the story: A futuristic Borg is accidentally created.
what it's all about: "Drone" is often compared to Next Generation's "I, Borg" insofar as both feature a sympathetic Borg drone. "I, Borg" was an instant revelation all the way around, not only for Hugh's appeal but Picard's shot at intellectual redemption from his experiences in "The Best of Both Worlds." "Drone" doesn't attempt to make grand statements about the Borg Collective itself, but rather a companion analysis of what it means for Seven to exist outside of the Collective and retain her individuality. It doesn't hurt that One is as appealing a drone as Hugh was, in his own ways.
The whole episode is an exercise in how much storytelling potential remains in the Borg. "I, Borg" actually gave birth to a Collective in Next Generation ("Descent") that seemed to have been choked up by the hive mind reassimilating an individual. The sophistication of the Collective was later expanded, first in First Contact and then in Voyager. Some fans approach this with trepidation. They don't like their treasured memories (the definitive "Best of Both Worlds," mostly) tampered with, and don't believe there is anything else to be gained from featuring the Borg in further adventures.
How One is created is itself fascinating, and may be one of the clues as to how the Borg came about (there's an explanation in the books, but as I like to say, I don't put stock in conclusions from the books). Unlike every other Borg we've ever seen created, he isn't the product of assimilation, but rather technology that has sampled DNA and extrapolated a drone from it. Some of the technology is from Seven, and some from the Doctor's mobile emitter, which was created from future tech (as seen in "Future's End"). The episode posits that the result is in fact a drone that suggests the Borg's future, and that One's main dilemma is falling into the hands of the Collective. I find the reasoning a little spotty, as the Collective necessarily assimilates new technology all the time, and whether or not it's advanced for humans (the Vidiians, for instance, have medical technology far in advance of Starfleet's) is well beside the point. But the drama remains. If you interpret One's dilemma as merely deciding he doesn't want to join the Collective, regardless of the circumstances, it still works.
A large part of the reason is does is the compelling guest performance from J. Paul Boehmer, whose last notable appearance was in "The Killing Game" as a Nazi, while he'd appear again in Enterprise's "Carbon Creek" as a Vulcan. I always liked to think of him as someone the franchise would've eventually given a recurring role to if it hadn't ended the way it did in 2005. He would've earned it with "Drone." While Seven puts in a typically strong appearance, Boehmer carries the episode handily, which is a good result for any guest actor and rare enough to celebrate when it happens.
- franchise - An essential Borg episode.
- series - Affirms what Voyager had been doing with the Borg all along.
- character - Reflects the course of Seven's evolution nicely.
- essential - Even if you're not already hooked on the Borg, this is terrific drama.
J. Paul Boehmer