So are we playing "Leap Frog" or Jumping the Shark?
Ah, I'm kidding. I guess you'd have to read that last Etta James review to get that joke, huh? But you did, didn't you? You did because you love me... you're a FAN! That's right, you are now as you've ever been and ever shall be my Bee-Yautch! Yes Yes, you dig this crazy cult critic! You've got a "See you in the Next Reel" Tattoo, don't you? Kiss me! No, come on, it's platonic, Kiss me, scroll up a little, focus on that Byline photo, pucker up and give me a sloppy wet smacker. Who cares if you're at work? Look over your shoulder and make sure that one guy isn't checking out what's on your monitor and start kissin'. C'mon...put your hands on the sides of the monitor... Smooch, Smooch, Smooch... MUAH! Yeah, that's right. Here. La-largh-ler-lar-la-la-leh... I'm giving you tongue... Largh-leh-la-MUAH!
Thanks, I feel much closer to you now. But that doesn't mean we're committed or nothin'. I love my wife, Suzanne. This can't go beyond MONITOR KISSES, baby. Anyway, back to the lecture at hand. Michelle's in better shape than me. See, I'm able to hold more alcohol than she is, and she has much more sports endurance... it's like she's Star Trek: The Next Generation and I'm Voyager. Which is ironic, I'd say, because Voyager's her favorite. Yep, see, in addition to working out together, going to concerts together and consuming enough fermented ethanol to anesthetize about nineteen mere mortals, we've also been watching a shorts-load of Voyager! It's Seven, baby, it's Seven!
Seven of Nine, that is, as played by the vivacious Jeri Ryan. Let's back up just a bit. At the end of Star Trek: The Next Generation's Third season, a great two parter known as "The Best of Both Worlds" was created to lead into the Fourth season with a Big Borg Bang. And it worked! Although "Next Gen" was never in major danger of ratings depravation, this still stands as one of the high points in Star Trek history.
Seven (hey... "SEVEN") years later, the Borg had been all over the place, and a certain ratings-challenged Star Trek series needed a boost! That boost came with the old Standby... The Borg! The Borg had been through many rippling incarnations since their inception (from Collective to De-Assimilate to Lore-Pawn), the most seen of which was the Big Screen thriller Star Trek: First Contact. Astute viewers (okay, Nerds) had realized from Star Trek: Voyager's first episode that this new crew was trapped in "The Delta Quadrant", and were sure to meet the Borg sooner or later. Later it was, in 1997's Ratings Grab in the form of a Third Season Finale/ Fourth Season Opener Borg Banging Two Parter called "Scorpion"! In truth, this wasn't even really the first appearance of The Borg on Voyager. Borg remnants (in varied forms) had appeared in the episodes "Unity" and "Blood Fever". However, if anything, these episodes called the present and future of the Borg into serious question. Were the Borg now all lost individuals, as we saw in ST:TNG's "Descent"? Or was the Collective back in full force.
The answer is in "Scorpion, Part I". But it's no answer that the Borg would endorse willingly. We open with a now-familiar sight and sound, a Borg Cube making that threatening speech heralding assimilation. Two differences are noteworthy here, though. There isn't only one, but two cubes on screen (note: in both attempts to Invade Earth and fight all of the Federation, the Borg sent only One Cube). The second major difference is that within seconds, both cubes are completely destroyed by this new, unseen enemy.
Quicker than you can say "Bet you're feelin' crunchy now, Borgy-Baby!" we're back into the Mundane adventures of the supposedly imperiled, renegade starship Voyager (in reality, spick and span and pleasant) as they chart their forlorn way back home to the Alpha Quadrant. The good news is that they've found a nice, comfy route home. The bad news is that it's straight through Borg Space. But hey, check out that "Northwest Passage", that looks promising, right? Yep, no Borg there. But there's a reason. There's something much, much worse waiting for them.
Enter "Species 8472", a frightening, computer animated and very alien new threat that not even the Borg can assimilate. They communicate telepathically and silently in a unique linkage of minds. They can inject their enemies with a viral agent that can convert or kill them. By all accounts, they're unstoppable. Sound familiar? Does Kingdom Come "sound like" Led Zeppelin? In many ways, this Species resembles the original, insectoid concept of The Borg. The main difference between these foes is that the technologically enhanced Borg are no match for this Organic Species with the occasional use of non-organic technology.
The bio-mechanical tables are most certainly turned now, kids. The Borg are the hunted and are running for their lives. There's even a fairly satisfying inversion of "The Battle of Wolf 359" in which we see an entire star field of ripped up Borg Ships. The problem, as Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and her crew soon learn, is that Species 8472 isn't particularly endeared to Starfleet, either. The solution? A dim light bulb appears over Janeway's head to put on her Monty Hall hat and Make a Deal with the Borg! Thanks to The Doctor (Robert Picardo) and his experiments on recovered Borg Nanoprobes, Harry Kim (Garrett Wang) has a fighting chance at surviving the 8472 Infection. The better news is that this cure might well be used as a weapon against Voyager and the Borg's common enemy.
The deal is that the Borg sling them well past Opening Time on Assimilation Street in exchange for the revised Nanoprobe technology. My question is, if the Borg invented the Nanoprobes and have assimilated more knowledge before 9 AM than most societies boggart in a lifetime, then why the hell would the Borg enter into this deal? Possibly because if Ratings don't increase, UPN might be the group that finally kills the Borg. Well I'll be Damned and Horn Swoggled.
Against the better judgment of Robert Beltran's Commander Chakotay (who gives the episode its name by quoting the story of "The Frog and the Scorpion" [though he exchanges the frog for a fox]), the deal proceeds. Unfortunately, things go from merely "INCREDIBLY BAD" to "SHOVELS FULL OF WORSE" but quick, as the 8472-ers start blowing up entire Borg Planets just to be dicks.
There is a mega-cool shot of a Borg Cube rescuing Voyager by means of a tractor beam from a fierce battle at the sacrifice of other cubes (probably populated by "Loser Borg").
Notice, I haven't mentioned sweet Seven of Nine yet? That's because she doesn't appear in "Scorpion, Part 1" (episode 68). No, her first appearance is in the Fourth Season opener, "Scorpion, Part 2". You guessed it, Episode 69! Seriously, is there a better possible episode to introduce the Hottest Character in all of Trek than Episode 69? I say thee NAY! When they first show her, she actually has to walk through a wall of Steam. Dude!
Although both parts are written by Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky, this second part was directed by Winrich Kolbe (as opposed to Part 1's David Livingston). This leads to a slightly different feel between the two parts, allowing for a bit of a disjointed feel. But I've got good news... When Jeri Ryan comes in, you won't give much of a flying fork.
To avoid having to be Assimilated, Janeway and Tuvok Shakur (Tim Russ) recommend that the Borg designate a representative like Locutus (because HE was such a sugar bear). The Borg (accommodating in this episode) send out Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero-One. Needless to say, Janeway and Tuvok are far from offended by the choice.
By now, it should be obvious where this is going. Kes (Jennifer Lien) won't be the only hot blonde on the ship anymore. But first they've got to fight off both foes with a little help from their microscopic friends, and find out if "The Borg" really share the duplicitous nature of "The Scorpion".
"Scorpion" is noteworthy for its amping Kes to the next psychic level. Her interaction with this creepy new race is interesting and leads to some chillingly prophetic moments (dismembered Borg in a big pile springs to mind). Voyager shows the grasping at straws that the marred even the best of episodes. In 1997 there was as much a heralding of the appearance of John Rhys-Davies as Leonardo Da Vinci (on the holodeck, of course) as there was of a mysterious Borg joining the crew. In spite of this, Rhys-Davies appeared only one more time on the show.
"Scorpion" shows some remarkable special effects, even by today's standards. Species 8472's Insect/ Arachnid look vaguely resembles a scorpion, adding an extra dimension to the title. It's easy to dwell on this, as the CGI is excellent in bringing their brief appearances to life. Further, the space battles are some of the best of the series. It's hard not to see this two-parter as collapsing, just a bit, under its own weight. There's almost too much going on here and too many nods to other episodes. Not only is the plot of "The Best of Both Worlds" paralleled and inverted, but many of that predecessor's plot points are called out by name in the dialogue. While the free-form revisionist tendencies of the later seasons' Borg-oriented episodes isn't touched on much here, the overkill of no less than Fifteen Borg Cubes at once not only feels excessive, but also makes light of the single-ship approach of prior episodes. One ship against all of Stafleet, but fifteen against Voyager solo.
Lastly, please understand that I'm the last person to complain about the appearance of Jeri Ryan or Seven of Nine in anything (actually, if she appeared in nothing at all, I'd be extra excited). However, just as Worf's appearance on Deep Space Nine reduced the presences of other major characters, the reduction of Voyager's inner circle started in force here. Not only was Kes soon to leave the show, but Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill), Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Biggs-Dawson) and Neelix (Ethan Phillips) all feel like secondary "Red Shirts" from The Original Series. (Actually, I wouldn't complain about less Neelix either).
All in all, this is a pretty high quality episode, especially for Voyager. The over-fulfillment of the Borg promise does backfire some and the same stagnation complaints that can be made about any Voyager season are reflected, at least some, here. It's also a valid expansion of the Borg Mythos without destroying previously noted canon (although Seven's being instructed by the "Collective Voice" does betray the "One Mind" thing just a bit). Later Voyager wrecks canon just fine. This one, I'll keep!
Four Stars out of Five for Star Trek: Voyager's two-parter, "Scorpion". Although we have to wait a couple more episodes before we get to see Seven in her now-famous Silver Catsuit, there's a lot to love here, not the least of which is the fact that Jeri Ryan can act. If you ask me... she's the REAL "Borg Queen"! Now if you'll excuse me, It's that time again... Time to go work out with Michelle. Luckily that "water" stuff comes in portable bottles now. Convenient. See you in the next assimilated reel.
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