By Thomas Lee
In a number of ways, "A Darker Light" was "Warhead" and "Nightingale" revisited—only this time, we saw a glimpse of the confident commander-to-be we knew back in Season 1 instead of the linguini-spined green ensign we got after Seven came aboard. It was good to see not only Harry come to hold his own with Seven, but that Harry was clearly the hero of the away mission, with his decisions saving Voyager without needing Seven’s help (just as with "Warhead", his assistance came from the ‘machine intelligence’)—as opposed to "Retrospect" [VVS8], where he primarily served as B’Elanna’s redshirt IMHO. (As for his command stint on the Nightingale, that went wrong because IMHO, contrary to Seven’s assessment, Harry emulated Janeway exactly, right down to her micromanagement—which is also characteristic of Seven’s management style. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the character shields of either of Voyager‘s Mary Sues to protect him from the results of such a command style.)
Harry’s angry lecture of Seven for her disrespectful, contemptuous, and self-absorbed behavior was LONG overdue (mild and short as it was given the extent and duration of Seven’s offenses—but then, it’s in Harry’s nature to be forgiving and restrained in such matters). I find it understandable that the last straw for Harry was Seven’s condescending reference to him as ‘Ensign’—for years, the only real measure of respect he has ever gotten from Seven, small as it was, involves her acknowledgement of his rank, but even this had become an expression of contempt (especially since Janeway had granted Seven many of the privileges and rights of a fellow captain). In particular, Harry’s accusation to Seven, "Is the only way that you can feel good about yourself, to make other people feel small?", was a bulls-eye—throughout her stay on Voyager, Seven primarily seemed to derive her self-respect from putting others down. (One former K/7 fan, NetLady, was turned against Seven by "Good Shepherd", in which she saw how Seven enjoyed belittling the efficiency of Harry’s department—it’s noteworthy that "Good Shepherd" showed that Seven doesn’t appreciate a similar candor when it’s directed at her.)
Previous episodes (especially "Snakes in the Grass") that featured Seven in a significant role had (as did much of the first half of "A Darker Light") usually emphasized the depths of Seven’s callousness and self-absorption (which had slapped D/7 fans in the face in "Endgame" [VOY]). In contrast to how the C/7 relationship was terminated as suddenly (and off-screen) as it began (with an emphasis on how uncaring Seven was) in "Snakes in the Grass", "A Darker Light" gave the C/7 relationship the sendoff it needed (even if Seven giving Chakotay romantic advice was about as realistic as Seven lecturing Harry on how to be a good commanding officer <g>). Seven’s initial thoughts about Harry were particularly revealing—she didn’t respect Harry because of his kindness and restraint. (As for Seven’s defensive thoughts that she didn’t realize her behavior was so offensive, they are IMHO belied by her gentle treatment of Naomi and her much more respectful attitude in general towards B’Elanna and Janeway, to say nothing of her greater efforts to befriend AOTWs than her fellow shipmates and her demeanor towards those she regards as antagonists like the Borg Queen and Captain Ransom.) Thanks to Harry’s (all too rare towards Seven) moment of candor onboard the Sernaix battleship, Seven now understands just how unworthy of Harry’s friendship she truly was (as witnessed by how she later questioned that they were friends by her past behavior as opposed to her arrogant belief that she was a superior being to him).
"A Darker Light" represented a remarkable—and credible—transformation of K/7 from the one-sided joke at Harry’s expense it had become on the canon show into something approaching a real friendship and even the basis of a potential future relationship (albeit Harry’s incredible forgiveness and friendliness played a critical role in this, not to mention Seven’s newfound willingness to try to make things right with Harry).
"A Darker Light" was indeed a trove of information about the Sernaix (including the revelation that a vessel only slightly larger than Voyager is considered a capital ship by the Sernaix—BTW, with your use of the term "Ship Mind", is this a reference to the near-omniscient Minds of Iain M. Banks’s ‘Culture’ novels?) ‘Ozymandias’ certainly invited comparisons and contrasts to the insane Dejaren of "Revulsion"—come to think of it, "A Darker Light" was in a few ways "Revulsion" revisited, but with K/7 getting a second wind instead of being turned into a joke at Harry’s expense.
Naturally, as an episode, "A Darker Light" leaves some points to ponder for the future:
1) The future of the K/7 and J/C relationships. Hopefully, Janeway’s progress away from Captain Ahab/Bligh will continue, and Seven will come to appreciate just how much she hurt Harry through her contemptuous remark in "Someone to Watch Over Me." I do have a lingering concern over how future authors will portray the Harry-Seven velocity games—at the very least, IMHO, Harry should be able to perform far better than Janeway (who has, AFAIK, never been beaten by Seven in velocity).
2) On a more serious note, I am curious about the identity of "the Touched One" (as you intended <g>). Personally, I hope it’s Harry and not Seven—Seven as the special "Golden Child" to be fought over has been done ad nauseam in canon Voyager already ("Dark Frontier", "Think Tank", "Equinox", and "Endgame" to name a few). Plus, with her cybernetics (and references to the crucialness of the Touched One’s knowledge), Seven would seem to be the obvious candidate already (but Sernaix technology is far beyond Species 8472, never mind the Borg).
Memorable Quotes from "A Darker Light":
- "I never—"
"You never? You mean, you never treated me with one ounce of respect! You’ve taken a particular delight in belittling me, kicking me when I was down, and dismissing every gesture of kindness I ever made towards you!"
—Seven and Harry
- "Tell me, Seven. Is it fun for you? Is the only way that you can feel good about yourself, to make other people feel small?"
—Harry to Seven
- "The truth is, Sernaix men and women don’t even particularly like each other that much. We’re just too different. We tend to get on each other’s nerves."
"Believe me, sometimes my species isn’t too different in that area. But somehow, we find a way."
—’Ozymandias’ and Harry