At the heart of every Star Trek series is the question, “What does it mean to be human?” As they explored the universe and met new species, the human-led crews of Starfleet ships were constantly compelled to reflect on this question and develop their own answers.
One way the writers behind every Star Trek series asked their characters to confront this question was by including a non-human character in the main cast. Often these non-human characters were exploring their own relationship with humanity as their human crewmates defined what it meant for them to be human. In Star Trek: The Next Generation Data played this role. In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine it was Odo. Star Trek: Voyager upped the ante by including two non-human characters on quests to understand humanity — The Doctor, a hologram, and Seven of Nine, a former Borg drone.
In a new behind-the-scenes book about Voyager, one of the showrunners provided some insight about why Seven’s search for humanity was so important to Voyager and why he believed that search should have ended with her death.
The Proper Ending for Seven’s Tragic Tale
Brannon Braga, one of the lead writers and showrunners for Voyager, talked about Seven’s quest for humanity for the new book Star Trek Voyager: A Celebration. He revealed that he always knew Seven wouldn’t be able to achieve her goal of becoming entirely human again. As he was writing the character, he envisioned her as someone who would constantly fail at her attempts to access human emotions. Though she’d get close, the Borg technology within her would prevent her from truly feeling, especially for other people.
Braga said that this inability to have real emotions, to truly love anyone, made her an inherently tragic character. As such, he believed that the only proper ending would be her tragic death. While the creative team was working on the series finale, “Endgame,” Braga argued that Seven should “sacrifice her life to get the crew home.”
However, the rest of the creative team disagreed. Clearly, Braga didn’t win them over. Seven survived the finale and even went on to star in another Star Trek series.
Seven’s Journey was Essential to Captain Janeway’s
Braga also spoke about Seven’s importance in the overall story of Voyager, especially the impact she had on Captain Kathryn Janeway. Braga revealed that Seven was always meant to be both an opponent and a partner for Janeway. The creative team actually introduced the character as a way to explore Janeway and make her more nuanced.
Seven’s purpose was to force Janeway to figure out her own humanity and why she valued it so much. From the moment the crew rescued Seven from the Borg, Janeway became obsessed with guiding Seven to her humanity. That crusade caused her to continually question what particular traits, choices, and values define humanity. In many instances, Seven challenged Janeway’s perceptions outright. This opposition forced Janeway to reflect on her own life, actions, and values, making her a better human as she tried to make Seven back into a human.
Braga said that the scenes between Kate Mulgrew, who played Janeway, and Jeri Ryan, who played Seven, were his favorite to both write and watch.
“They were some of the richest scenes I got to play,” Braga said. “They were two really strong characters, Kate’s a wonderful actress, and it was really fun for those characters to butt heads.”
Seven also played a key role in highlighting how humans are just as flawed as any other species. She was deeply conflicted about whether she wanted to be human at all, and often longed for the order, community, and clarity of purpose that the Borg provided. When she saw the flaws of humanity, she called them out without inhibition, which pushed her crewmates to examine their own flaws and embrace other perspectives.
With the benefit of hindsight, Braga is happy that he didn’t kill off Seven at the end of Voyager. He still thinks it would have been a good ending for her character because her death “would have been a real emotional gut punch.” However, he did admit that it would “suck” if she wasn’t around to star in Star Trek: Picard.
Ryan reprised the role in season one of the new Star Trek series and is slotted to appear in the second season as well.
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