Dan Luisi gets stung...
As soon as the first installment of this two-part episode begins it's clear that something big is coming and something is about to change. The whole tempo of the series seemed to kick up a gear in the season three finale, Voyager finally had a sense of urgency about it which, for the large part, it had been sorely lacking.
Scorpion is one of the more violent episodes of Voyager, and Star Trek as a whole. It's strange really as it clearly goes against Gene Roddenberry's concept for the franchise but often the episodes dealing with heightened violence are among the best and most interesting.
Scorpion features the return of the Borg, an enemy who across their many franchise appearances to date were already starting to become overused. But whereas before there was usually only one Borg cube to deal with, here Captain Janeway and crew encounter over a dozen of them as they make their way through Borg territory. Surprisingly the Borg have zero interest in Voyager. There is something that they are more concerned about, something that scares even the Borg. Species 8472.
Scorpion initially appears as if it will be a classic case of the enemy of the enemy is my friend, but Species 8472 are not for deal making, they just want to exterminate ALL other life forms, be they Borg, Vulcan, Klingon, Human or whatever. So over a tense visit to a Borg cube Janeway proposes an alliance with the Borg, much to Chakotay's displeasure.
Scorpion features an end and a beginning for two main characters. The end comes from Kes, who never really got her chance to shine until now, maybe the writers just didn't know how to best use the character as she had faded into the background for much of the previous three years. This really is her finest hour, she's front and centre from almost as soon as the opening episode of Scorpion begins, and her largely ignored powers are turned up to eleven to set up Jennifer Lien's imminent departure as a series regular. If you didn't know this was coming it's hammered home in the opening credits of part two, with Lien being absent from the main cast's names. This, I think, was a mistake. I wasn't aware she was leaving at the time, remember this was before the internet boom and information could take a long time to filter out to fans, so surely it would've been a much better surprise to keep her in the credits and remove her after she'd left? A minor quibble I know, but something I wanted to mention.
The beginning comes in part two, as Jeri Ryan makes her debut as Seven of Nine, a character who many accused of being added to Voyager solely for the sex appeal. That may well be true but Seven of Nine ended up being much more than that, thanks in no small part to Ryan's portrayal. I liked Kes, she certainly had in interesting premise and back story (even if it was never really properly explored), but Seven of Nine became a much more interesting character than Kes ever could have been, and it's now impossible to think back to Voyager and not see the "Borg babe" there in the group line-up. Sadly the young Vulcan doesn't seem to feature in memory as much.
Part two of Scorpion is all out action, a brilliant way to kick off an excellent year of Voyager. Chakotay gets a chance to really shine when he assumes command after Janeway is incapacitated by an attack from Species 8472. With the Captain and some Borg drones beamed safely off the cube, a tense confrontation follows as Voyager, led by Chakotay, destroy many 8472 ships with the technology they had been working on with the Borg, whilst the Native American Commander simultaneously calls off their alliance, depressurises the cargo bay holding the Borg drones and attempts to suck them out into space. Fortunately, Seven of Nine was safe in the airlock, preparing to become a series regular.
Scorpion is a great example of just how good Voyager could be. A brilliant episode that stands up there with Next Generation's Best of Both Worlds on how to really utilise the Borg successfully. It's a shame that in later series Species 8472 will be revealed to have not been quite the enemy they believed them to be as this slightly tarnishes the memory of this episode. Like the Borg themselves, if we'd never seen them again their legacy would've been far, far greater. Still, taken on its merits up to the time, Scorpion remains one of my favourte episodes of any Trek series and is still a great watch some 20 years on.