(Caution: This article contains spoilers up to the final episodes of VOY Season 7 and PIC Season 2.)
When I first saw Seven of Nine and Raffi Musiker holding hands in the Season 1 finale of Star Trek: Picard, I must admit I was a little bit weirded out.
LGBTQIAP+ representation in Trek has developed slowly if at all, so I was not prepared to see this. It did make sense that those two would connect as friends, I thought, with both of them having lost children and everything else they’d been through. Maybe they saw each other as sisters.
Was I ever wrong about that last one!
First, I should explain that the “original,” Voyager-era Seven has been my comfort character since I was a teenager. I may not have her beauty, brilliance or life-saving nanoprobes (or, thank goodness, her trauma) but, like her, I needed the rules of small talk explained to me before I could function at parties. I speak formally, I don’t drink, and I used to write stories about my crushes (instead of holodeck programs) because I was too afraid to show how I felt. Seeing a female character who behaves like this (because nerds in fiction are usually male) and is still a beloved crew member means the world to me. I must have written several novels’ worth of fan fiction, most of it romantic. “Not actually unrequited love” is my favorite trope—I ship Doctor/Seven and Chakotay/Seven with equal passion and can never decide which pairing I like better.
So when Picard-era Seven showed up, talking slang, shooting bourbon and showing a much broader range of preferences in her dating life, my first thought was: “Who is this, and what did the writers do to my Seven?”
Only she’s not my Seven, obviously. That’s the trouble with fan fiction writers; if we’re not careful, we can get so invested in our fandoms that we forget we don’t really own them. It’s lucky I don’t, though, because it turns out Michael Chabon, Akiva Goldsman and their colleagues know exactly what they’re doing. They understand this character better than I could ever hope to do.
Staying faithful to a character when writing for a franchise like Star Trek means staying faithful to their essence, not the details, and the essence of Seven of Nine has nothing to do with how she talks, what she drinks or with whom she falls in love.
The essence of her character is that she adapts. Every time she’s thrown into unknown territory—the Borg Collective, Voyager, Earth, the Neutral Zone, the Confederation, 21st-century Earth, and now Starfleet—she survives, learns and grows. As a former Borg drone, she used her nanoprobes, enhanced strength and intelligence to protect her shipmates on Voyager. Separated from the Voyager crew upon return to Earth, it makes sense that she would use the social skills and sense of justice she learned from them to find a new cause to fight for, such as the Fenris Rangers.
As for her relationship with Raffi, if Seven hadn’t learned to keep an open mind, she would have gone back to the Collective long ago. It’s only logical that she would learn to be open-minded in her dating life as well. After losing first Axum, then Chakotay—both quiet, serious men whom she looked up to as leaders—why not take a chance instead on a charming, sarcastic woman struggling with similar problems?
“Borg or not, you’re extraordinary,” Raffi says to Seven in 2×10, “Farewell”. It’s what I’ve thought of her for thirteen years, what I always wished someone would say to her, and what everyone who’s ever felt like an outsider needs to hear.
Of all the reasons why Seven has become an inspiration to us fans, finding someone to love her unconditionally—and learning to return that love—is right up there at the top.