VOY: S6E02: “Survival Instinct”

In which Voyager gets visitors, Janeway gets presents, and Seven gets a moral dilemma. 

A Borg Sphere hurtles across the scene and crashes onto a planet. Its occupants, including a borgified Seven of Nine, can no longer access the Collective, and begin compensatory protocols. Seven appears to lead them as an individual, directing their efforts hierarchically through vocal communication. The rest of their little squad all consense with her directives easily enough, but what is it that made Seven of Nine the leader in that situation?

Looks like someone hasn’t read ‘The Life-Changing Magic Of Not Buying Insane Crap At A Rummage Sale’

Voyager has docked at a major trade station and is offering shore leave exchange for the crew. Chakotay appears to have bought some sort of tennis robot. The best place for that, he has decided, is Janeway’s room. These are all gifts for Janeway, from a very friendly people. Tuvok arrives with a present of his own – a criminal activity report from all their visitors. I have to imagine that Tuvok arranged the criminal activity report in ascending order deliberately for exactly this reaction – generally one puts high-impact items above the fold.

While Janeway is being attacked by her new plant, Naomi Wildman pesters Seven into submission and a lunch appointment. Seven retains sufficient voice of command to part the crowds in the corridors. Naomi has memorized some Borg designations, but Seven is not impressed. Nor does she appreciate the crowd – Naomi doesn’t really get that Seven’s experience with the Borg is something she’s more and more intent on distancing herself from. However, before they can leave, Seven is met by someone who knows her, and shows her a whole bunch of Borg implants that affect her viscerally and remind her of That Time that we just found out about. They’re worth quite a bit to the right collector. The seller isn’t interested in small talk, however. Instead he’s linked with a number of other traders scattered throughout the ship via neural uplink. Clearly the other former borg. They’re plamnning a heist.

Man those seem like the worst possible tools for this job.

Flashback to the planet, and the stranded drones taking parts out of the dead ones. During this process, one of the drones has its former species religion reassert itself, and Seven cracks down on this display of individuality. In the present, Torres helps Seven examine it and explain the concept of a traumatic flashback. Whatever these three aliens are up to, it risks damaging Seven and they can’t risk just asking her on the fear that she might refuse. It’s that critical. Thus, they have set the implant to sense when Seven is regenerating and trigger a cyberattack during that time, and sneak their way into Cargo bay 2. Their breach is noted by Tuvok, but not the nature of it, which gives them time to hack Seven’s alcove. Whatever they’re doing, it’s meant to allow them to become individuals. She gets a little roughed up but Security to the rescue.

Back in the day, as the drones enter survival mode, they each recall individual memories of camping, leading to the rest of their lives. This suggests the very fragile nature of the Borg collective, although it’s definitely worth questioning whether the collective was this fragile before Hugh. Obviously the memories were never destroyed, but was Hugh a drone grown as a borg in one of their creches, or an assimilated drone who may have once had an individuality to return to? The other drones all start to remember how much they hate the Borg, but Seven – who has no adult personality other than what the Borg shaped her into, commands an override.

The other former drones have had most of their implants removed – badly, and been disconnected for a few months, but their own brains are still linking them. When Janeway wakes them up and demands an explanation, she gets t. The three drones want to be individuals – only two voices means that the others come through clearly instead of melding into white noise. However, they Doctor can’t undo whatever it is that Seven holds the key to. She remembers the incident, but doesn’t have the rest of the answers. The neural link even prevented their succesful reintigration into the Collective – hence their escape. They’re looking for Seven to piece together that crash and the events that linked them. Seven links one of them up to the computer to do a search, but doesn’t remember anything of the gap or why it was created. During this process, conversation flows between the three former drones.

Tom and Harry got into a fight, or an enthusiastic game. The game with the racket machine was apparently a full-contact tennis match. Janeway grounds them for being derps, but gives them a little unofficial approval for ‘winning.’ As they leave, Seven arrives to indicate that all the former drones have the same gap in their memories. They hypothesize that the Collective linked them all together and erased the memories. To find out for sure, Seven would have to link in, becoming a group mind again and risking being trapped. She asks Janeway for advice on how to proceed. But Seven already knows what she wants to do, and basically just needs Janeway to give her permission.

After boosting Naomi’s ego a little, Seven agrees to go into the link. The Doctor reiterates the risk, and then they all go it. It’s a good thing Seven held onto those extra alcoes after all, I guess. Once it, she starts reliving the memory. Drone Seven followed a beacon from a damaged drone and got freaked out watching it die. When she got back to her campside, the Collective found them, the other three wanted to escape, and rebelled. They smashed the beacon and left Seven alone with the fire. She paces nervously, then decides to Do Something About It. Seven is the one who links the other three together, as it turns out, to maintain the Collective. Once they’re all linked up, she orders them to effect the repairs, and wakes up.

The others are not happy once they figure out what happened, and all start shouting. They seem to have broken out of the link, but they’ve grown dependent on it and will die in weeks or months without it. Or they could survive for their natural lives back in the Collective. Chakotay weighs in that while their bodies will live in the Collective, they won’t really be living. She tells the Doctor to take out the implants, but curveball – the Doctor won’t do an operation that results in their deaths, until Seven explains her reasoning in relation to the Doctor’s own individuality.

After the operation, the three former drones revel in the quiet before going their separate ways. Two of them don’t hold grudges, but the woman who’s staying offers understanding only, not forgiveness. Happily, Seven has ‘family’ to see her through.

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