By Thomas Lee
When I finished "A Bright, Shining Thing Called Hope," my reaction was, "What a story!"
These days, few rumors strike as much apprehension in the hearts of Star Trek fans as that of an upcoming "Borg Episode" on Voyager. Ever since "Scorpion" first aired three years ago, TPTB at Voyager have repeatedly tried to recapture the lightning of that two-part episode. Unfortunately, their attempts not only kept falling far short of expectations, but they did immeasurable damage to the reputation of the Borg in the process (Braga & co. have apparently failed to grasp the differences between an opponent that is defeatable and one that is merely pathetic—witness the Borg Queen’s behavior in "Unimatrix Zero"). Like a drug addict, TPTB at Voyager kept returning to the Borg in the hopes of reattaining their past success, but with each subsequent attempt only consuming more resources (and the patience of Star Trek fans) with progressively less watchable results. The result of this downward spiral is that, if the newsgroups are any indication, most Star Trek fans now instinctively dread news of a future "Borg Episode" (which has been largely borne out by the airing of "Unimatrix Zero Part 2.")
In contrast, Mike has taken the concept of the "Borg Episode"—and produced a story that, IMHO, has succeeded as much as TPTB’s recent efforts have failed. Not only was HOPE a compelling story about Seven of Nine confronting her past as a Borg, but it also represented the greatest milestone yet in the K/7 relationship since it began back in IOHEFY. One question that has followed Mike’s K/7 saga ever since its beginning in IOHEFY has been "When will Seven tell Harry that she loves him?" Now, in HOPE, this question has finally been answered—and, in the process, Mike has given us a story that IMHO easily puts any of the Bragaverse’s Borg episodes to shame.
The opening scenes of HOPE, just as that of THON and FCL, served to give the reader a subtle, yet complete update on how the K/7 relationship has progressed since we last saw them in the previous story. That Seven has consented to dress appropriately for a holodeck outing speaks volumes as to how far she has progressed in her humanization, and of how much Harry’s opinions mean to her. (Note: According to "The History of Fashion and Dress" class webpage, the bustle-supported dress was "viewed as unashamedly erotic in its own day," and thus could have been said to have been the late-19th-century counterpart of Jeri Ryan’s difficult-to-wear Borg costumes).
A major K/7 theme—Harry’s complete acceptance of Seven—was explored through Harry’s choice of a birthday present for her. (BTW, about Tom Paris’s own gifts for B’Elanna—as far as current United States import laws are concerned, "action figures" are indeed "dolls"). Given Seven’s characteristically Borg fascination with the Omega molecule, the necklace with its ‘Omega molecule pendant’ represented Harry’s efforts to tailor his relationship with Seven to her unique wants, needs, and interests (much as his first holodeck date with Seven in 24th Century Manhattan did back in IOHEFY). Even so, the pendant’s symbolism goes beyond an etching in holographic crystal that would require Seven’s enhanced vision to fully appreciate. During the events of "The Omega Directive," Seven’s disrespect for and lack of appreciation of Harry was particularly blatant—and, as such, that Harry would go to the trouble (and expense) of creating such a present emphasizes how much Harry accepts the Borg side of Seven, for all of the discomfort and grief it had brought, and would bring, him.
Furthermore, in stark contrast to her pre-relationship self (and the current Bragaverse Seven), Seven now appreciates Harry’s efforts for her in both words and action (for example, by allowing Harry to clasp the necklace around her neck instead of insisting that she do it herself). However, the opening scenes also ended up demonstrating a weakness of the K/7 relationship as well. From Seven’s inability to proclaim that she loves Harry, despite all that he has done (and indeed, just did) for her, it becomes painfully clear that the relationship is still somewhat lopsided—a shadow that has been hanging over the relationship ever since it began back in IOHEFY and has haunted it through THON and FCL.
"What Harry needs is a woman who will return his love, not someone who spreads her legs on schedule!"
—B’Elanna to Seven, "The Hierarchy of Needs"
As B’Elanna warned Seven back in THON, for all of the effort that both Harry and Seven put into their relationship, the relationship will eventually fail if Seven cannot reciprocate Harry’s love (a bit of advice that B’Elanna herself has some trouble following, as we would later see). Indeed, it is a testament to how tolerant Harry has been of this failing of Seven (and the efforts of both Harry and Seven) that the relationship has gone as smoothly as it has. Even so, after seven months, the strain manifests itself in a first both he and Seven would rather forget—their first anger-fueled argument.
When Mike posted the first part of HOPE to RiF, he anticipated that some readers would experience a reaction of ‘Oh no, not again’ when they got to the end of Part 1, since a major breakdown in communications between Harry and Seven has (so far) occurred in each of his K/7 saga’s stories. Even so, I’ve come to admire Mike’s execution of Harry and Seven’s first angry exchange of words—Mike deserves credit for conducting ‘the argument’ without physical violence (I have little doubt that TPTB, as well as some fanfic writers, could not have resisted the temptation to have Seven knock Harry around for attempts at humor in such a situation). Both Harry and Seven argued intelligently as well as emotionally, and their "parting shots" were all the more effective because of their stark (if maliciously slanted) truthfulness.
In regards to Seven’s accusation that Harry is a fool for believing in what appear to be hopeless causes—one needs look no farther than his devotion to Seven of Nine in the time prior his date with her in IOHEFY to see the truth of this statement.
"…You were never a friend to him. For two years, he bent over backwards to make you feel welcome aboard this ship. He stood by you, defended you, admired and respected you. And you gave him nothing in return except contemptuous glances and put downs…"
"Did you ever say ‘thank you’ to him or tell him you thought of him as a friend? Not once, I’d imagine. All he would have wanted in return was just an acknowledgment, a gesture in return. But you gave him nothing but pain."
—B’Elanna to Seven, "The Hierarchy of Needs."
Nonetheless, the love, hope, optimism, and loyalty that kept Harry’s affections for Seven alive in the face of overwhelming evidence for years that she was an unworthy partner of him would (at least in Mike’s K/7 saga) eventually bring about the relationship that most people on Voyager felt was a long shot at best. Such aspects of Harry’s character, though, aren’t selectively applicable—they would similarly apply to his loyalty to his friends and family back on Earth, as well as to Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets. Indeed, in regard to B’Elanna’s initial pessimism, Federation history is replete with examples of it surviving incredibly powerful adversaries, some of which even put the Borg Collective to shame (such as V’Ger and the Whale Probe).
As for Harry’s devastating implication that Seven only cared about herself, this was no doubt fueled by her inability to tell him that she loved him, not to mention her pre-relationship treatment of him (and his shipmates). In the "big picture" sense, this accusation was easily disprovable through her numerous efforts to protect her shipmates and Voyager, even at times through the expected sacrifice of her own life (such as in "One" and "Dark Frontier"). But, in the personal sense, one need look no farther than most post-Season 3 Voyager episodes to witness how little she had cared about the feelings and self-respect of the adults on Voyager. Indeed, the former validity of this accusation was demonstrated brutally to both Seven and the readers by her encounters with her past-selves in her dreams.
One of the things that are repeatedly promised in Voyager’s Seven-focused episodes is that we would see Seven explored and pushed as a character. Unfortunately, they have usually ended up emphasizing how superior Seven is to humanity by contriving situations in which only Seven of Nine could handle, and as such, represented the hardening of her motivations to NOT ‘settle’ for becoming human (and thus flouted the originally expressed intentions that the character should progress towards recovering her humanity).
In contrast, HOPE represented the culmination of several stories worth of change for Seven since she began her relationship with Harry back in IOHEFY, and the extent of this change was presented starkly by Seven’s encounter with her past selves in her dreams (and her visit to Cargo Bay 2). In HOPE, Seven confronts in her dreams two incarnations of her previous adult selves: a fully-Borg Seven of Nine and a silver-suited pre-K/7 Seven of Nine, both of which openly displayed their Borg chauvinism as a malignant reflection of the female chauvinism in Seven’s private thoughts much earlier in the story. (For those who doubt past-Seven’s callousness towards Harry, one only has to remember why Seven originally wished to experience her first sexual experience with Harry back in IOHEFY). Indeed, it was noteworthy that, throughout her dreams, her past-self NEVER differed with her drone-self—a damning demonstration of how the character of Seven of Nine has stagnated in the Bragaverse since she was first introduced in "Scorpion Part 2." As such, Seven’s wearing of her silver suit for her date with Harry back in IOHEFY takes on a meaning greater than simple random choice—it symbolized how little the character had changed since we were first introduced to her, and Mike’s intention of addressing that failure.
In my review of FCL, I remarked that Seven was a lousy department head, as evidenced by how she treated Tal Celes (whose interaction with Seven is revealed in HOPE to have been much like Harry’s prior to IOHEFY). However, unlike in the Bragaverse, people do change and evolve in Mike’s K/7 saga—and at last, Seven’s humanity is finally beginning to improve all aspects of her life. Back in FCL, it was plain that how Seven dealt with most people on Voyager had changed little despite her relationship with Harry—and nowhere was this more evident than how she interacted with Celes. But in the time between FCL and HOPE, Seven has tutored Celes at Harry’s request—and the results have already proven the superiority of Harry’s advice over "the Borg way."
By Borg standards, Seven’s tutoring of Celez was a waste of time and effort that could be spent redoing Celes’s work (which would also demonstrate Borg superiority over organic beings), especially since Celes would never be Seven’s equal in Astrometrics (at least, as far as Borg standards and expectations are concerned). However, because Celes can now be trusted to adequately perform Astrometrics work thanks to Seven’s tutoring, Seven is now free to use elsewhere the time she would otherwise have spent looking for and correcting Celes’s mistakes, to say nothing of the future aggravation that Seven is spared in regard to Celes’s future work. It was a demonstration of how the Borg definition of efficiency was, to use an old saying, ‘penny wise and pound foolish’—one of many shortcomings of the Borg that have undermined their reputation for invincibility.
Whenever I read Seven’s arguments (and B’Elanna’s pessimism) in the first half of HOPE about the ultimate futility of resisting the Borg Collective, my first reaction is to remember the circumstances under which Seven came on board—that is, during a time when a few hundred bioships from Species 8472 were putting the entire Collective on the wrong end of their own mantra. Indeed, given the Collective’s arrogance, strength, and willingness to accept staggering numbers of casualties, I’d think that the Collective wouldn’t even need to produce an indirect means of assimilation (as opposed to simply relying on frontal assaults)—unless resisting the Collective wasn’t hopeless, even in the long term.
In the Trek newsgroups, the Collective’s motivations behind their creation of the ‘nanoprobe virus’ have been the subject of many debates. In "Dark Frontier," the Queen strongly implied that the virus was being developed because of the Federation’s ability to defeat direct assaults. Not surprisingly, many wondered just how the Queen could have come to this conclusion, given that we’ve only seen two attacks on the Federation, both of which involved a single Cube (and a few dozen wrecked Federation starships)—and that the Collective can send fleets of hundreds of Cubes against significantly resistant foes (like Arturis’s people, as mentioned in "Hope and Fear"). One would have also thought that the Borg would have set a new standard of what qualified as "direct assaults inadvisable" in the wake of their disastrous war with Species 8472.
A clue may be provided in the movie "First Contact." Although the Cube had little difficulty in demolishing almost every Federation starship it came across (just like in Seven’s example of Wolf 359), the glaring exception to this was the lone Sovereign-class "Heavy Explorer" (the Enterprise-E) to arrive on the scene—which ended up showing that even the largest Borg cubes affect Sovereign-class starships the way raindrops affect battleships (in retrospect, Starfleet’s decision to send the Enterprise-E to the Romulan Neutral Zone instead of the Typhon Sector was a grievous error whose only accomplishment was to provide Starfleet’s body count for the second Borg Incursion). Indeed, it was telling that, after the destruction of the Cube, we saw a Borg Sphere thirty times the volume of the Enterprise-E not only flee from it, but not even attempt to ambush the Federation starship when the latter emerged from the temporal vortex with its shields and long-range sensors down—as Picard put it, "They (the Borg) knew their ship was doomed." (I suppose that the Enterprise-E, while it was assimilated, would qualify as the mightiest Borg starship in the Collective’s history). If even the most powerful starship weapons fielded by the Borg Collective were utterly harmless to a Sovereign-class starship’s shielding, it’s not that great a leap to imagine that a single Sovereign could take on an entire fleet of Cubes (if the remarks of those who designed the E-E like Rick Sternbach and John Eaves are any indication, we have yet to see more than a minute fraction of the incredible firepower that a Sovereign-class ship can bring to bear).
This, of course, leads to the glaring question of where the Sovereigns were at a time when the Federation was fighting for its survival against the Dominion—no possible concentration of Jem’Hadar forces could have sufficed against a starship that sneers at a Borg cube’s weaponry. We never did see any of the Sovereigns (or the USS Prometheus from "Message in a Bottle," for that matter) in a Deep Space Nine episode (and the absence of highly skilled Starfleet tacticians like Captain Edward Jellico was glaring as well). This leads me to speculate that, while most of Starfleet’s personnel and standard starships were slugging it out with Dominion forces, Starfleet’s finest along with all of the Sovereigns and Prometheuses were preoccupied with stopping an all-out assault by the Borg on a second front. My guess is that, when the Borg studied the last moments of the second Cube’s assault on Earth and realized that a Cube had proven helpless against a Starfleet vessel less than a thirteen-thousandth of its volume, the Collective made plans to launch a major (as in, involving more than one Cube) attempt to assimilate Earth before Starfleet could build more Sovereigns. Unfortunately for the Borg, their attempt to assimilate Species 8472 blew up in their collective faces at about the same time—and by the time the retreat of Species 8472 enabled the Collective to concentrate on assimilating the Federation, several more Sovereigns had joined the fleet, and thus none of the subsequent Borg offensives succeeded in even reaching Federation space. Of course, the Collective wouldn’t have given up the frontal assault so easily (witness their war against Species 8472)—when dozens of Cubes failed, they then sent hundreds; when hundreds failed, they then sent thousands; and when that failed… well, you get the idea. In addition, given that Starfleet Explorers (unlike the modest-sized Intrepid-class scouts) are apparently capable of using Borg transwarp conduits with ease (a la "Descent" [TNG]), one can imagine the Sovereigns taking the war to the Borg as well. True, the loss of ten Cubes would be insignificant to the Collective, but if the Borg lost tens of thousands of Cubes (along with a lot more smaller vessels such as Spheres, Probes, and Scouts) in a few months (not to mention a sizable fraction of its Unicomplexes trashed for good measure) without so much as a single destroyed/assimilated Sovereign-class ship in return, this would convince even the Borg that frontal assaults against the Federation was downright futile. (As the newsgroup poster ‘Timo Saloniemi’ remarked about the Borg, "The Collective may be sluggish in its thinking, but it’s not a complete lobster.")
Hence, the assessment of the Collective that a frontal assault against humans was A Very Bad Idea—and the Collective’s unprecedented need for an indirect means of assimilation. Of course, given Borg pride and stubbornness, it’s unlikely that the Borg would have settled on the need for a "Trojan horse" right off the bat—they probably first tried to send ‘plagueships’ to Earth, except that they were repeatedly discovered and obliterated by the Sovereigns (as the Trek saying goes, luck is with fools and ships named Enterprise—if Ransom and the USS Equinox had made it to the Federation, they would probably have been first met by the Big E and the nanoprobe virus discovered and stopped before it could do any damage). Thus, by about "Dark Frontier" (at least in Mike’s timeline), the Collective was sending out ships for the express purpose of enticing Janeway to attempt a heist of a transwarp coil. (In regards to the sacrifice of the "bait Cube," Tuvok’s point that the loss of this particular ship wouldn’t have been that noticeable to the Collective is furthered its stated mass of 20 million tons, which puts it far closer to Hugh’s 5-drone 2.5-million ton scout cube in "I, Borg" [TNG] than the 129,000-drone versions that usually come to mind).
In most post-"Scorpion" episodes and fanfics, it usually falls to Seven to bluntly air coldly logical suggestions (such as allowing Harry to be assimilated by the nanoprobe virus and then severing him from the Collective), courtesy of her Borg way of thinking (and antisocialness). However, such an approach in HOPE would have made a hash out of Mike’s progressive humanization of Seven—and thus, instead, this role falls to Tuvok, for whom unemotional perspectives and deductions were originally intended to be spoken by at the beginning of the show.
Indeed, Mike’s K/7 saga, and especially HOPE in particular, has witnessed Tuvok returning to the roles he was originally intended for on Voyager. His skills in Security and Tactical (to say nothing of his abilities to think strategically and through the eyes of his opponents as well) were not only not mocked in HOPE, but they were done credit to a degree we haven’t seen for a long time in the Bragaverse. To add the proverbial icing on the cake, HOPE even saw Tuvok fulfilling another originally intended role as Janeway’s advisor—and, contrary to general practice in the Bragaverse, Janeway took Tuvok’s advice seriously (along with the opinions of the rest of her Senior Staff as well).
These days, when the Borg come up in conversations among Trek fans, Janeway is mentioned about as often as Picard is, thanks to the extensive use (or abuse) of the Borg Collective by TPTB at Voyager. As such, it’s only right that both Janeway and her role as starship captain have a place in HOPE.
Throughout HOPE, Janeway’s ability to command in a crisis was well done, far better than one expects to see from the Bragaverse these days. Indeed, even her fanatical pursuit of the Equinox was given a 20/20-hindsight justification that would help clear her name in the history books (it certainly lent an ironic twist to the Equinox-EMH’s cover story in "Equinox Part 1" that the Equinox crew had contracted a virus onboard Voyager). The revelation about Janeway being right to pursue the Equinox crew for the wrong reasons even harkens back to Picard’s initial opposition to self-destructing the Enterprise-E and escaping in the lifeboats (in the "lifeboat" scene of "First Contact," careful watchers will note that most of the lifeboats departed from decks overrun by the Borg).
Nonetheless, many of Janeway’s most powerful moments in HOPE involved not her official position of starship captain, but her unofficial role as starship counselor. Indeed, HOPE’s Janeway & Seven scene in Cargo Bay 2 mirrored a similar scene in IOHEFY—both involved Janeway offering Seven advice on a subject that the latter did not realize that the former had any experience in (an assumption that brought on amusement in IOHEFY and understandable anger in HOPE), as well as encouraging Seven to resolve her emotional difficulties by embracing her humanity instead of running away from it. However, the nature of the Janeway & Seven discussions also greatly differed between the IOHEFY and HOPE scenes—for while Seven had retreated to Cargo Bay 2 in order to gain comfort from her Borg alcove in IOHEFY, HOPE would witness Seven arriving at Cargo Bay 2 with no purpose in mind—until she reacted to her Borg alcove in a way that, AFAIK, has never been done before in any Voyager story, fanfic or otherwise.
One of the most emotionally powerful moments of HOPE was Seven’s venting of her rage at Harry’s plight on her old Borg alcove. (For those who wonder about what happened to the extra alcoves in Cargo Bay 2, Mike told me that, after the regeneration chair was declared operational back in FCL, the extra alcoves were dismantled for their parts.) At first, the alcove doesn’t seem to be an appropriate target for Seven’s rage, given that it was not only uninvolved with the spread of the nanoprobe virus (at least, no more than the regeneration chair was), but it had faithfully kept her cybernetics recharged whenever its services were called upon.
However, the regeneration alcove represents in many ways the worst aspects of the Borg, and not just in its stark appearance. As was discussed in IOHEFY, the alcove was extremely wasteful of Voyager‘s limited energy supplies—much like how the Borg Collective is extremely wasteful of the sentients it consumes through assimilation. Furthermore, IOHEFY revealed that the alcove had suppressed Seven’s sleep cycles—and, thus, had served as an impediment to Seven’s reemerging humanity. In addition, Seven has recently discovered that she was the "Patient Zero" of the nanoprobe viruses—and that not only was she almost certainly infected while she regenerated during her stay at Unimatrix One, but that Harry’s plight was, in a sense, brought on by his intimate relationship with her (a malignant version of the theme of how Seven’s Borg nature can bring distress to Harry). I think it’s safe to say that Seven’s Omega molecule necklace’s being a gift from Harry is all that’s saving it from damage, destruction, or reclamation at this point.
Seven’s fierce observation on the mercy of killing Borg drones brings to mind Picard’s virulent opinion on the subject, and not just in terms of intensity. Although both Seven and Picard have experienced assimilation, Seven was not human enough to appreciate how traumatizing the experience was yet (even if she understood as far back as "Hope and Fear" that assimilation was not desirable). But now, as this scene demonstrates, this is no longer the case. It can be said that assimilation takes away all that makes life worth living—and after seven months of living instead of merely existing (as the EMH put it back in THON) Seven is now capable of truly realizing what assimilation robs of a sentient being, and it shows in her newfound hatred of the "civilization" she was once immeasurably proud of being part of.
As such, Seven’s vandalizing of Voyager‘s last Borg alcove not only emphasized the revelation early in HOPE that the Borg children will not be on Voyager, but it also explicitly represented Mike’s shunning of the "reset button" that has plagued Voyager‘s stories. (Starfleet won’t miss the alcoves—they’ve already got hundreds of the Collective’s best examples from the Enterprise-E back in "First Contact.") Seven is now committed on her path to humanity and to her relationship with Harry Kim—the latter made explicitly clear by her declaration to Janeway that she wished no other mate than Harry (a very far cry from her initial reasons for selecting him for her first sexual experience back in IOHEFY).
Furthermore, her newly acquired hatred for the Borg also served to prevent any initial misunderstanding of an even more emotionally powerful scene—where she made her first declaration of love to a nearly assimilated Harry Kim.
"We come to love not by finding a perfect person but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly."
— Sam Keen, "To Love and Be Loved"
Some time ago, I found the above quote posted at the webpage of "PJ in NH". As the site’s owner is a devout P/T fan (and prone to writing stories that mock Seven of Nine—no doubt she would have regarded Mike’s jokingly suggested alternate title of "A Bright, Incandescent Thing Called Hope" as an acknowledgement of Seven’s true nature <wg>), I surmised that the quote was not only meant to refer to the imperfect-and-we’re-proud-of-it P/T relationship, but also to ridicule Seven’s standards for a "perfect" romantic partner (as seen in "Someone To Watch Over Me"). Even so, I found the quote to apply strongly to one of the most emotionally powerful scenes yet of Mike’s entire K/7 saga—Seven’s first declaration of her love to Harry Kim.
At the beginning of HOPE, Harry wondered to himself why Seven couldn’t grasp the concept of love, given her ability to comprehend scientific theorems and logical discourses. However, I think a clue to Seven’s reluctance may lie in that comparison—the examples given of Seven’s skill rely on quantifiable elements. If love was a quantifiable concept, then Harry’s own love of Seven has, over the past three years, set a hopelessly difficult standard for Seven to meet—even in the depths of his despair over her callous treatment of him after their holodeck date in IOHEFY, he could still declare to her that he loved her. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of Seven’s reluctance has come from her matching what she has done for Harry as opposed to what he has done for her, and her own efforts coming up way short in the comparison.
But, as Seven has come to realize, love isn’t a quantifiable checklist that dictates you must be X and have done Y in order to qualify as being in love (to be fair to Seven, most human beings probably couldn’t match the near-ideal example of love Harry has set either). Instead, as Seven stated in her heartfelt declaration of love to Harry, it represents the complete knowledge and acceptance of another person—and thus, love is attained through the perpetual commitment of effort to attain it rather than a universal standard to be attained. Ironically, it was only after Seven abandoned her attempt to comprehend and meet a quantifiable standard of love that she finally succeeded in proving her love in a remotely quantifiable way.
As with most Seven-focused stories, Seven’s Borg nature proves indispensable for Voyager‘s final attempt to save Harry’s life. What was not so conventional about this necessity in HOPE was why and how Seven’s Borg nature was critical. In a typical Seven-focused story on Voyager, when Seven assumes the focal role of solving a problem, she almost always does so single-handedly by utilizing her Borg abilities (and making the rest of the crew look redundant in the process). However, such an approach would have been self-defeating in this story—it would have sent the message that Seven’s Borg side was the "hero" of the story, and thus would have served as a disincentive for Seven to progress in her humanity (and a vindication of her drone- and past-selves).
In contrast, in HOPE, while Seven’s cybernetics make it possible for Harry’s life to be saved, this was, at best, only compensating for how her cybernetics were the weak point through which the Borg infected Voyager with the nanoprobe virus in the first place—indeed, HOPE picks up the theme first raised in FCL of how Seven’s Borg nature can be a liability as well as an asset. Furthermore, Seven’s Borg knowledge and abilities proved insufficient by themselves to save the day—during the final Briefing Room scene, it was up to the non-Borg members of the Senior Staff to discover a weakness in the nanoprobe virus that would NOT have been thought of by the Collective (and thus, Seven as well). As such, through Seven’s inability to come up with one of her infamous deus ex machinas to save Harry, this scene would reveal just how far Seven was willing to go in order to save Harry in her desperation and love for him—and her drawing upon her human side where her Borg nature had failed her. Not only did she not hesitate to suggest means of saving Harry regardless of the potential cost to herself, but her immediate volunteering for a procedure to save Harry’s independent existence at no small risk to her own cemented her public declaration of love and her newfound ability to have faith.
"Never lose faith. In a just cause faith can move mountains. Faith without strength is futile, but strength without faith is sterile."
—President Richard M. Nixon
The title and subject of HOPE brought to mind the above quote by the late US President—and the manned lunar landing missions that took place during his presidency. Though the successful US effort to land men on the moon and return them alive is rightly described as a technological triumph, it was also a vindication of the faith that such a mission could even be accomplished by President John F. Kennedy’s deadlines of before the Soviet Union did and/or 1970, despite the lead in rocketry then held by the Soviet Union and that much of the technology needed to reach the moon did not exist or was not even thought possible at the time. Indeed, in one of the aforementioned manned Moon missions, Apollo 13, the spacecraft suffered an accident that should have been unsurvivable (due to the resulting loss of most of the spacecraft’s power and oxygen)—but through the faith-fueled efforts and ingenuity of the astronauts and NASA ground personnel, Apollo 13’s crew returned to Earth alive.
Of course, as Chakotay would no doubt be quick to point out, faith alone cannot always suffice. But without faith, one cannot push the boundaries of one’s available abilities to accomplish what was previously deemed impossible. After "Q Who?" [TNG] and "The Best of Both Worlds, Part 2," [TNG] common sense would dictate that it was pointless for the Federation to even try to design ships capable of fighting technologically advanced opponents thousands of times as large as Starfleet’s largest vessels. But the Federation designed and built the Sovereign-class starships a mere 5 years after the bloody disaster at Wolf 359 anyway in the HOPE that it could fight and defeat the Borg in direct battle—a hope that was spectacularly vindicated in the second Borg Incursion. It is no accident that hope has played a key role in every one of the Collective’s defeats by the Federation—whether in the Sol System in "The Best of Both Worlds, Part 2" and in "First Contact," or in the Engineering Room of the Enterprise-E in "First Contact," or on the USS Voyager and in Harry Kim’s body in HOPE.
One particularly noteworthy aspect of Mike’s "Crisis in Sickbay" scenes involves the professional interaction between the Doctor and Tom Paris. Previously, Mike’s K/7 saga had only explored the personal interaction between Voyager‘s Holographic Doctor and his reluctant assistant, but in HOPE, we see them working as a medical team for the first time as well.
Although most Kes-Tom Paris comparisons as the EMH’s assistants are usually unfavorable to the brash pilot, HOPE makes the case that Tom brings strengths of his own to the position. Indeed, it is clear in HOPE that Mike intended the Doctor & Paris interaction to parallel the strengths of K/7 as a scientific research team—the Doctor provides the raw knowledge, while Tom provides the ability to use that knowledge creatively and inventively (and, in the case of the 8472 antigens, even desperately). Just as with Harry and Seven on the collapsed matter project back in FCL, neither the EMH nor Ensign Paris were able to figure out how to save Harry Kim on their own—but together with B’Elanna’s and Seven’s assistance, they defeated a weapon the Borg were convinced was unstoppable.
Without a doubt, Mike’s incarnation of the Borg nanoprobe virus represented a successful enhancement of the Borg weapon whose development was first revealed during "Dark Frontier" and subsequently employed as an element of one of the Doctor’s fantasies in "Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy."
As originally conceived, the airborne nanoprobe virus was the butt of numerous jokes due to its similarity to an airborne biological weapon employed in one of the Babylon 5 movies (at the moment, I’m not sure in a Borg-Drakh comparison which of the two would be the more insulted). In contrast, the nanoprobe virus employed in HOPE was a more capable weapon whose means of infection was not only quintessentially Borg, but whose means of transmission and defenses against being detected and/or stopped were far more effective as well, to say nothing of its rationalization of the rather illogical behavior (and, at times, seemingly outright incompetence) of the Borg Collective since "Scorpion." (With the airing of "Unimatrix Zero, Part 2," it is obvious why Mike wanted to finish HOPE first—it’s hard to credit the Borg Collective as seen in U-0 Part 2 with the intelligence and subtlety, to say nothing of competency, needed to devise and carry out the efforts described in HOPE.)
Nonetheless, for all of the enhanced capabilities of the nanoprobe virus used in HOPE, it also served to epitomize several characteristic weaknesses of the Collective. (This does not include the virus’s shutdown command, since such a failsafe would be required for the protection of the nanoprobe-dependent Collective.) As Tuvok pointed out, such a weapon cannot be conjured up at a whim—it required a tremendous expenditure of intellectual and material resources by the Borg Collective, all for the sole purpose of assimilating a civilization that did not wish to become a part of them. One can only imagine the scientific and material accomplishments the Borg might have achieved instead, had they devoted the ingenuity and resources they currently bend towards the assimilation of other civilizations to less destructive pursuits. Furthermore, the virus was defeated not only a through a creative use of its own single-minded programming (as well as of the sensors the virus was intended to be proof against), but by being prematurely triggered by a circumstance that the Collective, in its arrogance and self-superiority, never seriously considered (namely, Seven’s intimate relationship with a Voyager crewmember). It was this overconfidence that led the Borg into its disastrous war with Species 8472—and may ultimately bring about the downfall of the Collective. (Borg Corollary of Murphy’s Law: What you dismissed as irrelevant will prove crucial to your defeat).
As for the consequences of the nanoprobe virus’s failure for the Collective—one can speculate fondly on what awaits the Borg "trigger ship(s)." My own guess that it’ll involve a Sovereign-class starship and its full-auto barrages of heavy quantum torpedoes.
Mike deserves extra praise for how he wrote the unfolding of Seven’s final "dream scene." With all that Harry has been put through in HOPE, this scene represented his only opportunity in the story to "strike back" at the Borg, and he made the most of it by administering a devastating comeuppance to the overconfident drone-Seven (which in turn stunned past-Seven straight into irrelevancy)—and thus, returned the favor to Seven for her risking of her life to save his own. Indeed, in this dream state, Harry’s ‘physical’ strength was greatly magnified well beyond that of even a full-Borg drone by his faith—a direct manifestation of the effect faith can have one’s available strength.
As for past-Seven’s last words—they were amusingly reminiscent of the stereotypical responses of evil overlords to their imminent downfall and/or death—utterly disbelieving at how events have unfolded, and completely useless at doing anything about it. Past-Seven’s downfall was then physically punctuated by Seven, whose backhanding of her past-self also served as a symbolic repudiation of the arrogant, self-centered being she had once been. (In turn, I suppose that Harry’s abuse of drone-Seven could qualify as his symbolic revenge for "The Gift," "Waking Moments," and other such times. <wg>)
Of course, the victory of faith-augmented strength over simple strength in Seven’s dream was mirrored in the physical world as well, and not "just" in terms of Harry’s reemergence from his drone-self through the assistance of the Doc, Tom, B’Elanna, and Seven. Through her newfound faith in herself as a human being, Seven fulfilled her and Harry’s hopes of her being able to tell a fully-conscious Harry that she loved him—and of being able to look forward to living a life of love with each other once again.
Tom’s lighthearted joke to Harry about what it took for their respective mates to proclaim their love brought up another point—in many ways, HOPE was for Seven what "Day of Honor" was for B’Elanna. For both women, this involved acknowledging and even embracing the less comfortable parts of themselves when the lives of their respective beloveds were endangered.
For B’Elanna, who had long regarded her Klingon side as a necessary evil at best and a lead albatross at worst, her crisis saw her progress towards accepting her Klingon side and drawing upon it for the courage to admit her love for Tom Paris. Likewise, Seven, who had comfortably and even arrogantly regarded herself as Borg for years after her de-assimilation, had to draw upon her humanity in her time of need when her Borg self either failed her or proved a liability—and as a result, Seven embraced her humanity and her new life of love with Harry. Furthermore, Seven’s adoption of Harry’s viewpoint that resistance against the Borg Collective was NOT futile reflects her acceptance of the human way of thinking—and her rejection of the Borg point of view (which had proven spectacularly inadequate in HOPE).
The EMH’s final interaction with Seven helped demonstrate his new status in Seven’s life as a friend on equal terms. Throughout HOPE, we not only saw the Doc giving advice to Seven, we also saw Seven giving the Doc words of wisdom of her own—which emphasized just how much their interaction had changed since he let go of his role as Seven’s ‘foster parent’ back in FCL. We even got to see him good-naturedly joke with Seven about the advantages of his physical appearance—a sign of how much their friendship has recovered since the strained days following the events of "Someone to Watch Over Me," and of how much the specter of EMH/7 has faded from Mike’s K/7 saga by this point (as indicated by a minor jab at EMH/7 fans with Seven’s firm insistence that Harry’s hair was a significant part of his attractiveness).
As for the final K/7 HOPE scene—it served to reinforce the major milestones that have just been achieved in the K/7 relationship, arguably the most significant since the K/7 relationship began back in IOHEFY. In contrast to the semi-reserved individual we saw on the holodeck at the beginning of HOPE, Seven’s emotions are now as open as her opinions once were. There is now no question now that Seven loves Harry—and that she has proven herself worthy of Harry’s affections. Indeed, it was particularly noteworthy that Seven’s harshest critic, B’Elanna, has now not only has been convinced of Seven’s love for Harry, but even uses Seven as an example of how she [B’Elanna] should handle her own romantic life with Tom—which she promptly puts into practice.
Throughout Mike’s K/7 saga, the K/7 relationship has grown and changed so much that, by the end of HOPE’s prequel, FCL, the K/7 relationship had even begun to overtake the canon P/T relationship, despite the latter having existed for over two years longer. As such, the reanimation of the stagnating P/T relationship in HOPE came as a pleasant surprise. The scene in which Tom proposed to B’Elanna served as Mike’s opportunity to explore just why the P/T relationship had progressed as little as it has over the past few years—and B’Elanna’s turnaround by the end of HOPE (to say nothing of the glimmer of J/C provided near the end of HOPE) was a great demonstration of how the K/7 relationship has not only benefited Harry and Seven, but those around them as well (and thus serves to emphasize how much Voyager has suffered by the absence of K/7 in the Bragaverse).
As for the K/7 & P/T interaction—While Tom’s post-argument advice to Seven was a nice demonstration of the benefits Seven has gained as part of Harry’s "inner circle," B’Elanna’s interaction with Harry was truly noteworthy. Mike deserves applause for the care with which he approached a friendship that, like the Harry & Tom friendship, has been around since "Caretaker." The Harry & B’Elanna friendship seen in HOPE wasn’t the cookie-cutter type usually seen on Voyager these days (if at all), but one that reflects their respective backgrounds to an impressive degree—right down to the extraordinary request that Harry trusted B’Elanna to not only carry out if necessary, but to refrain from when it was no longer desirable as well.
The treatment of Neelix’s cooking in HOPE, IMHO, also deserves special mention. While Voyager stories that ridicule Neelix’s cooking are quite common, HOPE was one of the very few Voyager stories where Neelix’s cooking not only wasn’t the butt of the story’s ridicule (despite Neelix’s initial self-depreciating concern about it), but was portrayed as an outright asset to the crew (I think it’s safe to say that, as a result of the events of HOPE, there won’t be many subcomplimentary remarks by the crew about Neelix’s cooking for the remainder of their trip back to Earth). As such, I find how Neelix fared in HOPE (especially how his reaction to the nanoprobe virus reflected the events of "Mortal Coil") to symbolize the care with which Mike usually portrays the "supporting cast" of his stories—even the long-forgotten Equinox crewmembers (who indirectly contributed to the defeat of the nanoprobe virus in a way their Voyager counterparts could not have).
As the ending of HOPE makes quite clear, Mike’s K/7 saga is now freeing itself from the ball-and-chain that its link to the Bragaverse has come to be. When one writes a series of stories as heavy in character development and consequences as Mike’s K/7 saga has been, one eventually finds that keeping the stories in parallel with the Bragaverse becomes akin to driving a sports car behind a horse-and-buggy carriage.
If HOPE had been an average Voyager episode, I have little doubt that Voyager would have paid for their survival with the loss of the transwarp coils (either by having to abandon them in the face of an imminent Borg threat, or by discovering that the coils only functioned so long as the virus was active). But, as Mike has shown us time and time again, he doesn’t settle for writing stories with reset buttons. Thus, unlike many Voyager episodes in which the crew discover and lose an opportunity to return home, Mike has fulfilled the overall theme of Hope in this story by rewarding the faith Voyager‘s crew had in their quest to return hope (not to mention Harry’s faith in Seven).
More than any other Star Trek series, "Voyager" should have emphasized the growth of its characters, since from the outset, it was structured to have a beginning and an end. In this area, the Bragaverse has stumbled badly—a failure that makes the corresponding success of Mike’s K/7 saga all the more apparent, especially in the evolution and growth of its stars, Harry and Seven.
Nonetheless, despite the spectacular leap forward it took in HOPE, Seven’s journey from Borgness to humanity is not quite finished yet. For all of Seven’s newfound hatred towards the Borg, it is notable that she still retains her identity of "Seven of Nine." In contrast to "Dark Frontier," there was no renunciation of her Borg identity and no proclamation of her human identity—at least, not yet. However, in "Dark Frontier," it quickly became clear that Seven’s proclamation was little more than a cheap stunt that was dropped even before the episode ended. In contrast, readers of Mike’s K/7 saga can be confident that the tremendous progress Seven has made in HOPE will remain concrete—and given Mike’s very welcome promise of future sequels to HOPE, Seven’s future progress as a human and as Harry’s mate will be something to look forward to as well. Without a doubt, "A Bright, Shining Thing Called Hope" is one supernova of a success—and easily deserves to be a "must read" for any K/7 fan.
Memorable Quotes from "A Bright, Shining Thing Called Hope":
- "I guess even perfection can’t be perfect."
—Harry to Seven about his recreation of the Omega Molecule
- "You are…always so good to me."
"That’s because Harry loves his Seven. Does Seven love her Harry?"
—Seven and Harry
- "You’re assuming the peer committee will even accept a paper written by an EMH. They’ll probably think it’s some kind of prank."
—Tom about the Doctor’s hopes for a research paper
- "Any artist has to accept bad reviews, now and then."
—Harry to Seven about the Quomari’s reaction to the Kim-Tones
- "…You indicated that one often behaves like an idiot when one is in love."
"Yeah, well, it works both ways, you know."
—Seven and Tom
- "And you say I’m a terrible liar?"
—Harry responding to B’Elanna and Tom’s assurances
- "Oh, Seven. What I said to you was so wrong. You really are the warmest, sweetest, most wonderful human being in the entire universe."
"And you, Harry Kim, are most certainly not a fool. Even if your analysis of me is not entirely correct."
—Harry and Seven’s make-up words.
- "I’ve been in and out of Sickbay so many times, that they’ve given me a biobed with my own nameplate."
"Indeed? I was not aware…You are making a joke, are you not?"
"Trying to, anyway."
—Harry and Seven
- "Gods, spirits, ancestors, they all listen and they always answer our prayers. It’s just that sometimes, the answer is ‘no.’"
—Chakotay’s recitation of his father’s thoughts on faith
- "I hate them!"
—Seven about the Borg Collective
- "Love is that which requires no definition. It is total and complete acceptance of another. And it is through that acceptance that true perfection becomes possible. I know this because…because I love you, Harry Kim."
—Seven to Harry
- "…You have told me that I make you happy. But you, Harry, you have given me a special gift beyond measure. You have made me…human."
—Seven to Harry
- "I already have one crewmember in Sickbay. Tell me why I should take a chance on putting another one in the same predicament?"
"Because I must help him, Captain. I love him."
—Janeway and Seven
- "If Seven is willing to do whatever it takes for Mr. Kim, then we should do no less."
- "My ethical program isn’t just taking a beating this year, it’s being ground into a bloody pulp!"
- "One must have hope, Doctor. That is what it means to be human."
- "Mr. Paris, you practice medicine the same way you practice piloting… by the seat of your pants!"
- "She’s perfect just the way she is!"
—Harry Kim about Seven to Seven’s past-selves
- "You cannot resist what you are! Resistance is futile!"
"What you believe is irrelevant. Furthermore, you need to learn to address people more respectfully. Your manners are unacceptable."
—past-Seven and Seven
- ‘She loves him so freely, without any doubts or fears. If a Borg drone can express herself, then what’s my excuse?!’
—B’Elanna’s thoughts about K/7, and her own fears about her own relationship