Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Voyager's
"Imperfection." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.
In brief: A nicely done allegory on terminal illness, though the Borg crutch
and irrelevant action scenes are growing tiresome.
Plot description: A key Borg component in Seven's brain begins shutting
down, leading to the possibility that she may be facing the equivalent of a
Star Trek: Voyager -- "Imperfection"
Airdate: 10/11/2000 (USA)
Teleplay by Carleton Eastlake and Robert Doherty
Story by Andre Bormanis
Directed by David Livingston
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Rating out of 4: ***
"So you think I need to learn to rely on other people? What about you?
You've refused to rely on a single member of this crew!"-- Icheb to Seven
"Imperfection" is said to have grown out of a story pitch based on a true
experience involving a kidney transplant -- from both the donating and
receiving ends. I can believe that, because this episode has a ring of truth
to it. The story concept is a fairly simple one, but the predicament that
arises is emotional and difficult, ultimately leading to a seemingly
At the same time, Seven of Nine stories are getting a bit repetitive
(doesn't she essentially learn the same lessons every time, unable to later
apply them to similar situations?), and it seems like the production teams
are breaking out the Borg sets every other week. When familiar elements are
utilized this well I'm hardly in a position to complain, but do we really
need three episodes of Voyager in a row about the Borg and Seven of Nine?
Seven is a good character, but probably mostly because half the rest of the
cast is ignored.
Still, if you're going to do a terminal illness story, Seven seems like a
good choice. She's probably the character we generally think of as the least
"mortal," with the possible exception of the Doctor. And, after all, since
this is science fiction, a terminal illness with a sci-fi twist seems to
lend itself particularly well to Seven's Borg inner-workings.
In this case, Seven begins showing symptoms of a severe problem when her
cortical node -- which is responsible for regulating her vital Borg
implants -- begins to malfunction. It cannot be repaired because it is too
complex. In theory its Borg adaptability should lead it to repair itself,
but it doesn't. After a brief display of believable denial, Seven realizes
that it's very possible she could soon be dead.
Some options for treatment are considered. The most hopeful method is simply
replacing the cortical node with a module from another drone. (Although, I
wonder -- in something as complex as a cortical node, I would expect there
would be issues of compatibility from drone to drone; after all, you don't
just get a heart transplant from anybody, let alone something that controls
your important biological systems.)
This leads Janeway to track down a destroyed Borg ship nearby (how
convenient!), from which they might find a dead drone with an undamaged
cortical node that can serve as a replacement. Just how many times has
Voyager chased after the Borg, anyway? Funny how Chakotay says, "It's not
every day we go looking for the Borg." Could've fooled me.
Though competently executed, I could've done without this week's Voyager
Action Insert, the gratuitous sequence that serves as an argument that no
episode of Voyager is demographic-friendly without some sort of exchange of
weapons and/or chase through a debris field. While aboard the damaged Borg
vessel we don't run into any Borg drones looking to assimilate our crew
members, but instead the stock Hard-Headed Aliens of the Week, who will not
listen to two words of reason. "This is *my* debris field," and out come the
weapons. How tired I am of this scene.
The ensuing ship chase then takes place through the Borg debris field, with
the hard-headed aliens chasing the Delta Flyer. The recently destroyed Delta
Flyer, you ask? Why, yes. Oh sure, there's a single-line acknowledgement
that it was destroyed in "Unimatrix Zero" ("The last time you took the Delta
Flyer to confront the Borg, it ended up in a couple thousand pieces," Paris
says helpfully), but it's so cavalierly tossed at us and hopelessly
transparent -- I don't buy it. What's particularly laughable is that the
line as delivered seems to imply that the Delta Flyer was *salvaged* rather
than replaced after being blown to smithereens. (Break out the super glue
and prepare for an all-nighter of reassembly, I guess.)
As usual, I find that I can take this show seriously on its given episodic
standalone terms (the terminal illness story is top-drawer), but the
credibility of the series as a whole is reduced to a pathetic joke. Voyager
and its crew are indestructible; it can be blown up and they assimilated by
Borg, and it's always just another day at the office. At least when the
Defiant was destroyed on DS9 the writers waited a few episodes before
replacing it, and acted as if it were actually a different ship.
But back to the main idea here (to which the episode, fortunately, is wise
enough to quickly return after straying for the Action Insert). The core is
a genuinely good story. It certainly has more of a heart than "Unimatrix
Zero," which was essentially a wind-up action toy. There's some nicely
portrayed character work in "Imperfection" that makes a lot of sense. After
the initial plan to replace the node fails (any dead drone's node will prove
useless, Doc learns), we get scenes where Seven's death becomes a looming
possibility for the characters to consider. As I said, I liked Seven's brief
bit of denial and the fact that it was kept relatively brief (Seven is the
type to consider the data and then act upon the hard facts at hand); shortly
afterward comes the anger, frustration, and ultimately acceptance. The idea
of the usually in-control Seven not wanting others to see her in a state of
vulnerability is particularly believable, and her desire to break out of
sickbay I can completely understand.
What's nice in addition to the terminal illness issue is that this story
manages to tackle Seven's character from a couple different perspectives.
She occupies an interesting position in between Janeway, her mentor, and
Icheb, her protege. The fact that Seven might be dying is good for exploring
the dialog scenes. A highlight includes Seven wondering if she has lived up
to the captain's hopes of becoming an individual, and an apt moment where
she points out dead Voyager crew members who were individuals when she was
still linked to the hive mind. Another highlight is the issue of Icheb's
dependency on Seven, which cuts both ways, as the episode demonstrates that
Seven is independent to a fault.
Ryan, Picardo, and Mulgrew put in their typically good performances, but the
surprise here is Manu Intiraymi as Icheb, who comes up with a risky plan
that might be able to save Seven -- donating his own cortical node, which
his research indicates he can probably survive without. The risks bring out
the hard choices; Seven will not hear of Icheb risking his life, so Icheb
simply forces the issue in an urgently played scene. Intiraymi adequately
carries a meatier role here than he has to date, including in last season's
"Child's Play." (Icheb as of now is also the last of the Borg children; at
the episode's outset the three other children have said their goodbyes,
having been given a new home with a passerby family.)
I also was impressed with the sincere dialog between Seven and Torres about
the question of belief in an afterlife. These two characters really share a
good moment here ... although the episode misses a key opportunity when it
seems to completely forget B'Elanna's near-death experience a year ago in
"Barge of the Dead." (A real shame, too, because this scene was perfectly
appropriate for such a reference. But such references are apparently illegal
on the studio lot.) There's some compelling talk of Seven fearing her death
will result in total oblivion: In the collective her memories would live on
through the hive mind, but that's of course no longer possible.
"Imperfection" is a solid story with some well-sold emotions and a situation
that can be recognized to some degree as real life, even if not necessarily
yours or mine. What "Imperfection" is not is particularly unexpected. We've
been to similar places with Seven (indeed, we've been probably everywhere
with Seven), and even though a Seven/Janeway or Seven/Icheb scene can still
be very good, it also feels like an iteration of a Voyager staple.
Next week: Get on your marks -- it's the Indy 5 Billion!
Copyright 2000 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
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Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...