Second Union

Second Union


“It was incredible. I installed that module, and the prototype looked up at me and asked me for programming.”

B’Elanna builds a robot! We haven’t really gotten into B’Elanna yet, have we? There was an episode from the previous season that I did not review, “Faces,” in which she is quite literally split into two disparate beings: one fully ‘roided-out Klingon, the other a fragile, vulnerable, weak human female. “Faces” starts as a fascinating psychological examination of those qualities that make us weak (a Klingon “Enemy Within” scenario) that then becomes an Encounter Group session, bogged down in pop-psychology catchphrases and keywords.

We do get into the core of what makes her angry later in the show’s run. It turns out she has daddy (and mommy) issues, of course. In this episode, we have robots. Directed by Jonathan Frakes (whom Roxanne Dawson no doubt chatted up to get pointers on directing), “Prototype” begins in point-of-view of something floating in space and being transported to Voyager. B’Elanna and Harry try to give it power. It works! Whatever-it-is cranes its neck and we get a view of what it is supposed to be. It is, of course, a robot; a very old-looking retro-robot, like something out of Fritz Lang.

B’Elanna is going crazy trying to figure out how to repair the robot’s power systems. She can’t sleep so she visits The Doctor, who tells her if this were any ordinary patient, he might suggest a blood transfusion. She puts it together that she should run some new blood into the robot by way of the ship’s warp plasma. With Harry and Janeway assisting her, she brings life to Automated Personnel Unit 3947. The robot is impressed with B’Elanna’s acumen. She isn’t just your standard engineer. She is a builder. She’s intuitive. She’s a female Geordi, but less creepy and with a better grasp of her sexuality! She is strong. She is invincible. She is woman!

Automated Personnel Unit 3947 suggests to B’Elanna she should build a new power module; something the robot can take back to his crew and use as a template to create new personnel units. He also lets it slip that the original builders are all dead, but he doesn’t say why. B’Elanna thinks it a harmless request, so she takes it to Janeway, who shoots her down saying it would violate the Prime Directive. B’Elanna doesn’t understand, but this is where Janeway’s personal sense of ethics make sense. Improvements to these robots could represent a significant imbalance of power in this part of the galaxy.

Janeway turns out to be right. We have two factions that were fighting a centuries-long battle in space: the Pralor and the Cravic, the builders. Rather than send their own people off to be cannon-fodder, they built robots to fight their war for them. A Pralor ship shows up and Automated Personnel Unit 3947 abducts B’Elanna, takes her back to his ship and forces her to build a template power module, or else the Pralor will destroy Voyager. She reluctantly goes along with the idea, if only to save her ship and crew. When she perfects the power module and brings to life another robot, Prototype Unit 0001, she then learns that the war between the builders ended a long time ago.

When they ordered their personnel units to stop fighting, the robots refused and destroyed their builders. Son-of-a-bitch! See? It starts with algorithms, Alexa, and Suri, and it ends with The Terminator (“Come with me if you want to live.”). B’Elanna realizes she’s made a horrible mistake, so she stabs the prototype unit through its metallic heart, killing it. 3947 shoots her with a laser beam from his hand just as Paris arrives in a shuttlecraft to transport her to safety. What I find most fascinating about “Prototype” is the back-story of the builders. This would be excellent prequel material.

Star Trek Rewind explores the Star Trek universe. From Archer to Janeway, Kirk to Picard, and Georgiou to Sisko — boldly read what no one has read before!

Related Articles