Voyager rewatch 4.25 – “One”

The Doctor and Seven do not make good lockdown buddies.

This is a classic “Whoops! It’s the end of the season, we spent all our money on ‘Demon’ and we need a nice, cheap psychological drama!” episode.

Which means, of course, it’s great.

It’s a simple premise: a stock footage nebula emits radiation guaranteed to kill most crew members — everyone except Seven and the Doctor within minutes of exposure. Can’t go over it. Can’t go under it. Can’t go around it. Gotta go through it! Everyone piles into the stasis pods while Seven and the Doctor prepare to run the ship and keep the crew alive for a month … or more.

“One” is not a perfect episode, and I’m going to talk about its flaws (you’re welcome) but it’s compelling and interesting, and that counts for a lot.

Showrunner Script Syndrome

That’s what I call it when the showrunner writes their first script after a long stretch of overseeing other people’s work. They have their own ideas about How The Characters Work, but all the other scripts have shifted those ideas just a bit. And now the boss is back in charge, and all those incremental little adjustments made by other writers fall by the wayside. It particularly comes up around the end of a season, when the themes stated at the beginning should be coming to a resolution.

Concrete examples: I developed this theory watching season 3 of (new) Doctor Who, where Martha Jones’s infatuation with the Doctor had all but evaporated until Russell T Davies’ two-part finale.

Or, if you’re not one of the five people who watched CBS medical drama Good Sam1, showrunner Katie Wech wrote the pilot, then picked up her pen typewriter laptop to write the finale, and wiped out nearly all the character development that happened in between.2

“One” is credited to Jeri Taylor, and I don’t want to suggest she wasn’t paying attention to what was going on in her writers room, but she seems to think that Chakotay and Seven are at odds, the way they were in “Scorpion” part 2. Much is made of how he doesn’t trust her and never wanted her on board.

But that’s only part of the truth. One of the things I try to do on this rewatch is set aside what I think I “know” about Voyager, and what the scripts tell me, and see what is actually happening. And by this point in the series, Chakotay is … not quite a mentor for Seven, but they have a stable and respectful professional relationship.

Now, far be it from me to complain about a scene where Janeway and Chakotay confide their fears, reassure each other, and exchange a chaste shoulder squeeze, but Chakotay’s concerns here feel at least half a season out of date.

On the other hand, maybe he heard Janeway tell Seven, “The Doctor will be in command. You will follow his instructions just as you would follow mine,” and had to stop and absolutely how with laughter. Because, Janeway, with respect. You could have phrased that differently.

That, and the fairly pedestrian opening scenes, are my only real criticisms of “One”.

I mean, I hate every single scene where the Doctor mansplains social interaction to Seven. Has she requested this instruction? No. Does he have actual demonstrated expertise in the field? No. Therefore, mansplaining.

Consider, also, the difference in tone between these scenes and any TNG moment where Data learned about the nuances of socialising. Data’s tactlessness is a charming quirk; Seven’s is a problem that needs correcting. A lot of the Doctor’s relationship with Seven basically boils down to “please be less autistic while I sexualise and harass you”, and I don’t care for it.

Sadly, that ship has well and truly sailed. But don’t think I’m going to stop complaining about it any time soon!

Hey, remember “Retrospect”?

I know, we all try not to.

But it’s interesting, isn’t it, that Seven’s hallucinations include a charming adventurer who gets up in her personal space, makes sexual remarks and complains she’s not going along with him? It suggests Seven has some lingering trauma from the events of that episode, and it might even be related to her fear that the crew don’t like or trust her.

I would love to know if this was maybe intentional on Jeri Taylor’s part. I suspect not, because “sleazy guy who is into a bit of sexual harassment” is almost a default character type in her work (and probably also her life, given that she worked in Hollywood in the ’80s and ’90s), but I wonder.

Anyway, Seven and the Doctor would NOT do well in a Melbourne lockdown

My flatmate and I shared a mere house in our various lockdowns, and we had some disagreements, but at no point was the silent treatment deployed. (Or … maybe I just didn’t notice?)

Now, the Doctor and Seven don’t have Uber Eats, the internet and an XBox, but they do have replicators, the sum total of human and alien culture up to four years ago, and a holodeck. I realise that Seven’s inability to be comfortable in her own head is the point of this episode, but you’d think the Doctor would have a few more internal resources.

“One” brings Seven’s season 4 arc to a conclusion

Seven’s development this season has actually been kind of weird — even setting aside “Revulsion” as an outlier, she has very quickly been humanised. (I know the Doctor says she has a long way to go, but, like, I’m sorry she’s not masking sufficiently for you, Emergency Mansplaining Hologram?)

Seeing her alone in “One” makes it clear how much that ‘human’ behaviour has been a front, and how much she values her individuality regardless. She may struggle with loneliness, but as she says before she loses consciousness, she will adapt.

I know I said recently that I have trouble reconciling the Seven of Voyager with the Seven of Picard, but it does make sense that twenty years of masking have improved her skills. The tragedy is that it seems like she’s constantly masking, even in the presence of people who allegedly love her, and even when she’s alone.

Other observations

  • Janeway’s hair is INSANE in her first scene. There’s backcombing. Her hair in every other scene is far, far closer to normal. What happened?
  • Tom is apparently claustrophobic (which everyone, including the Doctor, treats as a joke), and I’m pretty sure Harry’s remark about him being confined in small spaces as a child led to a LOT of hurt/comfort fic.
  • It just really bugs me that Seven’s costume is so tight you can see her wedgie. There’s scaffolding built into the front to prevent camel toe. No one should have to wear this.

In conclusion

“One” doesn’t do anything revolutionary, but it brings Seven’s season-long arc to a good place, ready for her next steps. There are a few genuinely creepy moments, and not just when the Doctor is talking to her. Four stasis chambers out of five.

  1. It wasn’t very good, but it had a whole bunch of tropes I adore AND Jason Isaacs, soooo…
  2. Cancellation came as a blessed relief, tbh

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