When it comes to debating Jean-Luc Picard's (Patrick Stewart) greatest enemy, the most popular answers range from Q to the Romulans to the Borg on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Film fans got to see a Borg confrontation in Star Trek: First Contact (1996). Over the next few days, I will look back at some of the most essential stories leading up the upcoming CBS All Access series Star Trek: Picard, premiering January 23rd.
The first Borg episodes from TNG were some of the best science fiction on television – marking a pinnacle for the genre. The omnipotent Q (John De Lancie) tried to help the Enterprise do more in its exploration, but Picard rejected his offer. Q saw another opportunity to knock Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D down a peg or two.
"Star Trek: The Next Generation" S02 – "Q Who?"
In the season two episode "Q Who?", Q decided to put Picard and his defiance to the ultimate test. After being upset at his latest rejection, the "god" responded in kind – hurtling the Enterprise across the galaxy. When the Enterprise comes to a full stop and attempts to get back to their present location, Data (Brent Spiner) tells Picard it would take them two years at maximum warp. Upon meeting the Borg, the crew found themselves grossly overmatched as attempts at diplomacy and self-defense failed at every turn. Picard begged Q to send them back – and he obliged.
Directed by Rob Bowman, the episode with the Borg conceived as an insectoid race by Maurice Hurley was a resounding success. "Q Who" was nominated for three Emmy Awards, winning two. The next Borg-related episode is what many regard as the best episode in Star Trek franchise history: two-parter "The Best of Both Worlds."
Season Three Cliffhanger – "The Best of Both Worlds"
The episode saw a Borg cube invade Federation space destroying all that stood in its way. Their plan: assimilate Picard and do the same to Earth. With the first part of their plan a success, Riker (Jonathan Frakes) is promoted to captain with Lt. Commander Shelby (guest star Elizabeth Dennehy) as the first officer. Following Picard's kidnapping, Riker devised a plan to try to save him – but the crew was too late. Renamed Locutus of Borg, he became the collective's voice – delivering their threat to the Enterprise and Starfleet. At Part One's conclusion, Riker responded "Mr. Worf, fire" as part of their contingency plan – and making for one major cliffhanger.
Part Two saw the Enterprise devise a plan to rescue Picard by splitting the saucer and stardrive sections in a race against time to stop the cube from reaching Earth. Written by Michael Piller and directed by Cliff Boyle, the episode also won two Emmy Awards. The Borg was one of the best original creations of TNG. While each species thrive through their distinctiveness on individuality, the Borg attempt to homogenize all life onto its own, adapting and adjusting to continuously grow. They destroy what they don't assimilate.
The Borg plays a large part in future TNG canon, particularly how Picard deals with his PTSD from his past assimilation in "I, Borg" and First Contact. Leading up to the new series, it will be interesting how the Borg changed the current timeline.