Seven of Nine is back, and a lot’s changed.
Image: CBS
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Seven of Nine is back to everyone’s surprise in Star Trek: Picard, a reveal from the show’s first full trailer that tore the house down at San Diego Comic-Con last month. But more recently at Star Trek Las Vegas, the actor behind Voyager’s best Borg revealed that finding her way back to Seven was a hard task at first.

In the timeline of Picard, it’s been roughly 20 years since the U.S.S. Voyager returned to the Alpha Quadrant at the climax of Star Trek: Voyager’s seventh and final season. That means Seven and her fellow crewmates have been back on Earth living their lives for a considerable period of time, and things have changed as much for them as they have for Jean-Luc and his own former crewmates.

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For Seven, the change is noticed immediately, even from her brief appearance in the trailer. Her hair is no longer tied back in that severe bun. Gone is the sparkly wardrobe catsuit mandated as part of the healing process for her body post-Borg-implant removal. And, most immediately apparent? She no longer has that clipped, removed tone of a machine-woman still coming to grasps with finding her humanity again.

It makes sense—Seven’s had time to be among friends and other humans again since we last saw her, and developing a more naturalistic way of talking indicates that she has managed to slowly but surely re-integrate herself into a society beyond the Borg Collective. She’s more human now, implants aside, continuing the lessons she was learning aboard Voyager.

But, as Trek Movie notes from her appearance at Star Trek Las Vegas’ Picard panel this past weekend, Ryan initially found herself unsure of how to talk as Seven without that distanced, cold tone:

She was a very specific character for four years on Voyager. There was a lot of growth, and all of that. She went from being a machine to learning to be human. But, particularly the way she moved and her voice, that was what I was really hung up on. Her voice didn’t change that much in four years. So, she had a stilted, very formal, very stylized way of speaking, at the end of Voyager. So, when I got the initial script, and from I knew from the original pitch with James [Duff] a year and a half ago, she is not the same Seven. She is much more human. She been on Earth for a long time, she has been through a lot. So, when I saw that initial script and as you saw “what the hell are you doing out here?” It’s a very, very different voice. And that is what was freaking me out.

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Her panic led to some helpful insight from fellow returning Borg Johnathan Del Arco, reprising his The Next Generation role of Hugh the humanized Borg. According to Ryan, he helped her see Seven’s journey from that clipped, severe (but still considerably softened from when we first met her) woman that Voyager left off with to the looser, more relaxed person we’ll meet in Picard:

...I was literally freaking out. I was bursting into tears: “I don’t know what her voice is! I can’t find her.” So, Johnny came over and we had lunch and read the script for like an hour and finally he just – I was so freaked out I couldn’t think clearly about it – he said after an hour: “just try this, what if…” The Borg have always been hated, they are universally hated because they were bad guys, they were tough. But, there’s other elements in this world with the Borg. And, what if she had to make the choice to be as human as possible, to survive, to sound as human and act as human as possible. Clearly, she is always going to look like a former Borg, because she has these implants that cant go away. So, what if she had to make that choice – a conscious choice – to sound as human as possible. And that’s all I needed. That’s what I needed! I just needed something for it to make sense as an actor as to why she would have that huge of a change. Then it made sense to me. I was still freaking out in my first scene.

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It sounds simple on paper, but if it’s what Ryan needed to find her way back to playing Seven of Nine again, then we’re more than glad she found it—it’s so nice to see her and a whole bunch of other familiar Trek faces back for this show. Picard is set to hit CBS All Access early next year.

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