We’re back! Welcome as always to ‘Final Frontier Friday’, our bi-weekly look at the best, worst, and weirdest that ‘Star Trek’ has to offer! This week we’re picking up where we left off last time with a look back at ‘Scorpion’, the two-parter that bridged the third and fourth seasons of ‘Star Trek: Voyager’. This was a major turning point for the series, so strap in for part two…
Like the first part, this one had a lot going on. I alluded to this last time, but beyond the Borg of it all, the ‘Scorpion’ two-parter was setting in motion a shakeup of the show’s cast. As the third season drew to a close, it had been decided that a new character would be added to the show’s ensemble. Unfortunately, this meant that one of the established cast members had to go. Budgets and screen time are both finite resources, after all. Initially, it was Harry Kim who found himself on the chopping block. This was (un-subtly) set up in the first part, but had yet to be written in stone. So what saved Harry? Well, as the story goes, the character was ultimately spared when Garret Wang won one of those “Sexiest Men on Television” awards. Obviously, the producers didn’t want to lose their prize winning side of beef, but they still had to let someone go. And so that dubious honor fell to Kes. But while her days may be numbered, Kes isn’t quite gone yet. Her replacement, however, has already arrived.
Which brings us to the elephant in the room. I brushed past this earlier, but we really can’t talk about ‘Scorpion, Part II’ without at least touching on the subject. So it’s time to talk about Seven of Nine. Though she wasn’t introduced until the second part of ‘Scorpion’, the idea for Seven dates back to the early development of the two-parter.
Partially inspired by a televised promo for the third season episode ‘Unity’ that he happened to see, Brannon Braga found himself fascinated by the idea of adding a Borg crewman to the show. This lead to a brainstorming session with Joe Menosky, and a further fleshing out of the character. All that was left was to pitch the new character to Rick Berman, who approved it and somewhat infamously directed Braga to make the new crewman a woman (or a “Borg babe,” as Braga recalls him phrasing it). But while her conception dated to the latter days of the third season’s production schedule, Seven wasn’t introduced until the fourth season. This was largely due to practical concerns, especially the amount of time necessary to cast such a major role. A lengthy audition process (which included tryouts by Hudson Leick and Claudia Christian, of ‘Xena: Warrior Princess’ and ‘Babylon 5’ fame respectively) eventually lead them to Jeri Ryan, who would stay with the show for the remainder of its seven year run.
Introducing a new cast member, fleshing out Species 8472 (and their war with the Borg) and paying off everything that had been set up in the third season’s cliffhanger ending… Like I said, there’s a lot of juggling going on in ‘Scorpion, Part II’. So how did the show do at keeping all those balls in the air? Probably better than I’m doing with these segues, at least, so let’s get on with it!