In rewatching both parts of ‘Scorpion’ for this column, I was most struck by the parallels that emerged between this and ‘The Best of Both Worlds‘. Sure, these are likely coincidental, but you have a ship-based ‘Star Trek’ series (at a time when that was actually a relevant distinction to make) that found its footing in the third season and benefitted considerably from an end-of-third-season cliffhanger featuring the Borg. So yes, there are broad parallels, but also some major distinctions. ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ is a definitive ‘Next Generation’ installment in part because of what it does with Picard and Riker, yes, but ultimately because it’s just that damn good. ‘Scorpion’ on the other hand? Well, it’s also good, but it was “definitive” more in the sense that it redefined the show.

Just as ‘Voyager’ was starting to find its footing, the producers shook up the cast with the addition of Seven of Nine. And with Seven came the Borg. And while some argue that the Borg were a well that ‘Voyager’ went to a bit too often, there was a reason for that. See, by its very nature ‘Voyager’ was a show that didn’t really lend itself to recurring characters (villainous or otherwise). Think about the Kazon, who were a huge deal at the outset but disappeared completely after the second season. They didn’t just disappear because of their failure to click with the audience (though that didn’t exactly help their case), but rather because Voyager was, from Day One, hightailing it away from their part of the galaxy. As long as Voyager was actually trying to get home, you could only keep the Kazon or the Malon, or the Hirogen, or whoever else around for so long. The Borg, on the other hand? Well, the Borg could (and did) pop up pretty much anywhere they felt like. And so they could (and did) dog Voyager for years.

Additionally, while ‘Scorpion’ is a strong story, it never quite reaches the lofty heights of its illustrious predecessor. But while it never soars quite as high, it also manages to avoid some of the speedbumps that ‘Both Worlds’ hit. Specifically, the two-parter as a whole is a bit more cohesive than its counterpart. ‘The Best of Both Worlds, Part II‘ just isn’t as strong as the first part (though it’s by no means bad) and as a result, it has a way of feeling a bit disconnected from the first part. The two parts of ‘Scorpion’, but contrast, feel much more of a piece with each other.

Species 8472 is developed a bit more in this episode, continuing from their introduction in the first part. But instead of making them less impressive (as often happens when you learn more about a mysterious villain), it just makes them stranger. That’s a good thing, by the way. ‘Star Trek’ by it’s nature deals with aliens a lot, but rarely are those aliens as utterly, well, alien as Species 8472. At least in these first two episodes, each new revelation is somehow more bizarre than the next, whether its their superdense DNA or the bioships, or the mere concept of “fluidic space.”

But while we could spend all day piling on the weirdness and action, the real strength of the episode is in its handling of the characters, particularly Chakotay. It’s not exaclty a secret that Robert Beltran was frequently underserved as Chakotay. In fact, he’s often been the first in line to point that out. But this is not one of those times. In fact, Chakotay not only spends much of ‘Scorpion, Part II’ in command (thanks to the captain being incapacitated – another commonality with ‘The Best of Both Worlds’, now that I think about it), he also drives much of the plot because of this. But it’s not just that he gets to be the kick-ass command guy (though there is that side of it). The real highlight for Chakotay is the unenviable position this command places him in with regard to his relationship with Janeway.

Because of Voyager’s rather unique situation (stranded on the other side of the galaxy with a blended crew), Janeway often relied on Chakotay to a greater extent than other captains might have. Because of this, the two quickly developed a remarkably close relationship. ‘Scorpion’ marked one of the rare occasions on which the two found themselves truly at odds, as Chakotay could not bring himself to support her decision to propose an alliance with the Borg. Now, with Janeway injured and the Borg setting up shop on Voyager, he has to square that circle, reconciling his loyalty to his captain with his own instincts. And while he does initial try to maintain the alliance out of loyalty, it’s not long before he decides that he has no choice but to abandon it. But while it’s clearly his preferred course of action, it’s equally clear that this was not an easy choice for him. As a result, this may well be one of the better Chakotay episodes – or at least the most interesting – despite not delving as far into the realm of character study in the way that something like ‘Tattoo” does. It’s also a reminder of just what Beltran could do when the writers gave him the opportunity. Of course, it’s also a reminder of how what the show lost by committing to an episodic format. Image a more serialized version of ‘Voyager’, where the tension between Chakotay and Janeway was allowed to play out over a number of episodes. But alas…

And then, once again, there’s Seven of Nine. ‘Scorpion, Part II’ marks her introduction to the series, and introducing a new opening credits regular is no small thing. So how did they do? Well, if you asked me to give Seven’s introduction to the series a letter grade? Based on this episode, I’d have to give it an I. As in “incomplete.” It’s certainly the start of something interesting, and make no mistake, Jeri Ryan acquits herself well as a just-individual-enough-to-make-an-impression spokesBorg. But thing is, when the credits roll, we still haven’t met the character. Not really. She’s only just been separated from the Collective and has yet to regain consciousness. Her real introduction won’t come until the following episode, and even then she isn’t really the Seven of Nine we’ll come to know until the end. So her introductory episode is really more like half of her introduction. But she is set up as a character with a great deal of potential, and the show would over the coming years fulfill much of that potential. So good for them!

Well, that’s it for this one. What did you think of ‘Scorpion, Part II’? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to check back in two weeks for… Well, I’m not going to tell you what’s coming just yet, but I will say that it’s something of a reckoning for yours truly. One that some would say is long overdue. So be sure to join us here for the next ‘Final Frontier Friday’!