DARK FRONTIER




Part 1 of 2: The Summary

A long Borg ship is seen at red alert, a tiny viewscreen relaying a tough Janeway issuing an ultimatum. A Voyager probe gets aboard the Borg ship but too close to the power supply, and suddenly, we have Borg barbecue. Mama Janeway decides that itís time to go to Good Will to pick up some secondhand materials, and Voyager scavenges the mangled hand-me-downs. The Borg holy grail, the transwarp core, canít be found, so Janeway begins her quest. A few more Borg ships are found nearby, including a seemingly damaged sphere, and the captain informs her hole-in-the-wall gang that they are going to perform a heist and get that core.

Research for her plan is to come from the until-now unreviewed logs from Sevenís parents ship, The Raven. She asks a hesitant Seven to review the entries in order to find out how her parents survived tracking the Borg for as long as they did. Seven wavers, and Janeway uses coercion ("Should I ask Chakotay to do it?") to get Sevenís cooperation.

Neelix, in this weekís cameo role, brings Seven the downloaded logs from her parents. Flashbacks introduce us to the Hansens (the Jetsens?) and cute, scared little Annicka. We learn that itís tough to be loving parents and pioneering exobiologists. Based on some of Sevenís discoveries, and some clandestine eavesdropping on the damaged sphere, an away team goes through a simulation of The Heist of the Transwarp Core. Good thing itís a simulation; they run out of time, and the Borg board Voyager. Mama Janeway canít help but notice that Seven is not the cool, calm collected blonde she is aboard Voyager.

Rewind, and back to the drawing board. As Seven is laboring mightily among the Borg trash heap thatís been brought on board, she is visited by a nightmare-awakened Naomi Wildman, who canít bother mom or Neelix, Ďcause theyíre working, but sweet Seven is always available. Suddenly, Naomi is parroting Sevenís questions to her parents about the Borg, and then she starts sprouting Borg implants. Seven finds herself on board the Borg sphere and being addressed by a female voice. Just as quickly, sheís back on Voyager.

Seven continues to review her parents "journals" and finds out that the reason they could spend hours aboard a Borg vessel and study the automatons is that they have devised a camouflage system, called biodampeners. Patches which resemble the EMHís mobile holoemitter, these little babies have enough portable power to hide their wearers a few hours. Tuvok assigns the shipís renaissance man, the doctor, to come up with the devices for the proposed away team.

Meanwhile, Mama Kate has a heart-to-heart with her new favorite daughter. For small talk, she tries to introduce Seven to the vice of drinking coffee. (Seven declines -- smart girl! That stuff will ruin your life forever!) Citing the fact that other crew members (Chakotay, Neelix [?] and the doc), in addition to herself, have noticed behavioral changes in Seven, Janeway announces that Seven wonít be needed on the away team. Seven exhibits a little teenage rebellion, and finally convinces Janeway that her expertise will be needed.

Voyager approaches the "crippled" sphere and sends out a line with some bait... yet another dispensable shuttlecraft, with fake biosigns. After some good flyfishing tactics, the sphere takes the bait and lowers its shields; the away team, including Seven, we now see, transports over to the Borg sphere. A crack performance of the previously-seen practice round of ripping off the transwarp core goes off without a hitch --- until Seven informs Janeway that she wonít be returning to Voyager. that she is rejoining the collective. KJís ugly twin surfaces, and threatens Seven with Great Bodily Harm, hoisting her firearm towards her adopted drone. Seven remains firm, Janeway realizes time is running out, and transports back to Voyager.

The Borg sphere rummages through out its supplies of spare parts and another transwarp core is put on-line and the sphere blasts into hyperspace... er, transwarp speed, leaving Voyager to eat its cosmic dust. At the end of the journey, the sphere enters a Borg metropolis, looking like an Erector set gone haywire. Seven is "captured", and stoically marches to meet her doom aboard the sphere.

Seven arrives at an inner sanctum on the sphere, and is treated to a royal entrance by the Borg Queen, who welcomes her home, but notices some disturbing human characteristics in the prodigal daughter. The queen recites a lot of nasty human habits that Seven has assimilated including the deadly sin of vanity (well, doh! like we hadnít noticed this one...) Then the lovely queen announces that Voyager didnít capture Seven , that is was all part of a Borg master plan in their never-ending march towards total assimilation of humanity. Tada!

Back on Voyager, as the nonusable Borg trash is going to be tossed out of the airlock, Neelix asks Janeway about the status of Sevenís regeneration alcove. Mama hesitates, then decides to keep the power-eater. Janeway reviews all sorts of power signatures, trying to get some idea where our Borg friends have gone.

Itís now time for this hourís appearance of Naomi Wildman (must be in her contract: has to have five minutes of screen time each hour.) The scene seems to be a throw-away one, until we hear Janeway recite the Captainís Golden Rules: Keep your shirt tucked in (well, *there* goes any hopes of seeing a good J/C scene in her ready room!); always go down with the ship; and never abandon a member of your crew --- three things taught at the Academy, Iím sure! Actually, the scene has allowed the computer to continue its search, and dramatic music tells us that thereís going to be interesting stuff. Sure enough, the captain finds out that a Borg something has been the little voices talking to Seven over the last couple of days.

Meanwhile, Seven has "rested up" aboard the Borg sphere, long enough for an overhaul, including a new neural implant and a download of her "human" thoughts. Now she finds out her real mission --- sheís not going to become a drone again, but instead is the liaison officer between the Borg and the assimilation of all humankind. And now, itís take for a little practice run. The Queen, like Janeway, senses less than 100% cooperation from her charge, and shifts from assigning Seven to the assimilation duties to repairs on the sphere.

But the screams and horror of the assimilation get to Sevenís human side, and she manages to "rescue" four of the conquered species, getting them aboard an empty ship and on their way. Ah, but our Evil Queen detects Sevenís little caper and sends out a tractor beam to get the little ship. After a word battle with Seven, the Queen mysteriously lets the four go.

The Delta Flyer has been refitted with the precious purloined transwarp core and Janeway leads an away team of Tom, Tuvok and the Doc to head out to rescue their captured crewmate. Poor doc! Is it really motion sickness or love sickness that makes him a bit queasy at this point? He looks worse than some of his patients! But he does manage to suggest that they can attune their sensors with one of Sevenís implants and try to get through to her. The Delta Flyer enters the Borg supermatrix, flying undetected.

Meantime, Queen Borg is trying to elaborate on her brainwashing of Seven. She shows Seven their next victims --- humans. A holoimage of a refugee from the Calvin Klein runway showing of the new fall underwear line rotates in front of Seven. Simultaneous narration by Queen Bee explains that Seven is to develop a biogenic charge full of nasty nanoprobe viruses that will be exploded on what we are led to believe Earth or a similar planet, infecting all humans and turning them into drones. Sort of a double feature of "Outbreak" meets "Night of the Living Dead". Our lovely queen tells Seven that the collective is her family now, and to prove her point, brings out Papa Hansen the Drone. Seven pales, only have the answering service within her neural implants bring Janewayís voice on line. Our Queen friend guesses what is happening.

The Delta Flyer uses Borg technology against Borg technology as they utilize multi-defensive shielding to keep out of Borg grasp. Tuvok manages to find out where Seven is being held, and hones in trying to get a lock on her. When this fails, Mama Janeway decides to mount her white horse. She and Tuvok pick up their big guns and begin a little hunting expedition.

As the High Noon shoot-out time approaches, Queen Borg is still trying to coerce her prodigy by now appealing to Sevenís human side. "Come over to the Dark Side, and you can save your friends"... oops! wrong script, again!

Janeway finally makes it to the Queenís chambers, and she and the Queen begin a verbal battle for Sevenís soul. Itís a good thing that Janeway had decided to do this herself; if she had sent Tuvok in, logic would not have allowed him to pull the coup de grace. Janeway finally gets fed up with this no-win situation and blows the shield deployment system to smithereens. Tom gets a lock on Janeway and Seven (and presumably Tuvok) and beams them aboard the Delta Flyer.

Ah... but weíve got about fifteen minutes of show left. So, even as the Delta Flyer goes into transwarp mode, a Borg vessel follows them. As they reach the end of the transwarp run, Voyager detects them, and Chakotay and BíElanna blow away the transwarp conduit as soon as their team is through, presumably destroying the Borg vessel. But, like last week, we need a final burp to make sure all the Borg are gone (for now) and the conduit reappears, only to spew all sorts of demolished Borg scrap into the area.

The closing scene has Mama Kate telling her baby Borg that none of this was her fault. But, sheís played pretty hard today, and now itís time for bed. Our petulant child talks back to mama (not a very wise thing to do --- Mama Kate at her toughest is more ferocious than any Borg queen!), but Mama gives her That Look, and Seven decides to be a good girl and go to bed and regenerate.

Fiddley-dee, Miss Scarlett; tomorrowís another day!


Part 2 of 2: The Review

This (these?) episode(s) was/were billed by UPN as "a Voyager movie". The publicity folks were right with that --- "Dark Frontier" really should have been titled "Voyager Remakes First Contact" --- at least the Borg portion of the TNG movie. Janeway as Picard; Seven of Nine as Data; Tuvok as Worf; and Harry as all the rest. Actually, for all its plagiarized plot --- and it truly pains Cilla to say this --- it was a very entertaining episode.

Note to feminists: Gleaned from the files of the Hansens --- unfortunately even when you are a brilliant exobiologist, if youíre female, you still end up with most of the childcare and fixing dinner. Bet the script would have been different if Jeri Taylor or Lisa Klink had written it...

Janeway was at her best Action Kate/Mama Kate best, throwing protocol to the winds and deciding to do in a colony of their arch villain and scavenge their parts. Why not? The Borg has certainly used enough of the Federations parts and people. Examining the files from The Raven proved to be an interesting move. (Question: Why hadnít this been done last year, after their discovery of the maverick vessel? Even if it would have been too traumatic for our delicate Seven, surely BíElanna or another one of her crack engineering crew could have done this objectively and uncovered a ream of info light years ago. Oh... plotline, you say. Itís better to have an episode where we can see the Borg babe emote and agonize... well, silly me!)

And for this entry into the Best Performance by a Borg Emmy category, I notice that weíve given our plastic model yet another "costume" --- same pattern, same fabric, just a different color. Does this switch to wine want us to believe that she is on the executive fast track of Starfleet rather than the blue ("science") or brown (which I guess was close to the gold of engineering/tactical/ops). Or... is it because sheís "growing up" and the blue portrays too much youth and innocence? She does look better in this color, although it does seem a little too "regal".

Screenwriterís research note: Just how many people are aboard Voyager? A couple of weeks ago, we were told that there were 150, and yet the Borg detect "143 lifesigns". (Maybe they donít count the doc, Neelix, the wooden first officer or the Delaney twins... after all, weíve only seen the latter two in a holodeck simulation!)

Every male group got to play out his fantasy in this episode, with the three harpies going at it like a shoot-out at the OK Corral. Susanna Thompson, while lacking the "bite" of Alice Kreigís Borg Queen, was still malicious and malificent. The re-enactment of her "construction", complete with the skin clips anchoring her torso into her upper body was just as eerie and creepy as the "First Contact" depiction.

It seemed to me that Chakotay was a little bit happier in this episode than he has been lately. Although his screen time was still whittled, as it has appeared in many episodes this year (are TPTB finally admitting that they get their weakest acting from him?), he did get one of the best lines in the show: "Better to be safe than assimilated." As always, he seemed to give a good performance when he was allowed to sit in The Big Chair. And he got to be cutesy about pointing out one of Janewayís habits to her, that of fiddling around with her commbadge before dropping a Big One. (Hmmmm. I donít recall this one before; sort of makes you wonder what the circumstances of been where heís noticed this and the viewers have been denied the pleasure. Guess Iíll go review some old tapes.) Altogether, the Janeway/Chakotay relationship appeared to be in the best shape than weíve seen in a long while. Maybe Menosky wrote those scenes rather than Braga.

The special effects must have blown the budget (literally!) for this year; they were very well done. Okay, so some left-over footage of the Borg cube/orb interior from "First Contact" was probably used, but the editing made it worth the salvage trip. The exterior shots were just as good, and the first view of the "hive" was awesome. The SFX guys and gals definitely get a nine for their efforts.

Although important to our learning "how to handle the Borg", I again frond the jumping back and forth with the Hansenís logs a little disconcerting. And while weíre on the Hansens, again the casting department did a good job of matching characters physically, much like the young Tuvok of "Gravity". It was obvious that Seven got her height from her mom, and her facial structure from her dad. I found myself quite taken with the resemblance. (However, Mom Hansen didnít look like she was more than a 36B. Boob size must skip a generation in this family.) And I got goosebumps when, at the end, we see Papa Hansen as a drone... nice little bit of horror.

(Ed. note: Cillaís favorite terran male was watching the episode with her. [He watches just for the excellent stories, never for the Boobs Babe, you must understand. He has eagerly been waiting for this story all week; even forewent "Drew Carey" to catch it in real time...] With his usual astute observations, after we had seen the holodeck drill of the assault on the Borg vessel, he noticed that Tuvok, in the Real Thing, still had to tell Harry where to place the explosives. "Donít you think Harry would have remembered where he had to put them?" quoth Mr. Lightbulb. Yes, I thought... but they merely replayed the earlier scene, thus saving money. The editors/director sort of forgot to edit out this little glitch.)

This episode was supposed to have been a Barbie Borg showcase, but Janeway and the Borg Queen outplayed her in just about every way possible. And because Janeway got the last word in --- literally! --- this one gets a big 8 of 9.

Next week: Hoo, ha... Harry gets a hot one! From the *spoilers* making the rounds, seems that Harry missed out on the required personal hygiene holotape viewing from the Doc regarding fraternization with aliens. (That, and he didnít read Delta Storyís little tale, "Safe Sex", describing what happened to Chakotay when he forgot his "party hat"....)