Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Collective”

Written by Andrew Shepherd Price & Mark Gaberman and Michael Taylor
Directed by Allison Liddi
Season 6, Episode 16
Production episode 235
Original air date: February 16, 2000
Stardate: unknown

Captain’s log. For the second time in three episodes, Chakotay, Neelix, Paris, and Kim are on the Delta Flyer. Their poker game is interrupted by a Borg Cube that snuck up on them, er, somehow. Warp drive is knocked offline, and Kim goes down below to fix it. But the cube pulls the Flyer in and knocks the crew out.

Chakotay, Neelix, and Paris wake up in a holding area where they see a couple of corpses that look very much like botched attempts at assimilation. They worry that Kim is already off to be assimilated—or not, if those botchings are any indication.

Voyager tracks the Flyer’s ion trail to the cube. There’s a fight, but the cube fights erratically and poorly, and Tuvok is able to take out the cube’s weapons with surprising ease. Also the cube has suffered damage that should have been repaired by now.

Seven soon realizes that there are only five drones on the cube where there should be thousands. The “you will be assimilated” speech is rejected by Janeway, and a tense negotiation ensues. The Borg ask for Voyager’s navigational deflector in order to contact the Collective, in exchange for which they’ll release the hostages.

Voyager will be crippled without their deflector, so Janeway stalls, asking to send Seven over for proof of life for the hostages (and for Seven to assess the situation). The Borg agree.

Star Trek: Voyager "Collective"

Screenshot: CBS

Seven beams over to find that the five drones are all adolescents, who were removed from their maturation chambers prematurely after the rest of the drones were killed. They wish to contact the Collective and be reassimilated—their damaged communications have also cut them off from the rest of the Borg.

They bring Seven to where Chakotay, Paris, and Neelix are being held. As Seven is leaving, Chakotay asks Seven to give Kim their regards. The Borg react to this not at all, and now it’s clear that Kim is still at large. Seven asks to take a drone corpse back to Voyager for examination.

The EMH autopsies the drone and discovers that it was killed by a pathogen that specifically targets bionic life forms. It’s harmless to fully organic beings, but fatal to a cyborg species. Janeway orders the EMH to reproduce the pathogen and also instructs the bridge to try to contact Kim on a non-Borg frequency.

Kim remained unconscious in the bowels of the Flyer, and he wakes up to Voyager trying to contact him—but he has to make adjustments to his combadge to reply, which he does.

Janeway and Seven beam back to the cube and make a counteroffer: come back to Voyager, have their implants removed, and be individuals again. First rejects this notion, just wanting the deflector. Janeway tries another tack: Seven will repair their cube. First accepts, and Janeway beams back with a warning not to return to the cube.

Seven speaks with Second while making repairs and asks him about his pre-drone life. He says he doesn’t remember. Seven also fixes his vocal processors, which First had said couldn’t be fixed until they returned to the Collective. Also he realizes that Seven’s hair reminds him of his mother…

Seven has learned that the Borg did receive a communication from the cube, but deemed the survivors not worth the trouble and have cut them off permanently. The drones don’t have the skill to decrypt the message, so they’re still laboring under the delusion that they can return to the Collective.

Kim, guided by Tuvok, works his way to the shield generator so he can sabotage it, allowing Voyager to beam the away team home. Meanwhile, Seven continues her repairs. First accuses her of stalling, while Seven tries to explain to them that they don’t need the Borg to pursue perfection. Then a maturation chamber, which contains an infant, malfunctions. Seven has it beamed to sickbay.

Star Trek: Voyager "Collective"

Screenshot: CBS

The EMH is able to save the child. He also tells Janeway he has re-created the pathogen and is appalled to see that Janeway is still considering using it. But she needs to have it in reserve in case things go pear-shaped.

Kim is captured by Third. First confronts Seven with the spatial charges that Kim was placing. Kim has been infected with nanoprobes, which will kill him like the other people they tried to assimilate. First goes back to demanding the navigational deflector.

Seven plays the only cards she’s got left: she tells them that the Borg cut them off, and gives them the means to decrypt the message. First doesn’t believe it at first, but when he realizes the message is genuine, he decides that they will just keep assimilating people until the Collective realizes they’re worthy. Because that would totally work.

The cube hits Voyager with a tractor beam that is literally trying to tear the deflector off the hull. Tuvok reports a fluctuation in the cube’s shield grid. Not enough to beam a person out, but enough to beam the pathogen in. Instead, Janeway, loath to kill the kids, orders a feedback pulse sent through the tractor beam. This weakens both the tractor beam and the cube’s shields enough that they can beam Chakotay, Paris, and Neelix back. But Kim and Seven are in an area that’s too heavily shielded.

First is panicking, and doesn’t know what to do. Seven urges him to drop shields and surrender, but he refuses. Voyager’s actions will cause the shields to overload and the cube to blow up. First tries to fix it, but is hit with a console as it overloads, and he dies. The other four agree to return to Voyager with Seven.

The EMH is able to cure Kim and remove the Borg kids’ implants. Seven also was able to retrieve some biographical data that the cube inexplicably had on file. (Why would they even care about that?) Second is Icheb, Third is Mezoti, and the other two, who are twins, are Azan and Rebi.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Despite the fact that Borg systems are supposed to be decentralized, Voyager is able to do bizarrely specific damage to the cube…

There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway has to convince Seven that she is pretty much the authority figure for the Borg kids. Seven is reluctant to accept this responsibility, which just makes Janeway smile knowingly.

Star Trek: Voyager "Collective"

Screenshot: CBS

Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok is all for releasing the pathogen pretty much from jump. Bloodthirsty cuss, ain’t he?

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. By contrast, the EMH finds the notion of releasing the pathogen to be appalling.

Half and half. Torres is at ops for the entire episode, because the chief engineer has nothing better to do than run a bridge station instead of her engine room, and because the producers have given up on even pretending that there’s anyone in the crew beyond the opening-credits regulars.

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix is supposedly playing his first-ever poker game on the Flyer. He has a flush, which is a good hand, though he would’ve lost to Paris’ full house…

Forever an ensign. Kim uses the poker cards to mark his trail back to the Flyer from the shield generator, which winds up a waste of time, as he’s captured.

Resistance is futile. Seven quickly takes charge of the Borg kids, and becomes the authority figure that First has failed to be.

Do it.

“They are contemptuous of authority, convinced they are superior—typical adolescent behavior for any species.”

–Tuvok psychoanalyzing the Borg kids.

Welcome aboard. Ryan Spahn plays First, while we get four new recurring regulars in Manu Intiraymi as Icheb, Marley S. McClean as Mezoti, and Kurt and Cody Wetherill as Azan and Rebi. All four will next be seen in “Ashes to Ashes,” and they’ll continue to recur to the end of the series, with Icheb also appearing in Picard’s “Stardust City Rag” (played by Casey King).

Trivial matters: This episode explains the disparity between the revelation in TNG’s “Q Who” that the Borg are made into cyborgs from birth and the later insistence that all they do is assimilate. What Riker found in “Q Who” was apparently one of the maturation chambers, where they put infants they’ve assimilated.

While the four surviving teens all become part of Voyager’s complement, it’s never made clear what happened to the infant.

Mezoti is Norcadian, the system Voyager visited last time in “Tsunkatse,” and mention is made of their twin suns (which gave Neelix a sunburn in that episode).

The Borg tried to convert the Enterprise-E’s navigational deflector into a communications beacon in First Contact.

Star Trek: Voyager "Collective"

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “The Borg, negotiating?” This is an important episode for the show, as Icheb in particular and the four Borg kids in general become important supporting characters for the remainder of the show’s run. This is especially heartening to see given that they totally forgot about the four Equinox personnel who joined the crew.

But the episode that introduces them is a tiresome, predictable slog. Having run out of ways to convincingly have Voyager survive encounters with the Borg (and not even trying to be convincing in “Dark Frontier“), they decide to have Borg kids! Our heroes can beat them, because they’re just a bunch of dopey teenagers!

Sigh. There’s just nothing to say here. Every beat is predictable and we get nothing to ameliorate the predictability. Seven’s actions with the Borg are just her repeating what we’ve seen her learn since she came on board, Ryan Spahn’s First is a tiresome whiny teenager, and the other four don’t really make much of an impression in their inaugural appearance (though Manu Intiraymi shows signs of the interesting character he’ll become).

Worse, the most Trekkish aspect of the story is handled with no kind of interest or urgency, to wit, the argument over whether or not to use the pathogen. This same argument was compelling in TNG’s “I, Borg,” and is lifeless here. (Speaking of TNG, a poker game? Really? It’s especially disappointing because not only is it rehashing TNG’s thing, Neelix opening the episode by talking about hearts made me think they were playing bridge, which would’ve been way cooler—and appropriate for four players.)


Warp factor rating: 5

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