By Thomas Lee
In any major K/7 story or saga, the issue of how the K/7 relationship impacts Seven’s preexisting interactions with certain TPTB-favored characters (and vice versa) inevitably comes up. Back in "I Only Have Eyes For You" [IOHEFY] and its sequel, "The Hierarchy of Needs" [THON], Mike not only addressed the EMH & 7 relationship, but he buried the notion of EMH/7 in his saga once and for all (and Mike, being the classy writer that he is, did it in a way that made the Doctor look far better than the caricature we’ve seen in Season 6). With the specter of EMH/7 exorcised from his saga, Mike has turned his attention to another important individual in Seven’s pre-K/7 life—Naomi Wildman.
Up to this point in Mike’s K/7 saga, the impact of Seven’s relationship with Harry on Naomi Wildman has been practically ignored for very understandable reasons. IOHEFY ended not long after the K/7 relationship had started, and THON was a rewrite of the EMH-focused "Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy," which had no Naomi in it (and whose inclusion would have diluted the K/7 & EMH interaction that was at the story’s core). However, with "First Comes Love" [FCL], Mike has not only made up for Naomi’s absence in spades, but, as he noted in his afterword, he explored the ramifications of both Wildmans’ situations on Voyager—which, like that of K/7 (and Neelix’s post-Kes life), has been thoroughly squandered by TPTB.
The beginning of FCL, just like THON, represented Mike’s opportunity to demonstrate how both Seven’s relationship with Harry and her humanity have advanced since the previous installment—and how different Seven is now from the stagnating/regressing ex-drone that TPTB prefer. Numerous hints are casually dropped for us to see and marvel at—both for how odd they would have been in the Bragaverse, and for just how right they are now.
Among the first of these hints was Harry’s musing about "…the many different ways their lives could have gone, how they might never have found each other and the joy they were now sharing." This also represented Mike’s jab at the way TPTB have mishandled the K/7 interaction in the Bragaverse—and paralleled a similar pot shot he took in THON through Harry’s fretting of the role chance played in his getting together with Seven.
Another example of Seven’s progress was an issue brought over from THON: the subject of "pet names." After two months, Seven has now settled on her own pet name for Harry—and it is very "Seven" in that it was intended to be flattering, yet contrary to societal norms (and potentially embarrassing). As such, it reminds us that Seven still has quite a ways to go before being able to fit into a society where a lot of the rules are dependent on tradition, emotions, and intangibles. Nonetheless, the full power of their current discussion of pet names becomes apparent when we witness exchanges where Harry truly leans on Seven to go along with his viewpoint (such as being discreet in their conversation with Naomi, or going easy on Crewman Celes). It shows us an important reason why Harry is so good for Seven—managing her behavior isn’t a priority for him when her quirks only affect himself (such as her observing him while he is asleep). It is telling that he puts much more effort into having Seven go easy on Crewman Celes than to dissuade her from calling him "beautiful" in private—he truly loves her for who she was and is in addition to who she could be.
As for Seven’s reaction to the door chime—for all of its brevity, it was a reaction that was at once very much in character—and yet so very different from the duty-fixated automaton she currently is in the Bragaverse. It emphasized just how much Seven’s relationship with Harry has come to mean to her—and it also symbolized, through Seven’s (unintentional) wish to ignore Naomi’s signaling, Naomi’s feelings of abandonment that would come to the forefront of FCL. Though Harry lost all intentions of making sorry the person who interrupted his shower with Seven upon discovering that Naomi was the persistent caller, it soon became quite clear that the half-K’Tarian child had come to regret interrupting what Harry and Seven had been doing.
Another important plot point carried over from IOHEFY and THON is the matter of Harry’s self-confidence—and how well he and Seven work together. Back in IOHEFY, Seven mused that all Harry needed to live up to his vast potential was "the necessary experience and an unwavering confidence in his abilities." This, combined with Seven’s devising of a personal project to boost Harry’s confidence back in THON, has begun to produce results in FCL as embodied in Harry’s heading of the collapsed matter project. As Mike explained regarding the project’s "division of credit":
Harry did suggest the possibility of the theory, whereas Seven had the knowledge of how to implement it. This demonstrates the synergy the two of them share when they work together. Seven may have access to the sum total of the Borg Collective knowledge, but she often lacks the intuition to apply that knowledge creatively, an area where Harry excels.
As such, the collapsed matter project served as a metaphor for the K/7 relationship in FCL. Not only did we see Harry learn to accept the notion of "good enough" for both his work and himself, but the project’s progress helped demonstrate a fundamental point about K/7. As we saw, like the K/7 relationship itself, neither Harry nor Seven could handle the project alone—it required both of their respective personal strengths to be successfully concluded. This was also reflected in the "shower" scene—the usefulness of Seven’s ‘sexual database’ has been greatly enhanced by Harry’s creative application of its contents.
Thus, Mike has summed up one of the aspects that makes K/7 stand out from the inferior Seven-pairings that TPTB have become enamoured of. Plots and subplots from TPTB that feature J&7, EMH&7, Tuvok&7, and even Naomi&7 focus heavily on how alike Seven is to those characters. In contrast, K/7 draws its strength from how complementary Harry and Seven are. As such, K/7 demonstrates the old adage about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
When I first read the breakdown in communication between Harry and Seven in Part 2, my first response was, to borrow a quote from Naomi, "Again?" As B’Elanna had stated, one might have thought Harry to be beyond this point. Back in THON, Harry had apparently learned to be able to trust Seven with his deepest fears and concerns of inadequacy—and even as far back in IOHEFY, Harry reacted very differently to Seven’s second surprise request for copulation.
However, as any K/7 fan who has seen "Revulsion" knows, such clumsiness on Harry’s part in regard to Seven isn’t foreign to his nature. His focused response in IOHEFY was likely due to a number of factors inapplicable to the current situation in FCL (such as Harry not hoping for (or being in) a relationship with Seven at the time and Seven’s then-recent rejection of him in "Someone to Watch Over Me," to say nothing of the sheer selfishness of the request). As Harry had reminisced back in IOHEFY, when he was confronted with Seven’s aggressive desire to copulate with him, Harry’s response was to fumble his way out of the situation and withdraw from Seven under the belief that she was attempting to pursue something she wasn’t quite ready for yet—and regret his response immediately afterward. Indeed, the parallels between Harry’s reaction to Seven’s offer in "Revulsion" and Seven’s surprise in FCL become even stronger when one considers how Seven’s standoffishness in her intercom conversation with Harry seems to mirror how Seven’s humanity took a dramatic turn for the worse not long after "Revulsion." In both cases, Harry’s surprise-influenced concerns of advancing the nature of his interaction with Seven too quickly resulted in that same interaction not only slowing down, but suffering a setback as well.
In addition, I think that Harry’s discomfort at Seven’s near-fait accompli was due to much more than just the surprise with which he was confronted with its revelation. In both IOHEFY and THON, Harry’s quarters served as a temporary refuge for Harry to retreat to when Seven (unintentionally) did something particularly wounding emotionally (as we witnessed in the aftermath of their first date in IOHEFY and their seeing the EMH’s daydreams in THON). As Mike has always kept in mind, being tolerant of Seven’s social crudity doesn’t necessarily come effortlessly on Harry’s part—and thus, when Seven does something particularly hurtful, Harry has the option of retreating to his quarters to catch his breath before Seven catches up with him. As such, Seven’s moving in represented the potential elimination of that private refuge—as symbolized by her subtle rearrangement of his room without even bothering to ask him. Interestingly, this need for a "refuge" was probably what Janeway and the Doctor were concerned about in their initial conversation with Seven. As it turned out, Seven would have a "refuge" of her own in the Wildman quarters courtesy of Naomi (and Samantha)—and Harry’s going to the Wildman quarters to see Seven after his unintentional hurting of her feelings the day before was a notable role-reversal of what was seen in IOHEFY and THON (though Harry elected to wait outside the Wildman quarters in order to accomodate the hours of Seven’s hosts).
As such, Harry’s acceptance—even desire—of Seven’s hopes to move in with him represented another major milestone in their relationship. Not only does it symbolically involve Harry fully admitting Seven into his life (a step which P/T in Mike’s saga have yet to undertake) but, in addition, Harry no longer has to worry about trying to maintain a facade of perfection for Seven. Thanks to Samantha Wildman’s advice, Seven now truly accepts that being "a good man" does not—and cannot—require perfection. As such, Harry’s quarters no longer has to serve as a potential refuge for him from Seven—it now serves as Harry and Seven’s refuge from the outside world.
Nonetheless, for all of the blame poor Harry receives, IMHO Seven deserves at least as much blame for the second major breakdown in communication that has happened in their relationship since its start at the end of IOHEFY. Aside from the previously-mentioned matter of how she moved in without asking Harry first (which was exacerbated by her not yet proclaiming a certain three-word phrase to Harry), Seven responded just as badly to Harry’s surprised reaction as he did to her revelation. As we see in FCL (as well as in "Someone to Watch Over Me") Seven can be rather thin-skinned—as B’Elanna might put it, she can’t take anywhere near what she dishes out. Although B’Elanna and Tom berated Harry for assuming the worst about Seven’s hurt feelings, Seven was just as guilty, if not more so, of assuming the worst about Harry’s feelings for her. After realizing in THON just how much she had put Harry through in the time before they had started their romantic affiliation, it is baffling that Seven could draw the worst-case conclusion about Harry’s surprise-induced hesitancy—especially since he (honestly) insisted that he wasn’t asking Seven to move out. Granted, Harry’s previous complacency and his clumsy reaction was not ideal—but it would have caused nowhere near the problems that it did if Seven had been willing to accept his protests at face value.
"You’re a woman, Seven, a human woman, with all of the joys and sorrows that come with womanhood. And you can’t just suppress the things about humanity that make you uncomfortable or wish them away. They’re a part of you, and they can be as wonderful or as terrible as you make them to be."
—Janeway to Seven, "I Only Have Eyes For You"
Ironically, this is very much the opposite of Seven’s previous (and, in the Bragaverse, current) behavior towards Harry, where she was oblivious to Harry’s feelings and assumed that, no matter what she did, his assurances and unchanged behavior could be taken at face value to indicate that her atrocious behavior had no lasting effects. It may have been brought about by her increasing awareness of how flawed she is by human standards—and her learning back in THON of how much effort Harry had put into concealing the extent to which he had been hurt by her past behavior. As such, it shows how Seven’s humanization, for all of its obvious good points, will not always work to the unmitigated benefit of the K/7 relationship.
As for Harry being caught unaware of Seven’s move-in—I do think that it was very much in line with how Mike has presented him in his K/7 saga, and not solely to his detriment. B’Elanna’s crude sexism aside, I think that it’s not too surprising that, over the course of three weeks, Harry didn’t notice the changes to his quarters for a number of reasons. Seven has relatively little in the way of personal possessions in the first place, and she was careful to keep her moved-in possessions organized according to the general pattern of Harry’s room (though out of respect for Harry’s personal nuances rather than as a deliberate attempt at deception). In addition, back in THON, Tom remarked to Harry, "How many guys would be so dedicated to a woman’s happiness and fulfillment the way you’ve been for Seven?" Now in FCL, we see how that single-minded devotion to Seven’s short-term happiness had blinded Harry to the emergence of Seven’s long-term goals for their relationship (which did not exist even as late as THON).
The interaction between Seven, Janeway, and the Doc throughout FCL was well done. Although Seven defying Janeway’s recommendations was nothing new, her resistance to the Doctor’s advice is a marked change from her usual acceptance of his directives, and continues the trend of the Doctor’s lessening importance in Seven’s life. Furthermore, the nature of their interaction is heavily dependent on the events and revelations of IOHEFY and THON. Without the earlier stories, one could easily have gotten the sense that Janeway is unsure of Harry’s worthiness of Seven, and that the Doctor is secretly hoping to disrupt the K/7 relationship in order to get a second chance at Seven himself. As FCL’s prequels makes clear, though, Janeway and the Doctor both want Seven’s relationship to succeed with Harry—and it is with this development that their initial reluctance takes on a very different light. (It also keeps Seven’s replacement of Harry’s graduation photos with a portrait of herself and the Doctor from taking on a connotation that EMH/7 fans would regard as a Freudian slip). To this end, Mike even slipped in a jab at J/7 fans by pointing out why, despite TPTB’s fondness for J & 7 (and the overt favoritism Janeway displays towards the ex-drone), Janeway really can’t be a friend in the peer sense to Seven, let alone anything more (a similar jab was taken at J/K fans in IOHEFY).
In any case, as Janeway remarked to the Doc, part of Seven growing up involves gaining a degree of autonomy in living her personal life—and thus, by the end of FCL, the Doc has joined Janeway in letting go of his foster parenting role with his gift of Italian Operas to the newly moved-in couple. In the process, Harry has correspondingly gained almost all of the responsibility for helping Seven to grow through his love and humanity (even as he begins to let go of his own reliance on Tom and B’Elanna). Granted, as Mike’s K/7 saga has already demonstrated, this labor of love isn’t something Harry can perform without fail or any assistance whatsoever. However, as Harry has already helped Seven to grow far more as an individual in three weeks than she has in the Bragaverse in three years, Harry has shown himself to be far better suited for this role than Janeway, Tuvok, Naomi, and the EMH combined. Furthermore, this ending of Janeway’s and the Doc’s foster roles may be just in time, with "Fair Haven" just around the corner for the good Captain and "Virtuoso" still a possibility in Mike’s K/7 saga for the EMH. If anyone doubts Mike can pull off a favorable interpretation of either, one only has to read THON—or FCL’s explanation of the Neelix/Kes breakup (Mike really has a talent for cleaning up after the messes TPTB leave behind). In any case, this change in Seven’s interaction with her mentors is part of a major theme of FCL—how the roles of other people prominent in Seven’s pre-K/7 life (such as Naomi and Samantha Wildman) change as a result of her emerging humanity and her relationship with Harry.
During Seven’s sleep-over with Naomi, one of the points that came up in the course of their "girl talk" was the power of first impressions. Naomi complains about being regarded as a ‘dumb little kid’—and when Seven attempts to apply her knowledge about first impressions to Naomi’s concerns, Naomi tries to apply it to Seven’s own experience on Voyager as well. Nonetheless, it should be pointed out that, for all of the strength of first impressions, it is hardly helpful when the individual in question keeps reinforcing that impression. For all of Naomi’s complaints of being treated as a "dumb little kid," it is obvious that she cannot be fully trusted with socially sensitive material, as evidenced by her "big line" at the end of FCL (and is expected for someone of her physical immaturity). Likewise, a past as a Borg drone—or even possessing a full compliment of Borg cybernetics—is not a significant impediment in of itself, as we witnessed in "Drone." It’s a case of attitude being everything—even B’Elanna could get along easily with the fully-cybernetic One. In commiserating about the injustice of first impressions, both Naomi and Seven conveniently avoided how much an influence their present behavior is. Thus, the discussion of first impressions helped highlight another way in which Naomi and Seven are similarly socially immature—though to Seven’s credit, this led to her remembering those who persistently allowed for her past as a Borg drone and social crudity.
But, as one would expect, the major topic of the sleepover was Seven’s relationship with Harry—and Naomi’s resentment of it. Although Seven has treated Naomi no worse than she did before starting her relationship with Harry (Seven leaving with Harry without telling Naomi goodbye is par for how she treats most people), it now hurts Naomi when she compares Seven’s static treatment of her with Seven’s increasingly public affections for Harry. For most of a year, Naomi has been the person on Voyager whom Seven treated with the most kindness and sensitivity—and now, anything relatively less than that represents a loss to Naomi. Furthermore, there is the matter of Naomi’s quest for peers. Since the only sentient beings she can interact with on Voyager are adults, Naomi tries to measure herself up against them—and had always come up short (and not just in matters of height). Thus, her ability to not only get along far better than the adults with the rude and arrogant (but highly skilled) Seven, but to actually be able to teach some things to Seven, combined with Seven’s treating her with at least as much (if not more) respect and consideration as she does the adults, undoubtedly provides Naomi with a private sense of equality. However, this confidence has been badly shaken by Harry’s romantic relationship with Seven, not to mention the visible changes that the K/7 relationship has quickly brought about in Seven. In addition, Seven is the closest being psychologically to a peer Naomi has ever had—and the threat of Harry taking Seven away and leaving her without peers once again (as evidenced by her own concern for getting a boyfriend) has also fueled her resentment of Harry. Furthermore (though whether Naomi ever learned of this is unknown), when Harry was still fuming from Seven’s latest request to copulate with him back in IOHEFY, Neelix used the example of Naomi’s tolerance of Seven’s social crudity to convince him to "Listen to what she means." It was from that advice that Harry decided to give Seven another chance—and set up his fateful date with her on the holodeck in 24th century Manhattan. Thus, unintentionally, Naomi had helped pave the way for Harry’s current relationship with Seven—which lent a marked degree of irony to Naomi’s memorably pathetic (in a way that serves the story very well) remark at the end of part 1 of FCL.
As such, Seven’s relatively open discussion with Naomi about the nature of the K/7 relationship was not merely explanatory for the sake of a shock value. As Mike has noted, TPTB often write Naomi as an adult in a child’s body—and Naomi wasn’t completely unready for this information, thanks to Samantha taking Naomi to the Doc for ‘a special lesson plan’ and evidenced by Seven not having to go into explicit detail about it. The discussion served to mirror Neelix’s remarks to Samantha about trying to compete with Seven for Naomi (if in a much more wordy and graphic way). Thus, Naomi comes to realize that she isn’t competing with Harry for Seven, because they play very different roles in Seven’s life (much as Seven and Samantha play very different roles in Naomi’s life). Furthermore, Naomi now not only understands that her pre-K/7 role in Seven’s life is no longer appropriate, but that she can have another kind of friendship with Seven that benefits from the K/7 relationship that Naomi had once resented. As a result, Naomi not only comes to accept, but even whole-heartedly endorses, the K/7 relationship—and, with Seven’s long-overdue verbal appreciation of Naomi’s friendship (and assuagement of Naomi’s fears of being alone), Naomi feels free to let go of her role as Seven’s "playmate." As such, the "sleep-over" served as "the last hurrah" of the Naomi & 7 friendship in its old form—and, like the EMH & 7 interaction in IOHEFY, Mike did it far better than TPTB have ever managed in Voyager.
Another topic that came up during Seven’s discussion of relationships with Naomi was, naturally, the subject of marriage. With this scene, Mike deftly integrated a rather infamous line from Seven in "Course: Oblivion" into his K/7 saga. In the context he provided in FCL, the faux-Seven’s declaration about the undesirability of monogamy suddenly fits into Seven’s character. Seven has rarely exhibited humility, and as such, the quote indicates that she was arrogant enough to believe that, as someone closer to ‘perfection’ than any non-Borg, she was worthy of having any number of mates—ironically at a time when she wasn’t worthy of being a mate to anyone. In contrast, now that Seven is experiencing a romantic relationship, this theory-based opinion has been discarded in favor of one that reflects her emotional experience.
As the first part of FCL made very clear, since the events of THON, the K/7 relationship had been going very well. Indeed, given that FCL took place after "Pathfinder," I wondered how "The Voyager Conspiracy" could have fit into Mike’s timeline, since I would have thought the events of that episode would have severely tested a K/7 relationship (in TVC, Seven had ultimately turned hostile against even Naomi). I asked Mike about this, and he explained:
By the time of the episode Seven has stopped using her regeneration alcove, relying on her chair instead. What’s more, she now spends more of her off duty hours with Harry instead of personal projects to improve her efficiency. So in the K/7 Saga, Seven never engages in the experiment to process Voyager‘s information directly. Voyager makes contact with Tash as before, only this time w/o Seven’s paranoid interference. They make use of the tetrion catapult but, having had more time to experiment (they never had to chase after Seven) actually manage to jump slightly farther than in the Bragaverse, where they soon discover…the collapsed matter nebula!
As a result, Voyager now has a new source of highly refined warp plasma. How will this effect things in future stories? Stay tuned…
Mike’s generous response to my query not only answered my concerns about "The Voyager Conspiracy," but it also helped me see another major theme in "First Comes Love." In effect, Mike has pointed out that Seven’s quest for ‘perfection’ in "The Voyager Conspiracy" resulted in a setback not only for herself, but in terms of Voyager‘s journey home. Furthermore, in the Bragaverse, Seven’s state of physical ‘perfection’ (i.e. dependent on the power-wasting Borg alcove for recharging her cybernetics) would have considerably (if not completely) hindered Voyager‘s long-term ability to utilize the discovery of the collapsed matter nebula even if they had managed to find the nebula in the first place. This theme of the cost of ‘perfection’ was similarly reflected in a sensitive subject Mike raised in FCL: Seven’s fertility—or, to be more precise, the lack thereof.
Back in the TNG Episode "Q Who?", Q described a Borg scout as "being neither male nor female." AFAIK, the subplot of Seven being sterile is most commonly found in K/7 stories (such as those written by StrWriter and Katrina Munroe)—and is an interesting contrast with a number of EMH/7 fanfics that involve the EMH fathering a half-holographic child with Seven. When I inquired about the nature of Seven’s sterility, Mike explained,
…The way I see it, an ordinary human immune system would certainly accept a clone graft as part of the body. But Seven’s nanoprobes are far more sensitive and so they automatically react to any transplanted tissue as a foreign body. Remember, nanoprobes are designed not to protect the body, but primarily to assimilate it and maintain its perfection. So naturally, Seven’s nanoprobes would work in ways not always to her benefit, despite the Doctor’s best efforts at reprogramming them.
It’s not surprising that Voyager‘s sickbay would be lacking. First of all, there’s the not so small matter of the EMH’s skill and abilities—I mean, there are good reasons why Starfleet has condemned the Mark 1 EMHs (aka Emergency Medical Hotheads / Extremely Marginal Housecalls) to scrub plasma conduits on waste transfer barges, right? <eg> Seriously, even in mint condition, the sickbay of the relatively modest-sized Intrepid-class starship is a far cry from the facilities that one might find on a major starbase or a Sovereign-class starship (not to mention several years obsolete, as we saw in "Message in a Bottle")—and when Voyager was dragged into the Delta Quad by the Caretaker, its sickbay was mostly destroyed (and all of its medical staff killed).
Nonetheless, in Mike’s K/7 saga, Seven’s (current) sterility serves an important plot purpose. One of the major aspects of Seven’s character was that she maintained the Borg’s search for perfection. Naturally, Seven defined perfection in the same way as the Collective did—which hindered her effort to become human. But now, Seven is learning that, the Collective’s monumental arrogance aside, no standard of perfection can be applicable throughout the universe. What may be perfect for one set of requirements will be grossly inadequate for many other sets of requirements.
A case in point can be Seven’s choice of living facilities. By Borg standards, Cargo Bay 2 was the epitome of what the Borg might wish for in living quarters. Its direct access to the ship’s batteries makes setting up regeneration alcoves convenient, and it provides service to the rest of the ship through storage. There is also the matter of the bay being strictly utilitarian—there is little evidence of aspects such as "creature comforts" that does not serve the minimal needs of either the ship or its crew. However, as Seven becomes more human, what she needs out of her residence changes—and Cargo Bay 2 no longer meets them. For example, her current ability to sleep and use the "regeneration chair" enables her to recharge her cybernetics at a far lower energy cost than if she used her old alcove. While this would be insignificant on a Borg Cube or a Sovereign-class starship (in which the Borg feel free to install alcoves in the corridors), Voyager is pretty far from the former and even further from the latter, even if one doesn’t consider Voyager‘s need to conserve energy. Furthermore, Seven now regards regeneration as a chore to be minimized in favor of sleeping on a bed with Harry; and the utilitarian sterility of Cargo Bay 2 (to say nothing of the lack of privacy) is no longer an insignificant aspect to be ignored, but a major psychological shortcoming that is all the more glaring when compared to Harry’s quarters.
Likewise, the removal of Seven’s ovaries represented how what was close to perfection by Borg standards was markedly substandard by Federation standards. As Seven pointed out in "Revulsion," drones don’t reproduce by single-cell fertilization, and the removal of the gonads makes a drone further dependent on its biochips to provide an "improved" set of replacement hormones. With the installation of regenerative subprocessors in lieu of the ovaries, the Borg, by their standards, have enhanced the female drone for no apparent cost. However, Seven has realized that—just as with Cargo Bay 2—as her needs have changed, what was once perfection by Borg standards is now, for her purposes, insufficient and even flawed. The very same Borg cybernetics that she once regarded as an unquestionable source of her superiority has now come to represent a potential obstacle to her hopes of a full relationship with Harry (as she fretted to Naomi about her ability to feel emotions). Though her Borg technology makes her superior to any of Voyager‘s females in terms of raw strength, endurance, and knowledge—it also leaves her grossly imperfect in terms of her fertility as well as her creativity and humanity.
Nonetheless, at this point, Seven’s sterility is more of a help than a hindrance. Aside from making her sex life with Harry more convenient and forcing her to confront the flaws of her Borg nature, it avoids the possibility that Seven’s maturity will be given too severe a test too soon. Even by the end of FCL, despite the progress she has made, Seven is not ready to have children. She still has difficulty in following societal rules herself, let alone being able to guide others on that journey (it was very fortunate for Seven that, while One was alive, he fitted into Voyager‘s society very easily). Thus, Mike deserves credit for announcing that the Borg children will not be in his saga. It eliminates any concerns that the ‘Borglets’ will be used to cheaply circumvent this revelation (as TPTB did to get around Seven’s lack of a mate or even emotional maturity that resulted from their unwillingness to allow her character to significantly evolve permanently).
Even so, as Seven had advised Naomi about the latter’s despair of having a boyfriend, it’s premature to give up hope for Seven to ever have a biological child in Mike’s K/7 saga. As Harry himself would no doubt point out, Harry’s own parents had despaired of ever having children before he was conceived. As such, it makes sense that Harry would accept Seven’s sterility this easily—after all, his own existence is proof of the Federation’s medical ability to correct infertility. (This may be the reason why, in FCL, it was stated that cloning is apparently allowed far less often for heterosexual couples than homosexual ones—I doubt Mike intended the Federation to be an "Animal Farm" society where "some animals are more equal than others.") There’s also the potential for finding societies with advanced medical know-how between Voyager‘s present position and home. The title itself is reason not to give up hope, as it symbolized what may lie ahead for the K/7 relationship—a common form of the fifth sentence for the K/7 "Jumping Rope Jingles" sung by Naomi is, "…then comes Seven with a baby carriage."
Seven’s interaction with Samantha was as well handled as the Naomi & 7 interaction in FCL, and addressed a major deficiency of Seven & Naomi-centered Voyager episodes. Given how often Seven and Naomi interact on Voyager episodes, the absence of Samantha Wildman is particularly glaring—it was as if TPTB wanted the "story possibilities" posed by a child without the "burden" of that child’s mother. (Come to think of it, there have been more than a few disgusted Voyager fans who openly doubt if Brannon Braga is mature enough to deserve being addressed as ‘Mister.’)
In contrast, FCL’s snapshot of the turning point in Seven and Samantha’s interaction dealt wonderfully with how Samantha’s logically uneasy sense of "trust, but verify" eventually transformed into friendship with Seven. More than any of the female members of Voyager‘s senior staff, Samantha Wildman represents an "average" adult female human. (Note to Seven and Neelix: When one has both a vast range of culturally acceptable combinations of appearance electives and the willingness to utilize intangibles like mood and comfort to influence one’s choice, preparation for "evening activities" will take more time than if your options for appearance electives are culturally limited, if your choice of dress doesn’t vary, or if your "evening wear" is preselected by someone else.) As such, Seven’s new friendship with Samantha Wildman is symbolic of her maturing humanity—and serves to highlight how Naomi and Janeway are very different from the true female peer Seven now has. Furthermore, even back in IOHEFY, Samantha Wildman contributed to the start of the K/7 relationship through her holoprogram of 24th Century Manhattan—and now, by the end of FCL, both Seven and Samantha have benefited from their new friendship. Samantha’s sharing of her whirlwind courtship and marriage to Greskrendtregkt may help provide Seven with the impetus to learn to trust her emotions, and Seven’s openness about her feelings for One and Harry has helped Samantha cope with her single parenting of Naomi and separation from her beloved husband.
In addition to being a story about Seven’s friendship with both of the Wildmans, FCL was also about Samantha Wildman’s interaction with Neelix—and their supporting role in FCL was a welcome change from the obscurity that has become the norm for the last two characters. Through FCL, Mike not only credibly explained how and why the Neelix/Kes relationship had ended, but did so in a way that lent an air of inevitability to its end without making light of the affection that they had posessed for one another. In addition, he set up with equal care how Neelix and Samantha Wildman had come to develop feelings for one another in the course of their caring for Naomi.
When we first learned of Neelix’s romantic interest in Samantha Wildman, Neelix strongly believed that his situation was similar to that of Harry Kim’s love for Seven. But, as events unfolded in FCL, it eventually became clear that Neelix/Samantha was far more akin to EMH/7 instead. In both cases (at least in Mike’s K/7 saga), the male suitor was (on Voyager) a distinctively unique non-human who was unattractive by contemporary human standards, yet offered love and kindness to a female human in a uniquely difficult situation on Voyager. However, just as the Doctor realized through Seven’s body language that she was meant for Harry and not himself in IOHEFY, Neelix came to realize through witnessing Samantha’s nonverbal reactions to Greskrendtregkt’s message that pursuing a romantic relationship with her would be wrong in a romantic and emotional sense as well as a legal one. Not only would it fly in the face of Samantha’s true love for her husband, it would mock Greskrendtregkt’s hopes for her return, to say nothing of Greskrendtregkt’s iron-clad assurance that he would faithfully wait for Samantha’s return. Then, of course, there are the moral reasons why neither Neelix/Samantha nor EMH/7 should be consummated. As Tom and B’Elanna tried to remind Neelix, Samantha was married to Greskrendrkt—and, as a number of RiFers have pointed out, the overt tutor-student interaction between the Doc and Seven makes a romantic interaction morally questionable.
To Neelix’s credit, he lets go of his ill-advised romantic hopes with just as much graceful dignity as the Doc did. However, at this point, the fates of EMH/7 and Neelix/Wildman diverge somewhat. When Mike posted the first part of "The Hierarchy of Needs," I wondered if we would ever get a chance to see Seven acknowledge the Doctor’s sacrifice in pushing her to a life of happiness with Harry at the expense of his own. However, Mike elected instead to restore the respectability of the Doctor’s character by having his TPTB-inflicted romantic love for Seven be retconned back into a properly parental one—and Seven’s words to the doctor about regarding him as a father figure (with no romantic component) were revealed to be genuine (as opposed to merely rote phrases for the sake of being social). As such, I like to think that the final Neelix/Wildman scene represented the "forbidden love" conclusion that, for the sake of both Seven and the Doctor, was denied to the end of EMH/7 in THON in favor of the "platonic gesture."
FCL marked Mike’s return to utilizing the less popular characters of Voyager. In a story that featured Samantha Wildman, it’s not surprising that "First Comes Love" included a relatively heavy supporting cast from what some fans have affectionately called "The Lower Decks."
During the initial discussion of the collapsed matter project in the mess hall, Mike used the opportunity to mention two of the three "black sheep" featured in "Good Shepherd." As Harry, mused, poor Tal Celes—as FCL makes clear, Seven’s advancing humanity hadn’t yet spread to her dealings with the majority of Voyager‘s crew (without Harry’s help, Seven’s still a sorry excuse for a department head). In contrast, Crewman Herron fared better in FCL than he did in "Good Shepherd." It was gratifying that Mr. Herron’s contribution was allowed to stand uniquely (and not diluted by suggestions that Seven and/or Janeway could have come up with an answer just as good or better if they had been asked instead) while keeping him in character. Furthermore, that he was consulted at all reflects Harry’s strengths as a department head—he’s willing to put ego aside in order to finish a job.
Mike’s inclusion of Vorik in FCL not only served a dramatic purpose in highlighting the humiliations involved in romantic relationships (which Harry received quite a bit of in FCL), but also served as his chance to flesh out Vorik as a character in his own right. Indeed, Mike has struck out on a rarely traveled road through his depiction of Vorik. Not only does Vorik receive a portrayal more favorable than the aloof Tuvok (Vorik apparently takes the Vulcan philosophy of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations far more seriously than Tuvok does), but, IMHO, he even came off as a much more sympathetic character in FCL than either Paris or Torres.
Last, but definitely not least, we also had the integration of the infamous Lindsay Ballard into Mike’s K/7 Saga in a manner that enhanced Harry as a character. Nonetheless, her mention in FCL carried the ominousness of a fuse being lit. I wonder if, at this point in Mike’s timeline, Jhet’leya is now in her shuttlecraft, searching for Voyager—or, instead, she’s now happily ‘living’ her new ‘life’ as a Kobali. Given Mike’s announcement that the ‘Borglets’ won’t be in his K/7 saga timeline, it wouldn’t surprise me if the other half of "Ashes to Ashes" was erased from the saga as well.
In contrast to the "Below Decks" folks, the portrayal of Paris and Torres suffered in FCL compared to what we witnessed of them in FCL’s prequels. Both Tom and B’Elanna ridiculed Harry at a time when he was not able to tolerate it, and B’Elanna Torres also demonstrated a casual sexism (if Tom Paris is a ‘pig,’ B’Elanna Torres may be a sexist sow) along with a somewhat craven tendency to assign unpleasant tasks to others. Paris himself pushes the limits of good taste with Naomi with his "inventory" remarks (speaking from personal experience, Mr. Paris? <eg>) and his choice of cartoons to show Naomi. (If "South Park" was what Tom had shown Naomi, he should count himself lucky that its ‘abusive language’ was the only objectionable part Samantha had learned about). To add insult to injury for Seven-hating P/Ters, we even had Samantha Wildman comment that Seven was a preferable companion for Naomi to any P/T children—at a time when the elder Wildman was still not entirely comfortable with the ex-drone. To be fair, these character faults hardly came out of the blue—they were first shown in IOHEFY and THON, and they are appropriate for folks who weren’t fit to be Starfleet officers (or members of the utopian Federation society) the first time around.
Nonetheless, the inadequacies of P/T reminds us that, if the K/7 relationship is to progress, Harry can’t keep relying on Tom and B’Elanna any more than Seven can continue to rely on Janeway and the Doctor. P/T has their own (sizable) emotional baggage to deal with, and K/7 has already progressed past P/T in some ways. Instead, Harry and Seven must be able to deal directly with each other through the rocky parts of their relationship. Throughout most of Mike’s K/7 saga up to this point, Harry and Seven hadn’t truly thought of themselves as "we," as evidenced by Seven’s exclusion from Harry’s ‘inner circle’ of friends. As such, Seven’s integration into Harry’s ‘inner circle’ of best friends, combined with her new degree of independence from her ‘foster parents,’ represents another important milestone in the evolution of how Harry and Seven regarded themselves in their relationship from two "I"s to "we."
Naomi’s ‘big line’ at the end of FCL was set up by Mike’s opening K/7 scene as well as by Seven’s discussion of sexual intercourse with Naomi. It certainly wasn’t intended by Naomi to humiliate Harry—as evidenced by her K/7 drawing, Naomi is now a strong believer in the K/7 relationship (perhaps even more so than the P/T relationship, if the relatively plain sketch she drew for P/T in "Alice" was any indication). Like Seven’s "pet name" for Harry, the graphic comparison was intended to be the highest compliment she could think of. It serves as a reminder that Naomi, like her ex-Borg friend, has a long way to go before she is ready to be an autonomous member of Federation society. It also parallels Seven’s less well-intentioned remark about P/T’s intimate activities in "Someone To Watch Over Me." As such, although Tom & B’Elanna’s amusement at Harry’s humiliation seems unworthy of them (which is par for the course for them in FCL), I think I can guess at an understandable motivation for doing so. I can imagine Tom and B’Elanna thinking to themselves, "At least no one’s going to be making jokes about us and Deck 9, Section 12 anymore. Not when they’ve got Harry, Seven, and Deck 6, Section 10."
Even so, I found the absence of any specific description of Seven’s reaction to Naomi’s words and Harry’s subsequent humiliation to be rather glaring, and I asked Mike for an elaboration. He responded:
Seven probably would not have reacted to Naomi’s ‘big line’ since to her ’embarrassment is irrelevant.’ Besides, she never did understand why everyone was so skittish about telling Naomi the truth about sex. As for Harry, he would certainly be a bit…well… unhappy about the whole thing, and Seven would feel guilty about causing Harry harm. But I don’t see this as a major crisis in their relationship. It’s not like everyone on the ship doesn’t already know the he and Seven get busy on a regular basis. Trust me, it was all far more embarrassing for Neelix than it was for Harry. Seeing as how he wasn’t too upset at Seven for telling B’Elanna about their ‘sexual database,’ I’m sure he would have forgiven her very quickly. He always does.
In his afterword, Mike remarked about the extraordinary generosity and sensitivity of the Harry Kim he wrote in IOHEFY and THON. IMHO, this is not something that Mike has to be apologetic about, since the credibility of any romantic relationship Seven is in is heavily dependent on her mate being as generous, sensitive, and forgiving as Mike portrayed Harry in IOHEFY and THON. As such, who else can be a suitable mate for someone as flawed as Seven of Nine is?
Mike remarked in his afterword that, "In many ways, FCL was the hardest story [he has] written so far in the series." In writing a story about Naomi and Samantha Wildman (and their interactions with Seven), naturally some compromises had to be made to do their story justice. One of these was the unusually lengthy period text-wise of estrangement between Harry and Seven—and as a result, this story didn’t have the quantity of K/7 as its predecessors. But, in all fairness to FCL, being compared to IOHEFY and THON is hardly a reasonable test of its quality, given how fantastically good FCL’s prequels were. We’ve already seen on Voyager what happens when the easy stories are repeated ad nauseum. Besides, FCL still eclipses most, if not all, of Voyager’s Season 6 episodes in terms of quality (to say nothing about K/7). If Mike can do this good a job on a story that he finds hard to write about, then I don’t think we have anything to worry about for the remainder of his K/7 saga.
Memorable Quotes from "First Comes Love":
- "Ignore it."
—Seven to Harry about his door chime
- "It has been my experience, Harry, that it takes minimal effort to get you ‘in the mood.’"
- "Aw, Mom! A clean room is irrelevant!"
"What did you say, young lady?!"
"I, uh, I…"
—Naomi and Samantha Wildman
- "The food tastes a lot better if you actually put some in your mouth."
—Tom to Harry
- "Remember when we used to be cute like them?"
"Paris, we couldn’t be cute like them even if we tried."
—Tom and B’Elanna about K/7
- "Hey! Where did Seven go?"
"Oh, I… uh… I think they had something important to do."
—Naomi and B’Elanna
- "She was my friend first…"
—Naomi about Seven
- "You’ve become a grown-up, just like everyone else. And I’m still just a dumb little kid."
—Naomi to Seven
- "A child with B’Elanna Torres’s temper and Tom Paris’ sense of humor? I think I’ll take my chances with Seven."
- "Why, before Seven and I hooked up, I had one or two romantic letdowns…"
"Only one or two?"
—Harry and Tom
- "I guess that in the meantime, I’ll have to settle for being plain old ‘Uncle Neelix.’"
"And given the quantity of affection that Naomi Wildman feels for you, in what way is that unacceptable?"
—Neelix and Seven
- "Easy there, you two. There’s a child present, and I’m not talking about Mr. Paris."
—The Doctor to Harry and Seven
- "Thats OK, Doctor. I hope that when I grow up, I meet a boy who loves me as much as Harry loves Seven…so I can copulate with him in the sonic shower, just like Seven does!"
—Naomi to the Doctor