Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Review: Voyager 4.1: Scorpion, Part II

Jeri Ryan finally appears as Seven of Nine
Star Trek Voyager - Season Four, Episode One - Scorpion, Part II
Written between 26/1/16.

The first half of Scorpion was designed as an apology to the fans, giving them a proper Borg episode after the incredible misfire that was Unity. Like Scorpion's spiritual predecessor The Best of Both Worlds over on TNG, the two halves of this story were written months apart, with the second half being adjusted to meet with fan reactions to the first. The main changes became very obvious - the arrival of Seven of Nine as a way to bring in a horny-teenage-boy demographic and shake up the cast, and the decision that instead of finally killing off Garratt Wang's Harry Kim for good, they would ask Kes actress Jennifer Lien to leave the series. Scorpion, Part II ended up being the episode which saved Voyager from complete and total ratings mediocrity, and ensured that it would reach seven seasons.
       The truce continues and Janeway and Tuvok begin working on the weapon with the Borg which will help them to destroy Species 8472. The Borg want to partially assimilate them to enhance communication, but Janeway makes a different bargain - choose one Borg to represent them, or the deal if off. Said Borg chosen is the intimidating Seven of Nine, a human girl assimilated by the collective when she was a small child and has spent the past 18 years as a drone. Eventually the Borg Cube that they are all stationed on is forced to destroy itself to stop a Bioship from attacking Voyager, and so Janeway, Tuvok and the Borg take a ride on Voyager, with the Borg assimilating one of the Cargo bays as part of their "truce". Seven of Nine eventually hijacks the ship and takes it into Species 8472's home dimension, Fluidic Space, revealing that the entire war was due to a Borg invasion of their space in an attempt to assimilate Species 8472 for their genetic diversity. The weapon is deployed and upon the Borg's betrayal most of them are blown out of an airlock - except Seven, who they manage to separate from the Collective by force.
       This episode didn't carry as much of the tension of its first half, although it did rather admirably carry on the themes between Janeway and Chakotay, this time focussing a lot more on Chakotay as he is forced to take command in Janeway's incapacity and the rift it creates between them. I loved the animosity that very quickly developed between Chakotay and Seven, with Seven standing in for what Chakotay considers to be Janeway's worst decision, and the bitterness he has over the fact that he feels obligated to continue following her (slightly crackers) plan until the last possible moment. The scene near the end where Janeway recovers and confronts him over his disloyalty was an incredibly strong moment for Voyager the show in general, finally managing to portray with high drama the conflict between Federation and Maquis philosophy, the problems this causes between two people clearly with love and affection for each other, and the way that each must compromise their values in order to keep things running. It's a dynamic that would make Deep Space Nine proud.
Harry Kim... lives? What the hell?
     Elsewhere, a lot of the character work was also shifted over to Kes and Seven of Nine, with the latter sitting as a big obvious neon sign saying "LOOK THIS CHARACTER IS IMPORTANT." (Well, that and the fact that Jeri Ryan's name had replaced Kes' in the opening sequence.) Seven immediately gives a good impression, with Jeri Ryan managing to admirably catch the spirit of the Borg with a commanding screen presence which makes you want to learn about her story and her character. It was this presence which would make Season Four (and arguably the rest of the show) work so well. I've not done gushing about Seven of Nine, not by a long shot. On the other hand there was Kes, with her magical abilities both serving as some slight character development for her an as the episode's main form of exposition about Species 8472 and their impending threat.
     Part of me knows that this episode isn't as classically "good" as it's first half - there's a lot more focus on action rather than the well-developed character drama, the plot sort of just floats around, and Harry Kim lives. But the arrival of Seven of Nine and the immediate shake-up it has on the cast of characters is incredibly interesting to me, and it puts this episode onto the map of the series as a whole.

Thanks

NEXT WEEK: We carry on the story of Seven of Nine and say a sad farewell to Kes in The Gift.

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