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Seven of Nine Faces Death for the First Time; But is Her Soul the Only "Imperfection" of the Episode?

Posted: 06:44:33 on October 12
By: Steve Krutzler
Dept: Reviews - Voyager

Reviews Ex Deus
"Imperfection"
Written for TrekWeb.COM by 'O. Deus'

Seven needs an upgrade and Icheb's Oil: Janeway takes up grave robbing

With Imperfection, Voyager ventures into ER\medical drama territory and emerges with an episode that has some good moments but really doesn't have much to distinguish it from average medical drama filler. There have already been far too many Voyager episodes that hinge on 7 of 9 and her emotional well-being. Now, contrary to the various impolite rumors that make their way around, this is not because of who Jeri Ryan may be dating, but because she's been cast as a Spock\Data character. Spock\Data characters tend to be the exotic other, the pivot of the show, the distinctive characters who refract and reinterpret humanity for human audiences. Plus 7 of 9 is also a new character and producers and writers have been known to respond to a feeling of ennui with existing characters by bringing in "exciting new characters" and devoting most of the attention to them. Combine the two with 7 of 9's costume and demographic "appeal" and the result is a Frakenstein's monster, a character guranteed to be one of the worst screen hogs of all time.

That isn't the problem though. There's nothing wrong with an interesting character who takes up plenty of screen time and overlays the characters that don't work as well. Spock, Data, Odo and the EMH are played by talented actors who have the routine down cold and are fun to watch on screen. They're weird yet appealing, quirky yet deep and isolated yet emotionally vulnerable. 7 of 9 is all these things but she's not particularly interesting mainly because 7 of 9 isn't an alien, just a human being recovering from a cult-like experience who's neurotic and somewhat more capable than the average person with pieces of molded tin sticking out of her head. This isn't all that captivating by itself and worst of all as an actress Ryan isn't anywhere in the ranks of Nimoy, Auberjonois or Picardo. Where Spock or Odo could reflect superhuman torment, Ryan can only manage ordinary human torment and so an episode about 7 of 9 facing death is in Borg terms, merely a dramatic interlude about a human female confronting her existence. With a stronger actress it might have worked better but ultimately all Imperfection could hope to be is an ordinary medical drama. At its heart it's the kind of thing ER would have sandwiched between ongoing plot arcs about major characters. And as for its soul, fortunately for Voyager Icheb turns up as the soul of the episode.

Early on I was the first critic of the Borg Kiddie plot-line, but there's no question that it has paid off in spades and Icheb himself has emerged as the star of the group. Where episodes like Haunting made nice interludes, Prodigal Son was a dark and harrowing piece that upstaged the regular cast and was one of the high points of last season. And while the focus of Imperfection must remain blandly on Jeri Ryan's acting class attempt at portraying a character torn by conflicting emotions, it's Icheb's charachter and David Livingston's direction that pull back Imperfection from the brink of mediocrity. That's not to say that Imperfection has no shortage of dull moments. In fact it's mostly dull moments and no matter how hard Picardo channels Dr McCoy until it seems as if he might actually start chewing on pieces of the set, there's only so much time we can spend watching Ryan's mediocre rendition of "the dying patient routine" that the writers themselves have grown up watching.

See 7 of 9 staring blankly into space in sickbay, see 7 of 9 bravely trying to conceal her disease, see 7 of 9 engage in outbursts of frustration, see 7 of 9 try to come to terms with God, see 7 of 9 be manipulated by reverse psychology. It might be all very interesting assuming you had never watched television, seen a movie or read a book before. It might be very dynamic and heartfelt acting if you were deaf, dumb and blind. Furthermore, since unlike the medical drama patients we know damn well, 7 of 9 is not going to die by the end of the episode the entire thing reaches a new level of pointlessness becoming so trite it doesn't even qualify as emotionally manipulative anymore. 7's strongest scene is probably with Torres who finally gets to act like a professional adult and a human being around 7 instead of constantly being forced into catfights but it's mainly because of Dawson's abilities and the shock value of the moment.

Still Livingston breaks away at the first chance he gets to go grave robbing with Janeway and Co. 7 of 9 needs a node, so obviously Janeway must risk an encounter with the Borg to go get her a new one. Never mind that previously Janeway had orderered Tuvok to abandon both her and Chakotay rather than risk encountering the Vidians in search of a cure but obviously 7 of 9 is far more crucial to Voyager than the ship's Captain and first officer. In a shockingly honest scene towards the end of the episode, 7 of 9 explains to Janeway exactly why Janeway places so much value on her and the answer is in keeping with Janeway's control-freak personality. It also helps explain why in Imperfection, Janeway least resembles a Starfleet Captain. How many times do we need to go through this routine in which Janeway sets off to do something insane and foolhardy on her own and has to be talked out of it by Chakotay or at least talked into bringing backup with her. When was the last time it happened? Only in the last episode so that Imperfection manages to recreate nearly perfectly a scene in which Janeway's crew badger her not to go on this suicide mission against the Borg alone. But of course Janeway being the best Starfleet Captain in the Delta Quadrant (since the death of Captain Ransom) and the worst Starfleet Captain in the known universe we are dragged through this same tried routine again.

Chakotay: Captain, won't you please take some crew members with you to save your ass in case of trouble the way Starfleet regulations dictate.

Janeway: Well, being superhuman and capable of doing anything and everything on my own, I don't actually need any of you lowly mortals but I'm touched by your expressions of loyalty and fidelity and will allow you to accompany my royal self for the purposes of light banter and food in case we get stranded.

Still, Livingston clearly has a lot of fun shooting Borg interiors and while Janeway goes to the gruesome task of dissecting corpses for parts in the Borg equivalent of a cemetery, she and her band of "Ressurection Men" are surprised by aliens who claim the Borg graveyard for itself. Janeway once again proves absolutely useless in a fight and when they get back, the whole thing turns out to have been for nothing. Well not for nothing. It does feature a great scene of the Delta Flyer dogfighting the alien craft amid gigantic orbiting piles of Borg rubble. That might have made a great episode. Too bad it didn't. Still, Imperfection does pick up as Icheb's part in all this picks up. Sure a good deal of this material feels recycled from Drone with Icheb as surrogate son and linking Borg language to emotional trauma but it works much better here mainly because we've grown to know Icheb and his emotions come across as that of a real person. The ending remains predictable and emotionally manipulative but it does provide character growth and while I'll take a good reset button story over character growth any day, we do need a major life-changing experience to get 7 over the hump and over to the more human side and hopefully this is it. Hopefully this is it for the Seven emotional growth episodes for a while too.

After all last episode Seven finally fell in love. This episode she finally accepted her mortality. What would they do for a follow up, marry her off? No, apparently they intend that fate for Paris and Torres; coming up next.

TREKWEB TALKBACK

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Imperfection
By Jean-Luc (cooljeanluc@startrekmail.com) at 20:17:48 on October 17
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As I read the survey and the review responses, I'm glad I wasn't the only one pleased with this episode. I don't know what it was, but right after it ended, I said to myself "Wow, that was a really good episode!" I think my expectations were low after the blah two-parter but I felt this episode was almost on par with 'ER' or at least 'Ally McBeal'! I have new respect for the Icheb character and I'm now wondering what will happen if Seven ever has another cortical node problem in the future...

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Please explain to me . . .
By Anonymous Coward (anon@ym.ous) at 08:39:34 on October 16
URL: http:// | User Info
. . . about the new Delta Flyer. I would have thought that they would have at least mentioned about building a new one. Maybe I missed something there. I felt like maybe I missed an episode or something.

And whatever happened to the Borg baby. I kind of forgot about it (I guess the writers did also), but when the borg children left the ship I thought, "Hey, what about the baby they also recovered?"

I generally like Voyager, but loose ends like these make me scratch my head sometimes. Any comments would be appreciated to straighten me out.

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Critic Inventory
By GreatScott (photodeal@aol.com) at 05:38:29 on October 15
URL: | User Info
First of all, I am sure you will find flaws with this post. My spelling, sentence structure, and grammer are all incorrect. Still, after much thought, and some reading, I find it pleasurable to take an Inventory not of Voyager, but of those who are Critics.

Let us first concider those who are avid watchers of the shows but have no other affiliation to it. I am talking about the guy who sells insurance in Omaha, the one with a 2 walled cubicle, posters of stock options and hundreds of post-it notes stuck everywhere of potential suckers. What happaned to your imagination? Didn't you find the Star Trek universe to be a wonderful escape from each and everydays monotony?
Didn't you first love the show for how it would thrust you into a fantasy world (one that you always wished to be in yourself) and brought you something else to dream of since your world left you unfulfilled? Sure we all wish to be heard concerning those things we find in life that we love. And that is just it. It is obvious you have once loved all the excitement an thrills of entertainment brought to you by ST. I appeal to you, find inside once again those small places that remind you of your youth, your exploritory attitude, and your curious wonder. Let those things back in, and ST will never fail to keep you satisfied with delight, heighten your awareness, and create a new attitude of joy for those around you. Yes, even your real world will reveal undiscovered uniqueness once you remove the sour critisism.

How about the other types? Like the ones who watch ST and yet have NEVER liked it. I question how deep you have really understood yourself. Why waste the time it takes each week to sit in front of a T.V. (1 HOUR) and ponder at all the mistakes and flaws? There may be a few different items of interest here. Either you are a closet lover of Star Trek, Voyager, (or maybe Jeri), or you are seeking attention from those of us who actually do love the show. If case number one is true than I urge you to let go of your fear of others and embrace the essence of ST like the rest of us. There is no shame here in that. Sci-fi buffs have always thrived off of the possibilities presented in each portrayal wether in book, television, or movies. The desire to explore, drift, grow, express honor, courage, and humanity have always been a deep part of entertainment, and certainly so in science fiction. Sci-fi is the ultimate expression of our creative dreams and goals. IF case number 2 is true of you...... then well, party on! (sarcasm)

Now about the real critics, there is much to say. If you are paid to have an opinion than I suppose you have convinced someone that your opinion matters. People read, watch and listen to all that you have to say. It is almost a surity that you must find the weakness in all that you review since the people want to know if it is worth their time. So, here some of us understand your job. Still again, I ask you this. When was the last time you really rated something the way you wanted to? When was the last time you felt complete licence to write with total freedom? If you hate the ST world, then review what you love instead. I, as a person, want to know more about what is right with any given thing than what is wrong. You may believe that this is a minority view, but I submit that it is a growing one. Every reviewer of any medium who considers this, will find an audience they never knew existed. Also, we as readers do know that as a reviewer you are missing an important part of the process...... creation! A reviewers job is to look at what another person (or hundreds of people) has worked hard for, spend hours in writing, molding, shaping, building, shooting, and editing, and then gives their (humble) opinion on how worthless or how great it is. We as your audience know that you have not created anything which is actually involved in the very product you review. If you were involved, then your review may be tainted, but still, the creation is the most important part of love for any given thing. I am sorry you are missing out. It is most clear that due to your desire to review, you actually do like to feel involved.

To those who review nothing but negative things.... man, I fear your path a bitter one. Stop taking whatever resentment you have out on the Shows you review. Voyager didn't live up to your standards? Poor baby! Hey, why don't you take the time to really sit and write a killer episode yourself.. post it on THIS site and let US review YOU? I promise to read the whole thing, and give maybe not a humble opinion, but a very honest one. I love science fiction, and if you do also then it will show up in your script. We then will see it and let you know if it is good. I won't be bias towards you for being negative, I will read and be levelheaded about your ideas. If it is good, you will know. Then, we will really listen to you. Maybe the studios will like it too, and give you a new career, the one you actually wanted. Even if it not so good, you will still have the experiance of real creation that you shared with all of us.

In ending I would like to say to all who critique wether paid, invited, asked, or just plain wanted to...... please find love in what you do. Become again an enthusiast about things and share in that bond with us your audience. Why separate yourself so severely by being rude and compulsive? We really want to trust your thoughts and your direction, but we need to know that you try to find the greatness in things more than the errors. We need to know that you are also excited, overwhelmed, glad, and looking in wonder at the world around you. Separation, egoism, negativity and distructive rambling will only leave you with an audience of one in time. (and I know first hand)

Good luck to all of you, insurance guy and all. Remember your dreams and add them to all you do. Watch ST and other things as well as a child does, stay open to the universe of play and pretend. We know you really want to deep down inside!

Ryan

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mostly true, but ...
By Anonymous Coward (anon@ym.ous) at 00:54:54 on October 13
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I found the review to be mostly on the mark, except for one thing - Jeri Ryan's acting. I think Jeri Ryan is a great actress. Just look at episodes like Infinite Regress and the Voyager Conspiracy and you will see a great actress struggling with the dialogue she is handed by less than stellar writers. What Voyager really needs is some new writers who can think up storylines that can't be predicted after the first five minutes. Then the actors can truly shine. Every so often the writing and acting mix to make some great episodes (more and more with the Doctor lately), but mostly the acting is lost to the sucky script. I watched Seven Days right before Voyager this week and I can't tell you how excited I was to have predicted the episode wrong - those writers were truly creative and made a great episode. I also can't tell you how disappointed I was to turn on Voyager after it and go through the same whole routine with the captain and her psycho away mission and "don't go alone." Thankfully the episode started to redeem itself toward the end when the script started getting good and the acting improved along with it. I'm not an actor, but I can only imagine how hard it is to act out a bad storyline. And does anyone else find it weird that the first episode after the premiere for the last three seasons has been a silly Borg/Seven episode? I'd think they'd go for a little variety. Well, next week's episode looks interesting, and I hope they make it as good as it looks like it will be.

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Well this episode was actually pretty good!
By Steve Krutzler (s_krutzler@trekweb.com) at 18:15:48 on October 12
URL: http://trekweb.com/brittandsteve | User Info
[goddamn computer friggin deleted my whole essay after i wrote it and now allow me to ATTEMPT to remember all of what I had written, god damn that really pisses me off!]

I disagree with Deus' review for the reason that long ago I made the decision to not judge Voyager based on its tendency to rehash. Originality has clearly never been the show's strong point and I find that when I evaluate a show more on its merits alone I can enjoy it more.

The dialog was much sharper than the usual Voyager episode. Lines like "37 doesn't sound very approximate to me" come to mind, and many others I can't remember. But the point is that they weren't corny and trite as usual, even compared to a show as proximate as last week's embarrassing Borg affair.

While I know Voyager too well to ever think they would do it, I was hoping they'd have the foresight to have the whole ordeal boil down to a reasserting of Seven's human physiology, which was rejecting the node. But as Voayger is the story of missed opportunities (many of which seem blatantly obvious), a great opportunity to set up compelling character repercussions for this final season is wasted. I did, however, like the ending involvement of Icheb (whose ending soliloquy dismayed me after that loaf-of-bread-like performance that lasted him the balance of the episode).

I know we're all sick of the Seven episodes time and again, but this was the first really good Seven episode since The Gift. One sucked. Suvivial Instinct sucked. Drone wasn't about her anyway. This was the first show about her where she really seemed to develop and face real issues.

I also found the dialog in the Seven conversations with Janeway and Torres particularly "on" this week around, with each character speaking insightfully and not chock-full of cliched medical drama lines.

I was dissapointed in the lack of usage of Chakotay in an episode dealing with spirituality, but then maybe its retaliation for his comments about the writing staff... it's like a mobius strip, I guess.

The only things that were the usual Voyager-level of corniess of just plain annoyance were Janeway's nonchalance about going into the Borg yet again only a week after being assimilated (almost trivializing Picard's ordeal, which apparently was horrific enough to base an entire feature around four years ago... no more apparently), and Chakotay's "we might all end up with cortical nodes," which while sharper than the usual Chakotay line, it struck a chord of annoyance with me because here's Chakotay sounding off all fearful of the Borg yet last week they just defeated them embarrassingly for yet the fourth or so time? I mean, come on. Also, those cigarette car lighers in the heads of everyone... christ... how silly.

Well before I hit any MORE buttons and totally lose this essay for the THIRD time, I better post it. I probably forgot half the points I had in the previous attempts but ce'la vi (however you spell that)...



---

-Steve Krutzler
==V/-/== Rocks.

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Duh. You have to like the show...
By Imbarkus (imbarkus@mindspring.com) at 11:57:48 on October 12
URL: http://imbarkus.home.mindspring.com/library/trek.html | User Info
...to like this episode. Why? Because it's chock full of character interactions within the crew, with some of the better, most natural hand-wringing ever used for a "crewmember might die" episode--but if you didn't like the characters going in, it'll bounce right off you. Thus I was SOOOO shocked to see that O. Deus (gasp) saw some good moments but overall was left cold. Ya know why? Because it was a Voyager episode. And he doesn't like Voyager. Duh. How many completely biased reviews of yours do I have to read to get the point? Why would I come back next week for a predictable opinion that just seems to balloon in its pompous self-congratulation for its negativity?

For those who have watched the show Seven years because we liked it and the characters, this was a very nice episode that one ups Voyager's improved infusion of real character moments into sci-fi plots by dropping the sci-fi plot altogether.

Those who have watched the show for Seven years to patrol the border of the Star Trek legacy and ensure that all flaws are magnified and all failures are celebrated---didn't like the show.

Well, duh. Maybe trekweb.com could do well to solicit the reviewing services of someone less predictable. Because this is the last odeus review I'm pulling in here.

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At Great Personal Risk To Me...
By jodeo () at 09:40:38 on October 12
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I found this to be one of the best episodes in Voyager's run despite the weaknesses the reviewer highlights. Yes, we're all tiring of the exploration of Seven's humanity in such a direct manner, and we are often unimpressed with Jeri Ryan's performance in such weighty situations.

But overall, this episode was well done. It was shot very well... superb! The highlight of the story was Icheb. He was strong, solid, showing he had indeed come of age. The character's brilliance was given justice, and left us wanting more of him. Janeway's remark near the end that he's no longer a child was fitting. His sheer coolness during the exchange with the Doctor was superb (even if Picardo did go a bit over the top at points).

This fellow, Icheb, needs to be in more episodes! (I'd like to see him kick the butt of the mirror universe's Wesley Crusher!)

Additionally, there were some short and sweet scenes that broke from the typical episodic templates so often used in Voyager. First, the hit-and-run interaction with the unknown aliens aboard the Borg debris field. That's typically where the episode turns and we're stuck dealing with "Species De Ja Vu" for the rest of the show. Instead, we get a slick little action sequence, complete with the closest thing we've had to a high-speed chase on Voyager and... voila! ...they're gone and we're moving on.

Then there was the scene between Seven and B'lanna. The dialogue was not particularly impressive, but both performances were well played. But the way Livingston shot it made the whole scene. Again, this broke from the typical shooting of a scene -- these moments were more cinemagraphic.

Credit must be given to Ryan as she has a tough role to play: a human who is returning to humanity. She must maintain a delicate balance between her Borgness without going all the way to just another pretty human face with nothing to set her apart but her past. Her work in the Borg episode "One" was much more genuine than anything else she's done.

Finally, the solution of the matter was not cloaked in bravado as we've seen in recent episodes. There was a dilema here, brooding uncertainty, and plenty of emotion driving the final scenes. It was more genuine, and the level of intensity was appropriate, though it could have been further cultivated by the direction and photography. Throughout, the musical score was splendid.

Had this been the first episode, or among the first, to confront Seven's humanity, her mortality, or her emotional development, it would've been the one by which all other Seven episodes would've been judged. Alas, it comes some four years down the road when fans are complaining of Seven fatigue and formulaic plot twists. (Janeway should've said "Look, I'm tired of always saving her butt. Kim, take Neelix and Naomi in the Delta flier back to Unimatrix One and see what you can grab. I'll be in the Holodeck playing 'The Nanny'...")

Overall, this was an exceptional episode... Well performed, superior direction, moving score, and outstanding work by Manu Intiraymi as Icheb, despite an otherwise ordinary storyline. I hope the directing and performances ahead are no less solid.

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Ugh!
By Anonymous Coward (anon@ym.ous) at 08:36:52 on October 12
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Lousy, lousy episode... no excuses...

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