"Scorpion, Part Two"

Season Four, Episode 1
Written by Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky 
Directed by David Livingston 
Main Cast:
Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway
Robert Beltran as Chakotay
Roxann Dawson as B'Elanna Torres
Robert Duncan McNeill as Tom Paris
Ethan Phillips as Neelix
Robert Picardo as The Doctor
Tim Russ as Tuvok
Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine
Garrett Wang as Harry Kim

Guest Cast:
Jennifer Lien as Kes

Synopsis:

Janeway successfully manages to strike a deal with the Borg; she will help them defeat Species 8472 and in exchange the Collective will grant Voyager safe passage through Borg space. Janeway and Tuvok start to collaborate with the Borg on how to use the Doctor's modified nanoprobes (which have already cured Kim) to create a weapon and are assigned a Borg drone to work with -- Seven of Nine. Work is called to a halt when Species 8472 attack and destroy the Borg cube, but luckily Janeway, Tuvok and a handful of Borg manage to beam over to a Voyager cargo bay just before the explosion. Janeway has been injured in the attack and places Chakotay in command. The Borg double-cross Chakotay by trying to hi-jack the ship, so Chakotay ends the alliance and vents the cargo bay, jettisoning the Borg into space except for Seven of Nine who manages to escape this fate. She takes Voyager into the dimension occupied by Species 8472 and we learn that the Borg originally tried to assimilate the race but 8472 fought back. It was the Borg that started the war. Seven reluctantly resumes their original agreement and they launch the bio-molecular torpedo warheads, which successfully repels Species 8472. Having averted the immediate threat, Seven then attempts to assimilate Voyager, but is stopped by Chakotay who manages to severe her link with the Collective.


Review: 

Scorpion, Part II had the unenviable task of picking up the many threads left hanging by the brilliant third season finale and weaving them into a satisfying, entertaining conclusion to one of the most ambitious Trek stories ever told. And truth be told it does a pretty good job too, but it's not without its problems and, as with the conclusions to many Trek two-parters, it's just not as good as the first part.

The plot pretty much played out as I'd assumed it would after watching the first part. Along with the Borg, Janeway uses the Doctor's nanoprobes to fashion a weapon that will successfully destroy Species 8472. Check. Luckily there were a few unexpected twists thrown in, such as the destruction of the Borg cube and the Borg beaming aboard a cargo bay (which stretched credibility slightly, but was a surprising turn of events). We also had an injury put Janeway out the picture for a while (hey, no cheering!), some interesting twists and turns in the Borg/Voyager alliance (which proves shaky at best and doesn't "humanise" the Borg as I feared it may) which includes a conclusion which lands a Borg drone who is freed from the Collective on Voyager's lap.

Which brings us to undoubtedly the most important development of the episode -- the arrival of a new regular character, Seven of Nine, played by Jeri Ryan. Her introduction is handled reasonably well, but I'll let you in on a little secret; I wasn't quite won over by Jeri Ryan's performance in this episode. In retrospect I'm still not and I know why -- "Borgified" Seven of Nine is no different to "human" Seven of Nine. I have since fallen in love with Ryan's consistently brilliant performances as Seven, but she just wasn't quite Borg enough here. Maybe it would have helped if they'd "mechanised" her voice like they did with Locutus in TNG's The Best of Both Worlds, I don't know. I just know that she acted more like a stroppy, sulky teenager than a Borg automaton. Still, Ryan more than makes up for this in subsequent episodes and you gotta admit, that's quite a pair of Borg implants she's got! ;-)

One of the most effective (and disconcerting) aspects of Part I was the conflict between Janeway and Chakotay. I stand by my assertation that while Janeway's idea was reasonably sound, she went about it all the wrong ways. She treated Chakotay extremely poorly when he told her that he disagreed with her decision, turning it into a personal issue when he was merely doing his job and doing it well. I can't say I'm all that much happier with her here, either. She is truly like a woman obssessed and when she is injured she continuously mutters that Chakotay has "got to make this work" over and over like a mantra. Just before the Doc puts her into a coma (to protect her brain functions, apparently) she croaks "get this crew home". The woman seems to think she is infallible, that only she can make the right decisions and that only she can get the crew home. Only her way will work. I surely must have missed the episode where Janeway learns that she is, in actual fact, God. I'm sorry but I have to say that Chakotay was a far better Captain in this episode than her ladyship, at the very least he was portrayed in a far more sympathetic light. And whilst I'm glad that the Janeway/Chakotay arguement wasn't forgotten about, I felt its resolution was less than satisfying. It was resolved too easily with a "we were both right" kind of ending. I did rather like one part of it, though -- the scorpion waited 'til after the fox had crossed the river before it stung. Clever scorpion.

But getting back to Janeway and Chakotay, I still think she owed him a big apology yet amazingly enough, in the final scene, it's him that apologises to her. Chakotay is far nicer than I'd be in his situation. I don't mean to get at Janeway but I really am annoyed at the way she has behaved these past two episodes, But more than that I'm annoyed that evidently the writers aren't even aware that her actions have been out of line. I honestly don't think they've given much thought to how they're portraying this character, just so long as it serves the plot. Big mistake. She's their lead character, the centre of the series, she deserves better than that (and so do we, the audience).

Another aspect I disliked was Harry's extremely abrupt recovery. I mean, come on! The last episode made things look so bleak that to have him recover in practically the blink of an eye is a dramatic cheat. I've no problem with the Doc's nanoprobe idea working (indeed it was important to the main story) but it just felt too easy, too quick. At the very least he should have been out of the picture for the remainder of the episode in recovery (though I did like B'Elanna's cruel "hey, you've still got a tendril on your nose"). I guess we can overlook this. But what happens next? We get a Miraculous Cure (TM) for Janeway as well and no sooner is she lying half-dead on a bio-bed than she's back in command of the ship. Come on! "I'm two for two" notes the Doc smugly, but really, such dramatic turnarounds do not make for satisfying, plausible storytelling.

So far I've outlined the episode's problems. So what does work, you might ask. Quite a lot, it so happens. Once again the story is told with a confidence and lustre that I rarely associate with Voyager. It doesn't have the sheer impact of the first part, but it remains a rich, thoroughly engaging hour of sci-fi. Even if the plot has some problems, it's written with tremendous pace and spark, brought to life by Winrich Kolbe's striking, visually-stunning directing. Mind you, it's hard to go wrong with such superb production values. The special effects were spectacular, if anything better than those in Part I. They still remind me of Babylon 5 only less cartoonish. I think that whilst they have certainly mastered CGI, they ought to still incorporate some model work. As I said in my original review, the models often look more convincing than CGI ships (if you need any convincing, watch the movie Insurrection). Good job, though.

On other fronts, I once again commend the creative team for constructing such wonderfully atmospheric sets (the Borg ship remains eerily alien and visually dynamic) and the Borg themselves again look frighteningly convincing (the Borg which looks up when they receive the message from the Collective in the cargo bay looked supremely scary!). Oh, and Jay Chattaway's score was tremendous, easily his best in years. The music is wonderfully epic and bombastic, particularly memorable at the end of the teaser. I also appreciated the "theme" used for Species 8472 which he picked up from the first part. Excellent work -- more, please!

All in all, this is a strong episode marred only by some dramatic cheats (ie, the miraculous cures) and the fact that Janeway seems to have gone well and truly off the rails. But Scorpion is quite easily the best story Voyager has yet told. It was exciting, entertaining, thought-provoking and absolutely captivating. It made good use of Voyager's central premise as, for once, the crew had to face the consequences (gasp!) of being stranded alone in the Delta Quadrant. But more importantly it made the Delta Quadrant actually interesting for once. In short, it combined all the main (and mostly under-utilised) ingredients that Voyager ought to be about and weaved them into a terrific little story which ironically was only really marred by the woefully unsympathetic characterisation of it's main protagonist. Not a good pair of episodes for Janeway, but fortunately the rest of us (or at least I) can't same the same.

Rating: 8


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