Star Trek: Voyager

"Child's Play"

3 stars

Air date: 3/8/2000
Teleplay by Raf Green
Story by Paul Brown
Directed by Mike Vejar

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"When the project began, they wanted to clone Naomi. But I suggested they start with something smaller." — Seven on potato cloning, a Borg-kid science project

Nutshell: A very nicely acted hour, though I'm not so sure aspects of the twist ending are completely fair to the viewer.

"Child's Play" is a well-acted study of characters who find themselves in emotionally difficult situations and have to make tough choices. For a long time, the story seems like one of the most fairly and even-handedly developed sci-fi child-custody issues that could possibly have been conceived given the setup material. But there's a twist ending that exists to give the episode some action zip and additional plotting intrigue. The twist ultimately works in story terms, but it somewhat undermines some of the earlier drama. After watching characters who ring so true given their apparent motivations, it's a bit frustrating to see that half their heartfelt dialog turns out to be laced with lies and deception.

The episode centers on (who else?) Seven of Nine, who has been successful in helping the Borg children adjust to life on Voyager. But her attachment could be nearing the end for the oldest of the children, Icheb; the crew has located the boy's parents, and they have set course to return him to his homeworld, Brunali.

Brunali is located right next to the exit of a Borg transwarp conduit. "Not exactly prime real estate," Paris notes in his typical metaphorical one-liner fashion. The Brunali comprise a primarily agrarian culture that has suffered numerous attacks by its Borg neighbors. The Borg usually leave the Brunali alone—unless they detect technology that's of enough interest to them. The Brunali therefore do everything they can to maintain a low profile and keep any advanced technology under wraps. Why don't they relocate?, Seven asks. Because home is home, and the Brunali won't be bullied by the Borg.

Icheb's parents, Yifay (Tracey Ellis) and Leucon (Mark A. Sheppard) are portrayed as understanding people. There's no forced conflict here. Yes, they certainly want their son back, but they're not made to be unreasonable forces against Seven, which is a good thing. They're characters who are not scripted unfairly, and the guest performances are on par.

"Child's Play" is the sort of basic story that for a long time doesn't have much plotting but instead simply and slowly analyzes a situation with its characters. Scenes exist to reveal attitudes and gradual understanding through sensible dialog that fits the situation. The story takes a simple problem and cranks it through various details that grow naturally from what's going on, as Icheb starts out wanting nothing to do with his parents, then gradually becomes open to the idea of returning home to live with them.

There's really no reason to describe these scenes in great detail. My analysis of most of the episode simply comes down to, "Yeah, that's a sensibly written scene." I'll also point out that the performances are right on target. I'm trying to remember the last time I criticized a Jeri Ryan performance, and I'm not sure if I even have. I won't be here, either; Ryan is once again the key to making us believe in the problem at hand. Seven has a lot of emotions at stake here, and we can see that she truly wants what's best for Icheb, while we also see that it pains her to send him back with parents that even to Icheb are strangers. Manu Intiraymi works well as Icheb in these scenes, taking the less-is-more approach of Borgish rendition. (There are, of course, also the typically solid Janeway/Seven discussions.)

I also liked the way this episode tied Seven's dilemma into her past involving her own parents. Part of Seven's skepticism concerning Icheb's parents boils down to the fact that she understands his needs as a liberated Borg better than his parents possibly can, and that his options on Voyager will better allow him to exploit his talents and interests in space travel. But there's also her worry of parental irresponsibility. Seven fears Icheb will be reassimilated if the Borg come visiting the Brunali world again, and the Brunali's determination for staying on the planet seems at odds with Icheb's well-being. Seven notes a connection here with her own parents' recklessness in chasing after Borg cubes. The situation hits her close to home. It's a character-history point that makes a great deal of sense.

As I already mentioned, "Child's Play" features a plot twist that the writers cleverly launch upon us near the end of the fourth act. It involves Icheb's parents turning out to have hidden motives, on the account that Icheb was really a bio-engineered weapon who was genetically altered at birth to develop a pathogen that would infect the Borg. His assimilation was intentional, and Icheb's parents plan to "deploy" him again, launching him toward the transwarp conduit in a ship designed to attract Borg attention.

Once Seven and the captain figure out what's really going on, we get an action premise where Voyager must rescue Icheb before the Borg capture him. Structurally, this is kind of weird, because we have a slow-moving hour for most of the way, and then suddenly we get what I'm opting to call the weekly Voyager Action Insert—the mandatory isolated action sequence that exists in the final act of so many episodes simply because the creators believe viewers will not tolerate an action-free show. (And preferably, something in the Action Insert needs to get blown up.) Hey, I have nothing against explosions, and I even think the blown-up Borg sphere here manages to work on its given terms (and is executed with some vigor). But I also feel a bit iffy about the fact that such sincere material (Icheb's parents coaxing him to return home) is instantly turned on its head into something so sinister. Within barely two minutes of screen time, we go from a story about one child to a story about defending a planet from Borg by using one child as a time bomb. That's not a huge problem given the way it all plays out, but it doesn't exactly seem like the story we started with.

The episode depicts the parents as people who are acting in the interests of a greater good—the protection of their planet from the Borg—but one wonders exactly how this plan is supposed to work given the way "Collective" resulted in the destruction of only one ship, left abandoned. Speaking of, the way this episode ties in with "Collective" is interesting, and shows that the writers might actually have been thinking a few shows ahead (!) when they wrote it.

But what really carries the show are the Seven/Icheb scenes and the emotional undercurrents. The final scene does a good job of reflecting on the actions of Icheb's parents. Seven calls those actions "barbaric," but Icheb's response isn't to wonder whether he can forgive his parents, but whether they can forgive him for failing to become the weapon he was intended to be.

The questions here, I think, look at this boy's odd place in life. Was Icheb's purpose preordained, and was being rescued by Voyager providing him a second chance to live a real life? If his original purpose in life was to destroy Borg, was he led astray by a combination of fate and Voyager's actions? Or was he freed from an enslaved existence supplied to him by his parents? Does defending a planet make it right to preprogram a life as a pathogen-carrying future Borg drone? The humane answer would be an obvious "no," but where does morality end and desperation to address a greater good take over?

Obviously, parents aren't always right and children aren't in the position to make the best decisions for themselves. Fortunately, Icheb now has Seven looking out for him, and her perspectives have a great deal of human reason. But Icheb's parents didn't have a son; they had living, breathing time bomb that they raised as a son. That's pretty meaty stuff. Funny, how it all comes to light in the last 10 minutes, while the first 50 exist in a world so much simpler.

Next week: Some members of the lower ranks go on an adventure with the captain.

Previous episode: Ashes to Ashes
Next episode: Good Shepherd

◄ Season Index

57 comments on this review

Jakob M. Mokoru
Tue, Feb 19, 2008, 3:02am (UTC -5)
Doesn't the prime directive forbid Janeway to rescue Icheb?
Wed, Apr 23, 2008, 4:01pm (UTC -5)
Since Voyager is the reason he's home in the first place, I don't see why the prime directive would apply; an since when does anyone quote that old thing.

There was one scene in this episode that kind of annoyed me. Mezoti asks Seven what will happen if Icheb gets assimilated again. Seven replys that it's unlikely. Mezoti then informs Seven that Icheb was on a ship when he was assimilated, not the surface like his father claimed. The problem I have with this scene is how horribly it was executed. Mezoti asks her initial, presumably out of concern for Icheb. However, she quickly seems to stop caring at all what the answer is, as she goes off to regeneration-sleep right in the middle of the apparent conflict of information.
Ken Egervari
Mon, Dec 14, 2009, 12:59am (UTC -5)
This is a passable episode. It's not amazing, but it's decent. One could only wish the bad Voyager episodes were of this equality... then we'd have a much better series.

I know this isn't groundbreaking... but I do have to commend the writers for continuity. This is now 3 episodes with the children from the borg cube... AND... they managed to tie a plot point to explain how the first cube in "Collective" was infected in the first place. That's admirable.

A lot of good serialized shows do this kind of plotting all the time... but because Voyager has virtually no plotting across episodes at all... it actually comes off as surprise. The show is better and stronger for it. One can only hope they did it all the time.
Fri, Dec 10, 2010, 9:31pm (UTC -5)
I thought th episode was very intruiging and I oved the spot on written scene with those ex Borg kids, who jus randomly kept speaking their thoughts, non stop, which real showed thateven tough they now speak they are stll used to very close communication, anyon agrees???
Tue, Mar 29, 2011, 6:13pm (UTC -5)
Yeah some pretty good stuff (if a bit chilling!)

Moar continuity!! Wow!! See it's not so difficult when you put your mind to it, and your audience appreciates it.

I have to say, I found it pretty obvious straight away that something wasn't quite right with his parents. Their son comes back from being assimilated and when he first materialises on the planet do they look delighted, run up and hug him? No! They just stand there all kind of "yeah, so er welcome back I guess". Hmm.

I think most of what was to be said has been said otherwise, so a couple of points of amusement:

- This time Seven couldn't get a lock. Poor Harry "Chump" Kim gets blamed all the time, but the fact is it's Voyager's transporter locking mechanism that is as much use as a chocolate teapot. Between this, lack of shuttle retention, holodeck safeties that can be destroyed by holographic bullets while they are still switched on etc, really seem to suggest that whoever designed that ship was a complete idiot :P

- Part of the dialogue asks whether Naomi would find her mother irrelevant. Well she seems to look to Seven as her mother and her real one vanished into thin air, so yeah, I guess she would!
Tue, Jun 21, 2011, 3:37am (UTC -5)
It's not a twist ending, it's commentary on another manner in which the Borg ruin lives (turing parents into heartless freedom fighters), and it connects thematically with every other thread of the episode. This is yet ANOTHER case where you just wanted it to be something else (a character study). This is Star Trek; characterisations drive the mythical subtext. That's how it works.

This is easily a 3.5 star if not 4 star episode, but again your bias paints the series mediocre.

I propose an experiment: add half a star to every review of VOY and deduct half from every review of DS9 (all the 4-stars can remain). What would that look like? It's that half a star that really makes the difference and it's all a question of taste.
Tue, Sep 6, 2011, 4:46am (UTC -5)
Elliot, this Voyager > DS9 fixation you have is an argument you're unlikely to win in many places other than your own mind. I actually think Jammer is more than generous when it comes to Voyager's ratings. Many others have been far less forgiving when it comes to this show.

I enjoyed this ep; the themes are quite familiar, but it's perhaps the first time we've seen an ex-Borg reuniting with family. It was well-executed and engaging. I knew there would be some kind of twist at the end (and it IS a twist), but wasn't expecting this. I liked it, and does nicely explain the events of 'Collective' (forward-thinking? Impressive!!). I wish there had been a little more foreshadowing, however, maybe some indication that Icheb's parents weren't all they seemed. It came a little out of the blue. The best twists are those that are unexpected, yet when you look back you can see they've been cleverly foreshadowed and fit in with the rest of the story. Still - above average episode, I'd give it a healthy *** too.
Sat, Sep 17, 2011, 10:29pm (UTC -5)
Ice, Elliot has managed to point out double standards in the reviews where a plot device used on DS9 got raves while on Voyager it got gripes. In The Cards was among the better examples of this.
Sat, Nov 12, 2011, 2:41am (UTC -5)
Ahhh, so this is the episode where "transwarp conduit" goes from being something created by the ship to a piece of fixed infrastructure. Love that Voyager continuity.
Captain Jim
Sun, Apr 22, 2012, 9:20pm (UTC -5)
As Ken Egervari and others have mentioned, kudos to the writers for the great use of continuity in this episode - something which, oddly enough, Jammer doesn't even mention.

I did find it a bit odd that Icheb had developed such in attachment to Voyager in such a short time (and likewise, that Seven had developed such an attachment to Icheb in such a sort time) but that's a small matter that I'm willing to overlook.

All in all, a very entertaining episode and I think three stars is about right.

I was surprised and pleased to see Mark Sheppard guest-starring here after having become acquainted with him in recent episodes of Doctor Who.
Wed, Jun 13, 2012, 7:11pm (UTC -5)
3 stars is about right. It's a good story and Icheb is a compelling character, but I agree that his parents' "flip" was a bit jarring and that the action seemed perfuctory.

If the VOYwriters had delivered more continuity and story arcs like this one involving the Borg children it would have been better than just a good series.
Mon, Aug 6, 2012, 12:39am (UTC -5)
I hated this episode on first run, mainly because I was not interested in the Borg kids and thought Voyager was going off the rails. However, watching it again on 2nd run, I actually enjoyed it quite a bit- particularly the continuity with Collective and the fight with the Borg Sphere. I'd give it a 3 also.
Fri, Jan 11, 2013, 7:41pm (UTC -5)
Okay, whatever became of the Borg infant from "Collective"? It was last seen beamed to Voyager...but who is caring for it now? If they didn't want to be saddled with it, they could have just technobabbled some excuse for it not having survived, but I recall no mention one way or the other...
Mon, Jan 28, 2013, 4:00am (UTC -5)
Sorry... My previous comment is intended for Good Shepherd.

[Previous comment moved by administrator to correct page.]

Since I'm here, I have to say I agree with Elliott, it's a truly good episode indeed.
Fri, Feb 22, 2013, 6:26am (UTC -5)
Some people here praise this Episode for rare continuity.
However, there is still something that does not work. It feels like Icheb is already about 1 or 2 seasons on Voyager considering the strong emotions Seven and the others have regarding his departure. But don't forget that only 2 Episodes! passed since he was released from the Borg.

This episode would have worked better if more time since "Collective" had passed.
Wed, Jun 26, 2013, 6:38am (UTC -5)
Yet another superb analysis. I can't think of anything to add.

Many people like to point to Seven of Nine and Jeri Ryan as one of the primary ways in which Voyager "ruined the Borg". In fact, the character (thanks in large part to the actress) were the best explorations of the Borg "species" Voyager had to offer. I agree that the Borg as the ultimate Federation adversary were severely diminished by their overuse in Voyager, but Jeri Ryan/Seven had little to do with it.
Mon, Jul 8, 2013, 3:08pm (UTC -5)
To those complaining that the kids haven't been aboard long enough to have developed such attachments:

Just because we've only seen two episodes doesn't mean that it's only been two days or even two weeks in Voyager time. I actually got the impression that they'd been on board for a few months, as clued by how far their "studies" had progressed and the fact that they were having a science fair. Also, it is mentioned that Seven has successfully helped them to adapt to life on Voyager and make the transition to individuals. This also implies a greater span of time. We just didn't see any of it happen.

All of that being said, it would have been nice to have at least one line mentioning a time-frame.
Mon, Aug 12, 2013, 8:31pm (UTC -5)
The twist with the parents really took me by surprise - in an good way. Very clever writing.
Fri, Aug 16, 2013, 9:55am (UTC -5)
I always love when people complain about continuity then they think that 2 episodes =2 weeks and 5 episodes= 5 weeks. lol.

now, i must say, voyager has continually used 1 season = 1 year. however, this doesnt mean that the episodes have to be fixed positions in the year. it is not like there are 52 episodes.

in any case, i enjoyed this episode.

funny thing, clearly, Jammer is biased toward DS9 in his reviews, but his RATINGs...usually dont show that bias.

i agree, this is a 3 star episode.
Lt. Yarko
Fri, Sep 6, 2013, 10:57am (UTC -5)
Oh brother. The parents ended up being Bad Guys. Figures. And the episode was going so well. This episode was been the most moving one yet, and then they ruin it with bullcrap. Too bad they couldn't have been this moving with any of the original characters. They had to wait until a late season and with recently added characters before making me actually give a damn.
Thu, Dec 19, 2013, 2:27am (UTC -5)
Those asking about the baby Borg- this is a massive cop out but according to Memory Alpha the writers have gone on record to say that the baby was returned to its parents off camera. No mention of it on screen though means they most likely forgot about it and the writers just wanted to get people to shut up.

On this run through of Voyager I'm not as enthusiastic as when I was a teenager. With TNG I was hooked on a run trough but with Voyager I'm bored but soldiering on.
Fri, Jan 10, 2014, 10:07am (UTC -5)
The baby was pretty much must have been assimilated mere days (or at best a few weeks) before the events of this episode, and born certainly AFTER the kids became detached from the Borg. The only conclusion is that these children snatched the infant and assimilated it.
Wed, Jan 22, 2014, 8:51pm (UTC -5) I the only one who thinks it's okay that they used someone as a weapon against the Borg? Granted, I think it's a dumb idea to use a kid instead of a voluntary adult. I'd volunteer for such a thing. It's been a while, but is there any reason why they couldn't use an adult? Seems that kind of thing wouldn't make that much of a difference.

Also, the boy can't be the only one they sent after the Borg. Surely they'd try more than one. And when the Borg caught on to which of the cubes were being destroyed, they'd come and destroy the planet.
Mon, Mar 3, 2014, 4:30pm (UTC -5)
I think the "twist" is problematic, not because it’s unfair to the viewer, but because it sends the wrong message. Instead of Seven getting a lesson on being overprotective, she is vindicated because it turns out her unfounded suspicions were correct (how convenient!) The way it’s presented also doesn’t make much plot sense. The Brunali may have initially thought their pathogen would affect the entire collective instead of a single ship. But why send him out a second time? Why not keep him with them until the Borg find reason to attack them again? Using up their weapon at a time when their planet would otherwise not be in danger is short-sighted and implausible (but I guess we needed that action quotient!)

Then again, if it wasn’t for this twist, we probably wouldn’t have an episode. The first three acts are drawn out as it is. 2.5 stars at best.
Fri, May 23, 2014, 2:22am (UTC -5)
Finally a good, powerful episode. I have been exposed to quite a too many mediocre to bad Trek in a row this season.

But this is really good. Naturally deep, not forced. Organically touching, not artificial, since it brings character developmental issues that tie very naturally to the situation they are in. Great piece of Trek.

I do not think the final twist was neither unfair to the viewer (it is a twist, you know), nor did send the wrong message. Seven was not being overprotective. She was certainly suffering and concerned with a lot of things, but she was not even exactly egoist, if you think she always "complied" to any request the parent, the kid or the captain made.

On the other hand, I think the final questioning raised by the episode, i.e. about how the kid felt about his role in life according to different angles, could have been much more well developed. This was the real deal being settled during the whole episode, but did not explode as powerful as it could have. Even though, that's certainly a 3 to 3.5 stars for me.

In a side note, I can't help but answer Jammer's concluding question: "Does defending a planet make it right to preprogram a life as a pathogen-carrying future Borg drone? The humane answer would be an obvious 'no,' but where does morality end and desperation to address a greater good take over?". The answer is simple: DS9. As well as our real Earth.
Mon, Nov 10, 2014, 7:10pm (UTC -5)
The main problem with this episode is the gaping whole in the plot logic: if Icheb naturally produces a pathogen that kills Borg, why doesn't he infect Seven and the other ex-Borg in this and the first episode he's in? This spoiled what was otherwise a decent episode for me. Classic lazy Voyager writing cop out...
Sat, Jun 6, 2015, 8:00pm (UTC -5)
The parents having bred Icheb as a living weapon to destroy the Borg seems a little farfetched, if you ask me.
First of all: He wasn't really that effective, given that he only disabled a single cube. In Collective, we learn that one cube is roughly 5.000 Borg. What's a few thousand compared to the billions of the collective? That's like going to war arming your soldiers with bbguns.
Then there was also the fact that apparently waited until Icheb was in his early teens before deploying him as a weapon. Why risk it? What if you become so emotionally attached to him during that period that you find yourself unable to go through with it, as you would expect of any decent parent? The situation is dire for the Brunali, but the love parents can have for their children can often be overwhelming and, as Tuvok would say, impair their logic.

Most of the episode worked, until they implemented that twist. I wouldn't go so far as to say it ruined the episode, because they do tie it in reasonably sensible, but it still feels out of place. It's too sudden and jarring. It feels like they should have been 2 seperate episodes.
Thu, Feb 18, 2016, 9:07am (UTC -5)
No way a mother would do such a thing. Seven's assessment of the parents is spot on. They don't deserve Icheb.Who thinks this rubbish makes for good drama/TV/storytelling? BS, that woman is one loathsome creature.
Thu, Feb 18, 2016, 6:30pm (UTC -5)

Ofcourse there are women who do such things and worse
Magda Goebbels for example who fatally poisoned her 6 children.
I found Child's play to be one of the best episodes of Star Trek.
Sat, Mar 5, 2016, 9:33pm (UTC -5)
Again, the writers were not even reading their own script. The main topic of the episode involves the parents sending Icheb back to infect a new Borg cube. Genectically altered before he was even born. This means as soon as he was connected to the Regeneration chamber on Voyager, he should have infected Seven. I can buy the other kids not being infected because they were protected in their Maturation Chambers, and may have developed immunity, but Seven wasn't.

Imagine if Seven died in this episode. Could've been very powerful.
Tue, Mar 8, 2016, 9:06am (UTC -5)
Petulant, dear, my very point, Magda Goebbels was a psycho crim. So is Icheb's mother, one unmitigated bitch. I love Voyager. I adore ST. But when I see something that disturbs me, I call it like it is. The best thing about this ep was the visual depiction of the agricultural society on Brunali. Seven brilliant as usual, Janeway unhinged and inconsistent as usual. After the warm and fuzzy family under the stars scene, the mother and the writers pull a cheap and nasty swifty and ruin the entire ep. I don't care if the holy ghost itself wrote this shit. The only other unmitigated bitch I can think of is Lady Macbeth. Psycho crim pure and simple.
Wed, Mar 9, 2016, 10:46am (UTC -5)
I think Nic said it best:

"The 'twist' is problematic, not because it’s unfair to the viewer, but because it sends the wrong message. Instead of Seven getting a lesson on being overprotective, she is vindicated because it turns out her unfounded suspicions were correct (how convenient!) The way it’s presented also doesn’t make much plot sense. The Brunali may have initially thought their pathogen would affect the entire collective instead of a single ship. But why send him out a second time? Why not keep him with them until the Borg find reason to attack them again? Using up their weapon at a time when their planet would otherwise not be in danger is short-sighted and implausible (but I guess we needed that action quotient!)"

It's seems that either they can make more Ichebs, so they are firing them at will, and Voyager part doesn't matter. Or, Icheb is rare resource and the Brunali are wasting him by luring out mere inoffensive spheres when they could focusing on attacking cubes or something.

Another thing is, were they really expecting to get Icheb back a second time? Didn't he fulfill his mission? The writers didn't really bother to explain any of the Brunali's strategy to us, so it feels like the stakes are artificially raised.

I think they're trying to get us to debate war ideals and how to treat children, but the story is too distracting to really get to this argument.

2 stars.
Diamond Dave
Sun, Mar 13, 2016, 3:13pm (UTC -5)
At last a strong episode after a run of sub-par outings. Everything here - writing, performances, pacing - is spot on, and it all adds up to an hour that solidly hits the mark. I thought the twist was nicely handled - it's obvious that something is wrong given we've still got a significant bit the episode to go when Voyager leaves, but it's not telegraphed as to how it will play out. We also get a relevant and exciting bit of action towards the end too.

And it's interesting that after the rather uneasy use of the Borg children in the previous episode, we actually get a sensible and clever use here. You see, it can be done... 3.5 stars.
Tue, Mar 22, 2016, 8:12pm (UTC -5)
Voyager gets a lot of criticism both for neutering the Borg and for its cookie-cutter obstinate aliens of the week, and rightfully so. However, I will give them credit for one thing: I think they did do a good job of showing the desperation that these races feel when it comes to dealing with the Borg. We saw it in Day of Honor, in Hope and Fear, in Infinite Regress. And we see it here.

Regardless of how you feel about the ultimate morality of what these people did, I think it's safe to say they would never have considered such a barbaric act if they weren't feeling the intolerable pressure of the Borg. Everyone we meet seems nice, their people interact with each other peacefully, and their interests lie in agriculture rather than murder. These aren't the Kazon or Nausicaans. But when your back is against the wall and the Borg apocalypse, perhaps child suicide bombers becomes an option. And even as we condemn them for crossing that moral line, one can wonder what we would do in such an intolerable situation.

On the flip side, I do have to question their strategy. If this virus is harmless to them, why don't they genetically engineer EVERYONE to have it? Not to turn everyone into a suicide bomber of course, but to use as an insurance policy or an act of revenge against the Borg. It appears that at least a remnant of these people survive whenever the Borg attack. If so, and if the entire invading force ends up being killed by this virus (and maybe even more cubes if the virus is delayed in being released), then maybe next time the Borg will think twice before invading. Birds don't eat the brightly colored poison frogs, after all. Even if it wouldn't save the civilization from the initial attack, it might save them in the long run. Surely that's a better strategy than making a few kids and then sending them off as missiles? Besides being more ethical, of course.

But I will forgive the writers for not exploring that part. Only so much time in an episode after all.

Speaking of which, I have to admit it was odd that the episode was so finely divided between the "Icheb returns home" and "suicide bomber" storylines. Other than Seven's general overprotectiveness and the one story the father gave about Icheb's assimilation, there was no overlap between the two. Normally, with Trek, we'd get the parents having a cryptic and menacing conversation in private right before a commercial break (with generic ominous music in the background, of course) in the first half to set it up. I'm not sure if I'd like this approach all the time, but it's at least a different approach. Why not mix things up a bit?

I also like that it was the father who was wavering in his decision, while the mother was firm in sending Icheb back. Usually it's the other way around. Again, it's a minor thing to make the episode feel a bit different.

And the scenery on the planet! Very well done. The burned out hulk of their older cities, the fact that the agrarian society is living in a desert, and the water gushing out of the pipe is a disgusting brown, all point to the desperate situation these people live in and the extreme measures they need to take in order to survive. It's subtle, but helps to define the reason why Icheb's parents would perform such extreme acts.

Meanwhile, we had an interesting parallel, even if it wasn't explicitly stated. Seven's protectiveness towards Icheb is eventually revealed to be due to her anger at her own parents, who risked her life for their own self-interests. One can perhaps forgive them for this, as they were acting out of ignorance and weren't trying to get Annika killed. Meanwhile, Icheb was deliberately put in harm's way by his parents. And yet, at the end of the episode, Icheb clearly forgives his parents and feels guilty for not fulfilling his mission. Like I said, the episode never explicitly states this parallel, but bringing them both up gives some insights into both of their characters. Well done.

So on the whole, this episode works due to these minor points. Unfortunately, most of the plot points are fairly generic (Icheb rejecting his family at first but slowly coming to accept them; the trite action scene with the Borg at the end), but I can forgive that. I wasn't too thrilled with the idea of having the Borg Brats on the ship to begin with, but I will admit that they did something good with them here.
Wed, Mar 30, 2016, 6:31pm (UTC -5)
Yeeah, I didn't enjoy that that twist ending suddenly uproots our refreshingly simple and heartfelt plot with some nasty, cynical ramifications that don't make a whole lot of sense under scrutiny aside from serving as our prescribed dose of bombastic action. It may have sat better with the viewer if the episode had just ended after the crew says their goodbyes to Icheb.

Though I got a chuckle out of the Doctor's "Do you think Naomi thinks her mother is irrelevant?" whether the irony was intention or not, with Seven and Neelix having completely taken over her motherly duties during her palpably long absence from the screen.
Fri, Apr 15, 2016, 5:57pm (UTC -5)

I don't appreciate your derogatory comment.

I'm a fan of Janeway, you're a fan of Seven so we're not going to agree on anything.
Thu, May 12, 2016, 3:24pm (UTC -5)
hmm sacrifice 1 kid to destroy a borg cube with 60,000+ drones. Sounds like a good exchange rate to me. and a reason for them to invest in Cloning technology
Tue, Jun 14, 2016, 1:03pm (UTC -5)
JANEWAY: Tuvok, run continuous scans for Borg activity.

She say this many times.... you're in the Delta Quadrant, are you always running those things?

Trek is great when it makes you think.


"The questions here, I think, look at this boy's odd place in life. Was Icheb's purpose preordained, and was being rescued by Voyager providing him a second chance to live a real life? If his original purpose in life was to destroy Borg, was he led astray by a combination of fate and Voyager's actions? Or was he freed from an enslaved existence supplied to him by his parents? Does defending a planet make it right to preprogram a life as a pathogen-carrying future Borg drone? The humane answer would be an obvious "no," but where does morality end and desperation to address a greater good take over?"

A lot to ponder over, eh? I would say if Earth was in the same state as this world, this option just might come into play.

Sat, Jun 6, 2015, 8:00pm (UTC -5)

The parents having bred Icheb as a living weapon to destroy the Borg seems a little farfetched, if you ask me."
Not at all. It doesn't mean it's going to work, but it is a last ditch effort for survival for this alien species.

Also, Beverly was convinced that infecting Hugh would cripple the Borg. Seems the idea isn't that uncommon.


"Another thing is, were they really expecting to get Icheb back a second time? Didn't he fulfill his mission? The writers didn't really bother to explain any of the Brunali's strategy to us, so it feels like the stakes are artificially raised."

I don't agree. I think the mother made this decision once and didn't want to have to make it again. If not Icheb, then whom else would she have to bio-engineer? She'd already crossed that bridge and didn't want to cross it again. I thought that was conveyed well here. Her action here was a selfish one I think.

I enjoy Seven's overprotectiveness with regard to Icheb. She sees promise in him and want to help him achieve it and, because Icheb was once assimilated she doesn't trust his parents to protect him.

"SEVEN: It would be naive for me to claim objectivity in this case. But I'm not prepared to return Icheb to parents who may be as careless as my own."

Great Janeway/Seven discussion here.

The reaction that I found kind of surprising was Icheb's. He didn't give a rats ass about going home at first.

I thought the "twist" at the end was powerful and gut wrenching... wow.

Personally I'm glad Icheb remains on Voyager. I really enjoy the Seven/Icheb exchanges/relationship.

This is a GREAT trek episode! Which side is right? I believe Picard might have sided with Seven here. Icheb was not a drone anymore. All it took was Hugh to say "I".

Great trek episode make one think, this one certainly does.

4 star episode in my book.

Tue, Jun 14, 2016, 1:22pm (UTC -5)

"I think the mother made this decision once and didn't want to have to make it again. If not Icheb, then whom else would she have to bio-engineer? She'd already crossed that bridge and didn't want to cross it again. I thought that was conveyed well here. Her action here was a selfish one I think."

Except that she *did* make the same decision twice. And there was no pressure to use it the second time. She should've A) kept Icheb for when the planet really needed him as a weapon again, or B) let Icheb go because they successfully destroyed the sphere that was attacking the planet.

But maybe she's crossed her moral event horizon and just wishes genocide on the Borg. In that case, *that* could've been explored better. It was handled much better with the scientist in TNG's "Silicon Avatar", at least.
Tue, Jun 14, 2016, 1:57pm (UTC -5)
I liked the episode but I thought it would be quieter and more powerful if the parents didn't re-use him.

If Voyager discovered the dark secret but the parents genuinely were thrilled to get a second chance with him as a person (not a weapon).

An ending face off between Seven and his mother would have been more interesting if they weren't planning to re-use him.
Tue, Jun 14, 2016, 10:15pm (UTC -5)

I agree, the Brunali could've shown some dissenting opinions on what do with Icheb. If the parents were being pressured by their peers instead it would've given this episode some interesting depth (DS9 would've done this).
Fri, Sep 9, 2016, 11:27am (UTC -5)
Seven goes from Ässign these kids to Neelix" to mother of the year. lol
Good episode (***)
Thu, Nov 17, 2016, 4:29am (UTC -5)
Decent episode: 2.5 stars

A couple of things:

1. How the hell did they find this kids parents? Was his picture on a milk carton?
2. All of a sudden we can transport into a tractor beam...maybe it's because it was seven (not harry) operating the transporter.

To anyone who has difficulty believing the parent's actions: there are plenty of parents here on earth willing to strap a bomb onto their kids and send them off to meet the enemy.
Sun, Nov 27, 2016, 9:44am (UTC -5)
Couldn't Voyager have collapsed the transwarp conduit near the Brunali homeworld and given the Brunali time to properly rebuild? A spread of photon torpedoes did the trick in 'Dark Frontier' yet in this episode the idea never occurred to them.
Fri, Jan 13, 2017, 7:50pm (UTC -5)
Ichebs' argument about living with strangers doesn't carry much water since the Voyager crew were strangers only a month earlier.
Thu, Jan 26, 2017, 10:33am (UTC -5)
I started hating Voyager when it became clear that it was now Seven of NIne's show. Man, I hate Jeri Ryan. But this was a good episode. I don't hate her as much if the show is at least passable.
My only real question - is how come we never see Samantha Wildman. It was a little wierd seeing Neelix with Naomi at the science fair. Neelix is another character I can't stand.
Thu, Jan 26, 2017, 11:39am (UTC -5)
The thing that's awful for me is that I actually like Seven and Jeri. So I resent that they totally overpowered all of these other characters I liked in favor of her... but I couldn't bring myself to not like her performance.
Sat, Feb 4, 2017, 5:31pm (UTC -5)
Great Episodes, and it was a real pleasure to see some continuity here.

Jeri performed great performance here, potraying subtle emotions when it needs without going over the top and still maintain the borg-ness feel, but we feel it's there.
The 'lash-out' dialogue with Janeway also have strong ground, because it's reasonable for her character relate to Icheb, by connection of both their parents. Both is reckless and endagaring their child, so she feel responsible and a bit overprotective. It was a great scene.

Using Voyager as metaphore, that despite all the techonlogy and opportunity to explore galaxy, still the thing the crew most wanted is go home. That sentiment is beautifully conveyed to Icheb to try convince him that he is at his home with Brunali.

Still, there are some plot hole and weird things :
* Why the virus in Icheb body goes undetected for months? Doc should know this, it makes little sense to go that long unnoticed. Heck, even the transporter should detect that pathogen.
* If the virus kill all the adult drone on the cube. It should kill Seven, they are sharing the same link on the cargo bay, and seven still cybernatic-human hybrid.
* Seven didn't cross-check all the fact regarding Icheb, and needs to be reminded by Mizani before realize the deception? Seven on overprotected mode to Icheb, it's a bit out of character for her to overlook that fact and not knowing it in the firstplace. If it was Kim i would understand.

* So now Borg being reduced as common thief stealing peasant technology, what they really interested for by keep coming back to Brenali? Fertilizer and Irrigation technology? But missed the valuable thing like genetic engineering stuff? Dont make sense!
* What happen to assimilating it as wholesale and turn it into one of the colony. I get it maybe there are some escapee, but let them settled again and again on the same planet for the second, third time and so on? Borg have a second and moral problem now?
* Whatever happened to the Borg assimilating whole species, or their concern about members of assimilated species who've escaped, expressed, for instance by Hugh in TNG's "I, Borg"
* I buy the pathogen can destroy the cube. But what's good of that in the long term, if it's only effective for one cube? Surely after 2-3 attack by that pathogen, the Borg will adapt and the pathogen rendered useless. That's what Borg all about afterall. That what makes them so terrifying, by being adapt to whatever we throw and uncompromised. Are we saying Borg fall to the same trick over and over? Is this really a Borg we talking about?

Amusing moments :
* Seven cant-get-a-lock too.. eh
* Doc being cruel : "Do you think Naomi's Mother is irrelevant to her"
Likely Doc, we rarely seen her taking care of her children afterall... ahhah..

3 (***) star
Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 11:52pm (UTC -5)
This was a good episode. Seven's and Icheb's performances were what carried it throughout. The twist at the end was what really made the episode for me. 3 stars is about right.

Sat, Nov 12, 2011, 2:41am (UTC -5)
"Ahhh, so this is the episode where "transwarp conduit" goes from being something created by the ship to a piece of fixed infrastructure. Love that Voyager continuity."

Not sure why people keep saying this. TNG introduced the Transwarp conduit as a fixed corridor through which even a non-transwarp ship like Enterprise could travel in TNG: "Descent." This first aired in 1993 long before Voyager even premiered in 1995. The borg ship with the rogue Borgs led by Lore go through the conduit and Geordie studies the aperture and figures out how to open it up. This is the first I recall hearing about a Transwarp Conduit or Corridor.
Thu, Oct 5, 2017, 11:36pm (UTC -5)
Here I go, for the umpteenth time, agreeing with Seven, again, when she has a philosophical/ethical debate with Janeway. I am talking about their first dialogue in the Captain's ready room.

Is it that the writers purposefully put Janeway on the wrong side of each argument the two have or is it that Jeri Ryan is that convincing in her acting performance? I can't tell anymore, since this happens to me so often.

Either way, Seven pushes all the right buttons in that one-on-one with Janeway.

I also loved how Seven showed restraint when she talked to Icheb's dad when she was giving him the one-night regeneration unit, especially when he was telling her that it must have been for her parents to "watch her get assimilated."

One of the best Voyager episodes for me, 4 stars in my book.
Wed, Nov 1, 2017, 5:39pm (UTC -5)
The twist at the end is what makes this episode something half-decent. Otherwise it was pretty non-descript mushy stuff between a boy and wanting/not wanting to rejoin his family and 7's motherly instincts under Janeway's guidance. For the longest time, I was wondering what the point of the episode was really going to be.

Again 7 is the star of the episode. She has nailed the bit about dealing with and showing emotions as a being transformed into one that is supposed to be unemotional. Here, her motherly instincts (maybe a bit like in "Drone") come to the fore. She has great facial expressions.

Janeway plays the role well of the senior matriarch. Icheb comes across as pretty stiff, for me. As a teenage boy, all he wants to do is astrometrics -- how about other interests? But I guess being assimilated ruins all "normal personality traits".

What's key to the story is how the Brunali have "learned" to deal with the Borg, although it hasn't always been successful. Interesting ethical dilemma with Icheb being a carrier of the pathogen designed to destroy the Borg but him wondering if he let his parents down once rescued by Voyager. His parents had everybody fooled about what they needed Icheb for -- the episode deserves credit for that.

It was a bit jarring to have the action sequence at the end with the Borg and the sphere exploding -- but it was well done and good thinking to transport a photon torpedo to Icheb's ship. Hard to go wrong with a Borg action sequence.

2.5 stars for "Child's Play" -- slow to get going although it established the setup for a sting in the tail ending. Some good character moments for Janeway and 7, in particular. Maybe I should feel or care more for Icheb's plight...
Fri, Aug 3, 2018, 1:40pm (UTC -5)
This episode does explore pre Borg individuals and the high value of persuing ones private goals. However the Prime Directive was blatantly ignored and not even mentioned for obvious sentimental reasons. This clearly should not be canon and removed from the universe.
Tue, Aug 14, 2018, 1:08am (UTC -5)
I struggle with Voyager because of the lack of consistency in the series. Why would the Borg be at all interested in a single individual on a lone ship? I thought they only bothered assimilating whole civilizations.

This thought occurs to me as well anytime Voyager encounters the Borg. A few hundred or thousand people (however many are on the starship) are certainly not big enough to be considered an entire civilization. They shouldn't be scared of the Borg at all.
Jason R.
Tue, Aug 14, 2018, 6:35am (UTC -5)
"A few hundred or thousand people (however many are on the starship) are certainly not big enough to be considered an entire civilization. They shouldn't be scared of the Borg at all."

In the very first episode the Borg appeared, they attacked the Enterprise, which was one ship.
Tue, Aug 14, 2018, 11:25am (UTC -5)
@ Jason R.

You are right, of course, but that's what I mean, what they say the Borg are interested in and what they show the Borg are interested in seems inconsistent.

In "I, Borg" Hugh says "The Borg assimilates civilizations, not individuals."

How many individuals have to be around for them to start calling it a "civilization" ? I guess a starship constitutes a civilization in the eyes of the writers.

Still, my point is that they should not have been interested in a single boy.

William B
Tue, Aug 14, 2018, 1:29pm (UTC -5)
In I, Borg it's also stated that the Borg very much wish to recover lost drones and ships. This makes sense for a number of reasons -- a kind of extreme esprit de corps, wanting to recover all the information from their lost drones, not wanting their tech to fall into the hands of imperfect beings who might gather against them, etc. I think that with Icheb in particular, the Borg want to recover him since he's "one of the collective." Why the Borg assimilated him in the first place is a different story though.
Fri, Sep 7, 2018, 8:38pm (UTC -5)
The Doctor commenting on how much Naomi needs her mother is almost a lampshade, since I don't think Nancy Hower and Scarlett Pomers ever had a scene together on the entire series. In a couple episodes, it seemed like Naomi actually lives with Neelix.

Submit a comment

Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my e-mail on my post

◄ Season Index

▲Top of Page | Menu | Copyright © 1994-2018 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication or distribution of any content is prohibited. This site is an independent publication and is not affiliated with or authorized by any entity or company referenced herein. See site policies.