Written by Bryan Fuller and Harry Doc Kloor and Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky
Directed by Les Landau
Season 5, Episode 2
Production episode 196
Original air date: October 21, 1998
Captain’s log. Seven, the EMH, Torres, and Paris are taking a type-2 shuttle to watch a proto-nebula form. It’s a rare opportunity for study of a nifty natural phenomenon. However, the nebula damages the shuttlecraft, and the team is beamed back.
Ensign Mulchaey has trouble reintegrating the patterns of the team, but eventually is able to manage. However, the EMH’s mobile emitter was damaged, and Torres has to transfer him to sickbay. She takes the emitter to the science lab to run a diagnostic overnight, telling Mulchaey to check it out in the morning.
The EMH wakes Torres up first thing in the a.m., as he’s desperate for his mobile emitter back, an action that does not win him any affection from a sleepy Torres.
Mulchaey enters the lab and finds that the emitter has grown tubules and is interacting with the science lab. Two tubules go into Mulchaey’s neck.
Seven’s proximity transceiver goes off, indicating a Borg drone nearby. Kim scans and finds nothing, but then power from the warp core gets rerouted to the science lab. Kim can’t scan the lab, and Mulchaey isn’t responding to hails. Worse, the lab is blocking scans with a force field that has a Borg signature.
Tuvok and Seven lead a security team to the lab, all carrying big-ass phaser rifles. They find Mulchaey on the deck, unconscious but alive, with scars in his neck that look like vampire bites. He’s taken to sickbay.
The emitter has grown and changed into a chamber that is incubating a Borg fetus. Janeway instructs that a level-ten force field be put around it. According to scans, some of Seven’s nanoprobes mixed with the emitter during the difficult transport, and now the nanoprobes are assimilating the 29th-century technology and Mulchaey’s DNA and creating a new life.
Seven dampens the drone’s proximity transceiver so the other Borg won’t know he’s there. The drone’s metallic components are made of the same futuristic alloy as the emitter.
Janeway sees this as an opportunity to try to teach the drone how to be an individual. Seven is charged with teaching the drone how to be a person rather than a part of the Collective. It’s slow going, but eventually the drone—who takes on the name “One”—starts to understand. He learns about the crew and about their mission—but he wants to learn more about the Borg, too. He also helps the crew, aiding Torres in various engineering tasks.
When Seven and One are regenerating in the cargo bay, One’s proximity transceiver activates, and the Borg now know he’s there. A Borg sphere heads toward Voyager.
Seven shows One what the Borg truly are, and how they would assimilate all of Voyager’s crew if they could. One wishes to experience the Collective, but Janeway points out that he would lose his individuality if he did. When he asks why Seven is an individual, Janeway explains that she was forcibly removed, and the Borg would subsume her again if given the chance.
One has improved Voyager’s shielding so they can resist the Borg tractor beam, but even his refinements to the phasers are insufficient to do damage to the sphere. One beams over to the sphere instead, and sabotages it from within, piloting it into the proto-nebula, destroying it.
Kim detects a single lifeform in the wreckage of the sphere, covered by a force field—it’s One, but his life signs are fluctuating. Kim beams him to sickbay, where the EMH diagnoses him with severe cranial trauma. His mechanical bits will repair themselves, but his biological parts need immediate surgery. One erects a personal force field that keeps the EMH from treating him. He knows that the Borg will never stop trying to find and assimilate him as long as he’s alive, so he must die. Seven is devastated as she watches him die behind the force field.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Seven comments that the Borg don’t procreate, they assimilate, and the notion of a Borg fetus is alien to her, despite the fact that in the Borg’s very first appearance in TNG’s “Q Who,” we saw Borg babies being incubated.
Half and half. Torres is initially very unhappy with One’s presence, plaintively asking if they’re going to spend all their time picking up former drones. As it happens, the ship will pick up several more ex-Borg before the series is out…
Resistance is futile. The episode begins with Seven looking in a mirror and trying out smiling, with mediocre success. The episode ends with her staring into the mirror stone-faced.
Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH is seriously put out by the loss of his mobile emitter, even more than he was in “One.”
We are informed that the emitter can’t be removed from One without killing him. One assumes that the EMH extracted it after his death, since we see it back up and running in the next episode.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. The EMH interrupts Torres as she’s undressing to shower, to her annoyance. She throws her towel over the viewscreen.
“The Borg: party-poopers of the galaxy.”
–The EMH editorializing.
Welcome aboard. J. Paul Boehmer returns, after playing a Nazi in “The Killing Game” two-parter, as One. He’ll also appear in DS9’s “Tacking Into the Wind” as a Cardassian, and on Enterprise as another Nazi in “Zero Hour” and “Storm Front,” and as the Vulcan Mestral in “Carbon Creek.”
Todd Babcock plays Mulchaey.
Trivial matters: This is Mulchaey’s only appearance, but he will be referenced several more times throughout the rest of the show’s run.
Seven suggests that the crew construct a shuttle that’s as maneuverable as the type-2’s but larger, foreshadowing the construction of the Delta Flyer in the next episode, “Extreme Risk.”
This is only the second appearance of a Borg sphere, introduced in First Contact.
Set a course for home. “You will adapt.” On the one hand, this is pretty much a rerun of TNG’s “I, Borg.” On the other hand, it’s a really good rerun, and the Voyager version of the story of trying to see if a Borg can be an individual focuses more on the relationship between Seven and One. The TNG episode was more about Picard and Guinan moving past their knee-jerk reactions to the Borg; this episode is about Seven finding a kindred spirit, and trying to make him be an individual as well.
I was recently on Russ’ Rockin’ Rollercoaster, which is an author interview show that author Russ Colchamiro has been doing since last spring. He was talking to me, author Derek Tyler Attico, and critic Jarrah Hodge about Star Trek, and one of the things I said that I thought was an enduring aspect of Trek is that the solution is always one of compassion and hope.
It would’ve been so easy to have One return to the Collective and become a traitor to Voyager, to help the Borg try to assimilate them. Instead, he remained true to the values that Seven and the rest of the crew had imparted, and he worked against the Borg, eventually sacrificing his life. Yes, his death was a tragedy, and yes it was inevitable as much because of Voyager’s obsessive desire to restore the status quo at all costs as anything, but it worked in story.
This is a well Trek has dipped into plenty of times before, not just in “I, Borg,” but also in a couple of other TNG episodes where they accidentally created life (“Elementary, Dear Data” and its followup in “Ship in a Bottle,” as well as “Emergence“). For that matter, the episode shares DNA with TNG’s “The Offspring” and DS9’s “The Abandoned” and “The Begotten.” But in all those cases, our heroes’ instincts are to help the new arrival, even if (as in “The Abandoned” and “Elementary, Dear Data”) the person in question is antagonistic. Picard still offers to help Moriarty and find a way for him to live off the holodeck; Odo tries to help the Jem’Hadar be more than a preprogrammed super-soldier.
What sells this particular iteration of the plot is two fantastic performances by Jeri Ryan and J. Paul Boehmer. The latter’s is pretty straightforward, but he has the same delightful curiosity that we’ve seen before in Brent Spiner’s Data and Hallie Todd’s Lal and will see again in Manu Intiraymi’s Icheb and Isa Briones’ Soji. And Ryan is simply stellar here, as we see how she’s trying to become more human than Borg, and then she uses Borg trappings to help teach One to be a person, and then she finds herself devastated when she realizes she’s going to lose him. The final dialogue exchange between the pair of them before One expires is devastating. She begs him to lower the force field so the EMH can treat him, and he refuses. “You must comply,” she begs, “please—you’re hurting me.”
“You will adapt.”
Again, Borg trappings, but for a human moment. And One dies, not as a drone, but as a hero who saved the ship.
Warp factor rating: 9
Keith R.A. DeCandido‘s latest novel was released this month: Animal, a thriller he co-authored with Dr. Munish K. Batra about a serial killer who targets people who harm animals. Here’s an interview Keith did about the book on Second Life’s “The Mystery Hour with Con Sweeney.”