Monday, September 4, 2017

Voyager 5x7 "Infinite Regress"

rating: ***

the story: Seven embodies the lives of multiple drones before they were assimilated.

what it's all about: The plot itself can be found in the bones of other episodes, and might come off as too gimmicky to take seriously, but there's a lot of significance below the surface, which I will attempt to unpack.

The first is that "Infinite Regress" actually serves as a kind of prequel to next season's "Child's Play," in which Icheb, another former Borg drone to end up with the crew, is revealed to have an origin much like the one used to justify the gimmick here.  The gimmick, then, is another terrific expression of the ways Delta Quadrant natives react to the existence of the Borg.  Previously, and no doubt stubborn fans will cling to the idea, it might have seemed natural there was no adapting to life among the Borg, since assimilation was surely inevitable.  But dating back to the fourth season finale, "Hope and Fear," Voyager had already mined some ripe storytelling ground from the subject.  "Child's Play" doesn't seem to have been linked to "Regress," but clearly the ideas are similar, and they have considerable merit regardless, demonstrating an exceedingly clever way to turn "I, Borg" from Next Generation on its head.  In that episode, Picard inadvertently "poisons" a Borg cube's Collective (as suggested in the later "Descent," it was across the entire Collective, but the idea was later rescinded, starting with First Contact).  But if you can't damage the whole thing, surely it's worth striking out at the cubes knocking at your door.

The second is that while it may not be much of a Seven spotlight, given that nothing here really has anything to do with her so much of something she experiences (giving Jeri Ryan something interesting to do, at any rate), it's instead a wonderful follow-up for Naomi Wildman, who a few episodes earlier ("Once Upon a Time") had taken on new significance with the permanent casting of Scarlet Pomers in the role.  Naomi was part of a tradition of youthful characters in the franchise, characters with a mixed bag of results.  Age-wise she was similar to Next Generation's Alexander, but as of "Regress," she demonstrates the ambition of that series' Wesley Crusher.  Only, she's not as cloying as either of them.  Rather, Naomi manages to humanize the concept, and is the rare character who doesn't let Seven's Borg connection dominate her image.  The two end the episode bonding.  This was always the Voyager method.  If it was mostly an episodic series, where stories began and ended more or less in a single episode (aside from the first two seasons), Voyager took the original series approach of making sure the main characters always reflected in some way on how the events affected them.  If Kirk and his pals would end an episode with a quip, Voyager did it with scenes like this.  This was a crew that knew it only had each other, so there was rarely a moment lost to show it.  It gave the series a truly unheralded depth.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Interesting take on living near Borg.
  • series - Anticipates a later episode.
  • character - Advances Naomi Wildman's character.
  • essential - At its heart still pretty formulaic.
notable guest-stars:
Scarlet Powers (Naomi)

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