Each Star Trek serie has one peculiar character without whom is impossible to imagine the show. For Star Trek: The Next Generation it has been Data, the self-aware, sapient and anatomically fully functional android which serves as the second officer and chief operations officer aboard the Enterprise.
Spock’s appearance in Star Trek: The Original Series could serve as another prior example. And for Star Trek: Voyager, it has been Seven of Nine, a former Borg drone who joins the crew of the Federation starship, Voyager.
Spock, Data, and Seven of Nine have one thing in common- they are contrasting characters, not only allowing construction of different angles to the overall stories of the shows, but they also contrast to humans. For instance, both Data and Seven of Nine emerge as non-human characters but show a great appreciation to the concept of being human. They progress and gravitate so closer to this concept, that at the end we can observe them as characters with entirely human features.
Following the third season of Star Trek: Voyager, the team behind the series decided that one of the main cast characters needed to be dropped out of the series. That was Kes, a character that already had a background to make an easy exit of the series. The character of Kes was non-gendered, and it was intended to live for only seven years- her aging was obvious through each season at the Voyager.
The exit of Kes made possible the casting for Seven of Nine. The actress Jeri Ryan was appointed to play the new Borg-originating character. Similarly to Patrick Stewart who knew nothing about Star Trek, prior his contract and assignment to play the major role of Jean-Luc Picard in the Star Trek: The Next Generation, also Jeri Ryan knew almost nothing about this show.
Ryan had a very short notice to prepare for the casting, and the ‘homework’ she was given by the producers of the show, were copies of Star Trek: First Contact, and the Star Trek Encyclopedia, that she needed to scan through just a day before the casting.
Why Seven of Nine was a contrasting character?
Ryan’s character, Seven of Nine, was introduced in the first episode of the fourth season of the show, as “a completely different animal” as the producers had stated, and she continued to appear until the end of the Voyager series.
Her story most often revolved around her relationship with Captain Janeway and the Doctor, the Emergency Medical Hologram Mark I, which further added to the fictional mythology of the show. According to critics, these three characters would make the very soul of the Star Trek: Voyager.
Seven of Nine was often considered an ultimate character of transgression that undergoes a profound change. As former borg drone, it meant that Seven was nothing more but part of the dehumanized collection of species that have been assimilated into the Borg collective, or “the Hive”.
Like other Borgs, Seven had undergone forced injection of microscopic machines, as well as surgically added cyber-parts to her body. That made her much more a machine, and much less a human.
In the beginning, Seven of Nine has no feelings, she is cold and machine-like. In the later seasons, she re-develops her human aspects, and even manages to fall in love with one member of the crew at the very end.
Before the Borg assimilation, Seven was Annika Hansen, and some particular episodes are themed to show her early life before the assimilation.
Reactions from fans and critics
The majority would agree that Seven of Nine’s taking part in the main plot, has been just what the Star Trek: Voyager needed, as it overall rating was weak compared to the other shows, especially the Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Initial fan reactions have been fairly mixed, as some accused the show of adding her to attract more male audiences, as her outfit was rather sexually appealing. Veteran Star Trek writer and producer Ronald D. Moore, would also note that she should have a more Borg-like appearance.
Nevertheless, just a week after her casting, there was already a whole web page on the internet dedicated to Ryan and her character Seven of Nine. The trick worked- the character was strong and instantly grew in popularity hence many critics appraised Ryan’s work and virtually saved the show.
Late Ian Spelling, best known as a freelance journalist and entertainment writer for numerous Star Trek related interviews for magazines, websites, and newspapers, would note for the Starlog magazine in 1998, that the introduction of Seven of Nine was “just the kick in the asteroid that Voyager needed”.
Writer, scholar, and cultural critic Ziauddin Sardar’s words would be that her appearance on Voyager “restored the warp drive” to the show, promising a triumphant growth of the seasons.
Other critics have also observed that Voyager as a show overall lacks in depth, except for Seven of Nine, the Doctor and Captain Janeway as individually exceptional characters.
By the end of the series, Seven would be often described as the “most bewitching cast members” and the “first authentic Trek bombshell since Uhura and these attributions were made by Frank Ahrens at the Washington Post.
Seven of Nine or Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One as her Borg designation would go, has really saved the show and enriched the fictional world and mythology of the Star Trek series. Without her, the ratings of the Star Trek: Voyager would have only proceeded to drop.
Consequently, it has been a rewarding experience for Jeri Ryan’s herself. She collected an award for Best Supporting Actress on Television at the Saturn Awards in 2001, and also won the Satellite Award for Best Actress in television serie drama back in 1999.