Will the Borg Return?When it comes to the Borg, a return isn't so much a question of "if" as "when." Just as Klingons were the main foil for Captain Kirk in the original series, the Borg provided Captain Picard with a fundamental and character-defining force of opposition. No hero is fully realized without an appropriate villain. As a basic component of storytelling, the villain brings out the flaws and highlights the weaknesses and personal demons, which make a hero vulnerable, conflicted, and interesting. It's accurate to say that without a villain, we don't ever truly know who the hero is. Picard has always been a stoic captain fully in control of his emotions. No matter what the situation, he's able to evaluate the circumstances with a level head and enact a thoughtful and prudent course of action. However, the Borg have demonstrated an ability to get beneath that cool veneer and unhinge Picard on more than one occasion. The Borg have offered us a glimpse of an Ahab-like fanaticism within Picard, which is dedicated to the opposition of all the Borg stand for. Picard understands that this impulse threatens to overwhelm all of his other noble qualities.
What Are the Borg?What is it about the Borg that can seemingly send Picard to the edge of madness? The Borg are a conquering race that assimilates technology and individuals into a uniform collective. In the Next Generation episode 'The Best of Both Worlds,' Picard himself was assimilated and referred to as Locutus of Borg. Despite the fact that Picard was eventually freed from this fate, the experience was a defining and traumatic moment that left enduring scars. As a plot element, the Borg represent antagonists that allow writers to explore highly philosophical themes and ideas. The idea of an individual abandoning the fundamental parts of his or her identity to become an indistinguishable cog in a piece of vast machinery evokes one of the fundamental fears of modern living. People who wake up each morning to punch a time clock in service to a job they hate often feeds a visceral rejection to the Borg. The line "resistance is futile" could just as easily come from upper management as a spacefaring, conquering race of evil aliens.
Important Themes, Concepts, and Episodes
The Theme of UnificationThe question of will the Borg return and what role they will play is further complicated by the legacy of Gene Roddenberry's overall concept of the ideal cultural evolution of the human race. The original series was interesting because the Enterprise featured a Russian crewmember on the bridge of the Enterprise even at the peak of the Cold War. The message that the human race will have to put aside their differences and unite has always been central to the series, and it serves as an example that we should aspire to. A rather meta variation of this theme was carried on in The Next Generation when a Klingon was added to the crew. The implication was that the next step for humanity after making peace with itself would be to make peace with the other species in the galaxy, even those with whom the Federation had, at one time, engaged in an interstellar war.
Is Compromise Possible With the Borg?The evolution of society is an important and thoughtful theme to contemplate, and it's one of the reasons for Star Trek's enduring popularity. However, the Borg seems to be a race that is fundamentally conceived to exist in eternal opposition to harmony. They demand too much, and there doesn't seem to be any compromise possible. But Star Trek is a franchise that approaches its mythology with the mature perspective that comes from sixty years of storytelling. You can trust that the franchise will not default to an easy solution and will instead focus on discovering the breakthrough concept. Seven of Nine, played by Jeri Ryan in Star Trek: Voyager, represented the first effort to incorporate a Borg character within the Star Trek divine society. But Seven of Nine represents an individual that has rejected Borg culture and is therefore separate from the theme of mutual acceptance and inclusion that was shown with the Russians and Klingons.
Third of Five and Seven of Nine in PicardThe question of will the Borg return was definitively answered in 'Episode 3: Maps and Legends' with the return of Third of Five, or Hugh, played by Jonathan del Arco. Hugh was first seen in an episode from the fifth season of The Next Generation entitled 'I, Borg' in which the crew of the Enterprise reclaimed him from assimilation. Hugh was an important character through which some of the finer points of Borg culture were revealed, and his appearance in Picard seems to indicate the future importance of the Borg in the series. 'Episode 4: Absolute Candor' brought us the return of Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine. The return offers the audience a chance to compare and contrast Seven of Nine's always evolving relationship with the Borg beside that of Jean-Luc Picard's. The series has the advantage of approaching her character twenty years down the road and offers the viewpoint of perhaps a different path than Picard has taken.
Borg TechnologyBorg technology is also an important plot element in Picard, with a thriving black market that could potentially serve as a beacon to the collective, and which also draws out the worst elements of humanity. The dark corners of the Federation, where the more enlightened beliefs of superior culture have not yet managed to trickle down and take root, also represent the weak link in the chain through which humanity might experience its ultimate downfall.
Picard Seems Linked to the BorgWill the Borg return? Perhaps a better question is whether the Borg have ever left. Picard's relationship with the collective has become one of the defining traits of his character. We know the cause of the nightmares that attack Jean-Luc Picard in the middle of the night and provoke him to rise, screaming, from a tormented, restless sleep. To this point, the series is doing an excellent job dropping hints that the Picard's internal Borg conflict is about to become a very important driving force.
The Borg might be the best of all Star Trek villains exactly because they are so fundamentally in conflict with the ideals that the series hopes to explore. It's noble to contemplate the traits of a divine society, and Star Trek has made that goal its aim for close to sixty years. However, achieving a divine society isn't easy, and the Borg represent a kind of Gordian knot. For more discussion on all things Star Trek, be sure to check out some of the other articles on Mahannah's Sci-Fi Universe!