When an Arctic team unearths the corpses of some cybernetic life forms, they underestimate the danger of what they are dealing with. The life forms repair themselves and start infecting others with their technology, ultimately taking over a rogue ship which only Enterprise can stop.
Oh, hello retcon, we meet again. This episode is perhaps the biggest offender for altering the Star Trek canon, introducing the Borg some two hundred years before the Enterprise-D is flung into their path by Q.
With that in mind, I’ll present this review in two parts. Firstly, let’s judge it on its own merit, separate from the main Star Trek timeline into which it so rudely inserts itself. Under these circumstances, it’s not a bad episode, and in fact does a lot better at making the Borg scary than Voyager ever did. First the Arctic base is taken over, then Enterprise must chase a Borg ship, all the while dealing with drones assimilating bits of the ship and even attacking Phlox. These Borg may be two hundred years older than the ones who confronted Voyager, but they are much trickier to deal with.
So then, what about its part in the greater whole? After I first saw this episode, I found myself really annoyed at the heavy handed retconning that had taken place just to insert yet another fan favourite into this prequel series. Wasn’t it bad enough that we had Ferengi, Nausicaans and Romulans showing up before their time? I still feel uneasy about that, but this time around, I’ve come up with an excuse to justify it – and that excuse is First Contact.
In First Contact, Picard and his crew largely saved the timeline, but it’s probably not quite what it was before. The timeline in which Q Who took place could be slightly different to the new one. The main changes are as follows:
- The Enterprise crew and the Borg were present for First Contact.
- Zephram Cochrane remembers this happening and mentions it once when drunk.
- The Borg sphere that the Enterprise-E destroyed crashed in the Arctic in 2063, and led to the events of Regeneration.
- Seven of Nine recalls the Borg being present for humanity’s first contact with the Vulcans.
- Seven of Nine’s parents had knowledge of the Borg before Q Who, and went to the Delta Quadrant to study them. Seven grows up as Annika Hansen in the original timeline.
For us viewers, that means we’ve been watching two different timelines (probably more, but let’s ignore that for now). The main timeline consists of every episode of TOS, TNG up to First Contact, DS9 up to mid season five, and Voyager up to mid season three. Insurrection, Nemesis, the remainder of DS9 and Voyager, and perhaps all of Enterprise, take place in the timeline created by the events of First Contact.
If it’s all one consistent timeline, then other questions are raised. Regeneration does suggest that the Borg distress call to the Delta Quadrant would take two hundred years to arrive, neatly explaining why the Borg were attacking Federation and Romulan colonies even before Q Who. It would also explain how the Hansens knew about the Borg before Q Who. But why didn’t the Enterprise-D crew have any prior knowledge of the Borg? Have the records from the 22nd century been lost or discredited? Do only crackpots like the Hansens even believe in them by the 24th century? I guess it’s plausible.
- The Borg appear, obviously.
- Phlox mentions the Bynars and their cybernetic technology, as seen in TNG’s 11001001.
- Once again, Phlox’s alien physiology saves him, as he is assimilated slowly enough to be able to cure himself. Presumably 24th century nanoprobes would be able to assimilate him much more efficiently.
- Apparently Phlox’s near-assimilation storyline was cut from the Channel 4 airing of this episode. I can’t remember if I first watched this one on Channel 4 or Sky One, and I don’t remember any of these episodes well enough to deduce if I saw the edited version or not.
Summary – Regeneration: But the timeline!