In which Chakotay helps out some refugees and pays for it. But not that much.
Voyager‘s crew has just gotten information about the Nekrit Expanse, which they must pass through and which is Neelix’s Sam Gamgee moment, and are starting to send scouting missions in. Chakotay and Ensign Kaplan are returning from one now. It seems like the primary purpose of the mission was to figure out how the nebula interferes with their systems and how to prevent it. I can’t imagine anything else would make any sense. Sadly, Kaplan has gotten their shuttlepod lost, and they can’t hail the ship. They’re going to try to navigate visually. In space. They locate an asteroid field, but it’s one they passed two hours ago because they’re somehow flying in circles. Happily, they’ve just picked up a beacon from Voyager, so we can be spared the mind-boggling question of how ‘point ship in direction and go’ can lead to ‘flying in circles’ without some sort of gravity source you can’t possibly miss. They set a course.
When they find the source, it’s the surface of a planet with some 80,999 lifesigns on it. It’s also not a Voyager signal. They are hailed by the surface-dwellers, who are requesting aid. The transmission is bad, though, so they send a message out to Voyager and go down to land. The surface looks like a refugee camp, and they are soon met by robed and sinister figures carrying weapons. Chakotay introduces himself, and is fired upon pretty immediately. Kaplan gets hit, then Chakotay, and then they’re rescued by an opposing faction… maybe.
His rescuer is a human, Riley Frasier, is there when Chakotay wakes up to tell him that Kaplan didn’t make it and that his shuttle has been diassembled by the opposing faction. They ask each other what they’re doing on this planet. Riley was a science officer on a vessel in the Bolian sector when her ship was put in stasis and taken here along with an assortment of other Alpha quadrant species and others. Whoever they are have a drive that can move their ships this far in a relatively short time, unless she’s way off about the time frame due to the stasis.Riley is part of an attempt at a co-op trying to stay out of the fighting and pooling resources. A mini-Federation.
Before Voyager realizes that Chakotay’s gone, Janeway reflects on everything except the wisdom of sending a lone shuttlecraft to ‘scout for a faster route’ through the expanse that people don’t often return from. She and Tom banter about the total lack of interesting things to do just before Tuvok locates a ship in their path, which does not repsond to hails. That ship is a Borg cube which appears to be dead in space and not reacting to scans. No lifesigns, either. Tuvok recommends caution, and Janeway ignores him to mount a salvage, research, and scientific mission.
Riley shows Chakotay around their co-op and justifies their mission, while she explains her people’s desire to stay. She’s also not interested in letting Chakotay help her repair their array. Very not interested. Suspiciously not interested.
B’Elanna and Tuvok and Lt. Edward X. Pendable wander around the Borg ship in the dark and work on hooking up the power. A jump scare spills a Borg out of some conduits, and we cut back to their findings – Lt. Pendable has survived. Forensic analysis shows the Borg ship basically just turned off five years prior, and there are 1100 dead Borg bodies. They’ve taken one as a sample. More worrying is that the Collective didn’t come to collect their resources.
Chakotay takes advantage of not being directly supervised to check out the computer and comms equipment, but when it doesn’t work and he can’t get out, he calls some attention before trying some more in-depth hacking. Once the door’s open, he’s able to make it out into the rest of the camp and finds that Riley, and the rest of the campgoers, are… reformed Borg?
Things start to make sense – why the Borg Cube only had 1100 corpses on it instead of skeletons everywhere. Why it just shut down instead of sustaining massive battle-damage. One suspects that Hugh’s Individuality Virus made it back to the main body of the Collective and wreaked as much havok there as it did in the Alpha Quadrant, and on this Cube many of the drones put down to try to regain something like a life for themselves. If that’s the case, it also suddenly makes sense that what’s left of the Collective might wish to disrupt the timeline by assimilating Earth before they become spacefaring, thus preventing the Individuality Virus from occurring. Which is why they went equipped for time travel.
Riley was assimilated at Wolf 359, and I stand corrected – the Cube’s link to the collective was severed by an EM storm, not the Hugh thing. When all the drones stopped having their thoughts drowned out by the collective, they regained their memories and abandoned ship. Some of them, that came from warlike species, started attacking, but a lot of them really are intent on starting an individual-based collective. Although, hey, that veiny mottling on his forehead is starting to look really worrying, in context.
The Doctor’s autopsy gets started, and shows electrocution as the cause of death. He gets interested by one of the implants, and accidentally turns the drone back on. Although even with the lights on, nobody appears to be home. The Doctor turned on all the machinery, but there was nothing directing it. Unfortunately, it rebooted to factory settings as a result. Other drones might do the same, if given the chance. Also, it might have been able to get off a pulse to the rest of the Collective and someone might now be looking for Voyager.
Chakotay is getting worse, and they have… limited medical access. Their best idea is to link Chakotay into a mini-collective to let the healing properties of the Borg hive-mind heal his body. Because it can, apparently. Oh, and not only could it heal organic body parts but also inorganic machine implants. Nope. I don’t buy it. This is an apologetics blog and I do not buy it. They’re clearly lying to Chakotay to try to get him into the Link for some reason. Even after dismissing all of his rational objections, Chakotay would rather risk death. Whether he would rather face certain death is now the real question.
He would not, and agrees to the procedure. The doctor puts a transciever over his brainstem and they begin the… ugh… neural transfusion, which quickly blends into the Borg chant, with its horrifying dead inflection and happy upbeat content. In it, he sees all of their memories flash before him, and when he wakes up next, he’s on the mend and seems to have found the experience at least a little bit interesting. Also, the link seems to be having some residual traces – despite the transciever being removed, he can still sense Riley touching her own face as if it’s his face. So they’re gonna bump uglies until the residual effect goes away. I really hope that’s a proximity effect, and not residual with everyone he was linked with at the time.
Voyager has tracked Chakotay to the planet, and they find only one comm signal. Nebula turbulence prevents them from calling him up, but planetside, Chakotay is working on getting the transmitter. He’s also getting some thanks for jumping into the link and adding some new experiences. While Chakotay was… linked… with Riley, he discovered what these Free Borg called him down for in the first place. Probably looking for volunteers for an individual-based link. But I’ve been wrong before on this episode. And since Voyager is here, Chakotay invites her up to talk to Janeway.
In fact, what the mini-collective wants to do is reactivate their neural link for all former Borg living on the planet. Now, here I invite you to pause before Janeway’s knee-jerk reaction can kick in. They created a prosperous cabal by functioning together, so linking up would only make sense, right? Of course, reactivating the link for everyone, including the unwilling, is kind of what we hate and fear about the Borg in the first place. Plus, at some point there has to be a critical mass where the collective starts crushing individual will, but apparently 80,000 is below that threshold, or they wouldn’t have shaken out of it after the EM storm.
They want to reactivate the Cube’s linking Neuroelectric Field generator for a few minutes to link everyone up to share experiences, but all of a sudden Janeway is cautious about poking around with Borg technology. She offers supplies and security and transport, but will have to think further on whether she’ll enable this plan. Chakotay vouches for their sincerity, if not the technological and security feasibility of their plan.
Janeway’s ultimate decision is no, as expected, and as soon as they’ve finished supplying and upgrading the camp, they retrieve Chakotay and head out. However, on his way back, the mini-collective calls out to Chakotay again, even though the link wasn’t supposed to be operational anymore. He has now been activated as a sleeper agent, and veers off towards the cube. They’re reaching out because their bunker is under attack, and are using him as their last hope. So in fairness it seems like they intended to let him go until this emergency. Still no explanation for why the link is still active, though.
Borg numbering schemes are terrible, by the way. Do they number things with other fundamental irrational constants?
Chakotay gets stopped by Tuvok and a security team, but manages to haphazardly repower the whole cube anyway, and reactivates the link, as well as all the borg on it. They have to beam out before he can shut off the beacon as was the original plan, but don’t worry, the cube initiates self-destruct at the hands of the new Co-Operative. The last transmission from the planet is a really, really creepy thank-you note. The final plothole is filled when it turns out the repaired comms equipment was able to boost their link out to distance. I feel like the after-action Moral Lesson is focusing on the wrong thing by speculating on whether the new link will be substantially different than the previous one, rather than pointing out that they just forced 80,000 individuals back into slavery. But hey, that’s just me.