StarTrek.com is in the middle of Borg Week - and One Trek Mind has been assimilated!
Resistance is, indeed, futile when it comes to one of the most creative foes ever dreamt up for a film or television franchise. These part-mechanical/part-organic creatures working as a collective, roaming the galaxy looking for new technology to slurp up and integrate into their already existing patchwork, are terrifying in their relentlessness. They have the edge in brute force – and the fallen at Wolf 359 could attest to that – but the cunning of people like Captain Picard and Captain Janeway prove that one should never underestimate a Terran with a will to survive.
Nevetheless, the Borg scared the ever-loving crap out of us back in the day. (Or at least of me. TNG couldn't have aired at a more perfect time for an early teen who would never admit that a TV show could still give him nightmares.) To that end, let's enter a transwarp hub and list the ten most frightening things about the Borg.
10 – The Cube
While some of the initial enthusiasm about Star Trek focused on Matt Jefferies' unique design for the Enterprise, it still basically looked like a ship. It had a bow, it had a stern. When we first met the Borg in TNG's epic “Q Who?” it was evident from the get go that these were no ordinary foes.
Just how does a cube propel itself through space? How is that possibly an aerodynamic design? (I guess maybe in the vacuum of space this is less of an issue?) There was really no time to ponder this, though, back when we first saw a Borg Cube, because we were all too busy saying OH MY GOD THE SHIP IS A CUBE and IT LOOKS SO COOL AND SCARY I'M FREAKING OUT!!
9 – Adapted Phaser Shields
When the first Borg drones beam to the Enterprise in “Q Who?” it's a shocking moment. So much so that Picard and La Forge just kinda stand there in Engineering with big question marks over their heads. (Worf sends over some security goons, who are quickly tossed on their rears.)
Worf is ordered to fire his phaser, and it works for a moment. Then another is sent over and the phasers… don't work. Oh, they still shoot, but the Borg Collective have now “learned” about the phaser blasts and have fabricated force field defenses tuned to their particular energy frequency. It's a moment of stirring dread – one of the first when we realize that the usual way of defeating a villain is not going to work here.
8 – The Voice
“We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.”
It wasn't just what they said… it was the way in which they said it. Cold, unfeeling, mechanical – a mix of numerous voices harmonized to sound as one. The dispassionate delivery of this message of doom still brings a chill down my spine when I hear it.
Also: super Star Trek nerds of a certain age have a tendency to be Rush fans as well. I can't be the only one who thinks this classic line with that slightly electronic warble may have been inspired from Rush's 2112 album, which ends with a similarly recorded “Attention all planets of the Solar Federation. We have assumed control.”
7 – The Sphere
This may be another one where it was just me, but I audibly gasped the first time I saw a Borg Sphere. I mean, just when you think you know your nemesis, they go and whip out a whole new type of vessel. The spheres may be smaller than the cubes, but the fact is that we never quite knew what the Borg had up their sleeves. (They had spheres, apparently.)
6 – The Queen
Nothing personifies this notion of the Borg's ambiguities better than the Borg Queen.
First introduced in Star Trek: First Contact, the idea of an individual seemed to contradict the whole essence of the Borg's existence – that of a total collectivized consciousness.
In later Voyager episodes it was learned that the Queen didn't “create” the Borg, rather she was an assimilated being who had the task of leading the collective designed for her. One could argue if she was actually the leader or merely just a focal point for order, but these are the type of heavy conversations far better suited to have in person over a glass of Romulan ale.
5 – Hugh
The most terrifying thing about the episode “I, Borg” is that this perfect enemy still had a little bit of humanity within them. No matter how much we hated them, destroying everyone in the Collective by giving them an invasive virus was not the Federation way. That we could learn to actually learn to like a member of the Collective made us rethink all the rage we'd focused on the Borg up to that point.
4 – Assimilating Annika
Hugh was just a warm-up to one of the greatest and most likeable Star Trek characters ever, Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix 01. Once we got used to the idea of having a de-assimilated Borg around, the episode “The Raven” showed us just how the terrifying process of assimilation worked. It involved having horrible half-mechanical creatures terrorize an adorable blonde moppety girl, that's how. And that's pretty scary.
3 – Attacking Species 8472
You'd think that with all that knowledge the Borg assimilated from all those higher lifeforms they would have acquired some common sense. This was clearly not the case when they decided to invade fluidic space and wake the slumbering giant that was Species 8472.
This extremely advanced race of meanies decided that the way to protect themselves from the Borg was to leave their realm and go on the offensive against our entire galaxy. (As such, Captain Janeway was forced to temporarily join forces with the Borg to save humanity.) What was so scary was how the Collective's thirst for a new conquest could have such a devastating effect for so many planets and cultures. The mechanical drive to assimilate gave no forethought to consequence, making their eternal quest even more frightening.
2 – Guinan's Warning
When the happy-go-lucky bartender starts making ominous statements, you know it is serious.
Ten-Forward's El Aurian mixologist Guinan knew an awful lot about the Borg, so when the episode “Q Who?” wrapped up it fell to her to let Captain Picard (and us) know this was going to be an atypical ending. Yes, the ship was out of danger and Q had snapped his fingers and left, but the fact that the Enterprise had run afoul of the Borg would have lasting effects.
“Since they are aware of your existence,” Guinan tells Picard. “They will be coming,” he fires back, completing her thought.
“You can bet on it.”
1 – Locutus
The Borg certainly were aware of the Federation's existence and they came looking for blood. Well, blood only if they were foolish enough to resist, something they said was futile time and again.
To get this message across they pulled a real humdinger of a move – they kidnapped and transformed the Captain of the Federation's flagship. Jean-Luc Picard became Locutus of Borg and he was LOOKING US RIGHT IN THE EYE and telling us our lives were over as they had been. (Plus shining a red laser beam, too.)
The ensuing Battle of Wolf 359 devastated the fleet (and killed Jennifer Sisko), but ultimately proved a pyrrhic victory for the human spirit. Still, the fact that the Borg could get any one of us – even someone as strong as Captain Picard – and have that person bent to do evil deeds proved once again how much the Borg meant business.
Attempting to write a top ten list without leaving off somebody's top pick is futile. Surely there must be a scary moment with the Borg that I'm forgetting. If that's the case, let me know in the comments below.
Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen on Film.com, ScreenCrush and Badass Digest. On his BLOG, Jordan has reviewed all 727 Trek episodes and films, most of the comics and some of the novels.