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Don't Be the Borg

Star Trek and its fandom’s strength is found in its diversity. The Borg are anti-diversity. Don’t be the Borg.

Star Trek: The Experience

Vernon Wilmer

It’s almost cliché. For nearly 55 years, Star Trek has celebrated diversity and been celebrated for its diversity. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations (IDIC, as you probably well-know if you’re taking the time to read an essay on the official Star Trek website) is at the very heart of the franchise. Multiple races, genders, sexual orientations, and of course alien species have all found representation in the Star Trek Universe. It’s one of the reasons why we love it.

And it’s what makes the Borg such a uniquely horrifying enemy. I mean, the Klingons? They want war-won glory and honor. Got it. I can accept that. Don’t like it, but I get it. The Ferengi? They are American capitalists. Greed is good and all that nonsense. The Romulans? Well, actually, who knows what the Romulans want. They’re just built on secrets. But the Borg? The Borg want assimilation. They are anti-diversity. If there were an anti-Starfleet, it’s for sure the Borg.

For more than 30 years, Jean-Luc Picard suffered from the effects of losing his identity during his time as Locutus. He confessed to Seven of Nine that he never fully regained his humanity. Seven and Hugh, the most prominent former-Borg of the franchise, also suffered permanent scars from their time as drones. It’s because there’s no diversity. No individuality.

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Oh, sure, different drones might have different eye implants or cybernetic limbs. But the true diversity found throughout Star Trek is nowhere to be found. Even during the most Borg-centric episodes and movies, it’s almost impossible to differentiate the genders, races, and species among the Borg drones, let alone the sexuality (hint: there isn’t any unless you’re the Borg Queen…). Diversity is irrelevant.

Of course, that’s all the storyline. Beyond the on-screen adventures of our favorite Starfleet crews, IDIC can be found among Trek’s fanbase. Star Trek fans are about as an eclectic and diverse group as there is anywhere in society. We come from every kind of background, education level, age, race, gender, sexuality, and any other attribute you can imagine. Honestly, there are probably some alien species in there too. It is what makes Star Trek amazing.

One of the great cultural losses of 2020 was conventions. As cool as the virtual panels and Zoom meet and greets were/are (and believe me, they were definitely a high point for my family last year), the in-person connections provided by conventions are what makes them so great. And sure, while it’s amazing to meet the stars of our beloved franchise and listen to them banter on stage with each other, for me, conventions are awesome because of making new friends and reuniting with older ones, all of whom share my passion for Star Trek. I truly love meeting such a diverse group of people whose life experiences are all so vastly different from mine, yet we can build enduring relationships thanks to Star Trek.

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Much like the heroic diversity represented onscreen can be found in the broad Star Trek fan family, so too can an anti-diversity faction analogous to the Borg. They are found in the form of “Gatekeepers.” Gatekeepers are fans who anoint themselves as the determiners of “true fans'' and grant access to their fandom community. They disregard the diversity of fandom, considering their approach to fandom to be a higher way of life. You are only a “true fan” if you fulfill their preconceptions. It’s almost an assimilation process. The rest of fandom’s diversity is irrelevant.

But resistance to this is not futile. If you like any part of the Star Trek Universe, you are a true fan. If you grok Spock, true fan. If TNG is your bag, true fan. If you travelled home with Voyager, true fan. If you’ve read every novel and comic, collected every toy, and can speak Klingon, true fan. If you dig DS9, true fan. If you call yourself a Trekkie, true fan. If you call yourself a Trekker, true fan. If you came aboard with the Kelvin Timeline, true fan. If you discovered Trek with Discovery, true fan. If you chant “Lower Decks!” around the house, true fan. If it’s always Archer time, true fan. If you traveled to the Picard popups in NYC and LA last year, true fan. If you can’t wait for the premiere of Prodigy, true fan. Literally any one of those things, and millions more, make you a part of the grand Star Trek fan family! All you need to do is like Star Trek.

Just as there is beautiful IDIC onscreen and in our collective fan community, there is infinite, beautiful diversity in what individual Star Trek fandom looks like. Gatekeepers, look to Picard, Hugh, and Seven and grasp diversity and individuality. Reject the hive notion that someone has to pass some kind of test to be considered a fan. Let them like what they like. They don’t have to assimilate. The Star Trek Universe is big, and, like the real universe, is ever-expanding.

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Let’s embrace one another and celebrate our collective and individual fandom. Like what you like and let others like what they like. Dislike what you like. No one says you have to like everything, or even watch everything, except for other Gatekeepers. Just don’t troll or flame a fellow fan on Twitter because they happened to like what you don’t. Embrace and celebrate our fandom’s IDIC! Don’t be the Borg. (Unless you’re Eric Allen Hall, because that guy rules and I can’t wait to finally see him again at a future family reunion-like convention.)

Star Trek Ships of the Line — The Borg Cube

Jake Black (he/him) is a writer whose credits include Star Trek: Starfleet Logbook, Star Trek Magazine, Star Trek trading cards as well as works for DC Comics, Marvel, WWE, TMNT, Supergirl, and many more. A twelve-year cancer survivor, he lives in a quiet Connecticut town with his wife, son, and twin daughters. Found online @jakeboyslim.