Star Trek: Picard is poised to answer one of the biggest open questions from Star Trek: The Next Generation - the fate of Hugh and his collective of independent Borg drones. The CBS All Access series marks the return of Sir Patrick Stewart to the role of Jean-Luc Picard, which he first took on in 1987 on the small screen for the first-ever Star Trek spinoff. The new series is set to pick up roughly two decades after the events of 2002's Star Trek: Nemesis, the final film to feature Picard and the rest of the TNG crew.
A handful of major Star Trek players will be around for Star Trek: Picard. Stewart confirmed Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis will return as William Riker and Deanna Troi, respectively, late in the first season; Frakes will also direct a pair of episodes. The show's fantastic San Diego Comic-Con trailer also revealed that Brent Spiner will be reprising his role as the beloved (and deceased) android Data, and Star Trek: Voyager's Jeri Ryan is returning as former Borg drone Seven of Nine. Seven's participation is yet another indicator that Star Trek: Picard will once again be grappling with the Borg, the most vicious threat Picard ever faced in his days as the captain of the Enterprise.
Along with those franchise heavyweights, however, was the announcement that Jonathan Del Arco will also be returning as Hugh, the liberated Borg drone who was the focal point of two of The Next Generation's best episodes. Hugh's return is loaded with philosophical and emotional resonance for Star Trek fans, as he was the one avenue through which TNG could ever find a way to empathize with the nightmarish Borg. But before we can understand what Hugh's return means for the future of Star Trek, we need to take a look back at how we got here.
The Federation's History With The Borg In Star Trek: The Next Generation Explained
The Borg are generally remembered as the biggest and baddest threat the Enterprise ever took on in Star Trek: The Next Generation, but the cybernetic space zombies actually only appeared in three episodes over the show's first four seasons. They were introduced in season two's "Q Who?," in which the omnipotent trickster Q threw the Enterprise thousands of light-years away into the Delta Quadrant to prove humanity wasn't ready for the dangers that awaited them in deep space. There they met the Borg, the impossibly powerful cyborg race bent on the assimilation of all life. After the Enterprise narrowly escaped destruction and Q had made his point, the Enterprise was returned to the Alpha Quadrant, but the damage was done - the Borg were now coming for Earth.
That confrontation would happen in the epic two-parter "The Best of Both Worlds," which bridged the third and fourth seasons. During a failed attempt to stop their march toward Earth, Picard was captured and assimilated into Locutus, a Borg drone that would be used to speak to humanity and utilize Picard's knowledge of Starfleet defenses. Earth and Picard would both be saved by some ingenious strategy by Commander Riker, but the cost was high; the Borg destroyed 40 Starfleet vessels and killed over 11,000 people at the Battle of Wolf 359 before they were finally stopped. Ostensible foes like the Ferengi and Romulans felt like speed bumps in the face of the Borg, and TNG would maintain the Borg's mystique by keeping them off the board for two years after "The Best of Both Worlds."
Hugh Humanized The Borg - And Then Star Trek Forgot Him
The next time the Borg would be featured was in season five's "I Borg," in which the Enterprise unwittingly uncovers a crashed Borg scout ship with one survivor, a young Borg drone classified as Third of Five. While Dr. Beverly Crusher and Lieutenant Commander Geordi LaForge attempt to heal, study, and understand the drone - eventually giving him the name Hugh - Picard plots to reinsert Hugh into the Borg Collective as a kind of computer virus that would potentially wipe out the entire race. Seeing Picard so overtly court what essentially boils down to genocide is disturbing, and it's supposed to be - Picard's assimilation was a deeply traumatic assault that left him with mental scars he'd spend the next decade of his life attempting to overcome. Once Picard realized Hugh was beginning to reassert his humanity, he abandoned his plans for destruction and offered Hugh the choice of staying with humanity or returning to the collective. Hugh chose to return the collective in hopes that his individuality would spread throughout the Borg and alter the race forever.
However, this would be the last time Hugh was seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and when the Borg were next seen in the big screen TNG film Star Trek: First Contact, they were back to the lethal space zombies of old, with no mention of Hugh and his kind. And while Hugh was something of a test run for Seven of Nine, the nature of Voyager's story meant there really wasn't an opportunity to address the liberated Borg during that show's run. It has been one of Star Trek's most frustrating unanswered questions for over 25 years - and Star Trek: Picard is finally poised to give us some answers.
The Future Of Hugh And The Borg In Star Trek: Picard
The Star Trek: Picard trailer dropped some pretty strong hints that the Borg played a role in the decimation of the Romulan Empire, and that there are many more unassimilated drones that exist in a Romulan-run prison. It's easy to imagine Hugh's collective have been attempting to quietly live their lives, but that galactic politics have made them a target of hatred and violence. Not only would this be a way to acknowledge the current real-world antagonization of refugees and immigrants - a welcome return to Star Trek's roots as a culturally progressive moral arbiter - it would also be thematically resonant for Jean-Luc Picard himself.
One of Starfleet's most decorated officers, and often held up both within the fiction and in real life as a paragon of virtue and intellectualism, Picard's one true personal failing was his inability to consistently empathize with the Borg. Despite the grace he showed Hugh, Picard was violently unhinged in Star Trek: First Contact, very nearly sacrificing his crew - and potentially the purity of the timeline - in his quest for vengeance against them. Picard spending his twilight years attempting to protect his most despised enemies feels like a fitting final chapter for one of the most towering figures in science fiction history.
It's more difficult to predict what exactly has become of Hugh so many years later. There have been hints that Hugh and his collective may not look as cybernetic as they once did, perhaps in an effort to not draw attention to themselves. If he's survived for 25 years with the face of the quadrant's most dreaded foe, it means Hugh is a survivor, and likely the leader Picard predicted he would become at the end of "Descent." No matter what life has been like for Hugh and his collective, when Star Trek: Picard releases, it will finally give an answer fans have been waiting for since 1993.