Hugh Borg's Role In Picard: Returning Star Trek TNG Character Explained
Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Episode 3.
In Star Trek: Picard, the role of Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco) has been revealed: He is now the director of the Romulan Reclamation Project aboard their Borg Cube Artifact, and it's a fitting job for the former Borg Drone. The new CBS All-Access series centering on Patrick Stewart's return as Jean-Luc Picard has been focused on the role and future of artificial lifeforms in the Star Trek universe. Naturally, the Borg, the cybernetic beings who are Star Trek: The Next Generation's greatest villains, are playing a crucial role in Picard's sequel series.Click the button below to start this article in quick view. Start now
Hugh was introduced in the classic TNG episode "I, Borg", and he was the first "reclaimed" member of the hybrid human/cyborg race. Originally designated Third of Five, Hugh was a young man who was assimilated but his humanity was restored by the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D. Starfleet Command, echoing the villainous traits they exhibit on Star Trek: Picard, ordered Jean-Luc to use Hugh to plant a virus that would be transferred back to and destroy the Borg Collective. Captain Picard balked at this deliberate act of genocide and instead he returned Hugh to his Cube, hoping that his individuality would spread to the rest of the Drones. Hugh was next seen in the "Descent" two-parter, where he and his fellow Drones were taken over by Lore (Brent Spiner), the evil android brother of Lt. Commander Data. Hugh helped his friends on the Enterprise defeat Lore, but the friendly Borg hasn't been seen in Star Trek since. Decades later, in the 2380s, the Romulans gained possession of a derelict Borg Cube and launched their Reclamation Project to harvest and then sell Borg technology in the wake of their planet Romulus being destroyed by a supernova.
Star Trek: Picard episode 3, "The End is the Beginning", picked up Hugh's story and reintroduced him as the man in charge of the Romulan Reclamation Project, which makes him the boss of Dr. Soji Asha (Isa Briones), who is secretly Data's synthetic daughter (which Hugh is not aware of). Now older after having lived as a human for decades (though he permanently bears the scars of his assimilation), Hugh oversees the humane way the XBs (ex-Borg, also dubbed "the Nameless" by the Romulans) are having their cybernetic parts removed from their organic selves. Indeed, Hugh took special notice of the compassionate way Soji treats the XBs by speaking to the various species in their native languages as part of their therapy. Taking Soji under his wing, Hugh agreed to introduce her to Ramdha (Rebecca Wisocky), one of the "disordered" Romulans who were assimilated, only be to be shocked when Ramdha turned violent and accused Soji of being "the Destroyer".
Hugh's presence on the Romulan Borg Artifact is a clever callback to his own life story: Star Trek: Picard's Borg Cube suffered a sudden submatrix collapse after it assimilated Ramdha and her fellow Romulans. The Collective permanently severed its link to the Borg Cube, deactivating it and leaving it derelict. As "Descent" explained, a similar event happened on Hugh's Cube after he returned from the Enterprise-D; the Collective considered the individuality spreading among the Drones to be a contagion and cut it off from the hive mind, which left the Cube and its inhabitants in disarray. Given the similar circumstances and his own experience as a reclaimed Borg, Hugh is the ideal person to oversee the Romulan Reclamation Project and he seems to have earned the respect of his Romulan hosts.
However, Hugh is an interesting contrast to Soji because the former Borg has clearly had a difficult life and he shared how he and his fellow XBs are among the most reviled people in the galaxy. Yet Soji seems to be able to do things even Hugh, as the project's director, can't, like access restricted Romulan files (just by asking), speak alien languages, and recall obscure trivia about the Romulan culture. As Star Trek: Picard continues, it will be fascinating to see where Hugh stands if and when he learns Soji is synthetic and the target of the A.I.-hating Romulan cabal known as the Zhat Vash as well as what will happen if Hugh meet Jean-Luc Picard again after all these years.
Star Trek: Picard streams Thursdays on CBS All-Access and Fridays internationally on Amazon Prime Video.
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