In which Seven dreams, Tuvok becomes networking equipment, and Janeway becomes a zombie.
If you couldn’t tell from the title, this is a borg episode. One tends to wonder what the Borg actually do in this complex – are they pooling together to spend computing cycles researching? Is this just a manufactory? There are, at the very least, vast banks of regeneration alcoves to support all the drones. The Queen is also here, in her torso docking station.
A note about the doors. Every species has different weird doors, and there’s very little reason for the Borg, whose ship design is the very essence of brutalism, to have tall sweeping doors. I like to imagine it’s the last remnants of the biological culture that they came from, Species Zero, before it embedded itself in implants and died out to create the Borg.
Anyway, the Queen has summoned Four of Twelve because she has identified it as having a disease that the Borg need to purge. This disease manifests as a sub-network of Borg connected by an interlink frequency, which the Queen wants. Four of Twelve is somehow able to resist, implying a degree of individuality. The Queen is capable of cutting a given individual off from the collective, which we’re supposed to read as an execution, taking us further away from the portrayal of Borg-As-A-True-Hivemind with every passing moment.
After the credits, Seven is walking in a forest that does not appear to be a simulation. Also present are some various other species, one of whom knows her by Annika. She wakes up in her regeneration alcove, and this is noted by the Doctor as her first dream. She’s not thrilled with how excited the doctor is about probing her unconscious. She’d rather have the dreams turned off, marking another neat inverted parallel between Seven and Data.
Tom is 22 seconds late to his shift and everone is really riding his jock about it, in a way that traditionally suggests that something good is about to happen to him. Gotta take your fun where you can get it. Tom is promoted back up to Lt, if only Junior Grade, after his demotion for trying to force aliens to acknowledge climate change via an act of eco-activism. Meanwhile, Harry’s still an ensign.
As there is no such thing as finishing an on-screen conversation, Voyager receives a distress signal from a nearby asteroid, and Lt. Paris is ordered to set course. The source is a colony that has finished being utterly demolished by Borg weaponry. Since the Cube is still in-system, they turn tail as there’s nothing to be gained from this confrontation. Later that day, Seven steps into her alcove and Dreams, where the man from earlier claims to have brought her there, to Unamatrix Zero. From context, sounds a lot like Borg Second Life. He is Axom, and Seven remembers his name vaguely. There are others all Borg, but without the implants. Only Seven still has hers. There’s a new kid there too, recently-assimilated. It’s a refuge for individuality within the Collective, and Seven used to be a regular member.
There’s a mutation that one in a million drones have that allow them to join Unamatrix Zero. The Collective has found a way to detect it, slowly, and is wiping out the Unamatrix by dissecting and analyzing members for the interlink frequency. Axom needs Seven’s help to release the virus into the Collective that will successfuly hide them. And it has to come from outside because drones in the Unamatrix don’t remember their dreams when they wake up. Seven is the conduit between dreamland and the real world.
The Queen is definitely cukoo for cocoa puffs. She’s not grandstanding to anyone, except for a disembodied head, unless she’s granstanding to the whole collective of drones. She’s also talking out loud to drones that she’s theoretically mentally connected to. I’m going to need to decide that either this is a measure of network security in the face of a burgeoning threat, or else theindividuality virus that Hugh leaked in and which is now bolstered by Unamatrix Zero is getting to her – hence her need to root it out.
Within Unamatrix Zero, drones are individuals with their own thoughts, including some dissention in the ranks. The Klingon Korak, in particular, doesn’t want this to happen. He’s here with his bat’leth, because evidently people in Unamatrix Zero can customize their appearance. Seven goes to inform the captain. The staff meeting is a little contentious, but Janeway is at least initially receptive.
None of the denizens of Unamatrix Zero know how it started, leaving open the possibility that it’s a Wachowski project like Cloud Atlas or Sense8. Regardless, Seven wants to treat this like a distress signal, and Janeway wants to treat it like a tactical advantage. Janeway wants to investigate, and Tuvok offers to use a dual-action mind meld to conference Janeway into Seven’s dreams. He’s never actually done it, but he’s seen a Vulcan master do it once, and therefore is overfull of confidence. He will be monitoring network traffic between their brains and be able to break the meld if something bad happens. Given this, and the fact that Federation science has such a thing as a mechanical mind melder, it should apparently be possible for the Vulcans to create their own Borg network if they wanted to.
It doesn’t take long before they all sync up and Janeway finds herself in Unamatrix Zero with Annika, who has markedly different speech patterns from Seven. The Queen is almost there too, and has isolated a frequency in the carrier wave to test and disrupt. She blames her heads-on-spikes, and since she can’t break the link she goes with plan B – invading the Unamatrix where Janeway tries to convince Axom to fight back by carrying memories into the waking world to orchestrate a resistance movement. That’s when the invasion starts.
The Queen is able to view through her drones’ eyes and get a solid fix on the faces of the Unamatrix Zero inhabitants. She might have a way to identify them based on this, or else by killing them in the dream and correlating that with which dones wake up she can narrow her search results. Whatever the method it appears to work, but still relies on infantry tactics. The Klingon manages to save the kid long enough for Janeway to make herself known to the Queen, and now we have a vendetta brewing.
With her blood up, Janeway has decided to save Unamatrix Zero, regardless of all the arguments that she came up with for Chakotay to respond with. She wants a unanimous command decision, but she’s forgotten she’s asking someone who abandoned Starfleet to go fight for the people being crushed under the monolithic boot of the Federation. It’s nice of her to ask but if she didn’t already know what the answer was going to be, she must have a lot of faith in her ability to indoctrinate him.
The Doctor has successfully (probably) modified the nanovirus from hiding the mutants (no longer a viable option anyway, if the Queen can simply invade) to allowing them to wake up. They need to infect the borg central communications hub of a ship (its Central Plexus). The closest target of opportunity is Borg tactical vessel – a striker built for battle.
Janeway has noted that Annika was a little more naturally human than Seven, which is odd since it was already established that Seven was Seven in there and is not conveying in any way that she was ‘consciously’ letting her hair down. When she goes back in, the Klingons are arming the populace and Hirogen are training a defense force. Also, Axom and Annika used to be… close friends, in the dreamworld. She’s mad that he didn’t tell her, because it wasn’t his place.
Janeway is intent beaming over to the tactical cube herself, but Tuvok won’t let her go alone. Torres tries to go too, but she’s needed on Voyager. Chakotay won’t let her go without a full support team, on threat of medical mutiny. Complicating the mission is that the Borg are now trying to hack Voyager, including the old chestnut of setting all the accent lighting to ‘evil green.’ It’s the Queen, offering Janeway the assistance of Transwarp technology in exchange for noninterference in their internal affairs, and then threatening Harry of all people.
The mission profile hasn’t changed much since our heroes received strong evidence that the Queen is expecting them. Paris must express his concern for Torres in ways that she hopefully appreciates a little, and then it’s zero-hour. Seems like Janeway is at least somewhat expecting a suicide mission, judging by her last interaction with Chakotay. Meanwhile, Seven is prepping the individuals for the sudden experience of being awake in drone bodies. There’s worry about what they can even accomplish, being so scattered – the rarity of the mutation means that it’s unlikely for any two to wake up on the same ship if it’s a Cube or smaller – even those only have hundreds of thousands of drones. The answer is information-gathering reconnaissance, and planning.
The approach to the cube involves Voyager making a distraction so the Delta Flyer can slip in unnoticed. Various upgrades to Voyager from alien cultures must have made them resilient enough to stand up to a Borg MurderCube to the extent that an entire Federation fleet wasn’t, a mere decade ago. Then again, Picard did have command codes and tactical knowledge, doctrine which will since have changed but also should be irrelevant on this scale anyway. I’m having a hard time justifying the power creep here, is what I’m saying.
The Flyer is going in on silent running, and the Queen is aware of Voyager‘s involvement and expecting the intrusion. The Flyer stands up to two hits from Borg weaponry before the shields fail, and another two hits destroy it. That was enough time for the team to transport over, but the Queen still has eyes on them. Voyager finally starts to show the damage, and the away team is quickly trapped in force fields and assimilated. End of threat, unless the entire plan was a blind and they’re delivering the virus via trojan horse. Indeed, that seems to be the plan, since nobody’s concerned that their telemetry indicates assimilation. With that much of the plan implemented, Voyager leaves the Tactical Cube with three more drones.