Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Picard Kills a Beloved Next Generation Character

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 7 of Star Trek: Picard, "Nepenthe," now streaming on CBS All Access.

This week's episode of Star Trek: Picard brought about genuine franchise nostalgia in guest appearances from William Riker and Deanna Troi. But all was not happy for characters from The Next Generation, as former Borg Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco) was surprisingly killed.

Hugh's storyline in "Nepenthe" exists in the aftermath of the events of the previous episode. After a reunion with fellow XB Picard, the two escaped the Romulan guards pursuing him and android Soji. Running around a defunct Borg Cube, he used his instincts from his time in the Collective to find the cell of the Borg Queen. From there, he activated a transporter, which Picard and Soji used to beam out of harm's way. Episode 6 ended with Hugh, guarded by sword-wielding Romulan Elnor, facing down a menacing group of guards.

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It appears the showdown did not go so well for our heroes. When we next see Hugh, he is being interrogated harshly by Rizzo, who represents the anti-android Zhat Vash cabal. Standing in front of him are seemingly all the XBs on the cube, men and women who Hugh has worked tirelessly to rehabilitate as Executive Director of the Borg Reclamation Project. He stays strong in the face of Rizzo's intimidation, refusing to talk as to where Soji and Picard went. In retribution, she mercilessly orders a firing squad to gun down the XBs. Stunned, Hugh weeps over his fallen brothers and sisters, while Rizzo digs the knife by blaming him for their deaths.

"You helped Picard and a synthetic escape," she tells him. "You ruined years of patient work from dozens of operatives across hundreds of star systems. You may have doomed a trillion souls across half the galaxy."

Though she grouses that she cannot directly harm Hugh due to the Romulans' cooperation as part of a treaty with the Borg Reclamation Project, it's clear she struck a chord. She leaves Hugh still inconsolable on the floor, not even giving the XBs she killed a second look. Elnor appears soon after; seeing the look on his face, he decides to stay on the Artifact to help him with whatever he plans to do next.

Evidently, those next steps involve revenge. Hugh tersely organizes a plan to get back into the queencell, using it to take control of the Cube and sever it from the Romulans' power. Unfortunately, Rizzo overheard the scheme, and gleefully uses it as evidence to break the treaty and go for Hugh. An action-packed scene follows, as she pursues him while Elnor quickly and savagely disposes of her guards. Eventually the two Romulans face off in hand-to-hand combat, a culmination of the conflict of their sects. But it's Rizzo who gets the spiritual victory, as she stealthily throws out a blade in the middle of the fight that impales itself in Hugh's neck.

As Rizzo beams away, Elnor tends to his fallen friend. "How’s this for a lost cause?" he muses, making reference to Elnor's group the Qovat Milat only binding their swords to impossible tasks. "I was a hopeful fool again for a minute. Thanks for that." With gratitude, sadness, and a smile on his face, Hugh dies, officially rendering the XBs on the Cube extinct.

The end of Hugh's story is tragic, given both the way he died and the role he served during his time in Picard. Early on, in a ship surrounded by cold and secretive Romulans, he took an interest in Soji. She was one of the only people on the project to show warmth and compassion towards the XBs, and her qualities are what had him grant her access to the formerly assimilated Romulans. When Picard visited the Cube, he was a friendly face to the retired admiral, who was encountering heavy PTSD from his days as Locutus of Borg. He gave a tour of the Artifact to Picard, showing him the XBs and their humanity. It was a shocking revelation for the titular character.

"After all this, you’re showing what the Borg are underneath," he said. "Victims, not monsters."

Indeed, Hugh's entire story arc throughout two Trek series has been about showing the man underneath the metal. With the Borg first being portrayed as soulless threats, his introduction allowed the characters and audience alike to see them as something different, something capable of saving. And until his last breath, he was living proof that was possible.

Star Trek: Picard stars Patrick Stewart, Alison Pill, Michelle Hurd, Evan Evagora, Isa Briones, Santiago Cabrera and Harry Treadaway. A new episode arrives each Thursday on CBS All Access.


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