by Michelle Erica Green

The Best Of All Possible Worlds

"Dark Frontier" Plot Summary:

Voyager pursues a small Borg vessel which bursts apart after the Federation ship beams a torpedo aboard, but Janeway is not pleased; she only wanted to disable the ship so that they could retrieve its transwarp coil. Seven is able to retrieve the ship's long-range telemetry from its data nodes, and finds another badly damaged Borg ship nearby. Janeway announces plans to pursue the spherical vessel, calling it Fort Knox, which Paris explains was the impenetrable fortress where the United States kept its gold buillion in centuries past. "Are you planning a heist?" asks Chakotay. Janeway is - she wants to sneak onto the ship long enough to disable its shields and steal its transwarp coil, which could shave 20 years off their trip home. "It's time we did a little assimilating of our own," she says.

Reminding Seven that her parents studied the Borg at close range before their capture, Janeway asks her protegee to study the Hansens' logs for clues which might help them. Seven claims the logs are irrelevant, but when the captain suggests that the younger woman has been avoiding peering too closely at her own past, the ex-Borg agrees to do the research. The Hansens were exobiologists working for the Federation Council to study the Borg, and took their young daughter with them on the Raven on a deep-space mission to follow a cube. Seven remembers a conversation between her parents in which her mother informed her father that they disobeyed orders and crossed the Neutral Zone - their colleagues thought they were insane, they had burned their bridges. They followed a Borg ship into a transwarp conduit and ended up in the Delta Quadrant.

Chakotay summons Seven to the bridge as they reach the spherical Borg vessel; the crew runs simulations for stealing the transwarp coil on the holodecks, but they take too long and end up beaming Borg onto Voyager with them once the Borg shields adapt to their frequencies. Janeway wants to hurry things up, but Seven realizes that the Hansens had technology which enabled them to remain unseen on Borg cubes for hours. The captain notices that Seven is uncomfortable in the Borg vessel simulations and wonders whether she has been pushing the younger woman too hard.

Naomi Wildman visits Seven to tell her that she has had a bad dream about being assimilated, asking whether it hurts. Seven does not want to discuss it and has a hallucination of a Borg implant bursting onto Naomi's face. Then she sees Borg in her alcove and hears a female voice: "Seven of Nine...I am the Borg. We have accessed your neural transceiver." It's the Borg Queen, who tells her former drone that the Borg know of the plan to steal their technology; if she does not rejoin the Collective, everyone on Voyager will be assimilated.

Seven learns that on the Raven, her father discovered a biodamper which enabled him to work unseen among the Borg. The Doctor believes he can replicate the technology, suggesting to Seven that she should be grateful for this opportunity to learn about how she was raised, but Seven snaps that because of her parents' arrogance, she was raised by the Borg. The increasingly distraught young woman is summoned by Janeway, who declares that she has decided to leave Seven behind on the ship at tactical during the heist. Seven passionately asks to remain on the away team, claiming that Voyager is her collective now and their survival is important to her. Janeway reluctantly changes her mind again, saying that the ship would not be the same without Seven.

The away team successfully invades the Borg vessel, but while Janeway approaches the conduit and Tuvok and Kim blast the shields, Seven hears the voice of the Queen: "Never forget who you are." She has a vision of herself as a drone. The theft of the coil goes perfectly, but during the egress to the beamout point, Seven stops following Janeway, announcing that she wants to stay with the Borg. The captain refuses to leave without her and threatens to shoot her, but when Seven orders her to go and threatens her with assimilation, Janeway beams back to Voyager with the others. The Borg vessel departs at transwarp speed, too fast for Voyager to follow. An obviously upset Janeway tells Chakotay that Seven had a change of heart; Chakotay wonders whether it wasn't a change, but a fulfillment of her threat of two years earlier that she would betray them.

The Borg ship takes Seven into the heart of the Collective, where she is escorted to see the Queen assembled from her biological and technological pieces. The Queen strokes Seven's face and welcomes her home, gloating that although Seven looks like a human, she's still Borg. When Seven notes that she expected assimilation rather than conversation, the Queen accuses humans of giving her drone a sense of humor, but Seven insists her humor is her own. The Queen informs her that she is unique, and her "liberation" by Voyager was part of the Collective's plans. Ordering Seven to regenerate, she assimilates her memories through her neural implant.

On Voyager, Janeway insists on leaving Seven's alcove functioning while she devises a rescue plan. Naomi Wildman comes with a suggestion to search for Seven's implant frequency, but Janeway says they can't cover enough space. The ship's sensors pick up anomalous readings which the captain identifies as transmissions from the Borg to Seven, which the logs from the Raven identify as being on the same frequency as the Borg Queen's. Telling Chakotay that she believes Seven was coerced, Janeway insists that they must retrieve her; she rants out the viewport that the Borg Queen should have assimilated them all while she still had the chance, but the alarmed first officer warns that they have to avoid the mistake made by the Hansens of becoming overconfident.

On the Borg ship, Seven insists that the Queen remove the new cortical implant she has been given, demanding to know why so many resources are being expended upon her. The Queen points out that she is too valuable for assimilation - they need her to be an individual in order to be their eyes, to help them assimilate humanity. Though Seven says she will resist, the Queen demands that she abandon small human fears and vanities, remembering the scope of the Collective's knowledge. The ship follows a Borg fleet to a planet being assimilated, where Seven is forced to give advice on how to assimilate an alien species before they destroy the Queen's ship. Hearing the screams of people being assimilated, Seven saves a small group aboard a damaged vessel and fights nausea as she watches the process of tranformation into Borg drones.

Janeway has equipped the Delta Flyer with the transwarp coil and taken Paris, Tuvok, and the Doctor to follow the transwarp signature of the vessel carrying Seven. The Doctor believes that he can use the comm to send a private signal to their missing crewmember without the entire Collective overhearing, even if she has already been reassimilated. Young Annika had the same fears about whether assimilation would hurt as Naomi Wildman, but when the Borg discovered her parents' ship, they were unable to protect her. The Doctor is contemptuous of the Hansens for taking four-year-old Annika with them into deep space, but Janeway says she intends to use their research to help get their daughter back. The object of the search remains in conflict with the Borg Queen, who discovered her attempt to help would-be-drones escape. When the Queen announces that they will leave their trivial lives behind for a higher purpose, Seven scoffs that as a slogan, that sounds even better than "Resistance is futile."

As the Delta Flyer enters the large Collective complex, the Queen reveals to Seven that the Borg have a new plan to assimilate resistant species like humans: they will use a biogenic charge to spread nanoprobe viruses through Earth's atmosphere. The process will slowly assimilate humans before they realize what hit them. When Seven declares the process slow and inefficient, the Queen points out that they have waited years and can afford to wait a few more. As Seven reiterates that she is an individual who will not aid in the destruction of her own people, the Queen scoffs that she sounds like an automaton reciting what they have told her to say. As drones move in to assimilate her, Seven announces, "I am Annika Hansen." "I remember Annika Hansen," the Queen muses. "We gave your family perfection." Seven gasps as she sees her father, who is one of the drones guarding the Queen.

Just then Janeway sends a message to Seven via her implant and the surprised woman whispers, "Captain." The disgusted Queen realizes that Janeway still has a hold on Seven; she deflects the transmission while tracking down the Federation ship. The Queen reminds Seven that her own father created the adaptive shielding on which Janeway is relying, so the Borg have assimilated the schematics and can track ships so protected. When Paris spots a Borg ship aiming straight for the Flyer, Janeway informs him that she intends to beam over with Tuvok, then orders Paris to shoot on her order even if she's still on the vessel. After Tuvok modifies a drone to lower the shields protecting the Queen's chamber, Janeway barges in, telling Seven not to listen to the Queen: "She is irrelevant."

The Queen calls off the drones menacing Seven, but the two women give the competing orders until Seven abruptly tells Janeway how to disable the Queen's command pathways; as Janeway blasts circuits in the ceiling, Seven of Nine reminds the astonished Queen that their thoughts are one in the Collective. The two humans beam onto the Delta Flyer and initiate transwarp speed, but the Borg vessel follows them in. When they emerge on the other side, Chakotay has Torres blast the conduit closed, but the Borg ship comes through anyway...in pieces. Janeway is able to retrieve its transwarp coil and send Voyager nearly 20,000 light years closer to the Alpha Quadrant, shaving 15 years off their journey.

After the trip, Janeway finds Seven in the cargo bay downloading information she assimilated from the Borg into the ship's computer. Seven expresses surprise that the captain followed her back to the Collective to retrieve her, saying that though the Borg thought she understood humanity, she clearly has more to learn. Janeway smiles, orders her to go regenerate, and says, "Sweet dreams."


Visually and dramatically, this was a terrific episode, though it made mincemeat of all previous Borg history on Star Trek and even discarded most of what we learned about Seven of Nine's human parents in fourth-season episodes. I thought the first hour was better-directed than the second, particularly the dark shots on the Borg ship, but both halves of "Dark Frontier" were creepy and gripping, and the performances by Kate Mulgrew, Jeri Ryan, and Susanna Thompson were all first-rate even if Thompson didn't quite have the bite of First Contact's Alice Krige.

Despite her tamer persona, I found the Borg Queen considerably more compelling here than in First Contact. She didn't resort to cheap sexual ploys with Seven as she did with Data. There were some interesting erotic overtones to her maternal possessiveness, though the Queen and Janeway both put their hands on Seven's face whenever they felt like it; then again, all along there have been odd overtones to Janeway's obsessive desire to recreate Seven in her own human image. I really dislike how dowdy Janeway is made to look all the time beside Seven's outrageous catsuit, but in this case, next to the too-skinny Borg Queen, she had a reassuring strength and solidity that was attractive in the earthy, maternal way being emphasized.

I want to write something about the fragmented female bodies in this episode: Janeway announces at the start of the episode that she likes her Borg in pieces, which is exactly how we see the Queen when she first arrives, and the portrayals of good mothers and bad mothers, dutiful daughters and deceptive ones, an exobiologist who has to drag her scientist-husband away from research to eat his dinner, a child who suggests to the captain a plan very similar to the one ultimately proposed by a Starfleet officer to find a missing crewmember. Pretty much everything about this episode concerned women, with the pathetic patriarchy of Annika's youth replaced by the warring matriarchies in which even little Naomi Wildman wants a place. "Keep your shirt tucked in, go down with the ship, and never abandon a member of your crew," says Janeway to the little girl, explaining what it takes to be captain; Picard might agree with the shirt business, but he and Kirk both avoided going down with the ship on more than one occasion, and sometimes it's absolutely necessary to abandon a member of the crew.

Was this one of those times? Arguably, yes; they got the transwarp conduit, Seven appeared to defect of her own quasi-free will, they could have taken a chunk off their journey without taking the terrible risks of continued contact with the Borg. It's gotten almost silly that Janeway hasn't been assimilated yet; I wish that made her look smart, but it just makes the Borg look dumb. Of course that also has a lot to do with the radical rewriting of The Next Generation's Borg, which Starfleet didn't know about until Q introduced them (here the Federation sent the Hansens to research them a decade earlier), where not only Locutus but Hugh and Data were able to break away from the Collective (here the Queen claims that Seven was the only one), where there was no Queen and virtually nothing could stop assimilation except putting the hive to sleep (something no one thought of doing here, but given that Picard provided THE only successful Starfleet record of engagement with the Borg at the time of Voyager's launch, it should have been their first thought, and surely Seven could manage that through her implant if she were re-linked?)

But back to Janeway's chase across the cosmos to retrieve Seven... Admittedly Seven has saved the ship three hundred times, and become the captain's only real friend now that Chakotay doesn't count. (Since when does Janeway fiddle with her comm badge when she's about to drop a bombshell? His statement that she does was one of those faux character moments which have popped up all season, where instead of sticking to continuity and having him comment on something we have all actually seen her do like put her hands on her hips or clutch her throat, there's a random line of dialogue telling us something we have never observed with our own eyes.) Continuity's a pain in the butt, but it gives a series texture and emotional power. If this series picks up on what we learned in "Dark Frontier," that the Borg have a plan for the slow assimilation of Earth, if this comes up in a few weeks in the Species 8472 episode, if the crew worries about it on occasion, it will have made the grave risks taken for Seven make sense.

One of these days, I'd like to see a little honesty in writing: Janeway rushes off to save one crewmember and inadvertently gets another killed in the process. She doesn't look noble, just outrageously lucky. If she really values Seven, above and beyond what is reasonable or even expected, that's OK; Kirk would have risked a lot more for Spock than for some random ensign. But we need to see such a distinction. We need some ongoing sense of the stakes here. Sometimes it's "get the crew home at any cost," sometimes it's Starfleet values and Federation principles. Is it ever just loyalty or love, and if so, when, and when is that enough? This episode touched on enough of the ongoing themes and issues of Voyager to be a highly enjoyable ride, but in order to sustain that feeling, we need more of the same from the next episode, and the next, and the next.

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