Star Trek has some of the most iconic villains in science-fiction history. From omnipotent tricksters, to petty conmen, to genetically engineered super-humans, the Trek rogues’ gallery is varied. Yet none can boast about being as viscerally frightening as the Borg.
Part organic lifeform, part machine, the Borg are formed into "the Collective", a hivemind that controls their aims, actions, and thoughts. Their aim? To destroy all life they see as inferior, assimilating any species in which they find value, in order to achieve perfection.
In stark contrast to the monologuing villains often associated with Star Trek, the Borg had no interest in parlay or compromise. They can absorb and adapt any weapons used against them. When one drone is destroyed, another ten can step into its place.
Nothing highlights the power of the Borg better than the brief period during which they assimilated our own unflappable Captain Jean-Luc Picard, turning him into "Locutus of Borg"; his own worst enemy.
The Borg are almost too powerful to be true. If they are as unstoppable as originally intended, then how does the primitive Federation continue to elude assimilation?
Resistance is patently not futile so check out these 15 Things That Make No Sense About The Borg.
Have you ever wondered how the Borg started?
It's been implied that it all began with a consenting experiment in assimilation between organic and cybernetic life, so what happened to turn it into something so insidious and far-reaching?
Although the Borg are counted among the most powerful and feared entities in the galaxy, they are not a true species at all.
According to Guinan, the Borg are hundreds of thousands of years old. Yet, by nature they had to have an original species that began the process of growth.
The Borg have fuzzy memories of their own origins and it is intentionally left mysterious in the show. Fans have hypothesized complex and very plausible origins for the Federation’s most chilling enemy but that does not negate the fact that their origin is not truly explained on the big or small screen. Some think this adds to the Borg’s fearful mystique, others consider it a cop-out on the part of the writers.
Resistance to the Borg is proved repeatedly throughout Star Trek to be far from futile, so the idea of a Borg Resistance and a Borg Civil War is perfectly feasible. Yet, there is one aspect of the movement that makes no sense.
"Unimatrix Zero" is the name of a virtual location where Borg can be free from the hivemind and act as individuals. It is a state they can inhabit while regenerating in their alcoves. This idealized world is created by Borg who possess a genetic mutation which gives them the capability to inhabit it.
Drones are only aware of it as long as they are in Unimatrix Zero. It is shaped by their minds as a lush, green environment in which they can choose to appear as they did before they were assimilated.
That this dreamy world of freedom exists inside the minds of some of the Collective without detection seems unlikely. It sounds like the sort of thing that would have been quickly extinguished by the Borg. There is no explanation for how it came to exist and it ends up being destroyed at the end of the episode; a pointless jaunt into Borg dreamland.
The Borg are a collective. No single individual truly exists within the Borg Collective, as all Borg are linked into a hive mind with the same goal: to attain "perfection" through the forced assimilation of other sentient species, technology, and knowledge.
Except, of course, for the Borg Queen.
The Borg Queen diminished the Borg. She gave the Borg a human face, a personality, and human wiles and whims. The unstoppably systematic Borg became more organic and alive because of her.
The true horror and uniqueness of the Borg as an antagonist had always been their position as anti-human evil. Giving them a human face turned them into just another monologuing Star Trek villain.
Certainly, there have been a number of Borg Queens, showing that the "Queen" could be given to any drone. The Queen does not lead the Borg, but acts as a figurehead and a voice for the Collective’s will.
It is easy to see why a voice of the Collective was desirable for storytelling purposes, but it doesn’t make sense for the Collective to use a "Queen." Simply taking over a figurehead from each species, such as Picard/Locutus, makes far more practical sense and is also undeniably cruel.
Borg philosophy is a touch inconsistent.
Their aims seem like the simplest of all the Star Trek villains: to assimilate. Yet they have some unusual prerequisites. The Borg have been known to ignore species that they see as far too inferior and would provide nothing towards their ‘perfection’.
In general, the Borg are said to assimilate civilizations, not individuals. In "I, Borg", La Forge argues that he should go with Hugh because he is sure that the Borg, who will come to take away Hugh, will pose no harm to him. This makes a certain sense; the Borg see the bigger picture and overlook individuals. Yet they ignore this rule often in later series.
There are several references to individual ships being assimilated. Seven of Nine’s parent’s ship is an example of an individual ship assimilated by the Borg. In their case, it could be because they were obviously information-gathering. Also, a Talaxian freighter in "The Raven" is described to have been assimilated as their body type would make good drones.
It is clear that the Borg assimilate for various reasons and their philosophy is far from simple as cited.
Jeri Ryan’s former Borg Drone Seven of Nine joined Voyager during the sci-fi show's third season. A controversial addition, Seven brought in a Spock-like logic and coldness to contrast Kate Mulgrew’s fiery Captain Janeway, while injecting a little sex appeal through her skin-tight outfit and desire to "explore" human emotion with the crew.
Some have leveled charges at the showrunners of diminishing the feminist thrust that the first female Captain of a Star Trek series had brought to bear by introducing Seven. More pertinently, Seven’s very nature as a reformed Borg diminishes the horror of the Collective.
When a Drone is removed from the Collective, they can regain their previous personalities. Even Seven, who was assimilated at the age of six and spent most of her formative years in the Collective, could find her humanity again and be reintegrated. It took away the dread of assimilation and contributed to the decline in the original clinical terror of the unstoppable Borg.
If even Seven could resist, then humanity stood far more than a fighting chance.
The iconic Borg Cube is vast, menacing, and delightfully alien. But it is also surprisingly impractical.
Sure, aerodynamics are not so important when you are travelling in the absolute depths of space but the enormous ship is also unwieldy and difficult to manoeuvre when approaching new planets and civilizations to assimilate. Even considering that they can use a Transwarp Hub to get everywhere, the design seems surprisingly awkward for a species who prize perfection.
The design is impressive. It is devoid of shape and personality. In the original conception of Borg cubes, all systems are equally distributed throughout the ship with no weak spots (although this seems to be ignored in subsequent Trek movies).
In essence, the menacing Borg Cube is most important in its aesthetic choice; imposing, inhuman, and indestructible.
In "Unimatrix Zero", Captain Janeway, Tuvok and Torres are all assimilated into the Collective. Voluntarily.
The crew are our heroes, so the plot to be assimilated as part of a wider plan to rescue a section of secret Borg resistance is plausible, if not a particularly good idea.
But when did assimilation and dissimilation become so simple?
It is mighty convenient how Janeway, Tuvok, and Torres all manage to only get partial assimilation. They endure no amputations or ocular implants. Even more conveniently, they are able to remain individualized — separate from the hive mind, thanks to a special device called a "neural suppressor."
It is more than a little convenient. Not to mention how the trauma of other characters who endure assimilation and reintegration, like Picard and Seven of Nine, is negated by this plan appearing so simple and inconsequential.
Q is an omnipotent trickster from a race of beings with powers to manipulate time, space, and matter. He introduces Picard and the Federation to the previously unknown Borg, to show them how they are not as advanced as they might think and definitely not ready for what might await them in uncharted space.
In an episode of Voyager, Q tells his son “If the Continnum's told you once, they've told you a thousand times. Don’t provoke the Borg!”
This has led to some conjecture as to whether Q might fear the Borg. He certainly provokes every other species he meets, including his own. If Q is supposed to be omnipotent, immortal, all-powerful, why would he tell his son not to provoke the Borg?
Perhaps it comes from a desire not to antagonize a species who could seriously disrupt the balance of the galaxy, rather than a fear for his own people?
Q’s caution regarding the Borg lands more as a cheap way to make the Borg seem more terrifying when introduced.
When rumors of an unknown species reached the alpha quadrant, two exobiologists are permitted to go out and investigated it.
Magnus and Erin Hansen persuade the Federation to allow them to use the USS Raven. The family take their four-year-old child on the excursion, which in itself is not impossible to imagine. At that time the mysterious species may have been entirely benign.
The family gather scientific data on the biology of Borg drones and the nature of the Collective. They manage to move undetected through Borg space due to multi-adaptive shielding, invented by Magnus Hansen. They even went aboard Borg vessels, using bio-dampeners to remain undetected. Until this failed.
An ion storm struck the Raven and their shielding went offline, leaving them to be detected and assimilated by the Borg. Magnus, Erin and their young daughter, Annika, later to be known as Seven of Nine, were assimilated.
Surely, it wouldn’t have taken much scientific research to realize how dangerous the Borg were and decide to get your vulnerable daughter out of danger? That’s parenting 101.
If you had a network of thousands of conduits throughout the galaxy that meant you could appear almost instantaneously beside the homeworld of various species, then you might be as unstoppable as the Borg.
The Borg maintained a network of thousands of transwarp conduits throughout the galaxy, connected by six transwarp hubs. In "Endgame" it is discovered that there is one in the Alpha Quadrant. So why had they not hopped across and destroyed Earth far before now?
The efficiency argument; that the Borg only send the number of ships needed to assimilate a species and are probably engaged in assimilating species closer to home, becomes less and less likely as the Federation becomes more of an issue for them.
On the one hand, it is argued that the Federation is not a priority for them, and on the other that the Borg were farming their technology sand so let them live. It cannot be both. A species prizing efficiency surely would have used every tool at their disposal and saved future bother by just assimilating them already!
The Borg are enigmatic and quintessentially alien. Unfortunately, the writers' desire to accentuate their otherness led to some inconsistencies. The most glaring might be their approach to reproduction.
When the crew first come into contact with the Borg in ‘’Q Who’’ they stumble upon a Borg nursery. It is established that the Borg are biological but immediately after birth are given artificial implants and enhancements.
Although incredibly creepy, it is not the only version of their system of reproduction. Years later, on Voyager, Seven explains, “the Borg assimilate. They do not reproduce in this fashion.” Seven was kept in a Borg maturation chamber after capture. Many of the recognizable Borg Drones, including the Queen, appear to have been assimilated from other species rather than born that way.
In season three of Voyager, Species 8472 are at war with the Borg. A powerful and malevolent race with superior technology, Species 8472 is roundly defeating the previously unstoppable Collective.
That the Borg encounter a species more powerful than them is inevitable. The problem with this story is that Voyager agrees to team up with the Borg to fight them.
It's believable that the Borg would be pragmatic enough to combine powers with a former enemy to defeat a stronger foe. Even the fact that Janeway would be willing to compromise her ideals to save her crew gets a pass. But things get a little less believable when Voyager develops a sudden way to defeat the “apex of biological evolution” Species 8472.
Surely the Borg would simply make assimilating Voyager a priority? If they were throwing all their resources at Species 8472, when Voyager proved they could defeat this enemy, the Borg would never let Janeway and her crew get away.
It seems impossible that the Voyager is able to escape after the deal is made. It should have spelled their immediate assimilation.
Following the reintegration of Hugh, a Borg drone who possessed individuality, a section of the Collective was corrupted and broke away. These drones were without direction and desperate for leadership, so in "Dark Descent" they began to follow Lore.
The "brother" of Data, Lore is a Soong-type android; advanced and sentient, possessing super-strength, speed and intelligence when compared to a human. Lore's emotional programming was more advanced than Data’s but he displayed worrying signs of emotional instability and malevolence.
When he discovered the drones, Lore styled himself their leader. He gave his Borg individual names, experimenting on them, and used them to continue his tyrannical designs.
Lore’s side of the story makes complete sense but the drones' desire to follow him seems suspect. Lore has an emotion chip, which would cause problems for the Borg.
In other cases of drones separated from the Collective, they begin to regain their own memories. If this was not the case, the drones would do anything to rejoin the Collective. Wanting a leader might be plausible but Lore seems an unlikely candidate.
In “Dark Frontier”, a brutal twist reveals that the Borg Queen allowed Seven of Nine to be liberated from the Collective as part of a greater plan.
Seven's establishment as an individual and her reconnection with her humanity was all apparently part of a strategy to use her memories to allow the Borg to assimilate humanity.
Once the crew of the Voyager trust her, Seven is called back to the Collective. The Borg Queen explains her plan to Seven and reveals that she wants Seven to use a nanoprobe viruses on the human race.
The plan almost makes sense. Having a Drone on the inside, as it were, might give the Borg an advantage, but surely they could use her memories when she was assimilated without needing to let her go and risk her reintegration. The long-game of releasing Seven and then having her return is overly convoluted.
Obviously after her time spent rehabilitating with the crew, Seven refuses to harm them. It seems odd that the Borg’s study of humanity, including their interactions with Picard/Locutus, didn't let them see the flaw in their plan.
The canonical end of the Borg is in "Endgame". The Borg are defeated; dealt a crippling blow by the pathogen released by Admiral Janeway, after some Prime Directive shattering shenanigans.
Yet the Borg are not necessarily destroyed. We know they have had multiple Queens throughout their history, so the loss of the Borg Queen is far from a permanent setback. It is implied in their past they have suffered difficulties which wiped out large parts of the Collective and gave them fragmented memories. The Collective can always gradually form again.
The issue is dodged in future series, which are all oddly prequels, and, although addressed in wider novelization, there are no more canonical stories with Borg.
They are supposed to be unstoppable. They were set up to be able to come back. We are all still waiting.
What else about Star Trek's Borg doesn't add up for you? Sound off in the comments!