Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Collective"

Remember our longstanding maxim Star Trek never does children well? It is further confirmed by “Collective,” but with the added bonus of further watering down the Borg from a formidable enemy down to another alien menace of the week. It had to happen eventually when they became Voyager’s archenemy, but it is a sad development nevertheless.

Chakotay, Tom, Harry, and Neelix evidently learned nothing from the last time they were on an extended away mission, because they are back in the Delta Flyer . Instead of having false memories of a civilian massacre implanted in their minds, they are captured by a Borg cube. The first evidence the Borg have lost their edge is the lack of foreboding I feel when the sight of a tractor beam pulling the Delta flyer into the cube is no more ominous than if it was a Romulan or Cardassian ship. There was a time when the imminent assimilation of our heroes was a terrifying and real possibility. Now…meh. Whatever.

If ambivalence is the feeling with which I am starting, you can imagine how I feel to discover all the adult drones on te cube are dead, leaving five partially assimilated children in charge. They decide to hold the away team, minus Hard Luck Harry, who was knocked unconscious when the Delta Flyer was attacked, in exchange for Voyager’s deflector array. They plan to use the array to get the cube moving again and rejoin the Borg Collective.

That summary sums up the entire episode. Janeway stalls for time until she can figure out how to rescue the hostages while seven tries to convince the kids the Borg ain’t coming for them, so they should come to Voyager. The kids are such over the top petulant brats, it is difficult to take them seriously. The youngest one--a little girl who cannot be more than eight--is the most sadistic, but also the one who comes around to Seven’s side the fastest. Her switch struck me as too convenient, but maybe I am just being hypercritical. I am growing ill of how this show does things.

I must be growing more cynical, too, because my favorite scene is the sickest. Early on, the Doctor discovers the adult Borg were killed off by a virus. Took suggests isolating the virus to use as a biological weapon against the Borg in the future. Janeway is all about mass genocide. Later in the episode, a ‘maturation chamber” malfunctions, prompting seven to beam a half-assimilated infant to sickbay. Janeway cradles the infant while the doctor performs a scan. As the baby happily squirms in her arms, she asks if the virus is ready to use. I laughed out loud. Here the woman is holding a young, helpless Borg, and the first thought to pop in her mind is whether the means to kill them all is ready or does she have to impatiently wait longer. Mercy, that is one cold, hard woman. The doll used for the baby is more lifelike.

After several hours, Hard Luck Harry awakens without brain damage--this is Hollywood--and plays Ben Kenobi by disabling the shields, thereby allowing Voyager to beam out the hostages. The kids rebel against their stubborn leader, who conveniently dies so they can go free. The Doctor removes their implants, so they become normal kids under Seven’s care. Janeway does not get to use the virus, so she suffers withdrawal symptoms--or does she? We never see or hear from the Borg baby again, so maybe she murdered it in order to satisfy her thirst for blood. Either that, or the writers are incompetent with continuity. Even money on both.

There is nothing particularly interesting about “Collective.” I do not believe the kids make compelling villains now or compelling characters later. This episode is the clear beginning of the end of the borg as good villains for Star Trek unless J. J. Abrams plans to really break continuity and do his on take on them in one of his remained movies. “Collective” is bland and serves as another of the many steps in the wrong direction VOY took in its final two seasons.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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