The Great Star Trek Voyager Rewatch: Scorpion

The time that the Voyager crew have dreaded for months has arrived – the ship has finally reached Borg space. Whilst attempting to plot a safe course across territory controlled by the Federation’s most fearsome enemy, Voyager stumbles into a war – between the Borg and an adversary even they cannot assimilate. With this new alien race proving even more hostile and intractable than the Borg, Janeway decides to risk everything on an alliance with the Collective.

Scorpion was always an episode that bore the weight of many expectations, introducing as it does both the Borg as a regular recurring enemy, and the character of Seven of Nine. It’s also a bit of a step change for Voyager, marking the point where the series really kicks it up a gear. From season four onwards, we have bigger and better villains, more interpersonal relationships between the characters, and more action-packed two-parters, not to mention the chance to see Seven of Nine in a catsuit every week. As the gatekeeper to this new and improved Voyager, Scorpion may not be perfect, but it’s still very good.

Even for a two-parter, Scorpion manages to pack a lot in. It introduces not only the familiar threat of the Borg, but a brand new species from a whole other dimension. Harry Kim gets injured and almost dies; Janeway makes an alliance with the Borg; Chakotay breaks the alliance whilst Janeway is unconscious in sickbay, and then everything works out with the deployment of some well-timed photon torpedoes. Seven of Nine is introduced and then severed from the Collective, and there’s still time for Janeway to stop by the holodeck to potter around in Leonardo da Vinci’s studio. It can sometimes feel like a bit much, but at least you can never accuse this episode of being dull!

Introducing…

  • Seven of Nine: a new regular crew member, Seven of Nine was born Annika Hansen, but was assimilated when she was a little girl. Having grown up as a Borg, can Seven readjust to life as a human? Will she even want to? Tune in over the next four seasons to find out!
  • Species 8472: a species encountered by the Borg in so-called fluidic space, Species 8472 use organic spaceships genetically similar to themselves, and have a hatred for all inferior life forms. The Borg intended to assimilate them, but were unable to, and instead found themselves on the losing side of a conflict – at least until Voyager comes along.
  • Leonardo da Vinci: a new recurring holographic character. Janeway will enjoy spending time in his studio from time to time, and he’ll even get to visit a real planet in Concerning Flight.

Nevertheless, Janeway persisted

It’s time for a periodic examination of Janeway’s motives and actions. At the start of the series, Janeway was all about the Prime Directive no matter what the cost to Voyager – hence both destroying the Caretaker’s array and refusing to steal Sikarian technology in Prime Factors. Here, however, we see her involving herself in a war between two non-Federation powers, because the only alternative is to give up on the journey home. What happened to the Prime Directive?

It’s not safe to say that Janeway would do anything to get the crew home, or she would have either used the Caretaker’s array straight away, or been more ruthless in her dealings with alien species right now. However, right from the start we’ve seen her be fiercely protective towards the crew. Remember how she threatened the Vidiians in Phage? And yet, making an alliance with the Kazon, which could have made life easier, was utterly distasteful to her. At the end of next season, in Equinox, she will be so disgusted with how Captain Ransom betrayed his Starfleet principles to get home faster, that she starts torturing a member of his crew. What’s the coherent narrative here?

Maybe it all stems from that protectiveness, mixed with a measure of guilt for having stranded these people in the Delta Quadrant in the first place. The rules and principles of Starfleet are important to Janeway, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t driven to do everything she can to get everyone home – with the caveat of stopping along the way to look at interesting nebulae and anomalies. When it seems like she’s overstepping the boundaries of the Prime Directive, she has no doubt already justified it to herself. In this case, she’s convinced herself that it’s fine to interfere, because the alternative is not just to give up on home, but to let Species 8472 potentially overrun the galaxy. When viewed that way, of course she should help the Borg and gain safe passage in return. Nothing else makes sense!

Then we come to Chakotay. It almost seems odd that the non-Starfleet first officer should be the moral conscience of the show, but when you think about it a bit more, Chakotay has always been driven by his conscience. After all, it was his principles that led him to abandon his Starfleet career and join the Maquis in the first place.

However, I am a little uncomfortable with Chakotay’s scorpion parable. This is the man who talked Janeway into attempting an alliance with the Kazon, but in fact he has this racist bullshit in his back pocket. Of course, he was talking about the Borg, the one race it’s probably ok to hate, but even so.

Other bits and pieces

  • Naturally, with this being a Borg episode, there are plenty of references to Captain Picard, and the events of both Q Who? and The Best of Both Worlds.
  • Seven of Nine was assimilated eighteen years ago, long before the Enterprise-D encountered the Borg for the first time. We’ll discuss this more in upcoming episodes.
  • Chakotay says that the Breen use organic ships, although I don’t recall this being the case in DS9. Of course, we have seen organic ships on Star Trek before, such as Gomtuu in Tin Man.
  • Are the Borg so strapped for projectile weapons that they need to use Voyager’s photon torpedoes? Since the Borg have already assimilated many Federation members, they must know how to manufacture photon torpedoes anyway.
  • When I first watched this episode, severing Seven of Nine from the collective seemed quite an arbitrary way to get Jeri Ryan on the crew. On this rewatch, it does seem like a sensible move in order to stop Seven from assimilating Voyager.
  • Chakotay not only references the events of Unity, but goes on to use a neural link to connect with Seven. Maybe this is the point where their mutual attraction really began?

Lost, crashed or destroyed shuttlecraft running total: 7

Possibly salvageable shuttlecraft running total: 5

Number of times the entire crew gets kicked off the ship: 2

Number of times Voyager gets destroyed: 1

Summary – Scorpion: In which Janeway manages to avoid getting assimilated by the Borg, and gets a new crewmember to boot.

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