(written from a Production point of view)
|VOY, Episode 3x26|
Production number: 168
First aired: 21 May 1997
|←||67th of 168 produced in VOY||→|
|←||67th of 168 released in VOY||→|
|←||473rd of 728 released in all||→|
| Written By|
Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky
|Arc: Scorpion (1 of 2)||→|
Upon entering Borg space, Voyager encounters an alien race even more powerful than the Borg and bent on destroying all life in the galaxy, forcing Captain Janeway to enter into an alliance with the Borg in order to defeat them. (Season Finale)
In a region of space, two Borg cubes are seen. They are advancing on their next intended targets for assimilation. Their hail is cut off abruptly as energy beams lash out at the cubes, which are instantly destroyed.
On one of the USS Voyager's holodecks, Captain Kathryn Janeway is running a Leonardo da Vinci holo-program, conversing with a Leonardo hologram in a simulation of the historical figure's workshop. She receives an urgent hail from Commander Chakotay, who urges her to go to engineering to take a look at something.
There, Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres explains that the long-range probe they sent out months ago has stopped transmitting. However, she was able to catch the last few seconds of telemetry, which show a Borg drone's face staring into the viewscreen.
Janeway immediately calls a meeting of the senior staff and explains that it is unknown how many Borg vessels are out there but that their space appears to be vast, including thousands of solar systems. Voyager is no doubt entering the heart of Borg territory and, unfortunately, there seems to be no way around it. However, there might be a way through it. Chakotay explains that, before the probe was disabled, it detected a narrow corridor of space devoid of Borg activity – which members of the crew nicknamed "the Northwest Passage". Navigating through it, however, may prove complicated, as the passage is filled with intense gravimetric distortions, probably caused by a string of quantum singularities. The crew are left with no choice, though, but to go through the passage.
All over the ship, preparations are finalized. In engineering, the warp drive is checked, yet again. Tuvok goes through weapons checks with his security officers. Chakotay and Kim review planned tactical options in case the Borg invade the ship.
While The Doctor and Kes examine the Borg drone corpse, Kes suddenly experiences a vivid vision of dismembered Borg drone corpses, piled up on one another. She has no idea what this means but it disturbs her greatly. She experiences these and other frightening visions for the next two hours; visions of dead drones and Voyager's destruction haunt her mind. Tuvok, who is Kes's mentor in honing her telepathic abilities, is informed of this development. While he discusses Kes's predicament with Janeway and Chakotay on the bridge, the ship begins to tremble. Kim reports that long-range sensors detect transwarp signatures closing from behind. Before they know it, fifteen Borg vessels are rapidly closing on them.
Much to everyone's surprise, the enormous vessels do not attack, merely racing past Voyager. One cube slows and scans the ship, then speeds up to rejoin the others. The subspace turbulence affecting Voyager dissipates. The crew is at a loss to explain their unusually good fortune.
Reviewing the data of previous Borg encounters, Janeway explains to Chakotay that she has been seeking useful information on the Borg from the logs of other Starfleet commanders but has gotten nothing. She is clueless as to what to do and feels rather alone, as the commander of a ship trapped in the Delta Quadrant and at the mercy of such a hostile species. Chatokay gently assures her that he and everyone else will support her and that she is not alone. Janeway says that she cannot imagine a day without him – though just a few years ago, she didn't even know his name. While they are talking, Tuvok hails her to the bridge. There, he and Kim report that the Borg cubes have suddenly stopped, for an undetermined reason.
Janeway orders Paris to take Voyager to the coordinates of the dormant Borg ships. The crew then finds that every one of the fifteen cubes has been destroyed – with only a few life signs remaining. Tuvok detects two residual weapons' signatures in the debris: one Borg and the other of unknown origin. Astonished, Paris asks the question that everyone else is wondering: who could bring such devastation to the Borg?
The idea of someone more powerful than the Borg seems rather incredible. Kim thinks they might have found an ally but Chakotay warns not to jump to conclusions. While scanning the vicinity for other vessels, the bridge officers detect a biomass attached to one of the Borg ships. They confirm that it is organic but do not receive a response when they send out a standard greeting. They try to beam it away from the ship, but cannot get a lock on it and a tractor beam also doesn't seem to have an effect. They realize that whatever is attached to the Borg cube is impervious to their technology. Janeway orders Chakotay to lead an away team to the cube to take a short-range scan of this biomass.
Tuvok and Harry join Chakotay on the away team and beam aboard the cube. As they look around, they find nothing but dead drones scattered amidst the wreckage. As they move on, they find a pile of dismembered Borg corpses reminiscent of the visions Kes had earlier. They continue forward to the object and find that it has created a gaping hole in the cube's hull and fused onto it. Scans reveal it to be an organic-based vessel. Chakotay and Tuvok board the ship to investigate while Kim accesses a Borg Distribution node to download their tactical database.
In Voyager's sickbay, Kes is carrying a tray when she is suddenly overwhelmed by visions of Kim screaming in abject agony. She collapses, frantically warning that the away team is in grave danger and that they need to leave the cube immediately.
On the Borg ship, Kim calls the other two officers to his position, as he has detected something that is biological in the vicinity but does not appear to be Borg. Just then, Janeway hails and tells them to prepare for immediate return to Voyager. The unknown life form suddenly tears through a wall of the cube, entering a corridor where the away team is. Immediately, it attacks nearby drones, swiping them before turning to Kim and attacking him. Harry collapses, screaming in excruciating pain. The creature moves to finish him but, just then, the away team is beamed back aboard Voyager.
On the bridge, Paris reports that the alien ship is detaching and powering up, apparently readying to fire a weapon. Kes, who is also on the bridge, experiences another vision of the pilot on that bioship communicating with her. Janeway orders Paris to take them out of the area at maximum warp. As Voyager moves away, the bioship fires, not landing a direct hit but Voyager loses control. Paris is able to jump to warp speed, and the bioship does not give chase. An alarm-stricken Kes tells Janeway that it is not the Borg that they should be worried about but this new species. Kes informs the captain that the creature told her, "The weak will perish."
- "Captain's log, stardate 50984.3. It's been twelve hours since our confrontation with the alien life-form. There is no sign that we're being pursued, and we've had no further encounters with the Borg. I've decided to hold our course. The Northwest Passage is only one day away and I won't allow fear to undermine this crew's sense of purpose... even if that fear is justified."
As Janeway enters sickbay, she is horrified to view Harry Kim's condition. The Doctor tells her that the alien cells are consuming his body from the inside out, while he is conscious. He shows her the scan of the alien cells which contain more than a hundred times the DNA of a Human cell. It would take him years to decipher it. Anything that penetrates this species' cell-membrane – biological, chemical or technological – is instantly destroyed. Janeway realizes that this is probably why the Borg cannot assimilate the species. The Doctor, however, believes that Borg technology holds the key to saving Harry, as he hopes to unleash an army of modified Borg nanoprobes into Harry's bloodstream, designed to target and eradicate the infection. He has successfully managed to dissect a nanoprobe, access its recoding mechanism and reprogram the probe to emit the same electrochemical signature as the alien cells. That way, the probe can do its work without being detected. The Doctor is not certain he will be able to modify enough nanoprobes in time to save Harry.
On the bridge, Tuvok and Torres show Chakotay a part of the tactical data Kim retrieved from the cube. According to it, the aliens – designated by the Borg as Species 8472 – have engaged the Borg twelve times in the last five months and, each time, the Borg have been defeated swiftly. The bridge officers also finally determine that Species 8472 comes from the Northwest Passage – which would explain why it is a region devoid of Borg activity. While discussing this, Tuvok detects 133 bioships coming from a quantum singularity. A grim-faced Janeway watches the visual as it shows hundreds of the aliens' ships streaming forth from quantum singularities in the Northwest Passage.
Kes notifies the captain that the aliens have been communicating with her further. Their new messages are even more frightening than the first; she feels malevolence and cold hatred. Kes says that what they are doing is carrying out an invasion and that they intend to destroy everything.
Chakotay and Janeway discuss their next move. The Northwest Passage is no longer an option as a route through Borg space. Now, the choice is between facing the Borg in their space or staying behind and giving up on ever returning home. Janeway believes there to be another alternative, as she is not willing to surrender to the prospect of staying here.
She spends the rest of the day in her beloved Da Vinci holodeck simulation, even though the decision she must make weighs heavily on her mind. But then, in a flash of inspiration from the Maestro himself, a possible solution presents itself. She immediately calls another meeting with the senior staff.
In the briefing room, Janeway outlines her plan: an alliance with the Borg, against their new enemy. Voyager's crew will offer the Borg a way to defeat their enemy and, in return, the Borg will grant them safe passage through their space. Janeway references The Doctor's findings regarding the nanoprobes, which she believes can be used as a biological weapon against Species 8472. The officers are incredulous at her suggestion of teaming up with such an entity. Janeway is adamant that her stratagem will work, however. She has the Doctor save all of the research regarding the nanoprobes in his holomatrix. She also explains that, if the Borg threaten Voyager in any way, the crew will simply erase The Doctor's program.
After virtually everyone leaves, Chakotay – who has remained rather quiet throughout the meeting – tells Janeway that he believes that what she proposes is foolish. Illustrating his reasoning by citing the parable of the scorpion, he argues that her plan is a huge mistake, as she is underestimating the true nature of the Borg. He explains that no amount of diplomacy, reasoning and incentive-providing will ever change what the Borg are. They have no guarantee that the Borg will actually keep their hands off them after they acquire the information. He also wonders how much Voyager's safety is ultimately worth, that Janeway is willing to give advantage to a species guilty of murdering billions; they would essentially be giving the Borg the means to assimilate yet another species, just to get themselves home. But Janeway is convinced that they will be able to keep the Borg at bay with the bargaining chip they have. She furthermore believes that helping to assimilate Species 8472 might actually not be such a bad idea, given the malevolence they have expressed towards the entire galaxy. Chakotay, however, remains steadfast in his objection to her plan, accusing her of being so blinded by her desire to go home that she is closing herself to all other options. Janeway asks him to trust her, firmly stating that the time for debate is over as she has made her decision. Chakotay reluctantly agrees that, as her first officer, he will comply with her orders. With tears in her eyes, Janeway realizes that she is alone after all. She dismisses him sadly but her resolve is unshaken.
Voyager arrives at an assimilated system. Several Borg cubes are in the area, and one of them seizes the ship in a tractor beam. Janeway notifies the Collective that she has tactical information about Species 8472. She offers to negotiate for it but the Collective refuses. Janeway has Torres transmit (to the cubes) a sample of the research, showing the 8472 cells being destroyed by the Borg nanoprobes. The captain declares that this is a sample of the data and threatens to destroy it, if the Collective does not listen to what she has to say. There is a long pause. She again offers to negotiate but, as she speaks, she is transported to the cube, finding herself on a catwalk spanning the vessel's vast interior.
The Collective instructs her to state her demands. She states that there is only one demand: safe passage through Borg space in exchange for the data. Once her ship is past Borg territory, she will give them their research. The Collective does not accept because their space is vast and her passage would take too long. They demand the technology immediately. Janeway refuses because if she gives the data to them right away, they would assimilate the Voyager. The Collective explains that Species 8472 has to be stopped and the Collective's survival is the Voyager's survival. Janeway then comes up with a plan: They would collaborate – as Voyager traverses Borg space – in order to craft a bio-weapon using the data. She is in the middle of outlining this plan when the cube is violently shaken.
On Voyager's bridge, Tuvok informs Chakotay that a quantum singularity has opened and that more of the ships are coming through. The cube's shields are weakening but not enough to beam Janeway back to Voyager. Nine bioships converge in a star pattern and head toward the assimilated planet. They destroy the planet and all the Borg cubes in the vicinity, except for the one holding Janeway and Voyager. The remaining cube hurtles away at high warp, just ahead of the explosion, with Voyager still held firmly in its tractor beam.
"We are the Borg. Existence as you know it is over. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Resistance is fu..."
- - Borg, before being destroyed by Species 8472 (The first line of dialogue in the episode)
"Better to ride the rapids than face the Hive."
- - Tom Paris on the Northwest Passage
"In their collective state, the Borg are utterly without mercy, driven by one will alone: the will to conquer. They are beyond redemption, beyond reason."
- - Captain Jean-Luc Picard, log entry read by Captain Janeway
"It is my opinion that the Borg are as close to pure evil as any race we've ever encountered."
- - Captain Amasov, log entry read by Captain Janeway
"It's nothing to be ashamed about, echoing the greats. Ensign Hickman in astrophysics does a passable Janeway."
"If we manage to survive the next few days, I'm going to have a chat with Ensign Hickman. Imitating the captain – surely that violates some kind of Starfleet protocol."
- - Chakotay and Janeway
"We might have just found our ticket through Borg Space: an ally." "Let's not jump to conclusions."
- - Kim and Chakotay after Voyager finds the 15 Borg cubes destroyed
"Fight it, Harry! That's an order!"
- - Janeway to Kim while he lies in Sickbay infected by the alien cells
"There's a story I heard as a child, a parable, and I never forgot it. A scorpion was walking along the bank of a river, wondering how to get to the other side. Suddenly, he saw a fox. He asked the fox to take him on his back across the river. The fox said 'No. If I do that, you'll sting me and I'll drown.' The scorpion assured him, 'If I did that, we'd both drown.' So, the fox thought about it, and finally agreed. So, the scorpion climbed up on his back, and the fox began to swim, but halfway across the river, the scorpion stung him. As the poison filled his veins, the fox turned to the scorpion and said, 'Why did you do that? Now you'll drown too.' 'I couldn't help it,' said the scorpion, 'it's my nature'."
- - Chakotay, to Janeway as he objects to her plan to ally with the Borg
"They have an extraordinary immune response. Anything that penetrates the cell membrane, chemical, biological, technological, it's all instantly destroyed. That's why the Borg can't assimilate them."
"Resistance in this case is far from futile."
- - Janeway and The Doctor on Species 8472
"The Borg aren't exactly known for their diplomacy. Can we really expect them to cooperate with us?"
"Normally, the answer would be no, but if what I've learned from the aliens is true, the Borg are losing this conflict."
- - Neelix and Kes on Janeway's idea of an alliance with the Borg
"There are times, Caterina, when I find myself transfixed by a shadow on the wall, or the splashing of water against a stone. I stare at it, the hours pass, the world around me drops away... replaced by worlds being created and destroyed by my imagination."
- - The holographic Leonardo da Vinci
"Think good thoughts."
- - Janeway, while Voyager is being scanned by the Borg
"There's a path before me... the only way home. And on either side, mortal enemies bent on destroying each other. If I attempt to pass through them... I'll be destroyed as well. But if I turn around... that would end all hope of ever getting home."
- - Janeway, to Leonardo on the holodeck
"What if I made an appeal... to the Devil?"
- - Janeway, to the Leonardo hologram as she considers an alliance with the Borg
"The weak will perish!"
- - Species 8472, as stated by Kes from one of her telepathic encounters
"Three years ago, I didn't even know your name. Today I can't imagine a day without you."
- - Janeway, to Chakotay
Title, Story and Script
- "Scorpion" takes its name from the parable Chakotay shares with Janeway after briefing the crew on her plan to form a temporary alliance with the Borg. The parable is most commonly known as The Scorpion and the Frog, but Chakotay's version substitutes a fox for the frog.
- Even before it was firmly decided that the Borg would reappear in Star Trek: Voyager (as the series' team of writer-producers were considering if they should, following the defeat of the Borg and their queen in the film Star Trek: First Contact), Brannon Braga had come up with one of the story points of this episode. He noted, "I think it would be cool if the USS Voyager came upon a Borg graveyard, and basically, they're all dead. Obviously, somehow they'll come back to life. I just think it's a cool setting, and it's an interesting pay off to the movie." (Star Trek Monthly issue 24, p. 37) Evidently, however, the cause of the destruction thereafter changed from being the Borg's defeat in First Contact to Species 8472.
- This installment was not the first choice for the finale of Star Trek: Voyager's third season, a fact that even CGI Effects Director Ron Thornton became aware of (despite his purview being quite different from that of Voyager's writing staff). (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #16, p. 37) Originally, "Year of Hell" was planned to be Voyager's third season finale but, with the choice made to shake up the cast in Season 4, this episode was the result. (Star Trek Monthly issue 34, p. 12; Delta Quadrant, p. 207) This episode also replaced an undeveloped story idea that featured biomimetic lifeforms, doppelgängers of the Voyager crew, arriving at Earth to much enthusiastic furore before then causing havoc on the planet; although Joe Menosky and Brannon Braga started to collaborate on scripting that plot, dissatisfaction with the writing of the teleplay resulted in the writing duo instead turning their attentions to the "Scorpion" project. The same aliens who appeared in the unfinished script ultimately featured in Season 4's "Demon" and the fifth season installment "Course: Oblivion". (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 49)
- Brannon Braga's initial idea for this episode was originally influenced by two then-recent Borg-related Star Trek productions: the film Star Trek: First Contact (which Braga himself had co-written) and the earlier third season Voyager installment "Unity". Braga recalled, "Late one night I was sitting in front of the TV and I saw a promotion for Voyager on the air on UPN. I saw an image of a Borg corpse from the show we were doing, 'Unity'. It struck me then and there that First Contact had come and gone. It was time to deliver the Borg in a big way, at which point we threw out the cliffhanger we were working on at that time, and came up with 'Scorpion I' and 'II'." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 75) Years later, however, Braga hesitantly recounted that the moment of inspiration had come when he "was sitting at home, late one night, and I was watching a video tape of one of our episodes; it had a Borg mummy in it or something." ("Braving the Unknown: Season 4", VOY Season 4 DVD) Regardless of how exactly he saw footage from "Unity" at the time he had the thought for this episode, he clarified, "All we had planned for the Borg was that 'Unity' episode [....] I thought, we can't just do 'Unity'. It's not enough." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 75)
- Voyager co-creator and Executive Producer Jeri Taylor credited Brannon Braga, who Taylor considered to be a highly inventive writer generally, with the idea for Species 8472. ("Braving the Unknown: Season Three", VOY Season 3 DVD special features)
- Although the concept of a Borg graveyard had unsuccessfully been considered for "Unity", the reason – according to Brannon Braga – that the idea was included in this episode was "not because we were dying to do a Borg graveyard." Braga further explained, "It's kind of an image that we had held over, but it fits into the events of the story perfectly." (Star Trek Monthly issue 28, p. 17)
- The sequence wherein multiple Borg cubes pass by Voyager was part of an attempt, made by Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky, to feature memorable, large-scale images in the two-parters that were included (at least partly, as in the case of the "Scorpion" two-parter) in Star Trek: Voyager's fourth season. Menosky explained, "We made a conscious effort to put back [in] amazing images that are memorable, and that the character stuff works in and around, things like from 'Scorpion Part I', little Voyager with 15 Borg cubes blasting by. I loved looking at that [....] A big part of this is not just visual effects but images." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 75)
- A starship battle in Borg subspace tunnels was temporarily considered for inclusion in this episode. The idea was discussed before being dismissed. (Star Trek: Action!, p. 7) Similarly, the idea of having the Borg use quantum slipstream drive was also contemplated. "We were going to have the Borg ships raising slipstreams and have big fights in those slipstreams," Brannon Braga reflected, "But we had too many ideas for that episode and some just didn't make it." (Star Trek: Action!, p. 42)
- The holographic Leonardo da Vinci was added to the story at the request of Janeway actress Kate Mulgrew. Although she twice (on separate occasions) referred to the idea as having been her own, Mulgrew also indicated a lesser degree of personal involvement in the character's conception by saying, "I helped come up with the idea." (Star Trek Monthly issue 46, p. 26; Star Trek Monthly issue 33, p. 23; The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #14, p. 33) Leonardo actor John Rhys-Davies offered, "The whole thing was Kate's baby and she had done a lot of research into it." (Star Trek Monthly issue 58, p. 40) Mulgrew's inspiration for the character was that it would give Janeway someone creative to confide in. (Star Trek Monthly issue 28, p. 4; The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #14, pp. 33-34) Concerning exactly how she made her contribution to this character concept, Mulgrew offered, "I think it was Brannon Braga who asked, 'Where did art most notoriously meet science in history?' And I said, 'With Leonardo da Vinci.' He said, 'Exactly.'" (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #14, p. 34)
- During the scripting process, the members of Species 8472 were at one point described as being fourteen feet tall. The script, while being written, was very vague about most of the aliens' other details. Concept artist Steve Burg recounted, "It just said, 'A great beast of some sort blasts through the wall, kills two of the Borg and hits Harry, knocking him out.'" (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 2, p. 28)
- The final draft of this episode's script was submitted on 26 February 1997. This document refers to Species 8472 as being at least ten feet tall and wearing an alien breathing apparatus aboard the Borg cube. 
Cast and Characters
- Kate Mulgrew liked many aspects of this episode, citing it as one of her eight favorite installments of Star Trek: Voyager's third season. For example, Mulgrew was highly proud of having come up with the idea of a holographic Leonardo da Vinci. "For me, 'Scorpion' introduced another element of Janeway that I loved," Mulgrew explained, "and that was Leonardo da Vinci." The actress went on to state that, because she had assisted with the conceptual development of the Leonardo hologram, she was "very pleased." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #14, pp. 32 & 33) Mulgrew not only thought that the character concept was "a really good idea" but also believed the holographic program "makes sense." (Star Trek Monthly issue 33, p. 23) Additionally, the actress was delighted by how this episode initiates the bond between her character of Janeway and the Leonardo hologram. "They begin an extraordinary relationship on the holodeck," Mulgrew enthused. (Star Trek Monthly issue 28, p. 4)
- Without auditioning for the role of the holographic Leonardo da Vinci, John Rhys-Davies was offered the part by Star Trek: Voyager's producers. Having been a long-term Star Trek fan, he was delighted to accept the offer. (Star Trek Monthly issue 58, p. 38) Kate Mulgrew enjoyed working on this episode with the actor. Shortly following the completion of her work on the episode, Mulgrew stated, "John Rhys-Davies is just perfect for it. We had a very good time working together." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #14, p. 34)
- Both Kate Mulgrew and Joe Menosky noticed that, by this point in the third season, the character of Janeway and the persona of the actress playing her were seeming to gravitate more towards one another and that this development appeared to be benefiting the portrayal of the Starfleet captain. Menosky commented, "In 'Scorpion Part I' [Janeway] was becoming a little more risk taking, and edgy, and frankly, a little bit more like Kate Mulgrew. I've always said, even Jeri Taylor used to always say, 'if Captain Janeway were only more like Kate, we would have a much better captain on our hands.' For whatever reason, our writing and Kate's kind of freewheeling personality seemed to come together a bit more, at the end of the [third] season." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 86) Mulgrew herself remarked that, particularly "towards the end of the season," she made some "very important breakthroughs" with becoming "much more relaxed and more allied with Janeway". (Star Trek Monthly issue 33, p. 23)
- Jeri Taylor was impressed by the acting, in this episode, of both Kate Mulgrew and Chakotay actor Robert Beltran. "Weren't they good?" Taylor rhetorically asked. "I felt that the actors more than rose to the occasion. They really liked the idea of that conflict [between Janeway and Chakotay] and how it would test their friendship, and they really poured themselves into it." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 113)
- Kim actor Garrett Wang liked how this episode introduced a new, villainous alien species. He observed, "All of a sudden, now you have an enemy which is even more... fearful than the Borg, an enemy that can single-handedly take out the Borg. 'Who could that be?!', you know? Up 'til that point, I mean, the Borg was the end-all, be-all of enemies, you know? Nobody could defeat–and then, now, you've got, 'Who are these guys?!', you know? [....] So that episode, to me, was.... I loved it because it introduced, you know, a 'new villain.' The sci-fi fan in me really enjoyed working on that episode, for that." ("Braving the Unknown: Season Three", VOY Season 3 DVD special features)
- Garrett Wang was less pleased, however, about having to play the out-of-action Kim. "I mean, I wasn't too happy that, most of the episode, I was on a bio-bed with green goop on my face," Wang remarked, before loudly echoing of the writers (wearing a big grin on his face), "'Who else but Kim needs to be tortured in the bio-bed?', you know? No one else, just Kim." ("Braving the Unknown: Season Three", VOY Season 3 DVD special features)
- This episode marks the final appearance of Jennifer Lien (Kes) as a regular cast member.
- The makeup appliances for the holographic Leonardo da Vinci, as created for this episode, consisted of a beard, mustache and eyebrows as well as a nose that was styled in much the same way as Leonardo's was. (Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, p. 169)
- Director David Livingston appreciated the fact that, for this episode, Species 8472 was scripted to appear for merely a few brief moments, giving only fleeting glimpses of the species. "It was kind of played a little bit like Alien," Livingston remarked, "where you don't really get a huge look at it, which, to me, is always the best way to portray these things. If you look at them too long and too closely, they start to fall apart a bit." ("Braving the Unknown: Season Three", VOY Season 3 DVD special features)
- According to the unauthorized reference book Delta Quadrant (p. 188), the Borg costumes in this episode were reused from Star Trek: First Contact, as were "much of the Borg's furnishings."
- After Garrett Wang portrayed a reaction to seeing the approach of the massed Borg cubes that fly by Voyager, his fellow actors jokingly mimicked him. Wang commented, "I notice onscreen on my sensors that all these Borg cubes are coming upon us, but they don't even stop for us [....] And my lines are like, 'Captain, I'm reading one – no, three – no, five – no, seven Borg cubes.' And the way I said it, I said, 'Capt-taiiiin....'" Wang laughed. He then continued, "I really extended out the 'Captain.' So from then on, [Robert] Beltran and [Robert Duncan] McNeill would always go, 'Cap-taiiiin...'" (Star Trek Monthly issue 106, p. 40)
- Visual Effects Producer Dan Curry acted as second unit director on this installment. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 96) As such, he was involved in the directing of the scene wherein an away team from Voyager passes the pile of Borg corpses aboard a Borg cube. The heap of deceased drones was not an on-set element, however. Recalling the filming of the scene, Curry said, "The actors knew where to look, on stage, so they would walk around and say, 'Okay, it's up there.'" ("Red Alert: Amazing Visual Effects", VOY Season 3 DVD special features)
- Visual Effects Supervisor Ronald B. Moore worked on the filming of the scene in which a member of Species 8472 bursts into a corridor, attacks Kim and then hurries away. Ron Thornton enthused of this scene, "Ron Moore and the live-action guys did such a great job of shooting the live action that it had a massive amount of drama–the wall suddenly blows out, so we could make the creature come in." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #16, p. 38)
- Performing the scene wherein Janeway speaks with the Borg Collective while aboard one of the Borg cubes represented a scary challenge for Kate Mulgrew, who consequently had to do several takes of the scene. To aid her performance, Mulgrew imagined she was in an extremely contained space, surrounded by hordes of serial killers. (Star Trek Monthly issue 28, p. 4; The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #14, p. 33) This footage was filmed by Dan Curry's second unit team. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 96) "They put you on the stage with just a blue screen behind you, and they say, 'This is the Borg hive. You are surrounded by them. You can go four inches this way. You can go two inches this way, and forward no more than an inch and a half," Mulgrew told an audience at the Pasadena Grand Slam Convention on Friday 21 March 1997, "and meanwhile you play the three-page scene, and you are jeopardizing not only yourself, but the assimilation of your entire species [....] I played the scene with so much quiet that I scared myself!" (Star Trek Monthly issue 28, p. 4)
- Although Visual Effects Supervisor Ron Moore usually used a mixture of effects methods, the visual effects of this episode were virtually all CGI. This method of effects was costly but a saving of finances enabled the profuse usage of CGI here; Jeri Taylor noted that, for this episode, the production crew of Star Trek: Voyager had "some extra money saved so we [could] go all out." (Star Trek Monthly issue 31, pp. 27 & 13) Both David Livingston and Senior Supervising Visual Effects Animator Adam "Mojo" Lebowitz appreciated the fact that this episode allowed for more digital effects than usual. "[It] really, really pushed the envelope," noted Lebowitz. "It had an incredible amount of complicated effects work, stuff that would have probably been prohibitively expensive to have done with miniatures. That might have been one of the first shows where you can really say that without CGI they couldn't have done it. It was really a compliment that they even wrote an episode like that. I think it showed that they were finally having some confidence in the work that was being done, and they decided to really push it. I was really happy that they were finally writing episodes knowing that this stuff can be done more effectively now." (Star Trek Monthly issue 58, p. 44) In agreement, Livingston noted, "That was fun, because we got to deal with CGI figures." ("Braving the Unknown: Season Three", VOY Season 3 DVD special features)
- The effects in this episode (in particular, the creation of Species 8472) were influenced by the success of effects in the earlier third season episode "Macrocosm", particularly the computer-generated design of the macrovirus. ("Red Alert: Amazing Visual Effects", VOY Season 3 DVD special features)
- Despite this episode's script being sparse on details regarding Species 8472, the episode's visual effects artists were able to glean some information about the aliens from their involvement in the story. Dan Curry noted, "We had a script for a very vicious alien creature that had to be so powerful and so fearsome that it was able to chop up and destroy the Borg." The aliens were then designed – for their debut appearance in this episode – by Curry, Steve Burg and CGI animator John Teska. ("The Birth of Species 8472", VOY Season 4 DVD special features)
- Meanwhile, Adam Lebowitz worked on the CGI Species 8472 bioships, the Borg cubes and Voyager. Ron Moore and coordinator Cheryl Gluckstern devised the two different forms of energy beam that the bioships' weapons fire: the style that is emitted from the single bioship that Voyager initially comes across, and the more concentrated blast that is fired by the formation of bioships. Recalling the creation of the latter style of blast, Moore said, "I wanted to do something that was a little bit different than Star Wars' Death Star. I thought it was more interesting if they could share the strength of each and then create this monster beam." The beams were visualized by Greg Rainoff at Digital Magic, using Harry animation. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 95)
- The teaser of this episode involved a lot of work for CGI supplier Foundation Imaging. Ron Thornton explained, "We originally built the Borg Cube for an earlier episode [i.e. 'Unity'], but we really had to trick it out for this one, because in the first few seconds, two Borg Cubes are blown up, so we had to create a lot of pieces for each explosion." Using a studio model and motion-control photography rather than CGI would have made the sequence somewhat easier and less time-consuming, as Foundation would not have had to deal with the painstaking task of crafting the explosions. (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #16, p. 38)
- During the creation of the sequence wherein Voyager is passed by an armada of Borg cubes, the visual effects team were not entirely certain how big to make the effect. "Initially when we did that shot," Ron Moore recalled, "we thought it was a little bit over-the-top. The idea is that these Borg cubes are really, really big, and whatever drive they're using is throwing out some kind of electromagnetic field that's kicking the Voyager around. So we did a second softer version, and we looked at it and looked at it, and finally the decision was made to go back to the original. It's a lot more fun." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 96) Visualizing this sequence with such traditional effects methods as a model and motion-control photography would have been problematic. "The mount would have given us a problem," Ron Moore explained. "We could have done a side mount, maybe, but it would have been a lot more subtle." In other words, what the effects team veered away from, when it came time to create the sequence. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, pp. 95-96)
- The green-tinged polaron beam that is utilized by one of the Borg cubes to scan Voyager's bridge was actually rendered CGI by Digital Magic. Ron Moore said of this effect, "The thing that was important to me was that it would look like it was dimensional, when the light would hit the face, and then you'd see it in the background. We played with it in the edit bay. A lot of times with CGI this works out better, because there's a lot of freedom in the edit bay. Something like the scanning beam works until you make it too heavy, and you can't see through it. It's very subtle. With Paul Hill in the edit bay, we laid down one of the passes bright, another one with a little green in it, and we plugged in the flat fan-like surface as it went across." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 96)
- The pile of dismembered Borg seen on the disabled cube was actually a twelve-inch pile of Playmates Toys action figures. Dan Curry recalled, "We didn't have the budget or the time to create full-scale body chunks, because of the cost and time it would take to do that. So, I asked our licensing department for a bunch of Borg toy action figures [....] And kudos to the person who sculpted those toys, because the detail – especially the facial detail – was so good that I was able to take the toy action figures, cut them up with a Dremel cutting tool, and then I stacked them up with hot glue and shot them at home against a little blue screen cove." To complete the scene in which the away team members from Voyager pass the pile of corpses, the live-action footage that Dan Curry had already shot of the actors was composited together with the Borg drone models. Curry remarked, "By compositing the stack of action figures, it looked very real. And the toy faces were sculpted so well that I was able to do close-ups on a [tiny] head, [...] filling the TV screen with them, and they looked very good. Of course, it was in kind of a smoky environment, but um.... So, the toys served us well and saved the production company lots of money." ("Red Alert: Amazing Visual Effects", VOY Season 3 DVD special features) Ron Moore commented, "That was something we all knew immediately was perfect for Dan [....] He really had a lot of fun painting it, showing it to everybody. He'd come in and tell us, 'It's real disgusting now,' and he had a big smile on. It was great. We used it in a couple of shots, one with our crew, and one without." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 96)
- While Chakotay, Tuvok and Harry Kim are exploring a Borg cube, they encounter a Borg drone repeatedly trying, unsuccessfully, to assimilate the Species 8472 bioship attached to the cube. For a single shot in this scene, Industrial Light & Magic assisted with the inclusion of some Borg assimilation tubules that extend from the drone's fingers. Ron Moore stated, "Since ILM had done the tubules for the last feature, First Contact, [Producer] Peter Lauritson set it up so that they would go ahead and give us those tubules again for the show. We added the electricity." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 96)
- The look of the Species 8472 infection that can be seen on both the infected Borg corpse and Harry Kim, while he is also stricken with the condition, was created by Greg Rainoff using Harry animation. "The idea was that they wanted to show that even though the Borg was dead, whatever these aliens had done to him was still at work," Ron Moore revealed. "Later when we see Kim in sickbay, it's the same thing. If you look closely, you'll see that these veins are growing bigger and leaning just a little bit. We wanted to tie those two [effects] together. Greg on the [Harry] actually painted them on. He would paint one vein a little longer, then do an effect to reveal it so it looked like it was growing." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 96)
- To depict a red nebula near the Borg colony world that is destroyed by a formation of bioships in the episode's conclusion, an image of the Orion Nebula – captured by the Hubble Space Telescope – was modified and composited together with the effects footage. (Star Trek Monthly issue 31, p. 29)
- The interior Borg cube matte shot in the final scene of this episode used recycled footage from Star Trek: First Contact. Ron Moore remembered, "We picked some pieces out of the Borg collective that was used in the feature [film] [....] We took certain frames and had them re-rendered, or re-shot by Illusion Arts so we'd have nice clean frames. All of them in the feature were moving, so they had a little bit of a [motion] blur to them. So we picked frames, had them give them to us clean without the blur, then Dan went in and painted the bridge." Subsequently, Janeway was super-imposed into the shot, using the second-unit footage that Dan Curry had taken of actress Kate Mulgrew. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 96)
- Jeri Taylor and Voyager's other producers were extremely satisfied with the visual effects of this episode. Shortly after working on Voyager's third season, Jeri Taylor said of this installment, "That was one of our experiments with computer-generated graphics. We're more and more happy with the kinds of things we're able to get with CGI, and fortunately for a price we can afford." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 113) The visual effects artists themselves were pleased with their work on this episode. Ron Moore noted, "We were very proud of it." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 96)
Continuity and Trivia
- This episode has one of the shortest teasers in Star Trek, at just under twenty seconds and with only a single (unfinished) line of dialog spoken by the Borg.
- This is the last of three episodes of Voyager's third season to feature the Borg; other than "Unity", their third season appearances also include the final scene of "Blood Fever". As noted in the script of this episode, the Borg body parts here came from "the Borg corpse last seen in 'Unity,' which has been dissected." Another link between those two episodes is that Brannon Braga intended for the revelation, in this episode, that Species 8472 was overpowering the Borg to account for the condition of a disabled Borg cube that Voyager comes across in "Unity". (Star Trek Monthly issue 28, p. 17)
- This episode marks the third time in Star Trek that an end-of-season cliffhanger story revolved around the Borg, the previous occasions being TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds" and TNG: "Descent". Coincidentally, the former of those two episodes was at the end of TNG's third season, just as this episode is at the end of Voyager's third season.
- In TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II", that series' hero ship, the USS Enterprise-D, comes across a fleet of destroyed and damaged Starfleet ships, having been decimated by the Borg (at the Battle of Wolf 359, which is referenced in this episode). Likewise, in this episode, the series' hero ship, Voyager, comes across a fleet of destroyed and damaged Borg ships, having been decimated by Species 8472. While the former scene is commonly referred to as the "graveyard scene," the script of this episode refers to the site of the latter scene as a "cemetery of decimated ships" and "a graveyard of debris".
- The assimilation tubules that appear in this episode previously appeared in Star Trek: First Contact. In fact, the script of this episode notes that the tubules were "seen in 'First Contact,' when the N.D. was stabbed in the neck". In an audio commentary for that film, recorded by Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore, Braga comments, "A lot of stuff we established in here involving tubules, and maybe even nanoprobes, we would go on to use a lot in Voyager because the Borg became a big part of that show." This episode was, however, the first episode to establish the concept of Borg nanoprobes, nanotechnology having been briefly referenced in the Borg-related episodes "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II" (in particular, nanites) and "Descent, Part II" (specifically, nano-cortical fibers).
- This episode marks the beginning of a development of tension in the relationship between Janeway and Chakotay that culminates in the latter character considering mutiny in the season 6 premiere, "Equinox, Part II". Kate Mulgrew was thankful for the introduction of this tension, describing it as "a very good thing to have." (Star Trek Monthly issue 33, p. 22) Shortly after completing her work on this episode, the actress commented, "There's some real heat between them, especially after the events of 'Scorpion, Part I'. It will take some time before Janeway and Chakotay can re-establish the kind of intimacy and trust they had. In the meantime, though, the tension will give the relationship a wonderful new dynamic." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #14, p. 32)
- After being introduced in this episode, Species 8472 appeared in both Seasons 4 and 5. Their fourth season appearances are the concluding part of this episode's two-parter and "Prey", whereas their Season 5 appearances are "In the Flesh" and (in a holophoto) "Someone to Watch Over Me".
- Similarly, the holographic Leonardo da Vinci, following his debut appearance here, featured in the fourth season episode "Concerning Flight". The holographic recreation of his workshop appears not only in that episode but also in the Season 4 installments "The Raven", "Scientific Method", and "The Omega Directive".
- The robot that the holographic Leonardo is working on, in this episode, is based on a real work that Leonardo created. Although the final drawings of the robot are lost (if they ever existed), preliminary sketches have been input into computer simulations that confirm that the sketches were indeed meant to be of a mechanical man. While the sketches were known of, it was not until the 1950s that a professor from the University of California realized what they were meant to be. (For more information, see Leonardo's robot at Wikipedia or Lodestar's Lair.)
- Janeway points out to Leonardo: "Someone once said... all invention is but an extension of the body of man...." This "someone" is Marshall McLuhan, popular for his studies in media theory. One of his theses is that all media are just extensions of our Human bodies; for example, a radio is an extension of the ear and binoculars are an extension of our eyes. This theory directly relates to the character of the Borg.
- A few words of Italian are spoken on the holodeck. The term "Esatto" (meaning "exactly") is used twice: first by Leonardo da Vinci, upon confirming for Janeway that all he received in return for painting the Cardinal's nephew was the Cardinal's gratitude, and secondly by Janeway, when Leonardo responds to her suggestion of gliding like a hawk rather than flapping like a sparrow. In an example of Italian profanity, he finally swears, "Che cazzo!" (literally translated as "What the dick!"), when his Arm of Hephaestus snaps a cog. The episode's script does not specify the translations of these terms, but does indicate to the reader that Leonardo's expletive is "cursing". Additionally, Leonardo addresses Kathryn Janeway using the Italian version of her first name, "Caterina".
- When Janeway references Captain Amasov in this episode, it is an in-joke reference to Isaac Asimov, famous 20th century science-fiction writer, cybernetics supporter, and friend of Gene Roddenberry.
Reception and Aftermath
- During her appearance at the 1997 Grand Slam Convention, Kate Mulgrew declared this episode would be "shocking, unpredictable, mesmerizing, and terrifying." (Star Trek Monthly issue 28, p. 4) She also said of this installment, "It is going to be a marvelous episode." (Star Trek Monthly issue 28, p. 16)
- However, Kate Mulgrew was admittedly unsure, initially, how the two-part "Scorpion" storyline would be resolved. "Frankly, I don't know what's going to happen," she confessed, at the 1997 convention. "I don't know how they are going to rectify this cliffhanger. It's pretty scary." A particular aspect that Mulgrew was uncertain would return was the character of Leonardo da Vinci, though the actress hoped he would have "longevity and tenure on the series." (Star Trek Monthly issue 28, p. 4) Mulgrew also wished that the Leonardo hologram would return in the fourth season and that there would be another occasion where Janeway's adoption of "knowledge and psychological tools" from Leonardo would be shown. (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #14, p. 34)
- Brannon Braga was ultimately very pleased with this episode. "I think it's just classic Star Trek," he enthused, shortly prior to the episode's initial airing. "It's a show with a lot of action, a great new alien race, and lots of Borg, but it's also got a real moral dilemma in it." Braga continued by wordily explaining that the dilemma he referred to was, specifically, the question of forming an alliance with the Borg, who he referred to as "the Devil," just as Janeway does in this episode. Braga concluded, "It's a very interesting show." (Star Trek Monthly issue 28, p. 18) He also included this episode among a few examples of third season Voyager installments that he thought were good (the other episodes being "Distant Origin" and "Unity"). (Star Trek Monthly issue 29, p. 13)
- Jeri Taylor was also highly satisfied with this episode, citing it as one of the highlights of Star Trek: Voyager's third season and referring to it as "simply smashing." (Star Trek Monthly issue 31, p. 11)
- One particular scene that was very popular among the producers was the one in which Janeway realizes Chakotay does not agree with her. "I think it's one of the best scenes we've ever had," Jeri Taylor raved. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 113) Brannon Braga similarly enthused that the same scene was "a great scene". (Star Trek Monthly issue 28, p. 18)
- So pleased was Ronald B. Moore with this episode's effects that he gave some thought to nominating it for an Emmy Award. "This will be the one I'm putting up for Emmy [consideration] this year," Moore declared, as Visual Effects Coordinator Mitch Suskin began to work on the effects of "Scorpion, Part II". (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 96) Ultimately, though, this episode neither was nominated for nor won such an award.
- An accurate summary of this episode leaked onto the Internet, prior to the episode's broadcast. This did not, however, displease Brannon Braga, who merely expressed extreme gratitude that the episode had generated fan interest (even if obsessive) and implied that he thought such interest was harmless as "it's not like people are selling stuff." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, pp. 101 & 107)
- This episode achieved a Nielsen rating of 5.6 million homes, and an 8% share.  At the time, this episode was estimated to have had 7.86 million viewers. It was number 62 of prime time television episodes in its week of first broadcast. Jeri Taylor said of the episode's high number of viewers, "It was very gratifying. I think that they were very comparable with our ratings for 'Future's End, Part II' which is the highest I think we had all year." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 107) Actually, together with the first part of the "Future's End" two-parter – namely, "Future's End" (which had an identical Nielsen rating to this installment but a slightly higher share percentage) – this episode was only the third most watched installment of Star Trek: Voyager's third season (on first airing), behind both "Future's End, Part II" and "Basics, Part II". (Contrary to Jeri Taylor's beliefs, the most watched episode of the season was "Basics, Part II", not "Future's End, Part II".)  Taylor also said of this episode's ratings, "Our numbers at the end of the year and for the season finale exceeded our numbers last year, so there looks to be an upward kind of trend." (Star Trek Monthly issue 31, p. 13) This is technically an accurate statement, as this installment's Nielsen rating was higher than that of the second season finale "Basics, Part I", although both episodes had the same share percentage. 
- One of the viewers who watched this episode when it aired in the United States of America was Bryan Fuller. Viewing the episode shortly after being hired to join Voyager's writing staff (beginning in the fourth season), Fuller was amazed by this episode's production values and was duly excited by the prospect of writing for the series. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 2, p. 67)
- In the United Kingdom, this episode – upon its first broadcast in September 1997 – was the highest-rated program on Sky One during that entire month, with nearly five million viewers. (Star Trek Monthly issue 34, p. 7)
- Cinefantastique rated this episode 3 and a half out of 4 stars. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 113)
- Star Trek Monthly scored this episode 4 out of 5 stars, defined as "Trill-powered viewing". (Star Trek Monthly issue 32, p. 93)
- The unauthorized reference book Delta Quadrant (p. 190) gives this installment a rating of 10 out of 10.
- The book Star Trek 101, by Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block, lists this episode and the concluding part of its two-parter as being, together, one of the "Ten Essential Episodes" from Star Trek: Voyager.
- Following this episode's first airing, rumors circulated that two particular members of Voyager's main cast – namely, Garrett Wang and Kes actress Jennifer Lien – would be written out of the series at the start of the fourth season. The fact that this third season finale concludes with a cliffhanger ending in which Kim is apparently near death made Garrett Wang seem more doomed for departure than Lien did. However, it was Lien alone who left the series following this season finale (specifically, in Season 4's second installment, "The Gift"). (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #17, p. 37)
Home Video Releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 3.13, 20 October 1997
- Released on 24 September 1999 as part of the Japanese LaserDisc set Star Trek: Voyager - Third Season Vol. 2
- In feature-length form, as part of the UK VHS collection Star Trek: Voyager - Movies: Volume 2 (with "Year of Hell"), catalog number VHR 5072, 18 September 2000
- As part of the VOY Season 3 DVD collection
- As part of the Star Trek: Fan Collective - Borg collection
Links and References
- Robert Beltran as Commander Chakotay
- Roxann Dawson as Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres
- Jennifer Lien as Kes
- Robert Duncan McNeill as Lieutenant Tom Paris
- Ethan Phillips as Neelix
- Robert Picardo as The Doctor
- Tim Russ as Lieutenant Tuvok
- Garrett Wang as Ensign Harry Kim
- Patrick Barnitt as a Borg Drone
- Jeff Cadiente as a Borg drone
- Sue Henley as Brooks
- Tom Morga as a Borg drone
- Louis Ortiz as Culhane
- Chris Reed as a Borg Drone
- John Tampoya as a Borg Drone
Achilles; Amasov; assimilation; assimilation tubule; Battle of Wolf 359; bioship; Borg Collective; Borg cube; Breen; bronzetto; cardinal; Delta Quadrant; electrodynamic fluid; Endeavour, USS; Enterprise-D, USS; fluidic space; goose grease; gravimetric distortions; Hickman; Hephaestus; Hercules; holodeck; horse; Interdimensional rift; Leonardo da Vinci; monk; nanoprobe; "Northwest Passage"; oak; Picard, Jean-Luc; polaron beam; Q; red alert; Santa Croce; scudi; skeletal lock; Species 8472; Species 8472 bioship; starling; tactical database; Tale of the Scorpion; telepathy; transwarp; Wolf 359
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