Summary: The Borg make a comeback as Enterprise goes where just about every Star Trek series has gone before.
There’s nothing precisely wrong with “Regeneration.” Unlike some of the more mediocre NEXT GENERATION and VOYAGER efforts, it manages to let the Borg keep their dignity while portraying them as ominous and menacing. It doesn’t reduce them to a single oversexed Borg queen and even gives them back some of their mystery. But at the same time there’s nothing precisely right about “Regeneration” either. Maybe over the past decade the potential of the Borg has been thoroughly tapped out by various STAR TREK spinoffs or maybe any future Borg episodes or movies need to break new ground to be effective. Either way, despite striking work by David Livingston, particularly in the arctic scenes, and an adequate enough script, “Regeneration” ends up regenerating all the cliches resulting in an episode that just doesn’t add up to much of anything.
Like FIRST CONTACT, the movie that the episode serves as a pseudo-sequel to, “Regeneration” plays as a horror movie with the Borg as the monsters. Beginning with the arctic discovery scene that suggests a homage to the classic Sci-Fi monster film, THE THING, the Borg appear as monsters safely buried until somebody foolish enough digs them up resulting in the usual havoc horror movies are made of. Substitute mummies or vampires for Borg and you could have pretty much the same episode, and there is a case to be made for arguing that the Borg are indeed space-age vampires. After all, they’re nearly invincible to ordinary unmodified weapons. They infect their victims, making them one of their kind with double-fanged incisions causing them to lose their humanity. They rest in special alcoves analogous to vampire coffins. And like all vampires the final confrontation with them, in any number of the Borg episodes, from their first appearance to this one where Archer plays Van Helsing, involves a trip to their lair.
What has elevated the best Borg episodes above mere space fright has been the examination of the borderline between human being and Borg in episodes like “The Best of Both Worlds,” “I, Borg” or “Dark Frontier” rather than reducing the Borg to shambling monsters. “Regeneration” makes some attempt towards incorporating such a storyline with Phlox’s infection, which also results in some of the episode’s best scenes including a memorable exchange with Hoshi. But it never really explores the boundary between individuality and collectivism as the above mentioned episodes did, instead it mainly features Phlox being sick. Archer’s storyline that deals with his realization that he can’t save the research team is plausible enough, though never really gripping. It might have been more gripping if Enterprise crewmembers had been on that transport forcing Archer to sacrifice the lives of his own people. But as it is Archer is once again coming to realize something the audience already knows, which may make for some character development but not for interesting viewing.
“Regeneration”‘s resolution also comes a little too unbelievably easy considering what a challenge the Borg were for Picard and Co. in the 24th century while Archer and Co. experience much less trouble disposing of them in the 22nd century. Admittedly they are facing weaker and smaller numbers of Borg but the key Borg strategy in this story is a timed shutdown of Enterprise’s power systems at a critical moment, which is a bit too cunning for the more literal-minded Borg, who traditionally utilize direct smash and grab tactics.
But mostly “Regeneration” is an episode-scale reworking of FIRST CONTACT without a revenge motive for the captain or a master plan for the Borg. And without a significant motive on either side, it’s is reduced to another ‘Borg as Monsters’ plot that could have been done with any number of monsters or races. There’s no real risk for the Enterprise because “Regeneration” is a stand alone episode with no future repercussions despite its ending since we know that it’s Q who will bring the Enterprise-D into contact with the Borg well ahead of schedule. And there’s no new ground being broken because “Regeneration” offers nothing in the way of a plot that we haven’t seen before. With those factors eliminated the only justification for the episode seems to be the need to exploit the Borg one more time in the hope of boosting ENTERPRISE’s ratings. So instead of the Borg assimilating the series to add to its perfection, ENTERPRISE assimilates the Borg to add them to its mediocrity.
Next week: Can the show do better with two chances on one night?