Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
Recently a teaser trailer for Season 2 of Star Trek series Picard dropped and featured the return of everyone’s favourite godlike troublemaker Q. We also got a brief scene with ex-Borg Seven of Nine, who is returning to the series after featuring in Season 1. And you know what these two have in common? And no, it’s not that both John de Lancie and Jeri Ryan have aged gracefully and look great (though that is true), but they both have major connections to the Borg. It was Q that first introduced the Enterprise-D to the cybernetic menace and Seven of course used to be one of them.
The Borg have appeared in several episodes over multiple series and has been one of the greatest adversaries the Federation has ever faced. And in celebration of these unique villains I will be ranking 15 of the best stories they have featured in. Now I will not be including any episodes from Picard Season 1 because though the species did feature they were effectively side characters and did not have one standout story in particular.
So with that caveat and a cube-sized SPOILER ALERT let us seek perfection with my ranking of the Top 15 Borg Stories:
#15 Child’s Play, Voyager (Season 6, Episode 19)
Desperate times call for desperate measures and it was the desperation of the Brunali under repeated attacks from the Borg that led them to engineer one of their own children to act as a Trojan horse to attack them. And that child was super smart ex-borg Icheb. This was a pretty good episode and it was cool seeing Mark Sheppard (Supernatural, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly) as Icheb’s father. But we only get any actual Borg down to the end and it’s very brief so I have to leave this one at the bottom of the list.
And since Voyager repeatedly dipped in the old cybernetic well we will be seeing the series quite a lot on this list. Just a heads up.
#14 The Raven, Voyager (Season 4, Episode 6)
This is another relatively Borg-lite Voyager Borg episode and features Seven of Nine being drawn to the ship The Raven. This is the vessel of her explorer parents which was attacked by the Borg and then the family, including young Annika, were assimilated. We have some disturbing flashbacks and it is an important character-building episode for Seven. It is was also great to see Tuvok acting as emotional support for her.
#13 Regeneration, Enterprise (Season 2, Episode 23)
Enterprise really wanted to get some of that sweet Borg action and so we got Regeneration. The episode acts as a sequel to Star Trek: First Contact with Borg from the remnants of the destroyed Sphere being revived in the Arctic and proceeding to assimilate a ship. On the positive side the first act has a classic horror movie vibe, we get some cool Borg action, and it was interesting seeing Phlox trying to save himself from the nanoprobes. There are a couple issues though.
The first two Borg taken aboard the Enterprise don’t act very Borg-like and Archer and Reed’s phase pistols continue to work long, long, LONG after the Borg had adapted on the ship. The message to the Delta Quadrant reaching in the 24th century does seem a bit contrived. And it does feel unlikely that the Enterprise-D would have nothing about this encounter in their records when they first meet the Borg, though I guess it depends on how one views time travel in Trek. But it’s still a decent little episode to get a Borg fix outside of TNG and Voyager.
#12 Endgame I&II, Voyager (Season 7, Episode 25&26)
This Voyager two-part finale should have epic, but instead it was a bit “eh”. Now I enjoyed all the future stuff, including seeing Tom and B’Elanna’s grown-up daughter and Captain Harry Kim. You see? He can get promoted. And old Captain Janeway was an intriguing character and I especially liked her interactions with her younger self. But the whole concept of traveling back in time to get Voyager home much earlier was a bit of a weird one. Yes she lost 22 crewmen including Seven and we had heartbroken Chakotay but was that really worth erasing an entire timeline which seemed relatively good?
And don’t get me started on that forced Chakotay/Seven romance. Those two went as well together as peanut butter and sardines. If Chakotay was going to end up with anyone it would have been Janeway. You could tell they didn’t know what to do with the First Officer so they saddled him with this.
And while I welcomed having Alice Krige back as the Borg Queen (she originated the role in First Contact) she barely did anything other than stare at a viewscreen and banter with Old Janeway. With the use of the future weapons and technology the crew didn’t have to do much innovating to defeat the Borg, though admittedly the plan to escape home and destroy the Transwarp Hub was still a perilous one. So while I good episode there were too many issues with this finale for me to rank it any higher.
#11 Drone, Voyager (Season 5, Episode 2)
Hey The Next Generation. I see your I, Borg, and I raise you a Drone. Kudos to Voyager for doing the whole “Borg Drone learns about individuality” storyline but doing something new with it. Unlike Hugh from I, Borg, One (that’s his name) was not separated from the Collective but was created by an accidental fusion of Seven’s Borg tech and the Doctor’s mobile emitter, which is 29th century tech.
The main plot point is the fear that One will want to join the Collective and his advanced technology will be assimilated to make them even greater threats. But thanks to his surrogate/technically actual mother Seven he becomes a hero and takes down a Borg ship in superhero fashion. The final scene where he prevents the Doctor from treating his mortal injuries so the Borg will not hunt him again, and Seven begs him to stop, was a truly touching one.
#10 Descent Part I&II, The Next Generation (Season 6, Episode 26 & Season 7, Episode 1)
How can you not love Lore? He has to be one of most purely evil villains in all of Star Trek. And leave it to him to take a bunch of confused drones who have been disconnected from the Hive Mind and turn them into his own personal army. He was absolutely diabolical in this two-parter.
It was also interesting having Borg acting very un-Borg and it was great seeing Hugh again. Dr Crusher also nailed it as a captain. Go Bev. Just a big, fun, epic story.
#9 Survival Instinct, Voyager (Season 6, Episode 2)
I thought this was an intriguing, high-concept episode. If you recall, three ex-Borg who have been mysteriously mentally linked together seek out Seven, who was temporarily disconnected from the Collective with them eight years ago on a swampy planet. They eventually discover that four of them had begun recovering their individuality but Seven, who had been assimilated as a little girl, was terrified and forced the others to return to the Collective by creating a temporary link. Seeing the drones regain their humanity only to have it ripped away again by Seven was quite impactful.
Seven being the source of their suffering was some dark stuff, especially added to the nightmare state of never being alone with one’s own thoughts. And the resolution of having the three of them only having a month to live is rather was bleak though with a glimmer of hope. It is a stark reminder that while Seven was a drone she wasn’t going around hosting tea parties and saving space puppies from trees. Quite an emotional episode and with some great acting both by the three guest stars (Trek staple Vaughn Armstrong, Bertila Damas, and Tim Kelleher) and Jeri Ryan as well.
#8 Collective, Voyager (Season 6, Episode 16)
Before Collective we had glimpsed a neonatal drone in Q Who and we knew Seven had been assimilated as a little girl, but this episode drilled home what happened to the young when they become part of the Collective. And it is not a pleasant thought.
I found this mini-collective fascinating and the tragedy of them being abandoned and Second being unable to accept it quite compelling. And if like me you were wondering whatever happened to the Borg baby the Doctor saved the producers said it was returned to its people off-screen. Yeah, sounds like a retcon to me but at least it got a happy ending.
#7 Unimatrix Zero I&II, Voyager (Season 6, Episode 26 & Season 7, Episode 1)
Yep, another Voyager episode. I did warn you, didn’t I? In Unimatrix Zero Seven discovers there is a secret virtual reality where regenerating Borg get to experience individuality. And of course the Borg Queen (played with near perfection by Susanna Thompson) is having none of that.
This two-parter was pretty good. The Seven romance stuff was handled well. Seeing Borg drones stalking the virtual reality was cool and the Klingon versus Drone battle was just epic. The whole concept of a Borg resistance movement was also an interesting one. The resistance cube helping Voyager battle the battle cube was just sweet.
But can we talk about Janeway’s plan for a minute? She really thought her, Tuvok and B’Elanna getting assimilated was a good idea? Sure it got them on the cube but what if the Borg had removed their limbs or some other essential body part. Not sure the Doctor could have regrown an entire leg. #justsaying
#6 I, Borg, The Next Generation (Season 5, Episode 23)
This was the first episode to show that the Borg were more than just emotionless killing machines. When the Enterprise-D crew discover a surviving Borg drone that has been disconnected from the Collective he eventually recovers his individuality, bonds with Geordi and receives a name, “Hugh”.
This one was cerebral Trek at its best. We see both Guinan and Picard overcoming their blind hate for the Borg and realising that Hugh is an actual being with rights. And Picard decides to abandon his plan to use Hugh to infect and destroy his race, though his individuality does have some unforeseen consequences. A truly thoughtful episode with a satisfying conclusion.
#5 Dark Frontier Part I&II, Voyager (Season 5, Episode 15 & Season 6, Episode 1)
This two-parter was movie-level grand. We finally got to see Seven’s full backstory courtesy of flashbacks of The Raven. Susanna Thompson is delightful as the Borg Queen and she and Ryan have several excellent scenes together. But the best aspect of Dark Frontier is how it pulls back the curtain on the day-to-day operations of the Collective. And it is as unsettling as you would imagine. We also see Seven’s futile attempt to rescue a handful of people kidnapped by the Borg and then the Queen teaching her a “lesson”.
And while Voyager has a reputation of the Borg being too easy to defeat, when rewatching you realise 90 per cent of the time there was some technological advantage they had gained. In this story, for example, they get some help from the Hansens’ research. So while the Borg are not as intimidating in Voyager as TNG they at least some effort was made to explain the disparity.
#4 Q Who, The Next Generation (Season 2, Episode 16)
And here we are. The very first Borg episode. Godlike Q’s latest trick on Enterprise-D is to fling them into the far reaches of space and force an encounter with the Borg. This is the most alien of species the crew have ever met, and are at this point a mysterious and implacable foe. Guinan also reveals that it is the Borg that decimated her people and warns of how dangerous they are.
We get a strong Picard moment when he admits to Q that the Borg are beyond their capabilities and then Q snaps them back to safety. When the Captain points out the lesson could have been learned without 18 members of his crew being killed Q callously tells him about not being out in space if he can’t take a “bloody nose”. What an inhuman bastard. But that’s Q for you.
#3 Scorpion I&II, Voyager (Season 3, Episode 26 & Season 4, Episode 1)
This is it. After teasing the Borg for two episodes prior we finally go fully cybernetic with this Voyager two-parter. And when you start your story with Borg vessels being blown to smithereens you definitely have the audience’s attention.
We follow that up with the introduction of the menacing Species 8472, an unlikely alliance with the Borg, and the introduction of Seven of Nine who would prove to be a shot in the arm to the series and easily one of the best characters. Big action, big effects, big spectacle, Scorpion has got it all.
#2 The Best of Both Worlds, The Next Generation (Season 3, Episode 26 & Season 4, Episode 1)
In terms of Borg TV episodes there is simply nothing better than The Best of Both Worlds. Actually this is easily one of the best Trek episodes ever. Locutus of Borg. Breathtaking season finale cliffhanger. Wolf 359. An ingenious ending. If you’ve seen this two-parter then you don’t need me to tell you how it is 13 Flavours of Awesome.
And while it is almost perfect there is one Borg story that beats it. But before we get to that (and I feel you can guess what it is by now) let’s do a quick honourable mention.
Honourable Mention: Unity, Voyager (Season 3, Episode 17)
Chakotay meets up with a group of ex-Borg who are good but also kind of bad. And he has a romance with one of them and they mind control him. That’s about it. Moving on.
#1 Star Trek: First Contact
“The line must be drawn here. This far, no further. And I will make them pay for what they’ve done!” This quote from Picard is one of my favourite from the franchise, and it is from the second-best Trek film of all time (Wrath of Khan is number one, by the way) Star Trek: First Contact. This one is just magnificent.
The Borg are so scary in this film that at times it feels like a horror movie. The special effects work is also top notch and they have never looked better. We meet their sexy/creepy queen for the first time and Alice Krige just slays in the role. And we have Picard battling with his Borg PTSD from “The Best of Both Worlds” television two-parter. James Cromwell is also hilarious as perpetual drunk and uneasy historical icon Zefram Cochrane and the always dependable is Alfre Woodard is a refreshing audience surrogate as Lily.
There are tense and explosive action sequences in space and with Federation crew facing off against the Borg. “Assimilate this!” We even get a cameo of the Defiant from Deep Space Nine. Love that tough little ship. And we also get to see First Contact with Vulcans. The music is also so well done. This movie is a gold mine for Trekkies and a great time too for everyone else. It is also the best Borg story to date (and unlikely to ever be surpassed).
So that’s my list. But before I get to recommendations I just wanted to give a big shout out to artist Kavita Maharaj of Retrospect Studios. She is “a prolific fine artist who has become internationally known for her Spock Painting Series, based upon Star Trek™ – The Original Series (TOS).
“Her pieces are officially licensed by CBS as Star Trek™ Collector items and can be found in a variety of countries across the globe (Canada, the US, Australia, Finland, Scotland, England, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, and Trinidad and Tobago).“
Kavita recently completed a fantastic piece called “Locutus and the Queen” from Star Trek: First Contact (see above) and I just had to feature it in my Borg ranking today. Hope you like it and do go and show her some love on the Retrospect Studios Facebook page . You can also check out the website by clicking here.
Shout out complete and back to our regularly scheduled assimilation. So what are your top three Borg stories? And you can check out more great Trek content below:
Top 20 Star Trek Villains
Seven ‘Silver Age’ Trek Character Crossover Episodes Ranked
Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.