‘Star Trek: Picard’: The Borg Storyline So Far, Explained
“When it comes to seeing Picard again, the first things that come to mind are Data and the Borg.”
That’s what Star Trek: Picard Executive Producer Alex Kurtzman recently told THR about how they approached bringing back Patrick Stewart’s most iconic character — along with one of Star Trek’s most popular villains. Both Data and the Borg play key roles in Picard’s unfolding mythology, which finds Picard’s deceased friend and his most lethal enemy looming large over an intricate plot that involves a massacre on Mars where androids helped kill thousands of Romulan refugees, resulting in a Federation-wide ban on androids (AKA synthetics). Complicating matters is the reveal of a derelict Borg cube that plays home base to both what’s left of the Romulan Empire and several inactive Borg drones.
The latest episode of Picard, “The Impossible Box,” reveals more about the role that the race of cybernetic beings hellbent on assimilating various cultures into their hive-mind collective plays in Picard’s return to television after a 26-year absence. Here’s what the “Resistance is futile” baddies are up to, and how they got there:
The Borg Are Back…ish
The Borg have been a considerable thorn in both Picard and the Federation’s side since the captain and crew of the Enterprise-D first encountered them in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Two episode, “Q Who?” Their cold, unrelenting mission to assimilate entire alien races and worlds, in an effort to add their victims’ biological and technological distinctiveness to their own, reached a boiling point when they kidnapped and assimilated Picard 30 years ago, in the Season Three TNG cliffhanger “The Best of Both Worlds, Part I.” There, Picard was turned into Locutus, whose role in the collective was to act as a voice and figurehead to oversee the Borg’s assimilation of Earth. Thankfully, that plot to turn humanity into drones failed — as did their second attempt in the 1996 feature film Star Trek: First Contact.
But the emotional scars from Picard’s brief experience as a member of a race using him to kill his own species took longer to heal than the physical ones. In fact, Picard recently revealed in its fifth episode, “Stardust City Rag” that Picard has yet to feel like he has regained all the humanity the Borg took from him 30 years ago. Ironically, that which he has lost is something the Romulans are helping ex-drones (“Ex-B’s”) get back on the Borg cube they have acquired, which the Romulans call the Artifact.
It’s there that Picard is forced to come to terms with his trauma, and those who inflicted it upon him, by stepping onto a Borg cube for the first time in three decades. There, he not only reopens old wounds for himself, but also discovers a sense of hope in a place that’s home to those driven to take it away.
Welcome to the Borg Reclamation Project
Sometime after the loss of their homeworld and the explosive (and fatal) end to Picard’s efforts to relocate the Romulans to a new home, the Federation’s oldest enemy laid claim to a damaged Borg cube. They renamed it “The Artifact” and began working on salvaging Borg tech from inactive drones, as well as “rehab-ing” former drones of various races back to a way less “assimilate everything” existence with the Borg Reclamation Project.
The Executive Director of the project is a former drone himself — Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco). Picard helped free Hugh from the Borg when he was the drone designated Third of Five in the classic TNG season five episode, “I, Borg.”
At first, Picard plotted to use Hugh as a “Trojan Horse” and deliver a virus that would break down and destroy the Borg’s hive mind. As more of Picard’s crew members got to know Hugh, and see his humanity come through, Picard had a change of heart and let Hugh go. They would reunite later in the Season Seven premiere of Next Gen, “Descent, Part II.” “Impossible Box” reunites Picard and Hugh for the first time in over 25 years, and in doing so, we learn that the Borg are able to be rehabilitated. There is hope for their victims as they attempt to re-enter their lives, which sparks Picard to challenge his inner (and justified) prejudices against the alien race that still haunts him after all these years.
Helping Hugh and his efforts is Soji, played by Isa Briones. Soji recently lost her twin sister, Dahj, at the hands of Romulan operatives wanting to destroy her because she is an advanced android; a perfect mix of biological elements and Data’s positronic components. Soji is also an advanced “Synth,” but only recently discovered that about herself. Given that the Romulans hate androids, Picard came to the Artifact to protect her, since she is in the crosshairs of a Romulan spy named Narek. He is using her, and the Borg Reclamation Project, for less than altruistic reasons.
Why? Because the Romulans only have two speeds: Shady and super shady. Their hate for androids and any synthetic life is long-standing; there are no androids in their culture. (So it’s especially ironic that they would make their base aboard a ship full of that which they loathe.) Narek and other Romulans–conspiring with Federation brass as well–believe the Borg’s collective consciousness, along with Soji’s brain, can help them locate the secret Synth homeworld and wipe out the Synths that are still alive after the Federation ban.
Through Hugh and Soji’s efforts, we learn something new about the Borg: The Collective is like the iCloud for this race of interconnected beings. From the moment aliens or humans are assimilated into it, they join a chorus of thousands in service of the hive mind. Once disconnected from the collective, like Hugh was, they are free of those voices. But Picard tells us that what is never silent are the echoes or imprints that individual drones take with them. This mess of overlapping voices, speaking as one mind, operates in a “Time is a flat circle” sorta way.
For example: “The Impossible Box” puts Picard and Hugh in “The Queen’s Cell,” a room they have never seen or been in but know of, like it’s been there all this time. It is the private chambers of the Borg Queen, last seen trying to destroy Captain Janeway and her crew aboard the lost starship Voyager as they warped to get back home in the Star Trek: Voyager series finale, “Endgame.” It’s in this room that Hugh introduces Picard to an advanced tech belonging to a race Janeway encountered in the first season of Voyager. This tech allows for long-distance transportation with a range of up to 40,000 lightyears. The reason for this tech was to spirit the Queen away in case of an emergency, and the episode all but implies that the Queen survived her explosive demise at the end of “Endgame.”
Hugh and Soji have also discovered that the collective share a common narrative full of archetypal information from past experiences but it is just as relevant and timely to them as present day news is to humans. What exactly Hugh and the Romulans want with this info is unclear, but all signs point to it paving the way to more mysteries being uncovered about Soji, her ties to the rogue synthetics the Romulans are hunting, and the future of the Borg.
Given that the Borg have been a cancer for Stafleet for over 30 years, it is safe to assume that, whatever happens next for Star Trek: Picard, this aspect of Picard’s past will play a significant role in shaping his future.
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