Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Human Error”

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“Human Error”
Written by André Bormanis & Kenneth Biller & Brannon Braga
Directed by Allan Kroeker
Season 7, Episode 18
Production episode 264
Original air date: March 7, 2001
Stardate: unknown

Captain’s log. We open with Seven playing the piano. Her hair is down, and her Borg implants are gone. She then goes to a baby shower for Torres, makes a toast and also has a conversation with Janeway about her future. She wants to be issued a uniform and also quarters since she no longer needs to regenerate.

Seven is then summoned to astrometrics, where we discover that this is all a holodeck scenario. When she ends the program, her implants are all back in place, and she puts her hair back up as she leaves. She’s doing holodeck scenarios to help with her social skills, but also to experiment with what life might be like if she was fully human and no longer dependent on Borg tech to survive.

Paris, Tuvok, and Janeway meet Seven in astrometrics. Voyager picked up some massive energy discharges about six light-years ahead. Seven is unable to determine the source. Janeway doesn’t think it’s worth altering the course, but they should keep an eye on it. Once business is done, Janeway confirms that the baby shower is still on and Paris confirms that Torres has no idea it’s coming. Both Seven and Tuvok express discomfort with attending.

Seven returns to the holodeck, where she is in her new quarters—which are quite sparse. A holographic Neelix gives her decorating tips, while a holographic Chakotay shows up with a dream catcher as a housewarming gift, and they also make a date for dinner—once she gets a replicator. And furniture.

Screenshot: CBS

The EMH is examining Seven, and also singing lullabies. There’s a flaw in one of her implants, which controls her arm movement. However, Seven puts off the procedure to repair it, as she has “research” to do. The EMH’s queries about the research are met with a snide request not to stick his nose in Seven’s personal life, to which the doctor’s quiet reply is that he didn’t realize that she had one.

The ship is impacted by a shockwave from more energy discharges, this intense enough to knock out Voyager’s warp field. They soon determine that the energy discharges are subspace warheads that were launched toward a probe. This is an ongoing thing, and the radiation is intense enough that Voyager can’t form a warp field.

Seven works to fine-tune the sensors so they’ll get extra warning when another shockwave approaches. Icheb relieves her two hours early, saying that the EMH instructed him to do so in order for her to spend more time regenerating, which she needs. Seven allows Icheb to relieve her, but instead of regenerating, she goes to engineering and gives Torres a belated baby-shower gift, along with an apology for missing the shower itself. It’s a pair of booties that will protect the baby’s feet from very low temperatures. Seven also attempts small talk, asking Torres about hair care.

Seven returns to the holodeck and has her holographic date with Chakotay (while wearing a very nice red dress). The date goes extremely well, and when they’re having what appears to be a post-coital snooze on the couch, Seven dreams about the date.

Then the real Chakotay summons her to astrometrics. Icheb has picked up a warning beacon: Apparently this is a munitions range, and they shouldn’t be in the area. Oops. Chakotay also upbraids Seven for being late for her shift.

Seven relieves Icheb, then works for maybe half a second before returning to the holodeck. She plays the piano for holo-Chakotay, but he criticizes her for not having passion. He turns off the metronome she’s using to keep the beat in the hopes of it inspiring her to show more oomph in her playing.

Screenshot: CBS

More warheads go off. Seven isn’t at her post, and hastily runs to astrometrics from the holodeck to belatedly get her fine-tuned sensors online. After the crisis has passed, Janeway summons Seven to her ready room. Seven lies and says that the 49 hours she’s spent on the holodeck over the last six days were to test a new gravimetric array. Janeway offers to help her out with it once they’re past the munitions range.

Seven apologizes to Icheb for being negligent, and then goes back to the holodeck to break up with holo-Chakotay. She says it’s because it’s interfering with her work, and Chakotay offers to talk to Janeway about lightening her load because he doesn’t know he’s a hologram. The argument continues, then Seven cries out in pain and manages to call for a medical emergency before falling unconscious. The EMH transfers his program to the holodeck, and asks Chakotay what happened—not realizing he’s a hologram. Once the EMH figures out what’s happening, he ends the program and has Seven brought to sickbay.

Her cortical node was destabilizing. The EMH has managed to fix it. Seven finally admits the truth: She’s been trying to re-create the joy and happiness she felt in Unimatrix Zero. The EMH is thrilled, but Seven isn’t—it’s interfering with her duties, and, apparently, her cortical node. There’s a failsafe in the node that triggers a shutdown if a drone gets too emotional. The EMH offers to work to get rid of that function, but Seven declines.

They finally get the warp drive up and running, but the warp field attracts one of the warheads. Tuvok’s attempt to stop it fails, but Seven comes up with a way to beam out the detonator, which she does at the last possible second, thus saving the ship.

Later, Chakotay catches up to Seven in a corridor, asking if she’s attending Neelix’s cooking class—even Tuvok is going. But Seven declines, saying she’s no longer interested in cooking. Chakotay says she should try to be more social with the crew.

Screenshot: CBS

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Hey, look, we get shockwaves in space! Which are, like, totally impossible since there’s nothing to propagate the shockwave in a vacuum!

There’s coffee in that nebula! Holo-Janeway has a serious conversation with Seven about her getting a uniform, her own quarters, and, for some reason, about the possibility of having a baby. Because that’s what women really want, am I right, guys?

Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok bonds with Seven over their mutual discomfort with baby showers. It’s kinda cute.

Half and half. Torres has her baby shower, though we don’t see the actual shower, only the holographic one that Seven puts together. The gifts we see in Seven’s simulation include a logic puzzle from Tuvok and a Starfleet diaper from Kim.

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH is rather surprised to learn that Seven is doing stuff with social interactions that he didn’t know about, and later tries to convince her to keep doing what she’s been doing, to no avail.

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Holo-Neelix gives Seven decorating advice. He’s particularly keen on her getting drapes, which he says should match the carpet. (Wah-hey?)

Resistance is futile. Seven’s gift to the Torres baby is actually practical as well as cute. The booties are, of course, shiny silver, because this is science fiction, and they must look like booties of the future!

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Seven chooses Chakotay to be her holographic blow-up doll because he has many admirable qualities, apparently.

What happens on the holodeck stays on the holodeck. The holodeck has already proven able to make Torres into a pregnant woman, so I guess it makes sense that it can get rid of Seven’s Borg implants for the duration of the program…

Also Seven comes up with overwhelmingly generic and clichéd gifts for her holodeck scenarios: a logic puzzle from the guy who values logic; a diaper from the youngest guy in the bridge crew; and a dream catcher from the Indigenous dude. Sigh.

Screenshot: CBS

Do it. “You have an appealing coiffure. What is your grooming regimen?”

“You’re asking me what I do with my hair?”

“Yes.”

“Um, well, nothing too elaborate—sonic shower, a little engine grease.”

Seven making small talk and Torres taking the piss. (Unless she really does use engine grease. Which I suppose she might…)

Welcome aboard. The only guest is recurring regular Manu Intiraymi as Icheb.

Trivial matters: Seven experienced emotions and happiness in Unimatrix Zero in the appropriately titled “Unimatrix Zerotwo-parter.

Icheb has been studying Earth history, and quotes both Sophocles and Titus Livius in the episode.

Music in this episode includes two pieces by Frédéric Chopin: Nocturne #1 in E Minor, Opus 72 (which Seven is playing in the teaser) and Barcarolle in F-sharp major, Opus 60 (which is playing during Seven’s date with holo-Chakotay). In addition, holo-Chakotay cites Robert Schumann’s “Of Foreign Countries and People” from Scenes of Childhood as his favorite piece of music.

Seven’s exploration of cooking was first seen in “The Void,” when she prepared a meal for several members of the crew.

Seven and Chakotay will later start up a relationship in the real world, as seen in “Endgame.”

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “I’ll bring the wine—and the furniture.” I had the hardest time focusing on this episode. Part of it is that the effectiveness of the opening—Seven playing the piano and making toasts and asking for a uniform and having no Borg implants anymore—is lost on this twenty-one-years-later rewatch because we know it’s not real. Then again, it was even more frustrating in 2001 to see this forward movement for the character, only to have it yanked out from under us when it’s revealed to be a holographic fake.

In the abstract, it’s a good idea to have Seven experimenting with social interactions and dating and attending parties and playing the piano. But then the ending screws it all up by having Seven’s cortical node knock her out. Yes, on this show where the reset button is routinely pushed to get everything back to the status quo no matter how unconvincing it is, they this time put an actual reset button in Seven’s head. And then they don’t let Seven accept the EMH’s offer to fix it.

So it all winds up for naught, and now Seven is back to being emotionally controlled and awkward and stuff. Sigh.

And none of it was particularly gripping. Throughout this entire rewatch, I found my attention wandering. I was in a permanent state of ungrippedness. Probably because I just knew watching this was going to be inconsequential, and the episode doubled down on that inconsequentiality.

Warp factor rating: 4

Keith R.A. DeCandido’s most recent fiction includes the thriller Animal (written with Dr. Munish K. Batra) about a serial killer who targets people who harm animals; All-the-Way House, part of the Systema Paradoxa series of books about cryptids, telling the secret origin of the Jersey Devil; “Unguarded,” a story about guardian angels in two different faiths in the anthology Devilish and Divine; and “In Earth and Sky and Sea Strange Things There Be,” a story of H. Rider Haggard’s She, in the charity anthology Turning the Tied.

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