Fri
Feb 17 2012 12:30pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II”

“The Best of Both Worlds, Part II”
Written by Michael Piller
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 4, Episode 1
Production episode 40274-175
Original air date: September 24, 1990
Stardate: 44001.4

Captain’s Log: Majel Barrett intones, “Last time on Star Trek: The Next Generation,” followed by highlights of Part 1, ending with: “Mr. Worf — fire.”

The modified deflector fires, and has absolutely no impact on the Borg cube. When they assimilated Picard and made him into Locutus, the Borg absorbed all of the captain’s knowledge — and therefore knew of the modified deflector weapon and adjusted their defenses accordingly.

The Borg continue toward Earth. Firing the weapon burned out several of the Enterprise’s systems, so they must remain until repairs are effected. Riker contacts Admiral Hanson, who has gathered a 40-ship fleet at Wolf 359. Shelby points out that with Picard’s assistance, the Borg will be ready for Starfleet. Hanson slaps Shelby down, saying that Picard would never help the Borg under any circumstances, which mostly proves that Hanson is a moron. Following this idiotic declaration, Hanson gives Riker a field promotion to captain.

On the Borg cube, Picard’s assimilation continues. More electronics are grafted onto his person, and the color is drained from his flesh. A single tear rolls down his cheek.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II”

Shelby, La Forge, and Worf are all involved in trying to get the ship up and running again. Shelby makes the case to Riker for being his new first officer, and she and Riker almost start to come to something vaguely resembling a rapprochement when Hanson contacts them from Wolf 359. “The fight does not go well, Enterprise,” Hanson says through a badly garbled comm line before all communications are cut off. Riker hopes that it’s due to Borg interference. (This is, as we will discover, a forlorn hope.)

Once repairs are complete, the Enterprise heads for Wolf 359 at top speed. Riker officially makes Shelby first officer, and gets a report on possible new defenses. A heavy graviton beam won’t work; Crusher and Data propose creating nanites that could infiltrate the Borg, but it would take two to three weeks.

Riker admits that this would be the part where Picard would give an inspirational speech, and further admits that he wishes Picard were here to deliver it, because he could use it, too.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II”

The Enterprise arrives at Wolf 359, which is a graveyard of broken and destroyed ships. (One of the hulks they see is the Melbourne, the very command Riker was offered in Part 1.) They pursue the Borg ship, which survived the attack wholly unscathed. Riker tells Shelby to prepare to separate the saucer, as she had previously suggested. Shelby points out that Picard was briefed on that plan (when she went over Riker’s head, a detail she omits when reminding him), but Riker says he’s counting on that.

When the Enterprise intercepts the Borg, Riker is on the battle bridge and hails the Borg, asking to discuss terms. Locutus deems discussion to be irrelevant, as there are no terms, and rightly views this as an attempt by Riker to delay the inevitable. Locutus announces that they will continue to Earth, and if Riker attempts to intervene, the Borg will destroy them. “Then take your best shot, Locutus,” Riker says, “because we are about to intervene.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II”

Shelby, in command of the saucer, separates the ship. Both halves of the ship fire on the Borg, but the Borg only go after the drive section. The saucer fires an antimatter spread, which covers Data and Worf launching a shuttlecraft. Once the shuttle is close enough, the two of them are able to beam onto the cube and nab Picard. They beam back to the shuttle and fly back toward the Enterprise. Once they’re clear of the cube, O’Brien beams them back, right before the Borg blow up the shuttle.

The Borg cube then buggers back toward Earth. The Enterprise reunites and Crusher examines Locutus. The Borg implants themselves could easily be removed, but there’s the question of his link to the collective. Data detects a massive network of subspace signals that allows the Borg to all be linked to each other. In the past, Borg have removed components from their dead comrades, after which they disintegrated. Data theorizes that that cut them off from the collective. Crusher fears that cutting Picard off may kill him as well, so instead Data tries to hook into the collective via Locutus.

They bring Locutus to Data’s lab, Data attempting to form a neural link with Locutus. He manages to gain access to the Borg subspace signals, which he discovers are sorted by sub-commands. Data tries to plant a root command into the collective, but power and defense subsystems are protected.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II”

Picard manages to seep his consciousness through Locutus and says the word “Sleep” to Data — who interprets this to be a command he can plant. The regeneration commands don’t have the same level of security on them, and Data can easily plant that command via Locutus.

The Borg break off their attack — not half a second before Riker is about to order Wes to ram the Enterprise into the cube at warp speed — and have gone into a regeneration cycle. A few minutes later, they blow up. Picard is himself again, “with a bit of a headache.” He remembers everything, including the brilliantly unorthodox strategy by “a former first officer of mine.”

Shelby is assigned to head up the task force that will put the fleet back together. She tells Riker that he must have his choice of assignments, and Riker demurs, saying that his career is his business.

Riker and Shelby leave Picard alone in his ready room. Once alone, Picard looks haunted....

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II”

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Data uses multimodal reflection sorting to map out the intra-Borg subspace communications.

If I Only Had a Brain…: Data pretty much saves the day here — he and Worf are the ones who rescue Picard, and it’s Data’s ability to access the Borg communications that ends the threat by putting them to sleep.

Riker also tells Data that he seriously considered the android for the position of first officer (a position he’s had twice before, in “A Matter of Honor” and “Peak Performance”).

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Data uses Troi to sense how Picard is doing when Data tries to link up to the Borg via Locutus, and it’s Troi who verifies when Picard manages to poke his own consciousness past that of the Borg.

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Riker also considered Worf for first officer, and he and Data engage in a nifty retrieval of Locutus from the Borg ship.

The Boy!?: When Riker orders the Enterprise to ram the Borg ship, Wes looks positively ill. And who can blame him, really? I mean, he was just told that his job description had changed from that of Starfleet conn officer to kamikaze pilot....

Syntheholics Anonymous: Guinan gives Riker a come-to-Jesus speech, telling him that he has to let Picard go. It would’ve been easier if Picard had died, but instead the Borg took him and perverted him. When Riker says that Picard wrote the book on the ship, Guinan points out, rightly, that if the Borg know what he knows, it’s time to throw the book away.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II”

I Believe I Said That: “At what point should I shut it down if there’s a problem?”

“I do not know. I have never done this before.”

O’Brien asking a reasonable question, and Data giving a brutally honest answer.

Welcome Aboard: Elizabeth Dennehy and George Murdock reprise their roles of Shelby and Hanson, respectively, from Part 1. Todd Merrill gets a few lines as Gleason, the battle-bridge ops officer; he’ll get a few more lines in “Future Imperfect.”

Trivial Matters: Despite picking up immediately after Part 1, the episode was very obviously filmed months later — Elizabeth Dennehy, Gates McFadden, and Jonathan Frakes all have slightly different hair, the lighting on the bridge is a bit different, and now nobody is wearing the “unitard” from the first two seasons (thank goodness).

And despite being the conclusion, the next episode, “Family,” really will serve as Part 3 — but we’ll talk about that on Tuesday....

Michael Piller didn’t figure out how to end Part 2 until shortly before filming started. He wrote Part 1 without any idea of how to end it — but then, he wasn’t even sure he’d be back for the fourth season, and if he didn’t re-up his contract, it would’ve been someone else’s problem in any event.

LeVar Burton had to undergo emergency surgery during the filming of this episode, so his part was reduced. His dialogue was all filmed later on, done in closeups or single shots. The only shots of him with others around are in the observation lounge, and a body double was employed there. His role in the climax was given to O’Brien.

While only the aftermath of the Battle of Wolf 359 was seen in this episode due to budgetary constraints, parts of the battle were shown at the beginning of Deep Space Nine’s pilot episode, “Emissary.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II”

Riker will not be seen to be offered another command again until Star Trek Nemesis, which ends with him going off to captain the Titan, though he will briefly command the U.S.S. Excalibur in “Redemption Part II” as part of Picard’s armada. In Peter David’s Double Helix novel Double or Nothing, a crossover between TNG and David’s novel series New Frontier (which features the Shelby character), Riker is put in temporary command of the Excalibur, with Shelby once again as his first officer.

The effects of being transformed into Locutus will continue to have ramifications, both onscreen (“Family,” “I, Borg,” DS9’s “Emissary,”Star Trek: First Contact) and in the tie-in fiction (Resistance by J.M. Dillard and the Destiny trilogy by David Mack).

Although Dwight Schultz does not appear in the episode, Shelby does make reference to Barclay.

This is the third and final time the Enterprise will separate the saucer on the series, after having done so previously in “Encounter at Farpoint” and “The Arsenal of Freedom.” It will separate for the last time ever in Star Trek Generations.

The Borg will appear again on TNG in “I, Borg” and “Descent.” The movie Star Trek: First Contact is more of a direct sequel to this two-parter, more or less ignoring those subsequent two appearances. In addition to their flashback appearance in DS9’s premiere, the Borg recur throughout Voyager — which goes so far as to have a de-assimilated Borg become part of the opening-credits cast — starting in the episodes “Blood Fever” and “Unity,” continuing all the way through to the series finale “Endgame.” The Borg also appear in Enterprise’s “Regeneration.”

In the seventh-season episode “Parallels,” Worf will visit several alternate timelines in which Picard was not rescued by the Enterprise in this episode (in one, the Borg has completely overrun the Federation). Two other alternate timelines that branched off from this episode were shown in David R. George III’s short novel The Embrace of Cold Architects in Myriad Universes: Shattered Light and “The Worst of Both Worlds!” storyline that ran in issues 47-50 of DC’s Star Trek: The Next Generation comic book by Michael Jan Friedman, Peter Krause, and Pablo Marcos.

Make it So: “Sleep, Data.” Let’s be fair: Part 1 was an incredibly tough act to follow. It would take one of the greatest episodes of TV ever to follow up to that.

This, well, is not one of the greatest episodes of TV ever. It’s good, but it kinda falls apart at the end.

In the abstract, the idea that the Borg are beaten by ingenuity makes a certain amount of sense. For one thing, it was made clear back when they first appeared in “Q Who” that a direct approach was never going to cut it. For another, it’s completely true to Star Trek that brains would win out over brawn.

But in practice, we wind up ending a tense two hours of action, one that’s been anticipated for three months — hell, since the middle of the second season, truly — in Data’s lab. Aroo?

Even that wouldn’t be so bad if the climax actually made sense. Data planting a root command into the Borg Collective to go into a regenerative cycle is fine — that’s actually very clever, in part because it’s so simple. But we’ve seen the Borg go into a regenerative cycle before, in “Q Who,” after the Enterprise trashed their cube. They regenerated, rebuilt, reconstructed, were better, faster, stronger, and proceeded to kick the crap out of the ship until Picard begged Q to send them home, please. So why the heck did Data putting them into that cycle now cause them to self-destruct like a Bond villain’s headquarters?

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II”

Riker’s strategies aren’t nearly as bizarre and unorthodox as the script insists they are, and after Guinan tells him to set Picard aside and take over, he moves heaven and Earth to get Picard back.

And in the end, the status quo is unconvincingly restored. While we don’t find this out until the next episode, Riker’s still on board, even accepting a reduction in rank back to commander, and everyone’s back where we expect them to be. Shelby doesn’t even join the crew, which might’ve been entertaining (especially with Wil Wheaton on his way out the door — but we’ll talk about that when we get to “Final Mission”).

The episode is by no means bad. The immediate cliffhanger resolution is brilliant, the sequence that culminates with Data and Worf liberating Locutus from the cube is a superb action scene, and the evolution of Riker and Shelby’s relationship is well played. But as a followup to one of the best episodes in the franchise’s history, it just doesn’t entirely hold up.

 

Warp factor rating: 6


Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at the Farpoint convention this weekend in Timonium, Maryland (just north of Baltimore), along with fellow Trek scribes Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, Glenn Hauman, Marc Okrand, Aaron Rosenberg, and Howard Weinstein. Come by and say hi! And go to his web site and order every single one of his books. Or just go from there to read his blog, check him out on Facebook and/or Twitter, or listen to his many podcasts.

43 comments
Raphael Della Ratta
1. Raphael Della Ratta
Re: the regeneration mode triggerring a self-destruct. I always interpreted that as an unintended benefit of tricking them into sleep. Putting them to sleep bought time, but going into regeneration mode with nothing to regenerate caused a power surge -- the cube was sending energy out to fix systems that were already at 100%.
Raphael Della Ratta
2. dav
I do love this episode, but agree that it isn't among the all time greats for TNG. I don't necessarily love the idea of basing the final rating on the previous episode. To me this is more of a 7 or 8, but I understand your arguements. I like how it fits into the overall Borg arc up through First Contact more than I like it as a stand alone episode. You can't watch Part 1 without watching this though, so I think it did its job.
Raphael Della Ratta
3. Mike S.
My guess with the self-destruction is that the Borg (maybe the Queen) found out that they were being sabatoged through Locutus. The Queen then probably declared the whole ship a liability (since they were all taking the same orders), and ordered it's destruction (of course, we didn't know about the Queen back then). Similar to a dead Borg vaporizing into nothingness. The question then is, why did the Borg just not send another ship to invade Earth? Probably because it was hard enough on the writers to try and finish up this storyline. I would also like to know how the Enterprise caught up with the Borg ship so quickly (considering they missed out on Wolf 359, the Borg probably had too much of a head start on them).

I found this a mostly satisfying conclusion (I consider "Family" an epilouge, moreso then Part 3 of this story). I liked some of the tie-ins with part 1, particularly the Melbourne being destroyed (Riker would have been dead had he accepted promtion), and Shelby balking at Riker's plan to seperate the ship (since that had been her idea in the first place).

Yes, there are some things here that don't make sense, but it's more then outweighed by what's good in this episode, IMO.
Nate Shouse
4. MnemonicNate
I think a rating of '6' is accurate for this episode; while it has its merits, its strengths don't compare to that of the first part (coupled with the fear and tension which is resolved in the first few minutes of this episode). Still, glad they were able to get Picard back; there's an interesting arc in the TNG DC comics where the crew encounters a mirror version of themselves, but in this galaxy Picard is still Locutus.

I know characters and species change as more is added to them, but I dislike how assimilation suddenly became a weapon individual borg could use on unassimilated species after 'First Contact.' I'm intrigued by the baby borg from 'Q-Who?' and Picard's assimilation in this two-parter...after all, are borg merely a species suffering from a technological virus, or do they willingly add pieces of machinery to their bodies to enhance and unify them? Just personal opinion. Nice review, krad!
rick gregory
5. rickg
6 is about right. There are two glaring issues rasied by this ep.

First, that a single Borg ship is so powerful that a fleet of 40 Federation starships is decimated without any damage to the Borg. If they're THAT powerful, the Federation would have no chance. All the Borg need to do is send two or three ships, never mind a fleet. Done.

Second, the deus ex machina ending. A society so incredibly powerful, that has assimilated so many cultures wouldn't protect all of their systems? And that if one was hacked, it would cause the ship to blow up? No way. This solution was a hack designed to get around the first issue above. They created an almost all-powerful enemy. The problem then becomes how to defeat that enemy and, as usual, the answer isn't really convincing.

They could have made the Borg an existential threat while not making them so incrediblly powerful but once they did there never was a good reason why the Borg didn't just sweep in with a dozen cubes and ravage Earth and the other Federation worlds. That's really all on this second part.
Raphael Della Ratta
6. Scavenger
An addition for Trivial Matters, In Star Trek Online, you can fly to Wolf 359 and visit a memorial to those lost in the battle. (It's really one of the only cool "Trek" things in the game).
Jenny Thrash
7. Sihaya
Eh, I'd handicap it enough for a 7, simply because the episode managed to pull itself together in spite of the massive amounts of off-camera drama. But otherwise, I agree. The denoument was the typically quiet ending that you get after loud season finales, but at least its tidiness was due to a likely scenario.
Raphael Della Ratta
8. Mike Kelm
I love this episode, but I have issues with it as well. The Borg just don't make sense to me...

First, I never understood why the Borg had an almost reluctance to not destroy the Enterprise. They seem to just pass it up. Could have done it in the nebula or after the rescue sequence, but they just sort of let it go. They blow up 40 other ships, but not the Enterprise? Mr. Worf- Fire... splat... so sorry we'll blow you up now. Or board and assimilate you, or just ram you with our rediculously large ship, or anything. It's logical, it's cold, it's what the uber bad Borg would do. The Enterprise doesn't escape, the Borg let it go. It's like they want to taunt Riker and the Enterprise over the powerlessness. That's something that a Buffy the Vampire Slayer big bad would do, not the most cold, calculating enemy ever. The Enterprise should barely be able to escape, not just be left behind.

I also have an issue with just how ineffective Starfleet is... as I understand it, shields work by being energized layer of gravitons around the object to be protected. Energy discharges could dissipate the integrity of the shields however, so when a phaser or photon torpedo hits it, it should have some effect. The Borg might have really, really powerful shields, but the weapons should have some effect against them. Instead the weapons just bounce off, as if they are rocks. But to say that weapons are completely useless doesn't make sense. The first time the Enterprise shoots them they Borg cube has a nice chunk taken out of it, but then they "adapt" and are now impervious. I could understand if somehow they were able to make the phaser ineffective, since using destructive interference they should be able to weaken it, but a photon torpedo is a matter/anti-matter explosion. It should do something.... Star Trek may be science fiction, but as Scotty says "You canna change the laws of physics." Science says that the photon should do something to the shields. The Borg could jam them, prematurely detonate them, deflect them without causing explosion... but to say they jusst *poof* adapt to them is a cop out.

Last, I agree with you that the tactics in the battle scenes aren't exactly unorthodox, but I'm sure that was a function of special effects budgets. The tactics seem to be "move the ship left, then move the ship right." I wonder what tactics might have been displayed if they could have properly been shown on screen.
Raphael Della Ratta
9. ChrisG
I'd like to register a dissent here; I think 6 is too low. While I agree that there are many issues of plausibility that weaken the episode, the core idea of using the Borg's strength -- their collectivity -- against them, is wonderful. Simple, believable, and clever, while subverting the expectation of a big battle. Moreover, while Data was the main agent in the resolution, the sequence of inspirations from Guinan to Riker to Data to Picard to Data, with help from Troi, involved much of the team in an essential way. I liked that a lot.

There are also some very nice moments throughout the episode. The draining color. The Wolf 359 aftermath. The palpable despair of everyone involved in the early going. Admiral Hansen's stirring (if somewhat goofy) defense of Picard. The rescue scene. Picard's haunted gaze after his release. Mostly plot driven, I admit, but good stuff.

That said, the plausibility problems mentioned by earlier commenters (e.g, @8 Mike Kelm on the Borg's failure to destroy the Enterprise) are pretty glaring. I would have liked to have seen the Borg use more obvious technological sophistication rather than just magic adaptivity to deal with the challenges. For instance, it would have been nice if they deflected or diffused the deflector-beam weapon rather than just be unaffected by it. And the Federation's defenses were pretty pathetic, really, even if you grant that the Borg could beat 40 ships. Those three little ships by Saturn??? Why not *try* to use a nuclear/antimatter warhead or overloading warp core in some way? I would have liked to see them try something, anything, marginally more clever and ruthless, even if the Borg did stop them.

As for the end, I think they could have explained it in some way as a defensive reaction of the collective when their systems were compromised. It would have been better that way. The very end (once they were asleep) was not good, though, I agree.

Nonetheless, I'd go 7 or 8 here.
Chin Bawambi
10. bawambi
Think the rating is a little low because of the above comments but one other scene I didn't like was the wooden reading of the ships at Wolf 359. Also, one more trivial matter: In "The Drumhead" Admiral Setee uses the Locutus incident against Picard in his trial.
j p
11. sps49
Yeah. If they had put the Borg to sleep and then showed some attack on the cube I would be happier. But massive buildup is always tough to resolve well in fiction (see Neon Genesis: Evangelion), and making the Borg too powerful gives the same problem as writing Superman- how to you slow them down, let alone stop them?

Taken as a whole, Parts 1 and 2 are still rockin'.

And how do you drain color from someone?
Raphael Della Ratta
12. General Vagueness
I thought Hansen's comment made plenty of sense, and actually showed a knowledge of the Borg and Picard-- he wasn't helping them, which implies doing something willfully, they were forcibly extracting knowledge. To frame it another way, Picard didn't tell them resistance was futile, Locutus, an arbitrarily named unit of the Borg, told them that. Picard was, for lack of a better word, violated, which the next episode reiterates.
I'm still liking the re-watch though, and so far liking it more than the others I'm following.
Alan Courchene
13. Majicou
Even though it's weird that the cube just sort of up and explodes once it goes into regeneration mode, it actually makes sense to me (in terms of consistency) that they wouldn't think to defend against Picard's tactic. As Seven was fond of saying the Borg adapt, and as we've seen them, they almost never anticipate. They change much like a population of organisms changes by natural selection--if a variation is counter to survival, then it dies out. The Borg don't (doesn't?) care that one cube is destroyed. They've got plenty more. And they might have sent more to Earth in the first place, but they're efficient. Why imagine that more than one is necessary against these pitiful organics? They're rather spectacularly unimaginative.
Raphael Della Ratta
14. General Vagueness
I thought the cube self-destructed because its network had been infiltrated-- Data had basically hacked into the Borg, and showed he was able to affect some changes, and they couldn't have that.
As for why the Enterprise wasn't destroyed when they grabbed Locutus, or before, I figured it was the same as one of his lines, about proceeding without further diversion to sector 001-- they didn't want to waste any time and let the Federation prepare better.
Jane Smyth
15. Kaboom
sps49 @11
"And how do you drain color from someone?"

I was wondering exactly just that. One possibility would be to replace the red blood cells with something more efficient at carrying oxygen which is not red. That at least would remove the reddish color of the skin.

In this episode the doctor proposes using nanites to fight the Borg (but that would take too long to setup).
I wonder if that was the idea that led to the nanoprobes that the Borg use to assimilate adult beings as seen in Voyager and in First Contact.
Raphael Della Ratta
16. mstanley
I loved this episode(s) as a kid growing up in the early 90s. The music throughout (something I don't normally even notice) was superb, especially the music playing during Picard's line, "We have engaged the Borg."

As for the comments about the Borg only sending 1 ship...first of all...it's a TV show. Right?

Second, now that we have many different Borg encounters, you could postulate that maybe the Borg did not possess transwarp as yet or maybe the transwarp network did not extend as far. You could even just chalk it up to Borg overconfidence.

I read like it's my job, but have, in the past, purposely ignored the tie-in fiction. However, once I heard there was an ongoing continuation post-Nemesis across all the franchises, I decided to give it a try. The writing is mostly competent, though there are some dreadful entries (Resistance) that follow-up authors do their best to ignore or play-down. I bring this up because a major Borg invasion which wipes out many many planets and 40% of starfleet occurs in David Mack's Destiny trilogy. It's fantastic. Thousands of cubes take out Deneva, Khitomer, and almost wipe Qo'noS out. It's a great series that ties in most of the franchises. Later books deal with the aftermath of many Federation worlds reduced to what would seem to them "stone-age" technology and food shortages. Highly recommended.
Raphael Della Ratta
17. KevinFET
>A society so incredibly powerful, that has assimilated so many cultures wouldn't protect all of their systems?

I think this was an acceptable deus ex machina because Data is not federation technology. He's a one-of-a-kind creation of an eccentric genius. In the world Star Trek, strong AI like data is still generally out of reach. I can buy the Borg had never seen anything like him and certainly Picard would not have been an expert on the tech.

It's also a nice contrast that the product of extreme indivduality ends up being the weakness of the groupthink Borg.

I was hoping we'd see a non-evil Borg collective at some point, "assimimlate if you want, it's really cool and you can leave anytime" and have them be the main check on the Borg technologically. The only thing that can beat a strong AI is another strong AI.
Risha Jorgensen
18. RishaBree
If nothing else, the first sight of the aftermath of the Battle of Wolf 359 will always live on in my memory.
Raphael Della Ratta
19. Christopher L. Bennett
I agree the cube blowing up for no good reason was weak, but I like it that the climax of the story revolved around characters, around Picard finding the strength of will to overcome Locutus, rather than around action and spectacle. Often the best climax for a big action story is one that's intimate and personal, because while that may be smaller in scale than the action set pieces that preceded it, it's emotionally bigger. And I think the climax of BOBW2 worked very well.

As for why the Borg only sent a single cube after the Federation every once in a while, it makes perfect sense if you remember that the Federation constitutes a very, very tiny portion of the galaxy, and one that's very, very far from Borg territory. Watching the show gives us the sense that everything in the universe revolves around the Federation, but in reality, the Borg probably considered it a very low priority. It had species and technology worth assimilating, but nothing they desperately needed to have right away, and it was too far away to pose any significant threat that required wiping it out. The Borg were probably spending most of their resources assimilating or warring with the thousands of advanced civilizations that immediately abutted their territory, so they only had so much to spare for this remote little union of planets way off in the Orion Arm. If they didn't manage to assimilate it now, it would still be there to assimilate later, once they got around to it.

That's the idea behind the novels' Destiny trilogy -- that once Voyager destroyed the Borg's transwarp hub, the Federation's status was upgraded from "worth getting around to if we can spare the time" to "immediate threat that has to be crushed as soon as possible." Hence the massive, all-out invasion rather than just the occasional single-cube scouting expeditions they'd sent in the past.
rick gregory
20. rickg
@19 - the problem for me with your supposition that the Borg didn't consider the Federation important, etc is that it requires the viewer to start making things up. "Oh, maybe they didn't have transwarp/we were a low priority/etc." That's sloppy storytelling. Why should we have to suppose all of the things that you do, basically making excuses? Come on, we're a low priority but they can't send 5 ships? Or 2? If we're so low a priority... why send a ship at all? The choices aren't between all-out invasion or send a single ship.

As for the 'it's just a TV show' comment above... Um, yes. Thanks. I know that. You can use that to counter any argument if you want, but at the end of the day TV shows are stories and it's valid to critique it on that basis. Otherwise reviews and criticism are just "I liked it!" or "I didn't like it!".

PS: All of the "perhaps they didn't have transwarp" stuff doesn't hold up. TNG and Voyager are set in the same century. Voyager was launched in 2371. This battle was in 2367 -see the Memory Alpha wiki. So, no, we have to assume that the Borg that we see in each series are basically the same Borg with the same capabilities.
Raphael Della Ratta
21. Christopher L. Bennett
"the problem for me with your supposition that the Borg didn't consider the Federation important, etc is that it requires the viewer to start making things up."

No, it's simply making a deduction from the evidence we do have. We know for a fact that Borg territory makes up an immense portion of the Delta Quadrant, given that Voyager traversed over 40,000 light years, nearly the entire radius of the galaxy, between "Scorpion" and "Endgame." And we know from "Encounter at Farpoint" that Deneb, a star estimated to be between 1340 and 1840 ly from Earth, was at the outermost fringes of explored space as of 2364, which puts an upper bound on the size of the Federation. Therefore, based solely on canonical evidence, we can draw the indisputable conclusion that Borg territory is far larger than Federation territory. We also know from simple subtraction that the nearer portions of Borg territory (at least the parts of it in the DQ) are roughly 30,000 ly from the Federation, which is consistent with what real astronomy tells us about the size of the galaxy and the position of Earth within it. There is also considerable canonical evidence from "Q Who" onward that Federation space and Borg space are very far apart.

We also know, from decades of experience, that the galaxy in the Trek universe is abundantly populated with starfaring civilizations. Since Voyager typically encountered well over a dozen distinct ones per year, we know this holds true for the DQ. Now, given that Borg territory is at least 40,000 ly across in just one dimension, the surface area of its borders must be immense. Therefore, the logical deduction is that Borg territory abuts upon thousands of other starfaring civilizations. Logic also dictates that at least some of these must be equal to or greater than the Federation in technological advancement. Add to this the undeniable fact that the Borg's policy in dealing with technologically advanced civilizations is to invade and attempt to assimilate them, and we are compelled to conclude that the Borg must be in an ongoing state of war with many advanced civilizations that are immediately adjacent to Collective space. Inevitably, fighting on so many fronts at once would require a vast expenditure of resources. And it stands to reason that immediate neighbors in direct conflict with the Borg would be seen as a more immediate threat or target, and thus a higher priority to devote resources to, than a federation that's on the opposite side of the galaxy and poses no immediate threat.

So the only logical conclusion is that the Borg had many higher priorities than invading the Federation (at least, prior to "Endgame"). That's not made up or arbitrary, it's a deduction we can derive entirely from known facts.


"Come on, we're a low priority but they can't send 5 ships? Or 2?"

That's thinking like a human. Borg think collectively. A Borg cube isn't just a ship, it's equivalent to an entire fleet, and a big one at that (as evidenced by the fact that one cube could destroy 39 starships with hardly any trouble). But since they're Borg, they put it all in one unified, homogeneous package rather than a bunch of smaller, separate ones.
Keith DeCandido
22. krad
Just a quick note, as I'm at Farpoint -- I struggled with the warp factor rating, but ultimately what led to me giving it a 6 was how I felt while watching it. Where, with Part 1, I kept having to pause the DVD so my notes could catch up, that wasn't an issue with Part 2. I was not gripped by Part 2. Indeed, I spent the rewatch of Part 2 being in what Dave Lister would call a state of un-grippedness.

And the ending didn't work. Christopher, I agree with you in the abstract, as I said in the rewatch, that ingenuity over brute force was absolutely the right way to go. But they blew it.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Raphael Della Ratta
23. John R. Ellis
Much as I love these three episodes, I have to agree that the pay-off doesn't quite measure up to the build-up.

But they kept me watching. Before this, I'd been a casual viewer. After this, I was a fan.

And hey, Family is next! The Next Gen episode that dared to explore the consequences of the story. How very un-Trek-like. But it worked beautifully.
Raphael Della Ratta
24. Seryddwr
I'm glad to see that I wasn't the only person watching to think that the idea of the Enterprise's deflector weapon failing, the Borg seeing the ship was defenceless, and not finishing the ship off was pretty thin. It's all the more difficult a plot hole to negotiate because it could have been ameliorated by a few well-chosen lines in the following scene - a brief conversation in the obs lounge, in which disbelief was expressed that the ship was left alone, and someone (Data, maybe?) theorises that the Borg no longer see the Enterprise as a threat.

As for the other plot hole - the destruction of the Borg cube - I never had so much of a problem with it. If Data has essentially hacked the Borg's systems, it follows that the regenerative cycle has probably not been initiated in the usual way. I always rationalised that he managed it in such a ham-fisted way that the feedback loop was a by-product.

6 out of 10? Meh. Not as good as Part 1, or 'Family', come to that, but definitely worth a point of two more.
Justin Devlin
25. EnsignJayburd
@krad:
ingenuity over brute force was absolutely the right way to go. But they blew it.
As Guinan would say, I think that's a bit harsh. We knew the Borg could regenerate their ship and we knew that it was at full strength. Data being able to plant a command to regenerate was not a deus ex machina, nor do I think it was a farfetched conclusion that the ship would blow up as a result of "regeneration overload." As Crusher said, their collective consciousness was their achilles heel. Data proved that adequately, I think. Incidentally, it was also a great set-up to the Borg Queen being "interested" in Data in First Contact.

And yes, the whole assimilation tubules/nanoprobes thing got retconn'ed from First Contact on, but it was a pretty damned cool idea. Q said "the Borg is the ultimate user," but really they're the ultimate zombie. And this is coming from a SciFi fan who hates zombies.
rick gregory
26. rickg
Sorry Christopher, but you're still making up a large part of 'what the Borg must be doing' and to me the point of a story is to draw me in and convince me by showing me. If I have to make up a whole backstory for a new alien threat just so that I can excuse why they didn't send more than one cube, that's not good story-telling. There are two other things wrong with your analysis:

One, you can't really use anything not known at the time of the episode to excuse its flaws. Sorry, Voyager and later eps didn't exist so it's unreasonable to use such post hoc evidence to explain things in this story. None of us could have known any of what you assert at the time of the episode's airing.

Two, you claim I'm 'thinking like a human.' Well, I hate to break it to you but both of us are humans. Your attempt to think like a Borg is a human attempting to think like a fictional alien. Hell, if I do that I look at a civilization that admires collective action and shuns individuality and I see even MORE reason to not send one, single, individual ship. No matter how powerful, it's single point of failure.

Finally, let's say that your post hoc analysis is correct and the Borg are under pressure around their own territory. Then you need to explain why they send even one ship. If one ship is all they could spare because of military pressure, why send even one since the Federation wasn't a threat? If they can spare one ship to go all that way, why not two? The argument seems to be that they could spare one, but no more. In that situation it seems silly to send even the one... just postpone dealing with that pesky, minor, far away Federation until you have more resources.
Raphael Della Ratta
27. Codefox
I never really understood why the Borg only sent a single ship in First Contact. They'd already lost once to the Federation so for such an adaptable race, it never made sense to come with one ship a second time. But this first time never bothered me. We don't know what Borg vessel was attacking the settlements in the Neutral Zone but if it were something other than a Borg cube that sent a message home that said that the Federation was ripe for invasion and couldn't possibly beat the Borg, then a single cube made sense. And really, if not for Data, then its pretty unlikely the Alpha Quadrant could have stood up at all.

I also didn't mind the conclusion. We'll never know if Data's hack job or something else caused the self destruct. Maybe it was a security measure that activated if the system knew it was hacked. A Borg ship taken over by outside forces would be something the Borg would probably want to avoid.

Also, to #3: Perhaps the Enterprise caught up because the Borg had spent time regenerating after the battle. We saw the Borg ship whole and the fleet was decimated so the assumption is there was no damage done. We've seen the Borg ship (and probably it was this ship I'd imagine) regenerate damage before. It was a huge fleet and its not inconcievable that they did some damage to it, requiring it to regenerate before continuing on.
Raphael Della Ratta
28. StrongDreams
Whether you are a TNG Borg, an all-ST Borg (encompassing later knowledge) or a TV writer, sending one Borg cube to attack the central planet of the Federation is stupid.

Given the Borg's stated goal, their response to a species/society with inferior technology should be to ignore it, unless it occupies strategic location or resources. The Borg were already sampling Federation technology at the end of season 1, and they presumably decided there was no point to a full scale invasion. With the Enterprise showing up in Borg space, the Federation suddenly becomes a target, because they seem to have transport capability far more advanced that the Borg (it took the Borg a year to cover distance the Enterprise covered in seconds. The Borg don't know about Q.)

So the Borg now view the Federation as either a threat, or an opportunity for new technology, or both. Under the circumstances, they could do one of two things. (a) capture the Enterprise and interrogate her crew and her technology, or (b) invade the Federation. If you invade, you start on the edges and nibble inward. Even the Borg need to keep their supply lines open -- to think that they don't need food, water, or at least antimatter to generate power to produce these other things, is just lazy writing. Driving straight to the central plaent of the Federation is incredibly risky. If 39 ships couldn't blow up one cube, how about 390? You think the Federation would sit on theor hands while the Borg assimilated Earth? Maybe a desparate alliance between the Romulans, Klingons and Federation. Bring enough ships and take the cube down. (Maybe with the Romulans and Klingons fighting over the remnants of a beaten Federation -- good starting point for a book series.)

But taking one ship to Earth is just stupid. Even if the Borg assimilated all the people there, and they all got in Federation starships and tried to spread the contagion, those ships would be old technology and normally vulnerable. It's not as though capturing Earth would automatically turn the entire Federation into Borg.

What would conquering Earth do that conquering some other planet -- closer to Borg space and less well defended -- would not achieve?

The Borg should have either sent one ship to assimilate the Enterprise, and then start assimilating outlying worlds, or it should have mounted a full invasion starting at the borderlands and moving inwards.
Justin Devlin
29. EnsignJayburd
@28. Strongdreams:

By "interrogate her crew and technology" I believe you meant to say "assimilate."

Interrogation is irrelevant.
Raphael Della Ratta
30. StrongDreams
@29, no, I meant interrogate.

The Borg are not going to assimilate technology that does not enhance their own. Assuming they behaved rationally, and not by writer fiat, once they discovered that the Enterprise lacked an advanced propulsion system, and was technologically inferior to them in every way, they would assimilate the crew and just destroy or abandon the Enterprise.

In fact, there is only one thing on board the Enterprise that a Borg collective would want, and that is Data, not a human intermediary.

A rational Borg collective would send one cube to Federation space, assimilate Data (and not in a sexy "you complete me" way), then hide in a nebula somewhere while ocassionally picking off colonists and crews of passing ships, building their population and constructing additional cubes. Meanwhile, other cubes would be doing the same thing on the edges of all the territories bordering theirs.
Raphael Della Ratta
31. Gettysburg7
To me the high point of this episode has always been the talk, and lesson in leadership, Guinan gives Riker. I will admit that I think 99% of the time Whoopi Goldberg's performace as Guinan makes me shake my head and love the character, but this talk, is to me, one of the character highlights of the series. It is quiet but filled with power and emotion. A very well written, superbly performed moment in Trek.
Raphael Della Ratta
32. oldfan
I rather like the idea of the Borg contemptuosly failing to destroy the Enterprise. It adds to their aura of invincibility. Why bother to swat an annoying fly? On the other hand, Starfleet's defense strategy seems odd. Knowing that the Borg had Picard, why didn't Hansen let the Klingon and (maybe) Romulan ships take the lead, since tapping Picard's knowledge might be less useful there? Also, the idea of ramming at warp speed never occured to any of the other 40 ships? Finally, shoudn't Earth have massive planetary defenses, and what exactly are those never seen again things the Borg blow up at the "mars defense perimeter?"

Like some other commenters, I think you are alittle low here. 7 or 8 seems about right.
Adam Whitehead
33. Werthead
I agree that saying that Hansen is a moron is a misreading of what he's saying. What he's saying is that Picard is a POW who has had information forcibly extracted from him; 'assistance' implies helping the Borg of his own violition, which is not the case. Hansen then agrees with Crusher that they have to write Picard off and proceed on the assumption he cannot be recovered, which is harsh but probably sensible in this situation.

As for why the Borg never send more ships, I always liked to think that it was simply because they didn't have any ships close by. If we assume the ship in BoBW is the same one from Q Who, it may be an outlying scout (and maybe the ship that tore up the Neutral Zone offscreen in S1 was a small scout like Hugh's ship in I, Borg, not a full-on big cube that can take on all of Starfleet). After all, Q 'only' sent the Enterprise 7,000 light-years, whilst the bulk of Borg space - as seen in VOYAGER - is 40,000+ light-years away.

So in this scenario, Q sent the Enterprise into the path of a single, long-range patrol cube operating far beyond their borders in Q Who. The Borg got the coordinates of Earth (downloaded during their foray into Engineering) and after the Enterprise somehow escaped them they decided that Earth was an important target. The cube immediately changed course for the Federation, reaching it 18 months later (faster than the Enterprise could have managed - which would have been more than 2 years - but not ridiculously so). It then got blown up. No other Borg ships are close enough to reinforce it (at least until a transwarp conduit can be built into Federation space), so it remains an outlier event.

Of course, Peter David's excellent 'Vendetta' novel does have the Borg coming in force, sending five (IIRC) cubes into Federation space. Fortunately, the Federation has the super-sized version of the Doomsday Machine from TOS to help take them out. That novel also has the fabulous moment when a Borg cube (weakened by a failed subspace weapon, to be sure) gets blown to pieces by the USS Repulse using the deflector beam weapon, and the Enterprise crew high-five each other that, "It would have worked!"

An excellent novel. Later Peter David Borg books, like the one where a super-sized Borg vessle eats Pluto, not so much.
Raphael Della Ratta
34. StrongDreams
like the one where a super-sized Borg vessle eats Pluto

There were Borg on Lexx?
Raphael Della Ratta
35. John_M_Harper
Keith, talking about your memories of your first watching, I would have been 9 (screening in NZ would have been about a year behind the USA) and I remember the whole family watching and being totally entranced and then when picard tells data to sleep and crusher says 'he's exhausted' my mother screamed 'he's telling you to make the borg sleep you dozy bitch!'

thats my only memory from our family weekly watching of star trek and i'll always remember it for the intensity this double episode had on all of us.
Raphael Della Ratta
36. FurrBear
Actually, the Borg ship exploding made perfect sense to me. Granted that this is never stated in the episode, but it seemed clear to me that as a hive mind their ship would be built with the assumption that said hive mind would be ever available to regulate its systems and only some portion of the drones aboard would be offline regenerating at any given time. With ALL the drones forced into regeneration mode at once, there was nothing/no one to regulate the cube's systems and ... blooey.

Remember, it's "Resistance is futile," not "Resistance is unlikely to be effective." Having backup systems for something the Borg (to that point) saw as invincible would be considered inefficient.
Geoffrey Dow
37. ed-rex
I haven't re-watched this episode since (probably) a re-run or two in the years immediately following the original broadcast, but I certainly do remember the anticipation - in fact, the excitement I felt in the run-up to the Season Four opener.

I remember that anticipation even better than I do the sense of disappointment I felt after the fact.

It wasn't the anti-climactic (and, as has been pointed out, the anti-logical) way the Borg were defeated - I knew the Borg weren't going to assimilate the earth - but with the victory of standard-issue episodic television over drama that might bring genuine change to its characters.

See, much as I loved watching Patrick Stewart's Jean-Luc Picard, by this point I was coming to appreciate Riker and I thought the woman playing Shelby was utterly convincing - possibly the first time Trek managed to create a kick-ass woman one could believe in.

I thought then, and suspect I would still think now, if I re-watched, that the show would have had a much better long-term future if they'd had the nerve to do the logical thing: beat the Borg (of course, somehow) but have Picard go down with them.

A program that had seen the next episode start with Riker in Command, mourning the loss(es) and having to rebuild, would have been a program might have become a genuine drama, instead of just another space opera that would go and on (and on) until ratings or sagging bodies decreed it was time to end.
Raphael Della Ratta
38. don3comp
The first time the crew encountered the Borg, they needed Q to save them. This time, they saved themselves. To me, that seems to express Gene Roddenberry's optimistic view of humanity rather well.
Raphael Della Ratta
39. NullNix
rickg@5, I see the Borg as opportunistic hunters. They *could* defeat the Federation by sending two or three ships, but why bother? They have many easier targets closer to home. In fact, one interpretation derived from Werthead@33's idea, and ignoring everything we learn after this episode, would have the Borg as *single-ship* collectives, like ant colonies, assimilating other species and fighting each other as viciously as ant colonies do. Under this interpretation there's no way the ship in _Q, Who_ would have told any of their rival ships a thing about this rich target -- no, they spent a year and a half getting to the Federation to pluck it for themselves and build a huge batch of offspring ships, and when they got blown up instead, no other Borg knew about it. This would also explain the paranoid internal security on the Borg's internal data access channels (which may well extend to self-destruction if penetration was detected: you may die but your offspring cubes will survive) -- who would be trying to access them that you would need to defend against? Who else but another Borg!

If they had remained modelled on how social insects *actually* behave rather than gaining a ridiculous all-controlling time-travelling dictator Queen, all that would have been plausible. (As for assimilation, well, a good few species of ant in particular are slavers, stealing ants from other colonies and converting them into workers for their own. Sounds a lot like Borg assimilation, doesn't it?)
Raphael Della Ratta
40. Ashcom
Not commenting on the episode itself, but in agreement with #31, one of the joys of rewatching these episodes has been the performance of Whoopie Goldberg as Guinan. I'm so used to seeing her performing the kind of broad slapstick comedy of so many of her movies, that it is sometimes hard to remember what a truly fine actress she is. In both the scene with Riker in this episode and the scene in Ten Forward in the first part, she is utterly compelling.
Raphael Della Ratta
41. Nandros
I just revently watched this chapter on shows re-run in this part of the globe (Finland).
I saw these two episodes when I was 10 or 9 (I think) and these two episodes scared the hell out of me as a kid, not becauzse they are scary per se but the eximent (and suspencion) especially in the first part was too much for me back then which I take as an indication of a great episode.

As for the why the cube exploded, imho that's because it's a fail safe mechanism to prevent enemy from taking over the cube in case of a catastrophic system failure (which it essentially was) or they have a power plant that requires constant supervision and when everyone goes to sleep *poof* no one to take over in case of emergency, though any modern powerplant has fail safes for that but maybe the borg just weren't interested in observing safety protocols.
Raphael Della Ratta
42. Etherbeard
"...after Guinan tells him to set Picard aside and take over, he moves heaven and Earth to get Picard back."

Riker's plan wasn't to get Picard--it was to get Locutus, his reasoning being that they might gain vital knowledge of the Borg through Locutus in the same way the Borg gained Picard's knowledge of Starfleet defenses after his assimilation. It's only after getting Locutus into sickbay that Crusher offers even a glimmer of hope that they might be able to get Picard back.
Raphael Della Ratta
43. JohnC
I think I was most fascinated by the moment where Data's attempts to hack into the Borg consciousness via Locutus triggers a physical reaction by Locutus and Data ends up ripping off his (its?) right appendage. Ironically, both characters at this point are essentially machines, yet they both appear to be somewhat stunned by each other's actions. (I found it unintentionally funny when Locutus raises his right arm and looks at where his evil pincer looking thing used to be attached, almost wistfully, lol).

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