing people to aid a mortal enemy. I think particularly in the hands of Susannah Thompson (or Krige for that matter) there is a seductive sales pitch for the Borg. It's just left undercooked, and the result, as I said in part one, is the transition of the Borg and the Borg Queen from impossibly alien and terrifying to a fairly run of the mill villain with fairly run of the mill motivations.


Matthew: Jeri Ryan was typically Jeri Ryan, which is to say she imbued her character with an inner life that I wanted to know more about. Her interactions with Mark Deakins' Axum showed real chemistry. I believed him as someone who was balancing his own desires against a larger goal.

Kevin: Axum had a kind of very 90s romantic drama energy which I didn't dislike. I think he and Ryan did their best with the material but were a little hamstrung by having all of the groundwork of their relationship done off screen. They were an item because the script said so, not because the episode showed it to me.

Matthew: I will never get tired of watching Susannah Thompson say and do things on television. Even when I was wondering about the Queen's motivations and why she was talking out loud to herself, Thompson still sold the heck out of her lines.

Kevin: Yeah. All of my critiques of the writing aside, I can't deny she sold it, and she did a good job holding her own against Kate Mulgrew in their scenes. I think if they wanted to stick with sexy-Maleficient vibes, they should have really dug in and used that to explain how the Borg came into being or how they might occasionally get volunteers.

Production Values

Matthew: I am most definitely not a fan of the strobe lights and holofoil in the Borg cube "central plexus." The CGI effect that apparently represents connected Borg was cool though. Speaking of the Borg, the Borg costume getup was... not very flattering on Janeway. The Unimatrix Zero soundstage sets are boring. There's no two ways about it. There were some awkward digital mattes but behind poorly lit actors, too. But its destruction looked pretty good. 

Kevin: I chalk a lot of this up to that weird 90s middle ground of partial CGI, where it was neither fully practical or digital, and the result is pretty soupy. We may be able to tag First Contact with the Borg Queen and the slightly more zombie-ish drones, but the fog and strobe lights is all Voyager. I miss the kind of austere tech of the TNG cube.


Matthew: All told this was pretty mediocre. But I can't stay mad at this episode. It's fine. Things happen for 45 minutes to people I like. It's not super satisfying and it doesn't live in my mind after it's done. I give it a half-hearted 3.

Kevin: I've spent a lot of time knocking it, but I can't disagree with the three. It had a certain energy it maintained throughout even if not much of it stands up to any real scrutiny. My half hearted three combines to make a (quarter-hearted?) 6.

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