Starring: Jamahl Epsicokhan (critic-turned-pitcher; narrator), Wade Steinberg (best buddy; travel manager), Joe Menosky (pitch inviter; co-executive producer), Ashley Miller (objective pitch adviser), Mike O'Halloran (tour guide), Bryan Fuller (pitchee; executive story editor), Tim Lynch (retired critic), Ted Liu (final test-pitch victim), Brannon Braga (incidental meeting guy; executive producer)
By Jamahl Epsicokhan
April 26, 2000
Voyager Pitch: "Human Option"
Story by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Pitched to Bryan Fuller on 3/10/2000
Note: The actual pitch was in verbal format and did NOT follow this basic outline word-for-word.
Away mission. An accident zaps Seven with some sort of powerful electromagnetic shock. She's rushed into emergency surgery and nearly dies. She wakes up in sickbay where Doc tells her that 75 percent of her Borg nanoprobes have been eradicated. Her human immune system reasserts itself and attacks the nanoprobes like a cancer. This gives Seven a sense of extreme illness and discomfort.
With her human systems overpowering her Borg systems, she can't regenerate. The alcove doesn't do anything for her. She must SLEEP, which she finds strange and chaotic. Symptoms are severe: headaches, insomnia, nausea, oversleeping, nightmares, falling asleep while on duty, physical weakness. Seven does NOT like functioning like this. Doc tells her the symptoms will subside as her body destroys the rest of her nanoprobes. This will cause her remaining Borg systems to "die" and her human physiological systems to reassert themselves. Physiologically, she will become almost completely human. The Borg in her will be gone.
Seven is reluctant. She fears becoming human. She feels more vulnerable already. Janeway convinces her that she has a huge opportunity here, to take another step toward regaining her humanity. But Seven is in too much pain to think in those terms. She lashes out, she screams, she cries. It's unbearable. Doc gives her a treatment that relieves the symptoms. Seven feels better, and begins considering the possibilities of sleeping rather than regenerating. There's something about it that's appealing. Perhaps being human wouldn't be so bad. She finds that activities like eating are more fulfilling now. Things look to be improving.
Then Seven has an especially bad attack of painful side effects. Doc didn't predict them, and Seven is wondering what else he didn't predict. She decides the disorder isn't worth it. She wants her nanoprobe production restarted. Doc tells her it's a risky, complicated procedure that really isn't necessary. Janeway urges Seven not to do it, and then ORDERS Doc not to perform the surgery, saying the risks are too high.
Seven is angry. Doc is on the fence. Seven, still in much pain, wears down Doc until he agrees to disobey Janeway and perform the surgery.
Meanwhile, Tuvok comes to Janeway and asks her: "Do you remember a person named Tuvix?" Janeway is caught off-guard. Tuvok explains that Janeway made a decision in that situation, and it wasn't necessarily hers to make. This gives Janeway a dilemma: Is she really looking out for Seven's best interests, or is she simply enforcing her own idea of humanity upon her? Is it really Janeway's choice to make? Janeway decides to let Seven have the surgery if she so wishes. By then, however, Doc has already performed the surgery. Seven's partial Borgness is returning, restoring her to her pre-accident self. Janeway isn't happy with Doc for going against her orders, but she understands. Janeway and Seven both come to realize that being partially Borg is part of who Seven is as a person. Humanity and individuality don't necessarily go hand-in-hand. Being part Borg is what makes Seven unique.
Bryan's comments: As I got about a quarter of the way into this pitch, Bryan stopped me and said that just this week they broke a story for season seven where Seven's inner technology fails and a choice has to be made. In this version, one of the Borg children offers to donate a piece of technology to save Seven. The problem is that the donor will die if she gives up the implant to save Seven. After Bryan's warning, I continued with my pitch just to give an idea to him where I was headed. Ultimately, he said the stories were too similar — but at least I was in the game creatively.
My thoughts: This was my favorite of the stories I pitched. I envisioned it as a meaty character analysis where the teleplay would've been filled with compelling dialog about self-identity. I originally wanted to make Seven's conflict internal, where making the choice was going to be the toughest choice she'd ever made, but Voyager seems more set on external conflicts, and conveying internal conflict would've been hard for a pitch. Consequently, I reworked it into a premise of Janeway and Seven coming into a disagreement. What I thought was a weakness was the fact that we've been there and done that with the whole Janeway/Seven head-butting. I guess I'll never know if this would've been a sale if something so similar hadn't already been pitched. So it goes. (Footnote: I came up with this story before "Collective" introduced the Borg children; who knows what direction it might've gone had I known about the Borg kids before I committed to this pitch as is.)
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