In which a new challenger appears and Janeway’s totally nuts now.
Borg. Borg borg borg. Borg, borg borg. Borg. You knew they were coming. You knew they were around. They are the establishing shot. A pair of cubes hang ominously in space, fretted with that familiar green glow. Two cubes, bearing in mind the entire Federation fleet only ever barely stopped one. I’ve seen worse ways to present a danger. From this show. In the last month.
We go from there, however, directly to a holographic representation of Leonardo da Vinci’s workshop. This is Janeway’s program, her personal meditation space, but apparently she didn’t want to make it to easy – her own program is making her negotiate for workspace, but she manages it ably with her foreknowledge of heavier-than-air flight. She’s called away when they get the last gasp from a long-range probe, showing that they’re reaching the edge of Borg space.
Borg territory is too big to go around, but there’s a possibility of going through using a narrow corridor of space with no Borg activity, which they’re calling the Northwest Passage. This passage is related to a string of gravitational anomalies. This will make travel difficult, but not put them in repeated contact with the Borg, and also provides a quick and easy explanation for why there’s just a string of space that the Borg Don’t Go in their own held territory. The crew have already made as many tactical enhancements as possibly, including an early-warning system, rotating phasers, and potential innocculations against Borg assimilation techniques. Janeway also reminds us all that now the Borg know they’re coming.
Preparedness and Exposition Montage! The Doctor explains the new Borg nanoprobe-based assimilation (as distinct from back when they needed to bring people back to the ships and chainsaw them apart. The approach can’t be prophylactic, apparently, it will have to be based on boosting the immune system. Kes, however, gets a strong hit of psychic impression of dead Borg and the destruction of the ship. After hearing this information, Janeway doesn’t get time to pro-actively place them on the back burner before a Borg armada shows up, overtakes… and then totally ignores Voyager except for a single cube. The ship is scanned and then ignored.Janeway has them keep a scan on the fleet and resume course, and the bridge crew has to take rotations off the controls to scoop their uniform pants clean.
So far, the Northwest Passage is proving clear of Borg activity, and neither Janeway nor Chakotay have eaten. Janeway has been studying all the records of Borg interactions. She gets to confide in her first officer about the difficulties of the choice they’re making, and then Management Team Voyager finds that the cubes they’ve been tracking, all 15 of them, are now dead in the water. Janeway goes to investigate, and Voyager finds only debris, and scattered life signs. They also get trace weapon signatures – one Borg, and one unknown.
Harry siezes on this as evidence of an ally against the borg. Everyone else is more aware that’s a foolish and naive hope. They also find biological signatures in the wreckage, resolving into what appears to be a living ship. Voyager can’t sense past its hull, can’t get a transporter lock, and the tractor beam can’t lock on it. With the strange UFO being imperveous to Federation technology, Janeway decides to search for clues aboard the Cube instead.
The drones are busy working away at repairs, and attacking the Voyager crew is a low priority. Still, though, when you know that appearing threatening is the one trigger, maybe keep to that advice. Harry finds a… tower of Borg parts. The same tower Kes saw in her vision. The same visions that ended with the destruction of Voyager. Best not to think about it -either the future is evitable or it isn’t.
The bioship apparently dissolved through the Borg hull. One of the drones is trying to assimilate the bioship, and is clearly unable to do so. Tuvok also causally drops that the Breen use bio-ships when they confirm that the ship has a propulsion drive and is clearly a ship rather than just a living thing. That said, the ship has a rib cage, so it’s also a living thing. Harry, left alone on the Borg ship, hears a strange sound and goes to investigate alone, then immediately decides he doesn’t want to die. In the bioship, Tuvok finds that the ship wall is regenerating itself from battle damage, and even absorbing a Borg drone.
On Voyager, Kes gets a premonition that Harry’s going to get killed, and she warns Janeway to beam them out. Sadly, the transporter isn’t working, because whatever the pilot of the bioship is, it’s putting out enough interference to prevent a transporter lock. Torres instead homes in on the minerals in their skeletons and… I guess, expands the confinement beam outward from there so as not to just beam the bones out of them? Whatever she was planning, it’s not in time, and they’re ambushed from out of a wall by a huge, muscular tripod-centaur. Harry gets wounded just like in Kes’ vision, but beamed out immediately afterwards (chalk one up for ‘can’t evade the future’) and the tripod-centaur seems to be aware of Kes’ intrusion and knocks her out. Voyager gets hit and knocked for a loop, but escapes intact.
Kes has a report: The tripods are a telepathic species, and the one they encountered has a message. They’ve been aware of the Borg and are hunting them, and it told Kes that The Weak Will perish.
Harry’s got stuff growing all over him. Her got an infection from the alien attack, and is being eaten by its cells. They can’t even sedate him. The alien cells have a lot of DNA in them. Like, a lot a lot of DNA, whatever that means. By the way, it doesn’t mean much – the life on Earth with the most DNA is a mountain flower. More impressive is their immune system, which holds up against everything the Doctor can throw at it and also Borg nano-probes. Nonetheless, the Doctor wants to use some modified ones to cure Harry. He reprogrammed them to disguise themselves as alien cells. And I suppose if Harry’s going to die anyway, it’s worth a shot.
The aliens now have a name – Species 8472. Torres has downloaded the Borg databases and found that this species has defeated the Borg at every turn. Worse than that, they inhabit the Northwest Passage, which is why it’s clear of Borg activity. The shipes are coming out of one of the singularities peppering the Passage. They exist alone on the other side, and are intent on universal extermination of anything except themselves. So Voyager can’t go that way, and would have to fly through Borg space, find a shortcut, or settle in the Delta quadrant. Janeway must face this decision, but since she hasn’t slept in two days, she’s going to take the opportunity now to stare at the dark ceiling wondering why she didn’t just have Q’s baby and then go chat with da Vinci.
She explains her situation to Leonardo, as best as she can simplify it. His advice is, depending on how you want to interpret it, either ‘imagine what someone smarter than you would do’ or ‘ask God for guidance,’ but the shadow son the wall provide another option. Instead of praying to god, make a deal with the devil. A trade agreement with the Borg.
Based on the Doctor’s updates to Borg nanoprobes, Janeway believes they have something to offer the Borg. The Borg never had this idea because their only way to learn a thing is to assimilate it, and Species 8472 is immune to assimilation. Thus, they’ll hold the information hostage until the Borg agrees – they’ll collect all the nanoprobe research in the Doctor’s matrix, and if the Borg betray them, they’ll delete the doctor.
It’s after the underlings leave that Chakotay names the episode for us. This is the parable of the fox and the Scorpion, where the scorpion stings the fox and drowns them both, because that’s what scorpions do. Janeway is banking on the Borg being rational enough to make the deal, while Chakotay is justly concerned about helping the Borg assimilate another species in an 8,000+ element list. See if you can track the arguments – Chakotay asks whether it’s right to facilitate genocide for one ship of 144 people. Janeway says “yes, because one of theirs attacked one of ours.”
Mark it, folks. Three years into the journey, Chakotay the Starfleet deserter and Maquis freedom fighter/terrorist is a better Starfleet officer than Janeway, who has clearly been driven insane by the reponsibilities of command in this unique situation. Plus she’s taking Chakotay’s strong anti-borg position, which he waited to express in private and followed up with “yes, I will obey your orders,” as a personal betrayal. My only, only consolation here is that she still hasn’t slept and it’s now been three days.
Voyager engages the Borg. They make a strong opening bid, and she counters with the terms that have been laid out, and they beam her into the cube to negotiate further. They explain that Borg space is too vast to travel in time, so they work out a collaboration proposal. It’s in the middle of this that another singularity opens up and a squadron of bioships comes out and blows up the Borg planet. The Cube flees, towing Voyager with it.
To be continued.