Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Star Trek: Voyager’s Final Season Begins With “Unimatrix Zero, Part II”

The Good: Moments of character, The space effects, Mostly good acting, Moments of character
The Bad: Terrible bluescreen shots in Unimatrix Zero, Moments of filler
The Basics: As “Unimatrix Zero, Part II” resolves the issues from the first part, Star Trek: Voyager fans are met with an episode with erratic execution.

I seem to be in the minority opinion with my distaste for the way Star Trek: Voyager ended its sixth season. “Unimatrix Zero” is an episode that features an idea that is far more fun than it is rationally sensible. Picking up where “Unimatrix Zero” (reviewed here!) left off, the seventh season began with “Unimatrix Zero, Part II.” “Unimatrix Zero, Part II” is one of the rare episodes where the second part is stronger than the first. Accepting the premises from the first part, “Unimatrix Zero, Part II” has a stronger idea of what the Borg are and how the hive mind would affect the assimilated officers, especially Tuvok.

“Unimatrix Zero, Part II” has a more sensible concept for the Borg in that for the first time on-screen they exhibit a rationality that could be viewed as brutal for the way it enforces a simple dialectic. In that way, writers Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky finally illustrate a real grasp on the stakes of war with the Borg and a conflict within the Borg themselves.

Seventeen minutes after Janeway, Tuvok, and Torres are assimilated by the Borg, Chakotay orders Seven Of Nine to return to Unimatrix Zero to monitor the progress of the virus the Voyager officers are working to unleash. There, the dreaming Borg work to mount a resistance to the Borg drones sent into the virtual landscape to hunt them and Seven Of Nine begins to worry that Axum may be lost to the Resistance, until they are reunited. On the Borg cube, Tuvok is reunited with Janeway, but the neural suppressant he took prior to assimilation is wearing off quickly and a brief connection with the hive mind alerts the Borg Queen to the idea that she is not connected to the trio that was recently assimilated.

With Tuvok succumbing to the Borg hive mind, Torres releases the virus into the Central Plexus, and Voyager’s attempt to rescue the Away Team is met by an attack from the Borg Cube. Aided by Tuvok’s tactical knowledge, Voyager is almost destroyed and is forced to retreat. Holographically communicating with the Borg Queen, Janeway tries to bring an end to the Borg Queen’s killing spree. As the Borg Queen wipes out thousands of drones when individual drones go quiet, Janeway must weigh the lives in the Collective against her own morals.

“Unimatrix Zero, Part II” features some moments of filler, most notably a scene between Paris and Chakotay where Paris declares himself the de facto first officer of Voyager in the absence of the officers in the Away Team, but is largely cohesive. What problems the episode has are mostly minutae – like why would the Borg actually need locks/force fields on their own ship where they dominate everything anyway?! – though it is not a particularly rich episode as far as character elements go. The largest conceptual difficulty with “Unimatrix Zero, Part II” is in the Borg Queen’s solution to the problem of the nanovirus. Once the Borg Queen alters the nanovirus, she has no reason to negotiate with Janeway. Given how many Borg the Borg destroyed for the pursuit of the Omega Particle, losing one Borg in a million seems entirely acceptable to the Borg. Moreover, the reprogrammed microvirus itself is an unnecessarily complicated solution to the problem: all the Borg have to do is walk around their ship and kill any Borg whose thoughts they cannot read after Voyager’s microvirus is released. That said, “Unimatrix Zero, Part II” is fairly exciting.

The subplot regarding Seven Of Nine and Axum is drawn out. The scene where the Doctor talks to Seven Of Nine about the relationship is layered well with a subtext that only those who have seen the prior episodes will appreciate and that level of continuity is cool. Seven, however, fails to point out that her prior relationship with Axum might not have had much to do with her actually liking him and more to do with the fact that he was the only option for her unconscious self. That said, Annika’s brief exploration of the relationship makes for a decent moment in her character’s arc.

On the acting front, Jeri Ryan and Mark Deakins have surprisingly little on-screen chemistry to sell the relationship as worthwhile, though Ryan gives it the old college try for emoting passion. On the other end of the spectrum, Susanna Thompson and Tim Russ give amazing performances as the dispassionate and conflicted versions of the Borg Queen and Tuvok. In fact, it is somewhat disappointing how the conflict with Tuvok is minimized. When he loses his fight with the hive mind, he really seems to lose it and that he is so neglected for most of the episode, especially to service the romantic subplot, is disappointing.

Ultimately, “Unimatrix Zero, Part II” reaches a far less elegant conceptual solution than The Matrix Trilogy. The idea that the Borg might need to periodically reboot makes much more sense than the sense of hope that this episode resolves with. Even so, it is not a bad beginning to Star Trek: Voyager’s final season.

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

For other works with Susanna Thompson, please visit my reviews of:
Once And Again - Season Two
Once And Again - Season One
“Dark Frontier, Part 2” - Star Trek: Voyager
“Dark Frontier, Part 1” - Star Trek: Voyager
“Rejoined” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
NYPD Blue - Season 2
“Frame Of Mind” - Star Trek: The Next Generation
“The Next Phase” - Star Trek: The Next Generation


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

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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