When Seven of Nine punches a weapons dealer and then has a panic attack in sickbay, The Doctor suspects that she might be reliving the trauma of some past event. He decides to help Seven uncover her repressed memories, only for her to recall that the weapons dealer Voyager was trading with stole her Borg nanoprobes without her consent. Horrified at the prospect that Seven was violated, Janeway launches an investigation.
I feel very uneasy about Retrospect. I do think that Star Trek should tackle difficult issues, but what we end up with here just doesn’t feel right. Essentially, the plot of the episode is that The Doctor gets all gung-ho and helps Seven uncover some repressed trauma. Ultimately, her memory of being violated by weapons trader Kovin turns out to be false and not at all backed up by evidence, but the damage to his reputation is such that Kovin takes his own life.
I appreciate that there is a story to be told about reputational damage and false accusations, but essentially what we have here is a rape allegory in which it turns out the victim was mistaken – and that’s what makes me feel uneasy. We live in a world where many rapes aren’t reported, where women who have been violated all too often face an uphill struggle to bring their attacker to justice. And an episode like this is a big reminder of how powerless and alone the patriarchy can make those women feel. If the moral of the story was to be the damage caused by a false accusation, then don’t make it about pseudo-rape. It could have been centred on an accidental death that the crew came to believe was murder, only to find out they were wrong.
Worse yet, there are actually worthwhile things to explore in this episode which somewhat fall by the wayside here. Seven of Nine has actually undergo many experiences that must now seem horrific to her – the Borg altered her body and filled it with implants, and then in turn, as a drone, she assimilated many others. Let’s explore how she deals with those memories in light of her reawakened human morality.
The other plot point which feels a little shoehorned in at the end is The Doctor’s guilt over making a mistake – an emotion which leads him to request that he essentially be reinitialised. His hubris led to a mistake, and his initial reaction is just to delete his personality; ostensibly to stop such an error from happening again, but likely because he cannot face living with the guilt. This idea isn’t really given enough screentime to really feel like a developed storyline – and of course Janeway denies his request anyway – but it will be revisited to much better effect in season six’s Latent Image.
Points of Note
- A couple of points from earlier episodes. In Prey, Janeway says that, as Species 8472 are impervious to Voyager’s sensors, they will have to track the alien visually. Surely anything which can be seen by the human eye can also be detected by the sensors? The eye might be a relatively sophisticated organ, but it only detects a very narrow range of frequencies. I refuse to believe 24th century sensors can’t manage that much.
- Second, I forgot to mention that Seven has spoken of how Borg children are placed in “maturation chambers” for seventeen cycles, however long that is. Although it’s not entirely clear, it seems like the point is to accelerate their growth to adulthood, so that they can become useful drones as soon as possible. Presumably the Borg babies that Riker found in Q Who were in maturation chambers.
Lost, crashed or destroyed shuttlecraft running total: 11
Possibly salvageable shuttlecraft running total: 7
Number of times the entire crew gets kicked off the ship: 2
Number of times Voyager gets destroyed: 2
Summary – Retrospect: In which Seven gets nanoprobe-raped. Or does she?