The Cynics Corner

Star Trek: Voyager

"Unimatrix Zero"

by David E. Sluss

27 May 2000

 
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THE BOTTOM LINE
: Put a fork in the Borg; as a credible threat, they're done.

CYNICS CORNER RATING: 4.0 (F)

EUNUCH OF THE WEEK: Is there any doubt? It's the Borg Collective, who have never, not even in last year's execrable "Dark Frontier," looked as incompetent and ridiculous as they do here. Indeed, they hardly behave like a collective mind at all, but instead like a bunch of mechanized creatures shambling around and acting in response to verbal orders and threats from the Borg Queen, who stands around monitoring everything on her television. If you look at the actions of the Queen and her drones in this episode, there is very little that suggests that they are all connected as a single mind, and quite a bit that suggests that they don't. For starters, we have the Queen watching events on her television and explaining the disease and her actions verbally to the drones around her, neither of which should be required within a collective mind. Granted, we can chalk this up to "storytelling license," since the exposition has to be done somehow, but it's still a total corruption of what the Borg are supposed to be about. And there are alternatives, such as the simple solution of having the Queen "think" her instructions with a voiceover rather than moving her lips. Similarly, the dismantling of drones to find out what's wrong with their pieces-parts and to determine the exact frequency of Unimatrix Zero shouldn't be necessary either, but then we'd have missed out on the "shock value" of all those disembodied heads (and, by the way, isn't the main processor for a drone in the guts rather than in the head, according to Worst Contact?).

Other clues that the Borg have lost their way, or have assimilated too many Pakleds, abound. In the teaser, a drone is disconnected from the collective, and immediately and naturally starts referring to himself as "I"; in the past, of course, with Hugh, Seven, and the Borgrats, using first person pronouns required a bit of practice. The Borg "tactical cube" looks to be entirely ineffective at its task, considering that Voyager detected it long before the cube seemed to detect them, and it was barely able to defend itself against one ship and a glorified shuttlecraft. In Unimatrix Zero, Seven instructs the drones who are about to become individualized to "act like drones," which is hokum, of course, since within the collective mind no drone should be able to pretend. And perhaps worst of all, we have the Borg Queen issuing impotent threats to Janeway rather than doing anything, as the two women banter like a couple of catty soap opera queens. If the Queen really feels threatened by Janeway interfering with the Unimatrix Zero situation, why doesn't she send a dozen cubes through transwarp and blast them out of existence? Because all she can do is posture and threaten, apparently.

The bottom line, to coin a phrase, is that the Borg have been turning into suckers for years, since Next Generation's "I, Borg" in fact, with each appearance stripping away more and more of their credibility, and now it looks like they've hit rock bottom (until Part II and next November's reported "Borg Event" at least).

CARTOON CHARACTER OF THE WEEK: I could say the Borg Queen, who acts like some animated supervillain, but I'm awarding this to Kurok the Klingon, since the actor portraying him has so much trouble speaking through the false teeth that he sounds like Daffy Duck. Dethpicable!

FILLER OF THE WEEK: There seemed to be little point to the destroyed asteroid colony, other than as a feeble attempt to convince us that the Borg are a menace, contrary to everything else we saw this week. Another minor nit to pick here: Voyager picks up a "distress call," but Moe finds that the signal is only a "carrier wave" with no message. So how do Our Heroes know it's a distress call? Does everyone in the galaxy use the same carrier wave for distress signals?

ILLOGIC OF THE WEEK: There are quite a few problems with the way Unimatrix Zero is portrayed, and I don't mean the similarities to the film The Matrix, which are in all fairness more superficial than I expected. The biggest problem is notion of the Queen's drones coming into the simulation, and "re-assimilating" the VR representations of the renegade drones. Why exactly would that have any effect on a real drone, holed up in some regeneration chamber? Additionally, the renegades in Unimatrix Zero can recreate their old appearances, clothing and weapons, but no one thinks to "dream up" armament more effective than a bat'leth when the Queen's goons attack; on the other hand, strangely, the Borg have never seemed able to adapt to blunt force weapons like bat'leths, tire irons, and fists, and so maybe it makes sense in some bizarre way. And I'm not sure I buy the fact that Janeway could appear in the simulation and be seen by the other drones. Tuvok may have connected Janeway to Seven's mind, but it is Seven that still has a link to the drones in Unimatrix Zero, and without any Borg tech implanted in her body, it seems like Janeway should be invisible to the renegades, and the Queen's goons, and the Queen's TV set, for that matter. Speaking of which...

NEW RITUAL OF THE WEEK: At first, I was dismissive of this new Vulcan "bridging of minds" hoohah as yet another Vulcan ability pulled out of the ass when the plot requires it, a tradition dating all the way back to Spock and certain episodes of the Original Series, but it occurred to me that it isn't all that different from what T'Lar did to restore Spock's mind in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. The manifestation of this new mind meld in the VR is questionable, but the technique itself does seem grounded in Star Trek history, such as it is.

WELFARE RECIPIENT OF THE WEEK: Sort of. On my UPN station, at least three of Avery Brooks' new IBM ads appeared during this episode of Voyager. Since his acting hasn't improved, it's nice to know Star Trek is still helping him out, however indirectly.

POTENTIAL RESET OF THE WEEK: How many episodes into the seventh season will it be before a new Delta Flyer is built? I vote for one.

PLOT HOLE OF THE WEEK: The Borg tactical cube blows out Voyager's port nacelle; Larry tells us this, and we see it happen on screen. Yet minutes later, the Voyager escapes the cube at warp. That's got to be a new record for time before a reset...

CONTRIVANCE OF THE WEEK: It looks pretty obvious that Janeway, Tuvok, and Torres allowed themselves to be assimilated and are carrying the "individuality virus" within them so that they can act against the Borg from within. Leaving aside the fact that these three "drones" shouldn't be able to fool the collective mind (see above), even if these officers feel confident that they will be de-assimilated, there is no way in hell that they would be so cavalier about subjecting themselves to assimilation, which as we've seen, especially in Worst Contact, involves not only nanoprobes, implants and hoses attached to the head, but also amputation of limbs, removal of eyes, etc. Come on; that's bull, no two ways about it.

SOCIAL PROMOTION OF THE WEEK: I fail to see what Curly has done in the past year to merit promotion. Has he done anything of substance since last year's "Thirty Days" other than fool around in the holodeck, watch television, and fall in love with a spaceship? I conclude that this was done in order to make this episode seem even more like Next Generation's "The Best of Both Worlds" which featured the assimilation of the captain and the promotion of a bloated officer...

PREDICTIONS OF THE WEEK: Unlike a lot of Trek cliffhangers, it appears that the writers have a plan for Part II, and put some pieces in place to set that plan up. Those pieces weren't planted quite as crudely as they were in "Basics," but some things are pretty obvious. Clearly getting assimilated was part of Janeway's plan. Seven's "love interest" in Unimatrix Zero might as well have "I am a dead man" stamped on his forehead. And my best guess is that the Queen's cryptic comment to Larry will turn out to mean that she hypnotized him through the viewscreen somehow and will force him to act against the crew. Reset to zero at the end of the hour.
  

Previous: "The Haunting
of Deck Twelve
"

NEXT YEAR: Voyager has only one year left to choke the very life out of the franchise, and, despite my remarks in the "Spirit Folk" review, I guess the Cynics Corner will be back for another year of abuse. Meanwhile, I've posted a Cynics Corner Preview of the Seventh Season for you to chew on.

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