The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: I, Borg

When an Enterprise away team discovers an injured Borg drone, Captain Picard reluctantly lets Crusher bring it on board to treat it – on one condition. Geordi and Data are tasked with figuring out how to infect the Borg with a computer virus that will shut down the Collective, but as the rescued drone begins to discover his individuality, can they really bring themselves to use him as a vector for genocide?

The Borg are back, and their return comes via an episode that is simultaneously very good, and also quite troubling. Up until now, the Borg have been a faceless collective lacking in individuality, a force with whom there is no reckoning, no nuances or grey areas. Picard, who considers himself cured of his ordeal, is brought face-to-face with the enemy that turned him against his own people, and his reaction is clear; enlightened 24th century humanity be damned – when it comes to the Borg, it’s kill or be killed. And Guinan agrees – after all, the Borg destroyed pretty much her entire race, so there’s absolutely no room for sympathy.

But on the other hand we have Crusher, who once again as a female cast member is forced to be the empathetic and caring one – an injured Borg is just as much a patient as anyone else. Even Geordi, who is initially on board with Picard’s plan, starts to have second thoughts after seeing that this particular drone is less a faceless monster and more a lonely, vulnerable adolescent.

So on the character front there are plenty of perspectives, and all of them interesting. We see characters evolve and deal with their prejudices – so why is it troubling? Well, in the first instance, Picard and crew seem utterly fine with committing genocide – Prime Directive and morality be damned. I guess we’re supposed to take it as a measure of how scarred the Enterprise crew really are by the events of Wolf 359, but it is a little hard to reconcile with the fact that they’re supposed to be these evolved, perfect humans.

Resistance is (not) futile

  • In this episode the Borg are depicted as going to great lengths to recover their drones, when one might imagine that, as individuals are unimportant, they would just be willing to abandon them. Also, Seven of Nine manages to get away from the Collective without too much trouble, although to be fair the Borg Queen later claims that was all part of some grand plan.
  • The Borg that rescue Hugh are not smart enough to realise that the presence of Geordi means the Enterprise must be close by. Surely all Enterprise senior officers should be on some sort of Borg watch list?
  • It’s surprising that Data and Geordi could design a program that could destroy the Borg. Surely they have evolved not to be vulnerable to the kind of computational paradox described? Can they really be brought down with a simple logic bomb, and if so, why doesn’t Janeway just deploy one every week?
  • It’s just as well Hugh didn’t inject any nanoprobes into the Enterprise or its crew. Maybe he was unable to after being damaged, although as we see in Voyager Seven has a near infinite supply of nanoprobes for any and every plot occasion.

Summary – I, Borg: Picard confronts his prejudices, with predictable results.

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