Star Trek: The Next Generation

"I, Borg"


Air date: 5/11/1992
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by Robert Lederman

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise encounters a small Borg scout ship crashed on the surface of a planet with a sole adolescent male survivor in critical condition. After considering the options, Picard has the survivor beamed aboard the Enterprise rather than leaving him to die. Then a daring plan is hatched: The Enterprise could perhaps use this Borg as a Trojan horse carrying a destructive computer virus (*); when the hive returns to retrieve this drone (as they typically do), the virus could eventually spread through and destroy the entire Borg collective.

Perhaps not everyone will agree, but in my opinion "I, Borg" was, at the time, the correct turning point in TNG's Borg saga. Granted, it would mostly become a moot footnote by the time First Contact would roll around, essentially undoing the ideas put forth here (and in the season six/seven bridge, "Descent"). But at this point, going on two years since we last saw them on the verge of assimilating/destroying Earth in "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II," the idea of taking the Borg, the previously big, scary, action-movie-spectacle-generating interstellar locusts that they were, and bringing the question of their nature into a smaller, more intimate and introspective situation (albeit with questions put forth here that are definitely big ones) — well, I think that's the right choice. A new spin on the material was appropriate at this stage in the game.

This is a different take on the Borg, and a very well executed one that considers the question of Who We Are just as much as it ponders Who They Might Be. The central issue becomes not whether we can use this Borg drone — which gets the nickname "Hugh" — to destroy the rest of the collective, but whether we should, and what responsibilities we have as human beings as we make this decision. (Conveniently, the story leaves out any mention of this course of action being discussed with higher-ranking people at Starfleet Command or the Federation government. Which is just as well — this is a story that is and should be about Picard and the Enterprise — but whatever their chosen course of action, you'd think the rest of humanity would've wanted a say.)

In true TNG tradition, this is a morality play — though it's worth pointing out that there's a legitimate point of view that can argue that humanity also has a moral imperative to protect itself from a race of amoral cybernetic beings bent only on turning us into them. But when the crew no longer sees the Borg as a swarm of locusts but instead as this individual named Hugh who appears to have feelings, the moral waters get murkier. And increasingly so as Hugh becomes more and more individualized the longer he's separated from the collective. The idea of negotiating with the Borg once was assumed to be impossible, but in spending time with Hugh the story challenges this belief.

There are some fascinating dialogue scenes where people have their longstanding beliefs thrown into question. Guinan is initially chief among the skeptics ("You have a Borg named Hugh?"), but she visits Hugh in the brig and gradually realizes she has doubts of her own — and this translates into a thoughtful scene between Picard and Guinan that considers the moral implications of this potentially genocidal plan. One thing I'll say is that this story shows people's ability to actually listen and rethink their previous conclusions — something that often seems hopelessly optimistic (and, yes, possibly naive) when you look at the world we live in today.

Picard finally realizes what he must do when he has a fascinating one-on-one conversation with Hugh where Picard plays the part of Locutus. It's an interesting bit of staging and acting; Picard essentially plays the part of the Borg collective in order to see if there's the possibility that Hugh has himself become a free thinker willing to go against that hive mentality. And therein lies the genius of this story: Even without a computer virus, Hugh might still wield a widespread influence if returned to the collective, because that sense of individuality might itself be the Trojan horse.

Is Picard and the Enterprise crew foolish not to use this opportunity to destroy the Borg? I could see the argument, but I'm glad this episode doesn't argue it. Trek is, after all, built on a philosophy of optimism and individual responsibility, and the way the story ends here is the only way the writers can practice what they preach. Besides, what better way to beat the Borg collective than by having it assimilate the sense of the individual self into its hive mind? Perhaps then it is we who are assimilating them.

* The computer virus designed here strikes me as an unlikely way to cripple an entire race of cyborgs. It's essentially a paradoxical 3D image that cannot exist in real space; Data says this paradox would spread though the collective and cause a massive system failure because of unending calculations and analysis. This strikes me as a very fancy TNG version of the old TOS cliche of Kirk Outsmarting The Computer With Circular Logic; wouldn't it be more likely that the Borg, with all their knowledge, would simply conclude the paradox is a paradox and then purge it from their system?

Previous episode: Imaginary Friend
Next episode: The Next Phase

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101 comments on this review

Latex Zebra
Wed, May 11, 2011, 2:53am (UTC -6)
The bit right at the end were Hugh looks back at where Geordie was (or something like that) puts a lump in my throat.
Wed, May 11, 2011, 8:41pm (UTC -6)
Love this episode! Almost every scene is a delight. Also it's nice to see the usual 'moral yardsticks' (Picard and Guinan) be the ones with hate in their hearts. Some real growth for both characters.
Wed, May 11, 2011, 8:44pm (UTC -6)
"If you're going to use this person..."
"It's not a person, damn it, it's a Borg!"
"If you are going to use this person to destroy his race, you should at least look him in the eye once before you do it. Because I am not sure he IS still a Borg."
Wed, May 11, 2011, 11:55pm (UTC -6)
I loved Patrick Stewart in this episode. The scene when he's arguing with Guinan about going to see the Borg is played with such skill.

He added a layer of willful-denial to the scene. It was obvious Picard knew that if he went to the Borg he would end up changing his mind, so he avoided going.
Mon, May 16, 2011, 2:39pm (UTC -6)
I think this is the best Borg episode in any series. Star Trek does lots of 'moral episodes', but few rise to this level.
Thu, May 19, 2011, 6:29pm (UTC -6)
This is why I love TNG. Instead of playing it safe and doing "The Best of Both Worlds part III" or "Q Who redux" or something to that effect, they instead take something familiar and completely change the paradigm surrounding it in order to tell a compelling story. That was ballsy to put quality storytelling over fanboy wishes. You won't find that today in genre storytelling.
Fri, May 20, 2011, 5:14am (UTC -6)
I agree, Patrick. TNG invented the Borg, and still they used them very sparingly. Compare that to Voyager where it seems that every even numbered episode featured the Borg. Talk about sensory overload.
Nick P
Sat, May 21, 2011, 2:46pm (UTC -6)
OK, I love this episode, and I love the morality play, but I want to be very clear that I do believe the crew made the wrong choice. I think Morality plays are fine and dandy, but in reality, survival is always desired.

I sometimes think we are so evolved as a society we forget that we didn't always run the earth. The only reason humanity exists at all is because we were smart enough to kill off the lions and the bears (and possibly the Neandertals), and had we NOT killed them as ruthlessly as possible, we would not all be here on the internet instead of scavenging for food on the African Plains between lion sightings.

The borg ARE the new lion on the African plain. There is no Morality argument here, they die or we do. Every death (human or not) from that point on is Picards fault, DIRECTLY.

I love that because hugh seems nice, the borg are not evil??????? I am sure some of the nazis were deligtful conversationalists, but if you were a jew in Poland, you get the hell out!

again, I do love this episode, but disagree with the finale.
Sun, May 22, 2011, 10:08am (UTC -6)
I'd argue that "survival is always desired" isn't necessarily true though. If surviving meant becoming a monster, if it meant me slaughtering millions of brainwashed people, I'd rather die. I'd be alive but it wouldn't be much of a life worth living after that. I don't think surviving is enough, because after you've done what you had to do to survive, you still have to look at yourself in the mirror.
Nick P.
Sun, May 22, 2011, 10:23am (UTC -6)

I think you are moralizing where there does not need to be a moralization. We are not talking about exterminating a bunch of people who are following a weird preacher, we are talking about a group of organisms whose sole purpose is to destroy you and your way of life. The only way you become a monster by destroying them is if you yourself tell yourself you are. But I am not. I am trying to survive.

There is no moralizing if your dead. And I don't think you are a better person than me either if you are dead. I think you are frankly dumber, if you would willingly let survive the race trying to destroy you.
Plain Simple
Tue, May 24, 2011, 10:53am (UTC -6)
From the review: "Besides, what better way to beat the Borg collective than by having it assimilate the sense of the individual self into its hive mind? Perhaps then it is we who are assimilating them."

I guess this is a point that belongs more in "Descent" then here, but since you bring it up: I've always wondered why Hugh's individuality was so special to the collective. Presumably everyone they assimilate comes in with a sense of individuality, not only Hugh. Or is the point that they didn't expect it in Hugh and so didn't purge it when they took him back? (Hmm... random thought about First Contact/Voyager that just came up: could Hugh's individuality be the source that sparked the Borg's creation of their Queen? Was the Queen's origin ever addressed? I don't remember.)
Wed, May 25, 2011, 10:55am (UTC -6)
lions were not wiped out from the face of the earth... humans became stronger than them (and other competitors)...lions still exist and are top players in the animal kingdom, but humans are stronger... athough we know a lion can kill us, we dont go about unleashing viruses to wipe out lions

the federation are allowing their opponents to survive... but that does not mean they cannot become stronger... and really who knows what the consequences of destroying the borg will be to the whole galaxy, maybe their destruction (before their time) would create an imbalance (similar to destroying any species on Earth)

although i do think that your logic was pursued in DS9 with the dominion, unleashing the virus.
Nick P.
Wed, May 25, 2011, 12:47pm (UTC -6)
@ Weiss

You are arguing a distinction without a difference ( a logical fallacy). You are correct in the absolute technical sense that Lions still exist, but I meant the lions as an analogy of being at the top of the Earths food chain, and with humans taking over that rule through absolute ruthless intellegence.

Although Lions still exist, they used to be at the absolute top on almost every continent. There is only one reason they are no longer, the Roman Empire (mostly).

Further, Lions were not focused on our destruction, the brog were. If the Jews in 1944 had a virus that would kill every German, I would hope they would have the sense not to be as "sophisticated" as posters here.
Plain Simple
Wed, May 25, 2011, 3:15pm (UTC -6)
Nick P., so you're saying you would willingly trade one genocide for another? It's an impossible choice to make. I guess if you were a Jew in your scenario you could argue, rather the Germans than us, and if you were a German you could say the reverse. If you were a German Jew you were screwed anyway.

A better analogy might be, what if you had the opportunity in 1944 to blow up the leaders of the Nazi party (so not all Germans), would that be an acceptable choice to make? Or hey, lets make it even more topical, murdering Bin Laden (not in self defense or during combat, but actually going there with the intent to murder him), is that an acceptable choice to make? I don't know. I can sort of see why many people would say "yes", but it also makes me very uncomfortable. At what point is it justified to violate the principles you're fighting for to, seemingly, defend those same principles?
Sun, May 29, 2011, 2:17pm (UTC -6)
All I can say is it's a good thing there wasn't an agent from Section 31 on board the Enterprise. There's a terrible disconnect between Picard's moral choice to NOT use Hugh, a Borg who becomes a sympathetic character over the course of a few days, as an instrument of genocide, and Section 31 (and by extention the Federation) who had no compuction about infecting Odo, a Bajoran citizen and trusted officer on DS9.

What makes these different choices all the more tragic is that when Odo contronted Sisko with the Federation sanctioning of genocide, Sisko becomes an apologist for their actions. I don't see Picard making that choice.
Wed, Jun 1, 2011, 9:52am (UTC -6)
This is one of those episodes that every Trek fan has to like, just like The Inner Light or Darmok (Or The Visitor from DS9). It's the LAW!!!!

Alas, this one just doesn't do it for me. (Visitor and Inner Light definitely do).

It is the forgone conclusion of the whole thing. You know Picard is going to turn around and not go through with the plan. Geordie develops an instant bro-mance with Hugh, and the actual scene where Hugh gets his name is stomach turning.

On top of that, I just didn't like the performance of the actor playing Hugh. It would have felt more at home in The Original Series. (in fact Hugh looked like one of the recurring red-shirts from TOS, as he has that same distinctive facial structure).

I bought this on VHS thinking it would be a great episode, and was disappointed. The Next Phase was on the same tap, which I found a lot more enjoyable (if lightweight).
Tue, Jul 12, 2011, 6:35pm (UTC -6)
Just reading the above comments - which I greatly enjoy - it seems to me that possibly many hany confused what the so-called ''Morality Debate'' actually was centered on. Not to end a sentence on a preposition - which I just did.

It was not ''Is it wrong or right to kill an entire race of beings?''

It was ''Is it wrong or right to use this ONE being (Hugh) as the tool to achieve that goal''

Noone ever seemed to beat up over the possibility of possibly wiping all Borg out of existence, the dilemma was if it was ok to use HUGH to do that...because, what WAS Hugh? Individual entity - or collective piece? If the latter, you can really more easily ignore any whispers of conscience about wiping out all Borg by using Hugh...if the former, those whispers of doubt get murkier - and louder.
Nick P.
Tue, Jul 12, 2011, 11:49pm (UTC -6)
@Plain Simple,

Just thought I would comment again, since your scenario just occurred, we killed Bin Laden, and yes, I was one of those "mindless children" dancing in the street. He is my countries enemy and I am quite happy dancing on his grave, I am having 0 problem moralizing his death.

I consider myself a "true" liberal, I do not believe life is the only thing in and of itself, I believe in making the world a better place, for those who follow the rules. I am pro-choice, pro-death-penalty, pro-killing civilizations' enemies. I have 0 problem killing or torturing anyone who has sympathy for the Bin Ladens in the world. is the US partly responsible for the creation of Bin Ladens, yes, sure why not, I just don't give a shit. I live in America, and as much as some here sympathize with the Bin Ladens, he is certainy not YOUR friend, he would kill you just as quick as he would me.
Thu, Aug 25, 2011, 6:31pm (UTC -6)
@Nick :

It is possible to condone the execution of Bin Laden (which I, for example do as you do) without rejoicing in it. Such bloodsport is a little terrifying : when global politics and deep-rooted terrorism is reduced to lines like "he is certainly not YOUR friend," I start to worry--I don't envy you having "0 problem moralizing his death" because it is that very problem which gives our species dignity and had the problem occurred to Bin Laden himself, perhaps a lot less people would be dead today.
Nick P.
Fri, Aug 26, 2011, 8:25am (UTC -6)

Really? You really don't rejoice over the death of Bin Laden? Have we really come to such a sanitized point in human existance we cannot rejoice the death of civilizations enemies? I really think I was born 100 years too late. Victory over your enemies is a primal emotion, and a healthy one, what you call a "problem" I call the struggle for survival. It is Darwinian, scientific, and correct. I have no problem with people dying who are trying to make the world a worse place.

Death is not the worst thing on earth. I really regret that liberalism as a concept can justify the deaths of pre-born children at the drop of a hat, but the death of civilizations greatest enemy must be a time for "reflection". F-THAT.
Fri, Sep 9, 2011, 6:46am (UTC -6)
I really don't like where the commenting on this episode has gone. I agree with Elliott that we don't have to be smug and celebratory about shooting an unarmed man in his bedroom to be relieved and comforted by the fact that the man was a threat who is now dead.

Nick, you must understand that there are multiple perspectives in the world and yours is not the only one. I'm not suggesting that you are wrong for having the emotional response to Bin Laden's death that you have/had; I'm merely suggesting that there are others out there who have a more muted response, and that does not make either side wrong. I will point out, however, that just because "liberals" support the right of a woman to cause the "death of pre-born children", as you put it, does not mean liberals support throwing "I just had an abortion!" parties to celebrate the decision.

Ultimately, I agree with Fanner. I believe the true debate in this episode was not "let's not kill the Borg"; it was "is it right to use Hugh to kill the Borg?"

To use already-used analogies, most of us would not have questioned putting a bomb under the car of one of Bin Laden's couriers that would have unbeknownst exploded when he returned to his compound, killing Bin Laden and his supporters there. But what if Bin Laden was found hiding in the USA, would we still be alright hiding the bomb on an unsuspecting and innocent US Post worker, knowing he too would be killed? It's not a perfect analogy, but I think it makes the point.

I also agree with the previous commenter in questioning why Hugh is unique in that everyone that is assimilated had individuality. I also conclde that that it's because Hugh is already a drone and his individuality won't be purged from him (as evident in Descent).

To the computer virus discussion; the crew never get to impliment the 'virus', so perhaps the borg would NOT have been confounded by the shape. We'll never know, but just because LaForge and Data say it should work doesn't mean it actually would.

Ultimately, good episode; perhaps 3.5 stars due to some of the more pedantic moments, but ultimately good.
Nick P.
Fri, Sep 9, 2011, 11:41am (UTC -6)
@TH, I respect your comment, but there is this impression among liberals (I am quite liberal, BTW, I did not mean to imply otherwise), that anyone who rejoices over Bin Ladens death is a country lovin, jesus-lovin, hillbilly, and obviously has no intellect.

All I am saying is that you can rejoice your enemies death and still be a functional intellectual and yes LIBERAL person. I think modern times have become very sanitized (for lack of a better term) and that we should feel bad about emotions. But that is why I brought up Darwin, survival of the fittest. It is death that moves evolution forward. We are so stigmatized by death as a people we cannot move past it. I am glad America celebrated the death of Hitler. i am glad that people celebrated the death of Bin Laden.

Obviously you are correct that people have different viewpoints. But Bin Laden sure didn't care. Hitler didn't care about your viewpoint. Bin Laden wanted YOU dead. and ME. He is my enemy, and I would like him dead before he can kill me or my children. There is nothing Jingoistic or anti-liberal about celebrating the death of your enemies. If being glad about the death of my enemies means I can't be a liberal, than count me out.
Thu, Sep 15, 2011, 3:25pm (UTC -6)
what are "preborn children"?

The attempt to equate pro-choice with pro-abortion is one of my biggest pet peeves.

If not for the stigma and the profound shortage of availability of abortion, abortions after the first trimester would be essentially unheard of.

Captain Tripps
Thu, Oct 20, 2011, 10:46pm (UTC -6)
Comments have veered into strange territory.

I actually thought this episode had wider ramifications than it did, canonically speaking anyway - I had always connected Hugh with the Unimatrix Zero plotline from Voyager, but apparently the two were never tied together.

TH - a better analogy I think would be, is it ok to place a bomb under the car of a random Muslim to kill a known terrorist, because you know they'll be in the same place later. This is a completely relevant issue today whenever you turn on the news and hear about "collateral damage" from another drone strike over in the Middle East.

Is our moral compass really going to be What Would Hitler Do?
Fri, Oct 28, 2011, 2:54pm (UTC -6)
>what are "preborn children"?
>The attempt to equate pro-choice with pro-abortion is one of my biggest pet peeves.

I don't really understand your point. I mean, if you're trying to say that someone can be pro-choice but still be anti-abortion (i.e. "I don't believe in abortion but I support your right to have one if you do?")

I think my point was mostly skipped over and I think it was an important one: I think there are very few people in America (liberal or otherwise) who would prefer Bin Laden to be alive now. I simply think that people can be satisfied or relieved or happy that he has been killed without being CELEBRATORY, holding parties, making banners or signs or shouting about it etc. In the same way I don't personally think that if someone is executed in capital punishment, it is not appropriate to throw a post-execution party with dancing, cake and cocktails.

That's my personal opinion. I don't claim to tell anyone else how to feel, and if you feel it is worth celebrating, that is fine.

I did not mean to suggest to Nick that I believe everyone who celebrated was a red-neck yokel. I understand that celebrators included liberals and conservatives, urban and country dwellers alike. There's nothing wrong with that, but there's also nothing wrong with simply being relieved and at peace knowing that he is dead, without a raucous celebration.
Wed, Nov 16, 2011, 7:53pm (UTC -6)
@Nick P.
"I am quite liberal, BTW, I did not mean to imply otherwise"

Since these comments have already veered into some strange land of politics, let me just jokingly add that, as far as I know, what in USA passes for "liberalism" would in Europe probably be viewed as pretty hardcore rightwing philosophy. And vice-versa, of course, European ideas of social democracy seem like marxist horror stories to some in the US. :)
Mon, Jan 16, 2012, 8:54am (UTC -6)
Wow! I just can't agree with most of you. I'm working my way through TNG chronologically, and save some stinkers in season 1 this is among the worst IMO.
Maybe part of the problem for me is that I'm coming into this having recently watched all of Voyager and seen a lot of borg fish out of water stories that just don't wash with this one. Obviously this predates all of them, and therefore cannot be judged in the same context.
That being said I still hated it. More than anything it is one of the most sentimental treatments I've ever seen TNG. The idea may have contained a valid moral question "Can you blame an individual for the crimes of the group that they are part of?" or something like that. I just don't think it is relevant to this context.
This is the borg we're talking about! I find the whole notion of borg as a lost puppy to be ridiculous. It totally negates the entire borg mythos. They are not individuals. That's the whole point. And don't even get me started on Picard's nonsense at the end about infecting the borg with "singularity". Puke. Star Trek can be so much better than this wet blanket stinker.
Thu, Mar 15, 2012, 10:53pm (UTC -6)
I just watched this episode again and found it somewhat disturbing. My main complaint is, whatever the story the episode wanted to tell, I wish that at least *someone* had retained the perspective that Captain Picard expressed at the beginning of the episode: that, given the Borg's non-negotiable intention to destroy the human race, the Federation had the right to do whatever it took to stop them.

Instead, the episode takes a somewhat soft-headed position that, because this one poor Borg was lonely and kind of cute, we should let him go without using him to attempt to destroy the Borg collective.

Does anyone on the Enterprise remember what happened at Wolf 359? Or how close the Borg was to assimilating all of Earth? Sure, Hugh is kind of endearing. But the Borg are not, and would kill or assimilate every last person in the Alpha Quardrant if giving the chance. The moral debate isn't that difficult, and clearly favors using Hugh to annihilate the Borg, if possible.

Setting aside my own moral views, the episode unrealistically portrays startling changes of heart by Picard and Guinan. The Borg tortured and mutilated Picard; would a Borg who said "I am lonely" really change his thinking so quickly? Similarly, the Borg essentially destroyed Guinan's entire race; imagine an alien species had destroyed humanity and then think of how quickly you would warm up to that species. It would probably take more than one conversation.

This episode too easily portrays the crew taking an "enlightened" view of the Borg. It presumably reflects the worldview of the comfortable Hollywood screenwriters who wrote it. The unyielding perspective that Picard and Guinan take at the episode's start is the less naive, more reasonable point of view.

The Borg are hell-bent on total assimilation of all non-Borg species; they have far superior weapons; in their collective mind-set, they will not negotiate or compromise. By failing to take the opportunity to introduce a virus into the Borg collective, the Enterprise crew has endangered all life in the Federation. This is a grave error. The supposed moral of this episode rings false.
Nick P.
Fri, Mar 16, 2012, 8:50am (UTC -6)
@NYTWIN81, I completely agree with you and I have one question, I wonder how a certain Benjamen
Sisco feels about the events of that day on the Enterprise. I remember when I first watched Emmisary, the first episode of DS9, at first I thought , hey Sisco, don't be so mad at Picard, he couldn't control his actions, but then I remembered I'borg, and realized he is actually probably pissed that Picard could have ended the borg threat right then and there, but didn't. I would be pretty pissy with Picard TOO.

you are totally right, it is the left wing screenwriters who loved this script, because it made them feel better, but I still say that every single person who was killed directly or indirectly by a borg every day after this episode can blame Captian Picard.
Fri, Mar 16, 2012, 10:49am (UTC -6)
Do you see, Jammer, where my argument comes from that DS9 was the answer for those who never actually liked Star Trek?

Folks, Star Trek is defined in great part by its idealism. I find it truly remarkable that a man like Picard can be tortured and raped by a species, find the personal courage to both move past his experience (mostly) and set aside his own personal feelings of anger to make a moral choice, and THEN be hissed at by various admirals, Ben Sisko and a number of commenters on this site for being so courageous.

@ Nick P. Please don't sully this argument with our modern conceptions of right and left wing. All people should be able to agree about basic moral choices like "killing is wrong" without categorising them in partisan camps.

@ nytwin81 :

"because this one poor Borg was lonely and kind of cute, we should let him go without using him to attempt to destroy the Borg collective. "

The fact that Hugh was "lonely and...cute" has nothing to do with anything aside from offering an emotional portal to discover if the crew's preconceptions were justified.

" would a Borg who said "I am lonely" really change his thinking so quickly? "

The fact that he is lonely does not garner sympathy in the way you imply. It's not as though they feel sorry for him and so decide against using him like a bomb--the fact that he expresses loneliness means he is no longer Borg. If the drone had remained a drone and his individuality never resurfaced, the argument would be different and the crew's (admittedly ridiculous) plan to destroy the collective would be afoot.

Regarding René Echevarria, I'd look up his other work before boxing into some Hollywood stereotype. The first episode to contradict that assessment which comes to mind is "Children of Time."

Remember what Guinan and Picard discussed back in BOBW part I; will humanity survive, or do we "turn the page"? For us to matter, to justify our fragile existence, we must live by those qualities which define us, even unto our own extinction. That is nobility and it is to be honoured, admired, respected and above all emulated, not ridiculed.
Nick P.
Fri, Mar 16, 2012, 12:05pm (UTC -6)
@Elliot, I don't believe "killing is wrong". IMO that is a platitude, not a philosophy, even vegans KILL plants to survive. That is LIFE.

I certainly agree with killing there a BIG grey area, but what people arguing how great this episode fail to realize, is that killing to SAVE YOUR SPECIES, has no grey area.

Go to the BSG episode board and see the discussion there. If you have the chance to eliminate the threat that is killing you (borg, cylons) and you do NOT take that chance, you are not fit for survival, I don't care how morally superior Picard or Adama are to me, I will be ALIVE, and they will be DEAD. It is that simple, no grey area.
Fri, Mar 16, 2012, 2:51pm (UTC -6)
@ Nick P.

I am on that board. As soon as you draw a line in the sand about where the grey areas end, you've set a precedent for evil actions. There is a reason why in every great scifi series (DS9's Dominion, VOY's Borg, BSG's Cylons), an enemy which seemed once shrouded in implacability, defeatable only through extreme genocidal methods, is eventually revealed to possess the same motivations and fears as ourselves (or the protagonists), and thus can be defeated through negotiation, adaptation or merely the destruction of its ideological leader.

The Taliban has declared war on our way of life, but it is neither necessary nor morally justified to wipe every last member of the organisation out to "win"--we must, probably, destroy its leaders, but we must also 1) give every attempt to coëxist, coöperate and educated the others and 2) most importantly, question whether there's any validity to their claims against us and whether we can hope to better ourselves in that questioning. That is Trekkian idealism, but it is not simple nor unrealistic.

You make it seem as though, in the real world, nonnegotiable threats to a society or species are successfully met only with genocide. When exactly has that been the case? War, death, certainly. But genocide? The "real world" has more evidence to offer the benefits of negotiating and educating.

A good drama doesn't defend the grey areas only when there is little to risk in defending them. A good drama knows that to mean something, to mean anything worthwhile, those principles must be worth a sacrifice, even the ultimate one. Turn the page.
Tue, Apr 17, 2012, 4:53am (UTC -6)
The reason this episode asks its moral quesiton, is because it sets a precedent. If one person can be used once to attack an ememy, then it will happen again and again in the future, all pointing back to one example, like a pandoras box, it can never be shut.

@ Nick, saying you would kill any enemy to survive could be considered wrong, because how do you decide who is the enemy? What gives you that right to decide? Nothing, you could then turn your ideals against innocent people. It is just easy to say you would kill to survive when you have such an obvious enemy like terrorists...
Mon, Apr 23, 2012, 5:29pm (UTC -6)
This thread is shocking in its implications. Elliott listed DS9 as a "great scifi series." I need to sit down.
Mon, Apr 23, 2012, 5:43pm (UTC -6)
@ Justin :

Compared with most sci-fi series, hell, most television shows, any incarnation of trek is "great."

I don't think (and I've said this in numerous posts) that DS9 was a bad series or even mediocre. For the most part, there were a lot of good things going on. I take issues with the show's identity as a series and the means by which it attempts to justify that identity in much the same way others take issue with VOY's purposeful abandonment of plot continuity and its non-existent attempts to justify it. Neither of these shortcomings makes the series poor. They were both great. The question of which is greater, it seems, depends upon how one feels about TNG. There are elements in that show which clearly sow the seeds for the other series and whether one found them distasteful,brilliant, pregnant or superfluous, I think, informs one's feelings about the DS9 and VOY.
Sun, May 6, 2012, 10:00pm (UTC -6)
The genocide vs. survival argument was easier to answer in Doctor Who's Genesis of the Daleks, where the Daleks just wanted to kill or enslave everyone in the universe, but even then the Doctor couldn't bring himself to push the button. The Borg on the other hand believe they are improving the universe. As we see in Hugh, the Borg as a race are not malicious. Instead they are a cult of naive children. Their collective is one of blissful torpor rather than mind-expansion. Picard's notion that individuality is the better virus to inflict on the Borg completely works for me.

The best thing about this episode is definitely the fact that Picard and Guinan are wrong about something and are willing to admit it, which is much better character development than always being right or being stubbornly neutral in the face of common sense. This is my favorite Guinan appearance for that reason.
Fri, Jul 6, 2012, 10:18am (UTC -6)
This episode is a good direction for the Borg, yes.

But it still suffers from predictability and some overly simplified moralizing.

As can be seen by some of the comments above, these kinds of issues can provoke some varied and even extreme responses. I think the episode does well to raise them but then too neatly resolves the outcomes.

Still, some very good material. Picard-Guinan and Picard-Hugh are particularly potent scenes.

3.5 for me.
Thu, Jul 19, 2012, 12:53am (UTC -6)
Wow! I've read Jammer's review of "I, Borg" a number of times, but only today read all of the commentary. While unexpected, I like the direction and overall thoughfulness of the comments posted.

To add my own two-cents worth to the Nick P/Elliot/nytwin81 thread, despite the implacable nature of the Borg, I believe that it isn't necessary to perpetrate a genocice-scale atrocity to overcome such a foe. In fact, ST-Generations and ST-Voyager made it easy for Humanity to do so by introducing and expanding upon the concept of the Borg Queen.

The idea is simple: cut off the head and the body will die. In this case, remove enough of the Borg's command infrastructure (including the Queen) and all of the "units" that make up the collective will revert to their individual selves. As originally presented in "Q Who" and "The Best of Both Worlds", every Borg played a part in the collective and gave it guidance. That concept would have made it much more difficult to deal with the Borg, as it would require the Federation to destroy (i.e. kill) most or all of the collective in order to "change its mind". A genocide no matter how you slice it.

But even assuming that we are dealing with a pre-Queen Borg, there is still an "out" short of genocide to remove the threat they present. The game "Squad Leader" taught me that you don't have to kill your opponent to achieve your aims; you simply need to break their will to resist. The perfect way to do that with the Borg (in fact, the only way) is to disrupt each individuals' link to the collective, as presented in this episode. I'm sure that the Federation could have figured out a way to do that. Then you can deal with a "them" as apposed to an "it", hopefully with diplomacy and negotiation as opposed to the end of a phaser.
Cail Corishev
Thu, Dec 27, 2012, 7:53pm (UTC -6)
Altair77 nailed it: this is pure sentimentalism. The argument was never the one from BSG where they agonized over whether wiping out another species is acceptable in self-defense. (That was the point where I stopped watching that show. The answer is, "Yes, stupid.") Everyone was on board with wiping out the Borg, and objectively they all agreed that putting a "virus" in a drone was a great way to do it. Even freakin' Guinan, normally the poster child for giving peace a chance, was like, "Strap the bombs to it and push it out the airlock already." If they could have simply uploaded the virus a la Independence Day, they would have done it in a second and had a party while Hugh and trillions of other Hughs died.

That only changed because they met the drone and had their heart-strings pulled. So they were really saying, "We won't kill this person in front of us for the self-defense of trillions of lives including ours and our families'." That may be an argument worth having, but it's pretty shaky and built on nothing but sentiment.

I still enjoy the episode, though. I disagree with their decision, but it's in character for them to make it. It's that Trekkian optimism that peaked in TNG, that says you can take whatever rarified, righteous, moral stand you like, and things will work out okay anyway. I prefer DS9's (or Farscape's) more realistic take, but the TNG viewpoint is a nice fantasy to indulge in.
Mon, Jan 14, 2013, 1:47pm (UTC -6)
Personally, I do agree with their decision. I would propably be against it, if the situation was more desperate, but at this point, using sentient being, to kill trilions of potentialy sentient beings just to save people they can stil save, isn't something I woud consider moral decision.
Sun, Jan 20, 2013, 5:16am (UTC -6)
Nice episode, but VOY did it better with the "Drone" one.

One thing: before Geordi beamed down with Hugh, it was said that there was no danger, as the Borg only assimilate cultures, not just individuals. Yet, Annika's parents were assimilated as individuals.
Nick P.
Sun, Mar 17, 2013, 10:30pm (UTC -6)
@Cail Coreshev,

You have the best response I have seen yet in this (old) thread. I completely agree. Gene would have loved this episode. And I have said, it is charming and nice to watch. But it is not reality. And I am bothered by some posters on this board who think the rational answer to a hive mind trying to destroy your species is to try to "work somethin' out". The only correct answer as far as Evolution is concerned, and myself, is to eliminate the threat.
Sun, May 19, 2013, 8:53pm (UTC -6)
yeah, don't destroy the borg when you have a chance, let them live, the poor things, even if they will come back to bite your sorry ar...

if a vulcan was there, he would have seen how illogical it would have been not to take the chance: you spare their species, and how many other species will then be wiped away by the borg thanks to you in the next few centuries? and possibly yours too!

their "justification", the hope that hugh's individuality will change them, is one of the most stupid things you can come out with!
they constantly assimilate individuals, never been a problem, has it?

they could have tried, the borg would have survived because they are... well, the borg, and everyone's a winner.

but no.

there is a line between compassion and stupidity, and they crossed it.
by several kilo-parsecs ffs!

not a bad episode though.
at least is not filled with damn kids like too many episodes in season five.
Sun, Jun 9, 2013, 9:34pm (UTC -6)
To all the people talking about Bin Laden; you're creating a false dilemma. It's not a question of "killing Bin Laden and loving it", "Killing Bin Laden and being all liberal and hating what you've done" or "not killing Bin Laden"'s a question of realizing that Bin Laden was created by and as a response to you. You are the Borg. Act altruistically or not at all.

Sun, Jun 23, 2013, 11:32am (UTC -6)
Great 43 minutes of entertainment. ST episodes dealing with moral issues are always the best. At the end, when Hugh is brought back by the Borg, I would have given them Alexander as a going-away present.
Corey (a different one)
Thu, Jul 11, 2013, 3:39pm (UTC -6)
Just wanted to say that the comment posted above under "Corey" is not me, I've made many posts on the site under "Corey" (well, it is my name), but that one is some-one else.

As for this episode, I enjoyed it and agree with Jammer's rating for it. I find it interesting that later, Starfleet orders Picard to TAKE ADVANTAGE of an opportunity to destroy the Borg, if it should occur again. So the brass apparently, once again, disagreed with Picard's decision - it's amazing Picard is keeping his job.
Thu, Jul 25, 2013, 8:36pm (UTC -6)
I hated this episode when I first saw it and I still hate it. They had a chance to destroy the Borg and they let it pass. Now that i have hindsight my foresight back then is even more justified. Every society that was wiped out and assimilated between this episode and First Contact, has the Enterprise to blame. Why did Hugh decide to go back? Because he knew how dangerous and destructive the Borg are. They finally got it right in First Contact and wiped out the Borg. How many lives could they have saved? I hate this episode.
Thu, Jul 25, 2013, 9:12pm (UTC -6)
I'm even more glad that that woman had sense enough to kill the Crystalline Entity when she did. All it would have had to do was say, 'Geordi' and this crew would have fawned over it like it was a cute little puppy instead of a menace that already committed numerous genocides and had no intention of stopping. I really hated this episode !!
William B
Wed, Aug 14, 2013, 1:47pm (UTC -6)
OK, so. Controversial episode, it seems. Where to start?

First off: it is not true that "no one" has qualms about destroying the entire Borg Collective, though it's true that this is not the central concern for most of the episode. Beverly immediately expresses reservations about destroying the Borg, and her arguments are immediately dismissed. This is mostly for good reasons; Beverly's arguments are fairly weak, though I don't think she's entirely wrong. Beverly says that the Borg have not declared war on the Federation, which is a fairly disingenuous argument. But when she says that even in war there are rules, I find myself nodding in agreement. Beverly as the voice of life and humanism favours non-violence even in extreme situations, and her voice is important but ultimately rejected for sensible reasons. The Borg are a threat and they do need to consider them.

So then after this, the question eventually becomes whether it is right to send Hugh back to destroy the entire Borg Collective. But Picard even discusses the implications of Hugh finding some semblance of individuality at the episode's end, though the episode perhaps doesn't dwell on this point long enough to make it obvious. In the comment thread for "The Measure of a Man," I mentioned that the reason Guinan's argument to Picard about slavery hits Picard and changes the whole tenor of the trial is that the scope has suddenly changed. One loss of life, one loss of freedom, is tragic, but individuals die in tragic accidents all the time. What is devastating is the realization that one loss of life or freedom implies others. Whether Data himself is a person or not is very important. But it's much, much more important to consider that whether or not Data is a person could potentially determine whether thousands upon thousands of Datas will be considered persons. It is the same with Hugh, there. If Hugh is a person, then all it takes for the rest of the Borg to become people is a few days' separation from the Collective.

The initial conception of Third of Five which is presented in the conference room conversation at the episode's beginning is that "it" is essentially an arm or a leg (or, more likely, a single cell) of the Borg Collective, which is a malicious individual, a single entity which is out to destroy the Federation and which we have already seen cannot be reasoned with. It is still true that "the Borg collective" is dangerous and devastating and unreasonable, but the realization in this episode is that the individual "cells" are potentially persons too, and can, in fact, change from being instruments of the destructive whole to persons who can, and in Hugh's case do, choose to recognize others' desire to remain separate from the Collective and even act altruistically to protect them.

TNG is a series which aired as the Cold War was winding down. The Borg Collective is many things, but on one level it is a symbol of the horror of collectivism brought to its absolute extreme. It's the USSR times a billion, and it's frightening also partly because it's an exaggeration of the healthier, consensual collectivism that the Federation represents. "Third of Five's" inability to recognize why humans would not wish to be assimilated is partly because he's been living a life separated from the humans he knows are meant to be assimilated, and has no conception of the fact that humans do not wish to be assimilated and what individual wishes even mean. He's a citizen of a state with sealed borders and constant propaganda, who is unable to think for himself. (I'm not saying that this accurately describes citizens of the USSR, but it does get at some of what US writers' perceptions were likely to be.) Separated from the constant stream of thousands of voices into his head, he can see clearly what the Federation citizens are and want, and wants to act on their behalf. And conversely, seeing him separated from the collective, the Enterprise crew can see that he is a person not unlike them, perhaps with different values (he misses the thousands of voices which he has grown up with, and it's not even wrong for him to value that as long as he doesn't impose this on others) but able to care for others and to refuse to participate in hurting them. Both sides of a war in which communication barriers have prevented them from talking to each other, with the solitary exception of Picard having brought back his experience of Locutus, are able to see each other now; the crew sees that single elements of the Borg collective can be, if left on their own, thinking, feeling individuals, and Hugh sees that the enemy is more than just foolish beings who refuse the Borg's status as obvious benefactors. The recognition that one's enemy is not fundamentally, irretrievably "evil" changes the game and suddenly the question becomes not how to destroy them but how to reach them.

There is also, I think, an important parallel the episode gestures at that often goes missed. Picard/Locutus and Third of Five/Hugh are more connected than is discussed. Picard is an individual the Borg took into their Collective in an attempt to communicate with, and to overtake, the human race; Picard was taken by the Borg and nearly used to overtake everything Picard held dear. Third of Five is a Borg the Enterprise crew found and was planning on using to destroy the entire Borg Collective. The Borg fired first and nearly succeeded in destroying the human race; they are also out assimilating other species, too. But the plan to use Hugh as a gateway through which the entire Borg can be destroyed is eerily similar to the use of Picard/Locutus as a method for destroying humanity (or its freedom, at least). This adds another chilling level to the Picard-Hugh scene, probably the episode's strongest, in which Picard instantly seizes onto the idea of using his Locutus persona to test Hugh to see how strong his beliefs in indivdiuality are, and, effectively, in which Picard-as-Locutus tries to act the part of the Borg Collective, trying to convince Hugh that he is not an individual by laying on the Borg propaganda, in an effort to attempt to prove, for Picard, that Hugh is not a person, and thus it is okay to destroy him. Picard is not just pretending to be Locutus, but in this scene he even acts as Locutus might for a moment -- attempting to crush Hugh's newfound individuality so that Hugh can be used as a tool to further Picard's ideological aims. It adds another layer to Picard's recognition, when Hugh uses "I" and refuses to act against Geordi, that using Hugh would be no different from being the Borg. Not only would they be behaving as the Borg, but Picard specifically would be both being like Locutus himself, *and* would effectively doing to Hugh what the Borg did to Picard, crushing his individuality in an attempt to use him to destroy his species. Is it any wonder Picard could not go through with it?

The Enterprise crew can't do that yet. There is only some hope. Picard thinks that maybe Hugh's sense of individuality will spread to the rest of the Collective. I think the reason that they believe this may happen with Hugh as opposed to others who are assimilated, is that when others are assimilated into the Collective, the Borg work to suppress or remove that person's individual will before they join the Collective. Individual will is something primitive cultures have that needs to be removed along with nonfunctional limbs. But Hugh returns to the Collective as a ready-made Borg drone; they would not process him as an outsider who needs to be brainwashed as part of their processing. His individuality might sneak through. Actually, Voyager does follow up on this episode, though not directly (i.e. the Borg are not influenced by Hugh himself); Seven's arc follows Hugh's in this episode in certain ways, though the more we learn about her the more we understand why she clung more strongly to the Borg as surrogate family than Hugh did, and while I'm not a big fan of "Unimatrix Zero," the idea of Borg whispering to each other in sleep, their only respite from the Collective, reminds me very much of people sharing secrets in a totalitarian world, united only in their hopes for a different world, which seems to me a lot of what Hugh's return to the Collective might represent.

Besides Picard (and Beverly), I've barely even talked about the characters here. Geordi is well positioned to be Hugh's guide to humanity, because Geordi is, after all, a bit of a cyborg (I wish Hugh had asked to see Geordi's "eyepiece" after Geordi asked to see Hugh's), who loves technology like no one else and already is best friends with an artificial being. He's also a bit of an everyman character and someone who makes sense as a guy who has some initial prejudices about the Borg which nevertheless aren't that strong; he neither has Beverly's instantaneous humanism nor Picard or Guinan's personal feelings about the Borg. Guinan is very well used here in one of her best roles; Guinan is very rarely allowed to be wrong or even questionable, and to see her immediately getting on Picard's case about even considering treating the Borg like a human being both increases the stakes and gives voice to the Borg's victims. Hugh himself is occasionally too cute, but his development over the course of the episode, step by step, is done very well, and his last moment looking at Geordi as he heads back to lose himself again (or so he thinks) is heartwrenching.

Anyway. Yeah. One of the series' best, though not quite at the level of "Darmok" and "The Inner Light": 4 stars.
Thu, Oct 31, 2013, 5:35pm (UTC -6)
Great episode. I wondered why no one thought to ask Hugh his opinion about the virus. Maybe he would have been willing to sacrifice himself for his new friends. It would have made for a great scene in an episode packed with great scenes. But I suppose that's a moot point.

I think some of you are taking the ethical dilemma a tad too literally. As previously mentioned, the Borg represent any nation we are currently "enemies" with (USSR, Iran, North Korea, doesn't matter--using the Borg makes this story transcend current events). I would not condone the destruction of another nation in any circumstances, even supposed "self-defense". Killing another individual may be acceptable in certain specific circumstances, but mass murder to "prevent" a threat which may or may not occur? No thank you.

@Nick P.: I think "Emissary" makes it pretty clear that Sisko blames Picard for the death of his wife, not for his actions in "I Borg". Blaming Picard for all future deaths the Borg cause is simply ridiculous. There is no guarantee that the virus would have been effective in destroying the entire collective (it could have affected only one vessel, or had no effect whatsoever). On the other hand, if the virus did wipe out the collective, then Picard would be definitely responsible for genocide (and for using an innocent individual to commit that genocide). As we later learn, most Borg drones are former individuals who are doing the collective's bidding against their will. There’s a word for that: slaves. So yes, I completely agree with Picard’s choice in this episode, regardless of the consequences. And being able to make such a decision (as opposed to following the "Survival of the fittest" rule) is what makes humanity, in my opinion, superior than other species. To quote Adama from BSG, "It's not enough to survive; one must be worthy of surviving.

@William B: Wow. You said everything I wanted to say, but better.
William B
Sat, Nov 2, 2013, 1:49am (UTC -6)
@Nic, thanks, and I agree with what you say here too (where it diverges from what I said -- the Adama quote is helpful here, too).
Sat, Nov 16, 2013, 9:14pm (UTC -6)
Nic sez:

@William B: Wow. You said everything I wanted to say, but better.

I agree...he's like the Guinan of this site, only with eyebrows.
Nick P.
Fri, Dec 20, 2013, 2:23pm (UTC -6)
To restart this argument, I finally got to the DS9 ep where they infected Odo to kill the founders and destroy the dominion. I recall Sisko defending this. I am curious what everyone on this thread who defends Picard think about that? Are you going to keep your moral high ground and denounce Sisko and the federation? I will at least admit that in this instance Sisko was ABSOLUTELY RIGHT, and Picard wrong.
Sat, Jan 4, 2014, 10:50am (UTC -6)
I really don't agree with this review. I thought that episode was as subtle as a punch in the face. Maybe it's because I saw Voyager first and saw that idea much, much better executed with 7 of 9.

In any case, Picard's decision is ridiculous: ""Besides, what better way to beat the Borg collective than by having it assimilate the sense of the individual self into its hive mind?" ---> Every being the Borg assimilate comes with a sense of self and individuality. The Borg obviously have very very easy ways to do away with that. There is nothing that suggests even remotely plausibly that it won't happen again here the second "Hughes" is reconnected to the Hive.

Stupid, contrived and forced.
Andy's Friend
Sat, Jan 4, 2014, 3:33pm (UTC -6)
I just made a brief remark to your comment on "The Outcast" (TNG) previously today.

I'm afraid you're just not getting it. At all.

In both cases, that one and this, the episode is holding up that slightly twisted, distorted mirror I spoke of. In that case, you missed the mirror entirely. In this one, you seem to bee too busy counting the little cracks in the glass to try to identify and consider the blurred, deformed images it shows.

No, VOY didn't do this better than TNG.

I also read your comment on "In Theory" (TNG). And while I fully appreciate what you say there about Data's nature vs the Doctor's, I notice that you describe the Vulcans and "especially the Klingons" as societies which are "just incompatible with us and remain incomprehensible to humans". But they are everything but. Both Vulcans and Klingons (and Romulans, and Cardassians, and Ferengi) take a couple of traits typical of human nature, elevate them to the third potency, and throw them right back at us. Again, they're all mirrors, there's nothing incomprehensible about any of them. If you want truly incomprehensible, you'll have to have a look at what is Solaris (I strongly recommend the novel).

Star Trek deals mostly in reflections. Even a species as potentially alien as the Founders turns out to be driven by absolutely human feelings and considerations - of fear, suspicion and protection. So my advice to you, as you view Star Trek and especially TNG, is really quite simple: try to find the mirrors.

As to the phrase by Picard that you criticize... Wow. Wow, man. That phrase represents not only one of the core ideas of this episode, but, if you extend it, of the very Federation itself. What was the reasoning behind the latest expansion of the European Union some years ago, to include various Eastern European and even former Soviet Union countries, if not variations of the theme?

Mirrors, Jons. Think mirrors.
Thu, Jan 9, 2014, 5:51am (UTC -6)
There are several problems with this episode, but i don't think the refusal to genocide the borg is one of them.

First, Picard already showed on his own self that it's perfectly possible to separate an assimilated individual from the borg. Yet no such attempt is made on Hugh. It doesn't seem that much has changed about the Borg since then, why not at least try it?
Similar problems arise about the notion that the borg would track Hugh down by any means. Picard has been back on the Enterprise for a while but no Borg vessel even tried to reach him. Somehow Hugh doesn't even seem to know Picard isn't Locutus anymore. Clearly the communication inside the collective isn't nearly as good as they believe.

The notion that a simple paradox would shut down the collective is rather stupid as well. Even assuming it would affect one vessel, most of the borg are on a different end of the galaxy. If they can't even communicate Locutus's capture in this long of a time, how will the virus ever spread beyond the vessel?

What they should have done is removed Highs implants or at least tracking device and integrated him into the Federation. He could have given them information about the borg and it would have been much more likely to help than either sending him back or trying to infect the borg.
Mark Huther
Wed, Jan 29, 2014, 3:47pm (UTC -6)
This is my all time favorite TNG episode and rivals "blood oath" DS9 greatness.
Fri, Feb 28, 2014, 5:20pm (UTC -6)
There is a mistake in the episode, where Hugh refers to himself as I before grasping the concept of indivituality. Just before getting his name, he ask the doctor and Geordi "Do I have a name?", and then after that keeps refering to himself as 'we'.

Overall a great episode though.
Fri, Feb 28, 2014, 7:27pm (UTC -6)
This is a very well conceived episode with a very emotionally affecting ending. Truly illuminating. One of my favorites.
Thu, Jun 5, 2014, 8:47am (UTC -6)
I hate this episode, and I think the comparisons between the Borg and other enemies both real (the Soviet Union, the Taliban, Nazi Germany, etc.) and imagined (the Dominion) are way off the mark.

A human being could live under any of the aforementioned regimes, and still retain most of their humanity and hope of a better tomorrow. For all their evil, those regimes left _most_ people alone, provided they toed the line. You can still fall in love in the Soviet Union, raise a family, pursue a career, and do most of the things that make us human. Your life isn't going to be a lot of fun if you end up on the wrong side of Stalin's paranoia, but dying in the gulags beats the hell out of becoming a Borg Drone. Hell, even Nazi Germany doesn't compare, not even if you're an Untermensch.

"My culture is based on freedom and self-determination." Guess what? Even under the most oppressive of human regimes (ancient Sparta perhaps?) there was still a little bit of room for self-determination. Even the Dominion's puppet races seem to retain a fair amount of self-determination, so long as they toe the line for the Founders.

The best you can say about the Borg is that they're a force of nature, with all the premeditation of a replicating virus that destroys its host cell. The worst you can say about them is that they're pure evil, cold and calculating.

Either way, we're plainly justified in exterminating them with extreme prejudice. Given the chance, I could do so with the same level of guilt that I have after washing my hands, i.e., none at all. The Star Trek ethos rings hollow here, and the contrast with DS9 is astounding, where we're willing to commit genocide "merely" to retain our freedom, rather than simply to survive.
Tue, Jul 8, 2014, 5:42pm (UTC -6)
There's one slight problem with this episode. Actually, two. The episode sets up a bunch of difficult moral decisions that Picard and crew have to deal with. Basically, three of them right in a row: 1) should you try to exterminate the Borg? 2) Should you sacrifice an innocent person to succeed in the extermination? 3) What do you do with a Borg that becomes an individual?

So let's assume Picard's reasoning is fine with both of the first two. So now he has to figure out what to do with Hugh. He can't just send him back, his individuality would be destroyed the moment he reconnects with the Borg. But (at least according to this episode) the Borg will never stop hunting for Hugh. So they ask Hugh what he wants. And he makes a noble sacrifice to lose his individuality again in order to save his new friends.

That's problem one. Hugh is emotionally a child. And he's making this wonderful choice? Choosing a fate worse than death? That's rather convenient that thei newfound friend would destroy himself for our heros. Glad Picard doesn't have to figure out how to keep Hugh without causing the complete destruction of the Federation. Makes life a whole lot easier, huh?

Second problem. So Picard is risking his career and risking the entire Federation by avoiding his plan to destroy the Borg. And all because he can't sacrifice Hugh. But... he ends up sacrificing Hugh anyway. And maybe his conscience can't force Hugh to do it. But couldn't he ask Hugh? After all, Hugh's dead anyway. And Hugh is killing himself to keep the Borg from assimilating Geordi. So why doesn't Picard ask Hugh if he wants to be a suicide bomber? Not that I'm saying Hugh would say yes, but Picard could have at least talked about it. Instead, he just hoped that the individuality plan would do something.

Actually, make that a third problem. Everyone acted like the silly virus plan was 100% guaranteed. And Picard assumed Hugh's individuality would be a virus too. Isn't that a bit arrogant? How do they know it would be perfect? Well, I guess the answer is that there was no time for uncertainties in the episode, but it was still a bit upsetting.

And that brings us to a fourth problem, that nobody argued with Picard when he decided to switch plans. Again, I think the problem is a lack of time in the episode with everything else going on. Picard and Guinan both expressed reservations against using Hugh as a weapon, and they have the most reason to want to destroy the Borg. I guess that means there's no reason for, say, Riker or Worf to object to Picard's change in plan. Although, frankly, they should be objecting. Someone needs to.

So now to discuss the fifth problem... Frankly, I'm not sure what they were going for with the moral implications of all of this. For one, by having only Beverly object to the original plan (even Troi was promoting it!), the producers appear to be agreeing with the sentiment that the Borg must be destroyed. And frankly, any other answer would be stupid. At this time in the Star Trek mythos (pre-Voyager's Scorpion), the Borg were explicitly uncommunicatable. There was no talking with them, no reasoning with them. They were a force of nature, and would not stop until the Federation was destroyed. "You can't outrun them; you can't destroy them. If you damage them, the essence of what they are remains. They regenerate and keep coming. Eventually you will weaken, your reserves will be gone. They are relentless!" Pacifism against such an enemy is in itself immoral, because you are dooming everyone else to die to placate your own conscience. Pacifists may have a problem thinking that way because there are no clear analogies to real life (even Nazis or jihadists are still human), especially none that threatens our entire existence. Viruses and bacteria are close, but there's a huge difference between a microscopic organism and a human cyborg.

Yet consider a drowning person as an analogy. When someone is drowning, they are, essentially, irrational. It can be very difficult to talk calmly with such a person and to provide advice, particularly if the advice is counterintuitive to their irrational minds. So suppose a lifeguard must rescue such a person without the aid of a floatation device. It's easy to do if the person doesn't panic and goes limp and lets the lifeguard do all the work. But it's more likely that the drowning person would grab on to the lifeguard in such a way that would hamper said guard's ability to swim. In other words, its more likely that the drowning person would kill the lifeguard. In such a situation, the lifeguard is trained to do everything in their power to get the person of of him or her. Yes, a lifeguard will fight off a drowning man to save his or her own life, even if it means the drowning person must die. This is how they are trained, and there is no controversy, no concern over such training. There's no moral handwringing there, and in that case it's allowing an innocent person to die simply because panic has overtaken their brain. So if a normal society, even a pacifistic society, is ok with killing a temporary irrational person to save themselves, why would anyone object to destroying (or at least containing) a perpetually irrational society in order to save themselves?

(Yes, the analogy isn't perfect. But it's the closest I could come up with.)

So like I said, based on what we know of the Borg at this time, there is no reason not to try to destroy them. And yet, the episode ends with Picard not destroying them, and it is presented as the moral choice. So what is the message here? Is it that the original choice was wrong? Or just that it's wrong to use an innocent as an unwitting suicide bomber? That last one is certainly debatable, and perhaps is the right choice. But the episode doesn't make it explicit, and it appears that some people here think that the meaning of the episode is the former one. And if it is the latter, the episode didn't really debate it any, didn't really focus on it. It was more a question of if Picard would really go along with it. It seemed to say Picard's (and Guinan's) prejudices were wrong, even though their "prejudice" was exactly what the Borg were like. Hugh's existence was an anomaly; it's hard to fault Picard or Guinan for not immediately falling for an individual Borg.

So really, was there a message with this episode?

I'm tempted to say no, or at least not a hard one. I've listed a bunch of problems, but frankly I think this episode might crack my top 5 for the season. While some of the Hugh/Geordie scenes were pretty bad (especially the naming), the episode itself was pretty intense. And, frankly, it was about the only possible follow up to BOBW (at least for an episode; First Contact provided the action packed follow up that would only work as a movie). You can't have the Borg invade; it's unlikely that the Federation could pull another rabbit out of its hat. So why not have a way to change the Borg and actually investigate what one is like when alone? And still weigh some moral decisions and get to see Picard's reaction to them?

So who cares if the message is a bit muddled? It was a very enjoyable 43 minutes, which was all I was looking for.
Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 9:50pm (UTC -6)
I understand that this is a metaphore for genocide, but it is a weak one. The Borg are not a species and not a race, and they share among themselves very little in the way of genetics, and they do not sexually reproduce so there is no "emerging" species or race. It is a purely techno-social military organization, albeit involuntarily conscripted. Aggressive military targets are fair game for extermination, if you ask me.

Yes, genocide is always wrong, even if it's your only hope for survival and you do it out of desperation. Your fear and desperation may mitigate your moral culpability, and good may come from your survival, but the genocidal act is objectively evil.

But the fact remains that exterminating the Borg is not genocide. Once again TNG's attempts to preach their morality have rung false due to bad science, sophomoric use of English, and shallow philosophy.

DS9, as usual, got it right. Section 31 was attempting to commit bona fide genocide, and that's why the story was so hard-hitting: they were actually dealing with the moral implications in a sci-fi setting with good science (a synthetic virus infecting a species), good English (look up genocide, they did), and deep philosophy (desperation, remorse, risk and sacrifice, action and rectification).
Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 10:32pm (UTC -6)
I would argue that Section 31's actions against the Founders were perfectly given the war of annihilation (Weyoun casually discusses the extermination of Earth's population in one episode) they were waging against the Federation. Against the Borg it's even more clear cut, since I doubt the Founders would actually go so far as to exterminate an entire subject race, whereas the Borg do that by definition.

At the end of the day it comes down to a larger scale version of the common criminal that decides to try and kill you. Your choice is to fight back or die; nearly everybody will opt for the former. You didn't decide someone was going to die that day, you just decided it wasn't going to be you.
Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 10:07am (UTC -6)
What you consider "sophomoric" use of English could be considered "forward-thinking" by others. If the Borg are not a species or race because of the lack of genetic links, they are still a group. Although they may lack a "nation" in the strictest sense, we might allow the use of 1940s "nation" to refer to their ship. Thus the early legal uses of the term COULD allow the extermination of the Borg to be considered the extermination of a "national group", and thus genocide.

According to wikipedia, the latest 'legal' interpretation of the word comes from Dovid Katz:
"Genocide is the mass murder of as many people as possible on the basis of born national, ethnic, racial or religious identity as such; with intent to eliminate the targeted group entirely and internationally; without allowing the victims any option to change views, beliefs or allegiances to save themselves; and with large-scale accomplished fulfillment of the goal."

When I look at that definition, I see two things:
1. The absence of any reference to the danger such a group may pose
2. The use of the word "born", which does not apply to the Borg but which their assimilation process seems to be a worthy sci-fi counterpart for.

We can argue about the semantics forever I suppose, and it doesn't really matter that much unless one insists (as you seem to) that "genocide is always wrong". But in my view, this is missing the main issue (see below).

Tim (and many others earlier),
I'm a bit in awe that so many people seem to change the story of this episode. To me, it seemed pretty clear that everyone on board was in favor of extermination except Crusher; her dissent can be seen as a writer's trick to make sure the others' favor is highlighted ("I just want to make sure we understand what we're saying here", or whatever she says early in the episode). This is very much reinforced by the Picard-Guinan fencing scene.

This answer doesn't change just because Third of Five gets a name and/or is 'cute'. It changes because Hugh successfully demonstrates to Picard that he is a person capable of making choices. This has two huge implications that change the QUESTION, not the answer.
1. A single Borg can be reasoned with, and more importantly, can be persuaded to coexist peacefully with others.
2. A single Borg like Hugh is closer to a person than to "the Borg", and should be treated as such.

Thus the answer only changes because the question changes. It's no longer a matter of extermination. It's a matter of deceiving a person into being an unwitting, sacrificial tool of extermination. It's a matter of exterminating a group from which an individual has demonstrably shown his ability to alter his views to peaceful ones. This is the act which Picard (rightfully, in my opinion) finds immoral.

So no, it's not a question about "fight back or die". It's a question about means vs ends, and reevaluating a situation when new facts (Hugh's 'humanity') come to light.
Sat, Oct 25, 2014, 11:02pm (UTC -6)
This episode went too far, and then Voyager continued, with the idea of the Borg as being a race or species; they're not, they're basically slaves captured and used by a program. Presenting rejoining the collective as an acceptable choice seems appalling given that it furthers rather than reduces further people being enslaved or destroyed.
For "Hugh" to have developed so much individuality and impressed people so much in two days felt like the writers were really abandoning their original ideas for versions that were less interesting and believable and that even they didn't have much confidence in. His friendship with Geordi generally felt underdeveloped, more told than shown.
@ Plain Simple, I agree that it didn't make sense why Hugh's individuality would have effects any different from that of anyone else that had been assimilated.
Wed, Jan 7, 2015, 1:56am (UTC -6)
Borg's are essentially 'space zombies'. Zombies are only interesting in brief stints as a plot device for human characters to survive against in an apocalypse type scenario. It's the human survival aspect that's interesting. This is why the Borg got old real fast and the writers had to start adapting the original intent of what the Borg were supposed to represent as to not repeat themselves. There's only so much you can do with the Borg, which is why Borg plots got exponentially more convoluted and weak after the Wolf 359 story.
Wed, Jan 7, 2015, 9:53am (UTC -6)
They should have kept the Borg with TNG and left it at that. It was interesting maybe to have Lore come in a try to control them towards the end but Voyager just watered them down way too much.

Too much of a good thing is never a good thing, in retrospect. I'm so glad DS9 left the Borg as a one-off flashback in the pilot episode.
Wed, Jan 7, 2015, 11:31am (UTC -6)
Even the title is a huge contradiction. The Borg were originally portrayed and intended to be a deadly, unstoppable and unrelenting genocidal race. One collective. It was a great idea. Then writers tinkered with it and tinkered with it; watered it down and watered it down- until Borg became what I call "Bjorn".

The Borg arc could have happened over a period of episodes or even 2 shows and ended with a really well scripted finale. But, no... they quickly realized that the Borg was a cash-cow and means to pull fans in front of the TV. To that end, they simply kept having them make appearances for no other reason. And Voyager took what was left of the corpse and burned it.
Wed, Jan 7, 2015, 11:48am (UTC -6)
Correction... Andrew is right. They aren't "a race", and weren't a race. I guess they can seem like that, but the whole idea was that everything was one voice and one collective, with the ultimate goal of self preservation and improvement.

That's a great idea if it is made into an arc that stays true to that idea and doesn't meddle with it.
Wed, Jan 7, 2015, 11:58am (UTC -6)
Finally, the Picards of the world would have doomed the entire race to death, due to their naive behaviour. As some others on this thread have said, the Borg is a killing machine. It doesn't have any empathy or remorse (and it didn't even have any care for discussion either until the writers watered them down).

You either destroy this menace, or you allow millions of people to die, including your own race. Why anyone thinks there is a grey area there is beyond me. Perhaps they need to join the real world.
Wed, Jan 7, 2015, 1:05pm (UTC -6)
I feel like I'm just repeating myself, but let me try this anyway.

In my opinion, DLPB (and others making similar claims about Picard's naivete) are mistaken. DLPB correctly points out all of the pieces of the problem, but seems to miss what I think is the logical flow:

1. Borg are presented as mindless killing machine (earlier episodes)

2. 3of5 is found

3. Picard, based on the info of point(1), decides to exterminate (as he should)

4. 3of5 demonstrates that point(1) is INCORRECT. This is a writer's decision. If there is anything to complain about, it should occur here. This has nothing to do with Picard being naïve or foolish. It has everything to do with the writers 'watering down' the Borg concept. As of this point, the Borg is closer to a mind-enslaved race, from which sympathetic individuals are demonstrably able to be 'saved'. Also as of this point, the extermination would involve sacrificing an unknowing, sympathetic individual.

5. Picard, based on the info of point(4), decides against extermination (as he should... MAYBE)

Point(5) is arguable. My claim with this post is that the question is difficult, not simple. Further, this difficulty comes from the writers changing the concept of the Borg, not from some sort of deluded sense of moral superiority on the part of Picard.
Wed, Jan 7, 2015, 1:40pm (UTC -6)
Disagree, and for this reason:

TNG is written, on the whole, by hippy-dippy liberal types. The fact Hugh exists in the first place, and this fake dilemma came up, is because it satisfied their idea of the world: That there is redemption and hope in everything. The original Borg message had nothing to do with this - it was about an utterly ruthless and unchanging menace. But the writers who wrote this episode retconned that because it went against their liberal ideals.

The writers don't realize they are making Picard look naive, because they are simply using him for their own mouth-piece. THEY are naive.
Wed, Jan 7, 2015, 2:14pm (UTC -6)
DLPB, your beef is based entirely on differences between how you and the "hippy-dippy" writers fundamentally see the world. So entrenched are you in your political agenda that you can't even see that you and msw188 have the SAME opinion. The only difference is in how you FEEL about the change (update?) the writers made to the Borg because you feel this change (as I do) can apply analogously (which is Trek's forte) to contemporary real-world situations. You dislike political figures who act like Picard does. But within the confines of the fiction, Picard's actions are justified and moral. You may disagree with the choice by the creators of the fiction to complicate the Borg as they did, but that's not particularly relevant is it? It's also embarrassingly obvious that your objections to this are rooted in your objection to applying such complicated nuance and grey area to the enemies of today.
Wed, Jan 7, 2015, 2:16pm (UTC -6)
If you are arguing that the Borg needed sympathy and understanding, then yes, I will call you naive and stronger.
Wed, Jan 7, 2015, 2:17pm (UTC -6)
And yes, you are just as deluded about Islam, which has, by the way, been making its usual rounds of tolerance and peace today ;)

Wed, Jan 7, 2015, 4:36pm (UTC -6)
But see, the writers here don't force their views via Picard. Instead they force their views by changing the rules of the Borg by introducing 3of5. You yourself say it - it's the existence of Hugh that is the sign of the writers' opinions. Picard the character can't ignore in-universe facts that the writers force into his view. Again, all I'm saying here is that, once the writers 'retcon' the concept of the Borg, as you put it, Picard's decision can no longer be the simple one you would like to see. But that's the fault of the retconning, not the fault of Picard's decision-making.

A better example of what you're claiming to dislike about TNG (writers' liberal/idealistic tendencies coloring Picard's decision-making) would probably be the Crystalline Entity episode, which to be honest I don't remember very well.
Wed, Jan 7, 2015, 6:40pm (UTC -6)
The writers changed the nature of the Borg to manufacture the whole episode. They couldn't give Picard a mouthpiece for their own ideals if there was no room to maneuver. So they changed the Borg to give themselves the story. It's all been manufactured by retconning the Borg.
Wed, Jan 7, 2015, 6:42pm (UTC -6)
And yes, that episode was just the same idea placed onto a different story. Don't get me wrong... I think TNG is the strongest Trek by a mile, and I thoroughly enjoy some episodes and especially characters... but I can't ignore this kind of nonsense.
Thu, Jan 8, 2015, 12:09pm (UTC -6)
"I think TNG is the strongest Trek by a mile"

I guess you missed seasons 1-2, and 7.

DS9 is consistently better from the finale of season 1 through the end.

Thu, Jan 8, 2015, 12:28pm (UTC -6)
I don't think so. And if you read what I wrote on that DS9 episode you so love to defend, you'll find I can do that a whole lot more to DS9 than I can to TNG. DS9 became bloated by a totally unrealistic war (the way it was handled was a joke) and unrealistic views on how religion operates. It wasn't asking the same philosophical questions about life that TNG did, and while agree both shows have some shocking writing at times, TNG had less. Also, the final season of DS9 is so badly written it's comical. See Confused Matthew for more.

I found DS9 entertaining, as I did TNG. DS9 was, in parts, grittier. But that's it.
Thu, Jan 8, 2015, 7:39pm (UTC -6)
msw, your logic is a bit flawed. Point #4 does not negate point #1. Actually, let me rephrase point #1, presumably in a way you would agree with. The Borg as presented in Q Who and BoBW are relentless conquerors who will not listen to any reason, any debate, any negotiation except complete and total capitulation and extermination. They are purely and truly alien with no ability for dialogue. You can simplify this to mindless killing machines if desired, but my description is the reason why genocide of the Borg is presented as a rational option. It doesn't matter if the Borg are "mindless" or not; what matters is that there is no hope to resolve the conflict outside of total war.

But Hugh does not prove #1 is false. The Borg, even during this episode, are STILL relentless conquerors unable to communicate with the Federation. Hugh simply proves that this is not a permanent state for the Borg; they can stop becoming "mindless killing machines" if certain conditions are applied (namely, unplugging their wifi router). But just because one Borg changed his state does not change the fact that the rest of them are still in that state. I think you agree with me on this point. The Borg CAN be saved, but there does not appear to be a real option to do that.

And because of that, one still must be relentless against the Borg as a whole, regardless of what Hugh represents. This is because the Borg themselves are still relentless. Hugh means that there may be other alternatives to complete genocide of the Borg, but it doesn't necessarily take genocide off the table if you place self-preservation of your species as priority #1. And given the disparity of strength between the Borg and the Federation, desperation may still mean that genocide is needed even if there is potential for the Borg to become humanized.

Moving to Godwin, suppose you went back in time to 1940s. You told everyone there how, in your time, Germany is a peaceful, open, tolerant nation friendly to all of its neighbors. That may be true. It proves that the Germans are not inherently irredeemable, just as Hugh proves that the Borg are not inherently irredeemable. But it doesn't change the fact that the Nazis are here, now, spreading death and destruction, and must be stopped here and now. And must be stopped at all cost. The Allies would not take the time to ponder how to save Germany before worrying about how to defeat Germany.

So yeah, if goal #1 is preserve your species and goal #2 is don't commit genocide, genocide doesn't come off the table until #1 is secure. Hugh's individuality doesn't confirm that goal #1 is secure.
Thu, Jan 8, 2015, 9:11pm (UTC -6)
We're all saying basically the same things at this point, I think. Allow me some defense of my 'logic'; really of my lazy oversimplifications.

My point(1) used the word "machine" in the singular for a reason. My claim is that previous episodes presented the Borg as a single entity, from which individuals cannot be 'saved' or reasoned with ever (not just at present). This isn't entirely true, since they do 'save' Picard after all. But I still maintain there is a difference; Locutus offers no reasoning and no 'real' individuality until after he considers himself Picard again.

So, if point(1) is 'strengthened' in this sense, I still stand by what I'm saying. Point(4) contradicts the 'eternal singularity' of the Borg entity. At least, I think this is the writers' intent. Thus we have the key scene where Picard almost cannot believe Hugh's behavior. This says to me that, prior to that conversation, Picard believed the 'strengthened' point(1), and was astounded to find Hugh contradicting this.

All that said, you are correct that this does not change the present state of the Borg threat. And for that reason, Picard's choice may still be viewed as wrong. But I deny the claim that Picard's choice, after the writers reinvent the possibilities of future communication with the Borg, is easy.

The Nazi Germany example is also difficult. The Allies knew they had to stop Nazi Germany, but 'at all costs' is questionable. If another time traveler handed the 1940 Allies a magic button that would immediately eradicate all Germans from existence, is the choice to use said button easy?
The Man
Sat, Jul 11, 2015, 10:44am (UTC -6)
DLPB you a weirdo I have to say. To take a science fiction show and turn it into a political debate on why you hate Democrats is pretty sad and disturbing.
The Man
Sat, Jul 11, 2015, 10:49am (UTC -6)
TNG writers using Picard to spresfcthrir ideals? DLPB you do realize you sound like a paranoid lunatic right? You life must be pretty scary and filled with unnecessary anger.
Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 5:43am (UTC -6)
The Borg are not a race; they are an assemblage of victims. Every one of them has been abducted and 'assimilated' against their will. Their extermination is not the same as genocide. It is an end to their suffering and their ability to kill and victimize others. There's not really much of a moral dilemma there. I thought the misgivings contrived and transparently naive. Picard is right to begin with. The hell with Hugh. Kill the damn Borg. Every single death, every single abduction that the Borg perpetrate after this episode is on Picard. His decision is asinine. The entire crew, who have seen what the Borg are capable of, completely loses perspective because they meet a "nice" Borg? It's just not credible.
Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 3:01pm (UTC -6)
@The Man

And you are an individual who can only resort to childish ad hominem attacks because you aren't intelligent or reasonable enough to debate properly. Also, this is a political sci-fi, infused at the ground roots with progressive liberalism because of its writers. Wake up. To avoid talk of politics in regard to Trek (or most shows) is to miss the point of such shows entirely.
Sat, Aug 22, 2015, 12:15am (UTC -6)
"I, Borg" is definitely the high point of Season Five thus far. But not perfect.

First, the good. 1.) OMG, I absolutely LOVE that they decided to have Picard go so dark for most of the episode. For a character that has consistently, and very consciously, been written to be a rather high-minded intellectual and moralist to suddenly foster such a somber and dark plan of action is stunning. And, I think it's totally in keeping with his character development as shown up until now. This man was viciously brutalized by the Borg. For him to just shrug it off and not think how to destroy his oppressors would be foolish. 2.) The moral ambiguity. It's the mark of a truly well-written piece of fiction that even years after you first encounter it you're still debating it in your own head. That's what I'm doing with "I, Borg." After countless viewings over these many years, I'm still not sure which side of the debate I ultimately side with. Was it right or not to use Hugh as a weapon against the Collective? I honestly don't know. The Collective is an implacable enemy of humanity and the Federation and needs to be resisted at all costs. But, once Hugh regains his sense of individuality, things aren't quite so clear-cut. 3.) The fact that what we have here, essentially, is a rather remarkable defense of individual liberty as opposed to collectivism. 4.) The world-building (shocking, I know). Up until now it would have been perfectly plausible for viewers to assume that the entire Borg Collective was on that one ship from "The Best of Both Worlds" (which is possibly the same ship from "Q Who"). Now there's no doubt whatsoever that there are more Borg out there to contend with.

So what's wrong with the episode? Well, it's the same problem I have with "Ethics" - they made Crusher way too adamant in her position. What's all this talk about "his people" and "his race" and "his species"? The Borg are not his people! The Borg are not his species or his race! The Borg brutalized and subjugated his people, race and species. For crying out loud, the Borg have no species! Hugh himself had to have been assimilated. That's why up until Hugh shows signs of individualism, I'm firmly in the camp of "use him as a weapon." Besides, Crusher such didn't seem to have any problems with killing Borg in "The Best of Both Worlds," did she? It all makes the counter-argument (which I think the writers kind of want us to side with) look rather weak and simple-minded. Even Guinan falls victim to this "his people" rubbish in the otherwise remarkably good scene between her and Picard in his quarters.

I suppose if someone were to put a gun to head and make me choose (a "your money or your life" type situation) I'd probably say go ahead and use Hugh as the weapon even with his individuality. That's because what Riker and Troi say in the Conference Lounge at the beginning of the episode is exactly right. There are indeed no civilians among the Borg and there is a state of war going on since the Borg have attacked at every opportunity. When up against such an unstoppable and unrelenting foe, maybe moral compromises need to be made. When faced with a choice between life and death - I'll choose life. But, put that gun to my head tomorrow and I'll probably say something different since I'm still debating with myself.

And that, for me at least, is the greatest strength of "I, Borg" - the fact that it's a moral conundrum that isn't easily solved for us. It's not like "The Masterpiece Society" where I can easily say that Picard is in the wrong with his Prime Directive nonsense at the end. And it's not like ENT: "Damage" where I can say that Archer was right to steal the warp coil. It's a lot like Section 31 over on DS9 - another instance where I'm still not sure exactly how I feel about them.

Mon, Aug 24, 2015, 8:07am (UTC -6)
"So what's wrong with the episode? Well, it's the same problem I have with "Ethics" - they made Crusher way too adamant in her position. What's all this talk about "his people" and "his race" and "his species"? The Borg are not his people! The Borg are not his species or his race! The Borg brutalized and subjugated his people, race and species. For crying out loud, the Borg have no species! "

For what it's worth, if you watch Voyager's Survival Instinct and how fast they regain their memories (all but Seven, assimilated as a child) I think that Hugh likely was assimilated as a baby or grew up in a maturation chamber. I am fairly certain he was raised by the Borg.
Diamond Dave
Sun, Sep 27, 2015, 10:26am (UTC -6)
A bona fide triumph of scriptwriting, in that the hitherto unstoppable machine of the Borg are given depth, and, yes, humanity.

You can argue about the moral necessities and justifications of genocide until you're blue in the face, but what this episode boils down to is whether once Hugh has shown his individuality there is any moral compass to using him as an instrument of that genocide. What the episode lacks is offering Hugh that choice as an outcome of his free will - were he to freely and willingly offer to transmit the 'virus' would that then be acceptable?

But as a character piece this is up among the best. For Picard and Guinan, the high points of humanity and rationality in the show, to be so relentlessly against the Borg is rooted within their personal experiences. And yet that humanity and rationality also comes into play as their ideas change when confronted with the facts of Hugh. Up to now, the Borg could not be negotiated with - here, now, perhaps there is a way.

"You gave him a name?" indeed. 4 stars.
Wed, Jan 6, 2016, 2:09pm (UTC -6)
Hello Hello Everyone!

There are many great thoughts on the page above this note of mine, though I must admit that what I'm about to type might have been mentioned above, because I eventually got kind of a 'eye-glaze' while reading them.

You might be able to take a handful and help them out of the collective like they did with Picard, but the rest will be attempting to kill you before you get very far. I believe that, in this scenario, they might have felt badly about it, but they would have put the plan in motion. Period.

And now for something completely different...

I usually dislike comparing TNG to other series that hadn't aired yet, because some things changed later, and I like to view them on their own merit. But... if this had been DS9, and they had decided to let Hugh go 'home', at some point in time Garak would have walked by with a pad and said "Hello Hugh. Would you please take a look at this, before you go, and give me your assesment on what it is?" Then he would have told them later why it HAD to be done (it actually sounds like something Ro might do, under the right circumstances. Of course, she'd have to be on the episode first...)

Have a good one... RT
Sun, Sep 11, 2016, 8:23pm (UTC -6)
For me, the borg becomes individual far too quickly, the episode paints the crew as if they are fattening a pig for a big feast and when it comes to the time to kill it they can't go through with it because they've given it a name and everyone feels like meat eating might not be justifiable.

not to mention the borg character is not interesting, and for those who have lost alot (or come close to losing alot) namely picard and guinan, people change their mind easily as to how they percieve 'Hugh' and what they think of him and subsequently his role in genocide.

how about this instead. picard agrees to analyse the borg member in the hopes of finding weaknesses and exploits for any future encounters with the borg, and through doing this realises there might be a way to eradicate the borg altogether. his crew have their various battles with the morality of that situation, especially since the borg is behaving differently and cooperating since his capture, (although i don't think he needs a name or to be particuarly fond of geordi and i also don't think he requires a paradigm shift in borg ideology as just because he has been disconnected for a few days, it hardly brings back all his individuality. now picard realises that it is not what the federation stands for to destroy entire cultures and peoples and argues this case to the higher ups, which SHOULD feature in the episode in order that the final say IS to do something about the Borg and if that means a virus then goddamnit picard you're orders are clear. picard doesn't like the way this sits on his conscience but, like the best episodes of trek, he does not pussy out and find a magical way to get out of the situation, no, instead he carries out the orders at the protests of some of his crew (noted doctor) and that's that. the plan fails anyway perhaps simply delaying the borg a small amount of time but eventually the borg overcome the virus considering how ridiculously superior in terms of technology they are and subsequently the borg can still turn up and do whatever they want.

I am also a die hard voyager fan and believe the best representation of borg individuality and the troubles therein was undoubtedly 7 of 9, who by the way, got to keep the name 7, instead of getting a crap name like hugh, seeing as that was her chosen name, and there's nothing wrong with a number being your name if it's how you identify as an individual among many.
Peter G.
Sun, Sep 11, 2016, 8:36pm (UTC -6)
-Desires a plot resolution featuring:
-A plan that fails due to technobabble
-A captain who ignores Federation ethics over the moral objections of the crew
-The rendering of the "enemy" of the episode more generic
-Is a diehard Voyager fan

Yep, it all checks out.
Tanner Chaiken
Thu, Oct 13, 2016, 1:53pm (UTC -6)
Not sure I see how Hugh returning to the collective as an individual would harm the collective. When the Borg initially assimilate an individual, that individuality is wiped out.
Mon, Oct 17, 2016, 3:58am (UTC -6)
Why is it that when genocide is talked about in pop culture, The Jewish Holocaust gets brought up?

I mean it makes sense to equate one fictional genocide with another but cmon. Every single time.
Sat, Oct 22, 2016, 3:47pm (UTC -6)
If, as Picard states, the Federation is in a state of war with the Borg, then Hugh must be by definition a prisoner of war.

By referencing it can be seen that the Federation is violating at least seven of Hugh's rights as a prisoner of war.

I thought that the Federation were suppsed to be better than this.
Intrinsic Random Event
Fri, Oct 28, 2016, 10:09am (UTC -6)
I like this episode, it is a fine piece of sci-fi for many reasons... not least of all the thought provoking take it offers on the Borg, at a very appropriate time in the story arc as Jammer pointed out.
But as a number of people have already pointed out, the Borg are NOT a "race"... and that's where this episode (and others) get it wrong with regard to the Borg. It does irk me whenever they call the Borg a "race". They are an amalgam of beings that were stolen from their original species. In truth, most of the Borg shouldn't look like augmented humans... in fact most of them (and yes, obviously, they hadn't figured this out yet...) should look like Delta quadrant species... Kazon, Voth, Ocampa, Vidiian... species that were unfortunate enough to live near whatever it was that initiated "The Borg".
7 of 9 was a human, not a Borg... a human in need of de-programming... and that's at least one thing that Voyager got right...
Fri, Oct 28, 2016, 10:30am (UTC -6)
"species that were unfortunate enough to live near whatever it was that initiated "The Borg"."

Anybody else think it would be interesting to watch a TV show that was the beginning of the Borg? Obviously we know how it would turn out, but it could be some fun sci-fi.
Intrinsic Random Event
Sat, Oct 29, 2016, 4:25am (UTC -6)
Yes Robert, I would love to see some new Trek that focused on the origins of the Borg. That would be awesome, but I suppose that the story wouldn't involve any humans, so the makeup and prosthetics budget would be off the scale...
Sat, Jan 7, 2017, 6:05pm (UTC -6)
I agree, Robert......but dont ask Elliot, as he seems to think only HE/SHE can write and cast the PERFECT episode. Talk about sanctimonious BS..that's all Elliot spews over and over in every episode and every series. One has to wonder if this person has a damn life!
Trek fan
Mon, Jan 9, 2017, 9:43pm (UTC -6)
Meh, this one is okay, but like the Borg itself it plays a bit dated and talky today. I would give it 3 out of 4 stars; I think 4/4 is too generous for an episode with slow pacing and circular moral debates which don't quite go anywhere. I've never seen this episode at the top of anyone's "Classic TNG" list of best shows and there's got to be a reason for that. The problem with the Borg is that they are so simplistically written that there's only so many places their stories can go, which is probably why they didn't appear more frequently between Best of Both Worlds and I Borg. I also disagree with Jammer's opinion in the "Unity" (Voyager Season 3) review that the Borg are the best villains Trek ever conceived; they may be the iconic (and little-seen) baddies of TNG, but nothing will ever top Khan from TOS, and I think the Klingons are also more fun. Anyway, the Borg felt cool in the technophobic 1990s when they expressed the height of the Zeitgeist, but they feel a bit dated to me today. The whole "individualism versus collectivity" debate wears old pretty quick for me. And the "let's not demonize our enemies" thing as been done on Trek before and since, often to better effect in shows like "Devil in the Dark," than this episode. Anyhow, there's certainly good stuff here, and it's a thoughtful hour. But "I Borg" is merely good -- not great -- Trek for me.
Tue, Jan 10, 2017, 9:55am (UTC -6)
I'd say the Cardassians were probably the best villains of Trek, as they're the most human (barring the Marquis of course).

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