Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Unity”

“Unity”
Written by Kenneth Biller
Directed by Robert Duncan McNeill
Season 3, Episode 17
Production episode 159
Original air date: February 12, 1997
Stardate: 50614.2

Captain’s log. Chakotay and Kaplan are flying a shuttle through the Nekrit Expanse, trying to find a faster route through it. Unfortunately, they’re lost, as shown when they come across an asteroid field they’d already encountered. Chakotay is frustrated by the fact that they’re not only lost, but going around in circles.

Then they receive a distress call on a Federation frequency from a ship that identifies the shuttle as a Federation craft. This confuses and intrigues the away team, and they respond, but there’s too much interference. Kaplan drops a buoy to let Voyager know what’s going on, and then they land the shuttle on the planet that sent the message.

They’re immediately ambushed. Kaplan is killed and Chakotay is badly wounded before they’re rescued. Chakotay soon learns that there are a bunch of people, some from the Alpha Quadrant, on this world. According to Dr. Riley Frazier, a human woman from Earth, she was kidnapped and taken here, as were all the others. (Surprisingly, Chakotay doesn’t say, “Oh no, not again,” remembering “The 37’s.”)

Chakotay is also very badly injured, and Frazier treats him, telling him to rest.

Voyager is tootling through the Nekrit Expanse, with Paris complaining that he’s bored right up until Janeway offers to let him clean the warp plasma filters, at which point Paris thinks the Nekrit Expanse is the jinkiest.

And then Tuvok detects an object nearby. They investigate, only to find a Borg Cube—albeit one that appears to be completely non-operational. Janeway calls for red alert anyhow, but scans confirm that there’s absolutely no power on board.

Frazier tells Chakotay more about the cooperative that her half of the colony has formed. Unfortunately, they’re in competition with the other half, the ones who shot Chakotay and killed Kaplan, who have no interest in cooperation and only want to take what they can. Chakotay offers to take her and any of the others on the planet with them on Voyager, but she politely declines, saying that they’ve made a home here.

Their communications array is down—the distress signal Frazier sent to the shuttle was its last hurrah, as it were—and she goes off to repair it. Chakotay offers to help, but Frazier says he’s too weak, and also locks him in his room as she leaves.

Tuvok and Torres beam to the Cube. As far as they can determine, something catastrophic happened to the Cube five years ago, leaving it adrift. Several Borg corpses have been preserved by the vacuum of space, and they beam one back for autopsy. Tuvok speculates that whatever happened to them severed their link to the Collective, which is why the Borg haven’t been by to collect them in five years. Torres worries that they were defeated by a foe even more powerful, which doesn’t bear thinking about.

The EMH and Torres perform the autopsy. The doctor activates an axonal amplifier, which causes the drone to come back to life. Quickly, the EMH deactivates the amplifier, and the drone goes back to being a corpse, but Torres is very apprehensive now about the possibility of the Borg reactivating.

Chakotay gets through the locked door and discovers that many of the other people in the cooperative have cybernetic implants—including Frazier, who hides hers behind a blonde wig. It turns out that she didn’t tell the whole truth: they were all assimilated by the Borg. Frazier served on the U.S.S. Roosevelt at Wolf 359—another of the cooperative is a Romulan named Orum. Frazier apologizes for lying, but people’s responses to the Borg are so visceral, she was worried that Chakotay would reject them automatically if he knew they were ex-Borg.

After reassuring them that this changes nothing as far as he’s concerned, Chakotay collapses, as he’s still not well. Orum brings him back to bed.

Frazier tells him that he’s not getting any better. The only option they have left with the equipment they have is to form a small neural link among the cooperative—a kind of mini-Borg Collective. She assures him that it won’t be like becoming a Borg, it’s just using the residual link that they all have with each other from being part of the Collective to give each other strength. It’s how they’ve healed other injuries in the past.

Chakotay reluctantly agrees, since he has no idea when Voyager will come fetch him. He links with the others, and sees memories they all have.

After he recovers, fully healed, he and Frazier have sexy fun times. Chakotay still feels a residual link with the cooperative, which Frazier says is temporary, but he should enjoy it while it lasts.

Voyager finds the buoy Kaplan dropped, but not the shuttlecraft. However, Chakotay has helped them fix the communications systems, so he’s able to contact them. He brings Frazier aboard with a proposal: they want to make the link among them more permanent, to become a true cooperative. They don’t have the equipment to do it on the planet, and Voyager doesn’t, either—but the Borg Cube does. Janeway, however, does not like the idea in the least, and ultimately refuses to help them accomplish it. However, she does offer food, medical supplies, and technology to help them out, which is gratefully accepted.

Torres and Chakotay head back to Voyager on a shuttle after dropping off supplies, and then the cooperative is attacked by the other faction. Desperate, they reach out to Chakotay and are able to take over his mind and get him to stun Torres and divert the shuttle to the Borg Cube to get the tech they need.

Unfortunately, doing so activates the drones on the Cube. Tuvok sends a security detail to stop him, but then the cooperative, realizing what they’ve done, sets the Cube to self-destruct, once all of Voyager’s crew gets off the Cube.

The cooperative apologizes for suborning Chakotay’s will, and they promise that they will have no more influence on him, confirmed by the EMH’s examination. Voyager continues homeward.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The movie First Contact already established that Picard still has a connection to the Borg even after he was removed from the Collective, so it makes sense that these ex-Borg would be able to link up with each other mentally to a degree.

There’s coffee in that nebula! For some reason, Janeway never actually tells Frazier about the drone who was activated from the dead in sickbay, which is really the best reason why they shouldn’t have done it—as proven by their attempt to do so, which did indeed revive the Borg…

Mr. Vulcan. Upon seeing the dead Cube, Tuvok’s first thought is of being able to learn more about the Borg.

Half and half. Torres is much more concerned about the possibility of the Borg awakening, a fear that is justified by what happens in sickbay.

Forever an ensign. Kim, despite not being remotely part of security, is part of the security detail that beams over to the Cube to retrieve Chakotay.

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH accidentally revives a Borg, zombie-style.

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Chakotay and Frazier have pretty much instant chemistry, and after they share a brain, that goes into overdrive.

Do it.

“I still can’t get a fix on our position.”

“Are you saying we’re lost, Ensign?”

“That depends on what you mean by ‘lost,’ sir.”

“Lost, as in, you still can’t get a fix on our position.”

–Kaplan and Chakotay discussing spatial positioning and semantics

Welcome aboard. Susan Patterson returns as Kaplan from the “Future’s Endtwo-parter just long enough to die. Lori Hallier plays Frazier and Ivar Brogger plays Orum. Brogger will return in “Natural Law” as Doctor Barus.

Trivial matters: When Chakotay is linked with the other ex-Borg, he sees various memories, some of which involve various space battles and images of the Borg, mostly taken from “Q Who,” “Emissary,” “The Way of the Warrior,” and “Caretaker.” Mixed in was new footage, notably of Frazier as a little girl with her grandfather.

The cooperative of ex-Borg are not seen again onscreen, but they do appear in the post-finale Voyager novels The Eternal Tide, Protectors, and Acts of Contrition, all by Kirsten Beyer; and in the future history of Star Trek Online.

The producers deliberately held back from having Voyager encounter the Borg until after First Contact had been out for a while. There was also discussion about possibly not using the Borg and establishing that they were wiped out by the destruction of the Borg Queen in that movie, but that was nixed.

Previous Borg Cubes were models, including the one made by TNG’s effects team for that show’s Borg episodes, and then another by Industrial Light & Magic for First Contact. This time, the Cube was done via CGI.

The Borg will next be seen in “Scorpion” at the end of the season, and Torres’ fear that the Borg have faced an enemy more powerful than them will prove prophetic.

The shuttle Chakotay and Kaplan are in is taken and dismantled by the cooperative’s opponents, making the fourth shuttle Voyager has lost (the other three were trashed in “Initiations,” “Non Sequitur,” and “Parturition“).

Voyager left the Ocampa homeworld with 155 people on board. (Janeway said there were 152 on board in “The 37’s,” but that wouldn’t have included the EMH, since he was tethered to the ship at the time, but we’re going to count him now. Seska had left and Durst had died by then.) Since then, they’ve lost Bendera (“Alliances“), Darwin (“Meld“), Jonas (“Investigations“), Bennet (“Innocence“), Hogan and Suder (“Basics, Part II“), Martin (“Warlord“), Kaplan (this episode), and four unnamed crewmembers (“Alliances,” both parts of “Basics“), bringing them down to 141, but the Wildman baby was born making it 142.

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “It’s not exactly a united federation around here.” It’s fascinating to watch this episode after seeing the first season of Picard, because in many ways Frazier’s cooperative of ex-Borg is the first draft of Hugh’s gaggle of xB’s in the current show. But this is the first look at an entire community of Borg who have broken off from the Collective, not just a couple of isolated cases (Hugh, Picard).

This is a good episode, but a few things keep it from being a great one. For one thing, as stated above, Janeway never mentions to Frazier and Chakotay about what happened in sickbay. That was just a minor futzing with a piece of the drone, and that basically brought it back to life. What Frazier is proposing carries a huge risk of doing the same for the whole Cube, and the fact that Janeway never even mentioned it is maddening.

Worse, Chakotay is completely taken over by the cooperative, and it barely gets a comment. Chakotay muses to Janeway about how they might do something nasty like that again, but it’s a very muted response to possession of the body and subsuming of the mind, especially by someone you just so recently knocked boots with.

It also would’ve been nice if Chakotay showed some understanding of Frazier’s desire to stay on the world because they’d built a home there, given that Chakotay’s pre-Voyager career was spent fighting to stay on a world he’d built.

And Chakotay spends basically no time mourning Kaplan, and neither does anyone else. Sigh.

But the biggest problem with the episode is that, as described by Frazier, this cooperative can’t possibly exist. Frazier says she was assimilated at Wolf 359. But the Cube that destroyed the fleet at that star was shortly thereafter blown up in Earth orbit. So, um, how did Frazier and the others get there?

What’s especially ridiculous is that it’s an easy fix: have her be one of the eighteen people snatched from the Enterprise in “Q Who.” It was assumed at the time of the episode that they were killed, but that episode was written before assimilation was established as a thing. It’s quite likely that all eighteen of them became Borg. Frazier could easily have been one of them.

Still, despite these flaws, it’s a good episode. It’s the first look at what a true life post-Collective can look like, setting the stage for Seven of Nine and Icheb and the other ex-Borg on both Voyager and Picard. The connection between Chakotay and Frazier is genuine, and both Robert Beltran and Lori Hallier play it well.

Warp factor rating: 6

Keith R.A. DeCandido is part of a Kickstarter for four books, one of which is an anthology he’s in, Horns and Halos, featuring stories about demons and angels. (Keith’s is an urban fantasy about Islamic angels.) The other three books are the novels The Devil’s Way by Megan Mackie, An Unceasing Hunger by Michelle D. Sonnier, and Dragon by Ty Drago. There are also tons of bonuses and rewards and things. Please consider supporting it!

citation

Back to the top of the page

62 Comments

Subscribe to this thread

Post a Comment

All comments must meet the community standards outlined in Tor.com's Moderation Policy or be subject to moderation. Thank you for keeping the discussion, and our community, civil and respectful.

Hate the CAPTCHA? Tor.com members can edit comments, skip the preview, and never have to prove they're not robots. Join now!

Our Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.