Voyager rewatch 6.02 – “Survival Instinct”

The of Nine family reunion leads to one doozy of an r/AmITheAsshole post.

As I see it, there are just two flaws in this otherwise-great episode. And they may not rise above the level of nitpick.

The first is that Voyager opens itself up to tourists, which is fine in the context of the episode, except we see that the bridge is full of randoms. And I’m sorry, this is the command centre of a powerful vessel from a culture which is really strict about sharing technology. Not to mention the number of times Janeway and her crew have been Shockingly Betrayed By A Seemingly Friendly Alien. I’m not saying they shouldn’t welcome guests onto the ship as a whole, I just think maybe it’s okay for the bridge to be off-limits.

The second flaw is more subjective, and boils down to the fact that I don’t quite believe that a group of Borg drones separated from the collective would assert their individuality so fast. It simply doesn’t jibe with what we saw in “I, Borg”. (Obviously Seven is an outlier, and that is the whole point of this episode.)

This is not an episode-breaking problem, but I personally would have liked a slightly different execution.

Otherwise? This is fantastic. A much better start to the season than last week’s premiere, and a sign of what Ronald D. Moore could have brought to the series had he stayed on.

Like. This is obviously a Seven story, and a very good one. But we also get moments with the whole ensemble, and Naomi Wildman, and what stands out to me is that Moore writes them as people who like one another. B’Elanna and Seven are prickly together, but respectful. Janeway and Chakotay needle Tuvok, who is in fine sarcastic form. The captain is unhappy that Tom and Harry got into a fight, but she’s also pleased that they won. There’s none of the petty sniping that you get in, say, a Kenneth Biller episode.

Most interestingly, it’s Chakotay — rather than Janeway — who helps Seven work through her ethical dilemma. They’ve had little interaction since Seven debuted, and it was rarely positive, yet here we get a glimpse of a … mentorship? Friendship? That we’ve never seen before, and which suits them very well. (I actually started low-key shipping Chakotay/Seven after I first saw this episode. Yes, I have regrets. No, I do not accept responsibility for how things worked out on that front.) Chakotay is less emotionally entwined with Seven than Janeway or the Doctor, so he’s a more dispassionate sounding board for her, and yet one who can gently push against her assumptions.

I said last week that “Equinox” marked the end of Chakotay’s usefulness as a character, and I stand by that (Tuvok could just as easily have assisted Seven here), but I do appreciate that they’re at least trying something new with him.

No assholes here

This is a story with no villains. The xBs’ agenda doesn’t initially take Seven’s wishes into account, but they have no reason to believe she’d help them, and they’re desperate. And Seven’s actions, the ones that made them so desperate, were those of a scared child. But the others don’t know that. Everyone is making the best possible choice under terrible circumstances.

And it’s important, I think, that Seven isn’t forgiven at the end. “I understand why you did it, but I can’t forgive you” is what she’s told. Moore’s script lets us sit with the ambiguity. Voyager doesn’t always trust its audience enough; this is just another reason to wish Moore had stayed on.

(By all accounts there was very much an asshole behind the scenes, and his name was Rick Berman. I don’t know if we’ll ever find out why he chose to play Braga and Moore — once close friends and a successful writing partnership — off against each other. My guess is that he feared they would be a threat to his authority or position. And Moore was pushing for complex, serialised storytelling on Voyager, which was the last thing Berman and UPN wanted.)

Other observations

  • B’Elanna’s curls are intensifying
  • I really, really like Marika’s boots. Overall the xBs’ costumes are a bit meh, but Marika gets both a jaunty beret and some very turn-of-the-millennium knee-high boots with low, square heels.
  • Because I am and always have been a Very Serious Fan, what I took from this episode back in 20001 was that the prehensile plant was sentient and in unrequited love with Janeway. Borg stuff? I don’t know her. Anyway, I stand by that. Justice for the prehensile plant!
  • There was an uncomfortable moment in the sickbay scene where I looked away from Marika’s boots long enough to realise the older male xB was extremely attractive. Only to recall that he was played by Vaughn Armstrong, who has had Star Trek credits going back to season one of TNG, and who would go on to play Admiral Forrest in Enterprise. And I’m sure Armstrong is a lovely guy, but it was a real “Oh wow, I sure am getting older” moment for me.

In conclusion

The second episode of the season always brings us a story about Seven’s personhood, and “Survival Instinct” has something new to say. Five jaunty berets out of five.

 

  1. It aired in the US in 1999, but I had to wait for the VHS tapes.

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