In which there’s only room for one catsuit on this ship, but this show is trying for serious themes again.
Voyager is still covered in Borg enhancements and is slinking through Borg space with a cargo bay full of Borg sleeping pods. One of them is occupied by the newly-severed Seven of Nine. Seven of Nine is slowly reverting to a base human state (presumably with some help from the Doctor) but it’s an uphill struggle what with all the Borg inplants and nanoprobes. Janeway orders Seven of Nine woken up, too the crippling silence. Seven of Nine demands to be returned to the Collective, but Janeway refuses based on a very sensible understanding of what would happen if Voyager went anywhere near another Cube, and the drone won’t survive if left on a planet without medical attention. It might not even survive anyway, as human healing starts to push out the Borg implants. No concrete explanation has been offered yet as to why this is suddenly happening, other than being suddenly cut off from the Collective.
Whatever the cause, it’s apparently gone to far, and the Doctor can’t reverse it and suppress the human immune system of the drone, so it might turn back into a human, and this is now a rush job. Borg armor is fused directly to the bone underneath by millions of microconnectors, so rather than deal with them individually, the Doctor’s just going to shave off the top of Seven of nine’s skull. Tuvok’s in the way and slowing everything down, but it’s okay because Kes is speeding it right back up with her telekenesis. What’s that? Yes. However, now might not be the time to focus on these new abilities when there’s a patient dying on the table, Doctor.
The Voyager crew are busy stripping the Borg modifications off the hull. Somehow it’s slow going despite being put in place within two hours. The Warp engines are also undergoing some fixings, and the ship is stuck at impulse and Borg signatures are detected. Janeway believes that Seven of Nine could help, if it wants to. If Janeway can reach the ‘her’ under the ‘it.’ She’s been researching the drone and found a reference to Annika Hansen, daughter of a couple of scientists that loved exploration, didn’t care for Starfleet, and aimed a small long-range craft at the Delta quadrant with no filed flight plan. Since Annika was turned into Seven of Nine 18 years ago, it seems that Q isn’t actually the one that introduced the Borg to humanity. The Hansens did it first, the Borg were already aware of humanity, and would have arrived eventually. Chalk one more up to Q doing the Federation a favor by showing Picard what’s on the way.
During the discussion of how difficult it will be to raise and socialize Seven of nine, the Doctor calls Janeway down to sick bay. He’s peeled off some implants and traded barbs with Tuvok, but there’s a decision to make. To save her life, the Doctor would have to remove every implant he can. However, Seven of Nine has expressly refused treatment. It is therefore up to Janeway to seize Power of Attourney on the basis of Seven of Nine not being competent to make its own health decisions. Seven of Nine starts going into neural shock, and the Doctor orders Kes to do some nursing. Instead, Kes uses her psychic abilities to see a Borg implant and disintigrate it without surgery.
To replace the eye that got upgraded to laser, the Doctor built an artificial eye with some Borg circuitry to connect it to the emerging human brain. The Doctor is proud of the prosthesis, and Janeway is all about humoring him on the way to checking in with Kes and Seven of Nine. Tuvok whisks Kes away to do guided meditation, and Seven of Nine is already getting some color back into its corpse-pallor. It is not pleased with the alterations done so far, and expresses a preference for death over separation from the collective. Janeway tries to sympathize about the loss of the collective, but the line delivery is so aggressive. It’s weird.
Janeway offers Seven of Nine the replacement of a human, analog-powered collective, and a strong overwhelming will to back it up. To underscore the need for Seven of Nine’s help, we get a few moments of Torres and Kim failing to get the warm engines working before it transitions into Torres and Seven of Nine sniping at each other.
Tuvok is attempting the flame meditation with Kes again. Because it worked so well with tea the last time. It’s working a lot better now, and with more control. But now she’s getting so good she can see quantum realms beyond the subatomic. Tuvok urges caution, and kes ignores him in favor of making the lamp ripple in an unsettling way.
In disassembling the modifications to the engine, Seven of Nine mentions the species they got autonomous self-repair technology from, Species 259, which was widespread enough that their address was more or less ‘this group of thousands of stars.’ That puts their empire within a similar category as the Federation, but with autonomous self-repairing technology. And they fell to the Borg. Harry ties to engage Seven of nine in small talk, and she spouts such epic nonsense that my only recourse, as is so often the case in this show, is to assume that the speaking character is lying to get Harry to shut up. During repairs, Seven of Nine spots a comms device, and Starfleet Security remains as useless as ever as Seven of nine punches out Harry and steals the comms node.
At this very moment, Kes detects Seven of Nine’s actions during their meditation, and users her newfound gifts to stop it by rippling reality and zapping the drone before it can get the call off. Well, almost before. Also, Kes’ counterattack destabilized the deck, and she only wants to get stronger.
Janeway gets a face-to-face with Seven of Nine in the brig, and reassures it that it is possible for Borg to be freed from the collective and thrive. At least until they re-form it to fill the hole. Seven of Nine analyzes the situation and relaizes that the only way out is through – play along with being assimilated by the humans until Janeway recognizes her as an autonomous individual capable of choice, then exercise the choice to go back to the collective and become a drone again. And when Janeway refuses to commit to even that, Seven of Nine punches her right in the philosophy.
Neelix has been saving some wine for a special occasion, to celebrate Kes’ new evolution, and they have a nice little heart-to-heart about the breakup we never had to see. He’s fascinated by her new skills, but when she starts manifesting them on the table between them, Neelix gets a bit worried. Then when she looks at him, he gets… rippled, and Janeway runs down to the Mess Hall to see Kes halfway to cellular flux transdendence. To resolve this, the Doctor is going to need to do some research on particle physics.
Seven of Nine is now hammering itself against the brig force field. It is having an existential crisis, since Seven of Nine is no longer a useful designation. And it’s starting to refer to itself in the singular, forcing me to bring up a question that this episode never bothered to explore beyond Seven of nine’s lines, but which would have brought back some of the introspection Pulaski brought to the table – at what point in the humanization process am I going to stop referring to the drone Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjuct of Unamatrix 01 as an extension of the Borg will, as I might refer to a fingernail that’s been clipped, and start referring to her as a sapient individual. Since I brought it up, the answer is ‘now, because this is when she starts referring to herself regularly rather than to the collective.
Janeway gambles her life on Seven of Nine not killing her, so she can give her the record of Annika Hansen. Baby steps – Seven of Nine attacks Janeway, but not with any real intent.
Kes wanted to talk to Janeway, and is wearing the kind of beatific smile you dread to see on a psychokineticist. Kes is getting ready to leave Voyager, to go to the next step of her journey. Again, the concept of choice comes up. Kes, who is six and middle-aged now, has the chance to fundamentally change what she is, and Janeway resists this change even as she forces an unwanted one on someone else. This series having legitimate themes really crept up on me. For Kes, the transfiguration is under way, and unstoppable, and the ship starts to explode around them on the way to the shuttle bay, without reducing Janeway to a puddle of goo. Tuvok meets them en route to try to boost her self-control and buy them enough time to get to a shuttle. It’s enough.
Kes’ shuttle launches, and as she ripples her way out of existence, she gives a final gift to Voyager – bringing the warp core online, well past normal operational capacity, and flinging the ship at megawarp some 9,500 light-years closer to home. Ten years closer to home and out of Borg space. Seven of Nine, as well, has undergone a transformation. Only 18% of her Borg hardware is left, but she seems… if not pleased, than at least resigned to her status as (mostly) human. The real news is that she remembers Young Annika Hansen’s favorite color.