Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Imperfection”

“Imperfection”
Written by André Bormanis and Carleton Eastlake and Robert Doherty
Directed by David Livingston
Season 7, Episode 2
Production episode 248
Original air date: October 11, 2000
Stardate: 54129.4

Captain’s log. Voyager has come across a Wysanti ship, who take Azan and Rebi in. Mezoti has also decided to go with them back to the Wysanti homeworld. Icheb points out that she could stay on Voyager, and Mezoti says that he could come with them to Wysanti. They hug and say their goodbyes.

Seven sheds a tear, which she assumes to be a malfunction, and reports to sickbay. The EMH says that it’s totally fine for her to be emotional when separated from loved ones, but then his examination reveals that her cortical node is, in fact, malfunctioning. Seven asks that this stay between her and the doctor, and the EMH is surprised—her medical condition has always been shared with Janeway in the past—but accedes.

Icheb expresses a desire to apply to Starfleet Academy. Tuvok, a former Academy instructor, can teach him classes if he gets in. They can send a letter of recommendation from Janeway (necessary, since Icheb is not from a Federation member species) with his application on the next Starfleet datastream. Seven agrees.

She notices some issues with her skin, and she goes to the cargo bay to regenerate—however, her alcove rejects her. She instead spends all night in the mess hall drinking a nutritional supplement. Neelix shows up at 0500 to start breakfast and offers to make her an omelette. She refuses right before she convulses and collapses.

The EMH reveals that the degradation is worse than they thought. Her body is rejecting her Borg implants. Seven seems to think her Borg implants will adapt, but the EMH is less sanguine.

Star Trek: Voyager "Imperfection"

Screenshot: CBS

They need a new cortical node. They passed a plot-convenient Borg debris field a few days back, so Janeway takes the new Delta Flyer to check it out. Paris and Tuvok insist on accompanying her.

They arrive in the debris, find a bit that has a breathable atmosphere, and are able to extract a cortical node from an intact drone corpse. Unfortunately, there are a bunch of aliens who have claimed the cube as their salvage, which results in a nasty firefight both on the cube and in space. However, the Flyer does get away.

The EMH, assisted by Paris and Janeway, do a dozen simulations on the holodeck, and every time the cortical node fails and doesn’t save Seven. Using a corpse’s node is not viable. Janeway considers the possibility of infiltrating a Borg ship, which the EMH rightly considers to be idiotic.

Seven wants to return to duty, but the EMH thinks she needs to remain under observation. Icheb brings some work to her in sickbay, only to find the place empty, the EMH deactivated. It turns out that Seven deactivated him in mid-sentence and left sickbay, leaving her combadge behind.

Torres finds Seven hiding in engineering, but doesn’t rat her out, as she’s hidden from the EMH plenty of times herself. When the EMH does show up—after Torres and Seven have had a discussion about the afterlife—he reluctantly agrees to let her not be in sickbay as long as she wears a cortical monitor.

Janeway agrees to let Icheb apply to the Academy, but Seven implies that she won’t be around to help him study. Icheb is livid that she’s given up on herself, but she insists she’s being realistic.

Star Trek: Voyager "Imperfection"

Screenshot: CBS

Icheb brings a proposal to the EMH: use Icheb’s cortical node. He was removed early from his maturation chamber, so he’s less reliant on his implants, and he’s also younger and can survive, especially with some genetic resequencing.

Janeway finds Seven in astrometrics looking at pictures of Earth: first the Grand Canyon, then Janeway’s hometown of Bloomington, Indiana. Seven allows as how she won’t survive to see Earth, and Janeway refutes that. She won’t give up—if she did, she would have settled on a Class-M world near the Ocampa homeworld. Instead, they’re more than halfway home. Seven then calls up a casualty list to remind her of how many people have died to get her halfway home (and it’s nice to see SOMEONE fucking remembering that). Seven then says that Janeway is having a harder time accepting the possibility of Seven’s death because Seven is such a disappointment. Janeway counters that Seven has, in fact, exceeded Janeway’s expectations, and become a truly remarkable individual.

The EMH tells Janeway and Seven about Icheb’s plan, and Seven adamantly refuses. The risk to him is too great. Icheb insists, and asks Janeway to order her, but Janeway says she won’t take that step (this in direct contrast to when she did take that step in “Tuvix” and “Nothing Human”).

Icheb takes it upon himself to deactivate his own cortical node. This leaves the EMH with a dilemma, as Seven refuses to accept it and Icheb refuses to reactivate it. However, some of Icheb’s implants are adapting to the new situation, so indications are that his theory is right. Seven insists that Icheb is doing this because he relies on Seven too much, but Icheb counters that she doesn’t rely on anyone at all, even though risking their lives to help people is what the crew of Voyager does all the time, even with perfect strangers when they answer a distress call. Seven finally agrees to the procedure.

Star Trek: Voyager "Imperfection"

Screenshot: CBS

The operation is a success. Seven has to regenerate for six days for her system to adjust to the new cortical node. Icheb is recovering slowly as well, and when he wakes up, Seven says that she will help him get ready for Starfleet Academy and she will not go easy on him, for which he is grateful. She also cries, and Icheb is concerned that the cortical node is malfunctioning again, but the EMH assures them both that it’s functioning normally. The tears are legit.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? If you remove a Borg’s cortical node, they are likely fucked.

There’s coffee in that nebula! After being completely willing to kill Tuvix to restore Tuvok and Neelix, after being completely willing to disregard Torres’ very explicit instructions not to allow herself to be treated by Crell Moset, Janeway is inexplicably absolutely unwilling to go against Seven’s wishes to receive a cortical node transplant from Icheb. 

Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok will provide Icheb’s remote Academy instruction, since he has a history as an Academy teacher.

Half and half. Seven asks Torres if she believes in the Klingon afterlife. Considering that she actually went to the Klingon afterlife in “Barge of the Dead,” her equivocal answer of “I hope so” is kind of ridiculous.

Star Trek: Voyager "Imperfection"

Screenshot: CBS

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH gets to perform all manner of medical stuff this episode, but still can’t stop Seven from turning him off and leaving sickbay.

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix tries to distract Seven and cheer her up by playing kadis-kot with her in sickbay while waiting to see if the cortical node they salvaged off a Borg corpse is viable.

Resistance is futile. Seven assumes that, even after three years on board, no one on Voyager will want to help her, that she doesn’t deserve to be saved, and that everyone is disappointed in her. When Torres is nice to her in engineering, she seems genuinely surprised.

What happens on the holodeck stays on the holodeck. In one of the more clever uses of the holodeck, the EMH tests out a major bit of brain surgery in the holodeck before trying it on a real patient.

Do it.

“He’s persistent.”

“Not to worry, I’ll make it clear to him that persistence is futile.”

–Seven describing Icheb and the EMH making a funny.

Star Trek: Voyager "Imperfection"

Screenshot: CBS

Welcome aboard. Marley McClean and Kurt & Cody Wetherill make their final appearances as Mezoti, Azan, and Rebi, while Manu Intiraymi continues to appear as Icheb. Michael McFall plays the alien salvager, while Debbie Gratten plays the woman who takes the Borg kiddos in.

Trivial matters: This episode takes place after “Drive,” the next episode aired, as that was the episode in which the new Delta Flyer went on its shakedown cruise, plus Paris is seen wearing a wedding ring in this episode, and he will marry Torres in that episode.

When Icheb appears in Picard’s “Stardust City Rag,” that he is missing his cortical node is mentioned.

That a captain must provide a letter of recommendation for a potential Starfleet Academy cadet who is not from a Federation member species was established in DS9’s “Heart of Stone” when Nog asked Sisko for such a letter to allow him to apply.

This episode makes it clear that Voyager is still in monthly contact with Starfleet Command, as established in “Life Line.”

Paris mentions that the last time Janeway took the Delta Flyer to a Borg cube, it was destroyed, which happened in “Unimatrix Zero.”

Janeway says they’ve infiltrated a Borg cube before, which they did in both “Dark Frontier” and the “Unimatrix Zero” two-parter.

Icheb was removed from his maturation chamber prematurely (as were Mezoti, Azan, Rebi, and two other drones) in “Collective.”

The aliens who are salvaging the Borg cube are never identified or seen again.

The casualty list Seven calls up includes Kaplan (who first appeared in the “Future’s Endtwo-parter, and was killed in “Unity”), Ballard (who was established as having been killed in “Ashes to Ashes”), and Lang (the name given in “Warhead” to the security guard played by regular extra Sylvester Foster, who was last seen in “Equinox, Part II,” and who was apparently killed some time during the sixth season). The other names on the casualty list were all named after characters on The West Wing, which aired in the same timeslot (Wednesdays at 9pm) as Voyager on NBC. The WW namesakes include a commander, two lieutenant commanders, two lieutenants, and two ensigns.

This is the only Trek credit for Carleton Eastlake, who also wrote for genre shows V, seaQuest 2032, The Burning Zone, Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict, The Outer Limits, and Farscape.

Star Trek: Voyager "Imperfection"

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “We difficult patients need to stick together.” Oftentimes in this rewatch I have discussed an episode that was doing okay until the ending, when it all fell apart.

“Imperfection” is notable in that it flips that script. The opening of the episode actively annoyed me, the middle had a scene that promised something it never delivered, but holy shit, did they absolutely nail the ending, to the point where I was tearing up just like Seven was.

The beginning annoyed the crap out of me, as it seemed just so lazy to fob Mezoti, Azan, and Rebi off like that. I honestly didn’t give that much of a damn about the twins, as they never evinced any kind of personality, but Marley McClean made Mezoti a delightful little ex-Borg moppet, and to have her just wander off like that in the teaser without any prep felt like a cheat. I mean, considering they built an entire episode around Icheb possibly going home to his family, to just write out the other three like that was disappointing as hell.

And then we get to the Borg cube debris, and I’m thinking, really? Really? Another derelict cube? On the one hand, it’s a good way to show the Borg without having them actually face the Borg, but how many times have we seen a Borg cube destroyed or a Borg drone corpse? (“Blood Fever,” “Unity,” “Scorpion,” “Collective,” etc.)

Then we get the alien salvagers, and I’m thinking the plot has kicked in here. We’ve got aliens who are scavenging Borg debris and are hostile, so maybe they destroyed the cube, and maybe they’re responsible for Seven’s malfunctions, and here’s the conflict—

—and then we never see them again. Ever. Don’t know who they are, don’t know why they were there. They solely exist in order to provide an Action Scene! Because that’s what the kids love!

So I’m about ready to throw my shoe at the screen, and then Icheb finds out that Seven’s sick and he immediately moves heaven and earth to try to figure out a way to help her, and my heart just melts. Manu Intiraymi has proven himself to be a less than awesome human being, but his acting work here is superb.

As is Jeri Ryan’s. Seven’s self-loathing and guilt over what she did as a drone is sufficiently deep-seated that she refuses to let anyone risk themselves to help her, and jumps a little too quickly into accepting her imminent death. I particularly love when Torres agrees to help her hide from the EMH in engineering, and Seven is obviously completely gobsmacked that Torres would even consider being nice to her.

Icheb has to pretty much force her hand by deactivating his own cortical node in order to force her to use it, and I love the way he uses medical ethics against everyone by being the same kind of stubborn ass that Seven is being by refusing to allow the EMH to restore his node.

(Of course, this entire plotline requires that Janeway now be someone who follows medical ethics, which she was willing to suspend in “Tuvix” and “Nothing Human,” but hey, actually paying attention to character traits from one episode to the next isn’t exactly a thing Voyager does…)

And so in the end we get a lovely reaffirmation of Seven and Icheb’s mentor/student (or mother/son, really) relationship, and of Seven’s burgeoning humanity. As an added bonus, Seven reminds everyone of all the folks who’ve died since the ship fell down the Caretaker’s rabbit hole, something that the show itself has barely been arsed to recall or acknowledge, and I’m particularly glad that Seven threw it in Janeway’s face here.

Still wish they’d done something with those aliens, though…

Warp factor rating: 7

Keith R.A. DeCandido is still doing his “KRAD COVID readings” series on YouTube. Every “Trek Tuesday,” he presents a new installment from his contributions to the Starfleet Corps of Engineers series that ran between 2000 and 2007. In the month of August, he will present Breakdowns, which chronicles the aftermath of the brutal mission to Galvan VI chronicled in David Mack’s Wildfire.

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