A Look Back: Star Trek – Voyager “Dark Frontier”


When Star Trek – Voyager was first aired in 1996 on the new United Paramount Network, I managed to miss everything beyond the first half of the first year.

CIC Video released the series on VHS in the UK not long after, two episodes per tape per month, which became a long, laborious and quite expensive process – so I wasn’t able to maintain the pace and had other priorities, such as buying food and shoes for my kids. I never bought the DVD boxset and so my knowledge of Janeway and her crew languished for many years solely in ‘making-of’ books and the occasional article…until in 2018 Netflix clearly saw what I was missing all these years and kindly told me that I might like to watch it. (They did the same for Enterprise, for which I have a similar backstory.)

What I knew of the series prior to last year, I wasn’t actually keen on. I wasn’t a great fan of the Maquis storyline that Deep Space Nine and The Next Generation had set up and so wasn’t drawn in by the notion of a mixed bag of crew members thrust together. When Seven of Nine arrived, I could only hear in excerpts that I caught Jeri Ryan’s voice an octave or two lower than what I assumed she normally spoke at, considering it felt uncomfortable for her as well as adding a notion of pointless melodrama to her character: “I was a Borg so I will speak dramatically all the time!”

So I’m catching up, going through about 8 episodes a week. At the time of writing, I’m watching ‘Course: Oblivion’, and so well over mid-way through Season 5.

I was pleasantly surprised by what I’ve found. Yes, Starfleet vs the Maquis was, as I expected, very clumsy for the first year or so (B’elanna Torres just needed to chill!) but the revelation that these characters were developing over time was quite surprising. I’ve read elsewhere that Chakotay was as wooden as Riker’s shoulders and that Robert Beltran felt his role never changed in the seven-year run but I kind of disagree. The frustration I have with regard to Chakotay is simply that he absolutely adored his captain to the point of love and it was never truly fulfilled. Why didn’t the writers take that relationship anywhere? Now, I’ve not seen any more than up to Season 5, remember, but I am pretty sure they didn’t end up together. So please…NO SPOILERS for me! And Seven of Nine’s voice? I’ve just got used to it, even though it is still a little annoying: “But I was a Borg, so I will continue to speak dramatically! All the time!”

Star Trek Voyager The Dark Frontier

Anyway, ‘Dark Frontier’ suddenly appeared on my Netflix feed, the mid-season double-length episode. With Seven at the center. And I’m here to tell you why I rather liked it.

I’d always thought the Borg had been over-used (something I feel the BBC have done with both the Daleks and the Cybermen in Doctor Who since 2005) after ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ and I was aware that Voyager featured them quite prominently in later seasons. Of course, with Seven of Nine a regular character (on her first appearance in her alcove, as a full Borg, I thought she was actually the Borg Queen) it would be clear that Borg-themed episodes would be prevalent.

Janeway’s audacious mission to steal a transwarp macguffin from a damaged Borg sphere is exactly the kind of thing I’d expect her to suggest.

More from Star Trek

She’s by-the-book-Starfleet but puts Kirk to shame when looking at ways to get her crew home. I love this about her: she is a risk taker and has softened over the seasons to be more accepting that the Starfleet way isn’t always the best way. And so her plan is put into place. She’s a wonderful character and I really hope she has some form of presence in Patrick Stewart’s new series. She’s head and shoulders above Archer and Sisko and is a lovely cross between a passionate Kirk and a thoughtful Picard: she wrestles with her demons and the guilt of throwing her entire crew to the other side of the galaxy.

It makes sense that Seven wouldn’t be assigned to the Away Team for this mission and her conflict when she receives the internal communication from (yes) the Borg Queen is perfectly handled. Janeway initially won’t budge when Seven demands to be part of the mission to the sphere but soon relents when Seven argues her case. And so we know there’s a set up to a fall here.

Seven’s role is a nice counterpoint to the Queen’s use of Locutus and Data – she sees the benefit of a new voice in the Collective and in Seven’s case its what she has learnt as a human and what she can bring back to the Collective. That said, it does throw Borg logic up in the air: if they need a humanesque leader in the form of the Queen who in turn needs people like Locutus, Data and Seven to enhance her race’s power, then surely the Borg as they are must be flawed. That was something we were made aware of from only their second appearance (‘The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1’), yet countering my own argument in the same paragraph, that surely shows that they are a race of cyborgs looking for perfection wherever they can? And I like that notion that ‘Dark Frontier’ presented. They are not out to assimilate, to survive, they are looking for utopia. It makes them more dangerous, because they are desperate, no matter how smoothly clinical the Borg Queen appears to be.

Star Trek First Contact Locutus and the Queen

The resolution was a little flat, however. A good solid 90-minutes of tense countdown action only to be concluded by the Borg Queen just standing there as Janeway and Seven do their worst (and Susanna Thompson makes a great villain, albeit not as charming and snake-like as Alice Krige…who I’m led to believe reprises the role later on [again, no spoilers, please!!!]). I have to ask though…is this the same Borg Queen? Or a clone? Does she have the memories of the one Picard destroyed?

And after this episode, I’m quite fond of Seven. Her history was reinforced here and it makes her a poignant and painfully sad character. She simply cannot move on from what the Borg turned her into. Her relationship with Janeway is not unlike a guardian and a ward, rather than her captain being a mother figure. That’s been there almost since the moment Seven stepped onboard Voyager and here we see the trust both women have in each other, and when that trust is tested, more kudos to Janeway for going back to launch a rescue anyway.

I have to say there are a handful of bizarre episodes I’ve experienced so far in my voyage with Voyager (‘The Thaw‘ from Season 2 felt like it had been written and the sets designed for The Original Series) but ‘Dark Frontier‘ really pushes the envelope in displaying the Borg and their effects on the societies they assimilate. Chilling stuff.

Related Story. The Sound of Star Trek Part 9: The Star Trek Voyager Soundtrack. light

So I’ve got just over two years worth of episodes left to go and I have a feeling I’m really going to miss Kathryn.