"STAR TREK VOYAGER" Retrospect: (6.26-7.01) “Unimatrix Zero, Parts I and II”
This two-part episode of ”STAR TREK VOYAGER” centered around the Voyager crew’s attempt to save Borg drones who are trying to develop individuality. (6.26) “Unimatrix Zero, Part I” aired at the end of the series’ sixth season and (7.01) “Part II” aired as the premiere for the series’ seventh and final season.
When Seven-of-Nine began having dreams about a beautiful forest, she eventually discovered that the forest is a real subconscious realm inhabited by the minds of certain Borg drones during regeneration periods. Few drones possess the recessive gene required to experience the realm called Unimatrix Zero. In Unimatrix Zero, Borg of various species and ages exist as their individual, unassimilated selves and interact with one another. While out of regeneration, they revert to normal drones and have no memory of their time spent together there. The Borg Queen knows about Unimatrix Zero, which she considers a disease. First, she destroys as many drones as she can, who are capable of visiting it. But the process of detecting affected drones turns out to be time consuming and she is eager to find a faster method of finding and deactivating them.
During a journey to Unimatrix Zero with Captain Janeway, Seven discovers that she used to have a lover named Axum. Both women also discover that Axum had deliberately contacted Seven, because he and other drones need their help. They had created a masking nanovirus which would inoculate them against being detected by the queen, but it can only be administered from the corporeal world. After Janeway and Seven witness the attack upon the Unimatrix Zero inhabitants by assimilated drones, they agree to help. In the end, Janeway came up with a plan to administer the nanovirus for the Unimatrix Zero. This plan involved a few members of Voyager’s crew to board a Borg cube, risk being assimilated and administer the nanovirus.
When I first saw the preview for ”Unimatrix Zero – Part I, my first thought was that it was a rehash of the ”STAR TREK NEXT GENERATION” episode, (3.26-4.01) “The Best of Both Worlds”. To my surprise . . . and delight, ”Unimatrix Zero” proved me wrong. Thanks to the script written by Mike Sussman, Brannon Braga, and Joe Menosky; I quite understood the story, despite the usual Trek technobabble. And I understood how previous episodes like (5.10) "Counterpoint" and (6.21)"Live Fast and Prosper" served this story. Both episodes established Captain Janeway's talent for manipulation and scamming other. Considering the situation that she, B’Elanna Torres and Tuvok found themselves in ”Part II”, she found herself being forced to pull off a difficult confidence game against the Borg Queen.
”Unimatrix Zero” also featured the first time that Janeway and Chakotay learned to act as a fully effective command team in the face of one of her . . . more bizarre plots without succumbing to any conflict, which marred their relations in episodes like (2.14) “Alliances”, (3.26-4.01) “Scorpion” and (6.01) “Equinox, Part II”. Although he had reservations, Chakotay seemed willing to go along with her plan to infiltrate a Borg drone to administer the nanovirus. And Janeway agreed to accept a few of his suggestions, in case the plan went wrong. And is it just me or did there seemed to be a lot of affection on Voyager in this episode? Seven discovered an old love in Unimatrix Zero. Tom Paris and Torres exchanged a few intimate moments after Paris received his old rank of lieutenant junior grade and when he expressed reservations about the chief engineer volunteering for the mission to the Borg cube. And one of the most blatant moments of sentimentality, Janeway and Chakotay engaged in a brief hand-lock on the Bridge before she left to begin her mission. I found myself almost inclined to burst into "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?"
In the end, the screenwriters and directors Allan Kroeker and Mike Vejar almost produced a four-star episode in ”Unimatrix Zero”. I found the writers’ idea of using the Unimatrix Zero concept as a lead-in to an uprising in the Borg Collective very inventive. And there were moments in the story – especially in ”Part II” that I enjoyed. These moments included the use of neural suppressors by the Starfleet infiltrators to keep from being part of the Borg Collective, in case they ended up being assimilated. Janeway’s confrontations with the Borg Queen, thanks to performances by Kate Mulgrew and Susanna Thompson, were even more effective than they were in (5.15-5.16) “Dark Frontier”. I also have to give kudos to Robert Beltran and Robert Duncan MacNeill who gave excellent performances in a scene that featured an exchange between Chakotay and Paris about the latter being First Officer. I found myself wondering about the thoughts going in Chakotay’s mind, when Paris revealed his hang-ups about being Voyager’s First Office. The only aspect of ”Unimatrix Zero” that I did not care for was the romance between Seven-of-Nine and Axum. Their scenes struck me as a replay of many bad romance novels from the 1950s and 60s. And even the talented Jeri Ryan and actor Mark Deakins could not save this romance.
Thankfully, the Seven/Axum romance did not tarnish ”Unimatrix Zero” for me. More important, the episode set the stage for two episodes in Season Seven that revealed the diminished power of the Borg Collective. And it proved to be the second of three mind blowing personal encounters between Kathryn Janeway and the Borg Queen. In the end, ”Unimatrix Zero” proved to be another example of why I have always enjoyed the numerous two-part episodes featured in ”STAR TREK VOYAGER”.