Star Trek theory: Q the saviour

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the trailers and teasers for Star Trek: Picard Season 2. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Next Generation, First Contact, Voyager, and Enterprise.

Today we’re going to take a look at Q, the immortal trickster who has tangled with Captains Picard, Sisko, and Janeway – and who will soon be returning to the Star Trek franchise! Q is an unusual character in many ways. He seems to have practically unlimited knowledge of the galaxy, and may have been alive for billions of years. Yet he has an impish, almost childish sense of humour that sees him tease and mess with Starfleet – and many other people too.

I wouldn’t call Q a “villain” in any of his appearances to date. In fact, I would argue very strongly that Q sees himself as a friend, an ally, and a guide to Captains Picard and Janeway in particular, having offered his services more than once. He’s certainly selfish – forcing Starfleet officers to undergo tests and trials of his own devising – but there’s usually more to his games than meets the eye.

Q in his judge’s robe.

On several occasions – going all the way back to his first appearance – Q has presented Starfleet with puzzles to solve. These puzzles can be dangerous, and more than once Q has gotten people killed. But even so, I wouldn’t characterise him as a typical “villain” for Captain Picard or Captain Janeway to “defeat.”

The puzzles Q has presented – especially to Captain Picard – have actually proven to be deeply satisfying, and arguably helped Picard and Starfleet grow. Recognising that life can take very different forms – as Q helped Picard to see in Encounter at Farpoint – is one such puzzle he presented. He also taught Picard how to view time in a non-linear fashion – understanding that events in the future could have a causal link to events in the past in All Good Things.

All Good Things saw Q present Picard with another puzzle to solve.

Even the teasers and trailers for the upcoming second season of Star Trek: Picard may not be all they seem. Picard says he blames Q for disrupting or changing the timeline, but I think we’ll have to see that story play out before we can assign all the blame to Q. Even if Q is responsible, the question of motivation comes up. Is it really just a game; a trick to mess with Picard? Or is there something bigger going on?

That’s one of my big Picard Season 2 theories! But I’ll save the full write-up for another day. Today we’re not looking ahead to future Star Trek, we’re going to look back at past iterations of the franchise and try to answer a deceptively simple question: did Q save the Federation?

Q will soon be returning to Star Trek…

Star Trek has made a mess of the early history of Borg-Federation contact. The Raven, from Voyager’s fourth season, told us that the Borg assimilated humans and a Federation vessel in the 2350s. Regeneration, from Enterprise Season 2, showed the Borg battling against Captain Archer and his crew – and sending a message to the Delta Quadrant that would be received in the 24th Century. So the question of how the Borg first became aware of the Federation is an open one. Did they receive a message from across the galaxy? Did they first discover humanity when they assimilated Seven of Nine and her family?

Either of these explanations could account for the Borg’s interest in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants in the mid-late 24th Century. Season 1 of The Next Generation first teased the Borg’s appearance with the episode The Neutral Zone, in which both Federation and Romulan colonies had gone missing – “carried off” the surface of their planets, as Romulan commander Tebok put it. The Borg’s responsibility for these attacks would be confirmed in The Best Of Both Worlds – though the connection is easily missed, in my opinion, as it doesn’t take up much screen time.

The Borg were responsible for the destruction of several Federation colonies in the 2360s.

Regardless, one thing is certain: the Borg knew of the Federation’s existence well before the Federation knew of theirs. They had even begun to send scouting vessels relatively close to Federation space; system J-25, where the Enterprise-D first encountered a Borg Cube, was a mere two-and-a-half years away from Federation space at high warp, placing the Borg tens of thousands of light-years away from their Delta Quadrant home.

Were the Borg actively scouting for the Federation, or was it just a coincidence that one of their vessels was operating so far away from their own space? We may never know the answer to that, but someone almost certainly does: Q.

Q was responsible for this encounter.

In brief, here’s my theory: the Borg and the Federation were already on a collision course, but the Federation didn’t know it. Whether it was because of the First ContactRegeneration time travel loop, the assimilation of the USS Raven, the attacks along the Neutral Zone, or simply the Borg’s continued exploration of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, they had humanity and the Federation firmly in their sights long before Starfleet was aware that there was a problem.

Recognising this, and seeing potential in humanity thanks to his earlier run-ins with Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D, Q chose to intervene. He knew that if the Federation became aware of the threat the Borg posed, their ingenuity would lead to better defences and they’d be able to protect themselves, so he chose to deliberately introduce them to the Borg for that reason.

A Borg Cube hovering ominously over Earth. The Borg came very close to assimilating humanity’s homeworld.

The events of The Next Generation Season 2 episode Q Who can be reinterpreted through this new lens. Rather than Q trying to frighten Picard for the sake of it or to prove his own superiority, he was – in his own twisted way – helping Picard and the Federation. The events of Q Who led the Federation to begin serious preparations for a Borg incursion, and without that tactical readiness it seems likely that the Borg would have been able to cruise to victory during the events of The Best of Both Worlds.

This fits with how Q operates. In stories like Encounter at Farpoint, Tapestry, and All Good Things, as well as Voyager’s The Q and the Grey, Q never explains everything he knows. Instead he obfuscates, talks around the issue, and forces Starfleet figure out what’s going on for themselves. Sometimes he pushes Picard or Janeway in a certain direction to get things moving, or even devises a puzzle or test of his own, like he did in Hide and Q. But what he never does is simply communicate – he doesn’t just sit down with Picard and tell him about Farpoint Station or the anti-time problem. He pushes Picard to figure those things out for himself.

Q appeared in Season 1 of Lower Decks.

And so it is with the Borg – according to this theory. Rather than contacting Picard and explaining what he knows about the Borg and their intention of targetting Earth, he sends the Enterprise-D to a location where he knows a Borg vessel will be and allows the crew to discover the threat for themselves. He does so knowing that the consequences will be Starfleet ramping up their defences in preparation of a Borg attack.

In All Good Things, Q told Picard that the Q Continuum saw potential in humanity – the potential to one day understand more about the universe than they ever thought possible. From Q’s point of view, perhaps he believed that seeing the Federation attacked and humanity assimilated would be a net loss to the galaxy because that potential would never be realised.

Q has his reasons for “testing” Picard and humanity – even if he chooses not to explain himself.

Q’s motivation for putting Picard and humanity “on trial” seems to be connected to this. In Encounter at Farpoint he accused humanity of being “a dangerous, savage, child race.” Yet even by the end of the episode, Q appeared to be impressed rather than disappointed that Picard and the crew could solve his puzzle. Rather than believing humanity to be dangerous and savage, as he asserted, Q almost certainly sees humanity as something more than that – and thus would feel humanity’s assimilation by the Borg would be a loss. His desire to avoid that fate could have motivated him in Q Who.

All of this could tie into Picard Season 2. Q may feel that Picard and the Federation are ungrateful for his “assistance” over the years, and he could cite the events of Q Who as one example of how his intervention saved the Federation from assimilation. While the latter part is up for debate, I definitely believe that Q feels underappreciated by Picard in particular, and sees his interactions with the former captain of the Enterprise-D as helpful rather than antagonistic.

Q looks annoyed with Picard in the trailer for Star Trek: Picard Season 2.

So let’s recap! The Borg became aware of the existence of the Federation by the mid-24th Century. The Federation had technology and resources that the Borg considered valuable, and they began targetting outlying Federation colonies, including those near to the Romulan Neutral Zone. All the while, the Federation remained ignorant of the Borg’s existence – considering them to be little more than rumour.

Foreseeing disaster and either the total assimilation of humanity or the devastation of the Federation such that humanity could not achieve its full potential, either the Q Continuum or Q independently decided to intervene. Instead of simply contacting the Federation to share his knowledge, Q transported the Enterprise-D to the star system J-25, where they encountered the Borg. This encounter led to the Federation developing anti-Borg strategies and defences that would ultimately save them from assimilation.

Unusually, Q has never taken credit for this. However, it’s at least possible that he considered Picard and the Federation as a whole to be ungrateful for his help, and this could tie in somehow to the events of Picard Season 2 where Q will be making a return to the Star Trek franchise.

Did Q save the Federation from assimilation?

What I like about this theory is that everything feels like it fits together. This theory connects the message sent in Regeneration and the early assimilation of Seven of Nine’s family to the events of The Neutral Zone, giving the Borg a reason to be operating so far outside of their territory. It also fits in perfectly with the way Q behaves – never sharing everything he knows and presenting dangerous and often deadly puzzles to Picard and Starfleet.

Whether it’s true or not is open to interpretation! I would say that Q Who wasn’t written with any of this in mind, and a straight watch of the episode strongly suggests that Q’s motivation is simply to frighten Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D after his offer to join the crew was rejected. Q felt that Picard was arrogant in assuming that Starfleet could handle any threat the galaxy contained, and wanted to prove him wrong. While that explanation works in the context of the episode, it doesn’t preclude anything included in this theory from also being true; Q could still have been annoyed at Picard’s assertion that the Federation was prepared for anything while also intending to provide them with advance warning of the Borg.

So that’s it for this one! As with all fan theories, anything we see on screen in a future episode or film could render the whole thing invalid. But for now, I think it’s at least plausible that the events of Q Who represent Q trying – in his own unique and twisted way – to help Picard and the Federation. Q has always seen himself as a friend of Picard’s, and based on what we know of both Q and the history of Borg-Federation contact, it seems to me that everything arguably fits together!

The Star Trek franchise – including all episodes and other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Ten great Star Trek starship designs

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

The Star Trek franchise has an aesthetic all its own, and a big part of that is the way starships are designed. Many Trekkies have said over the years that a ship is like an extra member of the cast; a vital part of any Star Trek series or film. While there have been some visual misses, of course, for the most part Star Trek’s ships have been fantastic to look at.

Aesthetics are always going to be a matter of personal taste, and there are many factors at play in considering what makes for a “good-looking” starship. Because the ships and most of their technologies are wholly fictional, designers and artists have a fair amount of leeway when it comes to designing a new starship. Technobabble can always be employed to explain away inconsistencies – like how the USS Defiant’s warp nacelles work, for example.

The USS Defiant.

Over more than half a century, Star Trek has featured many different designs of starship. Many of these, even the newest ones, take inspiration from the original USS Enterprise, which was designed by Matt Jeffries (with some input from others, including Gene Roddenberry) for The Cage in 1964. The basic saucer section, drive section, plus two nacelles on pylons style has been present in most Federation ships – and, in some form, all of the “hero” ships – ever since.

On this list I’m going to pull out ten of my favourite designs of both Federation and non-Federation starships. The list is by no means exhaustive, and it may be a topic I revisit in future as I can already think of several more I could have easily included! As indicated, this whole thing is entirely subjective. So without further ado, let’s jump into the list – which is in no particular order.

Number 1: The Klingon Bird-of-Prey

A Bird-of-Prey seen in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

The Bird-of-Prey is absolutely iconic as a Klingon vessel, at least on par with the D-7 battlecruiser from The Original Series. The vessel debuted in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, before going on to appear in four more films, all of the 24th Century shows, and even recently in Lower Decks. Few non-Starfleet ships are as iconic or recognisable, and even many non-fans would easily identify the design.

In cinema, the Bird-of-Prey has had starring roles in five films, making it one of the most well-known enemy or villainous ships. Iconic adversaries like General Chang and Dr Soran used Klingon Birds-of-Prey in their nefarious schemes. But as Klingon-Federation relations improved in The Next Generation, we began to see the iconic vessel as an ally; a workhorse of the Klingon fleet. By the time of the Dominion War in Deep Space Nine we were rooting for the Klingon-Federation alliance, and some of the ships most often seen on the front lines were these wonderful Klingon ships.

Based loosely on the earlier Romulan Bird-of-Prey, the winged design captures the warrior philosophy of the Klingons perfectly. The small ship is incredibly powerful, armed to the teeth with disruptor cannons and photon torpedoes. The way the wings change position for combat or while at warp is clever, too, and the green colour scheme makes the craft stand out when compared to Federation ships.

Number 2: The Excelsior Class

The USS Enterprise-B.

Another starship that would be a workhorse for decades, the Excelsior is a really neat, futuristic design. It manages to look smarter and newer than the Constitution class that it would eventually replace, yet at the same time is clearly manufactured by the same organisation. It retains the saucer, drive section, and nacelles on pylons of older Federation ships, but switches up the design too. The ship is flatter, with a shorter “neck,” and has nacelle pylons that are shorter and have a ninety-degree bend instead of coming out of the drive section on a diagonal.

The Excelsior class also debuted in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock – the film succeeded at introducing us to two of the most iconic designs in the franchise! Though we’ve never seen a show or film set entirely aboard an Excelsior class starship, Excelsiors have been featured in five films and all three of the 24th Century shows.

By the 24th Century the Excelsior class was still in use, and while it had taken a back seat to the likes of the Galaxy class and other newer ships, many Excelsior class vessels were still in service in a variety of roles. Some would even see action in the Dominion War, meaning that the Excelsior class was still being deployed almost a century after its inception. That must be one solid ship!

Number 3: The Runabout

A Runabout seen in The Next Generation.

I adore the Runabouts that debuted in Deep Space Nine. They remind me of camper vans (or RVs) in terms of size and design, incorporating most of the mod-cons a 24th Century Starfleet officer might expect – just in a much more compact vessel. If I could pick any starship for myself (and the cats) to have for cruising around the galaxy, I’d definitely pick a Runabout.

When Deep Space Nine was being developed, there was a sense that setting a series on a static space station might be too far removed from Star Trek’s past, and thus there was a need to give Commander Sisko and the crew something to keep them mobile. From an in-universe perspective, too, the station needed to have some way for the crew to leave in an emergency – or just to make routine visits to nearby planets. Hence the Runabout was born – larger than a shuttlecraft but smaller than any starship we’d seen before.

These cute mini-starships each have their own name and registration, but from what’s shown on screen they seem to be assigned to bases and starships as auxiliary craft rather than being fully-independent vessels in their own right. Despite that, Runabouts are depicted as highly capable, versatile vessels. Early exploration missions into the Gamma Quadrant often utilised Runabouts based at DS9, and the ships were more than capable of surveying planets and charting star systems.

Number 4: The Constitution Class (original configuration)

The USS Enterprise from The Original Series.

The original Constitution class has to make any Trekkie’s list of great starship designs, right? Though it may feel dated in some respects, this is the source from which basically all of the other designs on this list were created. Federation starships are pretty much all designed with the Constitution in mind – the saucer, drive section, and nacelles design is emblematic of Starfleet, and thus of Star Trek. Even non-Federation ships are designed to stand in opposition to the Constitution (and the ships derived from it) so it’s undeniably the most significant and important starship design in the franchise.

The original design was simple, mid-60s futurism at its finest. The saucer is a design that had been synonymous with spaceships for decades thanks to myths of UFOs and flying saucers, so the decision to incorporate that kind of design was genius. The ship’s engines with their glowing tips became inseparable from warp speed and faster-than-light travel. And of course the deflector dish was reminiscent of satellite dishes – a new technology at the time.

Most importantly, this is where Star Trek began. The Constitution class USS Enterprise kicked off the franchise and became one of the most iconic sights in all of science fiction. Even today it’s instantly recognisable, even to folks who don’t watch Star Trek or know anything about the franchise.

Number 5: The Constitution Class (refit configuration)

An iconic moment in The Motion Picture.

As much as I love the original Constitution class, I think I like the refit even more. The refit Constitution class is the subject of one of my favourite sequences in all of Star Trek – where Admiral Kirk and Scotty approach the newly-refitted Enterprise when it’s still in drydock in The Motion Picture. That sequence is so beautiful (and with an amazing musical score to boot), showing off the starship in all its glory.

If the original configuration of the Constitution class had design features emblematic of its 1960s space race origins, the refit is much more “up-to-date,” replacing the satellite dish-style deflector with a glowing light, toning down the grey colour, and generally adding more lights and more features that make it an icon of the ’80s. In fact, I’d argue that many ’80s and ’80s-inspired sci-fi ships can trace some part of their design back to the refit Constitution class.

At the same time, though, the refit doesn’t completely abandon what made the original starship so iconic. The saucer section, drive section, nacelles, and pylons are all still present. The domed bridge is still there at the top of the ship, and even though a lot as been changed, it’s still clear that this is supposed to be an updated design, not a wholly new one.

Number 6: The Galor Class Warship

A Galor class ship under fire from a Maquis fighter in the premiere of Star Trek: Voyager.

The Cardassians – and their Galor class warships – debuted in The Wounded, a fourth-season episode of The Next Generation which, in many ways, began to lay the groundwork for Deep Space Nine. And it was in the latter show that the Galor class would be seen most often; a vehicle for the villainous Cardassians.

Its design is, in some respects, a blend of Starfleet and non-Federation ships. The semi-circular “mini saucer” that juts out at the front, as well as the deflector array it sits atop, kind of resemble Starfleet designs, but the wings and elongated “tail” – as well as the yellow colour scheme – make it clear that this is definitely not a Federation starship!

The Galor class would be seen as the mainstay of the Cardassian fleet, serving in combat roles before and during the Dominion War. Some engagements during the Dominion War would see dozens – perhaps hundreds – of Galor class vessels deployed alongside their Dominion and Breen allies, and they could look incredibly intimidating en masse. Seeing Galor class ships open fire on the Breen and Dominion indicated that the Cardassians had switched sides during the war’s closing hours, and that sequence is absolutely outstanding; one of the best space battles in the entire franchise.

Number 7: The USS Pasteur

The USS Pasteur.

Unlike the ships mentioned above, the USS Pasteur was only seen in one episode – All Good Things, the season finale of The Next Generation. Despite its limited screen time, however, I like the design. Its spherical “saucer” section is distinctive, and gives it a look all its own. The spherical design was based on an unused concept Matt Jeffries had for the original USS Enterprise during early development on The Original Series, which is a cool little fact!

As I’ve said before, I really like the concept of a hospital ship in Star Trek. I’d be quite happy to see a “Star Trek-meets-ER” series one day, and such a series would surely make use of a ship like the USS Pasteur. Modern navies have hospital ships, so it stands to reason that Starfleet would too, and the USS Pasteur was our first up-close look at such a support vessel.

A Pasteur-type ship was seen in Season 1 of Lower Decks (albeit in a flashback) so the design isn’t dead. Perhaps one day we’ll see more of these ships and get to know a little more about them. Regardless, I love the design.

Number 8: The Borg Cube

A Borg cube in orbit of Earth.

Few adversaries in Star Trek are as genuinely frightening as the Borg – for reasons that I discussed in my essay on the faction. An intimidating villain needs an intimidating starship, and the Borg cube delivers. There’s something frighteningly mechanical about a plain cube. There are no engines, no obvious bridge or command centre… everything about the vessel from all sides looks the same.

The Borg’s hive mind sees them operate as one entity, and their ships are part of that. The “philosophy” of the Borg – for want of a better term – is perfectly expressed in the design of their most commonly-seen starship. Every part of the ship is the same, just as every Borg drone is the same.

When we first see a Borg cube in Q Who, the sheer scale of the ship is impressive, too. The Borg vessel dwarfs the Enterprise-D, and then its powerful weapons and tractor beam overcome the Galaxy class ship’s defences with ease. Even though we’ve seen Borg cubes defeated in subsequent stories, remembering that a single vessel was able to destroy 39 Federation ships and almost succeed at assimilating Earth reminds us that these ships are incredibly powerful. Even by the time of First Contact, defeating a single Borg cube was a tall order for Starfleet.

Number 9: La Sirena

La Sirena in The Impossible Box.

Captained by Chris Rios and chartered by Admiral Picard, La Sirena made its debut in Star Trek: Picard Season 1. Everything I said about the Runabout feeling like a fun-sized ship could also apply to La Sirena, but the visual style makes it distinctive. La Sirena is basically a Runabout mixed with a hot rod!

The red and white colour scheme suits the ship perfectly, and there are even echoes of Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon in La Sirena’s design and concept. It’s the perfect vessel for Picard; small enough to be run by a skeleton crew (plus holograms!) but large enough not to feel cramped. It’s definitely not Starfleet, but there are Federation design elements present throughout.

Star Trek hasn’t really had many opportunities to showcase civilian starships, so La Sirena represents a look at a completely different side of the Star Trek galaxy, one we haven’t seen before. Though the franchise keeps these things deliberately vague, there must be a great deal of interstellar traffic, including transporting passengers and cargo. People like Captain Rios – and also others like Kassidy Yates – show us a glimpse of that world.

Number 10: The Sovereign Class

The first shot of the Enterprise-E in First Contact.

Perhaps it’s because Nemesis was the furthest forward the Star Trek timeline had got for almost twenty years, but to me the Soverign class has always seemed like one of Star Trek’s most modern and futuristic starships. The design represents a complete overhaul from the previous Galaxy class, flattening the “neck” of the ship again so the elongated saucer is almost contiguous with the drive section.

It’s a shame that the Sovereign class Enterprise-E only had the opportunity to make three appearances, as I would have dearly liked to see more of it in action. In some ways it has more of a militarised feel than the Galaxy, especially in terms of its interior, and perhaps we can say that’s a response to Starfleet taking on board threats from the Borg and Dominion during the design process.

The most iconic Sovereign class moment for me is the Enterprise-E’s arrival at the Battle of Sector 001. Swooping in to take on the Borg cube when the Starfleet armada was falling apart – accompanied by another beautiful piece of music – is one of the best moments in First Contact!

So that’s it! Ten great Star Trek starship designs.

Star Trek: Discovery’s new take on the Constitution class.

There were many other ships I could’ve picked for this list, so stay tuned for “part two” in future! The Star Trek franchise has some great starships, and by keeping a relatively consistent aesthetic – generally speaking – has carved out a niche within sci-fi. Star Trek’s starships are almost always distinctive, and seldom feel like they could easily be part of some other film or franchise.

Everybody has their own favourites, though! There are some starships that we see often, either because they’re a “hero” ship or because they’re a frequently-used secondary design, and some of these have become iconic and emblematic of the whole Star Trek franchise. Other ships only make a handful of appearances, yet still manage to leave a lasting impression.

The Star Trek franchise – including all properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

The Borg – space zombies

Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers for various Star Trek series, including the most recent season of Star Trek: Discovery and the first three episodes of Star Trek: Picard.

As part of a series of articles I wrote leading up to the release of Star Trek: Picard, I covered the Borg from an in-universe perspective, as well as looking at some possible options for their role in the new series. You can read that article by clicking or tapping here. While Star Trek: Picard remains a mysterious show even now that we’re three episodes in, the Borg’s role has been somewhat on the sidelines so far, as we’ve really only seen a few former Borg and the disabled Borg cube used as a setting.

For a while I’ve been wanting to look at the Borg from a storytelling perspective, because I think they’re one of Star Trek’s most interesting villains. Not only that, but they have an analogue outside of the franchise which we can compare them to – zombies. Both the Borg and zombies fill a similar role in the stories they appear in, and both can fall victim to the same storytelling pitfalls.

Let’s start with the most obvious comparison – and why both the Borg and zombies are a frightening adversary for any heroes to be pitted against. With the exception of the Borg’s first appearance in The Next Generation’s second season episode Q Who, the Borg’s sole purpose has been assimilation. By forcibly injecting their nano-technology into both machines and living organisms, practically anything they touch can become part of the Borg Collective in a matter of moments. Zombies are a low-tech, biological version – in almost every zombie story, the zombie infection spreads through biting. Thus both Borg and zombies don’t just kill, they turn everyone the heroes lose into another enemy to fight. And the infection or invasion can never be truly over until every last individual is defeated, because if even one Borg drone or one zombie remains, there’s the possibility for them to attack others and start all over again.

The Borg take on a similar role in some respects to zombies – such as those in The Walking Dead.

This one factor – that every friend lost doesn’t just reduce the numbers on the heroes’ side, but increases the number of enemies to fight – is huge. It means that a story featuring a Borg or zombie attack is completely different in tone and scope from any other war or invasion or battle that we might see in science fiction. And it’s a frightening prospect, seeing allies quite literally turned into enemies before the very eyes of the heroes. In fact, it’s arguable that the Borg’s appearances are as close as Star Trek as come to crossing over into the horror genre. The underlying premise, certainly, would be at home there. And if ViacomCBS ever chose to go down that route, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine a Borg-themed horror film or series.

One of the great things about entertainment and storytelling is that it’s subjective. The audience can interpret themes and points in a story in different ways, and anyone who’s ever taken a literature class can attest that! When I was in school and in the few literature classes I took at university, my teachers were always talking about analogies and themes and metaphors. And when it comes to the Borg, there are different interpretations as to a real-world analogue.

One of the most obvious is communism. Despite what’s often been said, Star Trek doesn’t really depict a “communist utopia”. The economy of the 23rd and 24th Centuries has always been deliberately ambiguous, and really I think it’s fairer to describe it as a post-scarcity economy, thanks in large part to technologies like food replicators and interstellar travel. Humans in Star Trek can still, for example, own and inherit property – like we see Joseph Sisko and the Picard family do – something which indicates that we’re not looking at communism. But that’s rather beside the point. The Borg, to get back on topic, with their lack of individuality and aggressively expansionist mindset, are arguably a metaphor for Western fears of communist states during the latter part of the Cold War. The history of Star Trek is littered with Cold War metaphors, and at the time the Borg were created and debuted on screen in 1989, the Berlin Wall hadn’t yet fallen and the Soviet Union was still the world’s “other” superpower.

Since the concept of the “walking dead” came to mainstream attention in the 1960s, critics have said the same thing about zombies, too – that they’re a metaphor for America’s communist adversaries. The comparison plays on a crude stereotype – that all people in a communist state are brainwashed and forced to do the state’s bidding. However, my intention isn’t to critique the concept, merely to acknowledge its existence. In a very real sense, part of what makes zombies and the Borg so frightening is the idea of losing oneself, and suffering “a fate worse than death”. For many in the Cold War era, ideas like communist infiltrators and brainwashed citizens returning from overseas – including former prisoners of war – were genuine concerns, if somewhat overstated and exaggerated.

Picard’s transformation into Locutus of Borg was shocking.

It’s those underlying real-world fears that give power to the Borg when they appear. They wouldn’t be so scary if it weren’t for a shared fear we have of losing our identity – stoked by fears from the Cold War era, perhaps, but just as relevant today in the age of radicalisation via social media. How many young men – and it is almost always young men – have been involved in mass shootings or terrorist attacks after being radicalised online? The concept of brainwashing – and our collective fear of it – is still very much alive in society today. The emphasis has shifted from the state to individuals, perhaps, but the basic fear remains the same. And it continues to make villains like the Borg intimidating.

When it comes to turning that into an exciting, heart-stopping story, though, it’s all too easy to fall flat. What we’ve seen in Star Trek, especially in Star Trek: Voyager, is the overuse of the Borg. The same thing has happened to the zombies in The Walking Dead, and can happen to other villains in other series too – the Daleks from Doctor Who come to mind as another example of overuse. The fundamental problem with having the heroes outsmart and defeat the same villain too many times is that they simply lose their fear factor – no matter how powerful it may once have been and what underlying social factors are propping it up.

Every victory over the same opponent adds to a feeling that victory for the heroes is inevitable. And in many cases, we know that. Even in a series like Game of Thrones, which could be utterly unpredictable, nobody was genuinely expecting that the Night King would be victorious – we all knew that somehow, some of the heroes would survive and find a way to win. That didn’t make the story any less exciting, and nor is Star Trek: First Contact any less exciting for first-time viewers who expect Picard and his crew to find a way to defeat the Borg. The tension and drama comes on a moment-to-moment basis, and also, as in many stories, part of the enjoyment comes from the journey even if the overall destination – victory, in this case – is known.

But when the same scenario plays out over and over again – a scrappy Starfleet crew faces off against impossible odds and beats the Borg, for example – it gets less and less tense and less and less dramatic with each new revision. When we see the Borg lose to Janeway for the fourth or fifth time having already seen them bested twice by Picard, they become stale, and the stories in which they appear become uninteresting.

The addition of the Borg Queen is symptomatic of this. After several prior Borg stories, and with their first big-screen appearance looming, there must have been some discussion about how to make the Borg intimidating again. It wasn’t enough to have this faceless mass any more, the Borg needed something new in order to fit the bill as big-screen villains. Part of that stems from the need to keep the story cinematic; to have those moments where Picard is traumatised by his memories of the Borg Queen, to have Data tempted and taunted by her in a way a nameless drone couldn’t, and to be able to have dialogue between heroes and villains which is often a tense yet satisfying part of storytelling in and of itself. But a significant part of the Borg Queen’s role in First Contact and subsequently has been to rejuvenate the Borg as a faction from a storytelling perspective.

The Borg Queen in First Contact.

Telling unique and different Borg stories has become as much of a problem for Star Trek as making the zombies scary again is for The Walking Dead. Unlike that series – which I’d absolutely argue had a natural lifespan (forgive the pun) of about four seasons and should have ended at that point – Star Trek has a much richer galaxy to explore and plenty of other villains to play with. The Borg are not essential to Star Trek in the way that zombies are to zombie stories – and that’s definitely been a saving grace.

With the exception of the Star Trek: Enterprise episode Regeneration in 2003, there hadn’t been any Borg stories in Star Trek since Voyager’s finale in 2001 – and none which were set further forward in the Star Trek timeline. After an absence of close to two decades, then, there’s an argument to be made that enough time has passed for a renewed look at the Borg. For new fans and younger fans who didn’t see every single appearance in order, and for more casual viewers who may not have seen any Star Trek episode or film since the turn of the millennium, that’s probably a fair point. But even then, because the Borg are essentially “space zombies”, in an era where zombie stories have become a television and cinematic genre in their own right with dozens of examples, perhaps we’re still burnt out.

Here’s where the Borg’s trump card comes into play – they aren’t just a metaphor for our fears of communism or brainwashing. Because of their technological nature, they can absolutely be an analogy for our overreliance on technology and for our fears of the evolution of technology in the future. This is what Star Trek: Discovery’s second season did, very successfully in my opinion, with the Control AI. Now I’m absolutely convinced that Control was meant to tie in somehow to the Borg and their origins when the story was originally written. Why that angle was scrapped (if indeed it has been wholly scrapped) is unclear, but it could be related to the Borg being an integral part of the story of Star Trek: Picard. That’s my current theory on that, at any rate.

The whole point of the Control storyline in Discovery was that artificial intelligence might not be a good thing to pursue. When an AI surpasses humanity in its abilities, it becomes inherently unpredictable. It can overwrite its own programming and could turn on us. This isn’t just a science fiction story trope – scientists like Stephen Hawking have expressed genuine concern that an AI could ultimately be harmful. Technological progress has advanced so rapidly from even when The Next Generation was first on the air and computers were basically glorified calculators and typewriters to the modern day where everyone has an internet-enabled super-smart camera-and-microphone connected-to-everything always-on computer-phone about their person 24/7. Those changes have, thus far at least, been a net positive for humanity. In Africa, for example, the rise of mobile phones has meant many of the world’s poorest citizens have access to the internet and information, as well as the ability to send and receive money securely without relying on banking. But with change comes fear, or at least a sense of uncertainty. Discovery played on those fears and concerns about the pace of technological change quite expertly.

The nanobots Control used to “assimilate” Capt. Leland are reminiscent of Borg technology, and play on the same fears of out-of-control AI.

The decision to have Control be an invention of Section 31 was another masterstroke. Since Edward Snowden and Julian Assange (and many others, of course) have demonstrated to the world that major governmental organisations run hidden technological surveillance on, well, everyone, mistrust of technology and technological communication has only grown. The idea that we’re all being watched all the time by “big brother” in the various three-letter agencies, and their international equivalents, has caused a lot of people to be incredibly uneasy about technology in general. Once again, Discovery tapped into this to great effect.

To get back to the Borg, regardless of whether or not Control was meant to be related to them in some way, the same principle is at work. The relentless march of technology could see us literally plugging ourselves into some giant network of machines, or augmenting our bodies with technological upgrades. In a sense, we already do. Our phones and computers are arguably an extension of ourselves, we’re almost constantly networked to billions of others via the internet, with all of their experiences and information only a few keystrokes away, and as medical science advances we’re able to replace defective body parts – like hips, for example – with synthetic replacements. The Borg are simply a few steps further along from we currently are in their embrace of technology.

For many people, the unstoppable march of technology is something they find intimidating. It means that the future is always changing – and people in general have an inbuilt mistrust or fear of change. Thus the Borg stand out in stories that feature them as a kind of nightmarish vision of a future gone wrong.

By playing on these two deep-rooted, almost instinctive fears, the Borg are truly a frightening opponent for the heroes in Star Trek stories to face.

Keeping that fear alive is a task for the new creators of Star Trek. In Discovery, Control hit the reset button by showing us at least a potential precursor to the Borg we’ve seen before. Enterprise threw 24th Century Borg against a 22nd Century crew – not that it was always apparent, but that was part of the goal of that episode. And finally, in Picard we have the Borg absent from their own setting – a derelict cube being slowly picked apart and studied. There’s an inherent creepiness to the aesthetic of the cube – a kind of cold, inhuman feel, amplified by the lack of windows and endless maze of identical rooms and corridors. If the showrunners wanted to play up that aspect they absolutely could, and it will be interesting to see where Picard takes this angle.

What has to be avoided, however, is the trap that ensnared Voyager’s Borg episodes. Repetition leads to a loss of that fear factor, and without it the Borg become stale and boring – it would be better to see the faction utterly defeated in a climactic battle than to have them crop up again and again in random episodes over several seasons. The serialised nature of current Star Trek storytelling, which has replaced the episodic, “monster-of-the-week” format, means that we’re less likely to see individual Borg-centric episodes any more. And that’s probably a good thing overall – despite my personal preference for episodic storytelling in Star Trek.

The episode Q Who introduced the Borg for the first time.

At the end of the day, the question for the Star Trek franchise and its new creative team is what to do with the Borg in future. We saw what I’m certain was an abortive attempt to show some kind of origin story in Discovery’s second season, and now in Picard we have the creepy abandoned cube as a setting, as well as the return of Seven of Nine and Hugh as liberated ex-Borg. Both of these approaches are different, and that’s good. As great as The Best of Both Worlds and First Contact were, those stories were lightning in a bottle – not something that can be recaptured or repeated, at least not to the same effect. And the way stories approach and treat the Borg will have to change if they’re to be as intimidating as we want them to be. That doesn’t mean the Borg have to change in their core outlook or philosophy; doing so would mean they’re no longer the villain we remember, after all. But it does mean they have to be written in a different way and that their inclusion in future Star Trek stories has to be very carefully considered.

In a sense, the Borg’s greatest and most frightening aspect – their relentlessness and faceless nature – is also part of their undoing when considering their inclusion from a storytelling point of view. Because of their philosophy and the way they approach their assimilation targets, the Borg are very much a one-trick pony. They show up, either en masse or on a single vessel, overwhelm their opponents, forcibly assimilate them, and move on. They have one unwavering goal, and essentially only one method of achieving it. There are no Borg spies, no Borg generals to be outwitted, no Borg personalities to provide personal drama and conflict in a story. With the exception of the Borg Queen – who isn’t even really an exception as she is simply the face of the Borg, not a leader – the Borg operate as one entity with one goal and one approach.

The Voyager two-part episode Scorpion, which introduced Seven of Nine, took one of the most interesting looks at how the Borg’s single-mindedness can be their undoing. By presenting them with an opponent in Species 8472 who could not be assimilated, the Borg were on the back foot as the only method they had of information-gathering and conquest – they use assimilation for both purposes – did not work. This was a unique take on the Borg in Star Trek, but it had the unintended consequence of making them less intimidating as a result. As previously mentioned, any time we see a supposedly imposing villain failing in their objective, beaten and in retreat, it lessens the fear factor. As the audience, we know that they can be beaten – changing how we perceive stories. It stops being a question of “will the heroes prevail?” and instead becomes “when and/or how will they prevail?”

We need only look to Doctor Who for a case in point. Since its 2005 reboot, Doctor Who has seen its main villains, the Daleks, so thoroughly overused that they long ago became completely dull and unexciting. And two other villains, the Cybermen and Weeping Angels, have suffered from overuse too. As a result, since the latter half of Matt Smith’s tenure as the Eleventh Doctor, the show has limped along feeling played out. New villains and storylines have fallen flat – a consequence of mediocre writing – and the show is absolutely ready to go back on hiatus as there are no good ideas. It’s a lesson for Star Trek to learn, especially as production ramps up and there are multiple shows (and at least one film) all in various stages of development. Sometimes less is more. And also, when a storyline has run its course, and when a villain has done all they can reasonably do, unless there’s a new way to approach that story it’s time to put an end to it and move on.

The Borg haven’t yet reached that point. There is still space in Star Trek for new and exciting Borg stories, but they will have to be properly planned, not simply thrown in at the last minute. Like Doctor Who’s Daleks, the Borg are an iconic villain, emblematic of the franchise that spawned them. But they aren’t an infallible storytelling device that guarantees a successful film, season, or episode. And mishandled or overused, all the threat, tension, and drama they can bring will melt away leaving a bland, uninspiring film or episode behind.

The Artifact represents a new direction for Borg-related stories in Star Trek.

Between the zombies in The Walking Dead and the Daleks in Doctor Who, we have two great examples of how to mishandle and overuse villains like the Borg. Star Trek is fortunate to have such a rich history of alien races to draw on, and can hopefully avoid those pitfalls as we move into what will hopefully be the franchise’s second “golden age”.

The Borg are a frightening and compelling faction in the Star Trek universe, and there is still scope to learn more about them and see them return – in both big and small ways – in future episodes and films. And I’m looking forward to that, as well as to seeing what Picard has in store for this absolutely iconic faction. As I’ve said many times already, it’s a fantastic time to be a Star Trek fan right now. There’s just so much going on, and so much more to come. Discovery has had hits and misses, but in my opinion at least, Picard has been outstanding so far, and I’m interested to see what will come next. Surely, after the success the franchise has experienced over the last few weeks, this won’t be our last look at the 24th and early 25th Centuries – and unless something major happens to the Borg by the end of Picard’s first season, I’m sure that sooner or later we can expect to see them back once again.

The Star Trek franchise, including all films, episodes, and series mentioned above, is the copyright of ViacomCBS and Paramount Pictures. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Factions of Star Trek: Picard part two – Borg

Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for Star Trek, including the most recent season of Star Trek: Discovery, as well as the trailers for Star Trek: Picard.

As Star Trek: Picard gets closer, I’m continuing the series I began last time, looking at some of the factions we seem certain to encounter in the new series. We’ve already looked at the Romulans, as Star Trek: Picard will feature the franchise’s first ever Romulan main character. And today, it’s the turn of the Borg to be under the microscope!

History

There’s still a part of me that wonders if the AI named Control, featured in Star Trek: Discovery’s second season, will ultimately turn out to be connected in some way to the origins of the Borg, which thus far are shrouded in mystery. It definitely seemed for a while that the story was going to go that way, but for now we’ll have to treat it as unconfirmed at best.

The nanobots used by Control against Captain Leland are certainly reminiscent of Borg technology…

The Borg originated in the Delta Quadrant – the area of the galaxy farthest from Federation space. Due to the distances involved, the Borg had relatively few encounters with the humanity and the Federation prior to the 24th Century.

The Borg Queen claimed that the collective was developed over “thousands of centuries”, and began as any other organic humanoid species. The addition of their cybernetics came later. By the 15th Century, the Borg were known to other Delta Quadrant races, but they had only a few systems under their control. It’s implied that their technology was also much more limited, comparable to other factions at the time, though they were capable of faster-than-light travel.

Captain Janeway with Gedrin. His people, the Vaadwaur, encountered the Borg in the 15th Century.

Here’s where it gets a little messy – thanks to time travel.

In the 24th Century, as part of a plan to conquer the Federation, the Borg travelled back in time and attempted to assimilate Earth in the past: specifically in the year 2063, the year humans made first contact with the Vulcans. Though this attack was able to be thwarted thanks to the efforts of Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-E, several Borg drones, as well as wreckage from their vessel, crashed on Earth, north of the Arctic Circle.

Earth scientists uncover the remains of 24th Century Borg drones – in the 22nd Century!

These Borg were uncovered over ninety years later by scientists, who inadvertently awakened the drones – and were promptly assimilated. This marked the second “first contact” between the Borg Collective and humanity. Because the drones were few in number, and only had access to a sub-light shuttle, they were ultimately defeated by the crew of the NX-01 Enterprise: but not before they sent a message to the rest of the Collective. In this time period, the Collective was still in the Delta Quadrant, and the message would take over two centuries to reach them – coinciding with the Borg’s later appearances in the 24th Century. Whether this forms a kind of “time loop” paradox, or whether the Borg would always have been interested in the Alpha Quadrant by the 24th Century is unknown.

There was no contact between the Borg and humanity after this incident, and records of it seem to have been lost – or deliberately kept hidden – by the next time humans encountered the Borg in the 24th Century. However, sometime in the 23rd Century, the El-Aurians (Guinan’s species) were attacked by the Borg, and several hundred El-Aurian refugees came to Earth – bringing with them stories of what happened to their homeworld. It was at this time that Starfleet officially began researching the Borg – though no connection was made between the El-Aurian’s conquerors and the Arctic Circle incident.

Pictured on the viewscreen of the Enterprise-B, the ships SS Robert Fox and SS Lakul were transporting El-Aurian survivors of the Borg’s attack on their homeworld when they became trapped in the Nexus.

By the mid-24th Century, some in Starfleet considered the Borg to be a myth, but two exobiologists, a married couple named Magnus and Erin Hansen, took a small exploration vessel to try to track them down. Taking their young daughter, Annika, with them, they would eventually be successful in finding the Borg, and ultimately followed them all the way to the Delta Quadrant, collecting a huge amount of information. Unfortunately they were discovered and assimilated after approximately two years. Annika Hansen would later be better known as Seven of Nine after being liberated from the Collective by Captain Janeway and the crew of the USS Voyager.

Because of the distance between the Delta Quadrant and Federation space, the Hansens’ research and knowledge of the Borg was not communicated to Starfleet. Instead, the Federation’s first “official” encounter with the Borg came when Q used his powers to deliberately throw the Enterprise-D into the path of a Borg cube – some 7,000 light-years from Federation space in System J-25. Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D attempted to make contact, and soon found themselves horribly outmatched in a fight with the Borg vessel. Q, after being begged by Picard, saved the Enterprise-D by returning it to Federation space before the Borg could assimilate the ship, but this incident prompted Starfleet to finally take the Borg threat seriously, and a task force was formed to tackle a likely Borg attack.

Magnus and Erin Hansen were the first humans to extensively study the Borg, though their knowledge was lost before it could be sent to the Federation.

The incursion the Federation feared came within a year of the J-25 incident, leaving them little time to prepare. A single Borg vessel was dispatched by the Collective, and after assimilating Captain Picard, used his tactical knowledge against the Federation, destroying almost forty ships and assimilating or killing over 11,000 people – including civilians. With such a large part of Starfleet destroyed, Earth was effectively defenceless, but after the assimilated Picard – now called Locutus of Borg – was liberated by the crew of the Enterprise-D, Data was able to use his link to the Collective’s hive mind to force all the drones aboard the vessel to regenerate – or “sleep” – which ultimately led to the vessel’s destruction.

A year or so later, Third of Five was encountered by the Federation, the sole survivor of a Borg scouting mission near Federation space. Captain Picard wanted to use him as a weapon to send a virus back to the Collective, but as his individuality reasserted itself, the drone, now named Hugh, returned to the collective voluntarily. His newfound identity, however, proved difficult for the collective to handle and Hugh, along with several other rogue Borg, would leave the Collective soon after.

The Enterprise-D makes the Federation’s first “official” encounter with the Borg.

There was then a lull in the Borg-Federation conflict lasting several years, before the Collective again sent a single cube to attempt to assimilate Earth. This ship, commanded by the Borg Queen herself, was the one which travelled back in time to 2063, possibly setting in motion the chain of events which led humanity and the Borg to encounter one another in the first place as part of a “temporal loop” paradox.

A battle took place near to Earth before this cube deployed a smaller spherical ship to travel through time, and several ships, including the Enterprise-E and the USS Defiant – which would normally be stationed at Deep Space Nine – took part in the battle. This was the Borg’s most recent attempt to directly attack Earth.

The Enterprise-E engages the Borg during the Battle of Sector 001.

After the Battle of Sector 001, the only encounters between the Federation and the Borg took place in the Delta Quadrant, where the USS Voyager was making its way home. The Borg were engaged in a losing war with a race known only by their Borg designation – Species 8472. Under the command of Captain Janeway, Voyager and her crew came to the Borg’s aid, trading their tactical knowledge of Species 8472 for safe passage through Borg space. The Collective dispatched Seven of Nine to be their representative aboard Voyager, and the crew would liberate her from the Borg when they broke the alliance.

The Species 8472 war proved incredibly costly to the Borg, and arguably set back any plans they may have had for further expansion at that time. Their space was at least 9,000 light-years across, extending beyond the range of Voyager’s sensors, and even extended to near the Beta Quadrant.

Two Borg cubes under attack by Species 8472 during the conflict between the two factions.

On one occasion the Borg attempted to recapture Seven of Nine, hoping to use her new knowledge of humanity as part of a third invasion/assimilation attempt, but this was thwarted by Voyager, who managed to again liberate Seven from the Collective. Voyager was able to use part of the Borg’s extensive transwarp network to get significantly closer to home.

This feat would be overshadowed, however, thanks to the actions of a time-travelling Admiral Janeway. In her timeline, Voyager had managed to make it back to Earth, but it had taken a long time. By travelling back to a point around seven years into Voyager’s trip through the Delta Quadrant, future Janeway was able to simultaneously get Voyager home much sooner, as well as deal a significant blow to the Collective.

A time-travelling Admiral Janeway infected the Borg – and their Queen – with a potentially devastating virus.

By outfitting Voyager with technology from the early 25th Century, the ship was easily able to overpower a number of Borg vessels, and future Janeway allowed herself to be assimilated in order to infect the Borg – and the Borg Queen herself – with a devastating virus she hoped would spread throughout the Collective.

Voyager was able to use the transwarp network to return to Earth, around 25 years before the era of Star Trek: Picard. It’s unclear what happened to the Collective after this point.

Leadership

For a long time, the Borg were assumed to be leaderless. The nature of their “hive mind” – a mechanical-telepathic link that all Borg are connected to – implied that there was no one individual leader, and that the Borg made decisions as one Collective, operating with one mind.

A Borg Queen during the Collective’s second attempt to assimilate Earth.

While this is true in some respects, the Borg Queen acts as the Collective’s leader, and is the only individual Borg – outside of those liberated by Starfleet or otherwise disconnected from the Collective – who appears to have any semblance of individuality or personality. The Queen describes herself as simply “the Borg” – and the question of whether she is truly a leader in the sense that we would understand, or whether she is in fact a personification of the Collective, is up for debate.

At least two Borg Queens have died – and it is likely that when the physical form of a Borg Queen is destroyed, a new one is created. The loss of a single Queen does not seem to significantly hamper the Collective’s efforts – so it’s at least possible that there may be multiple Queens in existence at any one time.

Technology

The Borg have assimilated thousands of species in full or in part. Their attacks seem to begin with outer colonies – as happened to the Federation – before a significant effort is launched against the homeworld of that race. While Borg efforts to attack Earth have been limited to a single vessel each time – albeit a very large vessel with thousands of drones aboard – assimilation of other races, such as those on the periphery of Borg space in the Delta Quadrant, seem to proceed with multiple ships and millions of drones.

Hugh, a mid-24th Century Borg drone. Hugh was freed from the Collective – and is set to make a return in Star Trek: Picard.

As a result of their conquests and assimilations, the Borg have gained knowledge and technological advancements which – as of the late 24th Century – outmatched and outgunned the Alpha Quadrant powers. Federation successes against the Borg came as a result of Captain Picard’s unique knowledge as someone who had spent time as part of the Collective. Voyager’s successes similarly came from Seven of Nine.

When the Borg assimilated an individual, the sum total of that person’s knowledge would be disseminated across the entire Collective. The same applied to the assimilation of starships – and presumably other technology as well. In practice this meant that if the Borg assimilated an individual with tactical knowledge – such as Picard prior to the Battle of Wolf 359 – they could use that knowledge to adapt.

One of the Borg’s distinctive cube-shaped vessels near the Paulson Nebula in the Alpha Quadrant.

Adaptations were quickly sent out to all Borg. Once they had encountered a weapon setting more than a couple of times, it would have to be altered to remain effective, and the same applied to deflectors and shields. Remodulating phasers and shields became a key tactic of the Federation during Borg engagements.

Borg communications were still limited by subspace technology, as it was noted by the crew of the NX-01 Enterprise that a message sent by Borg near Earth to their home in the Delta Quadrant would take two centuries to arrive – though this may have been related to their use of 22nd Century technology.

Society and Culture

The Borg operate as a single mind – with the aforementioned exception of the Borg Queen. As such, they don’t have what could really be termed a “culture”.

The basic tenet of Borg philosophy is that assimilation of other races brings both the Borg and the assimilated race closer to “perfection”. By merging biological and technological together, they hope to achieve their goal of “perfection”. This seems to be the basic driving force behind the Borg’s activities.

The interior of a Borg cube could hold thousands of drones – all connected to the Borg’s collective consciousness and working as one.

In a sense, an individual assimilated by the Borg can never die, as every memory and experience they had, both before and after assimilation, is stored permanently by the Collective. However, that individual loses all sense of individuality in the process, and exists only as part of the single “hive mind” of the Borg.

The Borg will assimilate anyone they perceive as useful and attack anyone they perceive as a threat. However, they will often ignore the presence of intruders if they are busy or if they don’t consider them a threat. They will assimilate children as well as adults, and the children will be placed in “maturation chambers” until they have grown enough to serve as useful drones. The Borg will also opt not to assimilate a species they perceive as useless or that they feel would detract from the “perfection” they are trying to create.

The interior of a Borg maturation chamber – with an assimilated child.

As of the mid-late 24th Century, the Borg occupied a vast expanse of the Delta Quadrant, and operated an extensive transwarp network which allowed their vessels to be present in at least the Alpha, Beta, and Delta Quadrants. No Borg activity was noted in the Gamma Quadrant, but explorations of that region of space were limited by the Dominion War. There may have been trillions or quadrillions of individual Borg drones at that time – perhaps even more than that.

Conclusion

Because of the events of the Star Trek: Voyager finale, Endgame, it’s hard to know what state the Collective is in. Admiral Janeway, travelling back in time, brought the crew of Voyager technological advantages which the Borg struggled to fight against, but more significantly she infected the Borg Queen with a virus. This virus was disseminated to other ships in the Collective. In addition, the Borg Queen’s entire complex, as well as a significant part of the Borg transwarp network and a number of Borg vessels, were destroyed by Voyager before they arrived back in the Alpha Quadrant.

As a result of these actions, as with the Romulans we simply don’t know how badly affected the Borg may have been, and how long it will have taken them to recover. Assuming they could recover from the virus, we’ve seen the Borg able to repair and rebuild their ships and technology incredibly rapidly, so in theory they could have rebuilt the entire complex and replaced the lost ships without too much hassle.

A damaged Borg cube – seemingly under Romulan control – was seen in the trailer for Star Trek: Picard.

I would assume that the Borg survived what future Janeway tried to do. Two reasons for this: in-universe, the Borg are so adaptable, numerous, and widespread that the losses Voyager inflicted should be survivable, and on the production side, I think that Star Trek needs the Borg to still be around and be a threat, even if their role in Star Trek: Picard Season 1 is limited.

We’ve seen a Borg cube seemingly under Romulan control in the trailers for Star Trek: Picard, and we know ex-Borg Seven of Nine and Hugh will have roles to play in the story. Hopefully the information above will you some background information on this faction, regardless of how significant their presence is on the story of the new series.

The Star Trek franchise – including Star Trek: Picard – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.