Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Best of Both Worlds   Rewatch 
December 14, 2020 11:33 AM - Season 3, Episode 26 - Subscribe

The Borg begin an invasion of Federation space much sooner than was expected. With the Enterprise unable to affect them, the Borg capture Captain Picard and turn him into one of their own. (Season finale)

As long as there's a handful of you to keep Memory Alpha alive, you will prevail.

Story and script
  • Michael Piller was unsure how this episode's two-parter would end when he first sat down to write the episode. He began with the need for a season-ending cliffhanger. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 130) Naturally, the episode was designed to create anticipation for the return of the series in the following season. (Star Trek: Fan Collective - Borg text commentary)
  • While the Borg had proven popular after their introduction in the second season episode "Q Who", the writers had struggled to bring them back, noting the problem of writing for a race with no personality. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 199) In fact, Michael Piller himself had tried throughout Star Trek: The Next Generation's third season to devise a new story about the Borg. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 130) While several of the writing staff suggested creating a "queen bee" to act as a spokesperson, Piller resisted these proposals. He commented, "To me, there was something special and frightening about the Borg that their lack of character brought. For a show that dwells and specializes in character to be challenged and possibly destroyed by a characterless villain seemed, to me, to be a special kind of threat. But when we started talking about the cliffhanger and the Borg, we really did talk about who was going to be the queen bee." It was Piller who came up with the notion of meeting this requirement by having Picard be assimilated. The writer recalled, "It all just fell into place. I said, 'I've got it. Picard will be the queen bee.'" (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 199)
  • In an early draft of the story, however, Data and Picard were combined as one Borg unit. Piller recalled, "Someone said why should they do this, and we didn't have a good answer so we dropped that idea." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 199)
  • To fill up the rest of the storyline, Piller sought to maintain the Human drama in all the spectacle. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 199) As a result, the story's central character shifted, in Piller's opinion, from being Picard to Riker. (Starlog issue #159, p. 42) Piller revealed, "We had no idea it was really a Riker story when we started out. I came up with the idea of having the Shelby character come on board to challenge Riker. That seemed to play into the Riker emotions and the conflict over whether to take the other job or not, and that builds into the issue of whether or not he was big enough to fill the center chair." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 199)
  • Another reason that Piller had for creating the Shelby subplot was to better explore Riker's motivation for staying aboard the Enterprise, as the series' fans had begun to wonder why Riker had – on a couple of times beforehand – turned down command opportunities (despite the real reason for this being that the series' production team did not want to lose Jonathan Frakes from the cast nor the popular character of Riker from the series). (Star Trek: Fan Collective - Borg text commentary)
Sets, props, and wardrobe
  • The surface of Jouret IV was a set built on Paramount Stage 16, its design supervised by Production Designer Richard James. He used a large painted backdrop to extend the set, adding illusory distant mountains and an artificial sky to the planetscape. The planet's crater was added via the use of a matte painting that was based on a photograph of Meteor Crater in Arizona. (Star Trek: Fan Collective - Borg text commentary)
  • Creation of the Borg designs benefited from lessons learned from "Q Who". David Livingston noted, "The set had been a problem, because we didn't have the money to build a complete one, and the Borg had taken a long time. We made a lot of changes on them after they were first put together. The technical part of figuring out how to stick on all this tubing to these guys was a big deal [….] When we got to 'Best of Both Worlds', we knew what the problems were. We knew we had to build a different kind of set and it worked out really well." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 199)
  • The design of Locutus for this episode and the next was slightly more elaborate than the rest of the Borg suits used here. Michael Westmore recalled how an effective special effect was added to Locutus' helmet, using merely a tiny, cheap laser; "My son Michael, who did all the Borg electronics in the eyes and the head, found this little laser that was only one inch long. We mounted it on Patrick Stewart as Locutus. There's that scene at the end of the first part of 'The Best of Both Worlds' where Patrick turns his head and looks directly into the camera with his laser. We had no idea what was going to happen. Boy, the phone rang! Rick [Berman] saw it and said, 'Oh, my God, what a great effect.' Now that's an effect that could cost thousands of dollars to do if you wanted to say 'This is what I want to do,' and this was done with a little cheap laser."
Cast and characters
  • George Murdock (Admiral Hanson) previously appeared in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier as "God".
  • Guest star Elizabeth Dennehy found this episode to be the hardest of its two-parter, experiencing difficulty in playing an authority figure in a series with which she was entirely unfamiliar. The actress noted, "I didn't know anything about the show and I had to look like I knew, because I was in charge. I was a commander and the hardest thing in the world to do was making that dialogue sound like I spoke that way all the time. It was impossible. It's so easy to remember and memorize lines when they make logical sense or when you get blocked and you say when I move over here, I say this. But this was just memorizing times tables. It was just 2x2 is 4. I didn't know what a manipulation effect in the Borg ship's subspace meant. That's not English! It was like learning a foreign language by phonetics. It was just grueling." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 200)
  • Jonathan Frakes commented about this episode, "That was one of the best cliffhangers ever." (AT: "Vaulting Ambition")
  • This episode is notable for the musical score composed by Ron Jones, as it uses a synthetic chorus to provide a five-note leitmotif for the Borg and a dramatic cliffhanger cue for the ending when Riker chooses to fire on Locutus. According to Jones, the producers were uncomfortable with the choir concept, though he felt the extremity of the Borg threat allowed for the musical style. He related, "Let's be serious. This isn't another episode of Wagon Train, this was the end of Mankind as we know it. This is not just 'Well, somebody's going to blow us out of the sky, but we'll be smart and figure it out.' I wanted it to be like 'Goodbye,' like an epitaph for humanity." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 23, No. 2/3, p. 125)
  • The orchestra for this episode and Part II was double the size of that for other episodes, at seventy-seven musicians. ("Ron Jones - Sounds in Space", The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 14, p. 17)
Continuity and trivia
  • This episode begins the first two-parter in Star Trek since TOS: "The Menagerie, Part I" and "The Menagerie, Part II" in 1966.
  • This was also the first end-of-season cliffhanger in the history of Star Trek's production.
  • This episode marks the first use of the Borg's now-famous line: "Resistance is futile." Another phrase, "Strength is irrelevant," also becomes a commonly used Borg phrase with the subject "strength" being replaced in each use (for example: "freedom", "self-determination", "death").
  • While the Borg later prove to have typically unimaginative naming conventions (i.e., Third of Five, Seven of Nine, etc.), the name chosen for Picard's alter-ego is quite appropriate. His function is to speak for the Borg, and "Locutus" is Latin for "he who has spoken."
  • Though the Borg's first appearance was in "Q Who", this is the first episode in any Star Trek series where the Borg assimilate a person.
  • Despite Data apparently misunderstanding the phrase "early bird" in this episode, he has heard it once before; he is present when, in TNG: "The Arsenal of Freedom", a Minosian peddler uses the saying.
  • This is the first of two episodes that establish Earth as being in Sector 001, the other episode being the following installment.
Poster's Log:
O'Brien's idea of "the center of town" is a little weird, what with them beaming in at the edge of the crater instead of the middle of it.

There are 3 cards that could have filled out a straight for Riker (the non-heart 6s) and, with only 2 other hearts on the board, 7 cards that would have given him a flush or straight flush (346JQKA of hearts, with either the 6 or the J making a straight flush). The odds are good that Wesley's trip jacks would have beaten Riker (I think it's around 75% in Wesley's favor).

The side-eye Shelby gives Riker when he reminds her that the Borg "have the ability to analyze and adapt" is every woman in a business meeting, ever.

Picard orders weapons locked on the source of the tractor beam but, when Worf gets the command to fire, most of the first volley seems to go elsewhere (do we need a "Worf has terrible aim" scorecard?)

I think this is the first time we see the "Geordi Roll", with LaForge neatly rolling under the closing blast door as the last man out of engineering in response to the hull breach.

Since the Enterprise knew roughly where the Borg cube was, why did they choose to leave the nebula right next to it?

Worf's "He IS a Borg" sounds like he's verging on tears.

Why is Shelby so against the very plan she suggested? Is she afraid that serving on the Enterprise under Riker would be much worse than under Picard?

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
This episode. Oh, man, this episode. I still get chills when Picard first turns to the camera, and again when he intones "you will service us". The Borg theme with the synthetic chorus is incredibly atmospheric. "Best of Both Worlds" regularly appears on lists of the best Trek episodes and they're not wrong - this is solid, edge-of-the-seat stuff.

I paid much closer attention to the Riker B-story this time around. There's a definite feeling, going into the last few minutes of the episode, that his decision to fire is as much tied to proving that he hasn't lost his drive and ambition as it is to protecting Earth.
posted by hanov3r (26 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Notice what happens immediately after Badmiral Sha-Ka-Ree makes that gross remark about an "old man's fantasy": Picard gets up and leaves the room. I LOL'ed.

Riker's demeanor toward Shelby in this one is, I think, a clear answer to the question of why he's not a captain yet: the XO position is all about laying the smack down and he enjoys it too much.

Anyway, I really don't have too much to say about this one that hasn't been said, I'm sure, a million times elsewhere. If we have to pick one turning point of TNG, this is it, much moreso than Part 2. It's probably also safe to say that this episode elevated the Trek franchise from "old thing that got rebooted, not that we use the word 'rebooted' in the 1980s-90s" to enduring phenomenon; this episode made the Borg household names, and the Borg gave us First Contact and laid the foundation for DS9.

And it's a dang good hour of TV even by 2020 standards. Like, when we loaded it up in All Access for this rewatch, it still felt like a Television Event, which it actually was when it aired—though of course with less urgency and import on this, my twentieth-or-so viewing.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 11:52 AM on December 14, 2020 [8 favorites]

In this episode, Picard says he recruited Riker as a young lieutenant commander. I don't think that matches up with what we knew about Riker's career up to this point.

As COB says, there's not much to say about this one that hasn't been said. Watching this the other day, one thing I was paying attention to was Riker's interactions with Geordi. It was neat watching them talk about Shelby and stuff. Geordi is chief engineer and probably the third most important officer on the ship behind Picard and Riker. Seeing him share confidences with Riker and then make comments to Data about the unspoken rules that Shelby breaks by going around Riker is a great way of adding some depth to his character as a Starfleet officer.
posted by Fukiyama at 12:15 PM on December 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Kind of with the consensus here, although I think that it's arguable that this part of the two-parter, at least, is a Riker episode, in that the interaction between him and Shelby is the main source of tension, and that it ties in neatly and powerfully with what we've seen of his character so far. It's debatable whether or not TBoBW is the best TNG episode--I think that it gets a lot of competition from "The Inner Light", a very, very different sort of episode, albeit one that has its own civilizational extinction angle--but it may be the the best possible Riker episode. His last previous chance at getting the big chair was "The Icarus Factor", and his main challenger in that episode was his own dad, aka The Most Interesting Man in the Galaxy, which continues the pattern of the handsome young commander being in a dominance struggle with the older, more experienced and more accomplished guy, which was also part of the set-up for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and implicit in the set-up for TNG, since Riker had previously been offered the command of the Drake. This ep flips the script and makes Shelby the (I'm assuming) younger and hungrier rising officer and Riker the voice of reason and experience; she's incredibly smart, and exactly the sort of person that the E-D needs right at the moment, but she's also incredibly arrogant ("You're in my way"? Oh, jeepers) and Riker is right that she can't treat the upcoming confrontation like a final that she can pull an all-nighter for and still be fresh enough for the rest of it. Ditto for trying to launch another rescue attempt after the first one failed. On the other hand, Riker gets so caught up in the power struggle that Troi has to make the point to him that he shouldn't go on the first away mission. And the fact that it's Troi that has to correct Riker, plus that it's Shelby that challenges him, also marks a difference in how this show treats command and respect vis-a-vis gender roles. There may still be some gross old dudes like Hansen around, but--assuming that just about everyone watched both eps back-to-back--we know what happens to him. The show didn't change course overnight--practically all of S3 has been that, including Captain Rachel Garrett--but this is where the show seems to really pick up speed.

Even though I think that this is a bit more of a Riker show, that's not to say that the looming threat of the Borg invasion doesn't add tension and a lot of urgency to the power struggle on board the ship. The establishment that the Borg are interested not just in the tech of the civilization but its people as well really kicks the threat into high gear and adds an element of horror; after all, if all they were interested in was Federation tech, they would quit after they got their first replicator. The scene with Guinan on the eve of battle mirrors the similar scene in "The Defector", and sets up the scene with Guinan in the next ep, which is even better. The shot of the crater in the teaser is great, if obviously a matte painting, and the shot near the end where Picard turns his head, revealing that he's been assimilated, may be one of my favorite moments in the entire series. And ending the ep, and the season, with Riker taking the shot, was really gutsy. (Does anyone else remember their being some speculation that Stewart wasn't going to be coming back for the next season? I'll have to look up the relevant section in The Fifty-Year Mission to see if there's any truth to that. Wonder what he would have done if he hadn't? Doctor Who?)
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:05 PM on December 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

About the music: I actually bought the score to this one on CD back in the day, and until recently I didn't know the backstory about Ron Jones getting fired by Rick Berman for creating music that was "too noticeable," which seems like an odd complaint. (Like, I get it, I guess, but as someone who really enjoys film and television music, I like it to be noticeable.) His score is a big part of what makes this episode work so well for me, and I've noticed throughout this rewatch that many times when I'm watching an episode and the music strikes me, it's usually Ron Jones' work. The score for this episode has aged pretty well, too. Star Trek isn't really known for its musical scores in the way that Star Wars is (though the movie music fares a bit better; TWOK and First Contact still enter into my rotation fairly regularly) but I think it's too bad that Jones wasn't allowed a longer opportunity to build a consistent language of motifs for the show over the full course of the series run.

When I've watched this episode more recently I've also come to think a lot about how the way I view Shelby has changed over time. When I was a kid I looked at her kinda harshly, for reasons that I now think of as mostly the internalized misogyny of a not-quite-teenage boy; nowadays, it's clear her contributions are pretty critical to the limited success the Enterprise has against the Borg, and I come away with a lot of respect for her, regardless of her bruising Riker's ego a bit in carrying out her duties. Yeah, she's arrogant and a bit insubordinate, but not in any way that's exceptional for a franchise in which it's common for Starfleet to react to gross insubordination with a mild slap on the wrist.

I know she features in some of the novels, but I think it's a shame she didn't turn into a recurring guest star, either in later seasons of TNG or on DS9/VOY. Presumably the "task force" she ends up leaving to supervise at the end of part II has something to do with the creation of the Defiant and other tech that's incorporated into newer starship classes.
posted by Kosh at 1:15 PM on December 14, 2020 [7 favorites]

One more thing that I didn't mention above: in previous Trek threads, I've brought up the concept of the Outside Context Problem from Iain M. Banks' Culture books. Trek had previously done stories with the Enterprise or whomever coming up against a threat vastly more powerful and/or sophisticated than Starfleet or the Federation--arguably both the pilots and the first filmed episode, "The Corbomite Maneuver", fall into this category, but usually the threat was mitigated with a single solution, even if it was something as basic as Pike being too angry for the Talosians to read his mind. Here, the solution to the problem of the Borg will not be nearly that easy. One thing that occurred to me with this rewatch is that they may have been able to grab Picard so easily in part because they had previously defeated--and, we might assume, at least partially assimilated--the Lalo and its crew. They may have also gotten some information from the crewmembers of the E-D who were in the "core sample" that they took in "Q Who."
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:27 PM on December 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Not much to add, it was a Big Deal when it aired and it holds up very well.

This rewatch, though, I really appreciated Riker showing leadership when explaining (first to Worf, then Geordi, and finally Data) the appointment of Shelby as XO. Keeping the most effective personnel in their critical roles is super logical and the position of XO isn't really all that important.

Which contrasts nicely with assigning Worf and Data for the near-suicidal retrieval/ kidnapping mission, which is also the logical choice, to indicate the highest stakes of the mission at hand.

One small thing - why didn't the Borg remove Picard's hand/ arm instead of just putting a sleeve over it? Or does Federation tech have regenerative medicine already? To answer my own question, purely for (real-world) practical reasons.

I'm assuming that Picard doesn't have leftover Borg piece like other XB because they haven't had time to irreversibly "worm" their way into his organic body.
posted by porpoise at 1:31 PM on December 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm struggling to remember any episodes from later seasons that jump out. But I'm thinking BoBW is the high point of the Federation being far-flung and the Galaxy being a big place. Reports are coming in of lone ships being lost to the Borg. The Enterprise is dispatched to intercept the Borg /ahead/ of the Fleet. The Federation is even asking the Romulans for help. All the chips are on the table in this episode. Its not just the Galaxy that feels big in this one, but everything.
posted by Stuka at 1:35 PM on December 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

why didn't the Borg remove Picard's hand/ arm instead of just putting a sleeve over it?

That's really a Part II question, I think.
posted by hanov3r at 1:59 PM on December 14, 2020

Oops! Sorry!
posted by porpoise at 2:26 PM on December 14, 2020

I rewatched this a few months ago, but now might have to again, because I didn't recall Hansen as being a Badmiral or gross, just wrong and probably overconfident in Starfleet's abilities. Wasn't he the one who recommended Shelby to the Enterprise? But I may have been watching with nostalgic eyes and missed some subtext.
posted by pykrete jungle at 3:18 PM on December 14, 2020

There's just a little bit of implied grossness in this exchange:
HANSON: Keep your eye on her, Jean Luc. She's one very impressive young lady.
PICARD: You seem rather taken with her, JP.
HANSON: Just an old man's fantasies. When Shelby came into Tactical, every admiral's uncle had a take on this Borg business. She cut through it. She put us on track.
posted by hanov3r at 3:29 PM on December 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Some key cards in the Star Trek CCG are right here in Premiere:
Jean-Luc Picard, Wesley Crusher, and William T. Riker start to fill out our TNG bridge crew. With six skills and high stats, Jean-Luc was quintessential in Federation decks for years. Riker is appropriately a back-up Picard, only missing the Archeology and a level of Diplomacy, not bad, if slightly less useful. Wes is pretty good for science/engineering decks, for example clearing Study Plasma Streamer single-handed. Shelby appears in this set too but is a pretty lousy two skill rare. At least she can help with the OTSD Investigate Incursion, also from this episode.

Only two more cards in First Edition are from here, namely Wake of the Borg and Admiral J.P Hanson. WotB is a self-conscious counter for the power of Patrol Neutral Zone decks at that time. Hanson is a decent pick for Going to the Top, an alternative pick might be Admiral Leyton.

In Second Edition, Elizabeth Shelby, Formidable Presence appears much more comparable to William T. Riker, Number One as this episode intends. Outside that, the episode provides the basis for the generally-decent Call to Arms mission Evade Borg Vessel as well as the Borg support cards, Adapt and Abduction from that set. Adapt allows Borg decks to short-circuit opponents that throw say, a Tragic Turn at every mission. It's a key strategic issue when playing against them.
posted by StarkRoads at 3:48 PM on December 14, 2020

While the Borg had proven popular after their introduction in the second season episode "Q Who", the writers had struggled to bring them back, noting the problem of writing for a race with no personality.

C'mon. They're literally zombies. I get that Star Trek is more about talking to the aliens than shooting them, but the Borg as originally conceived are the perfect foil to the Federation. Powerful, implacable, relentless. You can't negotiate with them, you can't frighten them off, you can't even fight them. You can only surrender to them or run. You don't have to write for the Borg any more than you have to write for a supernova or a black hole. It's not about the Borg, it's about how the characters on the show respond to the Borg.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:34 PM on December 14, 2020 [10 favorites]

Right; the Borg are basically a race of Terminators: can’t be reasoned or bargained with, don’t feel pity or remorse, etc. They function as a force of nature.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:38 PM on December 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Hell of a cliffhanger, even on rewatch.

There are couple of callbacks to The Wrath of Khan here. The Borg beam hits engineering just like the Reliant did to the old Enterprise (downscaled for a tv budget), and of course the nebula (which is actually recycled footage from TWoK, according to Memory Alpha). It fits, The Wrath of Khan was all about the no-win situation (and raises the spectre of the sacrifice of a main character).
posted by rodlymight at 7:56 PM on December 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

It's not about the Borg, it's about how the characters on the show respond to the Borg.

Well put. It reminds me of a remark somebody made in the VOY FF threads about how that show (mis)used the Borg—the tl;dr version is that, while the characters were in Borg space and aware of it, the Borg should have loomed in the background of roughly a full season, amping up general tensions and compelling a defensive posture and mentality, like very bad weather on the horizon.

I didn't recall Hansen as being a Badmiral

Well, not one of the worst, to be sure. But next episode he has a moment that, while not villainous, doesn't reflect well upon him. Kinda too bad, because I like the actor's work in Trek and I love his voice.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:14 AM on December 15, 2020 [4 favorites]

The root idea for the Borg was maybe a bit more in the insect colony metaphor than the zombie stuff. It evolves toward a fusion of the two. Zombie fiction didn't inhabit the role in popular culture in 1990 that it would after Robert Kirkman et al, it's much more widely understood and referenced today than at the time. So we see the Borg as a culture with a different conception of self in Hugh, and we see the Borg as kinda generic space pirates in Descent, and we finally get the Borg-as-zombies explicitly in First Contact.
posted by StarkRoads at 10:24 AM on December 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

Hell of a cliffhanger, even on rewatch.

One of my clearest memories of my TV watching as a teenage nerd is the excruciating summertime wait between this episode and part II. Seemed like forever.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:43 PM on December 16, 2020 [6 favorites]

Me too Pater Aletheias. I remember watching this by myself at an age when I was only dimly aware that television shows had seasons, I just knew that there were more reruns in the summer. I didn't have an eye on the clock while I was watching, either, so I had no idea that the episode was about to end. So, when Riker says "Mr. Worf, fire." I am already at peak excitement, and then when I see the "to be continued" my head just about exploded. Then, when I learned that the next episode wasn't airing next weekend, but three whole goddamn months from now, I was livid. Absolute fury, why were they playing with my head here, I am a loyal viewer, you don't have to tease me to get me to watch your show!
posted by skewed at 7:07 PM on December 16, 2020 [6 favorites]

C'mon. They're literally zombies.

The problem is, that's only an limited number of stories you can do with zombies if you don't buy into the premise "Humans are the real monsters", and especially off you don't want to do a "The Federation has fallen and only a few refuges survive" scenario. It's also worth pointing out that the more the Borg became like zombies, the more theory threat degraded, and became an informed attribute.

The root idea for the Borg was maybe a bit more in the insect colony metaphor

And I wish they had pushed they idea even more, up to and including the Borg just stopping and building incomprehensible structures in a planet it in space; the technological equivalent to termite mounds.
posted by happyroach at 10:09 AM on December 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

There's that scene at the end of the first part of 'The Best of Both Worlds' where Patrick turns his head and looks directly into the camera with his laser. We had no idea what was going to happen. Boy, the phone rang! Rick [Berman] saw it and said, 'Oh, my God, what a great effect.' Now that's an effect that could cost thousands of dollars to do if you wanted to say 'This is what I want to do,' and this was done with a little cheap laser."

Unless you manage to fry your camera in the process. Then you're back to the shot costing thousands of dollars. Fortunately, that didn't happen.
posted by Naberius at 11:16 AM on December 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Unless you manage to fry your camera in the process.

I could be wrong, but it's only a risk if you're shooting digital. It wouldn't have been a problem on this, since they were rolling film.
posted by rocketman at 12:06 PM on December 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

The problem is, that's only an limited number of stories you can do with zombies if you don't buy into the premise "Humans are the real monsters", and especially off you don't want to do a "The Federation has fallen and only a few refuges survive" scenario. It's also worth pointing out that the more the Borg became like zombies, the more theory threat degraded, and became an informed attribute.

Well, there's zombies in the Dawn of the Dead or Walking Dead sense, where they're a critique/reflection of humanity, but there's also zombies in a more video game or World War Z sense, where they're a specific kind of obstacle to overcome. My point was you don't really have to "write for" the Borg, because in their first few appearances the threat they represent isn't one that requires a lot of nuance. The writers talked themselves into thinking the Borg needed a face and a personality, which is why in every appearance after the first there was Locutus and Hugh and Lore and, finally, the Queen.

There are lots of ways they could have made the Borg an interesting feature of Star Trek without ever giving them any kind of personality. Like you say, what if they just made incomprehensible structures in space that cause problems for no discernible reason? What if they show up in the Federation en masse, but after they assimilate a few ships and extract the Federation's technology they just stop showing any further interest? If you need more human stories, you could have researchers that become obsessed with the Borg, or an alien species with a long history of dealing with the Borg, or Romulans that are mining out an abandoned Borg cube (I think what STP did with the Borg was some of the most interesting Borg stories they've ever told), while still keeping the Borg themselves mysterious and unknowable.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:26 PM on December 17, 2020 [5 favorites]

Guinan headwear watch: Brassy green octagon
posted by Kyol at 6:33 PM on January 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

I feel like saying that the Borg are just Zombies misses some of the point of where they fit into this show, which is generally about the diplomacy surrounding the whole-scale export of Good Human Values in an idealized, neoliberal way, with Jean-Luc Picard as the figurehead for that. Every alien species is different from humans in a way that, in the end, highlights the virtue of humanity in that distinction. Klingons are bound up in the palace intrigue of a decadent honor culture. Romulans are duplicitous and secretive and insular to a fault. Betazoids mostly harmless but still a bit too intrusive. Vulcans are close allies but too dispassionate to really understand what it means to live. And most one-shot alien cultures are either inferior but with the hope that maybe they could reach the heights that humanity has reached, someday, or else superior but lacking in the principals and responsibility that the Federation brings to the table. There's very little, if anything, that we see our heroes being able to learn from other cultures, and everything that those cultures could stand to learn from our heroes. But part of the values that the Federation wants to bring to the galaxy is a love for diversity, and the belief that they stand everything to gain by embracing that diversity. Assimilating it, you might say.

The Borg are doing the same thing, in their way, without a shred of self-reflection or self-delusion about it all. They're a techno-communist body-horror funhouse-mirror version of the Federation, and way more effective for being so. And who do they choose for their figurehead? Jean-Luc Picard, of course.

That's terrifying and awesome in a way that Zombies on their own can't really attain anymore.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:08 PM on March 17, 2021 [6 favorites]

The Riker/Shelby conflict was pretty compelling. She's a great addition to the show, and I agree that it's a shame she never shows up again. I also really enjoyed the pacing of the episode, and how it builds up tension throughout.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 8:12 PM on October 15, 2021

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