“We are the Borg. Existence, as you know it, is over. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own.”
These were chilling words, no matter how often they were repeated, and made the Borg the most terrifying villains in the Star Trek franchise. They conquered by assimilation, absorbing their victims into their Collective, and strengthening their hive.
They had no mercy and no interest in compromise. They were relentless in their pursuit of perfection, and were able to adapt to weapons that were used against them. Thousands upon thousands of drones were connected to their hive mind, giving them strength in numbers, abilities, and determination.
They sought perfection and prized efficiency, and their second appearance on Star Trek, in the Next Generation episode “The Best of Both Worlds”, gave us what might be the best cliffhanger in TV history.
There is much to learn about the Borg, but since we cannot assimilate them, we must rely on this primitive, if effective, list.
Here are the 15 Things You Never Knew About The Borg.
15. The Borg Were Originally Going To Be Insectoids
Writer Maurice Hurley was the first one to come up with the idea of the Borg, but he didn’t picture them as the humanoid cyborgs they would become. Instead, his idea was to have them be an insectoid race.
However, practicality won out; the Star Trek: The Next Generation production budget wouldn’t have been able to handle insectoid villains. (It wasn’t until the Xindi on Enterprise that non-humanoids became more affordable.)
Still, the Borg did retain the “hive mind” concept (and eventually the worker bee and queen bee), and there are fans who will argue the case that the foundation for bug-borgs was set in the first season episode “Conspiracy”.
Creatures took over several key Starfleet personnel in that episode, giving them “superhuman” strength, and, as a bonus, forced them to eat worms. When the queen insect was destroyed by phaser blasts (in one of the goriest scenes ever for TNG), Data detected that a signal that had gone out, and determined it was a homing beacon. Fan theories see this as the early fictional origins of the Borg.
14. They Were Almost the “Main Enemy” on Star Trek … Twice
In first season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “The Neutral Zone”, the Starship Enterprise discovered that several Federation and Romulan outposts had been completely destroyed by an unseen enemy.
The outposts had been “scooped” out, a technique we saw used by the Borg later when the Federation finally encountered them in their home territory. It was never explicitly stated, but this was our introduction to the Borg.
TNG was in need of a new “main” villain, with the ill-conceived Ferengi (who didn’t get interesting until Quark on Deep Space Nine) not filling the bill. However, when push came to shove, it didn’t make sense to have the Borg as recurring villains; their power was in their impenetrability, and if they were repeatedly defeated, they’d be a lot less scary.
13. Facts About Them Were Not Terribly Consistent
We first came face-to-face with The Borg in the Next Generation episode “Q Who”, which established certain facts about the species. Riker and the landing party discover a Borg nursery.
“From the look of it the Borg are born as biological life form. It seems that almost immediately after birth they begin artificial implants,” he reported. However, years later, on Star Trek: Voyager, Seven explains, upon the discovery of a Borg maturation chamber, “the Borg assimilate. They do not reproduce in this fashion.”
Q specifically tells Picard that the Borg are not interested in his life form, only their technology, but later, we will see them assimilate multiple species, and even force Picard himself to become a liaison to humanity for them. They add “your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own” to their traditional salutation.
At first meeting, Troi tells Picard “we’re not dealing with an individual mind. They don’t have a single leader. It’s the collective minds of all of them.” This, too, changes over time, as they have one particular Borg who leads them.
12. They Are a Collective, But They Have a Queen
This isn’t a surprise informationally, but it’s still fascinating: despite Troi’s assessment (and Q’s confirmation) that the Borg have a hive mind, no specific leader, and cannot be manipulated, the feature film Star Trek: First Contact introduced us to something entirely new: The Borg Queen.
She kidnaps Data and attempts to seduce him, which is definitely not an activity shared by the rest of the Collective. Additionally, in some revisionist history, she reminds Picard of her presence in his mind when he was transformed into Locutus in “The Best of Both Worlds”.
What Troi and Picard discuss in that first meeting proves to be true: being a leader-less collective is an advantage, and results in fewer (if any) mistakes. While the Queen was scary and threatening, she was also interested in power and domination, the greedy goals of an individual.
11. Starfleet Encountered The Borg Years Before Q Introduced Them to Picard
The first time TV viewers met the Borg was in the aforementioned early Next Generation episode, in which Q hurled the Enterprise thousands of light years into uncharted space to prove to Picard that humanity was not ready to face the true terrors of the galaxy. This was presumed to be the Federation’s first direct exposure to them.
However, Enterprise, a prequel to the original Star Trek series, was affected by the events of the feature film Star Trek: First Contact, in which the Borg traveled back through time to stop humanity from achieving their first warp flight.
Picard and crew were able to stop them, but evidence was left behind, and, in Enterprise‘s time, several drones were discovered in the Arctic. A team of scientists were assimilated when they accidentally revived some drones, and Captain Archer was forced to destroy them, although they were able to send a signal with Earth’s location to the Delta Quadrant beforehand.
10. They Were The Reason Guinan’s Species Is So Rare
The only Enterprise crew member who was already familiar with the Borg at their first encounter was Guinan, the bartender in Ten Forward. Guinan had a unique friendship with Picard, but beyond this, the crew didn’t know much about her.
She was an El-Aurian, a race known as “listeners,” and also seemed to be able to perceive things others couldn’t; she was the only one in “Yesterday’s Enterprise” who knew that something had gone wrong with the timeline.
However, Guinan’s people were rare, and there’s a reason for it: they were nearly destroyed by the Borg. Very few El-Aurians managed to escape, and ended up scattered across the galaxy, their collective home and culture completely destroyed.
One of them, Dr. Soran, was not as benevolent as Guinan, and would eventually cause the death of Captain Kirk in Star Trek Generations.
9. There Was One Enemy They Couldn’t Assimilate
While everyone else from one galactic quadrant to the next regarded the Borg as undefeatable enemies, there was one race who offered “true resistance to the Borg” and could not be defeated: Species 8472.
Species 8472 inhabited fluidic space, and the Borg used transwarp conduits to invade it, and impressed by Species 8472. who appeared to represent “the apex of biological evolution.” However, they were unable to assimilate their new enemies, who were impervious to Borg technology. Species 8472 retaliated and invaded Borg space, then attempted to purge the Milky Way galaxy of inferior beings.
The Borg, for a change, had no resistance to offer. Species 8472 were immune to assimilation and had their own technology that made it easy for them to win battles against the Borg, and it was only through an alliance with Captain Janeway that the Borg were able to fight them off.
8. Not Every Species Was Worth Assimilating
“We are the Borg. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile.”
These words were often the last ones heard by members of different species just before the Borg attacked. Once assimilated, species would be catalogued for what they added to the Borg quest for perfection. When a newly liberated from the Collective Seven of Nine met Neelix, she catalogued him.
“You are Talaxian. Species two one eight. Your biological and technological distinctiveness was added to our own. A small freighter containing a crew of thirty nine taken in the Dalmine Sector. They were easily assimilated. Their dense musculature made them excellent drones.”
However, not everybody made for excellent drones. The Kazon, who gave Voyager some pretty big headaches when they first arrived in the Delta Quadrant, were considered “unremarkable.” They did receive a number— species three two nine— but they were determined unworthy of assimilation as they would detract from perfection.
7. They Were Popular “Nastiest Villians”
In 2013, TV Guide was celebrating its 60th anniversary, and published a list of the 60 Nastiest Villains of All Time. Nestled between Gus Fring from Breaking Bad and The One-Armed Man from The Fugitive, the Borg landed at #4. They were specifically noted as being from Star Trek: The Next Generation despite having already made multiple appearances on Star Trek: Voyager.
That same year, Complex did its own list of The 25 Greatest TV Villains of All Time, and put the Borg at at a less dramatic #19, between The Master from Doctor Who and Melrose Place‘s Amanda Woodward, but they did acknowledge their contribution to Voyager.
Rolling Stone‘s 40 Greatest TV Villains of All Time, a list made in 2016, put the Borg at #9 (between Catwoman and Montgomery Burns), and described them as “a vast, cool, unsympathetic intelligence floating through the remote corners of the universe, absorbing entire civilizations unimpeded for centuries.”
6. They Were Made Out of Old Circuit Boards
See all those pieces stuck to the costumes? For a species that boasted the most sophisticated technology in the galaxy, the Borg were actually rather primitive. Makeup genius Michael Westmore had the job of converting what he first saw in a hand-drawn sketch into reality.
The sketch depicted a dark, spandex-like suit with molded, metallic, urethane pieces, some of which looked like circuits and black tubing. The first Borg costume featured enclosed helmets, and to find the random parts that should adorn the costumes, Westmore and his son cut up sections of old electronic circuit boards and glued them on.
For the eyepieces, which were different on each Borg, they used parts of binoculars, random model kits, diodes, and crystals.
5. Their Costumes Delivered Secret Messages
Jake Garber was a makeup artist and sculptor working on the Borg costumes in Star Trek: First Contact, and when his work started to feel repetitive, he would amuse himself by writing little messages into the Borg’s accessories.
The names of other makeup artists were often written on the Borg’s parts, never seen by the camera. Purely to amuse Michael Westmore, he once added “Westmore’s House of BBQ” on one of them. As Westmore said, “every Borg was a billboard.”
Westmore’s son Michael, who was also working on the movie, hand-wired each Borg with individual sequences of blinking LED lights, and each one had its own battery pack. Michael had some fun with these too, making the lights blink out messages in Morse code, one time he even had a Borg spell out Bonnie, the name of his dog.
4. The Borg Queen’s Costume Was Insanely Uncomfortable
Alice Krige debuted the Borg Queen in Star Trek: First Contact, before Susanna Thompson took over for Star Trek: Voyager. When Thompson was unavailable for the Voyager finale, Krige returned. Both actresses were put through the wringer to give the Queen her look.
Krige’s costume had to be radically altered after its first day on the job; it was made of hard rubber and gave her horrible blisters. They made a new foam suit that night, but that didn’t change the silver contact lenses, which were so painful that she could only wear them for four minutes at a time. Krige never complained.
Thompson had auditioned for First Contact, so she was happy to take up the role on Voyager, but struggled with Krige’s costume, which felt like an extremely tight wetsuit. She was in it for 20 hours–after almost six hours of makeup–and, despite a lot of support from Jeri Ryan, whose Seven of Nine costume held similar challenges, allegedly cried herself to sleep that night and vowed never to return. She did, however, after requesting shorter stints in the painful contact lenses. Resistance was futile.
3. There Were Conflicting Origin Stories of The Borg, But None Were Canon
There was little concrete information within Trek canon about the origin of the Borg, as well as the Queen herself. On Voyager we learned that the Borg had been “developing” for thousands of years, and that the Queen had been assimilated as a child. But, how did they come to be? Here are just a few of the non-canon explanations.
The Star Trek game Legacy suggests that the Borg sprung from Star Trek: The Motion Picture‘s V’Ger, who was found by a race of living machines and ultimately created drones– and the Queen– from the carbon-based life forms it assimilated.
David Mack’s novel Lost Souls has the Borg resulting from a combination of several species, including humans, that had been thrown back in time to 4500 BC.
2. Their Origin Story Almost Made It Onto Enterprise
Writers Garfield and Judith Reeves-Stevens had already written several best-selling Star Trek novels, as well as officially licensed Trek reference books, when they were hired to write episodes for Enterprise‘s fourth season.
In a 2007 interview, they described a Borg origin story they’d pitched that would include the origin of the Borg Queen. They wanted Alice Krige “back as a Starfleet medical technician who made contact with the Borg from season 2 [in Regeneration] and we would see the birth of the Borg Queen.”
Their specialty as writers was tying loose threads together, and they felt this was a great way to connect Enterprise to the rest of the franchise, as well as a chance to dig into Borg history. However, the show never made it to a fifth season, and that was that.
The writers also said that the Borg Queen was not part of the collective that Picard dealt with as Locutus. However, in First Contact, she and Picard discussed their previous connection in a bit of hasty exposition.
1. Resistance Was Not, In Fact, Futile
The Borg Collective was initially presented as an unstoppable, impenetrable force. When the Borg came, they nearly won the Battle of Wolf 359, destroying almost 40 starships and decimating the fleet.
However, they were defeated then by Data and a rescued Picard. Six years later, when they tried to sabotage Earth’s past in First Contact, Picard and Data beat them again. But it was Voyager‘s Captain Janeway who was able to truly kick some Borg butt.
She teamed up with them to defeat Species 8472, which resulted in the liberation of Seven of Nine, who gave Voyager new knowledge of Borg technology.
In the final episode of Voyager, Admiral Janeway introduced a pathogen that broke down Borg communication and killed another Borg Queen, also destroying the transwarp hub that made it possible for them to travel across the galaxy with ease.
The Borg themselves also found ways to rebel. Hugh, temporarily liberated from the Collective, introduced a sense of individuality when he was reassimilated, resulting in a new colony of independent former drones.
Additionally, Unimatrix Zero housed a secret rebellion by assimilated Borg drones who retained the memories of their former lives, and were ultimately able to take control of the vessels they were on. Then there’s Seven of Nine, the greatest rebel of them all.
Despite their chilling tag line, the Borg were not invincible.
Do you know of any other interesting Borg facts from Star Trek? Let us know in the comments!
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