Star Trek: Voyager – 3×17 – “Unity”

Star Trek: Voyager
“Unity”
Originally Broadcast February 12th, 1997
Reviewed by Chakoteya

The Story

Stardate: 50614.2

‘First Officer’s log, stardate 50614.2. Ensign Kaplan and I are returning to Voyager after completing a scouting mission in the Nekrit Expanse.’

However, the Expanse is wreaking havoc with the navigation systems, and the pair have to admit that they are lost and flying in circles. Then they pick up a Federation beacon, and assuming it is Voyager, set a course for it. The signal is coming from a planet with a population of over 8000, with no sign of Voyager, then an audio distress call comes in. Chakotay orders a message buoy launched before they land to investigate. They are met by a group of robed aliens who open fire on them. Kaplan is killed in the fight and Chakotay is badly injured before he are rescued by another group of aliens and taken inside a bunker.

He wakens to see a human woman, Riley Frazier, and learn that his shuttle has probably already been taken apart for spares and technology. She explains that the population here is made up of many races who had been kidnapped, put in stasis and woke up to find themselves here. There is a constant fight for resources, and general anarchy except for her group who have formed a co-operative. Chakotay offers to help repair their communications array so he can contact Voyager, before collapsing back on the bed.

‘Captain’s log, stardate 50622.4. While Commander Chakotay scouts for a faster route through the Nekrit Expanse, we are continuing our month-long journey through this sparsely populated region.’

Paris is bored, and not afraid to say so until Janeway offers to let him clean the warp plasma filters. Then Tuvok detects a vessel ahead. It’s a Borg cube, apparently dead in space, so the Captain orders a boarding party to investigate and try and find a weakness while they have this opportunity.

Meanwhile, Chakotay is sampling some of the co-operative’s home grown vegetables while Riley reminisces about her mother’s Texas barbeque. He offers to take as many people as possible on Voyager, and she explains that they want to stay on the planet. The distress call was for someone to help them with security upgrades, medical supplies and weapons. She locks the door while she goes out to work on fixing the array again.

On the cube, Torres and Tuvok are walking through a ghost ship looking for an access node to get into the main computer. During their search, they find a perfectly preserved Borg corpse. In the briefing room later, the officers speculate on what could have caused the Cube to have been destroyed and abandoned by the Collective. Natural disaster or defeat by an even more powerful enemy? The EMH has been given a body to autopsy in an attempt to find more answers. Janeway orders that they should rendezvous with Chakotay and Kaplan ahead of schedule.

After resting again, Chakotay gets the urge to go outside, and tries the door. After a few attempts he gets it to open and steps out into the daylight to see a group of Borg, including Riley without her blonde wig. Found out, the truth begins to emerge. She was assimilated at Wolf 359, and the Cube they were on was damaged 5 years ago. Disconnected from the Collective, they regained their personalities, scavenged for useful technology, removed appliances and began a new life on the planet. Chakotay is annoyed that she felt she had to lie to him. As a Borg she had not been in control of her actions and could not be held responsible for what she had done. He is still willing to help her and her group despite their origins. Then he collapses again and Orum, the Romulan medic, helps carry him back inside.

‘Captain’s log, supplemental. We’ve detected a message buoy launched from Chakotay’s shuttle and are heading toward it. The autopsy of the Borg corpse is underway.’

The EMH is his usual ebullient self as the examination begins, with Kes assisting and Torres observing. Space preserves a handsome corpse, he observes, before examining a device on the Borg’s head. Suddenly it sits up, eyes open and prosthetic arm moving. He manages to shut it down again, claiming it was merely an autonomic response to his activating a back-up neuro-electric power cell. Torres is more concerned at the implications. Suppose the rest of the Borg on the Cube were suddenly reactivated like that?

Chakotay’s condition is worsening and his life is in danger. Orum explains the medical applications of the Borg link – the neuro-electrical field that linked all the Drones not only moved information around but helped heal physical injuries. The Co-operative all still have their neural processors in place and have built a small portable neural transponder so that they can re-link for short periods. By attaching a small transceiver to the base of his skull, Chakotay could also be linked, and the group could heal him. Naturally, the Commander is very resistant to the idea. They let him think about it for a while, as they make preparations. With no sign of Voyager, and the Happy Hunting Grounds beckoning, he allows them to proceed. In the link he hears their thoughts and sees images of the Co-operative’s lives – their memories of assimilation, Riley’s childhood with her grandfather in a field of bluebonnet flowers, landscapes.

Afterwards he wakens to find her sitting with him. The transceiver is gone and Arum has said his condition is much improved. He remembers the images he saw and she introduces him to another residual effect of the link – shared physical sensations. She strokes her cheek and he feels in on his cheek. He can still hear her thoughts and they move even closer together.

Next morning, three days after Kaplan and Chakotay originally landed, Voyager arrives at the planet. Janeway cannot immediately establish communications with her missing crew and Kim tells her the problem is with the planetary atmosphere, but he will get it cleaned up. Down in the Co-operative’s compound, Chakotay is helping Riley finish repairing the communications array. Orum comes over to express his pleasure at having a new mind in the link even if it was for such a short time. During their time together during the night, Chakotay had discovered what Riley really needs Voyager’s help with – not just supplies, but a radical solution to the problem of the factions fighting with each other. Then Arum announces the arrival of a ship in orbit, and Chakotay suggests that Riley put her plan to the Captain herself.

So Captain Janeway hears first hand about Riley’s idea to re-establish the link among all the ex-Borg on the planet in order to bring peace and harmony. They need someone to reactivate the neuro-electric generator on the Cube for a few minutes in order to do this. The idea is not one Janeway is open to, although she says she will think about it. Chakotay admits that he is biased towards them because of the link, but he didn’t sense any hidden agenda while he was sharing their thoughts. He also admits that as Captain, there are other considerations. Janeway does not want to help impose the will of a few on the rest of the population or help create another Collective. Request denied.

Chakotay breaks the news in the Co-operative’s compound as the last of the medical supplies are delivered. Riley takes it well, and once again turns down his offer to take her with them. On the shuttle he is preoccupied, and Torres offers to thrash him at hoverball to take his mind off things. Then he starts to hear the voices of the Co-operative asking for help. Torres tries to contact Voyager and he stuns her with a phaser, then sets course for the Cube. In his head, his new friends tell him that they are under attack. He has to go to module forty seven alpha, they tell him. Kim reports the change of course to the Captain, and Voyager goes in pursuit. Tuvok leads the away team onto the Cube to try and stop him, but despite being hit by phaser fire, Chakotay fires back and injures Tuvok before he completes the mission and the power is restored. The attackers stop in their tracks as they hear the voices of the Co-operative welcoming them in their heads. The away team grab Chakotay and leave the Cube as it’s systems come back on line and the drones begin to reactivate.

When everyone is safely on Voyager, Kim detects that a self-destruct sequence has been activated on the Cube, and the ship leaves rapidly. As the fireworks die down, the new Co-operative contact the ship to apologise for using Chakotay and promise that his connection really has been severed now. In sickbay the EMH confirms that the Commander is now his own master again. Nonetheless Chakotay apologises to his Captain for his actions, and wonders how long the Co-operative’s good intentions will last now that they have all that power over the population.

Review

As promised by the closing scene of Blood Fever, the Borg are starting to play an important part in Voyager’s journey. We’re beginning in a positive manner though, with drones freed from the Collective and basically friendly towards others. They are independent individuals, but not entirely alone in their thoughts thanks to technology. Although the upside of the mental link are always stressed, once you hear them ‘thinking’ in unity, the old chill is back. The lure of the collective is still there and resistance is futile. Once you have been a part of it, you want it again. It is an addiction, and because of the small link they have established between the group, they have never got around to completely breaking themselves of it.

They are also still quite keen on the idea of assimilating other minds into their group, but whatever means possible. How many times did Riley lie to Chakotay? About the groups origins, about the link’s after effects – twice! She used him for her own purposes more than once. Admittedly there was a positive result for the gallant Commander – his life was in danger and they saved him – but I have to wonder if Arum’s euphoria the next morning was because it wasn’t just Riley who was enjoying his close company the night before? He did say how great it was to have a new mind in the link even for that short while.

The writers have successfully linked Voyager to both the Next Generation and Deep Space Nine in one single phrase – Wolf 359, the fateful battle where Starfleet got pummelled thanks to Picard assimilated as Locutus, and Ben Sisko became a widower. The Trek Universe is linking up the shows by using a foe common to two series and a movie. I’m not sure if this is good or bad. Voyager is supposed to be out there, alone and cut off from the rest of the Federation, trying to get back home. Now we’re moving into almost familiar territory. Time will tell.

Robbie McNeill’s direction is excellent. This is a great show to watch. The long shots, the camera movements, are all very well planned. This man has a good future behind the camera when he decides to give up working in front of it. The next Clint Eastwood? Who knows.

A superb episode. Watch it.

Grade: 9/10

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