This blog post continues on from the previous one, where I began picking apart all the things that bothered me about the final episode of Voyager. Again, I remind you that this is spoiler heavy! There’s more preamble in that post, so without further ado, let’s get on with it!
Janeway and the Borg
Oh, the Borg. The Borg, the Borg, the Borg. The Borg are a terrific villain, but that is sort of the problem. They had to be defeated back in TNG because with their rapid adaptation, it was pretty clear that they would overrun the Alpha Quadrant in very short order. This was continued in Voyager as they became a legitimate threat again, but had to be defeated regularly by a ship even smaller than the Enterprise-D. Within this final episode, it was revealed that the Borg were scanning the armour upgrades to the ship and attempting to adapt around them. Simply by installing those upgrades and encountering the Borg, Janeway has given them an opportunity to advance twenty years ahead of where they should be – if they disseminated that armour data as widely as they could as soon as it was received then it is conceivable that by the time that armour should be developed by Starfleet, the Borg will be able to negate its usefulness. If the Federation ignore the temporal prime directive and research the hell out of that future technology, they will be able to maintain the status quo against the Borg. However, the other Alpha Quadrant races would not be so lucky. With all of them weakened from the Dominion war, and the Borg already as far back as Picard’s golden age rampaging across the neutral zone, the Borg would have armour technology far surpassing that of any contemporary weapons to penetrate. Unless the Federation share that armour technology with allies like the Klingons (two civil wars in the last fifteen years?), the Romulans (at least two coups in the few years following Voyager’s return) and the Cardassians (two major wars with the Federation in the last fifteen years), the Alpha Quadrant will fall to the Borg.
How long it will take the Borg to take advantage of this is unknown, however, with one of their transwarp hubs destroyed. There are only six in the galaxy – which means that in exchange for giving them a glimpse at powerful future technology, Voyager has reduced the Borg’s mobility by (charitably) around 20%. They also killed the Borg Queen… but this isn’t really a major drawback for the Borg. There’s no indication of how many Queens there are or how important she really is to the Borg. Just a few years before Voyager got home, Picard killed the Queen three centuries in the past. I can’t remember for certain, but I had a feeling that Janeway has already killed the Queen once before. She is a remarkably resilient creature. If the “Borg Invasion 4-D” interactive ride can be taken as canon, then a few years after Voyager returns home the Queen is back and the Borg are functioning as normal again. So whatever blow they struck against the Borg is effectively removed by the Borg’s ability to operate as a collective mind, and their ability to regenerate or recreate an immortal Queen to lead them.
This is mostly conjecture, however – there always seems to be more to the Borg than appears and this is the only explanation for why they don’t do the logical things or behave in a manner consistent with Starfleet’s understanding of them.
The Temporal Prime Directive
Admiral Janeway broke the temporal prime directive by giving future technology and knowledge to her past self. She freely dispenses these nuggets of knowledge to anyone who will listen to try and get a mutinous crew to force Captain Janeway into accepting her help, and validating the Admiral’s decision to effectively end her career and life.
Captain Janeway would not necessarily be viewed as a hero by accepting these gifts, however freely given. It sets a precedent where anyone with time travel ability (a relatively common technology as soon as thirty years after these events) will be pardoned for sending hints, knowledge and technology backwards and altering their own timeline. In the case of Voyager, this has already been foreshadowed as Harry Kim in an alternate future uses Seven of Nine’s temporal node to send data back in time and save them all from crashing on a frozen planet. Captain La Forge in that alternate future was attempting to stop him, by any means necessary, because of the temporal prime directive. Admiral Janeway’s violation is far worse – she is providing more than small packets of situational data (ie, useless outside of their one small context) and the needs are far less. She stated that less than twenty crew will die in the following sixteen years, whereas Harry was attempting to save the entire crew and the ship itself.
If Captain Janeway hadn’t accepted the Admiral’s help, they’d have made it home and with almost the whole crew intact. If they were going back in time to bring Voyager home early, why not go back to Deep Space Nine and prevent them going on the mission to the Badlands in the first place? The violation of the temporal prime directive was more trouble for less gain than Harry Kim’s violation, and Starfleet attempted to stop him from succeeding. I don’t see why they would allow Admiral Janeway’s, and Captain Janeway’s complicity in it, just because it’s easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission.
Which brings me to a fun mental game I like to play – how would the other modern captains have played it? Sisko is a lot like Janeway – he’s shown that he’s willing and able to break rules if it’s required in order to do the most good. He also has almost as big a beef with the Borg as Janeway has, so the chances are that he too would try to cripple them first and use them second, and go along with the Admiral’s plan as long as he can do it on his own terms (and deal a blow to the Borg as they leave).
Picard on the other hand hasn’t been through quite the same experiences as the other captains – he rarely steps off the Starfleet mark, and is the ideal that Janeway holds herself to. Sisko had a sense of duty and responsibility, but reconciled it against a duty and responsibility to his family and to Bajor. Picard and Janeway have never appeared to think of a life after Starfleet – they will die at warp speed, on some alien planet. Picard’s duty would not let him violate the temporal prime directive in almost any situation – he would be disgusted most of all if the Admiral returning from the future was himself, and likely to abandon the plan on that principle alone.
However, he does have one weakness… The Borg. It’s entirely possible that his obsession with the Borg wasn’t tempered at all by his victory in First Contact, and the presumed subsequent encounters in the Delta Quadrant would only have hardened his heart further. I can foresee an episode where he refuses to use the Borg technology for his own good but takes the future weapons to destroy the transwarp hub, sitting in the nebula and watching every last particle burn. He would ensure it was gone, and every trace of it wiped out. No salvage, no escape. In this, he is unlikely to listen to cries for mercy from his senior staff despite any lessons learned after First Contact.
Sisko would have done exactly what Janeway did, and Picard would either tell his future self to jog on, or destroy the Borg and then tell his future self to jog on.
Since Voyager got home but nothing of the last seven years was resolved, what was the point? Aside from the cameo that the (non-time travelling) Admiral Janeway had in Star Trek: Nemesis, nothing in the Star Trek universe has changed at all. Apart from Janeway’s promotion, all the characters still exist in the same state that they did in the previous episode – sitting on Voyager, regardless of their status as wanted criminals. With the scene earlier, where Admiral Janeway watches the crew talk about how it doesn’t matter if they miss this chance, they’ll find others, they’ll get home eventually, and toast the journey it wouldn’t be out of place if they just took the technology and launched an assault on the Borg, leaving the path open for a Voyager film to get them home early, or advance the Voyager plot on the big screen.
If Voyager hadn’t have made it home in this final episode, there are no consequences. We have a view of a possible future (Seven marrying Chakotay and dying in three years, Tuvok’s degenerative illness eventually limiting his mental faculties) but with knowledge of the future comes the ability to change it.
Overall, it was a great episode (like much of the last season) with a good plot, but it just feels like they could have done with an extra half-hour or so to increase the time taken to convince young Janeway, to explain just how devastating the infection attack on the Borg was (outside of the transwarp explosions) and to give each character a couple of minutes to wrap up their story and how they plan to move on with their life, or how Starfleet plan to deal with them.
Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by Babylon 5 – when that was wrapped up, there were a few episodes showing what came next. One was a series of short scenes showing snapshots of the far future, and the effect of the overall plotline on Earth and the galaxy centuries from now. That’s obviously a bit too much for Voyager, but the character stories could all be wrapped up nicely.
Thanks for reading! I’d like to know what you think, or if you disagree with any of my points here, or even if I’ve missed anything that you’ve always been thinking about!