VOY: S5E02: “Drone”

In which Seven, the Doctor, and Ensign Ricky make a baby. 

“Your shuttle design is insufficient and you should feel insufficient.”

Seven appears to be practiving facial expressions, focusing on smiles. She’s pretty good at keeping her face decoupled from her constant background state of annoyance. Currently, Seven and the Doctor are headed out to help Paris navigate a potential emergent proto-nebula, which is supposed to take place over the course of 20 minutes or so. Seems like a pretty violent event. The Doctor is going along to make sure nothing makes people get mutated, or whatever. The shuttle is a model notorious for being a cramped crew transport, that cadets would stew in for weeks at a time, apparently without showers. Since everyone hates a Class 2 shuttle, Seven suggests they build a new one.

The nebula formation is pretty brilliant and glorious, and the Doctor tries to snap some pictures and almost distracts everyone from navigating the nebula properly. The transport is stated as ‘rough’ and the chief on duty almost merges them all together. Plus, even when they get the organics on board, the Doctor starts glitching out. Torres managed to save the Doctor’s program, but the emitter is damaged and will need repair. Torres leaves it to scan overnight, but as soon as she and Mulcahey the Hapless Noncom Goldshirt leave, it starts sprouting Borg tubules and exploring its environs.

Nobody’s noticed as of the end of the credits, when Janeway gives us the status report that things are mostly unchanged. Then again, it’s only been one night. The Doctor wakes Torres up bright and early, which apparently you don’t need to explicitly accept as a call. Did he use a medical override to get video-chat running? Also, the sonic shower seems really super convenient. Walk in dressed with it on, strip down, get dressed. You can even have other things in the room. Although why the wallscreens in the shower would allow auto-activation is a question best left to The Party. Further, don’t ask what she hung that towel on when the screen is clearly flush with the wall.

As the borg-infected emitter keeps powering away at the console, something wakes Seven up before her regeneration cycle is done. While Chakotay teases Kim about being able to sit in the Big Chair, Seven indicates that she was woken up by her Borg Radio chirping out a borg signal. Meanwhile, when Mulcahey makes it to the diagnostic room, it’s already bathed on Borg Green, so he puts his face next to the freaky alien tech growing on the console and gets assimilated. Seven senses the new presence, but Mulcahey is already doing Borg Stuff to the ship. And of course, all the Doctor cares about is his emitter.

It’s not easy being green.

I feel like Seven is either woefully underarmed, or else the rest of the tactical team is. I sort of assume Seven might be immune to casual assimilation, on the basis that her nanoprobes are clearly fine with maintaining her current status. So either she should go in first, or the security team should be sweeping the room with a wide-beam pulse.

The mobile emitter has turned the diagnostic table into a modified maturation chamber, and instead of assimilating Mulcahey, it’s pulled a tissue sample out of him. Since he’s still alive, Seven can tell that the nanoprobes around his neck wound are, in fact, her own. Seven can get through the borg force field around the chamber to examine it, lending credence to the theory that she can’t be casually assimilated. Inside the chamber, she finds a fetal borg. Apparently, the Borg don’t do this any more.

From the camera angle, it’s possible that the borg fetus is aware enoug to see Seven, Janeway, and Tuvok discussing it, and how Seven’s nanoprobes seem to have merged with the emitter. It’s also growing way faster than expected. Janeway won’t abort it without knowing more about it. Meanwhile, the nebula keeps expanding.

Seven is now using astrometric sensors to scan the drone, because the same sensors that detect minor gravity waves from distant stars can obviously be repurposed in an hour to scan a baby inside a ship full of moving people. And at this point it’s as physically mature as a six-year-old human. It’s also a quarter borg, but made from the same metal as the emitter was. Therefore, the borg drone is using 29th century technology, and the emitter is embedded in its head. Awkward. Seven has been able to dampen its radio for now, but no guarantees.

Scans show that it has a lot of buzzwords that could mean anything with this technical writing team, but also internal transporters. It’ll be mature in less than two hours, and that’s the absolute outside window they have to abort it. However, Janeway wants to keep it jammed so that it can’t receive assimilation orders from the Collective so they can use it for their own purposes. Janeway wants to teach the drone Federation values, where Seven points out the obvious downside. Of course, she’s a living example of the possibility that this crazy scheme could work.

Get a room.

The science lab is all borged up at this point, and the drone is fully grown. It has enough knowledge of what it’s supposed to be to know the lingo, but no instructions. Seven tries to log in as admin, but the password isn’t working, so she’ll have to SSH in instead via direct neural link. More specifically, Borg drones ship with a very basic set of instructions – a command prompt and enough of an operating system to accept commands and upgrades, but nothing remotely resembling the kind of robust error-handling that a fully-functional human has. Then again, he’s only 16 hours old, counting from conception.

After creating the uplink, though, Seven finds that the advanced drone takes control, probes all of her memories, and doesn’t let go until she says it’s hurting her. It doesn’t want to hurt her. Future feedings of information are provided by Seven uploading knowledge to hard drives for the drone to consume. Torres is not pleased with this arrangement, but neelix is all about nurturing this new life-form. She has to teach it to feed itself, since it at first doesn’t even know how to operate its cybernetics. The first node gives it quite a lot of background on data, but not on motivations. The drone is baby-birding Seven. It’s imprimted. It’s basically her son, with Mulcahey as the absentee father (at least while he recovers). How do we think this version of cyber-parenting will turn out?

The drone is highly analytical of all the ships systems, but it also notices that passing humans are afraid of it. It also wants to know more about the Borg. Meanwhile, Neelix demands that the drone name itself. Since it doesn’t have a personality or basis for selection yet, it just names itself One. Neelix drops One off at Sick Bay, where the Doctor confirms that One will need to regenerate soon, and One understands that it’s running on the Doctor’s hardware. The Doctor is a little annoyed, but fills in the patient on its origins.

“That’s B’Elanna Torres. She’s prickly. Try to ignore her.”

It is a little upset to think that it might be an unwelcome accident, but the Doctor tries to assure One that he’s part of the ship’s main remit. Indeed, Seven is taking him on a tour to introduce him to the ship, but also introduces him to Torres, which is not the best way to make him feel welcome. One quickly demonstrates his superior functioning and ability with the puzzle that Torres is working on.

One also seems to be a quicker study on interpersonal skills than Seven. He’s certainly less hesitant to express emotion. However, One has also been curious about the Borg, and Seven is worried that this may entice him to seek out the Collective, and they can’t keep that from him forever. Particularly once Seven takes him to the Regeneration chamber, and his curiosity is piqued again.

Minor setting note – Borg technology is direction-sensitive. The regeneration alcove won’t work if you stand in and face the wall. Regeneration also can’t occur when a drone is active, which makes sense if it’s meant to accomplish the same function as sleep. But unfortunately, the regeneration cycle is making a glowy thing beep on One’s neck, which is probably the transciever they’ve been damping. Yup, definitely the transciever. A sphere has picked up the signal and is moving to intercept.

When Seven wakes up, it is to Janeway and a security team delivering the bad news. His implants created a new transciever, and Voyager has detected a Borg transwarp signal on intercept. Since it’s unavoidable at this point, Janeway and Seven show One how species made of individuals view the Borg. He’s not as averse to the idea of the hivemind as humans are, but he’s slowly wrapping his head around the concept of the destruction of individuality being a bad thing. When Seven explains that she has no wish to rejoin the Borg Collective, One agrees to help.

He notices the autonomic disturbances that mean anxiety in his biological bits, and Seven explains what’s going to happen next. They will resist, even if it may be futile. When they make contact with the borg, One can hear their call, as can Seven. However, they retain the strength to resist that call, and One fixes up the shields and weapons, but Voyager‘s hardware is an insufficient platform. Instead, One will have to trojan-horse the Sphere. He beams himself over to the sphere and jacks in to an alcove, then forces the sphere to fly into the nebula, where it is destroyed.

Seven has a few moments of believing her child is dead before Harry detects the life sign of One’s advanced shields, and they beam him aboard. His implants are healing, but the biological systems are damaged, potentially beyond repair. Also, now the Collective knows about One and won’t stop until they get him, so he chooses to die and give the Doctor back his mobile emitter, in order to save Voyager. We knew it was going to end this way, because transhumanist characters in Star Trek aren’t allowed to create transhumanist life, but it’s a pretty effective scene, regardless.

Did we miss something awesome?