Tuesday, September 18, 2012

“The Seven Of Nine Show” Begins In Earnest With “The Raven”

The Good: Decent character development, Decent-enough acting.
The Bad: Again with the birds in dreams, Very simple, stretched-out plot, Nothing superlative.
The Basics: “The Raven” fills in a gap in Seven Of Nine’s personal history when she encounters a Borg homing beacon.

On my current trip through Star Trek: Voyager, I was actually pleasantly surprised by how long it took for Seven Of Nine to actually begin to dominate the show. The fourth season of Star Trek: Voyager is a transition season and one that starts moving the focus away from Captain Janeway and toward Seven Of Nine. The only character whose arc does not really suffer is the Doctor, who quickly gets paired with Seven and retains much of the focus that had been on him prior to Seven Of Nine’s arrival. The first real episode to focus entirely on Seven Of Nine is “The Raven.”

“The Raven” tells the story of Annika Hansen’s assimilation and it does so in a way that initially seems imaginative. But it was during the teaser of my latest viewing of “The Raven” that I realized yet again just how unimaginative the writers on Star Trek: Voyager actually were. Seven Of Nine, the former Borg whose quest for her own humanity arguably begins in earnest in “The Raven” has a recurring vision of a raven that comes to her in waking dreams. On Star Trek: The Next Generation, Data, the android whose character arc is one of discovering what the human condition is, began dreaming in “Birthright, Part 1” (reviewed here!). When he began dreaming, the predominant image in his dreams was of a blackbird, presumably a raven. While the ravens in “The Raven” become clues to something else in Seven Of Nine’s past, it struck me as remarkably sloppy and unambitious to build the whole personal mystery around the exact same imagery as the other, similar character in the franchise.

After Janeway takes Seven Of Nine to the Holodeck to explore a creative outlet, she discovers that Seven Of Nine is not only not creative, but the process unearths memories in Seven Of Nine. Confused by the flashbacks, Seven Of Nine starts eating solid foods again as Janeway negotiates with the Bo’Mar for passage through their space. During the difficult negotiations with the seemingly xenophobic race, a Borg element within Seven Of Nine reasserts itself and Seven Of Nine steals a shuttlecraft.

Threatened by the Bo’Mar, Voyager is compelled to remain outside their space. While Seven Of Nine easily dispatches the Bo’Mar ships in her way, Tuvok and Paris follow Seven Of Nine in a shuttlecraft. Tuvok beams over to Seven Of Nine’s shuttlecraft and learns that Seven is following a homing beacon that will reunite her with a nearby Borg ship. But soon, Seven Of Nine begins acting even more erratic and it quickly becomes apparent to Tuvok that something more is going on with her.

Much of “The Raven” is wasted with “necessary evils” for Seven Of Nine’s character. The first act, after being told that she will likely continue to feel psychological aftereffects of being freed from the Collective, spends an inordinate amount of time with Neelix getting Seven Of Nine food to eat and reminding her how to eat. This is a necessary evil for her overall character development, as it makes some sense that she would not know to do things like sit when she eats and swallowing might be awkward. At the same time, it makes little sense that Seven would be lacking in the basic physiological understanding of how to eat; assimilating other creatures, one would suspect the newly-assimilated would get hungry and bombard the Collective with both memories of food and imagery for how to consume food.

As well, “The Raven” continues to perpetrate a ridiculous notion that “Borg Space” is limited to a space that is 10,000 light years behind Voyager. This makes no real sense as the Borg would have no reason to remain bottled up back there. In other words, the Bo’Mar should not have heard of the Borg unless the Borg had actually come through Bo’Mar space and if that were the case, well, there should not be any more Bo’Mar! “The Raven” presents both a sloppy view of the Borg concept and an inaccurate one for the character design. The Borg are in a constant state of evolution through the beings they assimilate. When the Borg first encountered the Enterprise, they did not have nanotechnology assimilation technology (as evidenced by how Picard was assimilated over the course of days). By the time Star Trek: First Contact (reviewed here!) occurred, the Borg had assimilated enough to gain that technology and information. Thus, the flashbacks Seven encounters have additional inaccuracies beyond the dream images of the ravens.

That said, the sense of trauma that Seven Of Nine exhibits in “The Raven” is compelling, both on the character and acting fronts. As improbable as it may be, Seven Of Nine gets a vital clue to her past in Bo’Mar space. As Seven experiences the flashbacks and discovers her past, she is understandably shaken. Jeri Ryan does a decent job with her performance in the episode, playing Seven as uncharacteristically shaken.

“The Raven” is hampered some by generally lousy special effects. The CG effect of the implant bursting out of Seven’s arm is obvious and the bluescreen shots in the climax of the episode are similarly troublesome. But more than that being the serious problem for the episode, “The Raven” is a simple idea with a terribly simple solution. Because it is such a simple plot, the added elements – like Seven’s visit to the mess hall – feel like filler and serve only to stretch the episode to the needed running time.

“The Raven” is not terrible, but it has very little to recommend it beyond servicing the character of Seven Of Nine tremendously well.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Voyager - The Complete Fourth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the gamechanging middle season here!


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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