Within the wonderful wide world of Fullerverse, a beautiful diversity exists. A teenager may look upon death with a sarcastic wit while in the same universe, a cannibal revels in the intricate beauty of death. Bryan Fuller is known for exploring a dynamic range of themes and ideas, many of which recur throughout his shows as well as smaller projects he has worked on. Considering that the concept of Fullerverse springs from the theory that all Fuller’s shows occur in the same universe, it is no surprise that common themes hold a powerful presence as they encounter several different characters Fuller has had a hand in.
Fuller has stated that one theme he focuses on in all of his shows is that of identity. The exploration of identity allows Fuller’s characters to develop as individuals as they learn more about themselves. Humans encounter struggles with identity every day, and as we notice fictional characters struggling to find or come to terms with their own selves, we are reminded of this universal search for self. Individuality is something everyone strives for, yet often times the world would rather have us believe we are part of a system instead. However, Fuller’s unique characters have something to say about the search for self.
One of the Fuller projects we have not focused much on here at Fullerverse is Fuller’s involvement in two shows from the Star Trek world: Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Fuller’s love of Star Trek played a significant role in his early career as a writer, and he flourished with the opportunity to write for something he held so dearly to his heart. Although he left his work on Voyager to begin developing a show now known as Dead Like Me, the footprint he left on the Star Trek world is an important part of Fullerverse history. Before his own shows even existed on paper or screen, the themes Fuller closely explores are evident in these cosmic stories.
Today, we look to the sky and head into the cosmos with “Drone,” a Star Trek: Voyager episode conceptualized by Fuller, who also appears as one of the screenwriters of the episode. Before I delve into the episode itself, I do want to express that although “Drone” comes as episode two of Voyager’s fifth season, you need not be an avid Voyager fan—or even a die-hard Trekkie for that matter—to enjoy the episode. It can very much stand on its own as a pre-Fullerverse time capsule: a glimpse into Fuller’s mind before his first original show was conceived. Additionally, Fuller’s Star Trek episodes are a wonderful glance into the future as we wait patiently for the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery. By analyzing and appreciating his work on older Star Trek series, excitement heightens for the realm of possibilities that will rise when Fuller is captain on the bridge of his own Star Trek show.
While “Drone” contains much of the quick-witted, quirky dialogue that we have come to expect from anything penned by Fuller, the episode contains an intense, deeply crafted plot. When Seven of Nine, a Borg crewmate of the Voyager, and the Doctor, a sassy member of the Voyager’s crew (not to be confused with that famous Doctor who flies around in the Tardis), accidentally fuse technologies together and create a drone, the entire crew is struck to a standstill. They soon realize that the drone, equipped with advanced Borg technologies, is capable of evolving and growing faster than anything they have ever seen. Before they know it, the drone has grown up and wastes no time in demanding information as it grapples with its magnificent self-awareness.
Seven of Nine is placed in charge of teaching the drone the ways of humanity, which holds a certain irony since the two are Borg, a race that is a definitive threat to the Voyager mission. Borg are focused on a beehive mentality (hello, Star Trek: Beyond!) to band together beings for a strong, unbreakable species. In other words, Borg are programmed to resist individuality. However, Seven of Nine, who embraces her alliance to the Voyager crew and her own independence, attempts to pass on a similar mindset to the drone, fearing that any resistance on his part will urge him to join the rest of the Borg, thus equipping them with a mass of futuristic, powerful technology. Seven of Nine realizes the importance of guiding the drone. One of the crewmembers, Neelix, explains that the drone “will become what we help it to become.” This promotes the idea that individuality is influenced by others, something that we often forget about. How many people over the course of our lives have shaped us into who we are?
The drone is eager to learn, never ceasing to ask questions and developing an inquisitive, perceptive personality. He picks the name “One” when he is told that he is a unique individual and that there is only one of him. He accepts Seven of Nine’s teachings, understanding that being an individual gives him free will and the power to be his own self, something that goes against the very existence of the Borg. Though he is by nature a Borg, One chooses to avoid the swarm of the creatures and accept himself as his own person.
I won’t give away the precise ending of the episode so you can experience it for yourself, but I want to emphasize the importance that rests on One’s eventual understanding that he was birthed as a mistake, thus making him an accident. Once he is finally able to accept his identity, he comes to realize that he should never have been created in the first place. Therefore, a contradiction is hatched. How can someone be sure of themselves if they are privy to the idea that they are a mistake? One struggles with his conscience, and his identity shatters around him when he refuses to keep hold of his sense of self. Although One has the chance for a life as a special, individual Borg, he cannot handle the idea that he is the result of an accident.
Now, this identity struggle is one of the most important aspects of the episode, particularly when viewing it from a Fullerverse-centric lens. In an original Dead Like Me plotline, George came to realize that her father was gay, causing her to start to wonder if she was never meant to exist at all. George also experiences identity crises and apprehension through death, particularly in the pilot episode. If she is dead, shouldn’t she just be dead? Additionally, Chuck Charles from Pushing Daisies examines herself in such a light as well. Although Chuck often embraces her second chance at life, the obvious fact remains that she should, and without Ned, would, have remained dead and buried. Of course, there is also Will Graham, who constantly tries to come back to himself during the first season of Hannibal even when it seems his mind and his psychiatrist are both working against him.
Fuller left Voyager to start working heavily on Dead Like Me, which is the first rung on the Fullerverse ladder. It is both beautiful and eerie that a theme so prevalent in his first show, as well as others, has obvious ties to an episode he conceived in an entirely different universe. Everyone explores identity in different ways through certain personalities, and so many of these are represented throughout the Fullerverse. With all this being said, if the wait for Discovery is making you antsy, I urge you to visit some of Fuller’s work on Star Trek and immerse yourself in the beauty of his early writing.