Star Trek: Voyager
Air date: 10/8/1997
Teleplay by Bryan Fuller
Story by Harry Doc Kloor and Bryan Fuller
Directed by LeVar Burton
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"Looks like there won't be any shortcuts this time." — Janeway (but apparently not the Voyager writers)
Nutshell: Well, there's a good story lurking inside here somewhere, but it's sabotaged by a host of clichés and other annoying plot anomalies.
There's a lot to like about "The Raven." It's a handsomely produced episode that simultaneously adds some development to Seven of Nine's character as well as further fleshing out her backstory—both good things. Unfortunately, "The Raven" is an example of a good story hiding somewhere inside a very tired one. There are moments of the plot here that are so contrived and clichéd that they threaten to sink the entire episode. Lesson of the week: Take the story to its most broad emotional level and run with it. Don't shoehorn in the stock, mundane plot pieces that don't belong.
Though highly frustrating, "The Raven" is a passable episode. We've been getting to know Seven a little better in the course of the past few episodes. "Raven" takes the next logical step in her journey to understand humanity. The teaser opens with a good scene where Janeway tries to introduce Seven to exploring imagination through art and literature. Seven fails to see the point of such activities. They serve no discernible purpose. When she was a Borg she was assigned tasks; when she finished one task she began another. Now she wastes time "relaxing." It is not efficient, she notes.
A little later Neelix introduces her to the concept of eating food, which is milked for some engaging, low-key humor. (How do you teach someone how to chew and swallow? I'm not sure, but Neelix seems like an appropriate instructor.) Jeri Ryan is a joy to watch here.
These are the types of things that we need to see. Being (A) the new character on the series, and (B) the Voyager take on the humanity commentary and identity seeker—a character vital on any Trek series—are two things that make Seven a fountain of storytelling potential. So far, this episode is probably the most striking example of utilizing that potential by putting Seven into a number of everyday human situations that she finds perplexing.
Some of the plot works okay. Seven begins having hallucinations and dreams that disturb her. She sees images—a bird, Borg drones chasing her—that indicate something inside her is not right. Suddenly, for reasons that are a tad too contrived and arbitrary to make any real sense, Seven's Borg implants suddenly begin to "reassert" themselves and she instantaneously switches into "Borg mode" in an attempt to flee the ship in a shuttle. In an action sequence reminiscent of Data's escape from the Enterprise in TNG's "Brothers," Seven walks through the corridors on her way to the shuttle bay, with her reinstated Borg technology making her impervious to the crew's attempts to stop her with phaser fire and force fields. She rams her shuttle through the Voyager shuttle bay door and escapes, intending to follow a mysterious homing signal and rejoin the Borg Collective.
Apart from the contrivances, this setup is mostly fine and dandy; the action even proves pretty entertaining. What most certainly is not dandy, however—and manages to be an element of annoyance throughout the rest of the story—are Janeway's negotiations with some xenophobic aliens called the Bomar—who, incidentally, wear corny outfits akin to a catcher at a baseball game. You've seen these types of guys before on Voyager—they're the Hard-Headed Aliens of the Week™, a Voyager cliché that creates a forced confrontational situation merely so the episode's problems can be artificially inflated. Not only are these guys painfully uninteresting, but they manage to provide a phony, contrived counterpoint to the crew's attempted progress. It's extremely frustrating and entirely unnecessary.
Janeway wants to negotiate a way through their space (it'll save three months in the journey), but these people have a specific route they want Voyager to follow. The ship must never go faster than warp three, must not make contact with any planet in their space, and must stop at various checkpoints on its way through. If I were Janeway, I'd seriously ask myself if it's worth a mere three months to put up with such nonsense. (Given the limitations of traveling through their space, one would wonder if Voyager would save time at all.)
Never mind. The negotiations aren't that important; the Bomar exist primarily so they can be a threat to Seven once she enters their space in her shuttle. I was never quite sure how she was capable of taking on thirty of their ships at once; the story seems to think that because she has her Borg capabilities back, she also has an impervious shuttle. Hey, whatever.
The story improves when Tuvok and Paris take another shuttle to go after her. Tuvok beams into Seven's shuttle and becomes her prisoner, then uses his respectable Vulcan logic to reason with her. The resulting dialog is good, and throughout the entire ordeal is the sense that Seven is psychologically incapable of ignoring the homing signal. She believes it is the Borg calling her back "home" to the Collective where she belongs, and she's determined to find them.
What Seven finds instead is more interesting (which is reassuring, because I think we've seen enough Borg for awhile). Rather than the Borg, she finds upon one of the Bomar's planets the wreckage of the Federation ship The Raven—the ship where she was once human, before she was assimilated. The episode's best dramatic moments come in this scene, in which Seven relives the last moments of her human life prior to her assimilation. The flashbacks are intense images (particularly the sight of two Borg reaching for a helpless child), and Jeri Ryan's performance echoes the character's childhood fear quite well—I felt for her when she crawled under the bulkhead to hide. The sequence skillfully highlights the convergence of beginnings and ends. Twenty years ago The Raven is where her humanity ended and her Borg existence began; now it's the symbolic final chapter of her Borg existence as she begins humanity anew. The idea provides some nicely realized closure.
But then, the exact moment the quiet dialog ends, the episode supplies the obligatory action finale, where the Bomar fire on The Raven from orbit. I couldn't help but be amused by how hackneyed the whole idea was. Here we were in a perfectly done character scene, and the moment it comes to a conclusion the ship rocks and the music turns to "action" as the Bomar try to destroy Seven. (Besides, why are they so determined to kill her, and so deaf to reasoning with Janeway? Simply because Seven used to be Borg? The motivation here is so cardboard and overstated that it's appalling.) The Bomar should just be expunged from the episode, as far as I'm concerned.
"The Raven" takes an atypical stab at imagery, but I have mixed feelings about the net result. It's visually effective under LeVar Burton's direction. Burton seems good at this sort of visual surreality, as demonstrated by such episodes as DS9's "Rules of Engagement" and "Things Past." But on a story level, I have some doubts. The way the episode tries to equate Seven's dreams of "Raven, the bird" to her relationship with "Raven, the ship" doesn't strike me as a genuine psychological connection. It strikes me more as a manufactured attempt by the writers to be symbolic—with ultimately transparent results.
The discovery of The Raven in Bomar space also continues the line of the "Voyager discovery coincidence theory," that convenient story device that allows the Voyager crew to keep finding Alpha Quadrant elements in the vastness of the Delta Quadrant, despite such unlikely odds. It's the same line of reasoning that allowed Chakotay to find his ancestor race in "Tattoo," allowed B'Elanna to find the Cardassian missile in "Dreadnought," and allowed the crew to find Amelia Earhart in "The 37's." It's not a major demerit, but it is something that's a little bit silly.
And, of course, what cliché-ridden episode would be complete without the Shuttle Loss™? Seven's stolen shuttle gets left behind in the frenzy of eluding the Bomar. Tally four for this season so far. At this rate, look for the count to be approaching 20 by season's end.
Because so much of Seven's backstory and characterization is so nicely envisioned, I'm going to say that this episode is still worth the time of view, despite its pervasive problems. But the plot's clichés and just about everything concerning the Bomar prove utterly annoying. The show just has too much unnecessary flab. The plot has weaknesses that are weak in the most obvious of ways, and they too often shift focus away from the emotional drive of the story. Janeway and the crew may not get a shortcut this week, but the Voyager writers apparently took some so they could pad out this episode.
Next week: A rerun of the over-hyped and very disappointing "Q and the Grey."
Previous episode: Revulsion
Next episode: Scientific Method
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53 comments on this post
Thu, Mar 6, 2008, 3:26pm (UTC -5)
2- The Bomars' reaction to Seven of Nine is reasonable. The Borg are rightfully feared throughout the Delta Quadrant, if not the entire Milky Way Galaxy. Once Seven shows signs of again becoming a drone (e.g., Borg shielding), the Bomar may fear that she will bring the entire Collective to them.
Mon, Jan 18, 2010, 2:13pm (UTC -5)
It's not necessarily the case shuttle was actually lost, it was undamaged. If they did leave it behind Voyager should have destroyed it to stop the tech falling into Bomar hands. (Standard procedure in the current US military for a lost craft/vehicle that cannot be recovered is to destroy it to prevent use by the enemy.)
Tue, Dec 28, 2010, 11:25am (UTC -5)
Tue, Feb 15, 2011, 5:48pm (UTC -5)
Some of the bad acting in seven's flashbacks (particularly her mother and herself as a child) kind of ruined the ending for me. And after this episode I had hoped that she would agree to being called "Annika" again. Alas...
Sat, Oct 8, 2011, 11:55pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jan 2, 2012, 4:32pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Apr 12, 2012, 9:42am (UTC -5)
Why must the writers strain credulity like this?
Sat, Sep 29, 2012, 4:08am (UTC -5)
Sun, Apr 7, 2013, 12:20pm (UTC -5)
Even if the story was condensed a little, more effort put into focusing things and allowing the actors and characterisation to carry the plot instead of these annoying McGuffin aliens...we'd probably have been in much better shape already.
I'd imagine it could have been something along the lines of Meld, but with Sevens' tortured character instead of Suder and Jeri Ryans' performance delivering on all the solid material instead of failed gimmicks.
That being said, its acceptable and contains some strong and even powerful moments. Just needed to strip away the flabby excess off the plot and we'd be in business. Minus this needless excess it would probably have been cheaper to produce as well as being a meatier tense drama, a win-win for everyone! But accepting to what is there and what we do have, I'd give it a mere 2/4.
Tue, Apr 23, 2013, 1:40pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jun 10, 2013, 11:18pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Jun 20, 2013, 11:55pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Jul 9, 2013, 11:43am (UTC -5)
Wed, Nov 13, 2013, 1:55pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Nov 13, 2013, 1:59pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Apr 13, 2014, 5:32am (UTC -5)
But I just cannot swallow anymore how easy people can pass through Voyager security, escape from the ship, override crucial commands, beam up or down without authorization, steal or kidnap shuttlecrafts, and so on. Ok, Seven is a borg. So what? It's week after week, the same thing. If the one in charge for these security ridiculous flaws is Tuvok, he should have his career suspended right away...
Besides, what about the Borg stuff regenerating itself without any robotic pieces being implanted again? Even the super strength and the Borg shields. Meh.
Lastly, it was way too soon to have Seven finding her original ship where the Borg assimilated her. For my taste, playing this card at this point felt like a total lack of sense from the writers and more, a bit of an appellative and lazy way of making Seven move on more quickly.
Fortunately, however, Jeri Ryan and her character have both delivered so many good things so far that in the end the episode is at least a bit enjoyable.
PS: I usually thought that Jammer's point about shuttle losses sometimes is so repetitive and annoying as the unexplained shuttle losses themselves. But I have to admit and be fair. It has become beyond silly to lose a shuttle per week after 3 seasons.
Sun, Apr 20, 2014, 9:12am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jul 23, 2014, 9:41am (UTC -5)
Tue, Aug 26, 2014, 1:22pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Aug 27, 2014, 1:36pm (UTC -5)
The idea that the Bomar were firing at the dilapidated Raven with the effect of merely shaking things was hilarious in a very bad way.
However, the meaty portion of the story is really quite good and by itself had the potential of yet another quality addition to a mostly good to great stretch of episodes. As it stands, it barely passes as average on the whole. A shame.
Thu, Nov 6, 2014, 6:39pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Nov 18, 2014, 10:03pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Apr 1, 2015, 8:06pm (UTC -5)
It even makes sense that they pursue Seven so fiercely. They are already established as extremely territorial and they are aware of the Borg and what they do. Two very good reasons to hunt her down.
The only thing that bothered me a bit was the woefully outmatched security systems. Seven just casually walks out, completely unharmed, unfazed by any security measure put in her place. I guess Starfleet security is about as ridiculous as mall security when the script needs it to be.
Thu, Apr 2, 2015, 9:31pm (UTC -5)
You just summed up every other Trek episode in a nutshell. ;)
Sun, Aug 23, 2015, 10:54am (UTC -5)
Otherwise I liked this episode, and as others have mentioned Jeri Ryan did a great job.
Mon, Aug 31, 2015, 11:05am (UTC -5)
If the Borg were already on their way to Earth, having learned of it's location from the Hansens... then Q did Picard a huge favor.
Fri, Oct 16, 2015, 4:32am (UTC -5)
Tue, Oct 20, 2015, 1:15pm (UTC -5)
I enjoyed this episode. It wasn't surprising to me that 7 could do what she did and "escape" Voyager. The Borg have been kicking the Federations ass for years, she's an insider now so once she's "activated" this is easy-peasy.
Love Tuvok's part in this episode. Tim Russ nails it and we get the first inklings of a relationship between 7 and Tuvok.
I really felt for Annika when the Borg approached her...
Jeri's performance was outstanding... especially on the Raven.
Solid 3 star episode for me.
Thu, Dec 3, 2015, 12:32am (UTC -5)
Plothole #2: Seven says to Tuvok in the shuttle: "That's a level 5 force field Lieutenant, I suggest you be more careful." But Tuvok was promoted to Lieutenant-Commander just in the last episode.
Thu, Feb 11, 2016, 2:09pm (UTC -5)
There are some nice moments here - Seven and Neelix for instance - but on the whole it's nothing more than another fairly nondescript effort. 2 stars.
Tue, May 24, 2016, 4:46pm (UTC -5)
Wed, May 25, 2016, 7:01am (UTC -5)
"NEELIX: Is something wrong?
SEVEN: I am unaccustomed to this. Borg do not sit.
NEELIX: Well, this is a day of firsts, then, isn't it?"
Sun, Sep 18, 2016, 7:51pm (UTC -5)
How did Seven's shield's adapt to phaser fire before she was hit by said phaser fire when every other time we've seen the borg, they had to get hit before the other borg adapted? Why do the security that confront Seven shoot her once and then just stand there waiting to get shot instead of ducking behind cover or smacking her with their guns? Why hasn't Starfleet equipped their security forces with mobile shielding? Surely if Seven can carry around a mobile shield inside her body, it should take no effort to design a mobile shield that can be carried outside the body.
Starfleet is the most incompetent military force in the Galaxy. The only reason why they ever win a fire fight is because of surprise, luck, or having technological superiority.
What was the point of the Bomar in this episode? What did they add? You could have removed the Bomar and the episode would have been exactly the same.
Why was the Raven so heavily decayed? Given the materials that these ships are made from, 20 years on that cliff should have been nothing for that ship. It should still have looked the same way it did when Seven was assimilated and the ship systems should have still been functioning. We've seen much older ships in worse circumstances that looked way less decayed and had most of their systems still be functional.
Mon, Sep 19, 2016, 10:20am (UTC -5)
She knew the frequencies man.... come on - she's had access to their whole database. You have to have some suspension of belief here... I think you're just picking to pick.
The Bomar are just there to tell the story and The Raven was crashed by the Borg. It was shot up and crashed... not sure what the point is here.
Fri, Nov 4, 2016, 8:02am (UTC -5)
Fri, Nov 11, 2016, 7:03am (UTC -5)
Worst parents ever.
Thu, Aug 3, 2017, 12:52pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Nov 3, 2017, 1:45pm (UTC -5)
Of course, yeah, the xenophobic aliens take up a lot of screentime, most of it wasted, outside the one moment when they show the route they suggest Voyager takes, which gave me a chuckle. I'd probably give 2.5 stars to the episode too.
Mon, Nov 6, 2017, 3:30am (UTC -5)
But I actually kind of liked the Bomar, and I think their POV was rather reasonable. "Just because" Seven used to be a Borg, they want to kill her? Uh, have you met the Borg? That would be enough for me!
As Ric said, "it was way too soon to have Seven finding her original ship where the Borg assimilated her."
Right? Voyager has much faster warp than Annika's parents could have had, yet Voyager is still supposed to be decades' travel time away from Earth. Makes no sense.
Sat, Nov 25, 2017, 9:27am (UTC -5)
GAUMAN: You're committing an act of war, Captain.
JANEWAY: You've left me no choice, Chancellor.
And what was the point of this episode? Now Seven knows where she was assimilated. So what? I don't think it helped her deal with anything, if anything it would have made things worse for her.
And I guess the Doc invented a cure for Borgness. Just inject any Borg that show up and everything is fine.
Crappy episode. 1 1/2 stars.
Mon, Nov 27, 2017, 6:44pm (UTC -5)
We know seven left deep space 5 as a child and got assimilated at 6. How did the raven travel 60 thousand light years in a year?? Why don't the voyager crew ask this?
Wed, May 23, 2018, 8:32pm (UTC -5)
The Bomar were stupid and it seems VOY comes up with these types of races frequently -- just cardboard characters. So they're bombing the beaten up ship repeatedly -- and doing a lousy job of it... The Bomar seem quite toothless despite all their BS about how to navigate through their space.
I actually wasn't much of a fan of Neelix teaching 7 to eat (maybe because it was Neelix) -- thought the scene dragged on a bit too long, 7 was fine in it (but I liked when she knocked him to the ground going full Borg on him. Should a shuttle be able to blast its way through the shuttle bay doors? I think not. But whatever, this is VOY.
What made the episode work for me is Tuvok and 7. Obviously lots of similarities between the 2 and for a Vulcan, I thought he was quite sympathetic and even empathetic. He seemed to know what 7 was going through with the homing signal and her fear, which had been re-awakened by moving closer toward humanness. 7's memories of a child being assimilated were chilling and Jeri Ryan did a convincing job portraying fear, hiding under something like the little girl she once was + it reinforces how terrifying the Borg are (or should be on VOY).
2.5 stars for "The Raven" -- necessary material covered here and it paints the Borg in the right light (for a change on VOY). Solid episodes for 7 and Tuvok, although there seemed to be more than the usual quantity of VOY fafetchedness. The Bomar were entirely forgettable.
Fri, Sep 14, 2018, 8:43pm (UTC -5)
I liked the Bomar; they amused me and had some great lines.
Sometimes, there are just too many issues involved for a shortcut to be feasible. Trying to use a shortcut will expose you to too many dangers. As the Bomar tell Janeway, they don't recommend that she try to bend the rules to shorten her journey through their space. She'll be sorry.
No matter where she turns, she finds it's going to take the time it's going to take, to get home. Either option (through or around Bomar space) will be tedious and time consuming. There will be dangers both known and unknown. Given that and what happens in the ep, she find she must plot her own course rather than follow the circuitous path and confusing rules and requirements of the Bomar.
This is not coincidentally the same dilemma Seven faces, if she wants to return to her humanity. It's going to be slow and painful and dangerous. And while she can accept help and guidance from others, she must ultimately plot her own course. And she must want to "go home" badly enough to undertake this long and difficult journey.
I liked it. Three full stars from me, though I also wondered how The Raven got to the Delta quadrant to begin with. Maybe I missed something about the whole set up.
Wed, Nov 7, 2018, 3:45am (UTC -5)
I thought again the implication is that Seven's parents were following the Borg and experimenting with their tech. So, I thought they used a transwarp drive to get to the Delta Quadrant
I really liked this episode. I think it shows how fragile Seven is, and how she really needs the support of the crew of Voyager.
I agree with whoever said the shortcut isn't worth it. One thing the producers don't seem to realise is that Warp 6 isn't twice as fast as Warp 3. It is supposed to be Warp factor 3. So, more like speed of light cubed. And warp 6 is Speed of Light to the 6th power. So, traveling around the alien's territory at Warp 9 should be MUCH faster than going thru it at Warp 3
I actually didn't think the alien's paranoia was over the top. I know people as irrationally challenged in real life. And of course when a Borg drone escaped, their fears make sense to me
I agree. I don't think anything Q did was really harmful to the human race. So there must be a reason he introduced the Borg to them, and you may have hit upon it!
Fri, Feb 8, 2019, 1:05am (UTC -5)
Tue, Feb 19, 2019, 1:45am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jun 10, 2020, 4:07pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 3, 2021, 6:27pm (UTC -5)
1) The raven symbolism. Totally pointless.
2) The Bomar. They didn't have to be cartoonishly intransigent. How hard would it have been to have them be reasonable up until Seven went berserk? Instead, we get yet another Hardheaded Alien Race of the Week to provide cheap suspense. On top of that, they are immediately undercut as a legitimate threat by lame costume design.
3) The learning to eat scene is harmless filler, but I can't help but think this screentime could have been put to better use. I mean it doesn't even make any sense does it?
Possible Solution: Turn this into a bottle show. Instead of wasting money on the Bomar and special effects, just let the threat of an approaching Borg ship provide your ticking clock. It's cheaper, creates more tension due to utilizing a better villain, and you give your cast several more dramatic scenes.
Complaints aside, the Tuvok and Seven scenes make this an ok, if only average, episode.
Thu, Mar 4, 2021, 12:41pm (UTC -5)
I just started a partial rewatch of the 50+ episodes that I initially thought were pretty decent. In posting my comments here I've found that I'm making a lot of "well, if you just ignore x,y, and z,.... and maybe if you imagine they had written it this way...and if you squint really hard - this episode is ACTUALLY good." In hindsight, I think several of the episodes that were on my "good" list only ended up there because they are good compared to the even worse episodes that surround them.
"The Raven", despite a couple of nice scenes, is not a good episode.
p.s. A list of the episodes that I probably need to move from my "good or good enough" list to my "skippable" list:
Time and Again
Day of Honor (maybe. I'll need to rewatch)
Tue, Dec 28, 2021, 7:02pm (UTC -5)
"It's a small, small galaxy."
It’s a galaxy of laughter
A galaxy of tears
It’s a galaxy of hope
And a galaxy of fears
"Jeri Ryan did a convincing job portraying fear"
Jeri Ryan's homage to Nichelle Nichols: "I’m frightened."
@Lee Jones (2019)
"[The] Hansens were the first humans to reach the Delta Quadrant, and the first humans assimilated."
Except for those twenty-second-century Starfleet people who were assimilated in "Regeneration."
Tue, Dec 28, 2021, 7:09pm (UTC -5)
I guess that makes sense, if we assume that the Borg have assimilated* at least one Vulcan and thereby gained the knowledge of how to do it. I always thought it had more to do with Vulcans' "superior strength," though, than with their knowledge of (apparently every) humanoid anatomy, and that of the horse-like creature in "Star Trek V: The One That Sucked."
* "I am Dyslexic of Borg. Prepare to have your ass laminated."
Mon, Nov 21, 2022, 10:10pm (UTC -5)
The Voyager universe is one where somehow the concept of a Federation is unique to humans and nobody else could ever come up with a way to peacefully co-exist with one another. It's not believable. And the whole reason why it's not believable is because the writers for this show refused to deal with shades of grey, in Voyager or other species. Ok, they flirted with it here and there, but on the whole Voyager and its crew remained as polished in season 7 as they did when they were still in the Alpha Quadrant in season 1. Disappointing.
Wed, Mar 8, 2023, 6:17am (UTC -5)
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