(written from a Production point of view)
Seven encounters three ex-Borg with whom she had been temporarily separated from the Collective eight years previously.
Dusk on an alien world. A Borg sphere streaks through the sky before crashing on the surface.
Night on a foggy, swampy world. A Borg drone walks through the mist. It is joined by a second, and then a third. Finally a fourth appears. The fourth is Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix 01. They gather near a dead drone. They assess their situation: their vessel has crashed, they seem to be the only survivors, and their link to the Borg Collective has been cut. Seven of Nine notes that the wrecked vessel's transwarp chamber will explode imminently, and leads the other three drones away from the area. They take the corpse of the dead drone with them.
2376, Eight Years Later
The USS Voyager has docked at the Markonian outpost. Captain Janeway has authorized a technology and culture exchange, giving the crew an opportunity for shore leave. The bridge is bustling with crew and aliens. Janeway is in her ready room, the room packed with gifts from different visiting alien delegations. Commander Chakotay brings another. Tuvok arrives, not with gifts, but a report (not one, not two, but three pages long) detailing minor theft and damage of some ship's equipment and crewmembers' personal items, but Janeway, along with Chakotay, is nonetheless pleased at how things are going.
In Astrometrics, Seven of Nine, now a former Borg drone, is working. Naomi Wildman, enters and reminds her of their lunch date. Seven tries to delay it until she has finished, but Naomi's plaintive complaints that she promised makes her stop and agree. They leave together. Outside, the corridor is crowded. Naomi politely asks for space for them to pass, but her small voice cannot be heard over the din. However, Seven's loud, imperious command to "Stand aside!" gets them their required space and they proceed to the mess hall.
They sit together in the mess hall, observing the aliens mixing with the crew. Naomi begins identifying them by Borg species designations, but Seven sternly chides her, reminding her that both she and Ensign Wildman disapprove of this. The presence of the large crowd begins to disquiet Seven; she explains that crowds remind her of the Borg Collective. Naomi sympathetically suggests that they leave.
They are about to do so when a burly, middle-aged man with a scarred face approaches. "Are you Seven of Nine?" he asks. When Seven guardedly affirms, he opens a case and shows her some Borg implants. Seven leaps to her feet, looking as if she has seen a ghost. She remembers the events seen in the Teaser. She identifies the implants as Borg synaptic relays from her old unimatrix, Unimatrix 01. The man offers them to her in trade. Seven agrees, takes them and quickly leaves. The man walks way.
However, he does not go far. He stands looking around. Then he mentally relays the following information: Stage two is complete. She has the relays. She's going to study them. In Engineering, a woman mentally receives the message and, also mentally, relays the location of Seven's alcove to him: Cargo Bay 2. A young man in a crowded corridor also receives the message. The three agree to rendezvous at the older man's position, and conspire to penetrate ship's security.
The four marooned drones extract parts from the corpse of the dead drone to build a com beacon to contact the Collective. Three of them bear resemblance to the three conspirators. But, as they work, severed from the hive mind, their personalities and pre-assimilation memories begin to reassert themselves. One begins recalling the religious beliefs of his people regarding the treatment of the dead. Two others ask him about it. Talk of individuality starts. But Seven of Nine sternly instructs them to cease the irrelevant talk; they are Borg, not individuals.
Seven and Chief Engineer Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres examine the Borg synaptic relays in Cargo Bay 2, Seven's 'quarters'. Meanwhile, the three conspirators discuss their course of action, seated together in the mess hall. At first, they do it mentally, but then they switch to verbal communication. There is some contention over whether or not they should actually go through with whatever they are planning, but they eventually agree to proceed.
In Cargo Bay 2, Seven, now alone, sets up one of the relays for a multi-polar analysis. The computer informs her that the analysis will take 5 hours and 17 minutes to complete. She decides to pass the time by regenerating. She installs herself in her alcove and goes into the cycle.
In the mess hall, the three conspirators, by tapping into the ship's computer through the relay, sense her regeneration. They begin using this access to reroute internal sensors. But, on the bridge, Lt. Commander Tuvok notices the change at his Tactical station when an alarm on his console beeps.
The three conspirators wait at a turbolift as its occupants disembark. When it is empty, they board. As the lift begins to move, the woman mentally has the computer halt it. The older man begins undoing the bolts on a grate in the car's ceiling. On the bridge, Tuvok alerts First Officer Chakotay of a power failure he has detected in the security grid. As the three conspirators make their way through the ventilation shafts and drop down quietly in Cargo Bay 2, Chakotay informs Captain Janeway of the detected security breach.
The conspirators move to Seven's alcove. The man unwraps a cloth, revealing some Borg components. The woman exposes one of her legs, scarred with Borg implants, revealing her to be, like Seven, a former Borg drone. The others are, in fact, former drones as well; they were the drones Seven was marooned with those years prior. The woman removes an implant from her leg, a Borg interlink nodule, and inserts it into the control console of Seven's alcove. The young man begins to worry about possible harm to Seven, but the woman urges him to remember that "if we fail, we'll never become individuals." The young man nods. He plunges his assimilation tubules into Seven's neck.
The older man, looking at the components in his hand, reports successful access of Seven's memory files. But they then note with alarm that Seven has become aware of them and is trying to wake up. Her eyes open and she angrily fights them off. Tuvok, accompanied by two of his security officers, enter with phasers and stun the intruders.
Having removed the salvageable parts from the dead drone, Seven of Nine and the other three survivors have found a use for the organic remains of its body: food. Seven of Nine roasts the remains. The act, however, brings up pre-assimilation memories in her; memories of camping with her father as a child. The other three drones eat. But the act of eating, and the taste of the flesh, serves to bring more pre-assimilation memories to mind. Without the Collective to dam it, the stream of memories begins to grow. They each begin to remember their names, their species, and what they were doing when the Borg attacked and assimilated them. They are Lansor, P'Chan, and Marika Wilkarah. Lansor was eating with a group when he was assimilated, while Wilkarah was a Starfleet officer assimilated on the USS Excalibur. When they study their implants and prosthetics, the full appreciation of their assimilation paralyzes them in horror.
But, unlike Seven of Nine they were all assimilated as adults. The sense of individuality that comes with adulthood is therefore nothing new to them. But to Seven of Nine, who was assimilated as a child and grown up as Borg, and therefore did not have that full experience of individuality before she was assimilated, this sense of individuality is terrifying. Angrily, with fear in her voice, she orders the others to stop their conversation and not to speak until the Collective re-assimilates them.
The three former drones lie in sickbay. Seven and Captain Janeway listen to the condition report from The Doctor. Seven now recognizes them; the older man was Two of Nine, Primary Adjunct of Unimatrix 01; the younger man was Four of Nine, Secondary Adjunct of Unimatrix 01; and the woman was Three of Nine, Auxiliary Processor of Unimatrix 01. The Doctor reports that the removal of their implants was badly botched. This is evident; their bodies are badly marred with scars and Borg implants. Their organs, he continues, were badly damaged by the procedure. He then shows them the reason for their ability to speak to each other mentally: the left parietal lobes of their brains were transformed into interlink nodes, linking them together in a "mini-hive mind." How this was done, he cannot say. Janeway orders him to wake them. She demands of them what they want with Seven.
They explain their situation: they are trapped in this link that holds them together. They discovered it when they were retrieved by, and re-assimilated into, the Collective, and were unable to break it after they escaped. Thus, even though they are no longer Borg, they are unable to be individuals. They dream each other's dreams and constantly hear each other's voices in their heads. The strength of the link is evidenced by their smoothly finishing each other's sentences, as if it were one person speaking. It is maddening, they tell them; they want it to end. Seven, they assert, has, in her memory files, the key to understanding how this link was formed, which could show how to break it. Seven tells them she cannot consciously recall anything relating to this, but she is willing to allow them to access her memory files in the hope of finding out. Janeway agrees and authorizes the procedure.
In Cargo Bay 2, Seven, Lansor, P'Chan and Marika use the Borg data equipment that Seven has to check their memory files. The four each realize the same thing: there is a gap between the time they were gathered round the fire with which they roasted the organic remains of the dead drone and when they were again a part of the Collective. This is greatly frustrating to Lansor, P'Chan and Marika.
Captain Janeway is in her ready room disciplining two of her senior staff: Ensign Thomas Paris and Ensign Harry Kim. The two got into a street brawl on the station. She confines them to quarters with instructions to report to the Sickbay for treatment of their injuries first. When they have gone, Seven enters and reports the gap she and her fellow former drones discovered in their memories. She cannot understand; the Collective would not bother to wipe memories of re-assimilation from the minds of retrieved drones; new drones, yes, to further cement the destruction of their individuality, but not drones that already exist. Nor is there any advantage in linking the minds of three drones together within the hive mind, which is already one giant linkage.
Seven suggests a possible solution: she can link her neural interface with theirs, in effect, joining their group link. Together, they may be able to restore the missing memory data. This is dangerous, however; Seven may become trapped in the link with them. Also, she finds the idea of again being in a group mind very disturbing. But she greatly desires to help her fellows, former drones like herself. Janeway agrees to the procedure.
The Doctor is in Cargo bay 2 with Seven and the other former drones. He is there to monitor the link. But, he warns Seven, he will not be able to do much should anything go awry. She understands this. She enters her alcove. Lansor, P'Chan and Marika each take one of the other three alcoves next to Seven's. They all install themselves and the process begins.
Seven of Nine has left the other drones. The beacon they have set up to contact the Collective has worked; a Borg vessel is on its way. But Seven has detected another drone some distance off in the swamp, severely damaged. She goes to attempt to render assistance. But to no avail; she watches as the drone convulses and, finally, dies.
This greatly heightens her fear. She rushes back to the other drones. But, on arrival, she finds that their individuality has now completely re-asserted itself. They angrily state that they have no intention of rejoining the Collective. Seven, even more frightened now, angrily and fearfully tries to argue, insisting that they are Borg, not individuals, with their primary function being to serve the Collective. But they will not listen. They decide to leave the area, getting away from the beacon and modifying their cortical nodes to avoid the sensors of any drones that come down to look for them. They scatter. Seven looks on fearfully. She appears to come to a decision, and strides after one of them.
She finds Two of Nine. She grabs his neck and plunges her tubules into it. He goes silent and stands quietly. When Seven moves away, he follows. She then finds Four of Nine. She comes up behind him and does the same to him. He becomes like Two of Nine and follows her. Lastly, she finds Three of Nine. As she screams and struggles, Seven plunges in her tubules. She becomes like the others. Seven asks them to state their designations. They do so, with no hint of their individuality. She asks them to state their purpose. To serve the Collective, they respond. Satisfied, she leads them back to the beacon.
Seven awakens to find Lansor, P'Chan and Marika in her face. They are furious now, knowing that she is responsible for linking them together. Overwhelmed, Seven screams for help. Tuvok enters the bay immediately. The three former drone collapse, and The Doctor asks him for help in getting them to Sickbay.
In breaking the new link prematurely, the ex-drones have sent themselves into neural shock indefinitely. As Lansor, P'Chan and Marika lie sedated in the Sickbay, The Doctor sadly informs Seven that the old link between them can be broken by removing the micro-cortical implants. These are the implants that she created in them to link them together. But doing so would kill them; they would have a month at most to live. The only other solution would be to return them to the Collective, where they would live, but as drones. The Doctor wants her opinion on what to do. Seven leaves to think about it.
She goes to Chakotay. As he himself was once temporarily linked to a mini-collective of former Borg drones, she considers him the best person to advise her on what to do (VOY: "Unity"). She explains the situation, and tells him about what happened that night. Without any air of judgment, he asks her why she did what she did. She thinks about it, and responds that her extreme fear of dying alone on that planet, cut off from the Collective, which was all she knew, got the better of her. Thus she forcibly linked them together so that they would remain together with her until they were re-assimilated. Her guilt over doing so is evident; because of her action they now have no choice but to re-join the Collective or die within a month. Chakotay tells her that that one month of individuality is much better than a lifetime as a drone. "Which would you choose?" he asks her. This allows her to decide.
She heads back to the Sickbay and tells The Doctor to remove the nodes. The Doctor objects, however. He tells her that it is his duty as a physician to preserve their lives for as long as possible, even if that means returning them to the Collective. He asks her if her decision is really to help them or to alleviate her guilt.
But she responds by using him as an example; once he was confined to the Sickbay, and limited only to the original emergency medical protocols he was first activated with. Thus he was like a drone. Now he can go anywhere and his program has grown to encompass much more than what it used to be. If he had to go back to "being a drone again", she asserts, he would resist. Lansor, P'Chan and Marika have the opportunity to be free, independent individuals, even if it is only briefly. They would choose that over being drones again, as would he, and as would she. The Doctor is moved by the logic of the argument. He agrees to remove the nodes.
Lansor, P'Chan, and Marika, the nodes removed and the link broken, are in the mess hall, looking out the windows. They revel in the newfound silences in their heads, save for each's own mental voice. Seven is standing apart from them quietly.
They decide on what they are going to do with the time they have left. Lansor decides to stay on the station and spend the time meeting new people and doing new things. Before he leaves, he looks at Seven. The memory of what she did shows in a flash of anger on his face, but that is replaced by a look of gratitude. He departs. P'Chan decides to leave for an uninhabited planet a few light years away. He wants to spend his time among nature. He holds no grudge against Seven, telling her his people do not believe in doing such. He wishes her well and leaves. Finally, Marika tells Seven she would like to stay on Voyager for as long as she has left. Unlike Lansor and P'Chan, she does hold a grudge against her. But, she tells her that, though she cannot forgive her, she understands the reason for her action. Seven accepts this.
Voyager has resumed course and is at warp speed. Seven is in astrometrics. Naomi Wildman joins her. She has heard about the events that have occurred and has come to offer Seven some close company. Seven is glad for it.
- "Captain's Log, Stardate 53049.2. We've docked at the Markonian outpost and agreed to mutual visits, so I'm allowing shore leave to anyone who wants it. Commander Tuvok has objected to taking on too many visitors, but security issues aside, I'm looking forward to a cultural exchange, and making some new friends."
- "Captain's Log, supplemental. Seven of Nine has decided to undergo the procedure that will link her mind with the other drones. Despite the risk involved she feels an obligation to help these distant cousins."
"It's never a good sign when the patient feels the need to comfort the doctor."
- - The Doctor, to Seven of Nine
"YOU stay here and be reassimilated, if you want to. I won't."
- - Marika Wilkarah, to Seven of Nine
"Doesn't it look like Christmas morning in here, Commander?"
"You have to admit, the generosity of our guests is very impressive."
"As is their proclivity for criminal behavior." (Presents PADD) "This morning's security report."
(Reads) "Broken ODN line, some missing personal items, damaged scanner relay. All in all not that bad."
"There is a second page to the report."
(After reading further) "Well, some of these incidents are a little more serious, but on balance, I still think we did the right thing."
"There is a third page."
- - Janeway, Chakotay, and Tuvok, regarding the Markonians' gifts in Janeway's ready room
"We wanted to broaden our understanding of alien cultures and…"
"Skip the recruiting speech. You were looking for a bar."
- - Paris and Janeway, who isn't buying his explanation of how he and Kim got arrested after a brawl on the station
"It's got me by the hair!"
- - Janeway in reference to a rather large plant
"The biomatter is ready."
"It tastes similar to a bird I once ate…"
- - P'Chan and Marika Wilkarah, (as a recent drone) eating the campfire-roasted animal, apparently referencing the old "chicken tastes like everything" joke
"Survival is insufficient."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Eight years ago, I forced them to return to the Collective. I won't make the same mistake again. They deserve to exist as individuals. We must terminate the link between them."
- - Seven of Nine explains to the Doctor why it is necessary to terminate the link between Lansor, P'Chan, and Marika Wilkarah, even though it would likely leave them only about a month to live
- This episode had the working title "Untitled 7 of 9".
- This is the first of two Voyager episodes written by TNG/DS9 writer Ronald D. Moore.
- The final draft script for this episode was submitted on 17 June 1999.
- Bertila Damas previously played the Vulcan Maquis member Sakonna in DS9: "The Maquis, Part I", "The Maquis, Part II". Vaughn Armstrong also appeared on DS9, playing Danar in "Past Prologue" and Seskal in "When It Rains...", as well as appearing in TNG as Korris in "Heart of Glory" and having several other roles in Voyager, notably Telek R'Mor in "Eye of the Needle". He later played Admiral Maxwell Forrest on Star Trek: Enterprise. Tim Kelleher previously had portrayed Ensign Gaines in TNG: "All Good Things...".
- The costume worn by the stunt actor portraying Ilon Tandro in DS9: "Dax" is used by a background alien in this episode.
- This is the tenth time the crew of Voyager discover a direct connection between the Alpha Quadrant and Delta Quadrant, having previously discovered a wormhole connecting the two quadrants ("Eye of the Needle"), descendants of human abductees ("The 37's"), descendants of aliens who have visited Earth ("Tattoo"), a Cardassian weapon ("Dreadnought"), Ferengi ("False Profits"), former Borg that were assimilated in the Alpha Quadrant ("Unity"), descendants of Earth dinosaurs ("Distant Origin") a communications network that extends to the Alpha Quadrant ("Message in a Bottle"), and another Federation starship ("Equinox"). In this episode, they meet another former Borg that was assimilated in the Alpha Quadrant, namely Marika Wilkarah of the USS Excalibur.
- This is the only time in which Seven of Nine is shown having assimilation tubules injected into her neck.
- Amongst the visiting aliens from the Markonian outpost in this episode are several Voth from VOY: "Distant Origin".
- Marika mentions she served on the USS Excalibur. The Excalibur was the ship commanded by Commander William T. Riker in TNG: "Redemption II", also written by Ronald D. Moore.
- A Mawasi cruiser can be seen near the outpost at about 22:45 into the episode.
- When the three former Borg are in the mess hall and again later in the turbolift, a member of the Evora species can be seen.
- Traditionally, Bajoran names have the surname first, personal name second. However, the group refers to the Bajoran, Marika Wilkarah, by her surname, Marika. It was noted in "Ensign Ro" that some Bajorans changed their names to have the surname last in order to better assimilate into non-Bajoran society.
- This episode, and in particular, Seven of Nine's statement that "survival is insufficient" is a recurring motif in the novel Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, which won the 2014 Arthur C. Clark Award.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 6.1, 28 February 2000
- As part of the VOY Season 6 DVD collection
Links and references
- Robert Beltran as Commander Chakotay
- Roxann Dawson as Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres
- Robert Duncan McNeill as Ensign Tom Paris
- Ethan Phillips as Neelix
- Robert Picardo as The Doctor
- Tim Russ as Lieutenant Commander Tuvok
- Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine
- Garrett Wang as Ensign Harry Kim
- Vaughn Armstrong as Lansor (Two of Nine)
- Bertila Damas as Marika Wilkarah (Three of Nine)
- Tim Kelleher as P'Chan (Four of Nine)
- Scarlett Pomers as Naomi Wildman
- Jonathan Breck as the Dying Borg
- Majel Barrett as the Computer Voice
- David Keith Anderson as Ashmore
- John Austin as operations officer
- Richard Bishop as operations officer
- Julie David as command officer
- Marvin De Baca as Patrick Gibson
- Christine Delgado as Susan Nicoletti
- Brian Donofrio as science division officer
- Carter Edwards as command division officer
- Tarik Ergin as Ayala
- Erin Price as Renlay Sharr
- Christina Rydell as command ensign
- Joey Sakata as sciences officer
- James Lee Stanley as alien visitor
- Susie Stillwell as alien visitor
- Simon Stotler as operations ensign
- Unknown performers as
analysis; Ansha; assimilation; Bajoran; bar; bearing; bird; Borg; Borg alcove; Borg sphere; Brothara; Christmas; computer; confined to quarters; cortical implant; cortical processor; criminal behavior; Dornar; Excalibur, USS; Federation; Hansen, Magnus; Inavar Prime; interlink module; interlink node; internal organ; kilo; Kinbori; Markonian; Markonian outpost; Markonian outpost station manager; marsupial surprise; memory cascade; microcortical implant; Morphinian; multi-polar analysis; nanoprobe; neural interface; neural link; neural shock; neuronal pathway; night watch; nostalgia; ODN line; Orendal V; parietal lobe; physician; pizza; Planet 1865-Alpha; power conversion matrix; recruiting speech; saying; scanner relay; Shivolian; shore leave; Species 571; station manager; supernatural deity; swamp; synaptic relay; tennis; transwarp chamber; unimatrix; vine; Voth; Voyager medallion; white noise; Wildman, Samantha; worship; xenophobic
- "Survival Instinct" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Survival Instinct" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Survival Instinct" at Wikipedia
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