Friday, October 28, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Unimatrix Zero, Part I"

“Unimatrix Zero, Part I’ serves as the sixth season finally, which means it is time to run into the Borg yet again. The episode ends in a now ubiquitous cliffhanger, so the episode is largely set up for the seventh and final season premiere. Oh, yeah, baby. Only one more season to go, then I will never have to sit through another episode of this show again. I will have to find out if robert beltran dig a jig when the series ended so I can learn the stepps to it.

If you have not guessed by the title, “Unimatrix Zero” borrows heavily from the science fiction blockvuster The Matrix. truth be told, it is such a thinly veiled attempt to cash in on the movie’s success it is downright pitiful. The only thing missing are trench coats and sunglasses. Janeway even does a little kung fu action against a borg drone at one point. With a Klingon bat’leth, no less.

Seven is contacted during her regeneration by a group of drones who exist in a virtual reality safe haven in which than can exist as individuals during their regeneration cycles. She stayed here during her regeneration cycles for eighteen years herself, but lived as Annika. She has no memories of any of it. None of the denizens do once their regeneration cycles are complete. Only one in a million drones have some special gene that allows them to come to Unimatrix Zero. Unfirtynately, the borg Queen is onto them. She has been closing in on where unimatrix Zero is and how to destroy it. Axum, a former lover of Annika, wants seven’s help to keep Unimatrix zero a safe haven.

Seven consults with janeway, who is eager to help, but needs to see this place for herself. Fortunately for everyone, Tuvok knows a never before mentioned and hereafter completely ignored vulcan techique to brisge minds so that when Seven visits unimatriz Zero, Janeway can as well. The best bit about it is when the doctor raises and obbjection regarding the safety of the procedure. Took admits he has never done it before, but once saw a vulcan master perform it with ease, so how hard can it be? There is a reason performers of dangerous stunts warn you not to try them at home. There is an illusion in watching others perform complicated tasks effortlessly that makes them look easy when they are not. Vulcans apparently ignore these warnings, particularly when they involve messing with people’s brains. Tuvok has reduced a delicate procdure he once saw perform to the famous last words of a redneck--“Shoot, I can do that. Hold my beer while I try it.”

Janeway enters Unimatrix One and consults with Axum. Keeping in mind all he wants her to do is devise a way to shield the place from the Borg Queen’s detection. Janeway’s advise is to find a way to retain the memories of everyone living in Unimatrix Zero when they return to the Borg Collective. Then, she suggests, they act as resistence fighter. Axum only wants a peaceful place for his people to enjoy their lost individuality. Janeway could not care less. She wants to turn them into an army in order to defeat the Borg.

Their conversation is interrupted by an incursion of Brog drones once the Borg queen has discovered several of the borg with the special gene. I am a jaded soul when it comes to how watered down the borg have become on VOY, but the scenes of screaming people running through the forest in terror as emotionless drones relentlessly chase after them is chilling. One of the people being hunted down is a Klingon. When he is “killed,” Janeway picks up his bat’leth and goes to town on the drones. We switch to what is probably my favorite scene in all of VOY. The borg queen, watching the action on a view screen in her lair hisses through gritted teeth, ‘…Janeway…” I like it because it is the same reaction Braxton has to her, as well. There is a pattern to how janeway gets on people’s nerves for neddling in things with which she should not be involved.

I say meddling in things she should not be involved in deliberately. She not only freely admits she is violating the prime directive by attempting to spark off a civil war within the Borg Collective, she informs axum the first time she meets him that the doctor and torres are already working on a way they can keep their memories of Unimatrix Zero once their regeneration cycles are complete. She never had any intention of just shielding the place as Axum requested. She was always going to force her plan for a civil war on them. The realization scares the heck out of Axum. So much so that when seven returns to check on how they are handling the periodic incursions, he tells her she owes them nothing and should go away--and he is the one who brought her there to ask for help! I guess no one filled him in on how Janeway does things.

I have to be far here. Axum admitted earlier that he and annika had a six year relationship that ended when she was separated from the Borg Collective. She does not remember any of it, and therefore has no feelings for him even though he still loves her. When she rejects him--in fact, rejects all aspects of her reemerging Annika personality--he is hurt and wants to keep her at arms length. We are supposed to realize his statement that the defense of Unimatrix Zero is not her battle is a sign of his broken heart, but come on. Janeway’s crazy plan that is being forced on him has got to be far scarier.

Did I say janeway had a crazy plan/ how does allowing herself, Tuvok, and Torres to be assimilated in order to spread the virus that will allow all drones with the special gene to retain their memories outside Unimatrix Zero? That is bat crap insane, not to mention highly implausible, but that is what the three do. Such is the cliffhanger.

The plor here is gruel thin. It is all about setting up the cliffhanger while dazzling the audience with some pointless special effects. How many times do we have to see the borg queen be pieced together through the magic of CGI? We catch a glimpse at (presumably) another borg city in space, which is impressive, and a few Borg severed heads for the shock value of it. Seeing janeway, took, and torres as assimilated drones is a bit jarring, I will confess, but it all feels gratuitous.

I do enjoy Seven’s fliration with her humanity while in Unimatrix Zero. Her Borg implants disappear there eventually while she lets her hair down. She even speaks with a happier, more chipper voice. All this until she realizes she was in a relationship with Axum. Fear takes over, so she bounces back to rigid Seven as a defense mechanism. When she rejects Axum, she goes about it in the coldest, cruelest manner imaginable. It is a turn off, yet I cannot help but feel sorrow for Seven. She is such an emotionally damaged person,. She cannot even entertain the idea of rekindling a close relationship she once had as a human.

But I do not want to be cruel myself here. “Unimatrix Zero, Part I’ may be thin on plot, but it is not terrible. I just expect more from a season finale than plodding towards a cliffhanger that is such a surprise twist, it actually makes the characters involved appear insane. There are unpredictable plot twists, which are good, and implausible plot twists, which are not. Leave it to VOY to choose the latter to end the season on.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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