Star Trek: Picard season 1 saw the return of one of the most formidable opponents ever faced by the United Federation of Planets: a cybernetic hivemind species known as the Borg that ruthlessly “assimilates” entire alien races into their “Collective.” Rather than appear as an enemy combatant, however, the Borg of Star Trek: Picard are shown as victims.
Season 1 introduces a community of “xBs,” former Borg who have been disconnected from the hivemind and are undergoing “reclamation,” the recovery of the individual identity that was subsumed by the Collective. Yet, these reclaimed Borg are not the only Borg in the universe. Star Trek: Picard season 1 did not address the question of where the Borg Collective is and what it has been up to. Now that the series has reintroduced the species, however, this question will have to be addressed in season 2.
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Will the Borg get a passing mention and remain in the background, or will season 2 see the reentry of the Borg Collective as a primary antagonist? Likely, the Borg will get plenty of screen time in season 2, but their position may be different from previous series. A weakened Borg might find themselves on the defensive as Jean-Luc Picard and his crew seek to expand the imperfect Reclamation Project begun by the Romulans in season 1.
The Borg History in the Star Trek Franchise
The Borg have long been major players in the Star Trek franchise. They are first introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation, when the mischievous and all-powerful entity known as Q flings the USS Enterprise into the distant Delta Quadrant, home of the Borg. The Borg are presented as a virtually undefeatable enemy. They are an ancient race with technology that far exceeds that possessed by the Federation, and they are able to continually adapt their defenses to counter every new form of attack. The Enterprise crew learns from their friend Guinan, herself a member of an ancient species, that the Borg have practically eliminated entire races, including her own.
The Borg destroyed Guinan’s civilization and assimilated her people; only a small diaspora remains scattered throughout the universe. In addition to their superior technology, the Borg’s relentless pursuit of a single goal – perfection – makes them even more unstoppable. The Borg’s sole purpose is to assimilate as many species as possible, absorbing the technology and biological uniqueness of each race into their own collective being, making it continually stronger. Picard is forced to admit that Starfleet is not ready to face the Borg and must ask Q to rescue them. The Enterprise is saved for the time being, but Guinan warns that the Borg, now alerted to the Federation’s existence, will search them out and attempt to assimilate them.
The Borg do return, but luckily, they are not the completely invincible enemy they appear to be. In both major encounters between the Enterprise and the Borg, one later in the series, the other in the Next Generation film Star Trek: First Contact, the Enterprise crew deploys creative tactics to defeat the technologically-superior Borg. In the process, however, Picard is temporarily assimilated by the Borg, who attempt to use him as a liaison to facilitate the assimilation of Earth, and he remains deeply scarred by the traumatic experience.
The Borg again play a major role in Star Trek: Voyager. The USS Voyager has been stranded in the Delta quadrant, and the series follows the vessel’s attempts to return to the Alpha quadrant. This long journey home takes Voyager through Borg space, and multiple encounters ensue. At one point, the Voyager crew, led by Captain Janeway, form an alliance with the Borg. In exchange for help defeating an enemy more powerful than themselves, the Borg agree to safely escort Voyager through Borg space. Once the enemy is defeated, however, the Borg immediately pull out of the alliance. Voyager manages to escape and the Borg liaison, Seven of Nine, is severed from the Collective and eventually becomes a member of Voyager’s crew.
The Borg encounter in the final episode of Star Trek: Voyager is the last significant appearance of the Borg prior to the events of Star Trek: Picard. This encounter leaves the Borg heavily damaged. Aided by Admiral Janeway, a version of herself from the future, Captain Janeway and her crew release a virus into the Borg collective that destroys a major Borg hub and badly damages their transwarp network, a series of conduits used by the Borg to travel rapidly through space. It is unclear exactly how extensive the damage to the Borg fleet and transwarp network is, but it is generally understood that the Borg have not been eliminated but rather temporarily taken out of commission by the destruction of their infrastructure.
In the Star Trek franchise, the Borg are the source a recurring moral dilemma. On one hand, the Borg are a dangerous enemy force comprised of mindless drones who unthinkingly and unfeelingly execute the will of the Collective. But every encounter with an individual Borg separated from the Collective serves as a reminder that this powerful army is comprised of individuals unwillingly conscripted and robbed of their independent existence. Viewers are introduced to this idea in Star Trek: Enterprise through Hugh, a Borg drone who develops a close friendship with the Enterprise crew before voluntarily rejoining the Collective to save the Enterprise. It is further developed in Star Trek: Voyager, which closely follows the character Seven of Nine as she struggles to reconnect with her pre-assimilation human identity. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Picard initially plans to infect the captured drone with a virus that could wipe out the entire Borg collective, but upon meeting Hugh, he decides that this would be immoral. In Star Trek: Voyager, however, Captain Janeway seems to decide that a mass killing of the Borg is necessary and ethically acceptable.
What Star Trek Picard Adds to Borg History
Star Trek: Picard is the first series to focus almost exclusively on the image of the Borg as a collection of victimized individuals. Not only do Hugh and Seven of Nine reappear, but auidneces are also introduced to an entire community of former Borg drones who call themselves the xBs. In Star Trek: Picard, which takes place approximately 20 years after the defeat of the Borg in Star Trek: Voyager, the Romulans have acquired an entire Borg cube, the Borg’s primary form of starship, that has been disconnected from the Collective. The Romulans have begun what they term the Borg Reclamation Project, a largescale attempt to re-individualize all the drones present on the cube.
The Romulans are not inspired by philanthropic motives. Rather, the Borg technology has become a valuable commodity, including the technology fused with the biological makeup of the drones. In addition to selling technology mined from the cube, the Romulans are profiting from the devices removed from the bodies of the xBs. It is made clear in previous series that separating an individual drone from their Borg technology is a complex, dangerous, and painful process. The Romulans, who despise the xBs and seek only to exploit them, approach the process with little care or sympathy. The presence of Federation representatives, including Hugh, who acts as director of the Reclamation Project, seems to offer the only incentive to keep the xBs alive after they are stripped of their technology.
The series presents an overwhelmingly sympathetic portrait of the xBs. As Hugh explains to Picard when the latter visits the Borg cube, the xBs are the most despised people in the universe, and they have no legal rights. Despite the issues with the Reclamation Project as it is run by the Romulans, the series makes clear that it is, in concept, a noble and worthy endeavor. Picard is amazed that reclamation is being carried out on a large scale. Having undergone his own experience with assimilation, Picard is especially sympathetic to the plight of the xBs, and he is deeply affected by both the hope represented by the Reclamation Project and the current suffering of the former drones.
Picard comes to the Borg cube to save Soji, an android created from his beloved friend Data’s neural networks, who is being targeted by the Romulans. After Hugh helps Soji and Picard escape from the Romulans, he is killed, and Seven of Nine steps up to lead the xBs. She temporarily functions as the Borg Queen, connecting herself to the cube matrix and leading the xBs to overtake the Romulans. Seven is also able to get the cube operational once again. At the end of Star Trek: Picard season 1, we are left with a freed community of xBs in possession of a functioning Borg cube, who may or may not have found a leader in Seven.
Where the Borg Might Be (& How They Could Appear in Picard Season 2)
Where have the Borg Collective been while their drones were being reclaimed and their technology pirated and peddled throughout the universe? As this is widely considered one of the most conspicuous unanswered questions from Star Trek: Picard season 1, it will most likely be addressed in season 2. The easiest explanation is that the Borg fleet and transportation networks were sufficiently damaged by Captain Janeway’s virus to limit their actions for the past couple decades. But since the Borg possess a single-minded passion for assimilation, it can be assumed that they are not planning to remain quietly tucked away in the Delta quadrant. It is possible, however, that the Borg will not reappear in the franchise as the relentless aggressors they have been in the past.
Rather, Star Trek: Picard season 1 establishes hope for the widespread reclamation of Borg drones, and it is unlikely that Admiral Picard and the crew of La Sirena , which includes both Seven of Nine and Soji, a passionate supporter of the reclamation project, will let this potential drift away. Season 2 will likely see a close relationship develop between the xBs and the crew of La Sirena, and this relationship may lead to the coordinated attempt to seek out and reclaim more Borg drones. It appears that both the xB cube and La Sirena have access to transwarp technology, making pursuit of the Collective an actual possibility.
A renewal of the Reclamation Project that involves an intentional engagement with the Borg would also be consistent with the ethos of Star Trek: Picard. From its inception, the series was meant to take on difficult political questions and engage with some of the ethical tensions woven into the fabric of the franchise. The mass killings of Borg drones in past series may have been essential to the protection and survival of the Federation, but they nevertheless represent some of the darker moments of Star Trek’s past. A mass reclamation project in Star Trek: Picard Season 2 may serve to confront that past and assert the value of reparative actions over destructive ones.
Next: What To Expect From Star Trek: Picard Season 2
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