Oct 7 2011 1:35pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Q Who”

My apologies for being a day late with this rewatch. I just hope I’m not a dollar short as well...

“Q Who”
Written by Maurice Hurley
Directed by Rob Bowman
Season 2, Episode 16
Production episode 40272-142
Original air date: May 8, 1989
Stardate: 42761.3

Captain’s log: After a trip to engineering results in hot chocolate being spilled all over his uniform by Ensign Sonya Gomez, an eager, motor-mouthed recent Academy graduate, Picard is on his way to change his uniform, when he finds himself suddenly in a shuttlecraft that is very far from the Enterprise. On the shuttle with Picard is Q.

Picard angrily points out that Q promised not to interfere with his ship again, which is a complete misremembering of the ending of “Hide and Q,” when Q promised to stay out of humanity’s path forever. Instead, both Picard and Q remember it as him not interfering with the Enterprise, which Q gets around by kidnapping him to the shuttle far from the ship. (What makes this funnier is that Maurice Hurley wrote both scripts.) But leaving that minor inconsistency aside, we are treated to Q having a proposal for Picard—which Picard refuses to listen to. Q points out that he’s ageless and can wait as long as he needs to, to which Picard blandly says that the Enterprise will continue with Riker as captain.

Back on the ship, Guinan has a feeling that something is wrong and contacts the bridge. Troi has a similar feeling and anxiously comes onto the bridge asking where the captain is. Riker soon realizes that Picard is missing and engages in a search.

That search is cut off when Picard finally agrees to listen to Q’s proposal in return for being returned to the ship. Q brings them to a Ten-Forward that is empty of all save Guinan—who, it turns out, has had dealings with Q in the past.

Q’s proposal is simple: he wants to join the crew. After the events of “Hide and Q,” the Q-Continuum kicked him out. Remembering all the good times he had on the Enterprise in that episode and “Encounter at Farpoint,” he decided to come on board—already the home of the “indigent, the unwanted, the unworthy.” Ultimately, however, Picard doesn’t trust him. Q is willing to concede that point—but he does insist that they do need him, that they’re not ready for what’s waiting for them in the parts of the galaxy they’re heading toward. Q also comments that they’re moving faster than expected or than they should—to which Picard tartly asks by whose calculation, a question for which Q has no answer.

Picard and Riker continue to refuse to let Q join them. They insist that they are ready for whatever comes next. Q angrily decides to test that hypothesis: he sends the Enterprise seven thousand light-years away to the system J25 and then disappears. Guinan, whose people are from this part of the galaxy, tells them to start running now.

But because they’re Starfleet officers who don’t listen to good advice (and, to be fair, weren’t really trained to take tactical advice from bartenders), they decide to stick around for a bit. There’s a planet nearby that has a system of roads that indicate there was once civilized life, but all the cities have been seemingly scooped off the planet.

Then they encounter a cube-shaped ship. Data’s scan reveals an uncentralized design: no bridge, no engineering section, no living quarters. Guinan identifies the ship as belonging to the Borg, a species who killed several members of Guinan’s people and destroyed their cities.

An advance scout appears in engineering. Worf is able to kill the scout, but another one appears, and this one has a force field that protects him from the phaser blast. He scavenges parts off his dead comrade and transports away, while the first scout disintegrates.

The Borg don’t have a single leader, but are a collective consciousness. They contact the Enterprise long enough to threaten them, then hit the ship with a tractor beam. They carve out a section of the saucer that has eighteen people in it and take it on board. Worf manages to damage twenty percent of the ship, which releases the tractor beam. The cube now reading as all but inactive, Riker, Data, and Worf beam over.

Although no life form readings are detected, there are thousands of Borg on the ship, most in a form of stasis. One Borg walks past the away team, completely ignoring them. They even find a nursery, with children who are mostly organic, unlike the adult Borg who are as much machine as biological.

Q describes them as the ultimate user—they don’t care about political conquest, they just want technology they can consume.

Data realizes that the ship is engaged in self-repair. Picard immediately orders the away team beamed back and they run away very fast. However, as fast as they go, the Borg continues to gain on them. Photon torpedoes from the Enterprise have no effect on the Borg, but a Borg weapon succeeds in wiping out their shields.

Helpless, facing destruction, Picard asks Q to end this, admitting that, yes, he does need Q’s help. At this admission, Q smiles and sends the Enterprise back to where they were when Q showed up, safe and sound—except, of course, for the eighteen members of the crew who didn’t make it.

They limp toward a starbase to fix the damage, and in conversation with Guinan, Picard realizes that the Borg knows about the Federation now, and they will be coming.

Thank you, Counselor Obvious: Troi senses that Picard is missing even as Guinan senses Q’s presence, and she is the one who realizes that the Borg has a single collective consciousness rather than being individual, separate entities.

There is no honor in being pummeled: Q once again calls Worf “micro-brain,” and Worf’s response is to snarl and move forward menacingly before Picard asks him to leave the room. Worf also gets to prove the Borg’s resiliency by killing one of them and destroying twenty percent of their ship, only to have both events rendered pointless.

Syntheholics Anonymous: Guinan and Q have a past that is left unexplained, and which would unfortunately remain so (though it will come up again in “Déjà Q”), but Guinan does appear to have at least some ability to resist Q’s powers. Also, while it’s not made explicit, Guinan certainly appears to be the one who clears Ten-Forward, since just one phrase from her gets La Forge and Gomez to leave the lounge in a hurry.

Welcome aboard: John deLancie makes his triumphant return as Q, while Whoopi Goldberg adds to Guinan’s mystery, and Colm Meaney returns as the rock-steady O’Brien. Lycia Naff makes the first of two appearances as Ensign Sonya Gomez, a role that was originally intended to be recurring, but never went beyond her second appearance in “Samaritan Snare.”

I believe I said that: “You can’t outrun them, you can’t destroy them. If you damage them, the essence of what they are remains. They regenerate and keep coming. Eventually, you will weaken—your reserves will be gone. They are relentless.”

Q, describing the Borg.

Trivial matters: This is, of course, the first appearance of the Borg, who would become one of Trek’s biggest villains. The Borg continue to appear on TNG (on the small and big screens), as well as the future spinoffs Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise.

Technically, it’s their second appearance, after a fashion: dialogue from Data makes it clear that what happened on the planets in the J25 system is exactly the same as what happened to the planets in “The Neutral Zone.” Writer Hurley’s original plan was for the Borg to be part of a trilogy that would introduce them across the first and second seasons, but it was skoshed by the writers strike. The first part of the trilogy was to be “Conspiracy,” as Hurley’s original conception was that the Borg would be insectoid—which proved impractical on a TV show budget—and that the alien parasites were part of what would be established as the Borg Collective.

While the Borg themselves won’t return until “The Best of Both Worlds” at the end of the third season, Starfleet’s concern about their eventual arrival will remain in the background in the interim, most notably in “Peak Performance.”

The Borg have also appeared in several novels and comic books, most notably the Destiny trilogy by David Mack, which establishes the origin of the Borg, involving time travel, a species known as the Caeliar, and the Earth starship Columbia (established on Star Trek: Enterprise).

Guinan plays three-dimensional chess with Picard at the end of the episode, a game played often by Kirk and Spock in the original series.

While Gomez never became a recurring character on screen, she did become a regular in prose: Commander Sonya Gomez was one of the two leads in the Starfleet Corps of Engineers series that was published monthly in eBook form from 2000-2007, and most of which has been released in print form since 2002. Gomez was established in the series—which takes place eleven years after this episode—as being first officer on the U.S.S. da Vinci, and also head of that ship’s S.C.E. team. She’d go through quite a bit over the course of the series, including her fiancée being killed. In the aforementioned Destiny trilogy and the novel A Singular Destiny by your humble rewatcher, taking place five years after the S.C.E. series ended, she’s established as being captain of the da Vinci after Captain Gold retired. Some of the other stories that focused on Gomez included Invincible (by Mack and myself), Enigma Ship (by J. Steven York & Christina F. York), Wildfire and Failsafe (by Mack), Identity Crisis (by John J. Ordover), War Stories, Breakdowns, and Many Splendors (all by me)—that last being a flashback to her time on the Enterprise, including a more detailed look at her part in this episode. (Oh, and the Corps of Engineers series establishes that, following this episode, Gomez swore off hot chocolate, drinking only Earl Grey Tea as penance for spilling the beverage on Picard.)

The novels Q & A by me and Greater than the Sum by Christopher L. Bennett both established that all eighteen crew members were assimilated by the Borg, and several of them were named in Q & A: Lieutenant Rebekah Grabowski, Ensign Franco Garcia, Lieutenant Jean-Claude Mbuto, Lieutenant T’Sora, Ensign Gldrnksrb, and Ensign Soon-Tek Han. Han also appeared in both Many Splendors and A Singular Destiny.

Make it so: “I need you!” It’s funny, every other one of Maurice Hurley’s writing credits are collaborations or rewrites of other people’s stories, and some of the other scripts from the past year or so had uncredited rewrites by him in his capacity as co-executive prodcuer. None of them particularly stood out as great episodes, particularly not his last time writing Q in “Hide and Q,” which Hurley actually took the pseudonym of “C.J. Holland” for.

But this is his first solo script, and it’s one of the best hours of TNG.

This is pretty much a flawless episode. The dialogue crackles, with some wonderful lines. Rob Bowman’s direction is superb, creating tremendous tension and suspense.

John deLancie gives one of his best performances as Q, modulating seamlessly from smarmy to silly to menacing at the blink of an eye. LeVar Burton does an excellent job as kindly supervisor and mentor figure for Gomez. Whoopi Goldberg brings mystery and depth to Guinan. And Sir Patrick Stewart, as always, just kills: his stubbornness with Q in the shuttle, his arrogance and smugness (and it’s very much that, despite his protestations that it’s resolve) with Q in Ten-Forward, his frustration at his inability to negotiate with the Borg, and his desperation in asking Q for help at the end.

The Borg would become the subject of some of the best and worst Trek episodes (and one excellent movie), but there’s no denying that they became one of the most important Trek villains, and their introduction in this episode is phenomenal. They are menacing, frightening, and so very different from the other Trek villains (as Q himself spells out early on). Their introduction is TNG at its finest.


Warp factor rating: 10

Keith R.A. DeCandido has written a ton of Star Trek fiction, but has never written the Borg. Go fig’. He did write Q, though, in the novel Q & A, which explained why Q felt it was important to introduce humans to the Borg this soon. His most recent novels are Guilt in Innocence, part of “Tales from the Scattered Earth,” a shared-world science fiction concept, and the fantastical police procedurals SCPD: The Case of the Claw and Unicorn Precinct. Find out more about Keith at his web site, which is a portal to (among many other things) his Facebook page, his Twitter feed, his blog, and his podcasts, Dead Kitchen Radio, The Chronic Rift, and the Parsec Award-winning HG World.

Matthew B
1. MatthewB
Can anyone explain how the existence of a Borg Queen makes any sense at all? To downgrade the Borg from their TNG incarnation to simply "space techno killer bees" seemed so very wrong.

The Geth in Mass Effect 2 are the best interpretation of this basic idea that i've ever seen, even if Legion are just a little too passive in letting Shepard decide the fate of their species.
Rich Bennett
2. Neuralnet
So did Maurice Hurley invent the Borg? If so, I applaud him... a great villian that took this series to the next level IMHO
3. sofrina
actually, i want to know how the borg make any sense without a queen. a collective consciousness? how do decisions get made? there is a will overriding every single member's own will. the collective is not made up of all their voices or they'd pretty much all be thinking 'let me go! give me back my eye! get this crap off of me!' when the queen states that her people used to be just like humans and basically implies that they became cyborgs in their quest for perfection... it makes sense. their is someone at the end of all those implants, with a point of view and purpose, who makes these decisions to add other species technological and biological distinctiveness to their own.

it has to be either a being/species or a computer program, but something is the borg.

and "first contact" is one of my favorite movies. i saw it in the theater seven times before repeat viewings became a trend. alice krige owned it.

best borg quotes ever:
the one quoted above

seven of nine refusing to sing for the herogens on voyager: "i will not comply. day the borg will assimmilate your species, despite your arrogance. when that moment arrives, remember me."

the queen to data: "we, too, are on a quest to better ourselves."
4. Drachasor
It's worth noting that Q does Star Fleet a huge favor in this episode (with a certain disregard for human life). As it was pointed out the Borg already knew about the existence of the Federation (and the Romulans too). Q let's them know about this and about the Borg themselves. It's pretty clear they would have been completely wiped out if he hadn't done that.
Joel Cunningham
5. jec81
I really like Gomez and wish she stuck around.
6. Seryddwr

Marvellous episode. One thing that is not mentioned above is the brilliant score - full of nuance and poise, especially at the end of the Ten Forward scene.

Just looked up Lycia Naff on Wikipedia - it looks like ST:TNG and a bit part in Total Recall were more or less her only forays into sci-fi. I agree with #5; a pity she didn't become a recurring character. I'm glad Sonya Gomez forgotten by the ST novel authors.
7. Dannn
@4 I've had that thought too. I kind of like to think that, despite all the crazy theater, Q was in it to save humanity from the very first episode, and he was willing to be expelled from the continuum to do it. He just liked having some fun at their expense for his trouble. Or maybe i'm crazy.

Thanks for all the fun rewatches.
Matthew B
8. MatthewB
@3. sofrina
I imagine the Borg started with some people all agreeing that they would be better off if they worked together and used these cybernetics to enhance that cooperation. And then this rudimentary system notices that some of its members are behaving erratically and inefficiently and tweaks a few settings to improve efficiency, and centuries later you have a civilization-absorbing monoculture with no sense of individuality.

There is no need for a will overriding the individuals' - there's just a suppression of individuals' ego and the sense of self, most plausibly an electrochemical interference in the parts of the brain that would normally cover that. Think of an individual Borg as a single processor in a network of computers. You want some processors devoted to polling and synchronising those efforts, but those wouldn't be Queens - they'd be more like census-takers/traffic conductors. There is no need for an overarching sentience behind the Borg - it's emergent behavior from a self-sustaining system.

The queen as she's presented is like a whole different species - very un-Borg-like and completely unnecessary. If they had told me that she was some sort of parasite that had exploited a weakness in the Borg's network to empower herself, i could accept that, but despite the strength of Alice Krige's performance, to suddenly have an "I" in charge of the "We" and just say it's always been like that but we didn't know about it, is just hand-waving a retcon. It fundamentally changes the nature of the Borg and makes them far less interesting and scary.
David Goldfarb
9. David_Goldfarb
I agree with MatthewB. From my (admittedly layman's) knowledge of cognitive science, the idea that we consciously make decisions is more an illusion than not. For example, I remember reading about an experiment in which people were hooked up to brain sensors, and told to occasionally stretch out their arms, and to press a button right when they decided to do so. The sensors reported that the nerve impulses to the arms consistently started out before the button was pressed -- indicating that it was the unconscious parts of the brain that made that decision, which was then reported to the conscious mind. The Borg Collective would work similarly, at a larger scale, possibly even without any need for a larger-scale analog of consciousness.
10. Drachasor
Agreed, MathewB. I'd also note that insect colonies don't have queens that go around issuing orders left and right. Their queens serve a particular role in the colony, that of producing more workers and other offspring. There's no central command at all. Hives and colonies acting as one is also emergent behavior.

One could similarly consider the brain. There's no one neuron in charge of everything. Neurons, due to their location and connections, have specialized roles, but there's no "boss." The neurons dedicated to decision-making are wholly ignorant of their role and don't have any special status among other neurons (obviously, since neurons aren't intelligent).

One oculd similarly imagine a Borg collective like this. Bits of the decision-making circuitry of each drone helps the collective in small ways with decision making. Analytical parts of each drone help break up and analyze information. There's certainly some specialized roles in all this, judging by the different cybernetics, but you don't need any one Borg or group of Borgs in charge. It is totally alien to how we think about things, but that's what made the Borg so interesting...they were really alien and in a way that was more or less realistic.

We also had the neat aspect where, kind of like massive swarms of ants, the Borg were like a force of nature. You couldn't reason with them anymore than you could a hurricane. There was the added fact that it wasn't because they weren't smart or rational, but instead because they just didn't view other cultures as having any right to exist.

The only part of the review where I disagree with Mr. DeCandido is in his rating of First Contact. While it was a fun romp, the movie does some pretty horrible things. The Time Travel makes no sense within the context of the movie itself (e.g. the Borg had tons of options after traveling back in time, and they picked a stupid one). The Borg are ruined by the addition of the Queen. Picard also already had to deal with his Borg issues more than once (such as with Hugh). There are a few other small problems. Unlike some of my favorite movies, it really falls apart if you think about it.
11. Chessara
Yay!! Finally a 10 and a very deserving one at that! :)

I agree with the notion of how truly alien the Borg Drachasor said you get the feeling that there's no reasoning, negotiating with them...they're exactly like a force of nature. That is why they were such good villains!

The ending is sooo good, having a man like Picard admitting defeat basically, and having to admit he needed Q...wonderful acting by Sir Patrick Stewart, his face just seems to say: "Stir not the bitterness in the cup that I mixed for myself"!! =)

Superb episode! My only regret (not specific to this episode) is that we did never get to know more about Guinan...*sigh*
12. ChrisG
A wonderful episode; it's great to see a 10. Picards hubris was quite striking, and it was good to see him take a hit from it. But it did always rub me a little wrong how tactically poor a decision it was for him to rebuf Q in that way. You don't want to get sent to the cornfield.

I agree with Matthew B, David_Goldfarb, and Drachasor about the Borg Queen. That ruined the Borg -- and First Contact -- for me, as did many of the Borg episodes in other series. There were many more interesting things they could still have done with the collective consciousness idea.

I love @8 Mathew B's idea of the parasite as queen. There are beetles and other insects that fool the ants into accepting them and taking care of them. Spinning off that idea in the movie could have been very interesting. And of course, despite the name, the queen in ant and bee colonies does not in any way run the show -- she's just a breeding machine. (Like the queen in Aliens, for instance.)
13. StrongDreams
My interpretation of the Borg Queen was that she was the minimum unit needed to establish a new collective. One Borg could not know everything that the collective does, and it was established that the Borg are in constant subspace contact with each other. A Borg Queen contains the minimum necessary information to establish a new node of the collective--nanites for assimilation, instructions on how to build a subspace communicator, basic directives from the collective, etc. And enough free will to act independently if cut off from the rest of the Borg (unlike Hugh or Seven, who were lost and directionless without the collective).

But, there should not have been only one Borg Queen, there would be many--several at least on a large ship. Maybe they are clones or maybe they share a constantly updated subspace link on a differnt channel so that all queens are the same, at least until they are cut off.

It's not the best answer but I think it makes more sense than anything put on air.
14. Mike S.
Not much to say here, other then the fact that this is by far my favorite episode of Season 2.

"Yesterday's Enterprise" always gets the credit for this (and I love that show as much as anyone), but to me, this is the episode that started to set TNG apart from it's predecessor. It firmly established Q and the Borg as recurring villans (Q had been gone awhile, and it seemed like he would never return after "Hide and Q"), presented the deadliest of enemies, and doesn't really have a "happy" or "victory" ending (a concept that was the norm on DS9, but was understandbly hit-and-miss on TNG). None of this had been done on TNG to this point, or on the original series ever (with the exception of Wrath of Khan, but that's a movie).

Perfect all around, IMO, and just out of my top 6 all-time TNG shows.
15. JasonD
The concept of the Queen always struck me as necessary and a decent twist. If the Borg were always intended to be insectoid, then there would need to be a Queen, and the Queen always refers to the rest of the Borg as "drones." In order for the Borg to have come into being at all, there had to be some sort of biological consciousness behind it at the beginning, so the very first Borg would have to have been a Queen of sorts.

A question about canon: I remember reading a novel that suggested that V'Ger from the first movie was altered into what it became by the Borg. Is that canonical or an off-shoot?
16. a-j
iirc, V'Ger meeting the Borg was a joky suggestion made by Gene Roddenberry.
Doctor Who of course did something similar with the cybermen, but TNG does it better imho. The introduction of the queen, which weakens the Borg for me, was presumably done for narrative purposes, to have a central character for the heroes to fight against. Again, Doctor Who did something similar with the daleks when it introduced Davros.
17. GuruJ
Interesting ... so the Borg were originally meant to be insectoid. Sounds like someone intended to rip off the Bugs from Starship Troopers. Glad they didn't ... assimilating is a much scarier concept.

I didn't realise that the Borg queen was a later invention -- but given the likely origins in Heinlein, it would make sense that she would exist as a counterpart to the "brain caste" of the Bugs.
18. Christopher L. Bennett
15: "A question about canon: I remember reading a novel that suggested that V'Ger from the first movie was altered into what it became by the Borg. Is that canonical or an off-shoot?"

It's a fannish conjecture that makes absolutely no sense. The two have nothing meaningful in common. V'Ger was so advanced that it was on the cusp of evolving to a higher plane of existence; the Borg are primitive in comparison. And yet V'Ger was somehow unaware that organic beings constituted life forms or were useful in any way, which is irreconcilable with the Borg's complete symbiosis between the biological and cybernetic.

As for "Q Who," yes, the Borg were pretty effective here as a one-shot threat, but by their very nature, they were a pretty lousy idea for a recurring antagonist. They were so impersonal here that they weren't villains so much as a force of nature, and you can't tell many distinct stories about fighting a force of nature. Stories are about people and interpersonal conflict, so subsequent Borg stories had to abandon the completely impersonal Borg of "Q Who" and find ways to make them more personalized -- first by having them suddenly acquire an interest in assimilating individuals in BOBW, then by telling stories about liberating individual drones, then by adding the Queen to give them a face and voice.

And I always felt the makeup/costume design for the Borg in TNG was ridiculous. Even by 1980s standards, it was rather outdated to think of advanced cyborgs as just people with big, clunky machine parts stuck on their bodies. The concept of nanotechnology already existed at the time, and real-life prosthetic limbs and organs were starting to get fairly sophisticated, so even then it should've been possible to give them a sleeker design, something that suggested a more profound union/merger between the organic and the technological on a cellular level, rather than this cartoony, clunky, piecemeal thing we got. First Contact managed to refine the Borg design a certain amount, making it more Gigeresquely biomechanical, but still, I never cared for it.

Anyway, it is a real shame that Sonya Gomez never appeared beyond this one and the lame "Samaritan Snare." She was adorable.
19. Seryddwr
@18: true, the look of the Borg has not dated at all well - they look to my mind like 1980s Dr. Who on a bad day - but it was still enough to send a shudder through my young self!

BTW, does anyone else think that the jump cut from the shuttle to Ten-Forward is the best one in sci-fi since 2001? It's not just a visual jump cut, but a sonic one too - the noisy, confined sonic environment of the shuttle is replaced by the quiet of Ten Forward in a trice. Lovely. Anyone who says TNG is just tarted-up TV should watch this episode.
Chris Hawks
20. SaltManZ
@18: V'Ger being created by the Borg is actually from William Shatner's series of Trek novels. (I think it was in Avenger.) Spock (in the TNG era) recognizes the Borg from his mind meld with V'Ger. Whether you want to call that "fannish" or not, the idea was (IIRC) that the Borg jumpstarted V'Ger's evolution, not necessarily that they were responsible for all of it.
21. Christopher L. Bennett
#19: "true, the look of the Borg has not dated at all well - they look to my mind like 1980s Dr. Who on a bad day - but it was still enough to send a shudder through my young self!"

Whereas what I'm saying is that I thought they looked like a crude and outdated design even when I first saw them in 1989. But then, I was nearly 21 at the time, not very young.
22. Idran
@20: That's not the origin of the idea, that's just an expression of it. The idea was a fan theory that had been tossed around for years before "Return" (not "Avenger").
23. Pendard
I wouldn't give this episode a 10 out of 10, but it is very good for TNG up to this point -- only "Where No One Has Gone Before" and "The Measure of a Man" are in the same league. It was a great introduction for the Borg. Having Q involved was a perfect way to do it because it gave the Enterprise a way out without finding a weakness in the Borg.

I'm definitely in the camp that liked the Borg better when they had a collective consciousness with no leader, just the networked minds of all of them functioning in harmony. This episode points out that the strength of the Borg was based on the fact that a single leader can make mistakes -- when they introduce the Queen, she bears out this prediction by making mistakes quite frequently. The Borg were much more frightening without the Queen, but they were harder to fit into standard storytelling formulas. The Borg definitely aren't the only promising idea in Star Trek: TNG that was ruined after Gene Roddenberry died.

The reason the Borg make such a great villain is because they are absolutely the opposite of the Federation. They have no concept of freedom, morality, culture, art, diplomacy, respect for life. Other villains on Star Trek disagree with some of these core values, but to the Borg the ideas aren't wrong, they're simply irrelevant. Their motivation isn't hate, anger or aggression -- that, at least, would have a trace of humanity. They're pure consumers, gorging themselves on technology, and there's no hope of placating them because there is absolutely no common ground. Terrifying.
24. leandar
The original idea that V'Ger came from the Borg was from Gene Roddenberry, who halfways jokingly suggested it once. I think the fandom bits and even Shatner's thoughts of it came well afterward.
25. sofrina
thanks for the responses. i've enjoyed the borg pretty thoroughly without any of those points of view, but now at least i see where you're coming from. the borg terrify me simply because they enslave people, body and soul. once in, you can't even dream of escape.
Thomas Nesslage
26. aerathi18
Okay, I'm pulling a complete blank here... when did the Borg ever show up in Deep Space Nine? They were all over every other series, but I honestly can't remember them ever showing up in a DS9 episode.
Keith DeCandido
27. krad
aerathi18: the Borg were in the very first scene of the very first episode of DS9, the dramatization of the Battle of Wolf 359, with Sisko on the Saratoga.

General comment to all: I've been enjoying the hell out of the comments, and I want to thank you all. The Prime Directive discussion in the "Pen Pals" comments and the Borg/hivemind talk here is wonderful. Again, thank you.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Thomas Nesslage
28. aerathi18
Oh, duh... I guess that did kind of drive Sisko's character arc for a good chunk of the series. So the influence was definitely there, although I don't beleive they made an appearance beyond that. Thanks!
29. euphbass
I was thinking, when I watched this episode, that this was the first and only time we saw baby Borg - or am I mis-remembering? Was that idea not discarded? I thought the Borg increased their numbers only through assimilation of other species.
Bob Weld
30. WaitingShadows
Ok first of all, I think this is a fantastic episode. I love the Borg. To be more specific, I love this iteration of the Borg, with a collective conciousness that I had always pictured to be a network of computers that were linked together. I also love the references to Aliens (and I am counting gigeresque as an Aliens reference) which is one of my favorite sci-fi movies.

I am quite surprised that no one mentioned this before, but the addition of the Queen to the Borg (I thought) had an in-story justification. I was under the impression that the Borg were completely interconnected with no need for a queen when they were first introduced. Then in season 4, Hugh came along. Once he had been modified by the Enterprise crew and sent back, the Borg were crippled by the individuality he learned. They were no longer able to survive or function without a leader. They had been fundamentally changed by the crew of the Enterprise. I base this theory on what we here from Hugh in Descent, Part II, the first Season 7 episode. Obviously, Hugh is too placid and the "Borg Queen" steps in just in time for a great movie. I have not read any of the novels, nor have I seen any of the series after TNG, so if this is completely false, please let me know.
Bob Weld
31. WaitingShadows
I also wish more could have been found out about Guinen and Q's past encounters...
32. Anony
Maybe Q and Picard misrembered Q's original promise. Or maybe Q gave Picard's brain a tiny helping nudge so that he'd remember what Q really promised. Q could sense how much Picard missed him deep down, so he felt intervention was warranted.

There's no reason for Borg assimilants to retain free will in the collective. There are probably free will overrides built into the cyborg implants so that all their mental functions remain geared toward the good of the collective. If I remember correctly, blocking the network link doesn't instantly liberate a drone.

Clunky Borg machinery could be a throwback to their original aspirations of mechanizing themselves. Maybe they approve of the anti-aesthetics of it in their collective subconscious. Maybe it's the most economical way to mass cyborgize so many people and species, since they'll all end up as disposable drones anyway. Ants don't have dragonfly capabilities, for example. Borg drones spend most of their time plugged into their ships, and their personal deflectors normally make up for lack of speed.

Another possible explanation for a queen is that the unexpected success of human resistance forced the collective to reexamine its decision structure in an attempt to counter. The Borg are good at selfless group thought, but that doesn't mean they always draw correct conclusions.

Borg were scary precisely because they lacked identity. Billions of minds all working in unison with no regard for individuality. Locutus demonstrated that they could present a face and objectives without giving the spokesman controlling authority. But Trek movies always have to have a charismatic villain, so...
33. VinceP1974
Am I allowed to point to the obvious that they need some sort of relatable , communicable "thing" to stand for the Borg for the movie.

Putting aside whatever function she performed, the scenes when she's around are the best scenes in the movie IMHO. And how else would the manipulation of Data's craving for real skin have been explored with no one to speak of it?

I did find the sudden memory that Locutist had met her to be obviously contrived. but that's movies for you.
35. CNash
euphbass: A baby Borg would later appear in Voyager's "Collective", rescued from the damaged Cube along with Icheb and the other Borg kids. It was given a clean bill of health by the Doctor, then was never seen again.
37. NullNix
sofrina@3, the Borg make decisions in exactly the same way social insects do: via distributed algorithms. The Borg individually wanting to get free matters as little as individual worker bees wanting to become fertile queens do: they cannot, the system constrains them (indeed both bees and ants have a sort of internal police force). Equally, the thoughts of the Borg do not matter: only the thoughts of the distributed overmind matter.

These things are really quite fascinating, and it's amazing how little is required of the individual entities in the composite mind. A classic and particularly wonderful example is the waggle dance, used by bees both to signal the location of food and to signal the location of a new hive when swarming. Everyone knows how this is normally described: one bee starts moving in a line, back and forth, turning at each end and waggling in the linear part in the middle, with the direction and distance of the waggling part indicating the desirability and distance of the food: more bees copy it until eventually they all fly off if the food is desirable enough.

But beehives are dark and crammed places -- the bees can't *look* at each other to figure out what the other bees are doing. Instead, it's a distributed algorithm. If a bee crosses the path of a waggling bee, this bee is likely to turn in the same direction as the waggling bee and start waggling as well. A waggling bee has some chance of randomly stopping: if it is waggling when it stops, it flies off towards the food, otherwise it goes back to do something else. That is enough to do it all. Note that the bees don't need to know any of that stuff about length of waggle indicating desirability: a bee with more desirable food is simply going to spend more of its time in the waggling part of its dance, and thus will sweep out more space, cross the paths of more bees (which will themselves start waggling in the same way), and will be more likely to fly off to the food itself after a while.

If bees can do that sort of thing with no need to individually understand what they are doing at all, so too can the Borg implement a terrifying and rapacious overmind out of possibly much less rapacious components (although it is clear that the overmind has optimized the components for rapacity as well: all those cyborg implants doubtless help, I'm sure a lot of the overmind is running on those). The 'Borg Queen' was doubly annoying because it showed a complete lack of understanding of the Borg's social-insect inspiration: it's a volitional entity with command authority, while all a social insect queen does once the colony is up and running is reproduce like mad and suppress formation of other queens. She doesn't even decide what castes to produce herself after the first few in the formation of a new colony: that too is a distributed decision. She herself only needs enough gumption to get started: after that, the hivemind takes over.
39. 2ndTenor
Does anyone know if any of the novels explore the connection between Q and Guinan? If there isn't one it's a topic begging for a book or series of books.

Also one thing not mentioned in the rewatch or any of the comments was Guinan's cobra kai kung-fu stance she uses when she first sees Q. Does she have a martial arts background of some sort? Again this is another topic begging for a novel to be written about it.
Keith DeCandido
40. krad
2ndTenor: Nobody's explored in depth the connection between Q and Guinan, no. As for the kung-fu stance, I doubt that Guinan actually has a martial arts background. More likely they were going for something that looked cool.....

41. barBoo
2ndTenor and KRAD: I've long thought that the writers missed a great opportunity in not providing a further exploration of the history between Guinan and Q.

What I thought was fascinating was not only the degree of historical hostility between the two, but the grudging admiration (and more than a little caution) expressed by Q ( a cosmic level entity) with regards to Guinan.

Clearly there's a LOT more to Guinan that meets the eye. As far as her 'stance' was concerned...I saw that as her raising a type of 'Dr. Strange' type force field to protect her against the elemental rays with which Q was attacking her. Notice that as soon as Q dropped his hand, Guinan 'dropped' her shield. Very cool scene.

Shout out to Tor and the blogger for this site. Much appreciated!
Kat Ybarra
42. Katyara
The re watch of this episode had a much deeper punch for me. I think it was seeing the crew approach the Borg and being so naive to what, of course, we know later to be such hard hitters in the show. The Borg babies still creep me out.

I agree with a lot of people here that the concept of the Queen really took some impact out of the Borg as an enemy because suddenly you could put a 'face' on what is ‘the bad guy’. She was head to strike down and take away the threat. Before they were a faceless mass of one motivation. I hate to make the comparison but it's like everyone saying Hitler was the end all and be of evil of the Holocaust when he wasn't. Others thought the final solution was a great and idea and helped implement it! One guy with ideas of genocide is a crazy person, a whole group following him is just downright scary as hell. Human nature seems to need to put a face on 'bad' and say "This.. this is the reason it all went wrong! If we take out this it all falls apart!" That's not possible with the Borg and it made them that much more terrifying.

“You can’t outrun them, you can’t destroy them. If you damage them, the essence of what they are remains. They regenerate and keep coming. Eventually, you will weaken—your reserves will be gone. They are relentless.”

This was a great intro of the Borg but really just the tip of the ice berg as to what made them so horrifying.

On a personal level this is a ‘race’ that is void of anything but technology and strips away all personality, individuality , culture and/or spirituality so I find them just downright abhorrent and frightening a concept. But, when you get right down to it they were basically space zombies. On the other hand I’m not a fan of ravenous walking compost either so really just touched on what would be a personal nightmare for me.
MaGnUs von Tesla
43. lordmagnusen
Wow, Sonya Díaz is the three-boobied alien from Total Recall?! Talk about connections I never made...

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