[VOY] Jammer's Review: "Unimatrix Zero, Part II"
- Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Voyager's season
premiere, "Unimatrix Zero, Part II." If you haven't seen the episode yet,
In brief: Played out about how I expected. Surprises are scarce,
contrivances are plentiful, but it's a pretty enjoyable hour.
Plot description: Partially transformed into Borg drones, Janeway, Tuvok,
and Torres run a covert operation on board a Borg ship to infect the
collective with a virus that will free subdued individuals from the hive's
Star Trek: Voyager -- "Unimatrix Zero, Part II"
Airdate: 10/4/2000 (USA)
Teleplay by Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky
Story by Mike Sussman and Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky
Directed by Mike Vejar
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Rating out of 4: ***
"You'll have to destroy the entire collective to find them all." -- Janeway
The funny thing about the implausible but well-crafted "Unimatrix Zero, Part
II" is that it more or less plays out the only way it possibly could've.
Everything here borders on the inevitable.
Obviously, Our Heroes would not still be Borg drones by the end of the
episode (beware the Reset Button). Obviously, the crew's plan to subvert the
hive mind and help the individualized Borg in Unimatrix Zero would be
successful. Obviously, there would be some snags in the plan along the way.
Obviously, Seven's romantic theme would play into the human storyline.
Obviously, the setup in part one called for an eventual Borg insurgence
within the collective, which would happen here. Obviously, a big
season-opening budget would provide us with all the production design,
makeup, and visual effects to give it a slick, high-tech look -- yet another
episode that proves this is one of, if not the, best-looking sci-fi shows on
What we have here is a story that contains few surprises but works so
efficiently that it hardly matters. This is not an inspired episode of
Voyager, or even a believable one, but it is an entertaining and interesting
one, and it hints that there may be a Bigger Picture [TM] concerning the
Borg that might be revisited down the line.
What I expected of "UMZ II" was pretty much what I got -- a
solid-on-its-own-terms cliffhanger resolution that left me puzzled with
questions about the Borg (and especially, of course, the Borg Queen), but
provided enough change in the Borg's situation to justify the effort and
revisions used to get there.
Oh, the contrivances and silliness are here. I for one would still like to
know how any Starfleet officer wakes up in the morning and decides they're
going to march into a Borg cube and get assimilated (here, saw my hand off
while I sit and watch calmly). Convenient how Janeway, Tuvok, and Torres all
manage to get Assimilation Lite, which means no amputations or ocular
implants. Even more convenient that they're able to remain individualized --
separate from the hive mind, thanks to a magical device called a "neural
suppressor." (Why wasn't such a device invented long before this? It
probably could've been the undoing of the Borg centuries ago.) This allows
them to walk about the Borg ship without easily being detected or detained,
so they can set the Master Plan in motion.
Said plan suggests that the Borg need to renew their McAfee VirusScan
license, not to mention establish a firewall between possible individualized
Voyager crew drones and crucial network areas of the ship. Janeway et al are
able to (easily) make their way to the ship's "central plexus," where Torres
uploads the virus into the system, where it promptly spreads through the
Borg collective. This virus has been designed to allow the drones who exist
as individuals in the virtual reality realm Unimatrix Zero to retain their
individuality when they awaken from their regeneration state, severing them
from the collective. It also allows them to remember what ship they exist on
in real life when they enter UMZ, supplying the Borg resistance movement
some tactical means to subvert the hive. This is a neat concept, even though
it makes Borg security look like Swiss cheese. (With all those drones
walking around doing who-knows-what, you'd think some armed guards
protecting crucial network areas of the collective would be prudent.)
Meanwhile there's a problem with Tuvok; his neural suppressor is not getting
the job done, and his connection with the hive begins to turn him into a
drone. This also allows the Borg Queen to figure out Janeway & Co.'s
whereabouts in the collective and realize what they're doing. You'd think
that the last person to have problems resisting the collective would be the
mentally disciplined Tuvok, but there you are.
Subsequently, Janeway is held captive and the Borg Queen attempts to
negotiate a surrender of the individualized Borg drones in UMZ. In a potent
scene, the Queen destroys two entire Borg vessels with tens of thousands of
drones because a handful of Borg on board had been severed from the
collective, outside its control. This plays Janeway's conscience and respect
for life against her own need to see the Borg's undoing: It hurts to watch
Borg cubes incinerated by the collective will because of her own actions,
but she'll be damned if she's going to give in to the Queen's attempt to put
down the insurgence ("You'll have to destroy the entire collective to find
There are some other nice character touches in the episode, including some
mildly ironic debating between Chakotay and Paris concerning command
decisions, where Chakotay plays the Janeway role and Paris plays the
Seven's romance with Axum (Mark Deakins) is more or less by the numbers, but
the fact that it's Seven we're dealing with makes it a situation that seems
halfway new. There's also a wonderfully acted and directed scene between Doc
and Seven where they discuss this possible romance. As always, Doc/Seven is
a character pairing that never seems to fail on this series. The subtle
nuances in Robert Picardo's performance reveal Doc's true feelings for Seven
without needing a single line of dialog to remind us.
As for the Borg Queen ... there's a fine line between a mystery and a
muddle, and everything about the Queen resides on the "muddle" side of that
line. What is the Queen's purpose? She is the collective personified as far
as I can tell, used solely as a narrative tool so the audience knows what's
going on and why. There are scenes where the Queen talks to herself to
explain to us that links have been severed. Unlikely, but probably necessary
for a television story. And there's also a scene where the Queen tells a
child that she also was assimilated as a child. 'Scuse me? I always figured
the Queen -- who has been "killed" twice -- was a symbolic drone simply
assembled on demand. After "UMZ II" there's nothing for me to do but admit
logical defeat; there is no logic to apply here. (I highly doubt that even
Braga & Menosky understand, or care about, the Borg rules that they've
A lot of people are unhappy that the Borg have been reduced to a presence
that is no longer remotely intimidating or threatening. I will not be
arguing that position, because the Borg have not been intimidating for
years. There's no going back to what the Borg were in their TNG heyday, so
I'm all about moving forward. The direction that "UMZ II" takes seems to me
like a reasonable direction. It's certainly a better direction than the one
proposed (and ultimately rejected) by TNG's "Descent."
The conclusion provides what I mean: the simple but intriguing concept of a
Borg civil war. Yes, I wondered how General Korok (Jerome Butler), the
Kingon drone from UMZ, could take command of an entire Borg ship with
thousands of drones against him. And in thinking about it, I'm even a little
hazy about the notion of the Queen delivering the second virus in UMZ. (If
these drones can be traced through the Borg network to UMZ, surely they can
be traced back to their real-life locations? I suppose the UMZ drones have a
better-trained network administrator.) But the sight of one Borg ship firing
on another is so bizarre, twisted, and interesting that I didn't care about
the logical questions. I for one hope the Borg *are* changed forever. Heck,
I wouldn't mind seeing this arc played all the way through until the Borg
collective has fallen. That seems to be the direction we're headed in, and
we certainly could use a storyline with a direction on this series.
"UMZ II" is such an *efficient* hour of production, in fact, that in
retrospect it almost feels mechanical and preordained. It's an exercise in
technical mastery more than it is creative storytelling. It lacks passion.
It's a Borg drone.
And yet with sly conviction, it peddles BS like only the best door-to-door
salesmen. Even though you know it's BS, you still want to buy it. Logic
suggests that this story is so full of holes it's an incomprehensible mess.
But somehow, it's not. It's remarkably confident on its terms, and it swept
me along for the ride. Resistance was, as they say (but not anymore),
Next week: Seven comes face to face with her mortality.
Copyright 2000 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
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Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...