After the others leave, Chakotay stays behind to try to talk her out of it. Reminding her of the story of the scorpion and the fox, he argues that the Borg cannot be trusted, to say nothing of the ethical implications of giving them a weapon like this. Destroying Species 8472 would be bad enough, but how many more civilizations would then be destroyed or assimilated as a result? Janeway asks him to trust her, and he concedes that as her first officer he’ll follow her orders, though he can’t support this decision.
Voyager approaches a Borg ship, and Janeway gives the Collective a preview of their nanoprobe research before threatening to destroy it if they don’t hear her out. Uncharacteristically, the Collective agrees, beaming her aboard the cube. Once there, Janeway states her proposal. The Borg balk, citing the vastness of their space and the urgency of the threat, instead demanding the technology upfront. Janeway makes a counteroffer – Voyager and the Borg collaborate on the weapon’s development as they traverse Borg space.
Just then, a singularity opens. Nine bioships emerge, attacking the cube before converging in a star formation and destroying a nearby planet. The shockwave destroys every Borg ship in the area, save the one hosting Janeway, which warps away with Voyager in tow.
At last, the Borg are back! Sure, they’d just featured in ‘Star Trek: First Contact’ a few months before the episode aired, but (with acknowledgment to the pseudo-Borg seen in ‘Unity’), ‘Scorpion’ marked the first time they had best seen on television since the ‘Descent’ two-parter four years earlier. Even then, the Borg hadn’t been seen in full force (again, on television) since ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ in 1990. That sparing use of the Borg helped make ‘First Contact’ an event, and it has a similar effect here.
And yet, even though it has nothing to do with that Borg story, the episode opens on a surprisingly strong note. Yes, I’m talking about the holographic da Vinci. If you followed ‘Voyager’ from the start, then by this point you would’ve been well aware that the sight of Janeway on the holodeck was usually a precursor to crushing boredom. This was thanks to the gothic holonovel she was seen playing in the show’s early days. In stark contrast to the gothic holonovel, the da Vinci program is focused on a single character (guess who) and his interactions with Janeway. And not only is John Rhys-Davies an engaging performer in his own right, he actually has an enjoyable bit of screen chemistry with Kate Mulgrew. Which is more than can be said for anyone in the gothic nightmare of Janeway Lambda One.
From there ‘Scorpion’ – like ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ before it – steadily escalates the stakes throughout its runtime, beginning with the moment those passing Borg ships force Voyager our of warp. But while pitting Voyager against the Borg would have been enough for a season finale, ‘Scorpion’ complicate matters by instead tossing Voyager into the middle of the conflict between the Borg and Species 8472.
And on that note, how does Species 8472 fare in its first appearance? Well enough. We don’t see much of them, and what we do see is errs on the side of generic. And not to put to find a point on it, but much of their mystique in this episode comes courtesy of a writer’s trick that’s as old as it is lazy: making your new villain look impressive by having them wipe the floor with an established villain. But having said that, the creature design is cool and they have more than enough story potential to be worth revisiting in the future.
Also of note is the toll the episode’s events take on Janeway and Chakotay. One of the bigger (justified) criticisms of ‘Voyager’ has always been that the Starfleet and Marquis crews merged just a little too easily and a little too quickly. This was most apparent at the top, as Janeway and Chakotay fast formed a notably strong and supportive professional relationship that soon became a close friendship as well. This relationship is on full display in this episode, and it’s also tested as it seldom had been before. While the two didn’t always see eye to eye, they were rarely at odds in the way they were in the wake of Janeway’s decision to pursue an alliance with the Borg. Though Chakotay agrees to follow her orders, his unwillingness to support her clearly stings, setting up a dynamic that will play out in the second part.
Well, there you have it! Share your thoughts on ‘Scorpion’ in the comments, and be sure to check back in two weeks when ‘Final Frontier Friday’ dives into – you guessed it – ‘Scorpion, Part II’!