Aug 24 2012 4:15pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “I, Borg”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on I, Borg“I, Borg”
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by Robert Lederman
Season 5, Episode 23
Production episode 40275-223
Original air date: May 11, 1992
Stardate: 45854.2

Captain’s Log: The Enterprise is exploring a region that might be viable for colonization when Data detects a signal from a Class-M moon orbiting the fourth planet of the system. In case it’s a distress signal, they head over. Riker, Worf, and Crusher beam down to find a downed Borg ship and one life sign—an injured Borg drone. There’s no indication of any other Borg activity—at least not yet. There are four other drones, all dead.

Picard’s initial instinct is to leave as quickly as possible (as soon as Riker says the word “Borg,” he becomes apprehensive to say the least), but Crusher can’t just leave a dying person behind. Picard agrees, having the drone beamed to a detention cell. Crusher will work on him there, and La Forge sets up a subspace field so the drone can’t communicate with the rest of the collective.

The implants in the Borg’s brain are causing problems, but Picard explains to Crusher that she can’t remove them permanently without killing him, as their brains over time grow too dependent on the implants. (One assumes that Picard wasn’t a Borg long enough for that to be an issue.) She suggests La Forge construct new implants, and Picard wonders if they can program those implants to place an invasive program into the Borg’s brain—which could be transferred to the rest of the collective, acting like a virus.

In a meeting, they discuss options, and La Forge and Data believe they can construct an invasive program that would, within a few months, result in total systems failure. Crusher makes it clear that by “total systems failure,” they’re talking about genocide here, but Picard insists that it’s the only option. They can’t negotiate with the Borg, and the Borg have made it clear that they only wish to assimilate humanity.

The drone wakes up, and seeks out an access terminal that it can’t find in the holding cell. Crusher says that if she didn’t know better, she’d say he was scared.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on I, Borg

Picard and Guinan fence, and Guinan thinks that having the drone on board is a mistake. “They’ll come after us, you know that.” As if to prove the point, when they have another go, Guinan fakes an injury while they fence. When Picard asks if she’s all right, she touches him with her foil. “You felt sorry for me, look where it got you.”

La Forge needs to give the drone an energy conduit so it can feed. Worf accompanies La Forge into the cell when the latter hooks it up. The drone starts the usual Borg rant about assimilation and resistance being futile, and all that. He identifies himself as Third of Five.

Crusher and La Forge beam him to the lab so they can work on the program. Crusher is still not happy about it. Third of Five is confused about what a doctor does—the sick and injured are just reabsorbed into the collective. They want to ask him some questions—ostensibly to see if the new implants are working, but really so La Forge can figure out how his cybernetic pathways work so he can put in the invasive program. Third of Five asks Crusher and La Forge for their designations, and they explain that they have names, instead. “I’m Beverly, he’s Geordi, and you—” He repeats the word “you,” and La Forge then decides to go all punny on us and gives him the name “Hugh.” “We are Hugh,” the drone agrees.

Hugh explains how quiet it is on the Enterprise; he’s used to the voices of all the other drones on board a ship. Crusher realizes that he’s lonely. Hugh also wants to know what will happen to him. La Forge sorta kinda tells the truth when he replies that he’ll be returned to the collective.

Speaking of whom, long-range sensors pick up a Borg scout ship en route to the star system. It will arrive in 31 hours.

Going for a drink in Ten-Forward, La Forge finds Guinan an unusually unsympathetic ear, as she is revolted at the idea of naming the Borg and individualizing it and that he has second thoughts about their plan. She reminds La Forge that that “kid’s” big brothers will be by soon enough, and they will destroy the Enterprise without any of his soul searching.

Angrily La Forge says she should try talking to Hugh before passing judgment. She says she has nothing to say to him, and La Forge says maybe she should just listen, which is what she claims she’s best at. So she goes to the detention cell, tells Hugh that her people did resist the Borg. They have no homeworld, and there are very few of her species left, but still resistance was not futile. Hugh realizes that Guinan is lonely—just as Crusher said he was.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on I, Borg

Hugh asks La Forge a lot of questions, and La Forge explains about individuality versus being part of a collective. When Hugh asks how he deals with loneliness, he says he has friends, and Hugh decides that he and La Forge are friends.

Data and La Forge show Picard their “virus”—it’s a complex geometric form, a paradox that cannot actually exist in reality. Hugh will try to analyze it, as will the collective when they reabsorb Hugh; each analysis will provide a different anomalous result, and those anomalies will interact with each other and cause more anomalies, eventually overwhelming the collective, causing a system shutdown. La Forge also confesses his second thoughts to Picard, whose response is to cite scientists who got overly attached to laboratory animals, and he coldly tells La Forge to unattach himself from Hugh.

Guinan comes to visit Picard in his quarters, as visiting Hugh has also given her second thoughts. Picard is aghast, considering that two days ago she was so angry at even having him on board, she tore his foil out of his hands. Guinan is similarly aghast to learn that Picard hasn’t actually talked to Hugh. “If you are going to use this person to destroy his race, you should at least look him in the eye once before you do it.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on I, Borg

Picard has Hugh beamed into his ready room, accompanied by Worf. Picard tells Worf to wait outside, which the Klingon is not happy about. Hugh greets Picard as Locutus, and Picard immediately takes on that role. He instructs Hugh to identify himself. At first, he calls himself Hugh, but after “Locutus” tells him that isn’t a Borg designation, he finally says he’s Third of Five. He tells “Locutus” that humans don’t wish to be assimilated and that they will resist. Hugh actually pleads for La Forge’s life, saying the engineer does not wish to be assimilated, and Hugh doesn’t want La Forge to die, which is the altnerative.

When “Locutus” instructs Third of Five to assist him in readying this ship for assimilation, Hugh says, “I will not help you,” and Picard is shocked to hear the first-person-single pronoun rather than the ubiquitous “we.” When Picard insists that he’s Borg, he says, “No, I am Hugh.”

Picard meets with Riker, La Forge, and Crusher to discuss other options, as he has come to realize that their original plan would make them no better than the Borg. The option they come up with is actually very similar to the first one, except the “invasive program” that Hugh will bring back to the collective is the very notion of individuality. That could be just as devastating to the Borg as the paradoxical geometric shape, and certainly more compassionate.

Crusher brings up an excellent point, though: what if Hugh doesn’t want to go back?

So Picard and La Forge ask Hugh, and he’s confused and amazed at the concept of choice. He would choose to stay with La Forge if he could, but he also knows that the Borg will never stop looking for him, and for the sake of his new friends, he must go back. La Forge asks to accompany him to the crash site, while the Enterprise hides in the sun’s chromospheres until the Borg are gone. Hugh says goodbye to La Forge, saying he will try to remember him.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on I, Borg

Two Borg materialize on the surface, examine Hugh—or, rather, Third of Five—remove components from the other four, causing them to disintegrate, and then the three of them transport away.

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Because a more traditional invasive program would be detected by the Borg (one assumes they regularly update their Norton Utilities...), Data and La Forge decide to hit it with a mathematical paradox—it’s a charmingly more sophisticated version of Kirk and the gang wiping out Norman in the similarly titled “I, Mudd” with a verbal paradox on the original series.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi tries to get Picard to talk about how he feels about having a Borg drone on board, and Picard shuts her completely down.

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf’s initial recommendation is to kill the drone and make it look like he died in the crash, leaving no evidence that they were there. It’s a smart recommendation on the face of it, but the coldness of it acts like a bucket of ice water in Picard’s face, and in an odd way seems to lead to his agreeing to beam the future Hugh on board.

Worf is notably not consulted on anything other than security for the rest of the episode, which is kind of too bad, as I doubt he would change his position the way Picard and Guinan did. However, a Klingon argument—he’s the enemy, kill him—probably wouldn’t have advanced the episode’s point.

Syntheholics Anonymous: Guinan’s usual compassion-o-meter is on the fritz where the Borg are concerned, since they wiped out her people, and like everyone else, she’s shocked when Hugh turns out to be a person.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on I, Borg

I Believe I Said That: “Resistance—is not futile?”

Hugh having his whole world turned upside down by La Forge.

Welcome Aboard: Only one real guest, beyond the recurring Whoopi Goldberg—turning in a particularly good performance as a Guinan out of her comfort zone—and that’s the spectacular Jonthan del Arco as Hugh, f.k.a. Third of Five, who gives a subtle, powerful performance.

Trivial Matters: Peter David’s TNG novel Vendetta, which came out a year prior to this episode’s airing, also had La Forge dealing with a Borg separated from the collective, but in that novel the drone was unable to move past the collective nor regain any sense of individuality.

Hugh’s “invasive program” will affect a segment of Borg, as we’ll see when Hugh returns in “Descent.”

This story picks up on Picard’s experiences being assimilated by the Borg and its emotional fallout in the two parts of “The Best of Both Worlds” and in “Family,” which inform how Crusher and La Forge proceed (since Picard has insider knowledge of how the Borg function), and also has a severe impact on his decision-making and his emotions. Notably, when the Borg return in Star Trek: First Contact, that movie’s script acts as if this episode (and “Descent”) never happened.

The Borg nomenclature of “X of Y,” where Y is a number greater than or equal to X, is established in this episode, and will be seen again most obviously in the Voyager regular Seven of Nine.

This is one of only two TNG episodes directed by Robert Lederman (“Force of Nature” will be the other), who mostly served as an editor on all four modern Trek spinoffs. This is also the first Borg episode not to be scored by Ron Jones, who scored both “Q Who” and both parts of “The Best of Both Worlds.” The music for this one was by Jay Chattaway, who will also score both parts of “Descent,” the Borg’s next and final TNG appearance, as well as several Borg-focused Voyager episodes (notably both parts of “Scorpion”).

This is the second time we’ve seen Picard fence, having seen him don mask and foil previously in “We’ll Always Have Paris.”

This is one of many titles all over pop culture that riff on the title of the Robert Graves novel I, Claudius (the BBC adaptation of which featured Sir Patrick Stewart as Sejanus). Probably the most famous riff on it is Isaac Asimov’s story cycle I, Robot.

Make it So: “We are Hugh.” I have conflicting feelings about this episode, but a lot of the negative feelings aren’t really this episode’s fault, but rather what this storyline led to, to wit, the defanging of the Borg.

But then again, I can’t really blame the writers for taking this route, because what makes the Borg awesome is also what makes it impossible to write for them. The Borg as we saw in “Q Who” are unstoppable—and, in fact, our heroes couldn’t stop them there, needing Q’s intervention to even survive. Even if you find a way to beat them, they adjust and that won’t work twice, and so far the only way anyone came up with to beat them (in “The Best of Both Worlds Part II”) was pretty darned lame.

Worse, the Borg are force-of-nature villains, which makes it hard to come up with stories for them on a regular basis. The best recurring villains are ones with personality, and the Borg can’t possibly have that.

Or can they? The door to this episode was opened by Picard’s being assimilated by the Borg in “The Best of Both Worlds” and then reverted back to human in Part 2—and just generally in the notion that the Borg assimilate other species into Borg. So what happens if one is separated from the collective and the person he or she was starts to come to the fore?

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on I, Borg

Echevarria’s script is beautifully done, as we start with La Forge and Crusher, who default to compassion in any case, the latter as a doctor, the former as a (mostly) likeable nerd. I particularly like that Crusher refuses to coat anything in euphemisms, and reminding everyone that they’re actually talking about genocide.

But what makes the episode shine is Picard and Guinan, two characters who are normally the very model of compassion, but who both have (perfectly understandable) blind spots when it comes to the Borg. Watching their transformation from vengeance-fueled anger (though neither admits this is the case) to the compassion that would be their characters’ default with any other species is one of the episode’s many high points.

However, the longer he’s separated from the collective, the more individual this drone becomes—Third of Five becomes Hugh—and the more it becomes impossible to use him as a weapon. When Hugh cowered from what he thought was Locutus and said he did not want to hurt his friend, I found myself reminded (favorably) of Pulaski’s line in “Pen Pals” when she says that Data’s friend is in trouble and that means something—and it means something here, because Hugh is just as much an individual as Data is, and the rights Picard fought for regarding Data in both “The Measure of a Man” and “The Offspring” apply to Hugh as well.

This episode changed the Borg, truly, because it became impossible to think of them as entirely evil bad guy drones. They’ve become humanized, which can make for a more interesting story, but makes for worse villains. (Indeed, the character of Seven of Nine goes on a journey similar to that of Hugh, only she spends several seasons of a TV show doing it.) This episode also made it easier to do Borg stories, which also served to render them less interesting, as an unstoppable foe becomes less impressive with overuse, and the Borg have indeed been seriously overused at his point.

Ultimately, though, I can’t really blame the episode for what came later, and this is a very strong story, one that deeply affects several characters on a deep, personal level, and in two cases makes them confront their prejudices and their demons. Plus, it’s never a bad thing when TNG actually remembers its character continuity.


Warp factor rating: 8

Keith R.A. DeCandido has never written the Borg in his Star Trek fiction, unless you include Picard channeling Locutus in his Perchance to Dream comic book miniseries.

Sean O'Hara
1. Sean O'Hara
Let me get this straight, LaForge, you want to destroy the Borg by showing them an Escher drawing? Really? I mean, you have Mr. Data standing right next to you and I don't see any smoke coming from his head, but you expect us to believe the Borg are too stupid to recognize that the analysis is futile and give up?
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
2. Lisamarie
I actually thought this episode made the Borg MORE interesting - it adds some depth and possibility to them. However, at this point I have not seen most of the future episodes, nor have I seen much of DS9/Voyager, so I guess I can't say. But until now, I thought the Borg were kind of boring. Scary - but boring. Kind of like Tolkien's orcs (although in his letters I believe he did regret making them seem so always 'chaotic evil' and said that theoretically, they SHOULD be able to be redeemed, as to say otherwise would go against his beliefs on free will and the ultimate goodness of creation, and the idea that Satan can only twist but is not more powerful than God). They definitely have some interesting features (the cybernetics, collective mentality, etc) but overall, I did not find them as interesting as, say, the Romulans.

I think language and how we construct euphenisms for things very I also enjoyed Crusher's popping that particular bubble.

That being said, how would I feel if Hugh didn't turn out to be a nice guy? If it seemed like the Borg were incapable of redemption? Can you make that judgment based just on him? Would it be okay to send him as a walking bomb, more or less, to his people. I'm not even sure myself. My very practical side says 'hell to the yes!' but my more idealistic 'dignity of life' side says, 'the ends do not justify the means, that is not cool!'. Discuss!
Jonathan Crowe
3. mcwetboy
This episode is to TNG what "Devil in the Dark" was to the original series, and it would have been an excellent place at which to end the Matter of the Borg; of course they didn't, they couldn't, they couldn't help themselves. (Then again, I think Spock should have stayed dead after Wrath of Khan, so clearly I'm no fun.)
Sean O'Hara
4. Don3Comp
First, I have to get this out of the way: Crusher drove me crazy in this episode! Her concern about genocide is admirable, but these are the creatures that abducted her captain and shoved a flashlight up his noggin. How about some sensitivity, Doc?

Having said that, I think Picard's arc with the Borg is a nice parallel to the leap Kirk had to make with the Klingons in "Star Trek VI."

I disagree that the episode made the Borg "worse villains." (THAT honor belongs to most of the "Voyager" Borg episodes! After those, Caspar the Friendly Ghost was scarier!) That the Borg got to a point where they could be manipulated by someone like Lore makes them plenty terrifying. But did they still have the mystique they had in "Q Who?" No. But your point about their having to become humanized to become more interesting is a good one. The creation of the Queen, who could represent them (sort of in the way that Davros represented the Daleks, for somewhat the same reason), was one solution.

Keith, I share your conflicted feelings about this episode, though perhaps for different reasons. I remember that, when we first saw this episode in the college dorm, my buddies and I said, "after "Q Who?" and "The Best of Both Worlds," THIS is what we get?!" I happen to like it better in retrospect, in light of "Descent." For me, "I, Borg" works better as a chapter of a larger story, rather than a "book" in its own right.
Heidi Breton
5. AnemoneFlynn
I was very much drawn into the moral quandary in this episode, wondering which way Picard would eventually jump - would he decide that all the Borg were 'dead' already and it was fine to put an end to them, or would he see the possibility for redemption and put the worth of each individual into the price of annihilation of the species?

I also think this episode made the Borg more interesting - it gave us a chance to see that they could be something else, if they were not stuck in the Collective. The tragedy becomes much bigger when you consider all the individual thoughts, feelings, and desires being constantly suppressed by the necessity to assimilate others into the same hell.
Lee VanDyke
6. Cloric
I watched this one with some discomfort, especially knowing the individual that Hugh would become. It was easier to take the journey with the crew the first time, after that, you just want to smack them a bit.

And was anyone else the least bit bothered that Captain Jean-Luc Picard seemed to be almost advocating animal testing, even unto the death of the subject? I know, it was a different time on TV, but still. Even a toss-away comment such as "before we had the means to computer model" or something.
Sean O'Hara
7. StrongDreams
I was never very happy with how the Borg stories were handled. Infinite magical adaptability, for one thing. (Yes, sometimes you can adapt to a threat by adding a piece of stock hardware to your threat that you don't normally carry because of the energy or weight penalty,or by throwing a toggle in the computer, but sometimes you have to go down to engineering and actually invent or build new hardware.)

That said, this was probably one of the better Borg stories because it focused on the concept of individuality rather than technobabble. But I agree that this, or "Descent", should have been the last Borg episodes.
Sean O'Hara
8. tbor54
Lord, I hate this episode. Picard is responsible for the death of every being the Borg kill after this. He had a chance to stop it and didn't.

Here's a tip, Jean Luc. When an entire race of beings declares that they are going to, for all intents and purposes, wipe out every race in the Federation, and came within a hair of doing it a couple of years ago, taking what you think is the high road so you can sleep peacefully at night doesn't cut it.

Good thing you were able to stop the Borg the next time they came to Earth. I hope there's someone else to stop them next time, and the next time, and the next time. Meanwhile, the Borg continue to branch out into every sector of space, destroying or assimilating every race in their path. Think about that while you're trying to go to sleep.
Sean O'Hara
9. Christopher L. Bennett
It's interesting to compare Hugh, who was easily converted to individuality, and Seven of Nine, who resisted it fiercely. I feel that, paradoxically, the reason for that is that Hugh was a purer Borg. This was before First Contact retconned the Borg into space zombies and had every drone be an assimilated person; TNG established in "Q Who" that drones were grown from infancy aboard the cubes. Hugh had no identity beyond Third of Five, no pre-assimilation life to remember; he was a blank slate whose entire life had been defined by going along with the crowd. So when he was placed amidst a new crowd with a different set of ideas -- namely, that individual life and free will mattered -- he quickly embraced those views because it was his nature as a Borg drone to conform to those around him. He literally let himself be assimilated into the Enterprise crew's culture and mentality. Conversely, Annika Hansen was taken by the Borg as a child. So when she was removed from the Collective and forced to think as an individual again, she still had the psychology of that frightened human child, and thus fiercely resisted another enforced change in identity, clinging to her sense of self in a way no pure Borg drone ever could, even though she defined herself as a Borg. There's a choice irony that Seven resisted humanization because of her human attributes, while Hugh was easily humanized because of his Borg attributes. At least, that's how I see it.

Another change between this and VGR: This is the only time a Borg's designation is given as an ordinal number. I guess they thought "Seventh of Nine" didn't sound as good as "Seven of Nine." And "Survival Instinct" gave us Seven's "siblings" Two, Three, and Four of Nine.

As for the title, it's probably as much a play on "cyborg" as on I, Robot. (Although I can't help hearing it and thinking, "You are not Borg, you are not Eyborg!")

@8: No, Picard is not responsible for the people the Borg killed after this. The Borg are responsible for that. Picard was only responsible for the morality of his own actions and choices. And even aside from the ethical question, we know, in the long term, that the effectiveness of Hugh's "individuality virus" was limited, and that most of the Collective survived (though that wasn't clear until FC, since "Descent" was ambiguous about whether all or just some Borg had been individualized). So it stands to reason that the original souped-up-Kirk-logic-puzzle virus wouldn't have been any more pervasive in its effects.

Oh, I almost forgot the blowing of my own horn: Hugh returns in my TNG novel Greater Than the Sum. But of course we have "Descent" and a lot of other Borg stories to get through first.
Sean O'Hara
10. Svenn Diagram
My problem with this episode is the conclusion is stupid on the face of it. The Borg expand numbers by assimilation, they do not reproduce. EVERY SINGLE member of the collective was an individual before becoming Borg. If the Borg had no defense against individualism, they wouldn't have gotten off the ground.
Sean O'Hara
11. tbor54
"No, Picard is not responsible for the people the Borg killed after this.
The Borg are responsible for that. Picard was only responsible for the
morality of his own actions and choices."

You left one out. Picard is responsible for his own actions and choices, and the consequences that result.
Sean O'Hara
12. Scavenger
I generaly dislike this episode, too. In part because of the defanging of the Borg, but mostly for Crusher and the LaForge/Guinan and Guinan/Picard exchanges:

Crew: He's borg, he's a danger to the federation!
Crusher: Aw, but he's sooo cute and cuddly!

L: Guinan, have you talked to him?
G: I have nothing to say.
L: Aw, but he's sooo cute and cuddly!
G: You're right! Huggies!

G: Captain, have you talked to him?
P: He's borg!
G: Aw, but he sooo cute and cuddly!
P: You're right! Huggies!
Sean O'Hara
13. StrongDreams
your assertion is contradicted by the show, I think, when they show a baby Borg in BOBW part 1, also, why are so many of the Borg human-like if their only contact with humans prior to BOBW was a few colonies they scooped and analyzed.

@CLB, yes most of the Borg in First Contact were assimilated crewmembers, because the Borg only managed to infiltrate with a tiny force and needed to assimilate the rest.

Of course if it was later established in Voyager that all Borg are assimilated and never bred in-house, that just proves (yet again) that the Voyager writers didn't know what they were doing.
Joseph Newton
14. crzydroid
I'm surprised no one mentioned the slip where he asks, "Do I have a name?" and then reverts back to "We are Hugh," and the ready room scene is supposed to be a big event of using "I".

Keith, this may be another moment to use the edit function, but I thought the quote in the I believe I said that section was in response to Guinan.

This was one of my favorite episodes, and I still liked it on the rewatch--I think there are a lot of powerful scenes in here.

As for defanging the Borg, I guess I would have to blame Voyager more too (though some of the comments I've read on various posts on here also have me re-examining FC a little more and the concept of the Queen versus the original Borg concept). But I think you're right that they painted themselves into a corner with the Borg. I don't think anything can match Q Who or BoBW part I...with just the eerieness and mystique of those episodes. In showing more and more Borg episodes, the Borg become familiar, and also after BoBW part II we've already seen the Borg defeated now...and with more episodes, they need to be defeated or put off again and again in order for our heroes and universe to remain in tact. Yet there is a desire for more Borg episodes, because they were so awesome. I feel like if ever I'm in charge of a tv show, I'm just going to make decisions and never listen to fans, because fans wanting more and more of something ultimately wrecks the thing they want more and more of.
Jack Flynn
15. JackofMidworld
This is one of my favorite episodes, too. I never actually watched Voyager (was stationed overseas when it came out and never picked up on it after I got back) so I only know Seven of Nine from her many, many pictures and posters.

That said, I assumed that the Borg Queen was more individual because of this episode and what happens after.
Sean O'Hara
16. StrongDreams
I never had a problem with the Borg Queen because in my own imagination, I explained it far better than the writers of FC. The Borg Collective doesn't need a queen in the sense of royalty or chief decision-maker, but what if it needed a certain minimum size to establish a new node of the collective if it was cut off from the rest. A sort of "boot disk" with the minimum Borg OS needed to establish a new node and then establish a subspace link with the rest of the collective. And isn't it more effecient if that minimum Borg OS is contained in 0ne unit rather than spread out amoung several. And wouldn't it be more efficient if that one "boot Borg" had some capacity for acting individually, to decided when, where and how to activate? And shouldn't there be many "boot Borgs" on a larger ship, in case they get separated. In the context of a large ship or node of the collective, the boot borg would be indistinguishable from any other borg, but once separated, their special function takes over.

Anyway, /geek
Alyssa Tuma
17. AlyssaT
"The Offspring" is my favorite episode, and I've always thought of "I
Borg" as sort its sister episode. Both are written by Echevarria and
both make me weepy. I like this one quite a bit.

As Keith points out, Picard and Guinan are fascinating to watch here and expertly acted. But this time around, I found myself noticing how great Geordi is in this one. It would have been really easy to make this supersaccharine, but it was downplayed. I thought it was a nice touch that Geordi didn't see Hugh's defense of him in Picard's ready room. And I also liked the subtlety of Geordi gently re-asking, "Are you sure you don't want to stay," and letting him go.

If I'm being honest, though, I suspect I always really liked "I Borg" because Hugh is a bit reminiscent of my biggest pop culture crush as a girl -- Edward Scissorhands.

Another reason to like this episode? To me, it sets off a great hat trick of "I Borg," "The Next Phase," and "The Inner Light" -- considering the sheer amount of TNG episodes (and the inevitable clunkers), I always thought it was really cool that three of my favorites (which are all good in pretty different ways) are in sequence.
Sean O'Hara
18. Christopher L. Bennett
@10: "My problem with this episode is the conclusion is stupid on the face of it. The Borg expand numbers by assimilation, they do not reproduce. EVERY SINGLE member of the collective was an individual before becoming Borg."

See, the problem with that is that, as we've been saying, that idea wasn't established until Voyager years later. At the time this episode was written, the precedent was "Q Who," which showed Borg being gestated from infancy aboard cubes. So this episode worked fine within the context of how TNG defined the Borg, before FC and VGR altered their portrayal.

In Greater Than the Sum I tried to reconcile the TNG and VGR versions of Borg. I suggested that they came in both varieties, assimilated and incubated, and that the incubated ones were more commonly posted on the frontiers (like near Federation space) because they had no prior identities and wouldn't go astray if control were interrupted; whereas the Borg in the Delta Quadrant were overwhelmingly assimilated because the war with Species 8472 had wiped out much of the Borg's population in the region and so they had to replenish their numbers by assimilating heavily.

@11: Blaming one person for "consequences" that are actually due to the choices of another person is questionable. If a doctor saves the life of a patient who was injured by driving drunk and the patient then recovers and drives drunk again and kills a nun crossing the street, that doesn't mean the doctor was wrong to save a life. Because it wasn't the doctor's choice that killed the nun, it was the patient's choice to drive drunk. The doctor knew there was a risk the patient would drive drunk again, but still, the patient is the one responsible for making that choice.

Besides, it's not as if Picard did nothing. He did, in fact, take an action which he believed had a good chance of diminishing the Borg's capacity to do harm. And, in fact, it succeeded, at least to the same degree the original plan probably would've. The infected Borg stopped being Borg. They became individuals. Okay, they were then suborned by Lore and turned into a rage cult for a while, but that was on Lore. And it was temporary. Ultimately Hugh led the liberated drones down a better path. And the Borg Collective's size and strength were diminished by the number of drones they lost to individuality -- which is probably the exact same number they would've lost to the paradox virus. (After all, whatever defenses protected the rest of the Collective from Hugh's individuality would've presumably protected them from the virus too.) So it is untrue that Picard failed to make a choice that would save lives. The choice he made was just as effective in the long run as the alternative would've been -- and in fact it saved more lives because it didn't exterminate the drones.
Sean O'Hara
19. JamesParr
I like this episode quite a bit. It did the only thing it could with the Borg-it made the conflict with them smaller and more intimate. Once you strip away the mass of Borg and just look at one, you have something much more interesting than the large, unstoppable force. This was the second attempt to personalize them, Picard being the first as Locutus. It works well.
I've always been able to reconcile the differences with the Borg. At first we saw them to just be home grown. Then we saw assimilated Borg. So, they have both. And after their first encounter with the Enterprise and their failure to get Earth they began to adapt more and became more aggressive, but they assimilated a lot more and cracks began to appear.
Picard made the right, moral choice here. You can't commit genocide in order to stop genocide.
Rob Rater
20. Quasarmodo
Really powerful episode. One of my favorites.
Sean O'Hara
21. tbor54
#18 "Blaming one person for "consequences" that are actually due to the choices of another person is questionable."

I see where you're coming from but I think your analogy is flawed. The doctor doesn't know for a fact that the drunk driver will kill the nun. Picard knows with 100% certainty that the Borg are assimilating (or attempting to assimilate with large losss of life) every race they encounter.

To me, this is more like a pacifist standing aside and letting someone kill a child because of his own objections to committing violence won't permit him to stop the killer.
Sean O'Hara
22. TBGH
Love that Guinan for once is the one who needs her views changed rather than being the changer.

The ending was a bit predictable, but still great episode because of Picard and Guinan.

As for the genocide to prevent genocide, it is clearly the last option, but it is an option if there is no other way to neutralize the threat. The officers were obviously being wildly optimistic that a clever computer virus could wipe out a civilization spanning hundreds or thousands of systems. But if they came up with a way that would wipe the Borg out I'd say do it. I'd also make efforts to capture and "unplug" as many drones as I could, but even a single true Borg in captivity has the capacity to wipe out civilizations and that can't stand if you have the power to prevent it.
Sean O'Hara
23. TBGH
Addendum: The picture that goes along with this post - Did anybody else see the illusion that the fish bowl looked like Hugh was looking into the face of Ripley's Alien? I did a double take before I clicked on the episode.
24. jlpsquared
First, I will say that this is one of the better episodes. The morals it portrays are frankly disgusting, as I will explain below, but it was well acted, and was an extremely enjoyable watch. Krad, you mention this is the first borg score not written by Ron Jones, you neglect to mention it is terrible. ;)

Now, I completely agree with Tbhor (#8), evey single death and assimilation after this point, in the federation, and outside of it, is the indirect fault of Jean Luc Picard. there is no excuse for his treason toward the concept of freedom in this episode. If I was a general above Picard I would have had him immediatly thrown out of starfleet, possibly including incarceration. In fact when DS9 first aired a few months later, I wondered why Sisko never mentioned the fact he could have destroyed all borg everywhere and didn't.

I will also throw it out there that even though I am HUGE fan of Star Trek, and and will forever love ST deep in my soul, this episode was the FIRST moment in my life when i realized that I disagree with a great deal of moral choices this crew makes. And I also am not on board philosophically with alot of my fellow fans.

@9, interesting take on Hugh "assimilating" with the enterprise crew, I never thought of that.

@12, you nailed it.

@18. thats cute and noble, but I would guess that if you were Jewish in 1943, and one of your buds could have taken a shot at Hitler, but decided not to, because gosh, he is just so good on the stump, you likely wouldn't be inviting your friend to dinner parties.

Look guys, I really don't want to go back and forth on this one as I have on other boards. You guys believe that your mortal enemy is still a person and deserves respect and life. I disagree. At the end of the day life is simply the "struggle for survival" as Darwin so elegently put it. Either Picard and Humanity survive, or the borg do. In fact every episode and movie following this illustrate that the borg are in no mood for peace treaties and helping humanity survive. I believe Picard was wrong.
Sean O'Hara
25. oldfan
I'm with ##8 and 24. Picard is a starfleet captain with a responsibility to protect federation citizens, which he abdicated here. He is not "responsible" for the subsequent Borg depradations in the same way that the Borg are, but he is responsible for not doing his job. Doctors and passive onlooker pacifists have more room to manuver in these situations-their quandry is moral. Picard is more like a policeman who fails to stop a crime because he sympathizes with the criminal.
Chin Bawambi
26. bawambi
One important point that those who blame Picard for future deaths are dead wrong about Christopher pointed out - the crew was WRONG. The damage stopped at the cube level. That means your argument is limited now to Picard (responsible/not responsible) for future deaths of Hugh's cube ONLY. Your argument of genocide vs genocide falls flat on that important point. I'll talk about Crusher's ethics on a separate post.
Sean O'Hara
27. McNiel
While I agree that this is a well acted and produced episode, I did have some issues with it.

The biggest being Picards dereliction of duty to the Federation by returning Hugh to the Borg without the virus that was believed to be be able to end the Borg threat.

Hugh's individuality. Apparently Hugh was a member of the Borg long enough that he either doesn't remember his identity prior to being assimilated, or was born a Borg and hasn't experienced individuality before. Seeing how the only identity he has known is "Third of Five" I found it difficult to believe that he would so easily accept being called Hugh and give up his Borg identity.

Accepting Picard as Locutus. No Borg implants, unable to communicate via the group-mind, doesn't try to fix Hugh so that their link is re-established, must be a Borg. I can't believe that Hugh wouldn't think it would a great idea to assimilate his new "friends" as that way they could share the thoughts and feelings more efficiently.

Individuality program/virus. This is a wonderful idea since the collective have never assimilated individuals or suberverted their desire for individuality before. (Rolls eyes)
alastair chadwin
28. a-j
Picard could not have ordered the virus to be used as at the time when this episode was made, the nature of the show and the characters would not allow it. This is not DS9 or BSG. At this point, TNG was about a group of morally pure paragons beetling about the galaxy being noble at people. As such this is a frustrating episode as the viewer knows that the 'genocide' option is never going to be taken and there is no real discussion of the implications of this.
This issue is addressed (to a degree) in the classic Who story Genesis of the Daleks fwiw.
Alan Courchene
29. Majicou
If Picard and his crew legitimately expected the impossible-object virus to take down the entire Collective, then they had every reason to think that the meme of individuality would spread just as far. The fact that it didn't--well, they didn't have all the facts about how the Collective protected itself. No plan survives contact with the enemy. But based on the available data (ha), Picard could have expected his final choice to liberate the Borg. How can that be a wrong choice? To go back to #24's Hitler analogy (so sorry...), it's more like choosing to dismantle the Nazi power structure and let the people of Germany (including the groups the Nazis tried to kill) go their own way rather than take a scorched-earth approach to the whole country.
Someone in this episode (Riker, maybe?) says that among the Borg there are no civilians, no innocent bystanders. Encountering a liberated drone in this episode, though, causes Picard to see drones as victims like himself--enslaved to the Collective's will and deprived of their own. Since Hugh's individuality meme could (again, as far as Picard knows) free all of those slaves, his decision is far, far more in support of the cause of freedom than genocide would've been.

Incidentally, Naoki Urasawa's manga Monster explores the negative consequences of a doctor making a morally upright decision, like in Christopher's scenario (only much, much more so.) Check it out.
Christopher Hatton
30. Xopher
If you believe that all Borg are assimilated, you must prefer the option to liberate them from their bondage to the Borg Collective, because otherwise you're executing billions of hostages.

And even the born Borg* can be rescued, as proven in this episode. I don't see any justification for the genocide option at all. The individuality virus is equally effective, with much less loss of life, and has the added virtue of undoing much of the Borg's damage.

*No, that's not a tennis player.
Sean O'Hara
31. kent1
the borg are pure evil. as janeway from voyager read from picards own logs. dr crusher had no problem with her ethics or morality when killing borg drones on the cube that picard was on. but when baby hugh comes along its hes just a boy. rubbish the crew had a opportunity to rid the federation of a supreme threat once and for all. the borg in their own words said. that they wanted to assimilate the fedration and everyone in it. and also they wanted to assimilate all species in the galaxy. hell they even tried to assimilate species 8472. ethics and morality are irrelevant. when the entire federation and countless other races are at stake.
Sean O'Hara
32. NullNix
McNiel, with sufficiently rapid handwaving it is possible to explain why an individualized Borg might contaminate the collective where an assimilated individual does not. The answer is simply that the assimilation process suppresses the sense of individuality, but that after that the individuality suppression is maintained by constant (or regular) contact with the collective.

The alternative is that the implants in the brain that malfunctioned in this case were critical to individuality suppression, and we know that can't be so because of the events of _Descent_, in which the virus is seen to spread and affect Borg with no failed implants.
Sean O'Hara
33. JohnC
I understand those who question Picard's decision (can't remember - is it explained why they don't ask for instructions from Starfleet?), but ultimately I agree with it. The screenplay makes it very clear that Hugh is not a Borg. By definition, Borg have no concept of individuality, and Hugh is very clearly an indidual. As an individual, he's without culpability for anything the collective have perpetrated. It's an interesting moral choice facing Picard, but ultimately he has to do this. The decision is consistent with the concept of individual rights - they are sacrosanct - No matter how many stand to be harmed if one individual is permitted to survive, unless that one individual is culpable, or voluntarily makes a choice to sacrifice him/herself - that individual has rights. To decide otherwise leads to mob rule, and THAT is when people like Hitler rise to power. JMO.
Sean O'Hara
34. Exile
Here is my problem with the pattern, why wouldn't the Borg simply find that the amount of computing power is not worth it and instead just archive it, and solve it when humans are assimilated? Or a more likely scenario, that they might just recongize it was trap?

Had Picard attempted this apporach and it didn't work, would he have been still responsible for death of all future assilimiations because he didn't provide the Borg with ethics as other people critize his apporach for not using the pattern virus?
Sean O'Hara
35. Kairos
I think the problem with this episode is that the moral questions it asks are really the wrong questions for the situation. They look at it as a society that is at war with their society, and ask the question if it is wrong to abuse them since they were part of that opposing society. Instead, the question of the borg is truly: who is the enemy?

The borg enemy is not the drones themselves, but the program/hive mind that drives them. In fact, the drones themselves are victims, similar to child soldiers. They have become something evil, but only because of the atrocities done to them. The moral question this episode asked was, "is the drone a person"? Of course he is...otherwise they would not have given up on Picard when he was assimilated. "Hugh" is a victim.

So this leads to what the real moral question that should have been asked. Is it ok to sacrifice 1 innnocent life to save the lives of countless others? To me, if that was the moral question that would've been asked, then I would've been much more OK with them deciding not to sacrifice Hugh.

But instead, this dribble about the borg as being a true society is just lame. This isn't a Russia or Iran here. Its a sex trafficking ring. Their whole identity is centered around the attrocities they do to others. Are sex traffickers a society that should be tolerated? Should armies that force children to do terrible things to become heartless soldiers be tolerated? Of course not. And neither should societies that envelope the innocent to rob them of their freedoms. But would it be ok for someone to take a rescued and healing sex slave and use and sacrifice them (and the other victims in the trade) to stop the overall system from hurting and taking in more innocents.
Edward Chinevere
36. Drawde
Please note that the following is my (very firmly-held) opinion and I respect the opinion of others.

BUT - holy cow. This is how some of the conversation above reads:
- "Is genocide okay in this instance?"
- "Here are instances where genocide is okay."
- "Picard committed treason by not committing genocide."

Genocide is never okay. Period. Ok- so there's a quandrant full of cybernetic cubes with a collective intelligence that want to assimilate you. It would be morally reprehensible to, as a response to that, kill them all to prevent this in a single swoop because you could never be 100% certain that there wasn't an alternative to allow the survival of both your peoples. This episode is a prime example of that - Hugh doesn't want to kill them anymore after, like, a day in a holding cell.

I will significantly muddy the waters here by taking this a step further- which will certainly mark me as a big old granola-munching liberal. But it is what it is:

Picard started a culture war in this episode. He's trying to "assimilate" the Borg into, what the Borg would see as, a cult of individuality. The Borg themselves are trying to do the same- assimilate everyone else into their cult of collective intelligence. IMO- they should probs both leave the other alone because, y'know, peace and stuff. But there are parallels to one culture believing they are morally superior and have a duty to indoctrinate all other cultures into their own. Both sides are guilty of this.

Also- @Kairos #35, you're absolutely right- and provide a solid counter to #24 @JLPSquared's implication that there is some kind of parallel with the classic question of would you kill a baby Hitler- it doesn't apply as an analogy, because killing all the borg wouldn't be like killing Hitler- it would be like killing ALL THE GERMANS.

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