Star Trek: Voyager

“Infinite Regress”

3 stars.

Air date: 11/25/1998
Teleplay by Robert J. Doherty
Story by Robert J. Doherty & Jimmy Diggs
Directed by David Livingston

"You are strong. You will make an excellent mate."

— Seven as a Klingon, and Torres on defense

Review Text

Nutshell: There's not all that much to the story, but what's here is executed well.

"Infinite Regress" is a true example of high concept. From the critical view, there's a weird phenomenon about high concept: It sends the mind, if only for a brief moment, into a bizarre series of gauging stages. In the first stage, the mind suspends analysis in favor of a sense of adventure, saying to itself, "Wow, that's a really cool idea." In the second stage, the mind's skepticism retorts, "But wait a minute—that's really just a shallow gimmick." In the third stage, the mind uses reason to strike a balance between the first two thoughts, with the sentiment, "Let's wait and see how they handle this idea, because it could just as easily work as fall flat."

Okay, maybe that's just my own thought process, but you get the point. A high concept's ability to suck you in can turn out to be its own undoing because of the question: Where can the story go from its setup as pitched?

The five-words-or-less pitch for "Infinite Regress": "Borg multiple personality disorder." Okay, so now what?

Well, if you can assemble some good performances and a good director, you might have something here. At least, you'd better hope so, because there isn't all that much meat to the story ... although there's an abundance of technobabble (albeit tolerable technobabble) and plot procedures that are somewhat arbitrarily conjured.

This is an episode that could've come off as pedestrian, but thanks to the skilled David Livingston (one of my favorite Trek directors) it ends up being intriguing and at times fairly intense and haunting.

What's causing Seven to experience "Borg multiple personality disorder," you ask? The crew's investigation leads it to the debris of a destroyed Borg vessel, where they find the Borg ship's "vinculum" is still functioning. The vinculum suppresses individuality in Borg drones, regulating and organizing their thought patterns for maximum efficiency in the hive mind. It "brings order to chaos," as Janeway aptly puts it. But somehow this vinculum is transmitting a signal that is causing Seven's brain implants to malfunction and bring forward the repressed personalities of other individuals the Borg had assimilated.

The crew must now shut down the vinculum in order to solve Seven's problem. Destroying the vinculum without first initiating a proper shutdown would not be a great idea because Seven could suffer brain damage. (PC users take note: This is what happens when you don't shut down Windows before turning off your computer—you get brain damage.)

The can of worms of course is: If this vinculum had been 5,000 light-years away, and Seven couldn't escape its side effects because it "permeates subspace" (you gotta love those tech rationales!), she would essentially be screwed. I can't see Janeway following a signal for five years to cure Seven of multiple personality disorder. But never mind; I'm reaching here. My point is simply that any plot device that alleges the ability to affect something half a galaxy away makes me somewhat uneasy.

"Infinite Regress" is primarily plot-driven. As such, there are some well-played ideas here to go along with the dubious ones. For example, I liked the subtle exchange where Janeway reluctantly agrees to bring the vinculum on board the ship so Seven can deactivate it. Janeway's skepticism is appropriate: Not only is there the "Trojan horse" issue, but one would think something as important-sounding as a "vinculum" might draw further Borg attention—and, personally, I wouldn't want to be caught dead with it when they came looking.

Naturally, the crew's attempts to shut down the vinculum are complicated by the fact that some nearby aliens had intentionally corrupted it with a virus designed to spread through the Borg collective and wreak havoc on as many Borg ships as possible. These aliens, listed in Seven's Borg database as Species 6339 (we never learn what they call themselves), want the vinculum back, because it is a Trojan horse—and they want the Borg to re-assimilate it. It's their retaliation for the bulk of their society being assimilated four years ago. (As a side note, it's an episode like this, among other Voyager offerings, that makes me wonder how it is the Borg decide whom they're going to attack and when.)

These aliens provide an understandable, but all-too-routine conflict. Their captain, Ven (Neil Maffin), is at least is willing to talk to Janeway, but when she refuses to turn over the vinculum to them until Torres can disable it, Ven opts to attempt taking it by force. This leads to the requisite battle sequence, etc. Although these aliens are provided with just enough motivation to avoid falling into the usual Hard-Headed Aliens of the Week paradigm, I couldn't help but think there was a more inventive way the writers could've handled this.

But forget all this, because it's not what makes "Infinite Regress" work (which doesn't say much about my ability to write in inverted pyramid style). This episode's selling point is its high concept implications—Seven exhibiting multiple personalities.

I would imagine such a device would be a lot of fun for an actor. Here, Jeri Ryan gets to show a much more diverse range, as buried personalities hijack control of Seven's mind, making her act out the parts of a lustful Klingon, a greedy Ferengi, a logical Vulcan, playful and scared children, a terrified Starfleet officer looking for a loved one who was supposed to rendezvous with her at Wolf 359 (oops), and so forth. "Infinite Regress" walks the line between compelling chaos and outright excess, but Livingston and Ryan keep the story on track.

A lot of this is interesting to watch simply because it's so un-Seven-like. There's one scene where a 6-year-old personality emerges and plays a game with little Naomi Wildman (a character who is starting to grow on me). Jeri Ryan dives head-first into the role in a way that, in another actor's hands, could've made the whole idea look silly, but here works well. Other characters, like the Klingon personality who tries to (ahem) jump Torres in engineering, highlight Ryan sporting a confidence that strikes me as refreshing: She's going all the way out there whether it ultimately works or not. And for me, it worked. Even if it didn't work, she'd still get an A for effort.

The final act, in which Tuvok mind melds with Seven to keep her individuality from disappearing into nothingness while Torres attempts to take the vinculum off-line is an exercise in blurringly fast-paced, pure technique. There's an interesting metaphor used to show the struggle inside Seven's mind, as we see Tuvok trying to find Seven on a Borg ship, while all of the other people in Seven's mind shout and get in his way. The way this is shot is eerie and intense; I thought it worked very well. In particular, the little girl screaming for help was effective and unsettling. The extreme cinematic chaos utilized in this sequence effectively conveys the chaos in Seven's mind. Meanwhile, chaos breaks loose on Voyager as the 6339s open fire.

Sporting hyperactive camera movements and even one noticeable jump cut (Livingston betrays his secretly repressed desire to direct an episode of Homicide), the final act pushes the envelope in a way that borders on excess—as we cross-cut between the 6339s' attack on Voyager, the battle inside Seven's mind, and Torres' frantic attempt to disable the vinculum. Livingston pushes almost too hard, but I still liked the net result.

If this episode is truly about anything substantive on a character level, it's that Seven has reached a point of no return in her evolution. She can no longer bear the voices that she once needed to survive as a part of the collective. Instead, she has come to appreciate her social ties. She is grateful to the crew for risking themselves to help her. And at the end she reaches out to Naomi, whom we suspect reminds Seven of something she herself never completed—her childhood. The story doesn't analyze these themes in any deep or groundbreaking way, but what's here is pleasant.

"Infinite Regress" is a superior example of an episode in the spirit of stories like "One" and "The Raven," which all fall into their own Voyager genre: Borg psychological thrillers. I liked it. It has energy and a strangely appealing impudence. It shoots for the moon at times, but, hey—if it works, it works.

Next week: Torres bonds with an alien—literally—requiring treatment from a Cardassian hologram. (Say what?)

Previous episode: Timeless
Next episode: Nothing Human

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Comment Section

78 comments on this post

    The biggest hole I found in this episode was the conversation between Chakotay and the Captain where she says she's wondering if he was right that they could never bring Seven "into the fold". I have a hard time believing that Janeway would take this technological borg problem of the week and actually have it in her mind that this is an internal Seven problem, and not some external force acting upon her. As an audience member, clearly this is a problem of the week that will be solved by show's end with no ill effects. I simply can't see how Janeway can take this incident (it's like an illness) to shake her confidence in Seven's ability to become human. It's not the kind of incident where Seven willingly defied orders or the chain of command because of her borg hard-headedness. This was completely beyond her control.

    PS: I also had a problem with the Doc calling Tuvok's mindmeld idea "Vulcan mumbo jumbo" after telling him in a previous episode that he was programmed with the knowledge of all of the experts on mind melds; it seemed very out of character. In the same scene, Tuvok tells Janeway that the risk is his to take, and she agrees - I'd have expected her to have questioned him on that one, saying that she couldn't let him put himself at risk as his captain. Again, uncharacteristic.

    I should also point out that Doc tells Seven about the mindmeld idea, well after he has informed the captain that Seven is completely gone and the other personalities have taken over. She was around for quite a long time too, considering earlier he said that she was changing identities without even being able to complete a sentence.

    The cheesy looking shower curtain and masking tape alien outfits didn't help the episode.

    I didn't like this one as much as you did, it seems.

    I'm not sure what to make of Jeri Ryan's performance in this episode. At times she's very good, but at other times she embarrassingly bad. She gets it right most of the time though. Still, it's just another one of those Seven's Borg technology malfunctions (again!) episodes. From Seasons 4-7, there were far too many Seven episodes, and they almost made Chakotay an extra in many episodes.

    No, best line is

    'With all these personalities around, shame we can't find one for you Tuvok'.

    Seven to that annoyingly precocious kid: "Naomi Wildman, subunit of Ensign Samantha Wildman, state your intentions." HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! That's worth five stars right there.

    I wish they'd let Seven and the Doctor stay their synthetic selves, rather than trying to turn them human all the time.

    At one point Seven mentIons a Starfleet vessel that was assimilated "thirteen years ago." That would have been before Q introduced the Enterprise to the Borg, and wasn't that supposed to be the first time any vessel manned by Federation people (except for the Hansens') had any contact with the Borg?

    This is a 4-star for me.. loved it. Okay it was no "inner light" but it's one of those type of episodes where the character work is so good that it makes the plot mostly irrelevant. So I didn't mind the little glitches really.

    Others have had multiple personality episodes... I seem to remember Nana Visitor had a good one in DS9 for example... Jeri Ryan really shines with this instance of it though, probably one of the best of the lot.

    If I have any gripe at all it's not about the episode but about Voyager as a series from 4 onwards: Jeri Ryan steals the show. She's great, this episode was great, but all the other cast go completely ignored. I'd like to see some of the others get a bit of characterisation once in a while! (except Neelix, as he's back to being annoying like in season 1)

    I liked this episode a lot. It showed that the possibilities for the character of Seven and the idea of the Borg were practically endless. Jeri Ryan's portrayal of Seven was easily as good as Brent Spiner's Data. It's really no wonder the best episodes of Voyager often revolved around her.

    @Michael, Star Trek in all its incarnations is in its heart of hearts a study of the human condition. Based on this and many of your past comments, it is clearly not the show for you.

    I enjoyed Jeri Ryan's acting in this one. She doesnt portray all of the roles perfect (Her Vulcan falls flat) but she manages quite well with the others. I like this one. Species 6339's reasoning makes a lot of sense as well...

    Although I often disagree with him, this time I have to agree about the subunit of Ensign Wildman, a laugh out loud moment if ever there was one... I think it was an interesting episode, but I would perhaps have delved more into the idea of Seven's guilt about her role/actions in the collective, that could have been more interesting and had more impact.

    Not much to add except that I really liked this one, it was very effective and it had a certain energy and freshness about it. It struck a good balance between action and drama, had just the right amount of humour and it services character over plot manipulations. I especially enjoyed the ending sequence with the mind meld, it was original and chilling and an excellent pay-off to the story. Perhaps this will help develop a bond or a friendship between 7 and Tuvok, after all these two can learn a lot from each other as they both continue to adapt to our perplexing human ways. Even if such a friendship/relationship doesn't end up happening, this episode is still above the standard Voyager faire IMO. 3.5/4

    Balanced against my sympathy for the people who created the weapon was the horror that it made eternal all the anguish and fear of all Borg victims. Yet I wonder - did they give species 6339 such ludicrous early Doctor Who outfits so that we'd have less sympathy for them?

    The sequences with all the assimilated personalities screaming in terror - including children - were absolutely terrifying. Well-directed.

    I wish Star Fleet had apprised them of the new uniform specs with that data burst in season 4. Those TNG uniforms look awful by comparison.

    To me this episode marks the point where Jeri "Eye Candy" Ryan made it absolutely clear that she's more than a walking, talking wet dream.
    Sure, I'm still convinced she was hired (and dressed) to keep the male audience coming back for more week after week, but luckily they also got a skilled individual at the same time they hired that killer body and big blue eyes.

    Ryan's acting is stellar - she glides in and out of the many characters seemlessly, making each and every character believable (and sometimes hillarious) with a lot of empathy.
    Wonderful job!

    The girl playing Naomi Wildman should also be commended: she's not just adorable, her way of delivering lines is great and she has a superb screen presence.

    A different note about the episode:
    This is one of the VERY few Trek episodes I've seen that made me question whether children should watch it. The sequence where Tuvok is inside 7's nightmare is really disturbing!

    The interactions with species 6339 were almost a throw-away subplot, but I think that this was one of the most frightening parts of the episode. The Borg are relentlessly bad in Trek (although freed drones are almost universally good...), and the Borg are the most terrifying force in the galaxy. However, the fact that species 6339 had created and deployed biological weapons of mass destruction against them got me thinking about how far Trek was willing to go in this arena. Species 6339 had already been assimilated - there was no ongoing conflict with the Borg - this was just a revenge weapon. And according to the aliens, it wasn't intended to defeat the borg, just inflict a lot of damage. The fact that the writers didn't have Janeway question the use of such a weapon at all was a bit disappointing to me. Yes, the episode was better without delving into that topic, but that's an awfully potent throw-away story that shows some of the dark side of the Federation, imho.

    On a side note, Jeri Ryan's performance was quite good. Not amazing, but believable in every role. The transitions were crisp and the personalities were kept distinct, rather than feeling like it's just the (adjective) version of the main character like so many multiple personality TV shows. The performance was comparable to Toni Collette's acting on United States of Tara, although the characters were a bit too stereotypical and cliched. She's got real chops.

    The midnight snacker ate an animal leg Neelix was saving for some ensign's birthday, but with Voyager's compliment, someone on Voyager is likely having a birthday every three or four it really that special?

    TH said:

    "The biggest hole I found in this episode was the conversation between Chakotay and the Captain where she says she's wondering if he was right that they could never bring Seven "into the fold". I have a hard time believing that Janeway would take this technological borg problem of the week and actually have it in her mind that this is an internal Seven problem, and not some external force acting upon her."

    I get where you're coming from, but I saw Janeway's comments more as meaning that Seven's Borg nature may leave her vulnerable to a number of unique and unpredictable situations, of which this is but one, which may make reclaiming Seven chronically problematic.

    I would have given this 3.5 stars, but for the most part I agree with Jammer's analysis... The writers at this point in Voyager's run were salivating over this new character, and I actually liked that they formed the friendship between Seven and Naomi. That is ripe for fun character development... Another solid outing in what was shaping up to be another great season of Voyager!

    Well, huh... I watched the episode, gathered my thoughts, and came here, only to see that Jammer's review captured practically everything I wanted to say. Guess that means I'll just have to come up with something new, somehow.

    Jammer's description of gimmicky high concept episodes is spot on. To be honest, my feelings were pretty much stuck on the second stage for the first half or so of the episode. I mean, Seven's multiple personalities were fun, and Jeri Ryan's (overexaggerated, but also probably necessary given the circumstances) acting made it interesting to watch, but the plot didn't grip me like other high concept episodes like, for example, TNG's Cause and Effect. It seemed as if it was going to be good for a few cute scenes, but the plot was going to be routine. Yet the second half was anything but.

    Actually, it reminded me a lot of The Thaw in one respect: the technobabble solution failed. We had the viculum or whatever beamed aboard and the plan to disassemble it to save Seven. What usually happens is it becomes waiting to see how much fake drama Voyager could draw it out for. Instead, the plan failed and Seven got worse, just like the original plan to extract the people in The Thaw failed. Yes, it just meant they had to go through the technobabble solution again a second time, but first it meant some actual character choices. It meant Janeway had to decide whether or not to risk Tuvok. It meant Seven got to feel real fear, real panic at the thought of losing her mind rather than it simply being a problem. It meant she had to beg Tuvok for help, even if it hurt her pride of being perfect. And it meant Janeway had to deal with the aliens.

    Although honestly, I think that could have been done better. I disagree with Kevin that Janeway should have questioned the morality of the weapon, quite the opposite in fact! In BOBW, Riker was prepared to ram the Enterprise into the Borg ship in a desperate attempt to save Earth. Worf was prepared to do the same with the Defiant in First Contact. Hugh willingly sacrificed himself in hopes that his individuality would cripple the collective. In other words, if you have a chance to hurt the Borg, you do it!

    These aliens were the heroes of their own story. You can't say they were no longer at war with the Borg, the Borg were still a threat. And, regardless, they are still a threat to everyone else in the galaxy. Maybe this saves another civilization. Maybe it just gives another civilization a few more years. Maybe it keeps the Borg away so the survivors can build a new home, a new planet. Why would you want to stop that? While there may be cracks in the idea that one is perpetually a drone thanks to Hugh and Seven, the fact remains that the Borg are still as close to pure evil as possible in the Trek world.

    Thus, rather than the boring fight scene (not that fight scenes are boring, but Voyager wayyyy overuses it), and also rather than the silly discussion of Janeway's regret about Seven (I agree, dumb conversation), Janeway can agree with the aliens. It'll take XX hours to reach the dead ship, and Janeway promises that they will only work on a cure that long. Once they arrive, they'll drop the viculum thingy off and sacrifice Seven. In other words, Janeway comes to the realization that she can't prioritize a single member of her crew over the threat of the Borg to another species. Picard was willing to let Q die to save the random aliens from the moon crashing. Troi was willing to order Geordi to his death to stop a warp core breach. Being a captain is about making the tough decisions. Put a bit more weight on this episode.

    Then they could have arrived, with Torres saying they need just another 10 minutes or whatever, and then you can have the drama as Janeway stalls for time with the aliens if you wanted.

    Oh well, that's the only real complaint I have about the second half. And my biggest complaint about the first half is that Tuvok is a rather incompetent security officer if he couldn't solve the Mystery of the Midnight Snacker. Seriously, the combadges are tracked by the computer, and Seven didn't take hers off!

    Second superb episode in a row. This is headed up by what I think is a wonderful Jeri Ryan performance - as noted above, if anyone was still thinking of her as nothing more than a babe in a catsuit then that should have been dispelled. But we also run the gamut from humour (Seven's scenes with Naomi are a joy) to a really intense, and indeed disturbing, conclusion. I am really a fan of that kind of dreamlike imagery but it works so well here in demonstrating the 'chaos' referred to earlier in the episode. Excellent stuff - 4 stars.

    For all that may think Jeri is just eye-candy, this episode (and one coming in the future) should remove all doubt. Jeri is a VERY capable actress. Were all the different characters she had to display "perfect"? probably not, but this is one episode in a season of 25 and it's not like they have the time to spend to make something like this perfect. Jeri was awesome.

    I too am enjoying the addition of Samantha. This little gal is endearing and we get a side splitting moment like this....

    "Naomi comes around the corner and is face to navel with Seven.)
    SEVEN: Naomi Wildman, subunit of Ensign Samantha Wildman. State your

    I lost it :-) .... but seemingly forgotten is the following conversation what is the beginning of a great little relationship between 7 & Naomi. These two work great together on screen. Maybe 7 internally feels the need to bond with a child after losing hers (One)

    "Consider it assimilated."
    "I will comply"

    Don't kids always seem to put a bright spin on things?

    4-star episode for me.

    The scene where Seven is crouched on the floor acting innocently and Tuvok releasing the forcefield seemed to me a risky move on his part. She still had the phaser pointed at him and could easily have killed him once the forcefield was disengaged. The prudent move would have been for Tuvok to have her drop the weapon first.

    Strange that none of the personalities protested their surroundings.
    The little girl immediately plays with Naomi.
    The Klingon snacks on food at night.
    An ensign makes a few logs.
    Not one of them snapped to the reality they were in, equally odd is too many of them were from the Alpha Quadrant, the Borg piling them all on that ship is very unlikely.

    Did I miss something? What was the benefit in shutting down the vinculum (or whatever) if they were going to turn it over to the aliens? Won't they just reactivate it? It was mentioned earlier that leaving the area was not an option as the signal "permeates subspace", so if it could be reactivated wouldn't the whole problem with seven just begin again? I've read the comments above and nobody has mentioned this, so either I missed something or I noticed something no one else did (but I don't think I'm that clever). If anyone has an answer please let me know.

    Regardless, still a very good episode. Jeri Ryan was outstanding. 3 stars.

    Ferengi are Species 180? That seems like an incredibly low number for a non-Delta Quadrant species.

    @Dave - There was a random Klingon ship from Kirk's time in the Delta Quadrant.... probably a Ferengi ship floating around there somewhere too :P

    Wonderful Ryan episode.

    Funny though how her Vulcan is very close to her normal Seven performance, the rest of the performances were top notch. :)

    Doctor & Seven-centric episodes, along with time travel ones, continue to be my favourite.

    I join everyone's praise of Ryan's performance in this--except for her Vulcan, who i thought was just Seven back to normal until she identified herself. But I have a few problems with the episode that haven't been addressed yet.

    The little bit at the beginning when Neelix points out that Tuvok had been unable to catch the meat-eating intruder, and Tuvok is REALLY snarky suggesting an "armed security detail" when Neelix asks for stronger measures. I thought Neelix was dead-on to insinuate that Tuvok didn't take the thefts seriously. And then, after Tuvok's snark, all Neelix wanted was some padlocks. Serisouly? Tuvok hadn't thought of LOCKS for cabinets before this? I thought this was a great Neelix moment, and I wanted to slap Tuvok.

    When Seven turns into the Klingon and B'elanna thinks it was a joke from Tom? Really? That struck me as completely unbelievable that B'elanna would entertain for even a moment that it was a joke. She knows what Seven is like--has Seven EVER done such a thing? Her immediate reaciton should have been "Torres to Sickbay; something is wrong with Seven."

    Once again, the aliens of the week have to be assholes in order to create "tension." Are any aliens ever just nice people? If they seem nice, they are greedy or underhanded. All I can think of are 8472, who SEEMED mean but were really only acting defensively. They turned out to be really nice once they weren't scared. It would have been funny if one time an alien race was just nice and helpful, and then after Voyager got what they needed they simply comment "Well, they were nice." And that's all. Refreshing.

    Unlike others, I HATED the ending. I loved the setup, and the idea of Tuvok risking himself to help Seven, and yes, it was really scary in Seven's mind. But I was rooting for Tuvok to be what saved her--and it turned out to be B'elanna turning off the tech thingie. What Tuvok did turned out to be useless.

    I would suggest this is similar to what George Lucas did in later films--in the original Star Wars, all the tension leads up to the single focal point of Luke destroying the Death Star, and we as the audience are with him every moment. In each film following, the climax of the films became split more and more. In TPM, for example, we have to split our attention from the fight on Naboo with Qui Gonn, the droid fights, the battle in space, and good lord maybe more. What winds up happening is we care for none of these climaxes.

    I would have handled this by having Voyager vanquish the bad aliens as one small climax, then B'elanna fails to turn off the vinculum, all the while Seven's condition deteriorates. THEN Tuvok steps in as the last resort and all focus is on his ability to find the real Seven in her mind. We'd all be focused and able to enjoy Tuvok and Seven's success. Instead, our attention, and the tension of the episode, keeps getting pulled from what is happening in Seven's mind. I found that less than effective at building emotion.

    A minor complaint. You would think that after the second time the "midnight snacker" struck the kitchen, they would've put cameras or something in the kitchen. Is that so hard? Screw the security detail, how about a basic level of passive security - especially considering that Neelix would probably not be so lit up about it if Seven wasn't throwing food everywhere. But I suppose its consistent with the other MAJOR complaint about ST:Everything. Most of the injuries on the bridge, and ESPECIALLY the shuttle crashes, could be avoided by using restraints/seat belts/duct tape/anything aside from nothing.

    Also, how is there a "midnight" on a starship? Of course, there's an 0:00 hour, but does the ship shut down for 8 hours and everyone go to sleep? The ship should be crewed 24/7 and the galley should conceivably be open as well with "over-nighters".

    On a good note, Naomi is very cute and a great actress. She's growing on me as well - dispelling the usual dread that comes with child actors.

    2.5 stars. Very average

    The episode is watchable but not very compelling or entertaining. I find it hard to believe the Borg would save the personalities of assimilated individuals. They'd extract the relevant knowledge and delete the rest. The idea other aliens working to destroy the Borg was welcome. But again the episode just can't grip me. That said one of the better episodes from a very AWFUL fifth season on Voyager

    Pretty good episode with the strong point being Jeri Ryan's terrific acting. So used to her Borg persona but she seamlessly became a child, a Klingon, a mourning mother, a Ferengi, etc. and then her own fears of dying or suffering brain injury. Also another great performance from Picardo -- clearly showing the caring bond he has for 7 and I also loved his skepticism of the mind meld and his line to Tuvok about maybe getting a personality from the mind meld!

    I think, within the Trek paradigm, this story can make sense with the Borg vinculum interfering with 7 and how another species decided to implant a virus in it. Pretty good premise for me. VOY is definitely creative.

    The ending was a bit of a blur -- the strength was the vision of the mind meld with Tuvok trying to reach 7 amid all the chaos on a Borg ship, the weak part was the nonsensical machinations with the vinculum (who knows what Torres was trying to do as the thing powered up and down). Also think it was perfectly logical for the alien species to act as they did, so nothing wrong there. The Borg assimilated billions of them so they're not going to take crap from Janeway.

    A strong 3 stars for "Infinite Regression" -- another good character development piece for 7 who is getting more and more human all the time. She wanted to show gratitude and recognized the crew for their help. Nice little scene at the end with the eager-beaver kid wanting to be a bridge assistant as well. I guess it is a bit fortunate (or contrived) how it all worked out in the end with 1) mind meld working, 2) vinculum deactivating and getting beamed into space before 3) Voyager nearly gets blown to bits.

    Naomi and Seven dialogues were a hoot as many have said but I agree with Paul. The best line belongs to the Doctor:

    'With all these personalities around, shame we can't find one for you Tuvok."


    I have nothng to say about this episode that hasn’t already been said ad nauseum by the artsy-fartsy folks above.

    No... I only comment to have the weird pleasure of saying “howdy!” to the very first commenter on this episode, TH.

    9 and 1/2 years later, I can’t help but find it interesting. I hope “TH” is still out there, somewhere, and doing well. My thoughts are with you, oh random Internet stranger that went by the name TH!!

    The episode does seem to exist to serve the high concept, which in turn is a way to show off Jeri Ryan's versatility as an actress. It's hard to begrudge them that, and she *is* great. When the episode is doing comedy, it is, if not laugh-out-loud funny, generally agreeable and entertaining and thus worth the price of admission. When it gets serious, it feels as if there's a much better episode inside this one waiting to get out. The episode eventually mostly gets to a "Seven realizes that they care about her enough to save her" place, which is fine, but not really the most interesting place to go. There are two angles in particular I'm thinking of, of how this episode could work very well with the "Borg multiple personality syndrome" conceit, and I think the episode kind of gestures to both but doesn't go deep enough:

    1. This is the one the episode goes to more heavily, and this is: these are people who the Collective assimilated, and thus whose lives (and individuality) were destroyed. Seven experiencing their lives actually forces her to confront some guilt over what she did (was forced to do) as part of the Collective. Seven having her identity crowded out by all those other voices then sort of symbolizes her being dragged under the weight of the lives she feels some responsibility for ending, and Tuvok's efforts to reach and save her are a way of helping restore her recognition that she is a person who deserves her own life, tempting as it is to get bogged down in guilt and dismay at the number of people lost. This element works to a degree, but it short-circuits it a little by having Seven mostly seeming to forget her experiences being other people, rather than remembering them and then having to deal with them.

    2. The personalities could reveal something about Seven -- something that she is missing in her own life. Maybe her own aggression is coming out when she goes into the Klingon mode, for instance. This would also work better if Seven remembered or were more aware of the different voices that came up. This one sort of pays off at the end, in which Seven seems to want to act out as herself some of what she did while playing the little girl character (playing Kadis-Kot with Naomi), but otherwise I can't think of any indications of it.

    That the one element of her alternate personalities Seven seemed to want to use in her daily life was that one -- the girl -- makes me wonder what Annika's thoughts would actually be, and if they are still somewhere as part of the suppressed collective individual voices. The exact functioning (where are those thoughts coming from? who is thinking them? how much is Seven still connected to the collective?) is hazy and incoherent, but it seems as if the thoughts and personalities are mostly from people before their assimilation. It makes me wonder if that young girl might even have *been* Annika (though it probably doesn't fit with the way she's portrayed in [spoilers] Dark Frontier). But anyway, this maybe adds a (3): in experiencing how strongly people held onto their individuality before the Borg wiped it out, so that she still has an echo all this time later, Seven maybe gains a greater appreciation for it. And her pre-Borg growth was basically stunted as Annika as a child, and so her deciding to bond with Naomi to try to recreate what she'd lost makes sense.

    The stuff with the aliens, culminating in the space battle, is pretty pedestrian. The idea of a species' attempt to take down the Borg affecting Seven inadvertently is a good one, I think, and worth further exploration at some point, but not much is done with it here. The big head-scratcher in the episode for me was in the Janeway/Chakotay bridge scene when she ponders aloud whether maybe it wasn't worth it to bring Seven along, that maybe it just wasn't possible to rehabilitate her. Huh? It'd be one thing if Janeway said this after Seven's insubordination in Prey, where it looked like Seven might be impossible to control; or after something like Drone, where it might be that Seven and her Borg technology might prove too big a risk to the ship, in that there's a risk of Borg attacks whenever she's discovered. But in this episode, Seven is sick, through no fault of her own (except very indirectly in that she was a member of the Borg Collective and the Borg are dangerous enough to have people trying to kill them with a virus), and after she's locked in sickbay, she's not a danger to anyone else but herself. Janeway does risk the ship to save Seven by fighting the aliens in the perfunctory weekly battle scene, I'll grant, but Janeway doesn't frame her concerns as a "I'm not sure if it's worth risking this ship to save one crew member" dilemma, but some vague sense that Seven getting infected with a Borg Multiple Personality Disorder virus that affects only her is some predictable moral failing. It's really bizarre.

    This is the second time B'Elanna has had someone aggressively choose her as a mate in Engineering (also Vorik). Not the best workplace experience.

    Anyway the episode is fun and has a bit of meat, but that much. Better than you'd expect it to be but not as good as it could be; 2.5 stars.

    I also don't understand why the vinculum would have all the personalities and memories of everyone assimilated. In fact Seven specifically says it purges them.

    SEVEN: The processing device at the core of every Borg vessel. It interconnects the minds of all the drones. It purges individual thoughts and disseminates information relevant to the Collective.

    And if the virus makes all the drones crazy why was the Borg ship destroyed? And why wasn't the vinculum destroyed along with it? And wouldn't the rest of the Borg have realized what was going on, since they are all connected? Why would they go pick up a vinculum that drove an entire cube insane, and then hook it up? I assume the ship that picked it up would already have a vinculum. You'd think they would either leave it there, or destroy it. Why would they pass it on from ship to ship? I don't understand any of that.

    Not a bad episode. 2 1/2 stars.

    I guess you're supposed to just enjoy Jeri Ryan acting as a bunch of different personalities, and ignore the stupidity, incompetence, and plot holes surrounding it, but the bad parts were so bad I could not suspend my disbelief to enjoy the episode.

    The Borg are the greatest threat to the galaxy, and Janeway should be doing whatever she can do defeat them. She shouldn't have taken the McGuffin on board in the first place, and she should have handed it over to the aliens immediately.

    Sucks for Seven, but the needs of the many (and we are talking tens of billions who will be assimilated by the Borg in the future) outweigh the needs of the one. Spock taught me that. Captain Kirk and Spock would have done the right thing. McCoy might have complained about having to let someone die, but he would have lost the argument.

    And on top of that, don't they have security cameras in the future? And the Doctor making fun of Tuvok's mind meld is completely out of character.

    Ever since the episode where the doctor was trying to determine if he was a real person hallucinating being a hologram or a hologram hallucinating that he was a real person hallucinating that he was a hologram, i’ve said that Voyager has done Horror well.

    This episode is another example, if only in the mind meld scene.

    Grumpy_otter - great review. I think this was a 'high-concept' episode that was written as a rush-job, and that's why there were all the plot holes and gimmicks mentioned in the previous reviews. I would add to plot holes that Naomi should have immediately known something was wrong with Seven, not spent an hour with her playing a game. I'll bet Jeri Ryan relished the range the episode offered, and I"ll bet she enjoyed playing the Ferengi most.

    'Borg Multiple Personality Disorder' would have worked better as a well-thought-out multi-episode story arc. But that's not how most television worked at the time.

    I haven't watched too many of the Voyager episodes, my preference being the original series, but I found this one to be a real thriller. It was a well written story centering on the trials and tribulations of Seven of Nine as she grappled with a whole slew of invading entities threatening to destroy her, and Jeri Ryan turned in a real tour de force of a performance. And when that doctor, whom I can't stand because he's always so full of himself, failed in his efforts to remedy the situation, he was forced to step back and let the Vulcan, Tuvok, have a go at it---and Tuvok came through, going all-out with a powerful and dramatic Vulcan mind-fusion (not unlike the one Spock used in "The Paradise Syndrome", by the way), joining Seven's mind and helping her drive off the invaders. I always enjoy the mind-meld sequences in Star Trek, and this was one of the most electrifying.

    Good acting, some annoyingly contrived drama (of course, the signal doesn't get weaker with distance? Really? It did seem to get worse when they brought it closer)... and yet again, the absurdity of every drone seemingly having every bit of information held by the entire Borg Collective - or even of just one ship, it's no less absurd. All those personalities, we're told, weren't sent from the vinculum, but were in Seven's implants and activated. That's nuts.

    But my biggest single complaint is that this exemplifies, again, Voyager's contempt for science, compared to previous Trek series. The Doctor (as others noted, out-of-character in this) dismisses mind melds as "mumbo jumbo" when they are a well known and recognized phenomenon... so far as I could tell, this was just to provide the bogus "alternative medicine" viewpoint... "Oh, this runs counter to all known science, but there is this option proposed...." Come on. The Doctor is an expert on mild melds and other therapies, as he's said... mind melds are not magic, even if we're left in the dark just how they work.

    "You will just have to have faith in my ability"... how about a less loaded word, like trust? Trust in the real and recognized psychic abilities of Tuvok, for instance ... and yes, the Doctor should still have qualms because of the risk and seemingly low probability of success, but... that's not the same thing at all. Here he came across as hidebound in orthodoxy and objecting uselessly to the unconventional, which is a disservice to his character, and to science too.

    Oh, but I loved when Seven asked "What is the probability of success?" THAT was a great question, and one the Doctor should have been considering himself. That's how one makes rational decisions, in medicine and otherwise.

    Gary, you hit it right on the button with your description of that doctor. Hidebound,yes. Stick-in-the-mud, yes. Unwilling---and perhaps unable---to even consider alternatives. Otherwise he would have known that the Vulcan mind-fusion is the most powerful (if the most stressful) version of the mind-meld and that it had been a lifesaver in several episodes of the original series, and he should have, just once, extracted his head from the quicksand he usually kept it in---but no matter. Tuvok, the Vulcan chief of security (which would include psychological security as well) went after the problem and saved Seven of Nine's sanity, and indeed her life. And if that didn't cure the doctor of his misconceptions and mistrust of mind-melds---well, perhaps he should have gone in for opera full time, because he did have the voice for it.

    An additional comment: In the last act of this episode Tuvok said that he would need two hours to prepare. This meant only one thing: he was going all-out with the most powerful, and the most stressful, version of the mind-meld---the Vulcan mind-fusion, and he knew that this was going to be one very rough ride indeed---which he had to undertake if he were going to rescue Seven of Nine from the life-threatening situation she was in. And he told the doctor, who was way out of his league in this situation, to stay out of it and not interfere. Both participants in this very rough ride worked up a terrific sweat, but it was worth all the effort---Tuvok helped her drive off the invading entities, and she in turn, after a week of regeneration, was herself again. (The invaders were still there, but they were dormant, and if they were to resurface again so would the Great Stone Face---Tuvok.)

    Correction of the spelling of my last name: it's Zita Carno. Now for my additional comment: In the last act of this episode Tuvok said that he would need two hours to prepare. This meant only one thing: e was going all-out with the most powerful, and the most stressful, version of the mind-meld---the Vulcan mind-fusion, and he knew that this was going to be a very rough ride indeed---which he had to undertake if he were going to rescue Seven of Nine from the life-threatening situation she was in. And he told the doctor to stay out of it and not to interfere. (The doctor was way out of his league in this, so he complied, however reluctantly.) It was indeed a very rough ride, but Tuvok accomplished his mission, joining his mind with Seven's and helping her repel the invaders, and after a week in the regeneration chamber she was herself again. (The entities were still there, but they were dormant---and if they would ever resurface, so would the Great Stone Face---Tuvok.)

    It's amazing how wildly divergent they made Janeway on the Borg.

    Here they had her "give them a wide berth"...

    Cut to Dark Frontier, where she basically invades them.

    And...I can't stand the sci-fi trope where someone who is possessed by another entity will see the image of the person "in them" by looking in a mirror or reflective surface.

    It's absolutely absurd on its face. Who first came up with this?

    Jeri Ryan was great! What a talented lady.

    Interesting way to convey the horror of the Borg - the helplessness, the terror of being assimilated, the billions who've been subjected to it. Disturbing. Don't think I could have stood another moment of that mind meld sequence.

    That mind-meld sequence was the real turning point of the whole episode. You may recall that Tuvok had said he needed two hours to prepare, and that meant only one thing: he was going all-out, no holds barred, with the most powerful and the most stressful of all the mind-melds---the Vulcan mind-fusion, which had been a real lifesaver in several original-series episodes, and which was needed here in order to rescue Seven of Nine from that life-threatening predicament she faced. And the Great Stone Face accomplished his mission, with assistance from B'Elanna Torres in engineering who worked to destroy the Borg vinculum. And what a relief, when the thing was gone and he was able to get to Seven and join his mind with hers in a full meld and pull her out of that mess---I'm sure you must have felt the same sense of relief. Not tio mention that in no uncertain terms he had told that---uh---doctor, who was really out of his league here, to stay out of it and NOT interfere! I have long enjoyed, and I continue to investigate, the mind-meld sequences in all of Trek, and this was one of the most electrifying.

    Add me to the list of people who love the "Naomi Wildman, sub-unit of Ensign Samantha Wildman, state your intentions" dialogue.

    Has anyone else noticed that Seven of Nine has nice implants? They should rename her to Two of Double D.

    As much as I liked the creepy visuals, I wish they'd done more with it than just having "Larry" Tuvok (as we call him) and Seven yelling MULDER!!! and SCULLY!!! at each other across a chasm.

    Also, I had to chuckle at some of the "convenient" framing of those Sickbay shots.

    The Doctor, with Picardo really selling the concern:
    "Seven? Are you okay?"

    Seven, with Ryan crushing it conveying the distress:
    "Please help me!"

    Seven's Boobs, filling up 1/4 of my screen:

    Wow, what richly humorous observations the last two commenters made!

    As Jammer has observed, Seven’s character development has been one step forward, the producers and writers not remembering or caring about what that step was, and then a subsequent episode that may be a step backward.

    For the writers to have established a linear progression of her development, they would first have to have someone surgically pry their fingers off the weekly reset button.

    Season 5 in particular highlighted this problem: several episodes including this one were about “Seven is being called back by the collective somehow!” - it’s hard to write her as a living, breathing character when she is constantly at the mercy of the folks who ran the UPN promo department.

    What did Seven really “learn” by the end of the show? Upon the conclusion of the last stand-alone episode she was in, “Natural Law,” the answer was nothing. (Whatever happened in Endgame to her and everyone else was so Jeri-rigged that it’s hard to remember any specific character beats, save for Harry Kim’s laugh-Out-loud proclamation that “It’s always been about the journey, not the destination!”)

    @ alcoremor,

    I guess you might say that Seven's character progression forward in the series was marked by...infinite regress.

    Jeri Ryan did a wonderful job with all the fragmentary characters; the Ferengi impersonation was my favorite. The alien of the week a.k.a species 6339 was a bit of fresh air as well. Their suites were very cool - I hope we get to see them again.

    The rest was moderately entertaining. OK episode, but would probably skip during a re-watch.

    2 Stars.

    I actually sympathised a lot with the aliens... but is Borg genocide justified? According to Picard in I, Borg: no, it's not. But if you witness your quadrant slowly and relentlessly eaten out by the Borg... well, I thought about it a lot!

    I thought the story here was pretty weak. In particular I cosign grumpy otter's complaint that the deactivation of the vinculum made Tuvok's mindmeld superfluous.

    But the episode is saved by Jeri Ryan‘s virtuoso acting. She was given a showcase for her thespian chops and really took full advantage of the opportunity.

    Oh geez, the opening scenes have Hooters of Nine going medieval on Neelix's produce. This doesn't bode well for the rest of the episode. What the frick!?

    "With all these personalities around, shame we can't find one for you Tuvok."
    - Yeah, coz being logical, stable, dispassionate, erudite, reliable, consistent, loyal, inscrutable... - is not a personality. Having a personality means behaving like everyone else in the Oprah/Ellen collective. There's a damn good reason Tuvok and the Doc are such stand-out characters. Could it be because they actually stand out?

    When Seven goes mental and overpowers Torres as well as three security officers, you wonder why the hell they carry phasers if they never use them. What happened to "set your phasers on stun"? Well, I guess we'd not have much of a show if security personnel did its job. Plus, it's mind-blowing how many vulnerabilities everything on the vessel--equipment and crew alike--has. Voyager and its personnel are easier to exploit than Windows 95, for Pete's sake! Even its security procedures and mechanics (such as level 10 forcefields) routinely get circumvented. Sheesh...

    But anyway. Pretty enjoyable. Seven did a great job with the multiple personalities and the overall idea is intriguing. Seven-qua-Klingon's "You're strong, you'll make an excellent mate" and then "Naomi Wildman, subunit of Ensign Samantha Wildman, state your intentions" gave me the LOLZ that make this a 3-star-er!

    This is Jeri Ryan's show and I have no problem with that. She's great here.

    Tuvok and Seven work well together. I can't remember if there are any episodes after this that team them up, but there should have been.

    As others have said Doc's "personalities" line and Seven's "Sub-unit" line are both gold.

    I like Naomi Wildman. Many child actors are annoying but Scarlett Pomers is good.

    You know what really sealed the deal for me though? The screaming little girl at the end. Being assimilated by the Borg should be an abominable fate, and that little girls stark terror really brought the horror of the situation home.

    Lol whenever Tuvok or any Vulcan recommends a mind meld, we always get the usual protest from a doctor only for the meld to proceed anyways. Can we just skip the predictable protest?

    "Infinite Regress" had some great performances by Jeri Ryan, but the direction was painful to the ear and to the eye. It definitely over pumped the strobe-lights to the point that it became unwatchable. It takes a First Place ribbon as the episode most effective in compelling the viewer to endure pretty much the same mental torture that the victimized character experiences.....shades of sitting in that chair in Tantalus Colony with Dr. Adams. (TOS Dagger of the Mind).

    2 stars....not for the faint-hearted, or the wasily nauseated, and I couldn't help but notice that the other characters really looked awful....weakened and depressed from having been sidelined to cipher-level. Bad vibes.


    Man what a noisy episode.....and one that is surely seizure-inducing for photically-sensitive viewers and epileptics.

    I had a text exchange with a Voyager-watching friend 45 minutes after I wrote the review and sent up a red flag to warn her off this one. All she wanted to do was to sit back after a hard day's work, watch a good Voyager and have some home-made ice cream. This was definitely not a good ice cream Voyager.

    Jack said:

    "The midnight snacker ate an animal leg Neelix was saving for some ensign's birthday, but with Voyager's compliment, someone on Voyager is likely having a birthday every three or four it really that special?"

    On that...unless Neelix replicated an animal leg only to store it in the fridge, which seems odd, it really is an animal leg. When did the crew go hunting?

    Torres and Tuvok were trying to "disable" that vinculum thing. Why didn’t they just beam it into space and shoot a phaser at it?

    I feel the most satisfaction with logical consistency, and this is another VOY episode where that was lacking:

    The vinculum permeates subspace so there is no escaping it, so what would happen if Seven were effected at a much greater distance that Janeway couldn't do anything about?

    They deactivate the vinculum and free Seven, but then beam it off the ship back into the hands of the aliens, who will just... reactivate it? Wouldn't Seven then be at risk again?

    The aliens were boring, alien-of-the-week material, and their space suits were laughable. For once it would be nice to see some non-reactive aliens on this show. They are smart enough to rig the vinculum and use advanced starships, but not talk diplomatically for more than 5 minutes?

    Seven says the viculum's function is to purge individuality, yet the collective somehow retains all the individual personalities for... some reason? And these personalities are all inside of each drone? How could a single drone have enough storage capacity to store the personalities of trillions of assimilated individuals?

    Why would the collective come to salvage a damaged vinculum when we know from Dark Frontier that all relevant technology in a Borg vessel fuses when the vessel is destroyed, to prevent other species from using it?

    The doctor says "we've lost Seven" which is seemingly for dramatic effect because Seven resurfaces a short time later and is fully interactive for the rest of the episode., including making her own medical decisions.

    When Seven attacks B'elanna, when isn't B'elanna already armed? I mean, with a new hostile invader every week, you think engineering would be armed all the time at this point.

    I could go on.

    - Shields down to 60 percent!
    - Evasive maneuvers. Target their weapons array.
    - Targeting systems are malfuctioning!

    Shock Shock.

    This is a good episode. I enjoy seeing some of the technology behind the Borg. All the personalities get assimilated and then filtered out so the collective order comes through. I also think Jeri Ryan was great in this episode. Jammer referred to this as another "borg psychological thriller", I have enjoyed all of these episodes to this point.

    I’m surprised so few commenters have taken issue with voyager’s decision to once again help the Borg. I mean, I like seven as much as the next nerd, but isn’t the ethical balance in favor of these aliens and their viniculum based hijinx? It seems that the virus planted in the viniculum thing essentially re-individualizes the personalities of assimilated people, so in a way this plan of theirs would be deborgifying billions of people. Granted it’s also placing them in some sort of horrid steam punk fever dream nightmare, but still how can Janeway and co ethically justify denying all those people their chance at regaining some semblance of individuality?

    Also, I have to believe that when voyager gets back to the federation, there’s gonna be a lot of questions along the lines of “you did WHAT??” This is the second time in so many seasons that voyager has bailed out the Borg. I think Starfleet command might need an explanation or two.

    Lastly, for all those wondering if it’s moral to use weapons of mass destruction against the Borg, the answer is yes, yes it is. The Borg have essentially declared a genocidal war against the universe. They’re really more akin to a virus than a civilization, so my vote is that there should be no punches pulled. If you have a chance to do some damage, do it. Failure in that direction runs the risk of making you morally culpable for the next species that gets assimilated while you were doing your little hand wringing routine.

    It's a rite of passage for Star Trek actors to be called upon to present "alternate personalities." Jeri Ryan acquitted herself well in this episode on the challenge. I liked the episode if only its demonstration that young Jeri was capable of being much more than just eye candy.

    My pet Star Trek peeve, however, is in this episode and that's totally illogical "alien makeup." I suppose that's Michael Westmore. Some Star Trek aliens are very good (e.g. the Borg) but then there are these weird creations concocted by someone who spent too much time in art school and not enough thinking about how the appendages and other add on plastics could have been the product of any kind of evolution even in an alien environment.

    It's pretty brutal how Seven of Nine re-cites a female officer/starfleet crew member that was supposed to meet her lover at Wolf 359, while she was probably directly involved at assimilating her.

    It would have been cool if Tuvok's degenerative neurological disease would've been a result of this painful Mind Meld in this episode.

    A good episode-scary. I think the 7 of 9 actress did a good job bouncing from character to character.

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