“Resistance is not futile?”: I, Borg (TNG) vs. The Gift (Voyager)

Star Trek: The Next Generation – “I, Borg” (season 5, episode 23)

i borg 7Written by Rene Echevarria; directed by Robert Lederman; first aired in 1992

(IMDb|Memory Alpha)

Investigating a mysterious signal on an unpopulated moon, an Enterprise away team find a crashed Borg scout vessel, its crew dead … except for one young, injured Borg drone. Dr. Crusher insists that this drone needs immediate medical attention, and deserves it as much as any other injured person. Captain Picard very reluctantly agrees, and brings the Borg onboard the Enterprise so “it” can be treated, even as the drone’s presence brings old traumas back to the surface for him, and for Guinan, whose civilization was all but wiped out by the Borg. As the patient, Third of Five, recovers, Picard tasks Geordi LaForge and a protesting Crusher with implanting a computer virus in Third of Five, so that his eventual re-integration back into the Borg Collective will be the end of them. But as the work progresses, LaForge develops doubts of his own, as he gets to know the newly-christened “Hugh”; and Hugh himself learns that resistance may not be futile, and that, while individuality outside the Collective can be lonely, that loneliness can be kept at bay by making friends. Both Guinan and Picard are furious to learn that their shipmates are treating a Borg drone as a “pet.” But an actual conversation with Hugh – who has begun referring to himself as “I,” rather than “we” – quickly convinces first Guinan, then Picard, that Hugh can no longer be treated as either a drone or an enemy combatant, and that they can’t, in good conscience, use him as a weapon against the collective. With another Borg ship is on its way to retrieve their crashed scout ship and its crew – Hugh included – Picard offers Hugh asylum; but knowing that the ensuing confrontation with the Borg would probably cost his new friends their lives, Hugh asks to be returned to the moon’s surface. There, Geordi watches as Hugh is retrieved by his fellow Borg and reconnected to the Collective, and we are left wondering if his newfound individuality will infect the Borg with a virus, of sorts, after all.

VS.

Star Trek: Voyager – “The Gift” (season 4, episode 2)

gift 6Written by Joe Menosky; directed by Anson Williams; first aired in 1997

(IMDb|Memory Alpha)

As a damaged and partially Borg-ified Voyager makes its way through Borg space in the aftermath of “Scorpion, Parts 1 & 2,” Captain Janeway must decide what to do with the newest addition to her crew: Seven of Nine, the only surviving drone left aboard after Janeway’s short-lived alliance with the Borg. During her time apart from the Collective, Seven’s human body has begun to reject its Borg implants, even as Seven herself demands to be left on a planet, to be retrieved by the Borg. As an unconscious Seven’s condition worsens, Janeway goes against her wishes, and orders the Emergency Medical Hologram to de-Borg-ify her as best he can, so that she can reclaim her humanity and her individuality. Once she wakes, though, Seven insists that she neither remembers being human nor wants to be an individual, and even after agreeing to help Torres and Kim remove the remaining Borg hardware from the ship, she can’t resist the opportunity to jury-rig the ship’s subspace transmitter to attract the Borg, hoping they’ll re-assimilate her. Meanwhile, Kes’s telepathic and telekinetic abilities have been off the charts since her encounter with the Borg’s nemesis, Species 8472, and she’s able to stop Seven’s signal … by warping reality. But as impressive as Kes’s new abilities are, they’re increasingly unstable and dangerous, and she ultimately decides to leave Voyager in a shuttlecraft before those abilities can destroy the ship – a decision Janeway reluctantly accepts. While Janeway helps Seven through her anger and grief over her lost connection to the Borg collective, a departing Kes uses her powers to give Voyager a little push, safely depositing the ship beyond Borg space, ten years closer to home. The crew resume their journey without Kes, as Seven accepts a crew com-badge of her own, and admits that she might remember a little bit about being human.

i borg 1I’ve argued before that Star Trek isn’t about humans encountering alien civilizations, so much as it’s about learning to see and accept the humanity in our fellow humans. In Star Trek, I’ve argued, all sentient life is “human.” While some of its alien civilizations have been fleshed out more fully than others in the decades since we first saw Mr. Spock on the bridge of the Enterprise, those civilizations have always been depictions of alien-ness second, and metaphors for humanity first. Most aliens in Star Trek exist not to be unfathomably different from us – as actual alien life almost certainly would be, if we ever encountered it – but to be pointedly not so different. From classic Original Series episodes like “Balance of Terror” and “The Devil in the Dark” to films like Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, from The Next Generation’s “Darmok” to Deep Space Nine’s “Emissary” to Discovery’s “Will You Take My Hand?”, Star Trek has, at its best, made a habit of bridging the gap between its humans and its aliens, and of reminding us, in the process, that no matter how different someone might seem from us, they are just as human – just as deserving of being treated humanely – as we are.

gift 1I’ve also argued that, if humanizing the “other” is a crucial part of what Star Trek does, then surely that makes the Borg the quintessential Trek villain. “The Borg are the ultimate user,” Q once said, which is another way of saying that the Borg deliberately, systematically, and quite literally dehumanize every “other” – every species, culture, and individual – they come in contact with. If Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets are meant to broadly embody our best impulses as humans, then the Borg embody our worst. They are the extreme but logical endpoint of unchecked expansion, of efficiency unburdened by ethical or critical thinking: an anti-society, seemingly incapable of empathy or curiosity, laying claim to everything while appreciating nothing. So, yes, the Borg, as they were originally presented to us, are the antithesis of everything Star Trek stands for in its best, most inspiring moments, the boogeyman lurking under the bed while Gene Roddenberry dreams of a utopian future. But then again, the very idea of a “quintessential villain” isn’t very Star Trek-y, is it? Boogeymen, in Star Trek, usually turn out to be not as scary – or, at the very least, not as unreachably inhuman – as we’d think on first seeing them, and if a giant rock-slug that melts people can be humanized in “The Devil in the Dark,” then why can’t the Borg? What, in fact, could be more quintessentially Star Trek-y than to show that even the ultimate dehumanizers can be humanized?

i borg 2Now, to be clear, in fiction as in reality, acknowledging someone’s innate humanity doesn’t – or at least shouldn’t – absolve them of the harm they’ve done, or are doing, or are going to do. In The Next Generation’s “I, Borg,” the humanization of Hugh is all the more impressive for how efficiently the episode reminds us, before that, of just how big a threat the Borg are in this fictional universe, how much death and destruction they’ve wrought, and how understandable it is for our cast of characters, usually so humane and open-minded, to hate and fear them. Through Guinan, one of the few survivors of a civilization mostly wiped out by the Borg, we’re reminded that they are probably responsible for more deaths than we have a point of comparison for in the real world. (Billions? Hundreds of billions? Trillions? What comes after trillions, again?) Through Captain Picard, we’re reminded of the existential horror of being assimilated by the Borg, of first having your free will taken away and then being used as a tool to rob others of their own. And when Doctor Crusher objects to weaponizing Hugh, or Third of Five at that point, against his fellow Borg on the grounds that “even in war” Starfleet doesn’t “kill civilians indiscriminately,” Commander Riker reminds her, and us, that “there are no civilians among the Borg” – that no Borg drone poses less of a danger than any other, since the individuals they once were have already been weaponized by the Collective, just as Picard was when he was forced to lead the war effort against Starfleet as Locutus of Borg.

i borg 8These seem, on paper, like pretty good reasons to believe that the Borg could never be anything other than an enemy of the Federation – a belief which is, again, understandable coming from the perspective of characters who have to share a fictional universe with the Borg, and who live in danger from the unique threat they present. But while the Borg may be a unique threat in the Trek universe, the way they’re talked about in “I, Borg” isn’t unique; it sounds, in fact, a lot like the sorts of things that real-world humans say about their human enemies, right here in the real world. Riker’s remark that “there are no civilians among the Borg,” in particular, is uncomfortably indistinguishable from the real-world rhetoric of war propaganda, rhetoric which refers to the taking of civilian lives as unavoidable “collateral damage” – an action with only logistical consequences, excusing us from considering the moral or ethical implications. And if this analogy feels at all like a stretch, consider the use of the phrase “total systems failure” in that full exchange between the senior staff, below, and tell me it doesn’t remind you of ghastly real-world wartime euphemisms like “collateral damage”:

LaForge: If this works the way I think it will, once the invasive program starts spreading, it’ll only be a matter of months before the Borg suffer total systems failure.
Picard: Comments?
Crusher: A question: what exactly is “total systems failure?”
Data: The Borg are extremely computer-dependent. A systems failure will destroy them.
Crusher: I just think we should be plain about that. We’re talking about annihilating an entire race.
Picard: Which, under most circumstances, would be unconscionable. But as I see it, the Borg leave us with little choice.
Riker: I agree. We’re at war.
Crusher: There’s been no formal declaration of war.
Troi: Not from us, but certainly from them. They’ve attacked us in every encounter.
Picard: They’ve declared war on our way of life. We are to be assimilated.
Crusher: But even in war, there are rules. You don’t kill civilians indiscriminately.
Riker: There are no civilians among the Borg.
Picard: Think of them as a single, collective being. There’s no one Borg who is more an individual than your arm or your leg.
Crusher: How convenient.
Picard: Your point, Doctor?
Crusher: When I look at my patient, I don’t see a collective consciousness. I don’t see a hive. I see a living, breathing boy, who’s been hurt and who needs our help. And we’re talking about sending him back to his people as an instrument of destruction.
Picard: It comes down to this: we’re faced with an enemy who are determined to destroy us, and we have no hope of negotiating a peace. Unless that changes, we are justified in doing anything we can to survive.

i borg 3Much like Deep Space Nine’s eerily prescient “Homefront” and “Paradise Lost,” much of the exchange above feels like it could have been written in direct response to the post-9/11 “war on terror,” despite the fact that “I, Borg” first aired nearly a decade before that war began. (It’s impossible for me, today, to hear Picard say, “They’ve declared war on our way of life,” and not immediately think of that infamous line from then-American President George W. Bush, “They hate our freedoms.”) The twist here, of course, is that most of these simplistic, “convenient” euphemisms are actually, literally true in this case; after all, by the very nature of their science-fictional premise, the Borg really do present an existential threat to the Federation’s entire way of life, and there really are no true civilians among them, no non-combatants – at least not among drones who haven’t been disconnected from the Collective, as Third of Five has. But that, I think, is part of the genius of “I, Borg”: it takes an argument which would be ethically indefensible in the real world, places that argument in a sci-fi context in which it might, actually, be defensible … and then proceeds to argue definitively against it, anyway.

i borg 4And when I say “genius,” I mean exactly that; “I, Borg” is a masterpiece. Much like “The Measure of a Man” before it, “I, Borg” is seminal Star Trek, an episode which both takes full advantage of Trek’s science-fictional universe and sets forth a mission statement of what that fictional universe is, at its best, about. It’s not perfect, of course, because nothing is. It has its achingly on-the-nose moments, like Guinan faking a fencing injury to teach Picard a lesson about letting his guard down (because an injured Borg drone is still dangerous, get it?), and Geordi’s sudden inspiration to call Third of Five “Hugh” instead of, you know, “you”; but let’s face it, if on-the-nose writing really, really bothers you, then you probably stopped watching Star Trek a long time ago. A more serious problem, perhaps, is the seemingly out-of-character callousness with which all of our regular characters, aside from Doctor Crusher, originally embrace their openly genocidal plans for Hugh. Granted, Picard and Guinan do so from a place of canonical trauma, and it’s entirely possible that everyone on the Enterprise’s senior staff lost at least someone they cared about to the Borg in the catastrophic events of “The Best of Both Worlds.” Still, seriously, only Crusher initially raises any ethical concerns about a) turning a sentient being into a “walking bomb,” and b) using that “bomb” to wipe out an entire civilization? On your first watch-through, you might say that this isn’t the sort of thing we’ve come to expect from The Next Generation’s enlightened 24th-century humanity, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But even if it is a bit out of character, it’s done for a very specific reason: so that we, the audience, can share in their experience of gradually coming to understand that Hugh isn’t just a drone, but a person, and realizing, as a result, that nothing justifies using him as a “human bomb,” because nothing justifies dehumanizing anyone that way.

i borg 9The entire episode, in fact, is tightly structured around the crew’s evolving relationship with Hugh, and their evolving acceptance of his basic human rights as a result, to the point that their original willingness to use him to defend themselves is eventually replaced by a willingness to potentially sacrifice themselves to protect his human rights, when they offer him asylum aboard the Enterprise. Again, I’m using “human” in the philosophical, non-biological sense here, since we’re never explicitly told whether or not Hugh is biologically human under all those Borg implants; and at any rate, I’d say this episode makes a pretty deliberate point of treating his pre-Borg identity – who or what he is, exactly – as irrelevant to his personhood and autonomy (which, as we’ll discuss below, is a pretty striking difference between this episode and Voyager’s “The Gift”). “I, Borg” is almost structured as the process of making first contact with an individual, rather than a world or culture. This starts, I think, in the episode’s opening lines, in which Counselor Troi describes the star systems they’ve been sent to chart, in hopes of colonization, as “beautiful, but frightening at the same time” – again, maybe slightly out of character for someone who’s spent years exploring deep space, but an accurate description of what it might be like to attempt first contact with an alien culture. On first encountering Third of Five, only Doctor Crusher sees him as anything other than “frightening” – at least partly because that’s her job, though it’s also worth noting that this is very much in character for her, and is consistent with her actions in, say, “Who Watches the Watchers.” She doesn’t need to have any big revelation here, because her first impulse, professionally or otherwise, is to already see Third of Five in terms of what he needs, not in terms of what he has done or might do; while LaForge and Picard make impersonal, clinical observations of his behavior, as he searches for technology to interface with after first regaining consciousness, Crusher empathizes with him instead, and guesses that “he must be hungry” for energy.

i borg 6As would probably be the case in any first contact scenario, others take longer to come around to being as accepting and open-minded as Crusher is here, and the rest of the episode charts that progress. And it’s during this process that, as with Crusher, the characterization is spot-on, however questionable it may have been to start with. LaForge is the first to follow in Crusher’s footsteps, first taking a more conversational tone with Third of Five, then naming him Hugh, and finally confronting first Guinan, then Picard, with the humanity he himself has come to see in Hugh. While he does spend more time with Hugh than almost anyone else on the crew, I also suspect – even if it’s never explicitly mentioned in this episode – that LaForge’s bond with Hugh is at least somewhat informed by his friendship with Data, another life form who made individual “first contact” with the Federation, and whose “humanity” and basic rights have been questioned in the past. And while Guinan’s initial firm stance against humanizing Hugh is uncharacteristic for her – if understandable, given her history with the Borg – the way she overcomes her prejudice, and helps Picard overcome his in turn, is anything but uncharacteristic. It’s not just that she changes her mind about Hugh after listening to him, in classic TV bartender fashion; where LaForge suggests that listening is what Guinan does best, I’d argue that what she really does best is advocate for the people and positions that others aren’t willing to hear (as she does in “Ensign Ro,” “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” and any number of other episodes). It’s also perfectly characteristic for Picard to be swayed by Guinan’s advocacy, even when he’s seemingly already made up his mind. And since his surprising willingness to use Hugh as a weapon stems from his own traumatic history as a former drone himself, it’s a fitting, beautiful, and relatively rare (for TNG) bit of continuity-driven character development when he exorcises the ghost of Locutus of Borg by impersonating him and giving Hugh orders, only for Hugh to reject those orders and assert his own independence from the Borg.

gift 7It could be argued, I think, that “I, Borg” would have made a fitting final chapter in the story of the Borg, or at least in the story of the Borg as they were first presented to us in “Q Who,” the Federation’s greatest threat and polar opposite. After all, we start this episode seeing the Borg as still very much the ultimate, implacable threat that Q first introduced to Picard as evidence that 24th-century humanity wasn’t ready for what was waiting in the outer reaches of the galaxy; but by the end of “I, Borg,” the crew of the Enterprise have come full circle, and have made an unprecedented connection with a Borg drone, with the potential to change Federation-Borg relations in the future, precisely by walking the talk of their 24th-century human values, and seeing the humanity in someone seemingly so different from themselves. And I suspect that at least some of The Next Generation’s writers might have agreed that “I, Borg” should have been an ending of sorts for the Borg, given that the only other drones we meet between “I, Borg” and the end of the series – in “Descent,” the two-part cliff-hanger that ends season 6 and begins season 7 – have been significantly changed by their attempts to re-assimilate Hugh and his newfound individuality. But ultimately, going back to the well of the Borg as a relentless, inhuman enemy was too tempting for Trek’s creative teams to resist, especially when they needed a big-screen-worthy threat for the film First Contact, or a hook to attract new viewers to Voyager and Enterprise. It appears that the new series, Picard (debuting in a little under two months, as of the time I’m writing this) might return to some of those larger implications raised by both “I, Borg” and “Descent.” But Voyager further explored the smaller-scale implications of “I, Borg,” and showed us, instead, what might have happened if Hugh had stayed on board the Enterprise, by introducing another recovering drone, soon-to-be-fan-favorite character Seven of Nine.

gift 2Seven first appears in Voyager’s own between-seasons cliff-hanger, “Scorpion, Part 1,” and Jeri Ryan first officially joins the show’s main cast in the opening credits to “Scorpion, Part 2,” during both of which Seven is still a full-fledged Borg drone, acting as Janeway’s liaison with the Collective during their uneasy and short-lived alliance. But it’s the following episode, “The Gift,” in which Seven, now disconnected from the Collective, actually begins the process of integrating into Voyager’s crew, and discovering her own individuality, which will be the focus of her character arc throughout the rest of the series. This is signalled to us already in the episode’s opening scene, which immediately stands in contrast with “I, Borg.” Where “I, Borg,” opens with the beauty of an unexplored solar system, then scares us with the crashed Borg ship, “The Gift” opens ominously on a partially-assimilated Voyager making its way through Borg space, its exterior still dotted with bits of scary-looking Borg technology, and then transitions to Captain Janeway asking the Emergency Medical Hologram, about Seven, “So, how’s the newest addition to our family?” The central question of “I, Borg” is what should be done with Third of Five, but in “The Gift,” Janeway straight-up tells us, in the first line of the episode, exactly what she thinks should be done with Seven of Nine: she should be welcomed, not just as part of a crew, but as an “addition” to their “family,” which shows an attitude towards Seven which could not be more different from Picard’s early attitude toward Hugh. “I, Borg” asks whether Picard can accept that Hugh might be more than just a drone, but “The Gift” has Janeway immediately assume that Seven is more than a drone, and the episode asks, instead, whether Seven is willing or able to accept Janeway’s assumption as reality.

gift 5This fundamental difference between the episodes is also embodied in the performances of Jonathan Del Arco as Hugh and Jeri Ryan as Seven, which, again, could not be more different from each other (in these particular episodes, at least). We’re told early in “I, Borg” that the unconscious Third of Five appears to be an “adolescent,” and from the moment the character regains consciousness, now separate from the Collective, Del Arco plays him essentially as a lost child: vulnerable, curious, and, crucially, impressionable – open to the positive influence of his de facto parental figures, Crusher and LaForge. Ryan, on the other hand, plays Seven as a character largely defined by her force of will, and whose reaction to being separated from the Collective is nearly the polar opposite of Hugh’s; she initially refuses to learn from her rescuers or be influenced by their way of doing things, and when she does agree to help Torres and Kim de-Borg-ify the ship, she simply can’t resist her desire to contact the Borg, to have her connection to the Collective restored. Even by the episode’s end, when Seven has come around to accept her place in her new “family,” Ryan’s performance, while now much more subtle, still seems to emphasize Seven’s force of will. The Seven we see at the end of “The Gift” hasn’t been changed, like Hugh, but has decided to change, and is, I think, exerting a great deal of self-control to keep herself on that newly-chosen path, already establishing the approach that Ryan will take to the character throughout much of the rest of Voyager.

gift 3And as I alluded to above, Janeway’s marked interest in Seven of Nine’s pre-assimilation past, and in her literal, biological humanity, also sets “The Gift” apart from “I, Borg,” in a way that I think is pretty significant. The Enterprise crew, once they come around, see Hugh as, essentially, something new; he represents their first experience with a Borg individual, as opposed to a Borg drone. Janeway, on the other hand, hopes to restore Seven to what she was before she became Borg: a human named Annika Hansen. Not only is her pre-Borg identity referenced repeatedly in “The Gift” – in a way that Hugh’s pre-Borg identity is never referenced, or even asked about, in “I, Borg” – but it’s a memory from Annika’s childhood (“Her favorite color was red”) that indicates, at the episode’s end, Seven’s new willingness to be something other than Borg. Beyond “The Gift,” her past as Annika would continue to be referenced occasionally as the series went on, but I think it’s important to note here that Jeri Ryan would continue to play Seven not so much as someone re-learning to be human, but as a Borg individual learning to work and socialize with humans, which was by far the more interesting choice, in my opinion; Seven of Nine was something new to Voyager, where Annika Hansen would be just another human stranded far from Earth, on a ship full of them.

gift 8The fact that there just happens to be an assimilated human among the Borg of the Delta Quadrant – and that Janeway just happens to encounter that human, among all the other non-human drones she could have encountered in Borg space – doesn’t bother me for reasons of logistics or believability, as I imagine it might bother some viewers. No, what bothers me about it is how hard Voyager seems to be working, here, to pick up where the story of “I, Borg” left off, while ignoring (if not actively contradicting) its core message: that all sentient individuals are inherently deserving of autonomy and human rights, regardless of what they are, exactly. Whatever the intention behind this episode, what we see on screen strongly implies that it’s what Seven is – human, in the literal sense – that makes her deserving of Janeway’s efforts to help her cope with and embrace her newfound individuality … which forces me to ponder some uncomfortable questions about how differently Janeway might have treated Seven if she weren’t literally human, or at least another fellow Alpha Quadrant-er. Again, this uncomfortable essentialism is an element of Seven’s story that Voyager would back off from a bit going forward, and I think the writers, and Ryan herself, deserve credit for that wise choice. But it’s that essentialism which, I think, causes some thematic confusion here in “The Gift,” especially when it comes to balancing the episode’s two major responsibilities: welcoming the character of Seven to Voyager, while simultaneously saying a rushed goodbye to Kes.

gift 4It’s probably an understatement, in fact, to say that “The Gift” rushes through its escalation of Kes’s abilities to almost Q-like levels, and her subsequent decision to leave the ship. (This goodbye, it’s worth noting, came after Jennifer Lien’s name had already been removed from Voyager’s opening-theme credits and replaced by Ryan’s, starting in “Scorpion, Part 2”; Lien is credited only as a guest star in “The Gift,” the episode tasked with explaining why Kes would no longer be on the show.) Personally, as I’ve noted before, I feel that Kes was badly underrated and underutilized throughout her time on Voyager, especially for a character whose sci-fi premise, aging much faster than humans and living only a few years, is so unique in Star Trek, a fictional universe filled with species who live much longer lives than humans. As a result, I find it frustrating that the show’s creative team opted out of finding ways to do justice to a female character they didn’t feel comfortable sexualizing, and instead simply replaced her with someone they were clearly comfortable sexualizing (a conspicuously regressive move by this nominally progressive franchise, perhaps foreshadowing Enterprise’s often abysmal treatment of the even-more-blatantly-sexualized T’Pol). I don’t want to take anything away from Jeri Ryan, though, who was perfectly cast as Seven, and whose character really was an excellent addition to the show, and to Trek in general (see: the overwhelming flood of online joy when her role in Picard was announced). And to the credit of “The Gift,” I’m glad that the character of Kes, at least, was allowed to leave by her own choice, as contrived as the circumstances around that choice might be; if an actor must leave a show, I’ll take a contrived “I have to go” from their character over a contrived death scene any day, and the scene in which she explains that choice to Janeway, and the two say their heartfelt goodbyes, is a genuinely touching moment, and a great performance from both actors.

But while Kes leaves the ship by her own choice – a choice Janeway respects, as much as it saddens her – Seven is denied the right to make that choice herself, and is essentially forced to stay aboard Voyager against her will. Seven calls Janeway “hypocritical” and “manipulative” as a result, and honestly, it would be hard to argue that she’s wrong; as she points out, “You have imprisoned us in the name of humanity, yet you will not grant us your most cherished human right: to choose our own fate,” to which Janeway responds, “You lost the capacity to make a rational choice the moment you were assimilated […] and until I’m convinced you’ve gotten it back, I’m making the choice for you.” Again, this couldn’t be more different from the approach ultimately taken by Picard in “I, Borg,” where he’s willing to put his entire crew at risk if Hugh should choose to ask for asylum – and also respects Hugh’s final decision to sacrifice himself for the safety of that crew – simply because Hugh is entitled, as an autonomous individual, to make that choice. It’s hard to see how Seven, disconnected from the Collective just as Hugh was, isn’t equally entitled to make her own decisions, or how Janeway could possibly be justified in declaring herself the judge of when Seven will become so entitled, especially given that she makes no real attempt to prevent, or even dissuade, Kes from making her own equally impulsive choice to leave. Now of course, we know that Kes leaving the show was a production choice, not a creative one, which accounts for some of the strange contradictions there. And I don’t think it would be an inherent mistake for “The Gift” to allow Janeway’s motivations to be contradictory and questionable, if the episode were to properly acknowledge those contradictions, and encourage us to question them. But I don’t believe it does encourage us to question Janeway’s actions. I think we’re meant to see her as being right to deny Seven the freedom to choose, because in “The Gift,” Seven’s autonomy is less important than her humanity, and Janeway sees herself as being right to deny Seven the former until she has fully reclaimed the latter. And that – as much as I enjoy “The Gift,” and appreciate its induction of Seven into Voyager’s crew – makes me a bit uncomfortable.

 

 

 

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