Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Problematic Concept Mars “Drone.”

The Good: Fine direction, Decent enough acting, Good direction
The Bad: Some lame CG effects, No real character development, Problematic plot/concept
The Basics: When the Doctor’s holo-emiter is partially assimilated, a new style of Borg is created, which causes a serious dilemma for the crew.

I have long argued that one of the serious issues with Star Trek: Voyager was that its development of the Borg made the Borg less menacing and more of a weak race. Seven Of Nine had the potential to humanize the Borg with her understanding of the Collective, which ultimately made episodes like the sixth season finale (which has officers consensually being assimilated) possible. Other risks or developments that the show took made remarkably little sense. “Drone” is the result of one such weakening of the Borg concept.

“Drone” is a somewhat nifty idea that meets a fatal conceptual flaw early on. The Borg, when they assimilate beings and technology, do so from their current state. In other words, the Borg are constantly evolving, so the very notion – which is the subject of “Drone” – of a “27th Century Borg” in the 24th Century is utterly ridiculous. The moment a Borg with 29th Century was created, it would advance the Hive Mind to that level of development. “Drone” pays lip service to the technical issues with having even a single, exceptionally advanced Borg drone aboard the ship.

When a protonebula explodes into existence near Voyager, Torres, Paris, Seven Of Nine, and the Doctor investigate in a shuttlecraft. The shuttle is damaged and when the crew is beamed back the Doctor flickers out of existence. When Torres sets the Doctor’s damaged holo-emitter in the science lab, stray nanoprobes from Seven Of Nine partially assimilate the holo-emitter. The next morning, an ensign interacts with the assimilated holo-emitter and is “sampled.” The Borg-assimilated holo-emitter creates a maturation chamber and within hours, a fully mature Borg with 29th Century technology comes into existence.

Kept alive by Janeway, the Drone seeks orders, which Seven Of Nine attempts to provide by speaking catchphrases and directly interfacing with the Drone. Possessing all of Seven Of Nine’s memories and experiences and 29th Century technology, the drone, One, begins assimilating all of the information it can and it begins to develop into an individual.

“Drone” is a lame episode that is essentially the Star Trek: Voyager reworking of “I, Borg” (reviewed here!). Because Seven Of Nine is the most obvious analogy for Hugh Borg, “Drone” has to redirect the story in the opposite direction. As a result, “Drone” is preoccupied with teaching One to be a Borg and an individual.

Even with the basic concept accepted, “Drone” is problematic in its execution. Star Trek: First Contact (reviewed here!) which happened prior to this episode, featured dramatically faster assimilation. When the Borgified holo-emitter began assimilating the science lab, there was no reasonable explanation for why it stopped at the doorways. Similarly, there is no satisfactory reason given for why Ensign Mulahey is not assimilated to create the drone, as opposed to (improbably enough) a new entity being grown simply to be the organic component of the drone.

Moreover, the script by Bryan Fuller, Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky lacks any cleverness to it. As much as I detest the Braga-style reversals, the resolution to the episode could have been vastly more clever if the drone was shut down by turning out to be mostly holographic and having his photonic (as opposed to organic) components eliminated. As it is, “Drone” creates an advanced Borg drone that becomes increasingly curious about the Borg Collective. When it becomes clear that One cannot be controlled, the episode is managed poorly and improbably. When One subconsciously contacts the Borg Collective, it leads to a lesson on the Borg that does not seem at all compelling.

“Drone” is filled with dull exposition that is thinly disguised. Much of the episode feels like filler, like One describing B’Elanna Torres (the result sounds much like reading the initial character notes for her character). Similarly, the description of the Borg given to One is an understating of the threat the Borg pose.

The episode lacks any real characterization, with the Doctor being portrayed as silly and annoying and Janeway making dimwitted decisions that show no clear understanding of the Borg threat. Even having One reconfigure the shields is a dangerous step that shows a lack of understanding of the character of the Borg: faced with 29th Century shields, the Borg would adapt and be that much farther ahead of current Federation vessels.

In “Drone,” lip service is also paid to Seven Of Nine, who takes on a momentarily maternal aspect in the episode. The exploration of that aspect of her character is not satisfactorily followed through with. As a result, “Drone” ends up as another unsatisfying bottle episode that plants a problematic seed in the franchise that is resolved in a way that follows the path of cheap plot convenience as opposed to reason.

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