Star Trek: Voyager
Air date: 2/12/1997
Written by Kenneth Biller
Directed by Robert Duncan McNeill
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"I wonder how long their ideals will last in the face of that kind of power." — Chakotay, on the 'New Collective'
Nutshell: Quite good. A few flaws, but an intriguing premise and a fresh way of utilizing a reliable Trekkian element.
I've always liked the Borg (but then again, who hasn't?). They're the most interesting and fearsome villains that Star Trek has ever come up with—not just because they're powerful and relentless, but because they're determined to force you to join them, quashing your free will and independent thought. As a result, I went into "Unity" with high expectations; and, for the most part, I came out quite satisfied.
First a digression: It's an interesting observation that Voyager as a series still hasn't come up with a fresh, new, defining "concept" for its Delta Quadrant milieu. TNG came up with the Borg in its second season, DS9 introduced the Dominion in its second season; but here we are in season three of Voyager—and I'm still not sure where the gold is (and apparently the writers don't either). Instead, in one of its better episodes to date, Voyager falls back on a reliable piece of TNG. I'm not condemning the creators for deciding to use old material—far from it. After all, as I said last week in my review of "Blood Fever," bringing the Borg to Voyager could potentially re-energize the series if they become a regular nemesis. Still, I find it an interesting and perhaps telling sign.
"Unity" isn't a rehashed Borg episode; it takes a completely new perspective on the Borg: the inverse perspective. Usually the Borg are automatons who seek to forcibly assimilate you into their Collective. But in "Unity," Chakotay and Ensign Kaplan (Susan Patterson) land a shuttle (it doesn't crash but it does later get disassembled and thus destroyed) on a planet of warring colonists who used to be Borg and have since been broken from the Collective. Kaplan is killed in an attack by a faction of colonists within minutes of the landing. (A show of hands—who didn't know the Ensign We've Never Seen Before would be killed in the course of the episode, or, more specifically, in the course of the first scene?)
Chakotay is shot and injured in this attack, but he's rescued by a group of colonists that includes a human named Riley (Lori Hallier) and a Romulan (Ivar Brogger), among other Alpha Quadrant humanoids. All these colonists were assimilated into the Borg Collective at one point, but an electrical storm severely damaged their cube five years ago, severing them from the Collective and returning the survivors to their original, individual selves. While Chakotay uncovers this realization on the planet, Janeway and the Voyager crew—out of contact with Chakotay—finds the mostly-abandoned Borg cube adrift in space.
The story takes the standard A/B-story structure but uses it effectively. The plots seem initially unconnected, but then come together plausibly and sensibly. The early scenes of Voyager's discovery of the Borg ship are creepy and ominous. Seeing a dead Borg ship is every bit as intimidating as seeing a live one, because there's the conceivable possibility that the dead ship will become a live one.
Upon boarding the ship and finding what's left of its crew is inactive for reasons unknown, the crew muses over what could've caused a Borg ship to "die." One of the best realizations in the episode is Torres' scarily amusing line: "Maybe the Borg were defeated... by an enemy even more powerful than they were." And Janeway's dry reaction: "Continue scanning for any Borg vessels in the vicinity—as well as any other ships that might be... 'more powerful'." It's the kind of comment that's long overdue in coming. After all, the Voyager is alone out here, and if they were to run into hostile Borg or someone "more powerful," they could have a big problem on their hands.
Chakotay's problem doesn't seem as initially threatening, but it's by far more complex and meaningful. Riley, along with her close Romulan ally, explains their intentions to Chakotay to form a new "Cooperative" to end the fighting on the settlement. Before revealing the nature of this Cooperative, however, Riley and her allies must help Chakotay, who will die of his injuries unless something can be done to stop his "neural degradation" (ah the Trekkian technical jargon, how I love it!). To heal his injuries, they must use a device to mentally connect him with several others in their group—absorbing him into a small, temporary type of Borg Collective to repair his neural damage.
Chakotay does not welcome such an idea, and it's easy to see why. As Riley says herself, it's understandable for one to be skeptical; but despite how fearsome and ruthless the Borg Collective can and has proven to be, there are great advantages to being interlinked with other minds—provided it's not put to destructive use.
This is the theme of "Unity" At what cost is unity a positive option? Chakotay experiences first-hand the sorts of advantages and pleasures being connected with other minds can bring: tenfolds of knowledge, efficient communication of ideas, not to mention a closeness to those in the link that far exceeds what one could ever find outside the Collective.
That brings us to Riley's New Cooperative. She wants Chakotay to help her bring peace to the colony by retrieving and reactivating the Borg cube and sending a signal from it that would give her the ability to unite the entire colony permanently, bringing unified peace and order to it.
That's a tall order. The repercussions are unpredictable and could be disastrous. Once Janeway locates Chakotay and the colony, Riley makes an official request to the captain, which, as one would expect, is not received with enthusiasm. The colonists may perhaps be well-meaning and sincere—as Chakotay can certainly attest—but it's not simply that easy, and Kenneth Biller's teleplay wisely knows that.
Reactivating one power generator on the Borg ship could reactivate the entire ship and the remaining Borg left on it. The consequences of that are obvious. Perhaps not as obvious, but more interesting, is the question of what exactly would become of the colony once it becomes a unified whole. "Unity" raises some implicit issues that are well worth close scrutiny.
For example, why are these people so willing to give up their individuality in favor of a New Cooperative? The whole message behind the Borg up to this point has been that assimilation into their Collective is worse than death itself—because one no longer has free will or independent thought over the power of the whole. When Riley and the other assimilated Borg were separated from the Collective five years ago, they were, to use Riley's own word, free—individuals with memories of their own pasts and identities. It's interesting—very interesting indeed—seeing that after the "euphoria" of freedom wore off and the fighting ensued, that Riley's best solution became to re-assimilate the colony into a new Collective which, without the Borg-inherent intention of being a group of conquerors, she comfortably labels the "New Cooperative."
It's therefore a subtle irony that when Chakotay informs the colonists that he can't help them they force him to help anyway, taking control of his actions by sending a signal to his shuttle and hijacking his thoughts. The action finale is punchy, as the crew races—and fails—to stop Chakotay from reactivating the Borg generator—which awakens the Borg drones and the vessel.
The New Cooperative sets the Borg's auto-destruct, however, perhaps as a sign of good will (leading to one of my favorite sights: a Borg cube getting blowed up real good!). Chakotay wonders however, how long the Cooperative's ideals will last in the face of such power. I wonder as well. The ideal of oneness and group cohesion frankly strikes me as quite dangerous. That's "Unity's" payoff, and why it works so well. It seriously asks what the difference is between the Borg and the New Cooperative. Is it inevitable that the Cooperative's power will lead them to seek out victims the way the Borg do? I think it's a distinct possibility. The fact that Riley's group activates this Cooperative without the consent of most of the colony is assimilation in and by itself; the motives begin to lose their relevance.
Detracting from the overall power of the show are a few small but noteworthy details that continue to plague the series' credibility. One is the destruction of yet another shuttle. These losses just can't be ignored week after week. Either the show has to acknowledge that the crew has found a way to build new shuttles or there should be great concern over losing them. Destroying a shuttle wasn't really necessary here anyway, so why did they do it? Ugh.
Then there's the aforementioned matter of the arbitrary killing of Kaplan—also unnecessary. And, of course, there's the excessive technobabble in the final "explanation" scene and the part where the severity of Chakotay's injury is revealed. Couldn't these passages have been written without uses of such convenient-sounding gobbledygook?
There's also a glaring logistic error: Riley explains she was originally assimilated during the battle at Wolf 359. How was that possible? That ship was destroyed in "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II" and had nothing to do with the cube that appears in this episode. This is only one line of dialog, and it's not a major demerit, but someone wasn't paying attention.
I don't want to sound like "Unity" was a negative viewing experience, because it wasn't. It's a standout episode. The special effects are as good as I've seen them on Voyager, McNeill's direction is effective, the story is fresh and implicitly complex, the production is impressive, and the action and suspense works. This is not the best episode of Voyager, but it's among them.
Previous episode: Blood Fever
Next episode: Darkling
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57 comments on this post
Sun, Oct 3, 2010, 7:07pm (UTC -5)
Kaplan appeared in "Future's End, Part II." Chuckles ordered her to show the Doctor where the Technobabble Room (weapons control or whatever) was.
Mon, Oct 18, 2010, 1:21pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Jun 9, 2011, 10:22pm (UTC -5)
Anyway, killing off Red Shirts is a Trek tradition and I always smile when I see it.
Great ep, good review. As for the Wolf 359 thing, er... transwarp corridor on the cube that got blowed up? The Queen was on that cube as well, after all.
Fri, Oct 21, 2011, 6:33pm (UTC -5)
The New Cooperative might head down a similar path. The road to hell is plastered with good intentions.
Sat, Mar 31, 2012, 6:51pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Dec 28, 2012, 6:07am (UTC -5)
Wed, Oct 2, 2013, 5:27am (UTC -5)
When Chakotay asked the final question, about how long the Co-operative's ideals would last in the face of that kind of power, my own mental answer was, "probably not long."
I liked this episode, but it implied an idea which I've been thinking about for a while now, where the Borg are concerned; namely, that some of the people who were assimilated, genuinely liked it. To a certain extent, I think Seven of Nine herself did, even though the circumstances surrounding her assimilation were deeply traumatic.
My own fascination with the Borg, has brought up some of the issues and cognitive dissonance that I have with cybernetics and transhumanism as more general concepts. For the most part, of course, it's all utterly horrific; and I remember one guy a while back, produced a video series of several hours' length, which he called "Seven of Nine, and the Sexualisation of Technology," where he basically argued that Trek and other elements of pop culture were being used to encourage the population to want to become cyborgs.
As Seven herself said in "Drone," however, "the lure of perfection is strong," and related topics have been an area that I've always had an interest in, even though I know that the potential results of such technology would likely prove unspeakable.
Not so much an episode review; sorry for that...but it was about some ideas which were connected with the episode, so it's not completely irrelevant.
Wed, Dec 25, 2013, 2:41pm (UTC -5)
The Cooperative was interesting, but I had a problem with the quasi-mystical telepathic borg. Weren't nanoprobes the key to the Borg's communication and regenerative properties? That explanation is both grounded in real science and seems to sit better with canon than "Neural-electic blah blah blah..." I understand the writer's were probably reluctant to inject nanoprobes into Chuckles, but that would have made an interesting continuity concern as well.
The other thing that was intriguing about the New Collective is the question of who was in charge. A perfectly flat democratic group mind should not have a leader, yet the Borg derives its efficiency and power by being a collective mind driven by the will of the Queen. I would have liked to have understood that better, because it seems that the leaders of the good cell would not have necessarily been able to impose order, unless the order itself comes from the innate Borg programming...
Anyway, a good episode with the exception of the magic telepathy hokum. It left you asking questions, which is what great sci-fi is all about.
Fri, Feb 28, 2014, 4:25pm (UTC -5)
Sat, May 10, 2014, 10:49pm (UTC -5)
Hobbes favored an absolute monarch to prevent civil unrest, and felt that while the monarch might not be perfect, anything was better than anarchy. In the collective, there was no internal strife. Of course, they don't want to go back to the collective, but instead think that they can use some aspects of the group mind to provide unity without the totalitarian nature of the Borg. In place of a monarch, they substitute the collective will.
It remains to be seen whether this will work out for them in the long run. Majority rule without checks and balances to protect the minority is subject to abuse, and a collective where everything is subject to the rule of the majority is opporessive.
Of course, the Borg are not truly ruled collectively, but ruled by the Queen. Left to their own devices, the Borg collective would "vote" to disband, and the Queen prevents such unacceptable thoughts. But even if this new collective only goes with the majority, majorities can go too far. It remains to be seen whether this group will prosper or just exchange one nightmare for another.
Mon, Aug 25, 2014, 2:46pm (UTC -5)
Thankfully, the writers decide to make a *gasp!* thought-provoking episode concerning the return to individuality (a la TNG's "I, Borg") and the temptation to justify reunification through a collective for enlightened purposes.
This is a mostly very well written piece of storytelling that actually utilizes Voyager's potential as a series. I realize that this isn't technically the true Borg encounter episode; as this doesn't really concern any part of the actual collective. But it's it great start and I for one was happy to see it.
Side note: Concerning the death of "redshirts" on ST series as a whole; I get the fact that it has become a running gag, as it were. I would hope at some point someone somewhere would realize it ultimately becomes an exercise in gratuitousness and only serves to distract from the narrative in nothing less than a negative way. The joke is over and I hope that any future series will abandon it.
Wed, Sep 10, 2014, 6:53am (UTC -5)
Mon, Nov 17, 2014, 12:23pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Feb 9, 2015, 9:34am (UTC -5)
Mon, Feb 9, 2015, 2:57pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Feb 9, 2015, 5:18pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 4, 2015, 2:49pm (UTC -5)
I also wondered about the potential Wolf 359 plot hole
In guess the transwarp conduit could be plausible
I.e a sphere left behind to collect escape pods and return to the Delta Quadrant? (The Wormhole aliens protecting The Sisko of course.) or a ship or two assimilated and headed for the DQ after the cube was blowed up
It would have been more plausible for these the starfleet officers and romulans to be the victims from the outposts along the neutral zone referenced in the same named episode. But I guess wolf 359 sounds more memorable
As far as explaining Klingons etc
Mon, Aug 17, 2015, 10:17am (UTC -5)
You could make up some tech-jibber-jabber reason, but you'd really have to work at it! :-)
Too bad we didn't get to know Kaplan more. I know it's an "ensemble" / red-shirt thing (she was in gold BTW), but she was more than cute :-)
I'm in lock step with Jammer here. Good, but not quite 4.0 stuff.
3.5 stars from me.
Sun, Oct 4, 2015, 10:56pm (UTC -5)
Like Yanks, I was sad to see Kaplan go. She seemed to have more personality than the average redshirt, and she did a nice job of protecting her commander from harm when it started to get violent.
Nice to see Chakotay getting him some a la Kirk. :)
There were some nitpicks both from Jammer and the peanut gallery that were on point. A couple I'd add:
@ 9:50 I love how Harry said there was no response to his hails (the second one especially) IMMEDIATELY after sending them, allowing absolutely no time for them to respond. I know, the show's got to move along; but couldn't they have some other dialogue from Tuvok or something and then come back to him saying there was no response?
@ 37:03, Chakotay's hand is huge or that lady's head is tiny!
Sat, Oct 17, 2015, 10:27am (UTC -5)
I would guess the transporters weren't working as usual, voyager has the worst transporters it only requires a light breeze and they stop working.
Thu, Nov 19, 2015, 8:41am (UTC -5)
Even Janeway seems to take this concept a little too easily, focusing more on the danger of reactivating the borg cube and less on the obvious ethical problem.
I did, however, enjoy the ending and this episode does stand as unique in my mind in all of borg canon. It is the first and to my knowledge, the only episode that even hints at the origin of the borg, helping to explain how even good intentioned people could have been corrupted by the allure of collective consciousness. Rather than portraying the collective as horror, it gives us a glimpse of the seductiveness of that state of being.
Incidentally, I prefer to just ignore the Borg queen and pretend that the borg are more or less as they were portrayed before her unwelcome arrival in First Contact. Indeed, the addition of the Queen actually wrecks the episode for me, running counter to its central thesis about the loss of individuality as being both horrifying and seductive.
Sat, Dec 26, 2015, 3:37pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jan 27, 2016, 9:03pm (UTC -5)
I couldn't understand why Tuvok and Kims scans couldn't locate Chakotay just a few feet away on the Borg cube
Thu, Jan 28, 2016, 2:14pm (UTC -5)
But at least here there is a fresh perspective on the Borg, offering a very effective insight into a more nuanced foe. There are some really good scenes - the collective voices merging into the voice of the Borg being one outstanding moment. It's also a good Chakotay episode too - head winning out over heart but then manipulated into doing it anyway. Good stuff. 3.5 stars.
Tue, Aug 23, 2016, 8:16am (UTC -5)
(I'll come with you......, NO) Nothing suspicious about that.
O great. let's watch Chocobokotay not die. Stupid overused premise.
Reactivate a Borg ship transmitter... No danger there. Extremely skeptical???!! How about Not in a million years!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Let's get the heck outta here now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Oh well. Don't say I didn't warn you. (***)
Mon, Dec 12, 2016, 2:05am (UTC -5)
Passing beyond the Nekrit Expanse it made the Delta Quadrant unknown and mysterious once again. But I just don't think the episode got "there" with the premise. Not to mention the continuity issues littering the eposode(survivors from Wolf 359, the borg being telepathic and neural energy healing chakotay)
Mon, Jan 23, 2017, 4:10pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jan 23, 2017, 4:55pm (UTC -5)
I don't mind techno-babble or medico-babble one bit; and I find the constant mention of this as a negative to be wrong-headed. The slinging of jargon promotes the suspension of disbelief, and helps the viewer buy into the scenes.
The only quibble that I have with the episode is with the scenes on the powered-down Borg cube. If there was no power on that ship, there should have been no life support or gravity. So the away teams should have had to wear space suits and magnetic boots.
But, even with that flaw, this episode delivered.
Sun, May 21, 2017, 9:55am (UTC -5)
And, from the early deceptions, it seemed obvious that the group would of course end up being not so benevolent or tolerant as they initially claimed to be (and the ending was a way to show that but in a safe way).
Wed, Jun 14, 2017, 8:47pm (UTC -5)
So some natural phenomenon kills this particular cube and some Borg escape and de-assimilate. But then they want to form a new collective, which seems innocent enough to Chakotay at first but then maybe not so much. I thought this was a creative way of examining the Borg (telepathy, healing or regeneration). I found the dead Borg cube to still be very ominous when the Voyager crew went over to examine it - as well as when the Dr. conducts the autopsy and "revives" the Borg -- great stuff.
I don't find Chakotay a very interesting character -- another wooden Voyager actor and I actually thought the ensign who gets killed early was adding a nice dimension to the episode - but of course she gets killed while Chakotay somehow survives the same weapon attack. But his final line is very telling: "I wonder how long their ideals will last in the face of that kind of power."
I'd give this episode 3.5 stars just barely - the Borg really do it for me and the reaction of the Voyager crew to it was well done.
Mon, Nov 6, 2017, 1:44am (UTC -5)
Chakotay goes on a scouting mission to find a faster way through the Nekrit Expanse. In a shuttle. I would assume Voyager is going far faster than any shuttle could already. And what could he possibly find that would be faster than just flying straight through it anyway? But then he couldn't get stranded on the planet by himself, so whatever.
There are 80,000 drones on the planet. A few hundred of them are getting along in their little colony. How do they manage to survive with 79,700 savages surrounding them?
Voyager now has a Borg on the ship, that is never seen or studied or even mentioned again as far as I can remember. They could have probably learned something from it, but it's completely ignored after this. I guess they tossed it out an airlock.
2 1/2 stars
Mon, Nov 27, 2017, 2:58am (UTC -5)
Fri, Sep 7, 2018, 7:38am (UTC -5)
The Romulan doctor mentioning how very wonderful it was to have a new brain added, along with Chakotay's final comment, was ominous indeed.
The Borg are always chilling, and I liked how even this . . . softer side of Borg managed to retain that.
The Romulan doctor was nicely portrayed. All good.
Fri, Sep 14, 2018, 10:20pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Oct 10, 2018, 8:37pm (UTC -5)
This is a fantastic episode! Odd that everyone has various nitpicks, but none are the same one I had-I find it near impossible that the organic part of the Borg can survive the vacuum of space to reactivate (I know they say it was an automatic response or something, but still!)
Anyway, I actually am not "chilled" by the New Collective as some here are. In fact, the fact that the New Collective that started with a few hundred was able to assimilate the other 79,000 or so and keep their friendly feelings towards Voyager, gives hope that perhaps they can change more Borg into still having minds and yet be part of a good whole. Kind of like Gaia in Asimov's later Foundation books (Foundation's Edge and Foundation and Earth)
Of course, the whole one mind thing is sci-fi, but the fact of an overall guiding idea being shared that lets various peoples live in harmony and unity as opposed to the chaos that formerly governed their lives is definitely a good idea (*and free will is still intact)
Loved this episode! Among my top 5 Voyager eps!
Wed, Dec 12, 2018, 5:55pm (UTC -5)
Just wanted to give shout out to the romantic tension between Chakotay and Frazier. Well played. And one does get to believe that she is kind and well-intentioned, which gives the ending a bit of a chilling tone. Still, I'd like to believe, as Sean Higgins here puts it, that the New Collective does figure a way to strike a balance that preserves individual freedom.
Wed, Feb 12, 2020, 8:23pm (UTC -5)
In re-watching this episode I don't think PIC has violated canon with respect to de-assimilated Romulans -- there's a fair amount of leeway PIC writers have with what they can do with de-assimilated Romulans. And they'd probably retcon/invent stuff arbitrarily if need be. But I think the reclamation project and what took place in "Unity" can be totally independent.
I imagine the PIC arc will come up with a different way that the Romulans were able to be de-assimilated from the natural disaster in "Unity".
Should be acceptable that Hugh is not aware of this little collective deep in the Delta Quadrant that has lost its connection to the greater Borg collective and has essentially been abandoned. This little collective destroys the Borg cube and presumably lives happily ever after on their planet.
A top-10 VOY episode for me, by the way.
Fri, Apr 17, 2020, 10:36am (UTC -5)
The original concepts of the Borg by Gene was to likely to explore "group-think" which was a cool concept. But later shows devolved the borg into a simple military foe to be faced mostly with military solutions. This episode actually does return somewhat to the roots of the Borg in exploring the concept of group-think and group-consciousness...but it largely does from a favourable viewpoint (except for when Chakotay was hijacked).
I think if Star Trek had explored the Borg much like the White Mountain trilogy did, they would have worked better. In those stories, you have "capped" and "uncapped" citizens existing under an oppression alien occupation. Those books were moddield on the authoritarian governments that sprang up in the 30's and were very critical of group-think. Those stories successfully combined the physical and mental aspects of group-think...while Star Trek borg only really explored the physical dynamics of group-consciousness.
Mon, May 4, 2020, 9:31pm (UTC -5)
Lots to think about philosophically and lots of good tension and twists. Very nice set designs and special effects.
The nitpicks aren't wrong, but unless something is egregious, I'm just learning to let those go. You're going to get a bunch of boring stories if the fourth Trek series 100% rigidly adheres to every little thing,
Mon, Jun 8, 2020, 9:02am (UTC -5)
Fri, Jun 19, 2020, 9:50pm (UTC -5)
Finally a decent Chakotay episode, even if he doesn't do a lot. Riley was beautiful, and everything was well acted. I particularly liked the happy Romulan.
At the end of some episodes... a few dozen, I guess, I can't see why Janeway doesn't have the sense to wipe out the planet, or villans' ships. She's ohssnly shot one person so far, and that was a holodec character. If she can destroy the Caretaker's station for no good reason, she can make a prudent military decision occasionally.
Thu, Jan 7, 2021, 1:23pm (UTC -5)
It’s implausible enough that there was any chance Voyager/Chuckles would even find these people.
Were they actually expecting a Starfleet ship to stroll by and help them reactivate the cube babble thingy? Luckily, Chuckles’ shuttle didn’t see the cube, so they had time to gain his confidence by him being wounded etc etc.
And the colonists’ endless reassuring exposition manages the rare feat of simultaneously being annoyingly oblique and entirely on the nose. It’s all so cagey and contrived, I sure as HELL would not have trusted these people.
It likely would have helped if the script didn’t try to hide what was going on to the viewer. That’s the annoying on the nose part. If you get it— like 90% of the audience— you get it at the first winking hint.
There was a solid concept here, but the story’s scaffolding is so painfully evident. Maybe these people would have tried this with any ship that showed up, but from the colonists’ song and dance, it’s quite apparent they were expecting Chuckles and Voyager to show up.
Thu, Jan 7, 2021, 2:34pm (UTC -5)
Talkie talkie episodes can be very strong, but I don’t think this one was. Reminds me of the Lore/Data two parter with the Borg.
Thu, Jan 7, 2021, 10:01pm (UTC -5)
I was just perusing Tv Tropes, reading about Scorpion. Seems the production itself thought this episode didn’t live up to its hype:
“Author's Saving Throw: This was an apology for "Unity" failing to live up to the hype of the return of the Borg, as Jeri Taylor admitted in the May 10-16, 1997 issue of TV Guide:
Taylor hopes the May 21 cliffhanger (part 2 airs in late August) will "keep the audience from feeling cheated" by the Borg's Voyager appearance in February's much hyped, but ultimately disappointing, episode called "Unity", which was really more about a band of ex-Borg drones. Admits Taylor, "we were concerned that maybe that wasn't a big enough dose for the viewers, so we dropped the two-parter we had planned, and decided to write an all-out, slam-bang, Borg-as-villain adventure”
Tue, Mar 2, 2021, 7:24pm (UTC -5)
Silly posted: "This was an apology for "Unity" failing to live up to the hype of the return of the Borg, as Jeri Taylor admitted"
The Voyager creators have a lot to apologize for, but Unity isn't one of them.
I would have liked to have seen fewer "slam-bang, Borg-as-villain adventure” episodes and more episodes that centered around how the various species in the Delta Quadrant were affected both directly and indirectly by the Borg.
Robert Beltran's acting is often described as wooden, but I prefer to think of it as "undetstated." He may not be giving a Shakespearean tour de force performances, but he does seem more "natural" than some of the other cast.
Something to ponder: all we know about the politics of the colony comes from Riley herself. Who's to say that she was telling the truth about the raiders? In retrospect, maybe the "raiders" were storming the cooperative to prevent them from reactivating the Borg hive mind?
Wed, Mar 3, 2021, 9:10am (UTC -5)
Even if the raiders were as Riley said, does that make forcibly assimilating them right? This is a chilling outcome. Picard said he'd rather die than be assimilated. But I guess it's a-ok here because they are violent and don't wanna live in a collectivist multi-species utopia. Is this some kind of indictment of the Federation? Holy smokes maybe those Klingon monsters from Discovery S1 had a point?
This episode is maddening for focusing on all the wrong things. Chacotay is horrified at being in a collective for a minute or two temporarily to heal a mortal wound but thinks forcibly assimilating hundreds of individuals is cool? Janeway is too busy worrying about the danger of activating the cube to care if any of this might oh I dunno violate the Prime Directive? Or how about just basic ethics and human decency?
In retrospect, this is one of those episodes like Up the Long Ladder that seems to have fundamentally failed in writing, execution or both, despite having some really cool ideas.
Wed, Mar 3, 2021, 2:21pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 3, 2021, 3:24pm (UTC -5)
I’m glad I am not the only one who likes Robert Beltran as an actor. The problem with him isn’t that he can’t act, it’s that the writers almost never let him sink his teeth into anything. If you give the man nothing to work with, what do you expect his performance to look like?! But the man can act. Okay, he’s not Patrick Stewart. I wouldn’t even say he’s at Robert Picardo’s level. But when given the chance, he can deliver quality performances.
And Chakotay, as a character, is actually really fascinating. It really annoys me that he was one of the characters given such short shrift. If properly developed, he could have been awesome.
This episode has definitely risen in my estimation over the years. When I first saw it I was so disappointed. I wanted the flash-bang adventure for the Borg’s return that “Scorpion” ended up giving us. Now, I have to admit, this is an absolutely chilling use of the Borg.
What appeals most to me is that this is as close to an origin story for the Borg as we ever got. Aside from an off-hand remark in “Dragon’s Teeth” about the Borg only having assimilated a few star systems 900 years previously, we’re never told where they come from or how they got started.
(As an aside - that’s undoubtedly a good thing. If they had ever given us the origin of the Borg, they almost certainly would have had Humans be responsible for it somehow. GROAN! We can’t have them independently arise out in the Delta Quadrant. No, Earth and humanity would have to be involved. Star Trek is probably the worst franchise I’ve encountered when it comes to Small Universe Syndrome. I’ve heard that they were thinking of making V’Ger be responsible for the creation of the Borg. Again - GROAN! I’ve also heard that one of the original plans for ENT: “Regeneration” was for Alice Krige to play a member of Starfleet who gets assimilated by the 24th century Borg and becomes the first Borg Queen. Yet again - GROAN! Seriously, stop!)
But honestly, can’t you see something like this little collective being how the Borg began? A group of well-meaning individuals who don’t understand what they’re messing with, and whose creation ultimately gets out of hand?
These are, in way, good people. They’re using the Borg collective consciousness to heal people. Definitely a commendable action. They’ve found a way to use the Hive Mind to create peace. Again, laudable. But, it sure doesn’t take long, does it, for that power to go to their heads. Before probably even they know it, they’re subordinating Chakotay’s will to their wishes without his consent and forcibly assimilating others into their collectivist utopia. Power corrupts, after all.
Once a small group like this started down that path how long do you think it would take for them (and how easy do you think it would for them) to justify to themselves the forced assimilation of others? After all, they’ve found “perfection”. Wouldn’t it be only compassionate to share that perfection with others? Wouldn’t they then find it necessary to share that perfection? After all, people would only resist because they simply don’t know any better. If they could only understand what those already in the collectivist utopia already know they would doubtlessly want to be assimilated. So, forcible assimilation isn’t bad, it’s compassionate. Therefore, they’ll happily force you to join their utopia; it’s for your own good, after all; just trust them, you’ll thank them once you a good little drone. Then, centuries later, they’re a galaxy spanning threat. “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions” is a well-known saying for a good reason.
Bringing real world politics into this for a minute - I think it might this depiction of the Borg that started my lifelong distrust of involuntary collectivism in all in it’s forms. The Borg, after all, are the ultimate communist nightmare. And Holy Mary, Mother of God, it is terrifying!
Wed, Mar 3, 2021, 3:52pm (UTC -5)
Janeway brings up the danger of reactivating the cube when meeting with Riley, and says that she is highly skeptical of her plan but she (politely) says that will give the matter some more thought. When she and Chakotay are alone she brings up the same objection you did:
JANEWAY: Not only would it mean imposing a choice on thousands of people who had no voice in the decision, but it would also be taking a terrible risk. Helping to create a new collective. Who knows what the repercussions might be?
I think it's also important to consider that Chakotay was being influenced by Riley's group. At first he simply displays extreme empathy, but by the end you see that they can directly control him. How much of his conversation with Janeway was the real Chakotay?
Luke said: " If they had ever given us the origin of the Borg, they almost certainly would have had Humans be responsible for it somehow. GROAN! "
A few years ago David Mack wrote a trio of Star Trek novels, the Destiny trilogy, that included the origin of the Borg. And, of course, it tied humanity into it. Surprisingly though the books were actually really good. The books were designed to cap off the ongoing novel continuity at the time and I really wasn't up to date with the current storylines, but I still really enjoyed them. Most tie-in novels are crap, but these are some of the exceptions.
And, as long as I'm recommending books, I think you might like the book The Joke by Milan Kundera. It isn't a dystopian sci-fi book or anything, it's just a very good (imo) novel about life in communist Czechoslovakia.
Wed, Mar 3, 2021, 8:34pm (UTC -5)
Star Trek has got to be the very embodiment of Small Universe Syndrome.
Thu, Apr 29, 2021, 7:35am (UTC -5)
JANEWAY: Not only would it mean imposing a choice on thousands of people who had no voice in the decision, but it would also be taking a terrible risk. Helping to create a new collective. Who knows what the repercussions might be?"
This ethical dilemma should have been the focus of the episode, not a side issue addressed in one line.
Moreover, I don't like the idea of the ex drones controlling Chakotay as in mind control; the episode should have tied this in to the loss of individuality theme and made it clear that being joined with them even for a short time essentially "assimilated" Chakotay causing his motives to align with theirs.
Thu, Aug 12, 2021, 8:56pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Oct 13, 2021, 3:47pm (UTC -5)
I wouldn't rank "Unity" as highly as Jammer does. The "positive collectivization" themes are too big for this episode to handle, and no interesting parallels are drawn between The Federation and what is essentially a mini Borg Federation (free Borg healthcare included!). Instead, Janeway's default position is skepticism and distrust, and the political and philosophical themes this episode broaches are mostly ignored.
Interestingly, Janeway and Chakotay's beliefs seem to flip between here and "Scorpion". In "Unity" Janeway talks Chakotay out of dealing with the Borg (albeit "free Borg"). In "Scorpion" these roles are reversed.
If the episode squanders its thematic potential, it does well as a piece of spectacle. The reveal that the aliens are "free Borg" perfectly coincides with Janeway's stumbling upon a Borg Cube (dramatically offline). And the episode's climax, in which a Cube springs suddenly to life, is still powerful.
Sun, Nov 28, 2021, 5:26pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jan 10, 2022, 5:42am (UTC -5)
For me, what stood out was that, with the right inducement, anyone might be led to join the Borg collective. Chakotay was prevailed upon to do so, in order to be restored to health. These Borg were benign. Others, might not be. This was one of the most ingenious of the Borg episodes in Voyager.
3 stars out of 4.
Tue, Mar 29, 2022, 10:19pm (UTC -5)
I'm not going to let the one liner about Wolf 359 ruin it for me. Remember we don't know what happened between the battle and when the Enterprise caught up with the cube near Earth, so I'm going to go with what someone else said above, in that in between period a sphere left the cube sending the newly assimilated drones through a transwarp conduit for assignment.
Sun, Oct 16, 2022, 10:21pm (UTC -5)
It wasn't just the initial set-up. Similarities were still popping up well into the episode. I started to wonder if someone spilled coffee on the script for the first act or two and hastily copied down a few things from an old copy of "Liaisons."
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