Hugh the Borg is returning in Star Trek: Picard, but how did the character first become associated with the famous Enterprise-D captain? Prior to San Diego Comic Con 2019, little was known about Star Trek: Picard, but an action-packed panel and trailer reveal lifted the lid on the secretive new series. One of the highlights of the panel was the confirmed returns of Brent Spiner as Data and Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine. Also unveiled was minor Star Trek: The Next Generation character, Hugh, played by Jonathan Del Arco.
It's not currently known what role Hugh will play in Star Trek: Picard, but Del Arco has confirmed his character remains in the same state of autonomy viewers last saw him enjoying. The Star Trek: Picard trailer did showcase a Borg collective that had seemingly been imprisoned by Romulans, and this could potentially be how Hugh is reintroduced into the franchise. For an explanation into Hugh's Borg history and the possible reason for his appearance in Star Trek: Picard, one must go back to season 5 of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The episode "I, Borg" sees Picard and his crew encounter a crashed Borg ship with only a single survivor. While Picard is hesitant, largely thanks to his time under the Borg's influence, the landing party decide to take the injured Borg back to the Enterprise. Debate ensues aboard the ship, with differing opinions as to how this new guest should be treated. With no firm decision made, the captured Borg is treated and repaired, but kept in the Enterprise's brig.
During the recovery process, the Borg strikes up a friendship with chief engineer, Geordi La Forge. During their conversations, Geordi discovers that the captured Borg is separated from the hive-mind of the Collective and is experiencing new thought processes. The engineer goes on to explain that humans don't enjoy being assimilated and this causes the Borg to question his former beliefs. After a mix-up involving the word "you," Geordi names the Borg drone, Hugh.
While his colleagues chum up to the increasingly self-aware Hugh, Picard believes he can use the Borg prisoner to launch a strike on the entire species. The captain visits Hugh under his Borg guise of Locutus and attempts to order Geordi's assimilation. Picard is taken aback when Hugh refuses and this forces a change of heart regarding the plan to wipe out the Borg. The Enterprise part ways with their new friend on good terms.
Hugh returns in the opening story of Star Trek: The Next Generation's seventh season. Now leading his own collective of freed Borg drones, Hugh's individuality has played havoc among other members of the Collective and allowed Data's troublesome brother, Lore, to swoop in as a false savior. Together, the Enterprise crew and Hugh defeat Lore and once again bid farewell, with Hugh taking charge of the still-confused group.
The introduction of Hugh marks a vital role in Picard's development. The Enterprise-D captain is understandably sensitive when it comes to issues of Borg relation and his initial instinct to either destroy Hugh or use him to wipe out the whole Borg race is otherwise out of character. Hugh's evolution proves to Jean-Luc that even a race as destructive as the Borg can be redeemed and deserve a chance at life.
With free-thinking Borg collectives seemingly present in Star Trek: Picard, viewers may gain an insight into how successful Hugh's mission to lead his Borg friends became. Alternatively, his arrival could provide a timely reminder to Picard to give a potential enemy the benefit of the doubt.
Star Trek: Picard premieres in early 2020 on CBS All Access.