Thoughts on “Homecoming”

Written by  on February 5, 2000 

Thoughts by Thomas Lee

By Thomas Lee

Although "Homecoming" is described by Jeffrey as a "Sequel to Prodigal Daughter" (and it is, temporally speaking), in many ways, it is just as much a sequel to "Quentin." It’s good that Voyager‘s Q-sponsored visit to Earth in "Quentin" was humorously acknowledged by both Voyager and Starfleet personnel.

Of course, many things have changed since "Quentin"—most notably Seven’s marriage and Janeway’s disgrace. It’s understandable that Admiral Paris has difficulty believing that his prize protégé is guilty of what she had been court-martialed and imprisoned for. But given the incredible allowances Tuvok has repeatedly made for Janeway’s judgment, it’s plain that he never would have even considered a court martial until the evidence became overwhelming.

Speaking of Admiral Paris, I wonder what happened between him, Tom, and B’Elanna that left the latter two with the impression that they got? For all practical purposes, Tom had returned from the dead—I’d think that the good Admiral would be happy to accept Tom back, quirks and all. Myself, I hope it was (yet another) misunderstanding that, with Tom and B’Elanna electing to stay on Earth, there will be soon an opportunity to correct.

The death of Greskrendtregk during the Dominion War symbolized how Janeway’s sabotage efforts had negative consequences for her crew not immediately apparent in previous "Year 6-1/2" stories. The transwarp experiment in Season 2 took place more than a year before the Dominion invaded the Alpha Quadrant—and thus, has probably come to represent to Samantha Wildman one of many chances for Naomi to meet her biological father that Janeway had denied her.

Though his words about Greskrendtregk’s "heroic" death may not have been the most sensitive, Dyson’s perspective on the loss of loved ones was certainly helpful for both Wildmans. Furthermore, it underscored that, in some ways, the "homecoming" of the former Challenger crewmembers was the most painful of all—they were separated from their homes by both distance and time. The separation by distance could be—and was—corrected, but the separation by time could not. Perhaps Starfleet could arrange for Montgomery Scott to meet with the former crewmembers of the Challenger. He would certainly know a thing or two about adjusting to the 24th Century.

Given that Libby and the elder Mr. and Mrs. Kim didn’t exactly jump with joy at the news that Harry was romantically involved with an ex-Borg, Stephen Kim’s initial grumbling about the relationship wasn’t too surprising. Nonetheless, the fait accompli of Seven’s marriage and pregnancy was quite effective in squelching any lingering objections Stephen Kim had (June Kim and Libby already seemed to have abandoned any discomfort about it). Seven, of course, didn’t hesitate to recite potentially embarrassing details of her early history with Harry—but it was notable that Seven was careful to omit any details of her early interaction with Harry that would provoke opposition from Libby and Harry’s parents (such as what we saw in "The Gift" and "Waking Moments"). That Stephen, June, and Libby didn’t react negatively to the time of Harry’s "K’tarian moonrise" offer to Seven indicates that Libby had already "moved on" at that point in time. It was also nice to see Seven acknowledge the role Janeway played in getting her together with Harry.

Libby’s interaction with Seven was well-handled, and did a lot to show Libby as the kind of person that was, and still is, worthy of Harry. It was plain to see that Harry and Libby’s relationship had been based upon a solid friendship, one that will endure despite both of them having moved on from each other. This was especially evident by Libby’s efforts to strengthen Harry’s relationship with Seven by addressing its potential problems with the perspective of an outsider to it. (It was also refreshing to see Libby stand her ground in defending humanity to Seven, something which is all too rare among the Voyager senior staff.) Thanks to Libby, Seven’s efforts to become human got a kick in the right direction that Harry himself could not, and never would, bring himself to do. As circumstances would soon show, Libby’s successful acceleration of Seven’s humanization came just in the nick of time.

The arrival at New Zealand by Janeway, Ransom, and Burke not only continued Janeway’s new life on the other side of Federation Law, but it also answered the question of who was in Voyager‘s brig at the start of "Getting Home." If their banter was any indication, brig duty hadn’t been dull . As for Rasmussen—that guy definitely has an incorrigible streak for audacious and/or foolhardy con attempts. First the Enterprise-D crew, and now the Bajorans (on religious matters, no less). I wouldn’t be surprised if he had turned himself in to escape the resulting outrage against him.

Janeway’s arrival at the New Zealand Penal Settlement was starkly ironic. Before she set out to the Badlands, she had stopped by New Zealand to pick up a convict named Tom Paris. Now, at the end of Voyager‘s excursion to the Delta Quadrant, Janeway has returned to New Zealand as a convict. I wonder who was piloting the shuttlecraft that delivered Janeway and company to New Zealand? If it had been Tom Paris (or an ex-Maquis), THAT would have been rubbing salt in the wound.

Which leads to another, perhaps even more stark, irony. Three Alpha Quadrant ships (I don’t count "Dreadnought" as a proper ship) were dragged into the Delta Quadrant by the Caretaker (the Challenger was brought to the Delta Quadrant by other means). Two of them were Starfleet vessels, both commanded by Captains considered to be among the best of those who wore the four pips. The third was a Maquis vessel, commanded by an individual who was a wanted criminal. Indeed, one of those Starfleet captains was specifically sent on a mission to arrest the Maquis commander and his crew.

And yet… by the time Voyager returned home with the survivors of those three ships, it is the Maquis captain who is the lawful commander and the two Starfleet Captains his prisoners for disgracing the Starfleet uniform. That’s got to smart at Starfleet—a Maquis was a much better Starfleet officer than two of its best Captains were.

The abduction of Seven by Starfleet Tactical was made more shocking by the abruptness with which we—and Seven—learned of it. What might have been just another ho-hum subplot of mistreatment of an ex-Borg, however, was made much more interesting—and relevant to Seven’s development of her humanity—by Data’s revelation that among all of the ex-Borg in the Federation (it is good to know that the Queen’s death in First Contact didn’t condemn all of the assimilated Starfleet officers to death), Seven’s mistreatment was unique. Which brings us to another point—what was so different about Seven that she was treated much worse than Picard, Data, the ex-Borg officers, even Hugh (who was never a Starfleet officer)?

Her name.

Seven is the only ex-Borg known to the Federation who still identifies herself by the designation the Borg used for her. The former Three of Five, who remains fully cybernetic to this day, renamed himself "Hugh" after being permanently separated from the collective. He was hardly unique in this regard—every other Borg in his local section of the Collective likewise dropped their Borg designations and adopted non-Borg identities for themselves when they became individuals. Even "One," the advanced drone we saw in "Drone" and mentioned in "Liaisons," didn’t name himself "One of (number)."

The identity of "Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to the Unimatrix 01" reinforces her declaration/mantra "I am Borg." In an ironic sense, it is a declaration of individuality. But it also conveys a message, intentional or not, of how she wishes to be treated and/or regarded. Being beamed out of her bed in the middle of the night to be interrogated like a bioneural gel-pack being yanked for inspection is definitely unacceptable treatment of a Federation citizen—but it is absolutely consistent with how the Borg Collective treats its drones.

Thus, Seven’s subsequent declaration, "I am no longer Borg. I am Annika Kim, a human," marks a fundamental shift in how she regards herself. Combined with her legal recognition as "Annika Kim," her declaration serves as a statement that she is ready to accept herself as a member of a society of humans, and that she no longer wishes to be an outsider looking into (or down at) that society. Sure, it’s not going to be easy. But as Annika has come to realize, from both Libby and Starfleet Tactical, her new mindset will be far less painful—for Harry as well as herself—in the long run.

Of course, those on Voyager with whom Annika served with during their trip home from the Delta Quadrant remain comfortable with calling her "Seven." It’s now a nickname that symbolizes their association with her throughout much of her journey back into human society.

Annika’s abduction, and the subsequent events thereof, also served to underscore what Libby had told her: "It’s no sin to admit our imperfections; they’re what make us who we are and, in some cases, they can bring us strength."

That Annika’s abduction by Starfleet Tactical was a mistake is glaringly obvious—any queries about her would have quickly revealed that she was very open about what she knew from her time as a Borg. Starfleet Tactical’s assumptions made on the basis of Annika’s then-identity of "Seven of Nine" brought to mind a number of unkind phrases about the hazards of assuming. Any one of its offenses against Annika Kim (transporting her without her permission, transporting her from private property without her permission, interrogating her without justification, etc) would have been enough to leave egg on its face (and that’s without considering Annika’s marriage, her pregnancy, or her being a Voyager crewmember who had just returned from the Delta Quadrant). Collectively, Starfleet Tactical’s misjudgments have resulted in a major public relations gaffe that probably has the PR folks wishing for the good old days following the Baku relocation attempt.

Nonetheless, that Annika’s release was brought about so quickly is a testament to the ability of the Federation (including Starfleet Tactical) to acknowledge, and more importantly, promptly correct its mistakes (though it is fairly obvious that it would have been far harder for Picard and the Federation Council to support the release of "Seven of Nine" than "Annika Kim"). Even more importantly, the strength brought about by this mistake was that the Federation learned from it and took measures to ensure that it wouldn’t happen again (which is a lot healthier in the long run than those who cannot admit to mistakes and try to "sweep them under the rug"). In some ways, Starfleet Tactical’s blunders provided an opportunity for the Federation to show itself off at its best. (As a side benefit, it also enabled Stephen Kim to show that he had truly accepted Annika as his daughter-in-law).

Annika’s adoption of a name befitting a member of human society would shortly be followed by Voyager’s other "technological being" making a similar embrace of a new identity.

The Doctor may have ranted in "Virtuoso" about being treated like a piece of equipment, but he unintentionally supports this by persisting in not adopting an individual name. The Doc was, in effect, proclaiming that he’s no different from the thousands of non-sentient EMH copies in use across the Federation.

By adopting the name "Kenneth Zimmerman," the former EMH has, like the former Seven of Nine, embraced membership in Federation society as a unique, sentient being. Of course, being a sentient hologram has its own challenges, one of which is the potentially overwhelming temptation to be godlike within the holodeck. It’s no surprise that when Charlene and Jeffrey gain sentience of their own, Charlene demands that Belle be resurrected—just as any self-respecting human parent would do under similar circumstances. That this is simply not possible—at least, not any more possible, or desirable, than recreating a deceased human in the holodeck, underscores that Kenneth, Charlene, and Jeffrey have truly become uniquely self-aware, and are no longer mere programs. (The Doctor being confined to sickbay while Jeffrey has the use of his mobile emitter, though, nicely reminds us that as "technological beings," there are significant limitations to go along with the advantages that they have).

It’s good to see Kenneth being helped out by the best people in the Federation who can assist him (with the possible exception of Vic Fontaine, who is at Deep Space Nine)—Data, Reginald Barclay, Dr. Bruce Maddox, and, of course, Dr. Lewis Zimmerman himself. Dr. Zimmerman’s advice to Kenneth about families in real life seems to imply that, in the three years since we last saw him as a bachelor in "Doctor Bashir, I Presume?", he gained a spouse and children of his own. At least, that’s what I hope. It wouldn’t do for Kenneth Zimmerman to be more successful in having a family than his own creator, would it?

The rash of promotions we saw in "Homecoming" was long overdue, and particularly noteworthy was Starfleet’s revocation of the demotions Janeway inflicted on Tom Paris and the "Equinox Five." Demotions were a lot more common on Janeway’s ship than promotions, and it’s good to see this redressed. Furthermore, the leniency and legitimacy granted the Maquis not only rewarded their efforts to assist what had been, in effect, an effort to bring about their own imprisonment, but it also underscored how poorly Starfleet regarded Janeway’s motivating fear of career consequences.

That Harry Kim would move on from Voyager is not really unexpected—as he would remind Annika, family is extremely important to him, and after being separated from his parents for five years, I suspect that he’s had his fill of starship service. Besides, if Jeffrey Harlan’s descriptions of Harry Kim’s new San Francisco apartment are any indication, Harry is about to live a real-life version of the "what might have been" he experienced in "Non Sequitur" (of course, with Annika instead of Libby). Nonetheless, it is to be expected—and good to see—that he takes the opinions of his friends—and especially Annika—on this matter into consideration before committing himself on this course. As for Annika’s new role as a civillian contractor, it shows that Starfleet now understands the right way to benefit from her vast stores of knowledge.

It’s good to see that Neelix has a promising future ahead of him in the Federation Astrophysical Survey. Although Annika probably has more raw knowledge than Neelix on the Delta Quadrant, her former way of thinking means that there is little she can provide that isn’t already in the sensor logs and database. Neelix can provide the perspective of someone who personally interacted with many of those cultures—which in First Contact situations can prove just as valuable.

Regarding Tom’s proposal to B’Elanna—here’s hoping that congratulations are in order.

With most of the senior staff having moved on (I presume Tuvok left Voyager to rejoin his family on Vulcan), it makes sense that many of the newly promoted are going to be moved into the new openings in senior staff positions.

Voyager‘s new assignment to study the Dyson sphere reflects well on the mission planners at Starfleet. It would look bad for a starship that just got back from the Delta Quadrant to be immediately sent out to explore unknown space again, yet having Voyager sit idle or do supply runs could be considered demeaning. By being sent to study the Dyson sphere (which lies well within Federation space), Voyager will be examining what many consider the ultimate feat of mechanical engineering (even Unimatrix 01 is pretty insignificant compared to a 200 million kilometer diameter metal bubble built around a star, with the interior habitable surface area of over two hundred million Class-M planets). For those interested in learning more about this awesome mechanical marvel, click here.

"Homecoming," like "Getting Home," represented a major turning point for many of Voyager‘s crewmembers. This time, though, the changes were much more dramatic—and, especially for the senior staff, represented "the end of the beginning." The inclusion of many notable characters from the TNG series was a welcome, and much appreciated, effort at continuity.

"Homecoming" was a good read, and, barring a major shake-up of TPTB, probably a much better story than how TPTB will handle the return of Voyager. It’s good to hear that Jeffrey Harlan is already working on "Family Ties"—it will be fascinating to see how those who served on Voyager during its cruise through the Delta Quadrant fare in their new lives.

Memorable Quotes from "Homecoming":

  • "Welcome home. Again."
    "Thank you, lieutenant. We intend to stay, this time."
    —Spacedock lieutenant and Chakotay
  • "I believe your exact words were, ‘What? You’re pregnant now?’"
    —Seven discussing Harry’s reaction to her pregnancy
  • "Direct, aren’t we?"
    "Deception is inefficient."
    —Libby and Seven
  • "I am Borg."
    "No, you’re not. Not anymore."
    —Seven and Libby
  • "It’s no sin to admit our imperfections; they’re what make us who we are and, in some cases, they can bring us strength."
  • "That is a contradiction."
    "What about humanity isn’t?"
    —Seven and Libby
  • "I am no longer Borg. I am Annika Kim, a human."
    —the former Seven of Nine
  • "What we have together is more important than Starfleet. You’ll always come first. Never forget that."
    —Harry to Annika
  • "You’ll leave the family just as they are. If you want this to be like real life, you don’t get the option of reprogramming them."
    —Lewis Zimmerman to Kenneth Zimmerman about the latter’s holo-family

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