Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 21, 2006)
Now that every single live-action episode of Star Trek available on DVD and all 10 movies are out as special editions, the folks at Paramount have to find some other way to profit from their most cherished franchise. And here it is: themed compilations! We already got one of these back in 2004 with the two-disc Jean-Luc Picard Collection, but now the packages will branch out into episodes that span multiple Trek series.
For the first of these, we get Star Trek: Borg Fan Collective. This includes 14 episodes, all of which feature the Borg. These come from various seasons of Next Generation, Voyager and Enterprise. (The Borg debuted on Next Generation and were never part of the Original Series universe. The Borg never appeared on Deep Space Nine.)
For these shows, I’ll offer the usual episode synopses and thoughts. I’ll also list where you could originally find the shows. (Note that for the Next Generation episodes, I wrote my own synopses. For the other shows, I used the ones on tv.com – thanks to them for their great work.)
Regeneration (Enterprise Season Two): “The remnants of an alien ship and two frozen cybernetic bodies are uncovered in the arctic by a research team. These aliens soon thaw out and flee Earth, taking the research team with them. Starfleet orders Enterprise to find them, but the crew aren't prepared for just how dangerous these aliens really are.”
In no way do I claim to know Trek continuity well, but I could have sworn that Starfleet first heard of the Borg during Next Generation’s run. However, this episode firmly establishes the species 200 years earlier, though not by name. Maybe there’s some explanation for this that I don’t know.
Anyway, “Regeneration” manages to bring the Borg into the Enterprise timeline with an exciting episode. The Borg always were one of the best Trek villains, and they give the crew a run for their money. It’s interesting to see them deal with this unknown threat, especially since their primitive technology – compared to the Next Gen folks, at least – makes things more difficult for them.
Q Who? (Next Generation Season Two): Despite his prior agreement to stay off the Enterprise, Q (John DeLancie) returns. Apparently the other members of the Q Continuum booted him due to his indiscretions, so he wants to join the crew of the Enterprise since they’re so much fun. Q argues they need him to help deal with the challenges ahead. When Picard states that they can do fine on their own, Q gives them a view of what will come via an early encounter with the horrific Borg.
”Q Who?” would merit historical notation since it provides the series’ first reveal of the Borg, but it stands nicely on its own. During the first season, I worried that the show would rely too heavily on Q; he only popped up twice, but those programs occurred in fairly rapid succession. Q appeared just this once in Season Two, and that allowed his arrival to become more powerful.
The Best of Both Worlds, Part I (Next Generation Season Three): The Enterprise receives a distress signal from one of the Federation’s most distant colonies. When they arrive, they find nothing where a town used to be. Suspicions immediately arise that the Borg caused this disappearance. To investigate this event, Admiral Hanson (George Murdock) and Commander Shelby (Elizabeth Dennehy) come aboard the Enterprise. Shelby proves to be very ambitious, and she seeks the position it appears Riker may vacate for the captain’s chair elsewhere. This leads him to question his own decisions, as he doesn’t understand his reluctance to leave the Enterprise.
When eventually the Enterprise meets up with the Borg, they provide a peculiar demand: for Picard and Picard alone to leave the ship and come to their Cube. He refuses and battle ensues. Thanks to a tactic thought up by Shelby, they manage to break free of the Borg grasp long enough to escape, where they enter a dense nebula to evade them while they regroup. Eventually the Borg break through, abduct Picard, and set a course for Earth. “Best” lived up to its title and provided one of Season Three’s strongest episodes.
The Best of Both Worlds, Part II (Next Generation Season Four): A discussion of the second show’s events would necessarily include spoilers for the first one, so I’ll just refer you back to the synopsis I offered for that episode.
Any additional comments could ruin the fun for folks who haven’t seen the shows, so I’ll end my synopsis there. Suffice it to say that Best II concluded the tale in a very satisfying manner. Like many Trek programs, it placed the Enterprise in an apparently unwinnable situation against an apparently unbeatable foe, and it requires their collective ingenuity and bravery to save the day. Best II packs a nice combination of cleverness and action.
I, Borg (Next Generation, Season Five): The Enterprise receives a signal from a moon in an obscure star cluster. When an away team beams down to investigate, they find a crashed Borg vessel with one survivor. Dr. Crusher convinces Picard to bring it on board the ship for repairs. This starts a number of philosophical discussions, particularly when Picard wants La Forge to find a way to spread a virus through Third of Five (Jonathan Del Arco). Crusher and La Forge attempt to test and work with the Borg, who starts to develop an identity and adopts the name Hugh. The timer starts to tick when the Enterprise detects the impending arrival of a Borg scout ship, so the crew needs to figure out how to deal with this moderately humanized example of that species.
It lacks the action usually found in a Borg episode, and it gets a little sappy at times, but “I, Borg” offers a fairly solid program. The development of Hugh provides an intriguing element, and the plot displays some neat twists and turns. While not one of the show’s great episodes, “I, Borg” represents a solid piece of work.
Descent, Part I (Next Generation, Season Six): This brings back the Borg for the first time since Season Five’s “I, Borg”. Actually, these two programs connect in other ways, as “Descent” conjures the memories of Borg soldier Hugh. The Enterprise intercepts a distress call from a base, and when they arrive, they find the Borg attacked it. However, these Borg seem different, as they don’t care about assimilation and they display other unusual behaviors. In addition, in the midst of the away team’s defense, Data gets mad, which manifests his first documented emotion. The Enterprise goes on patrol to try to deal with the rogue Borg while Data attempts to come to terms with his burgeoning feelings. Eventually, the two streams merge, as one manipulative captured Borg feeds Data’s desire to re-experience emotions.
At least over the series’ first six years, Next Generation didn’t botch Borg-related programs, and “Descent, Part I” offers yet another good one. It sets up the issues well, gives us just enough information to keep us interested, and ends with a very intriguing cliffhanger.
Descent, Part II (Next Generation, Season Seven): Again, I’ll skip a synopsis for the second part since it might offer spoilers. I preferred the intrigue of “Descent, Part I” to the resolution seen here, but the episode still finishes the saga in a fairly entertaining manner. On the positive side, the show makes more balanced use of the series’ main characters than almost all other programs. Each of our significant seven get to do something reasonably active, though a few personalities dominate. Overall, however, the episode seems a little flat, and doesn’t provide a terrific payoff for the scenario. In the end, “Descent” gives us good but unexceptional Trek.
Scorpion, Part 1 (Voyager Season Three): “Voyager finally enters Borg space, only to discover a threat more powerful than the Borg themselves.”
Like most episodes that function as the first part of two, “Scorpion” deals mainly with exposition. It does set up an interesting concept, and it progresses in an intriguing way. I look forward to its conclusion.
Scorpion Part 2 (Voyager Season Four): “The crew of Voyager come up with a solution to the Borg's problem, and are willing to share it with them if they grant safe passage to the ship and its crew. In order to help with the negotiations, the Borg send over a drone designated Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) as a representative of the collective.”
Although I never watched Voyager prior to the existence of the DVDs, I was always aware of the babealicious Seven of Nine, and this episode proves interesting since it introduces her to the series and explains how she ends up on the ship. It also presents some pretty solid action and intrigue, as the Borg/Voyager alliance offers nice fodder for a good story. “Scorpion” launches Season Four on a high note.
Drone (Voyager Season Five): “A transporter accident merges some of Seven of Nine's (Jeri Ryan) Borg nanoprobes with the Doctor's (Robert Picardo) 29th Century holo-emitter to create a 29th Century superborg.”
Trek likes to take a touchy-feely tone much of the time, and that negatively affects “Drone”. Our introduction to “One” feels more like an Afterschool Special most of the time. Unfortunately, we know the good times won’t last forever; guest stars come and go quickly. The viewer never takes One all that seriously since we know he’ll not last long. A Borg who presents less of a resemblance to Niles from Frasier would make this a better show as well.
Dark Frontier (Voyager Season Five): “After defeating a Borg ship, Captain Janeway decides to launch an attack to steal a transwarp coil to shorten Voyager's journey home. The Borg detects her plan, and access Seven of Nine's neural transceiver to deliver an ultimatum: re-join the collective or the ship and its crew will be assimilated. If she agrees, the ship will be guaranteed safe passage through Borg space.”
You know what’d be creative? A Borg episode with no emphasis on Seven. Of course, that’d be odd, so I don’t blame the series for exploiting her status. The show offers some decent exploration of her past but it doesn’t do much more than that. The interaction with the Borg acts to solidify her affiliation with Voyager, but the program fails to become terribly vivid or engaging.
Unimatrix Zero, Part 1 (Voyager Season Six): “Seven of Nine is led to a place known as Unimatrix Zero where, unknown by the Borg Queen (Susanna Thompson), Borg Drones are individuals for a short period of time during their regeneration. However, once their regeneration is complete, all recollection of the event is erased. Captain Janeway uses this to form a plan of attack that would create a mutiny from within the collective.”
For the final Voyager cliffhanger, we return to the reliable Borg well. It definitely takes an intriguing path. The bits with Seven in the Unimatrix tend toward a little too much soap opera, but the show pursues a strong course and ends in such a way to make me eager to see its conclusion.
Unimatrix Zero, Part 2 (Voyager Season Seven): "The away team must infiltrate the Borg Collective and execute their plan to undermine them, even though it may destroy Unimatrix Zero forever."
The conclusion to this two-part episode finishes with a whimper. The story boasts potential with its tale of Borg rebellion and Voyager staff undercover in the cube. Unfortunately, it focuses too much on Seven’s limp romance and never ignites.
Endgame (Voyager Season Seven): "After a decades-long journey to reach the Alpha Quadrant, Admiral Kathryn Janeway makes a bold decision to change the past in an attempt to undo the toll taken on the crew during their arduous journey home."
With “Endgame”, Voyager reaches its conclusion. I wish I could say this program offers a truly satisfying finale, but it’s only a moderate success. On one hand, it lets the series finish with a literal and figurative bang, and it’s one of the very few Voyager episodes that almost feels cinematic.
However, it doesn’t wrap up the various characters in a strong manner. Perhaps that makes it more realistic, but I’d have liked a more conclusive resolution. This one feels a bit nebulous and tentative. It’s a good episode and one of its season’s best, but just not as memorable as I might prefer.