Star Trek: Voyager

“Survival Instinct”

3 stars.

Air date: 9/29/1999
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Terry Windell

"How can any of us take a name for ourselves? We're not individuals. We're not Borg. We're nothing." — the triad

Review Text

Nutshell: A nicely characterized example of people making tough decisions induced by bizarre sci-fi circumstances.

"Survival Instinct" is a relatively quiet character show whose themes are sensible, well-written, often intriguing, and, shall we say, quite firmly established in previous Voyager lore. This latest entry into Seven's backstory has some new and interesting nuances. It doesn't bring huge new insights along with it, but it does provide for a good hour-long story with some tough, emotional choices.

The script, as those who keep up with behind-the-scenes news might know, is the first and only Voyager script written by DS9 alum Ron Moore, whose departure this summer from the Voyager staff during the production stages of these first few episodes came under ominous and undeniably unfortunate circumstances. Too bad—this script highlights Moore's ability to find the characters' voices. I would've looked forward to more Voyager stories from him.

Anyway, no lamenting allowed; the task at hand is scrutiny of the latest offering that dissects the Borg collective. Contrary to those UPN trailers, which we can count on to be trite, over-sensationalized, and in this case just flat-out inaccurate, "Survival Instinct" is not about the Borg being back or Seven rejoining the collective. The story utilizes the Borg as concepts, certainly, but it is not a rehash of "Dark Frontier." The only Borg we see in this episode are confined to flashbacks sequences.

The story begins with at least one fresh breath of air: the notion that Voyager has run into what looks like—gasp!—a melding of civil societies. The ship has docked at a massive space station populated by—gasp!—friendly non-xenophobes who are actually interested in a civil exchange of culture and ideas. I was surprised at how fresh this seemed. The episode is cast with dozens of extras that fill the ship's corridors. Janeway's ready room is crammed with gifts and junk she has received from these visitors. The whole notion feels upbeat. It's a great idea simply on the psychological level: For once the Delta Quadrant doesn't feel so barren and lonely. This is an idea that deserves to be the spotlight of an entire show, or several. Although ... I must say I was somewhat disappointed in Tuvok's cranky lack of patience through this cultural exchange. All he can worry about is potential security problems and, apparently, the disturbance of his schedules. (C'mon, where's that Vulcan IDIC philosophy?)

Among the visitors to Voyager are three people (Vaughn Armstrong, Berlita Damas, Tim Kelleher) who, we learn, have something to hide. They want something from Seven of Nine. The story reveals that they maintain a constant telepathic link with one another, which they use to help circumvent security and hack into Seven's brain while she's regenerating.

Upon failing and being caught by security, they are forced to come clean about their objective: They are former Borg drones who have been recently freed from the collective. Unfortunately, they remain connected to each other in a way that prevents them from becoming individuals. They're a triad joined together at the parietal lobe. They constantly hear one other's thoughts, dream one other's dreams, and finish one other's sentences when speaking. How they can even function without a larger collective to assert control over them constitutes some sort of miracle. They're not sure how or why this triadic link was created in the first place, but they're sure Seven is the key to the mystery.

Of course, the nitpicker might wonder exactly how powerful this ability is, and ask why these three don't go in separate directions and see if their (supposedly biological) connection maintains its link. I'd be impressed by any organic brain with an amplifier that can transmit across light-years of space. Maybe the telepathy "permeates subspace"—cf. the Borg vinculum that was giving Seven multiple personalities last year in "Infinite Regress"—and distance is irrelevant. Hey, whatever. I'll play along if the implications are as interesting to ponder as they prove to be here.

Subsequently, Seven and Doc use weird Borgish nanoprobes, scans, etc., to join the triad into Seven's brain in an attempt to piece together Seven's memory lapses, wherein lie the clues to the triad's current problem.

As "Survival Instinct" unfolds, these scenes are intercut with a flashback narrative that documents an event from eight years earlier, when Seven and these other three Borg drones—who were all members of the same Borg unimatrix which had been aboard a scout ship that crashed—found themselves disconnected from the collective. Perhaps the episode's most poignant moments are the flashback scenes where we see these frightened drones' individual memories beginning to resurface. They're confused, yet slowly becoming aware of who they once were; the actors play them like robots waking up from a dream, with broken speech patterns and subtly percolating emotions emerging.

And they do not want to return to the collective. They realize they've been mutilated and abducted from their own identities, and now they plan to resist. The interesting exception is Seven. Having been assimilated as a child, individuality was a concept she never completely understood, and taking control of her actions is the titular "survival instinct," which tells her that death is likely, and returning to that which she has known longer than anything—the collective—is her best option. She plays the actions of a "good little Borg"—not out of duty or philosophy, but out of fear of the unknown.

Seven uses her nanoprobes to force the three other drones into a single-network triad collective that obeys Borg protocol. The result left them joined together permanently, even after being reassimilated by and later freed from the Borg. (All this stuff about nanoprobes and mental transceivers can be jargon-packed, but I suppose it's believable enough; it's sci-fi with plenty of "sci" and plenty of "fi.")

Back in the present, there's a malfunction in the mind-linking process that disables the triad and leaves them in a less-than-ideal situation: The triadic link has been destroyed, and they can't survive longer than a few weeks without it. Their only hope for survival in returning to the collective, where, if assimilated, they could live out "normal lives" as drones.

This brings about the episode's big central decision. Should Seven let these three live for a month as truly free individuals, or a "normal" life-span as drones? With the triad unconscious and the procedure irreversible once performed, the choice must be made for them.

The choice seems clear—Seven sent them back to the collective against their will once, and she wouldn't think of doing it again. There's a standout Trekkian dialog scene between Doc and Seven that scrutinizes Seven's motives. Doc asks if perhaps she's motivated by guilt to free them, even if it means their certain deaths. Seven responds with a speech about individuality, highlighting her unique perspective on the matter—as well as Doc's own unique perspective as a preprogrammed artificial lifeform—that says much about them both becoming "more than drones." This is good use of characters; only the combination of Seven and Doc would allow a scene like this to shine, because of their unique friendship and because of what they are.

(If I may digress, I must add that given Seven's attitude toward the collective in this episode, it seems particularly stupidly ironic that the UPN trailers would lift from an old episode a line where Seven says, "I will return to the collective.")

The scene after Seven makes this decision also has some resonance, showing that these three are grateful they have been released—but also showing that this quasi-redemption for Seven does not automatically bring about forgiveness from all.

In more trivial away-from-the-main-story matters, I see that even Moore can't make Harry into anything more than Our Lovable Goof, Harry. While in general I got a mild amount of amusement out of the scene where Tom and Harry are called into Janeway's ready room to answer for disturbing the peace on the space station (they were partially responsible for starting a melee), any scene that ends with Harry saying "We kicked their asses"—except of course substituting "rackets" for "asses" based on dialog setup tricks that I won't even bother to explain—is a scene that ranks extremely high on the Harry chump-o-meter. (I'll tell you what—I'd sure like to kick Harry's ... "racket.") I don't mean to Harbor Harry Hatred™, but will I ever be able to take this guy seriously again?

Anyway. "Survival Instinct" is a definite winner. I think I'll put this in the upper ranks of three stars. Since Seven has come onto this series we've seen a lot of stories with similar themes concerning individuality ("The Raven," "One," "Drone," "Infinite Regress," "Dark Frontier," possibly others). This is one of the better-done examples (although not quite on the level of "Drone"), but it doesn't venture all that far off the previously explored path.

Next week: B'Elanna goes through hell and back.

Previous episode: Equinox, Part II
Next episode: Barge of the Dead

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Comment Section

69 comments on this post

    Just watched this episode again. Sad that this was the only "Voyager" episode to be written by Ron Moore; he (that is, had he not cared about story quality and continuity) would have been a good fit in the Voyager writers' world - in fact, a great fit.I would give this episode 3 and 1/2 stars; the episode is a notable (on this show, anyway) example of less is more.The concept (Seven is confronted with a situation with respect to which her Borg training provides no resolution) is compelling but the story is not sensationalized. The acting is low-key but effective. The story is not overloaded with technobabble, and is told relatively directly without extraneous subplots. Moore seems to be saying that actions taken in the past will not only come back to bite us in the behind in the future (hardly a revolutionary concept), but he also pointedly notes that the present cannot be explained/is often enriched by exploration of the past, and such is necessary for "life" to be more than a random sequence of events.The Voyager writers, unfortunately,took an exactly different approach to storytelling-Kenneth Biller stated that each episode was meant to be viewed as a stand-alone - a sequence of random events.A sad irony, indeed.

    I dislike this episode as much as "Hugh" from TNG, not because they aren't interesting or thought-provoking, but because they take the teeth off the Borg. The Borg were mega-scary in "Q Who" and "Best Of Both Worlds." Every subsequent story "humanizes" them just a little bit more, until we're left with their utter de-fleecing in VOY's "Endgame."

    And that scene where B'Elanna is put off by Seven's typical haughty behavior struck me as bizarre and badly plotted, since B'Elanna is just as unsociable and short with people.

    I quite liked this episode, but when watching it, one thing did stand out. why, for some reason, didn't anyone on the Voyager crew notice a Bajoran, walking about the Delta Quadrant with two aliens, when she came onboard the ship from the station. It's not like she tried to hide her nose ridges, and someone on the crew should have noticed a Bajoran, an Alpha Quadrant race, on there ship. Did they suddenly forget that?


    Let's face it, most of Voyager's aliens are close to identical anyway, minor prosthetic variations notwithstanding. Why would they think she was a bajoran as opposed to one of the many other nose-ridged aliens they've seen?
    Sorry for the cynicism, good episode, great review.

    I can't help but scream out aloud each time I see Janeway being stuck to this living christmas tree and squeaking "It's got me by the hair"... great slapstick! ;)

    Urgh, not big on this episode at all. It started off promising, with great multitudes of people coming onboard Voyager and there being some sort of conspiracy plot in the making. But all the pseudo-Borg reminiscing about past events, practically all of which involved static dialog, added absolutely no value and was nothing but boring padding. Am I watching Star Trek or some two-bit psychological drama?!?

    For a sci-fi show, this episode had no "sci" and most of the "fi" was lackadaisical.

    Two stars, and even that's greatly pushing it.

    "EP" is right: I hate the way they demolish the Borg mystique and veil of invincibility. I actually used to think the Borg were, well, COOL, but episodes like this one disannul that perception. I mean, here we have members of a collective that has been tear-assing through the Universe with nary an opposition being portrayed as just as susceptible to mental trauma and shit as members of the vastly inferior human species. Borg counseling, anyone? *snort*

    And yeah, don't even get me started on Endgame! Janeway manages to accomplish what billions of other individuals and whole races never could. Puh-lease.

    The first episode in ages that felt like more than just another day at the office. I can't put my finger on exactly why... lots of little things I think.. but you can tell it had Ron Moore's touch. It's a pity the creative team for Voyager were so dead set on mediocrity that he couldn't work with them for more than one episode.

    I really appreciated the friendly aliens. Voyager tended to have a very depressing view of other species with 99% of them being Hard Headed Aliens Of The Week and so the TNG-like diplomacy and optimism (complete with our own Picardette humorously suffering the customs of the alien culture, in this case gift giving) was really refreshing. Maybe it was partly nostalgia but more of this would not have been cause for complaint - I don't see that its necessary for the entire quadrant to be nasty, and having nice aliens just reinforces the original mission of exploration and seeking out new civilizations. I hope if there's a new Trek series (as much as I hate the reboot idea) that they pick this style up again.

    As for Harry though I don't think even the best writer in the world could've salvaged that character.. he's beyond repair. Why they kept him instead of Kes I will never understand.

    Michael, once again, showing how shallow his thinking is.

    This episode was not about "The Borg," but about some Borg that were able to break free partially because of a freak ship accident. So, already, your thinking is starting off on the wrong foot about the episode.

    This was an excellent character piece about the struggle of one's one individuality to come through once one is tied to another.

    If the Borg is able to take away one's individuality, what happens when a small group can only be in the middle of individuality and group-think?

    A good episode...I enjoyed seeing the Doc and 7 interact again this time on the nature of "life". There werent any easy answers that technobabble could solve which made me enjoy this one all the more.. I also enjoyed the peaceful civilization they contact...I think Voyager really should be encountering hostiles through much of their journey, but its good for them to get a break now and then. Also nice to see Naomi Wildman's scenes with 7...

    Leave it to a DS9 writer to shake things up a bit and put Voyager on a space station. And a friendly one at that. Not a coincidence I think. Neither was it a coincidence that Ron Moore's one and only contribution to VOY was a classic. What a waste. Brannon Braga is a tool.

    Sometimes when I eat too much meat it hurts to poop. And Bragga is a tool.

    Hmm perhaps the Doc can fashion some tin foil hats to block the signals between the drones, problem solved.

    While I liked the concepts and the unique in-depth look into Sevens' character, there was just something missing for me.

    Maybe it was a bit too low key, maybe it was the way it failed to engage me emotionally or even make me care about the fate of these ex-Drones who came out of nowhere, or maybe it was just the fact I found it too plodding at times.

    But there were some more remarkable scenes to be found and the exploration of the power of individuality, along with the peak into Sevens' damaged psyche, satisfied greatly on an intellectual level. 2.5 stars from me, this episode was lacking in heart what it had in brains.

    One other thing, the less I see of that annoying Naomi kid the better. She might as well be a Care Bear with all the sugary cuteness the writers ram down our throats, Star Trek is terrible at creating likeable children and she's no exception IMO.

    I noticed the scene I can recall Neelix appearing in had him firmly behind the counter in the mess hall and then quickly ignored again...I wonder if Ronald Moore had something to do with this haha

    @Michael. he makes me laugh. i do enjoy the action mystery stuff that he does. but he does not like any character study whatsoever.

    i rather enjoyed this one. i, also, enjoyed seeing them run into nice aliens. I was thinking yesterday, "how often do they go down to a populated world of friendly aliens?" it sure doesnt help very much. not many Rizas out there.

    I enjoyed Naomi and Sevens conversations as much as i enjoy Sevens and Docs convos.

    I like Naomi wildman alot. i mean. would you rather have her or Alexander? he was not so bright and he was a brat. Naomi is like an adult in a child's body. which makes sense, cause she is surrounded by ALL adults. very good addition to the show.

    4 stars for character show. 3 stars overall.

    Definitely interesting concepts here, but I feel the reassimilate-or-die angle to be terribly contrived. And, what? Reconnecting to Seven will bring back memories that were wiped? How does that work exactly? It's too bad they couldn't have dealt with the main issues character presented without relying on complete techno-babble confusion to get from plot point A to plot point B. And why couldn't the trio have simply ASKED Seven for help rather than have all that pointless intrigue at the beginning? Very sloppy episode. 2.5 stars at most.

    Agree with Yarko, this was a very poor episode with a weak premise. Although, I loved the Alien space station at the beginning...too bad we didn't get to see the interior or its functioning.

    I agree with EP. Voyager just fundamentally misunderstood the Borg in how they characterized them. The biggest thing is about the organization of the hive and of the cubes. It is established in TNG that the technological systems are spread out evenly with many redundancies throughout their cubes, so that if one is damaged, absolutely no vital systems get compromised. This ability to adapt and regenerate is what makes the cubes so scary and why the Borg are so hard to defeat. (I thought it was very clever how Michael Piller wrote the end of Best of Both Worlds - tapping into the mind and telling them it's time to sleep - in part because it does not violate this technological principle). In contrast, this principle is routinely violated in Voyager as the writers would usually end episodes with Janeway targeting some central hub that controlled everything so they could disable the cube. And in First Contact they establish that the queen is simply a mouthpiece for the collective, the billions-of-voices-as-one-voice manifest. However, Voyager constantly describes functions of the Borg as being "controlled" by the queen, or various queens, and if one is killed or disabled this can render the Borg defenseless somehow. This is just a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Borg work. If the queen is killed, the Borg can just make another one. They don't even need a queen. They all think in One Voice, right? The queen is simply there to better communicate with individuals outside the hive.

    They also establish in TNG that when disconnected from the hive, drones become totally lost, unable to truly take care of themselves, destined to die without reconnection to the hive. This provides an understandable motivation for each drone's unquestioning devotion to the hive: without it, they will die. Here, however, Ron Moore inexplicably writes that when disconnected from the hive, drones immediately start remembering their former lives and thinking like individuals again. This is not the Borg I know from TNG! I would imagine the Borg drones in such a situation would act as a group to try to rejoin the collective, and not let anyone get in their way. I'm sure disagreement could ensue among the group, given their newly individual natures, and this could be interesting. But this is not at all what Moore writes here.

    @Maxwell :

    I don't think it's fair to say the writers "misunderstood" their material. After all, the ægis falls upon any writer to reïevent his own material as well as reäppropriate the material of others even when that material belongs to a different franchise. In this case, we're talking about a conceptual villain within the same franchise. Obviously, you or anyone else are free to dislike and criticise the direction the writers took the Borg here and elsewhere, but that their conceptualisation of the Borg is different from what it may have been before does not connote misunderstanding.

    Personally, I don't see that there was a different option, dramatically speaking, to take the Borg than where First Contact and Voyager did. In their early appearances, their "alienness" is attributable to our lack of familiarity with their culture. The same was once true of Vulcans and Klingons on TOS but, obviously, as we learned more about them, their motivations and cultural tendencies become more familiar to us and we see our own human culture within theirs. That is a natural evolution.

    As Quinn from "Death Wish" let us know about the Q, while it may behove the Qs' politics to throw around terms like "omnipotent" and "eternal", this is really just a question of how their abilities and culture relates to most of the rest of the Universe, humanity included. When we're given privy to their inner-workings, we discover that they are very much like us. And the same is true of the Borg.

    "One voice, one mind" is rhetoric, it's propaganda, much like "home of the free and the brave" or even "home of the whopper", once tested in the crucible, turns to ashes. When one understands his enemy, his enemy becomes less frightening and less toothsome. The only way for the Borg to have maintained their mystique, dramatically speaking, in the Trek Universe would have required *not* using them in stories. As soon as 7of9 became a regular character, this option left the table.

    Of course they are "free" to do whatever they want. But what they did on Voyager was to fundamentally and without explanation reverse the organizational system from bottom up to top down, thus rendering them much much easier to defeat. I don't think I'm alone in criticizing the writers for choosing this path.

    And yes, of course they could, "dramatically speaking", take the Borg in a direction that preserved the strength of their collective and that was more consistent with depictions in TNG and First Contact. (As I explained in my original post, the queen in First Contact was a mouthpiece, and nothing in the plot of that movie violated the organizational principles established in TNG. The problem starts in Voyager Dark Frontier.)

    I had mixed feelings after this episode. By one hand I really enjoyed it and thought that this was a very well done and even strong stand-alone episode. As always, Seven's internal debates and dilemmas are outstandingly good to watch. Also, the idea that she was the one guilty for these Borgs to have remained sort of assimilated, was a brave move.

    By the other hand, I have to agree with the criticism made by Maxwell and others above. I think Voyager has been going a bit too far in showing Borgs' dissidents, weaknesses and so on. It would certainly be possible to play with the Borg without affecting that much their overall portrayal. In Voyager, Borgs rarely have look menacing or challenging to defeat, if ever.

    But much more than that, what really bothers me in this specific episode, is that we see Seven had a previous experience of "desassimilation". Even if not complete. I can't help but think whether or not Voyager would have been able to humanize Seven were she a Borg that had never had such experience before. By thinking this way, i.e. Seven becomes a bit of a Hollywoodian "one-in-a-million", what could sort of weaken the development of her character. I hope they don't go further this road in the future episodes (this is my first time watching the show).

    TNG did not establish that drones who get separated from the collective became lost. What it did show is that some drones who became separated from the collective became lost, not that drones couldn't become individuals again. We've seen that with Hugh.

    The ability of the Borg to destroy and adapt to attacks is only part of what makes the Borg so horrific. The other part is the horror of being enslaved by the Borg. Rather than undermine this, this episode highlights this by showing how badly these former drones want to be free. Seeing them remembering their former lives doesn't make it look like the Borg are being watered down, it's emphasizing how horrific being in the collective was.

    All throughout the episode you hear "consensus this" and "consensus that" from Seven and the former drones. Then Seven is given words of advice from her crewmates--first from Chakotay, then from the Doctor, and they are 180 degrees apart. I thought this contrast and the need for Seven exercise her individuality to reach a decision was a nice touch.

    It would seem the longer they are severed from the collective the more likely they regain their original identity. But I think I preferred them when they were dark and scary. Sure it was against what ST was about but we could always argue some species had less than good intentions towards others. And it would be nice to see those Starfleet principles put to the ultimate test against them.

    The Borg were the apex of that challenge once upon a time. They were as relentless as those aliens poor Ellen Ripley had to contend with but with a collective conscious that allowed for pinpoint precision attacks even the tightest Pararescue/Navy SEALs couldn't accomplish. That's what made them so compelling in the first place. At least for me.

    This continuing spiral of watering them down made them less interesting each time we saw them. I believe they even made one appearance on ENT which accomplished nothing. I have to agree with Michael on one thing: they gave Voyager, a lone ship with one captain an ability all of Starfleet (Picard included) lacked: the power to stop the borg. I found both S6's Collective and S7's Endgame to be the final nails in the coffin as far as the Borg went.

    Episodes like these may provide more in-depth studies into the possible things that can go wrong with the collective but in the end I had to ask, "what was the point?" Sure it was more character study into more victims of the borg. But truthfully how many variations on this theme can they do and still hold your interest?

    The story was plausible and decent. That's all I can really say about it.

    2 stars is where I would put this one.

    I thought this was just OK, basically trying to bite off more than it could chew and in doing so often coming off as choppy and cartoony. The flashbacks and the whole basic plot came off as too long for the little they revealed and too short for what they could have been.
    The drones quickly remembering their pasts but then agreeing to not talk about it, then deciding to leave when the collective was close to finding them, Seven reassimilating them (which joined them to each other but not to her) even though she would soon rejoin the collective (and I don't know why her memory would then also be erased), Seven deciding to have them rejoin the collective until Chakotay quickly changes her mind, the Doctor favoring life even in the collective until Seven quickly changes his mind, too little felt credible.

    OK, one other minor nitpick: it seems to me that an inordinate number of Borg come from the Alpha Quadrant. There were humans on that planet in Unity, Seven was present on the Borg ship Janeway talked to, and now a Bajoran appears. What are the odds? Oh well...

    But like I said, it's a simple, quiet episode, and it works. One thing I really like about it is the atmosphere of the space station. Sure, it's a bit weird that so many people were interested in coming onboard Voyager, but I like the change of pace. It led to a few cute scenes and, more to the point, made the crew more realistic. Whether it be Chakotay awkwardly trying to bring the racketball machine to Janeway's ready room, or Janeway's berating of Tom and Kim for getting in a bar fight (shades of Trouble with Tribbles?), or Neelix apologetically declaring that they are out of certain foods. It reminded me a bit of the first season, when they tried to explore the relationship between Seska, Harry, B'Ellana, Carey, and Tom.

    I don't worship Ron Moore like some Trek fans do, but this tiny aspect really shows why Voyager always felt a bit second tier. While it could be highly competent at times, it usually didn't bother to get all the tiny details right. To me, Voyager usually only aspired to be like one of the filler episodes of TNG; a pleasant diversion that is easily forgotten. Very rarely did it strive for more. This episode, incidentally, is just a pleasant diversion, as the plot isn't meaty enough to be truly great. But if this sort of attention to detail had appeared in more ambitious episodes, Voyager could have been truly great instead of just a guilty pleasure with the occasional gem.

    Proof that you can do a Borg episode that doesn't really work. I'd agree with others that this didn't really do the mythos of the Borg any favours at all - watching drones have a chat and realising that all they need to become themselves again is just separating from the collective just didn't seem to sit right. And after having emphasised Seven's uniqueness, we now see that not only have others moved toward individuality, but that she was directly involved as well. Sorry, not buying it.

    The conversation with the Doctor was certainly a high point of the episode but broadly I felt rather unengaged with the whole thing. Naomi Wildman is definitely a positive addition in my view though - there's just something heartwarming about the scenes she's in. 2 stars.

    I don't think the choice Seven had to make was as controversial as the episode tried to make it seem, and I was a little surprised with the Doctor's scrutiny (although if the situation were different, it would not be out of character for him to question her motives like he did). Even though the 'triad' couldn't immediately be consulted, they had already made it pretty clear that their priority was to become individuals and the last thing they would have wanted was to have the borg collective forced upon them yet again.

    Sooo... Seven recognizes a few spare Borg parts as formerly belonging to members of her Unimatrix... but not the guy holding them? Even after identifying what he was holding?



    I know it sounds pedantic, but why in high heavens didn't Tuvok - the one in charge of security and, presumably, registering everyone who came aboard - not notice a Bajoran beaming/walking in? And even if he missed her, why didn't any of Voyager's crew not think it strange to see an unfamiliar Bajoran not wearing a uniform wandering around the ship?

    Also, what John Worsley above me said. Looks like the writers didn't think this through very well.

    And yet, still a decent episode in my opinion, plot holes aside.

    Agree James. I thought the same thing watching this episode the other night.

    Question for the brain trust....

    Why did their little collective need consensus? I'm not sure I understand the need there. Was it part of 7's initial programming?

    Perfect, no. But a very good episode.

    "SEVEN: Naomi Wildman, do you consider me to be family?
    NAOMI: I, I don't, I mean. Yes. Is that okay?
    SEVEN: I have no objection.
    NAOMI: Do you think of me as family?
    SEVEN: Yes. "


    3 stars from me.

    I feel this is just a retread of previous material. The Borg thing. The "What makes an individual?" thing. The "I made a decision that screwed up everything" thing. The "Previously hidden memory" thing. I couldn't get into it.

    Once again ridiculous. We have a sample size of 4 Borg, two of them are from the Federation's area of space. Even more ridiculous, one of them is a Bajoran Starfleet officer. Hard to believe there were any Bajorans in Starfleet when she was assimilated but regardless the odds of their being two alpha quadrant races in a group of 4 is highly unlikely. Even ignoring how anyone assimilated at Wolf 359 made it back to the delta quadrant, only a miniscule fraction of a percent of Borg would be from the Federation. This has happened too many times.

    Starts off intriguing; ends with a boring finger wagging "shame on you"(*)

    I think 3 stars is about right. But I think Jammers got his ds9 hard on again.

    What I don't believe is that janeway would just let hundreds of aliens walk around voyager unsupervised.

    In typical Voyager fashion, no lasting side effects from last weeks traumatic episode and it's kinda starting to piss me off. If I see one more bloody Seven of Nine featured episode I may just sell my television - ok - let's not go crazy. It would have been far more interesting to give those newcomers from the equinox something to do.
    Also, those have got to be the worst borg actors ever...

    Isn't giving a Voyager medallion as a gift kind of vain? It's akin to giving someone a picture of yourself...

    Mikey said:

    "What I don't believe is that janeway would just let hundreds of aliens walk around voyager unsupervised."

    Exactly. You can tell RDM was used to writing scripts set on open ports.

    The Borg started out as possibly the greatest villain in tv sci fi history (I remember feeling terrified by the menacing looking Borg tapping into Enterprise's mainframe in Q Who) but by now there are so many whole in Borg stories they've become both a joke and a bore.

    To stay how they were at the start it would probably be necessary of have the occasional assimilation of a main character (an actor who wants to leave the show) but instead they get defeated in every encounter even when their odds are overwhelming (hello Dark Frontiers).

    This episode wasn't bad - and yes, finally, we get to meet aliens who actually understand the concept of the positive-sum game - but by now I'm just over the Borg.

    They need to slip them that fractal-virus-whatever thingy (from I Borg) and be done with them.

    Another episode where Voyager has has several leaps of tens of thousands of light years, yet people from far far away catch up to them no problem.

    "Another episode where Voyager has has several leaps of tens of thousands of light years, yet people from far far away catch up to them no problem."

    I have less of an issue when the Borg do this due to the transwarp conduits. It's still a heck of a coincidence though!

    If we worried too much about coincidences, there wouldn't have been a show at all. Putting the pretty ridiculous circumstances of right-time-and-right-place aside, it was well done and the Seven-Doctor dialogue at the end was great.

    I am not sure what message Trek is trying to give out in these episodes, but there is a conflict. On one hand, we are told that exploration is the best thing ever - something any Starfleet officer should aspire to. On the other hand, we see time and time again, hostile crazy races that want to destroy/capture/subjugate Federation ships and their crew. Why would anyone want to explore when the galaxy is full of these spiteful, dangerous races?

    With a crew trying to get back home, stranded in the Delta Quadrant, it's hard not to take Seska's side. Chakotay should have gone back in time and joined her. Kick Janeway out.

    Also, as someone else noted, this is another episode that pussifies the Borg.

    2.5 stars. An okay episode with a lot of plot issues I thought

    I never cared for Voyager’s assertion that disconnected drones could regain their individualitues. The Borg would permanently alter their brains to erase their individualitird or st the least implant technology that would continue to function without being connected to the Collective

    Then I don’t buy these drones once reassimilated would plot to leave the Collective because their individualities would be suppressed again in the Collective. Also Seven’s nanoprobe procedure on the planet didn’t just reconnect those drones but as we saw resuppressed their individualities—so they weren’t just reconnected but back to being drones so Seven could control them. Once she completed her procedure we saw that they were clearly back to being mindless drones so if the mental link is permanent then their personalities should have never resurfaced

    I can buy that they knew Seven was on Voyager and Voyager’s last known coordinates from being part of the Collective.

    The Paris/Kim scene was stupid and just reinforced that the only watchable characters were Kaneway, Seven and occasionally the Doctor

    I did enjoy seeing the corridors of the ship filled with all sorts of species and the Seven/Naomi interactions were good.

    The flashbacks to the planet eight years earlier were pedestrian. We’ve seen so many drones regain their personalities before and the big dark secret wasn’t all that interesting in my opinion. But I always enjoy seeing the Borg and the planet had eerie atmosphere that helped

    The ending was poignant but getting there was rough

    Nope. This snore fest does not deserve the same stars as Equinox.

    Moreover, they could live 8 hours per day free, if the two feel asleep while one was awake.

    I'm surprised no one on the ship thought, "WTF is a Bajoran who's not a member of Voyager's crew doing in the Delta Quadrant?"

    Fortunately this was the end of RDM's Voyager writing tenure. Here his warped logic strikes again, taht's a lifetime as a drone is more "moral" than a short life free.

    The three TNG era doctors had the the most warped sense of morality ever.

    Braga's clown town was suspended for at least one week in the latter years of Voyager with Ron Moore behind this show. I suppose for that we should all be grateful.

    It's telling to me that the only one of the three that can't forgive Seven was actually the only StarFleet officer. That's sad-perhaps some moral lessons are needed in StarFleet

    This is very much a VOY episode that arrives at a powerful dialog between Doc and 7 about the fate of 3 ex-Borg through a lot of arbitrary Borg sci-fi that doesn't come across as ridiculously far-fetched. So I'd call it a winner for sure. The ideals of individuality and family are touched on and I'm surprised Jammer doesn't mention Naomi in his recap -- her and 7 admit to being family and 7 has the friendship/company/support in Naomi in a way that the Borg collective used to give her.

    I liked how the mystery built up about what happened with the missing memories from the campfire crash to before the 3 were re-assimilated. That 7 did something she would later regret was intriguing -- and that it came about from seeing another drone die and her not wanting to die alone. I like how the story tied this with her being assimilated as a kid and not understanding individuality yet -- some good elements working well together here.

    One flashback scene made me chuckle -- when the Borg had a campfire BBQ as their individual memories resurfaced! As for the lighthearted part - the space station and all the friendly aliens + Tom/Harry's brawl -- it was a nice bit of levity to the episode. I would not be so harsh on Harry here as Jammer is.

    But it's good that the episode builds to the Doc/7 discussion about "survival is insufficient" -- Doc talks about 7's guilt and his duty to preserve life as long as possible but 7 convinces him that he would not want to go back to being like a drone. This is intelligent well-conceived dialog and a big decision has to be made about the fate of the 3. Nice that it has a little epilogue with the 3 going their separate ways to live out their month of individuality.

    3 stars for "Survival Instinct" -- liked how the Borg were used here and the Borg-babble was definitely sci-fi interesting - that it is arbitrary is fine in this instance. Good to use it to force a main character to deal with guilt/making a tough decision etc. The episode made sense from the standpoint of using 7's past, her initial devotion to the collective, and then her desire to keep the 3 from rejoining the collective.

    Way too many "somehows" in the middle of the technobabble in this episode.

    Yeah, there are some great bits of dialogue, but too much of the episode IS dialogue.

    I don't get the following Ron Moore has among some in Trek fandom.

    I am watching the whole series for the first time. Noticed during one of the flashbacks, the drones eating cooked meat. One says "tastes like a bird I once ate" Ha! Tastes like chicken!

    It struck me....that I agree with one of the commenters above (EP) I believe, about B'elanna's rudeness. Allow me to expand EP's comment in proposing the difference between Seven of nine's personality and B'elanna's. Seven's personality is a product of a lifetime pursuit and implementation of scientific knowledge, logic, and perfection. when she was freed of the Borg she was liberated from dronedom but still retained the framework of the ideals and attitude-dna of what the Borg imparted to her....minus the character flaws, capriciousness, and pettiness warts of normal humans. She had to learn all over from scratch on how to be a human again. If her personality puts off people it is due to her encyclopiedic well to draw on....not the hang ups of an insecure snob.
    In very short time Seven is making great strides in finding her human abilities to show feeling and compassion.
    Unfortunately, while B'elanna is an excellent engineer, she remarkably seems to go out of her way to be a certified bitch. And look at all the practice she has at being human (well, at least humanoid..she is half Klingon) compared to the fetching Seven.

    I liked this episode in the way it showed the Borg regaining their old selves when they are seperated from the Collective. They can't just group link when they are away from the hive mind, it would be silly to think that individual drones could communicate with the collective from light years away and maintain the hive mind.

    If the central transmitter (for lack of a better word) is lost from a cube or sphere, the drones become lost. The Collective has trillions, possible quadrillions of drones. A few lost here and there means nothing, they aquire billions from every assimilation.

    The desperation of the drones, (as seven says they've done from white noises of many to the clear thoughts of 3) as they try everything to get peace is tragic in its ending. And the guilt plays on Seven.

    The only thing about this is they should have had the Bajoran stay for a couple of episodes as a guest star. Like Ransom's crew, just to show that everything wasn't forgotton but neither were.

    This is a strong episode on its terms, but there are a lot of bits that I had to suspend disbelief because they were unconvincing of the Borg. I'm a huge Ron Moore fanboy, but I don't think he had the best grasp over what the Borg were (although a lot of good ideas for what they could be or how they could be used-- see First Contact's Queen for a great and successful example of something unborgian in nature but a good addition anyway). I had a hard time with hiw quickly individuality seemed to come on once stranded, how Seven emerged as a queen-like leader among the drones, how the collective mind became collective agreement around a suggestion and not actually collective thought. And though I liked the one drone's point that in the collective all the voices were white noise and with 3 it is too loud and intrusive, it seems to suggest greater mental independence of drones in the collective-- their mind in opposition to a hive buzz, not an equal part of it.

    But, on its own the episode is strong. And at this point I think it's ok and only natural that some of the canonical ideas of the borg are fudged or compromised in order to tell new types of worthwhile stories. Voyager will keep doing this with the borg, and from here on they aren't necessarily worthwhile compromises. This one is.

    On a broader scope, it's sure starting to look like borg reclaiming some form of individuality is quite common (this, Unity, Seven herself just to start). Here it comes on particularly strongly and quickly. But, the episode itself is a real winner and worth it.

    Good episode. I for one think episodes like this one, "Unity," and "Infinite Regress" make the Borg more frightening and not less. It is episodes like Dark Frontier or the movie First Contact that "pulls their teeth."

    Markus said :"I can't help but scream out aloud each time I see Janeway being stuck to this living Christmas tree and squeaking "It's got me by the hair"... great slapstick!"

    Yeah, I loved that bit too. Call me crazy, but Janeway sounds a lot like Peri Gilpin (Roz on Frazier) when she delivers that line. Anybody else hear that?

    The episode had so many holes in it, which were already enumerated by the previous commenters. I was put off throughout until Seven and the Doc’s “ survival is insufficient “discussion, which totally redeemed the entire episode, holes and all.

    Strong episode, low key but still engaging. And I appreciate that there was no “ship in danger!” hyperbole woven into the story. A few thoughts:

    - pertaining to the Borg, I notice episodes like this one tend to bring out a steady criticism that the Borg are being watered down, but I have to say that makes little sense to me. Yes, the original introduction of the Borg was amazing in that they were super alien and menacing in equal measure. However, dramatically speaking, we have to pick a lane eventually: the Borg are either mysterious and rarely seen, or they’re aggressive and an eminent threat. They can’t be both. If they’re going to be an ongoing element of the Star Trek world, then you have to layer them out, they have to have weaknesses. Otherwise they’d just assimilate the whole galaxy and that’d wrap everything up. Additionally, episodes like this, at least for me, spark the imagination about just how much peripheral carnage the Borg have left scattered throughout the delta quadrant and beyond. We’ve seen Hugh, seven, and now these three in the episode, not to mention the colony from “unity” and lore’s little Borg cult from TNG, it’s fair to extrapolate that there must be many other instances of drones or even whole ships being separated from the collective. On top of that, there’s the remnants of civilizations that have been assimilated who bear lethal grudges and are concocting various ways to get revenge or fight back against Borg expansion. Personally I think there’s more potential for interesting sci-fi storytelling in developing the Borg rather than just leaving them as their initial impression implied them to be. That being said, I haven’t seen all of voyager yet, so maybe there’s blunders ahead I don’t know about.

    - I think one of the biggest failures of voyager as a show was that it didn’t develop the delta quadrant as more of a character unto itself. Everything they come across feels so disjointed and unrelated, packed full of highly unreasonable xenophobic space racists. It’s refreshing when we see a setting like the station in this episode where there seems to be some semblance of daily life going on. It gives the show a more lived in quality, the station in “fair trade” also produced that feeling. It’s just a shame these moments were so rare. However, random aliens poking around the voyager bridge strains credulity, no wonder tuvok was pissed.

    I love that this message board is almost 25 years old and still running…

    Watching this episode right now, and the one scene I love is Tuvok with his security rushing into the cargo bay to save Seven from the three former Borg. He goes to her side to make sure she's alright. Showed me he had finally accepted her as a member of the crew. A small action but one that spoke volumes to me.

    I'm shocked by the lukewarm response. This is my new favorite episode of the series!

    Beautifully written, directed, and acted, the production design, cinematography, and VFX were all on their A game. What else can you ask for from an episode of Trek?

    4/4 stars obviously. And I haven't given out many of those.

    Oh, and with how intense it gets later, it would be easy to forget how freaking FUNNY the opening scenes were. Then they circled around and "hit me in the feels" by the end with Naomi Wildman and "family".

    A VERY enjoyable episode! At first I thought it was going to go the route of some drones being bad guys for some reason, but it was Seven who was the "bad guy" in what she did to the 3 drones. It makes sense though-she was essentially a child since her emotional growth and individuality was stunted at such a young age compared to the rest of them

    I think it is telling though that the only one who "couldn't forgive" was the Borg lady who was a part of Starfleet! And the one who actually said he forgave her had a moral compass to guide him.

    I like that Seven's character is so fleshed out-it just makes no sense that the producers felt the need to dress her up in such an immodest way. But that's Star Trek (and sadly much of television) for you!

    I guess this is kind of a plot hole, but how did the 3 drones manage to break away from the collective again? (I don't mean on the planet-I mean that since they were reassimilated, they must have escaped some time in the last 8 years) I guess we don't need every i dotted and t crossed to enjoy the episode

    @EP (I know this is a 15 year old comment, but I wanted to reply)
    You are 100% correct that B'lanna is just as abrasive as Seven and it is illogical for her to react that way, but sadly we as imperfect people excuse our own faults while getting annoyed at others. So, her reaction actually makes sense to me (even if it is hypocritical)

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