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STAR TREK VOYAGER: 'Unimatrix Zero'
Susanna Thompason on reprising the Borg Queen for the Season Six finale.
By Anna L. Kaplan
May 15, 2000
Executive producer Brannon Braga, who wrote the STAR TREK: VOYAGER sixth season finale 'Unimatrix Zero' in collaboration with co-executive producer Joe Menosky, describes the episode as a cliffhanger that is part of VOYAGER's ongoing Borg saga. Braga explains that the title refers to a virtual location in Borg cyberspace: 'Unimatrix Zero is the name of a cybernetic reality, built in the cyberspace environment that exists deep in the heart of the hive mind. We learn one out of a million drones has a genetic mutation that allows them to go this cyberspace when they are regenerating. When they are there they can exist as individuals, but only when they are there. When they wake up they are mindless drones. The Borg Queen is onto the place. She is obsessed with finding it, because naturally it poses a threat to the Collective.' The episode airs next week, on May 24.
The Borg Queen's drive to find Unimatrix Zero is central to the episode. She is played, once again, by Susanna Thompson. Thompson took on the role for the two-hour VOYAGER telefilm 'Dark Frontier' last season, after Alice Krige played the part in the feature FIRST CONTACT. Viewers last saw the Queen's ship blow up at the end of 'Dark Frontier' but did not actually see the fate of the Queen. Says Thompson, 'How did she survive? I never thought that she died. I always thought that they had left it somewhat ambiguous, that there was always a possibility. Brannon felt that this [Queen] was slightly different. We were already filming when he told me that, so I am not quite sure how different she will be from the first one. But there is a quality in the script that is getting more and more emotional, I thinkeven with her control and that aloofness that is part of her.' Thompson laughs, 'There seems to be this element of emotion coming in, more and more, and an aggression with it. She's a little different, but definitely still, to me, so connected to the previous onethe core of something.'
The actress once again had to wear Alice Krige's costume, which was modified somewhat for her. Thompson chuckles, 'Same costume, same lovely, painful costume. We're having her descend again. I hear this time - we haven't done the bluescreen on that yet - that they are making it slightly different. Instead of just hooking into her body, it will be the arms coming in, and then the legs cominga more segmented body connection. I am very curious, because the last one was great.'
Describing the Queen's obsession, Thompson says, 'She has discovered that there are a mutant strain of Borgs that are somehow finding their way to a place, a mind place, [where] they find individuality. She knows this is happening. She doesn't know how it is happening, and she is on a mission to find out. Because it was just given to me as such a last minute thing, a lot of the script was not written, so I don't know their through line. This is mainly my story, in terms of the Borg Queen. There are some lovely images of her really trying to get to the root of this. The way she is doing it is taking apart different drones' cortical arrays. She's dissecting brains, trying to get to the core of it. So there's this, in some ways, mad scientist feel to it, at least in the laboratory. There's a wonderful [shot] - I hope it was shot well - of her holding up just a head, a bloody head, staring at this head saying, 'What am I not seeing? Where are you? You are so close.' Also, another element that is really wonderful, depending on how they shoot it, is that once she finds out where this place is, she's sending Borg in there. She's sending drones in there, and they start battling in that Unimatrix Zero space. Individuals that used to be drones are now battling with drones, and that's where some of the Voyager crew gets into battles. The whole time the Borg Queen is watching through the eyes of the drones that she sent over. That to me is interesting.'
Thompson did her work without interacting much with the Voyager crew. She says, 'All of my stuff was within my laboratory and with my drones, and one of the drones that was individualized and brought back. That scene with Kate [Mulgrew, Captain Janeway], I didn't actually film with her; I don't feel like I worked with her. But we do have a scene where she is on the deck, and I pop up on her screen, so we have dialogue, but I didn't film it with her.'
Without spoiling the rest of the story, viewers might like to know that Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) gets back his rank of lieutenant; Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) finds her first romance, and yes, some Voyager crew do get assimilated. These parts of the story were obviously filmed without Thompson.
She is committed to do the second part of the cliffhanger to open VOYAGER's seventh season, but neither she nor Braga have any clear notion what might occur in that episode. Thompson notes, 'Brannon said to me that he felt like he wasn't quite sure what might happen. He said, 'You never knowwe might even get a glimpse of this Borg Queen coming unglued, and maybe even a glimpse of her as an individual.' That would be cool, wouldn't it?'
The actress is no stranger to the genre, having appeared in episodes of PREY, ROAR, THE X-FILES, and in ALIEN NATION: DARK HORIZON, among others. She guest starred twice on THE NEXT GENERATION, and this will be her second appearance as VOYAGER's Borg Queen. But her favorite TREK role came when she played Lenara Kahn in DEEP SPACE NINE's 'Rejoined.' Thompson worked opposite Terry Farrell's Jadzia Dax, directed by Avery Brooks (Captain Sisko), in a episode that explored Trill taboos. In 'Rejoined' the two women played Trills whose symbionts, in previous hosts, had been married. They found each other again, still in love, against Trill tradition, and shared a same sex kiss. Says Thompson, 'I loved the character on DEEP SPACE NINE. I just thought it was terrific. I thought Avery did such a beautiful job with it, and I loved the writing. I loved the crossover into this society. It was very interesting how it paralleled, as we were doing the story, some of the taboos in that world, versus what was trying to be sensationalized in this world, and how it was observed and judged. I just loved it. Avery was so gentle and caring with it. I actually think that of all the work that I have done on the various STAR TREKs, that's the one I am the most proud of.'
Currently, Thompson is enjoying success ABC's hit series ONCE AND AGAIN, in which she plays Karen Sammler. Thompson says, 'I'm so happy on ONCE AND AGAIN. It's such a great show to be a part of. I feel very, very fortunate. Because of the nature of the show, it's an ensemble, so that there have been several episodes that have featured certain characters. My character got featured just before I was asked to do the Borg again, and I was off for a couple of episodes, so it just sort of fell right in there. They had asked me at the end of last year, would I be interested? We said it was a possibility, but of course it would have to work around ONCE AND AGAIN. We would just see what happened the closer to the time, and it fell into place.'
Thompson is again taking a wait and see attitude toward 'Unimatrix Zero, Part II,' to which she is committed, pending scheduling arrangements. She says, 'It's always by the seat of our pants over there, or at least it seems to be, when I get in there to do the Borg Queen. So much is given to you at the last minute, and you just have to go with it. There is not much preparation time at all. They are committed to work around a schedule if I am involved in another project, so I'll be curious about it all. I think there are reasons, and I think it all works. I just can't worry about it. I usually am a worrier in that way. How are people going to have to figure it out? Now I am sort of letting go of all that. It will work its way out.'