the story: Chakotay unwittingly stumbles into a collective of ex-Borg.
what it's all about: If you want to insist on believing that the Borg in Voyager was a colossal waste of time, I present to you Exhibit A as a direct contradiction.
The earliest direct appearance of the Collective in the series, "Unity" suggests the later "Scorpion" developments of an enemy (Species 8472) capable of taking on the Borg while presenting a story that doesn't necessarily involve the Borg. Still, it presents a compelling examination of one of the most basic features of the Collective: its hive mind.
Chakotay's harrowing experiences might as well represent a possible origin story, how it all began. The people he meets are so addicted to the "contact high" of the hive mind that they don't for a minute concern themselves with its more sinister implications. Later Voyager explorations of the Borg, including the ongoing case of Seven, suggest further complications of trying to leave the Collective behind, but "Unity" remains a standout, one any fan can appreciate.
What's more, it's the first indication of the new direction Chakotay would take following the end of his heavy significance from the first two seasons, and the backlash to that material that resulted in the drastic creative changes of the third. Fans would forever complain that Chakotay became a shrinking violet, seemingly inconsequential as a first officer. Regardless of whether or not that's true, his ability to carry a story ("Distant Origin" later in the season is yet more conclusive proof) shines through in "Unity." This is what he'd done during the Seska arc, but the effect is proven to originate with Chakotay rather than solely on the story when all context is removed from him. He carries with him a constant gravity, the ability to project dignity regardless of circumstance, that Chakotay can't help but somehow still become one of the most fascinating characters of the franchise. Fans laud praise on him in material like the later "Shattered," which is certainly earned, but he'd been deserving it for far longer.
- franchise - It's the Borg as you've never seen them!
- series - The official debut of the Collective in Voyager, later to become far more significant.
- character - Chakotay shines in an unexpected evolution as a master of spotlight adventures.
- essential - Makes everything involved deeper. The definition of a classic.