Friday, February 15, 2013

The Best Seven Of Nine Episode? “Human Error” Might Well Be It!

The Good: Surprisingly good chemistry between Ryan and Beltran, Good character development
The Bad: Spatial anomaly plot seems forced, Technical details.
The Basics: “Human Error” has Seven Of Nine yearning for a second life, one that has her hiding out in the Holodeck where she is able to be more human than she is in real life.

Those who have been reading my many reviews of episodes of Star Trek: Voyager know that Seven Of Nine was my least favorite character of the series. When she arrived in season four of the show (reviewed here!), I thought her presence was an obvious attempt to court more of a lowbrow audience, one where sex appeal was more important than substance. Moreover, Jeri Ryan’s performances, which usually have the actress acting as stiff and subtly inhuman, tend to hit on the same note, giving her very little to do.

So, it is somewhat ironic that “Human Error,” a Seven Of Nine episode that has Jeri Ryan forced to perform very little – Seven Of Nine spends much of her time in the episode as a surprisingly emotionally-realized human being – is actually one of the episodes I more immediately enjoyed. Despite the rather obvious inclusion of a spatial anomaly subplot (which is a frequent conceit for Star Trek: Voyager), “Human Error” is largely a slow, subtle, character-focused episode that officially starts off the romantic relationship between Chakotay and Seven Of Nine.

In one of the least-compelling teasers of the entire series, Seven Of Nine is established playing piano. Seven Of Nine attends a baby shower for Paris and Torres, but when the Bridge contacts here there, it becomes apparent that it is merely a simulation. With the actual baby shower imminent, Seven Of Nine continues to return to the Holodeck to continue simulations of what her life might be like after her Borg implants are removed and she is granted a rank and position on the ship officially.

While Voyager tries to navigate through an area filled with subspace shockwaves from the discharge of an alien weapon nearby, Seven Of Nine retreats into the Holodeck to have a virtual life.

As is the series frequently does, “Human Error” borrows extensively from a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. “Human Error” is basically “Hollow Pursuits” (reviewed here!) where Seven Of Nine replaces Reginald Barclay and she has only one virtual world in the holodeck.

Despite the spatial anomaly subplot, the Seven Of Nine storyline is actually quite engaging and it is enhanced by pretty incredible on-screen chemistry between actress Jeri Ryan and Robert Beltran. Beltran plays Chakotay and in Seven Of Nine’s virtual life, she and Chakotay have a romantic relationship. Watching “Human Error,” it is hard for the viewer not to ask, “Where the hell has this been?!” The onscreen presence and interplay between the two actors is exceptional and the looks, Ryan’s subtle smile and Beltran’s relaxed body language make the two virtual characters far more intriguing than their actual characters often are on the show!

Even better, “Human Error” has some very real consequences and knowing that it is the start of an arc (albeit a limited one, given how the series is almost over), makes it all the more pleasant. While Seven Of Nine lies to Janeway about her Holodeck activities, Janeway comes across as the bigger jerk in the scene, invading Seven’s privacy without any hint of remorse. Despite that scene and the subplot that serves as the backdrop for how Seven Of Nine is neglecting her duties, “Human Error” is a surprisingly good episode. In fact, it might well be the best Seven Of Nine episode of the series.

[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 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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  1. You say Seven is your least favorite character on Voyager but it always seems to me that Janeway is because you always critize all the things she says and almost all the decisions she makes.

    This episode is very strange to me because I love it and hate it at the same time. Let me explain : I always wanted to see Seven of Nine lose all her borg implants and become fully human (in appearence at least) before the end of Voyager so I was thrilled with all these scenes in the holodeck but her sudden and out of the blue relationship with Chakotay seemed so forced and unnatural to me that I always felt that from this moment on, Voyager had definitely jumped the shark a little.

    I understand why you love this episode and I respect your point of view but it's funny that what you loved about this one is exactly why I hated it.

    Besides to me, the best Jeri Ryan Voyager episode will always be "Scorpion part 2 : the gift". The way she yells at Janeway "Return this drone to the borg !" is a memorable and impressive scene I will never forget.

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      My main issues with Seven Of Nine are that she was brought on for sex appeal and that in exploring her, the writers and producers undermined the menace of the Borg.

      As for Janeway, she has such an anti-philosophical bent when it came to the Doctor or Seven Of Nine that I was disappointed by how she was written sometimes.

      Thanks, as always, for reading!