Borg

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This article is about the fictional race of aliens. For other uses, see Borg (disambiguation).
Founded: before the 15th century C.E.
"Leader": Borg Queen
Base of operations: Unicomplex, Delta Quadrant
Official language: unknown, language independent hive mind (see: universal translator)

The Borg are a race of cyborgs in the Star Trek fictional universe. Some say the name 'Borg' is simply short for cyborg.

Contents

Overview

A Borg cube orbiting Earth
A Borg cube orbiting Earth

Borg are humanoids of different races that are enhanced with cybernetic implants, giving them improved mental and physical abilities. Although the cyborg concept has long existed in science-fiction literature, it is probable that the general concept of the Borg – a ruthless, aggressive race of bio-mechanical beings bent on galactic conquest – was influenced to some degree by the Cybermen, which featured in the popular British television series Doctor Who and who displayed similar rationales and methods as the Borg, including wanting to assimilate individuals to augment their race. They also bear significant resemblences to Fred Saberhagen's Berserker series.

The minds of all Borg are connected via implants to a hive, a collective mind, orchestrated by the Borg Queen and controlled from a central hub, the Unicomplex. According to themselves, the Borg only seek to "improve the quality of life in the universe" and add to their own perfection. To this end, they travel the galaxy, improving their numbers and advancing by "assimilating" other species and technologies, and forcing captured individuals under the control of the Hive mind by injecting them with nanoprobes. They harbor no ill will to anyone; they merely fulfil their biological or programmatic imperative to assimilate. As they say, "You will be assimilated – resistance is futile." They make good on that threat by their ability to quickly adapt to any attack to render it harmless. Thus, any successful defense depends on the ingenuity of the opponent to find a method to stop the Borg completely before they can neutralize it.

The first formal contact of Starfleet with the Borg occurs by interference from Q in Star Trek: The Next Generation, episode "Q Who?". Q transported the Enterprise-D to System J-25, in the Delta Quadrant just long enough to expose them to the Borg. The Enterprise was hopelessly overpowered, and Q brought them home after their confrontation. Guinan tells Picard, "Now that they know of your existence..." and Picard realized that they would never stop until they find them. Later Picard realized that the Borg cube was already on a heading towards Federation space, and in effect Q gave them an advance warning, doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

There is evidence that, prior to Picard's contact with the Borg, Starfleet and the Federation had knowledge of the species beginning with an incident in 2153 where a group of Borg was discovered in the Arctic Circle. The Borg in question were later speculated to have possibly come from the future as referenced by a speech Zefram Cochrane had given, stating what "really" had happened during First Contact in 2063.

The Borg incident of 2153 was quietly kept a secret, due in part that evidence had been uncovered that the Borg had managed to transmit the location of Earth to their home space in the Delta Quadrant. Since, however, the message would not reach Borg space for two centuries, Earth and Starfleet authorities were not overly concerned with the Borg. However, in the prophetic words of Captain Jonathan Archer: "We've only postponed the invasion until what? The 24th century?"

In the mid 2350's, as the two hundred year time mark approached on Captain Archer's statement, Starfleet began a covert operation to learn about the Borg and hired several civilian scientists to perform "unoffical" research and to learn about this potential threat to the Federation. The family of Annika Hansen was one such group of scientists so employed. Thus, by the time Captain Picard and the Enterprise encountered the Borg at System J-25, certain areas of Starfleet (most likely Section 31) were already aware of the Borg and the danger they possessed.

The second official contact occurred in the two-part "The Best of Both Worlds", which is considered one of the greatest episodes in Star Trek history. In that incident, Captain Picard was captured and assimilated by the Borg to become Locutus of Borg. With his knowledge, the Borg destroyed the massive Federation fleet in the Battle of Wolf 359 and proceeded to Earth. The Federation regards this battle as one of its worst military defeats in history. In the process, however, the Enterprise used an emergency transporter to rescue and capture Locutus. Data, with the help of Counsellor Troi and Dr. Crusher, managed to tap into the computer network of which Picard/Locutus was a part. Their actions managed to give Picard enough force of will to tell Data to give the command for the Borg to "sleep", that is, enter their regenerative mode. This caused the Cube to go quiescent and created a feedback loop in the cube's power systems that destroyed the ship.

Missing image
7of9.jpg
A Borg: Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One

The Borg make frequent appearances in the Star Trek universe afterwards, being involved in the main plot of the Star Trek: First Contact movie, and even having one of their number become a crew member of the Starship VoyagerSeven of Nine.

The Borg suffered their worst defeat in the year 2378. The USS Voyager discovered a Borg transwarp hub inside a nebula, which allowed the Borg to send ships anywhere in the galaxy in minutes (it was one of only six such hubs in the entire Milky Way galaxy). A future Admiral Janeway, who had travelled back in time, ordered Voyager to use the hub to get back to the Alpha Quadrant, but (present-day) Captain Janeway was determined to destroy it. Admiral Janeway entered the unicomplex and the Borg Queen assimilated her. However, the Admiral had infected herself with a neurolytic pathogen; now assimilated into the collective, the pathogen was disabling the neural links at the mind of the collective consciousness. As a result, the Borg Queen lost connections with her drones and ships, before being overcome and presumably killed, as her Unicomplex base exploded around her. Simultaneously, Voyager destroyed support beams while inside the transwarp corridor. The hub then collapsed, giving the Borg a crippling blow while Voyager was successfully returned to Earth. Now, it is unknown if the Borg are still alive.

The Borg change over time

The cybernetic beings called the Borg have changed significantly over the years. Initially, they were a mysterious group of marauders that snatched entire starships or took over planets in order to collect technology. They were not interested in the organic life forms inhabiting said starships and planets. In their second appearance, they began to rather crudely and frighteningly assimilate people by surgically altering them for joining the collective. From their third appearance forward, their interest in obtaining alien technology has been greatly reduced. Assimilating different life forms into their collective structure became their main mode of operation. As time went on however, the method of assimilation was updated with the more efficient method of injecting nanites into the individuals. The nanites would grow electrical input pathways to facilitate the later insertion of the Borg's notable brain uplink to the collective, holographic eye replacement and forearm control unit.

Borg nanoprobes are injected into the bloodstream by a number of tubules that spring forth from the hand of a Borg drone. The nanoprobes are about the size of a red blood cell and travel through the victim's bloodstream to various tissues and locations throughout the body. The purpose of the Borg nanoprobes are to prepare the body for assimilation. They do this by attaching to cells and re-writing their DNA to alter the victim's biochemistry as well as form higher structures such as electrical pathways, processing and data storage nodes, and ultimately Borg implants that spring forth from the skin like spiders.

It is probable that the nanoprobes utilize iron from blood cells to replicate and create higher structures. Breaking down red blood cells would cause asphyxia or suffocation in the victim, also aiding in the submission to forces taking the body away for full implantation. This also alters the appearance of veins and capillaries large enough for nanoprobes and creates dark veins that appear to snake across the surface of the skin as the cyber-infection spreads. Based on the size of a single nanoprobe and the volume that could be injected in the short time of a drone attack, it is estimated a single injection carries at least 5 million nanoprobes.

In "I, Borg" (the title is a reference to Isaac Asimov's story I, Robot) the Enterprise crew captured a single Borg who appeared to be detached from the collective with his whereabouts unknown. Seeing an opportunity to study their enemy, he was taken aboard the ship. Eventually, due to separation from the Borg collective, the Borg (given the nickname "Hugh" by the crewmembers) began to develop an individual personality. Events eventually lead to him returning to the collective. Though he seemed to lose his individuality, the introduction of his experiences into the collective had far reaching consequences. Some eventually broke away. They later joined with Lore, Data's prototype brother who helped them express their newfound freedom through hatred ("Descent").

The purely collective nature of the Borg was later modified in Star Trek: First Contact, which introduced the Borg Queen. The Borg Queen is a central locus for the Borg collective consciousness and is unique within the collective, bringing "order to chaos" and referring to herself as "we" and "I" variably. The function of the Borg Queen within the Borg seems to be that of a coordinator, as in an ant colony, and less so of a leader in the traditional sense. Her unique autonomy allowed her to have an intimate encounter with Data. It has been postulated however that both the Borg Queen's and Locutus's functions are merely that of spokespeople and tacticians. This would allow the Borg to maintain a creative edge as well as having the advantages of a true collective. Many pieces of fan-made literature postulate that there is at least one 'Queen' per ship and a single "true" Borg Queen at Unimatrix 001.

In the episode "Drone" the Doctor's mobile emitter (obtained from the future in the episode "Future's End, Part 2") combines with Seven of Nine's technology to form a 29th century version of a Borg drone. Its capabilities include an internal teleporter, speech cababilities, and the ability to reproduce sexually.

Origin of the Borg

It has also been speculated that there could be a connection between the origin of the Borg and V'ger, the vessel encountered in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as is asserted in William Shatner's novel, The Return. The two organisms are similar in philosophy:

  • The Borg are born as wholly organic beings, and melded with hardware to become part machine. They idolize a totally machine state, which is what allows Lore to conquer them in 'Descent'.
  • V'ger is originally a machine, but it wanted to see and touch its creator in order to proceed to the next level of life.

The final form of V'ger is the machine somehow "melted" with the two persons. With reasonable conjecture, the Borg, a cybernetic organism, a mixture between man and the machine, is born.

Following Star Trek: First Contact, the "Borg from V'Ger" origin theory has a few obstacles.

  1. The Borg attempt to use the Enterprise's deflector dish as a subspace transmitter to contact the Borg existing in their time. Voyagers 3-6 have not been launched as of 2005. Assuming V'Ger (Voyager 6) was launched some time in 2005, by 2063 a spacecraft traveling at Warp .99 would be no more than a short trip from Earth at maximum warp, hardly a distance which would require a subspace transmitter to contact anybody.
  2. V'Ger has not merged with its creator prior to this date, and thus would not yet be part human
  3. Even before the film was released, Guinan mentioned (in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation) that the Borg had been in existence for thousands of years, so they would already have been around long before V'Ger was ever created.
  4. This is also supported by the story of the Vaadwaur who reported contact with the Borg 900 years ago – that episode took place in the 2370s, so contact between the Borg and Vaadwaur would be in the 1400s.

However this origin story could be reversed into a "V'Ger from Borg" origin theory – V'Ger could have been aided by Borg. V'Ger mentions in a visual presentation of its origin that it was once a smaller machine, one of NASA's Voyager space probes. It was then rescued and augmented by a race of machines... however, the name or nature of this machine planet is never elaborated upon, and could well belong to the Borg.

One could go even further and pose the question "Why, if they have been around for thousands of years, have the Borg not succeeded in dominating the galaxy?" There are few examples of effective resistance being offered the Borg, and the two battles of Sector 001, both of which ended in a Borg defeat (though the second outcome is perhaps not so clear-cut), must surely be the exception. Human beings will not make contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life until 2063, and Species 8472, the other race on the short list of those who have defended territory against the Borg, does not enter space as we know it until about 400 years later. Again however, the Vaadwaur might provide an answer by stating the species had several encounters with the Borg, and "lived to tell the tale". This would suggest that the Borg were not the overwhelming force of the 24th century for most of their existence.

Another explination may lie in the particulars of the evolution of the Borg. V'Ger's mission is "to learn all that is learnable" – perhaps to an intelligent machine all that is learnable is abstraction. Were V'Ger to join, perhaps become an emissary for a race (or collective) of computers whose purpose is to collect all of the information in the Universe – to dominate the Platonic realm, one could view the Borg as having more machine history than cybernetic and see the mission of the Borg as it is more commonly understood – one of acquisition and integration of all of the life, culture, and technology in the Universe – as having been born the day V'Ger "joined" with Captain Decker. The purpose of this joining was to enable V'Ger to understand "the rest of the picture" – could this terrible menace be machine thought sparked by a glimpse of human understanding?

The obstacle to a "V'Ger from Borg" theory is the apparently great distance between Earth and the space dominated by Borg. Possible rationalizations to address this include:

  1. since the Borg were obviously able to travel back into time in the film, it is conceivable that they travelled back at another point to establish a hive in the 21st Century.
  2. V'Ger mentions (again in its visual presentation of its origin) that it passed through a kind of disturbance, possibly a wormhole, on its trip to the machine world.

Though not in the formal continuity, a speculative story in the recent short story anthology Strange New Worlds VI offered a theory of their creation. It stated that the Borg came about on a world suffering from a devastating plague. One of the victims was the granddaughter of the planet's ruler, and she forced the scientists treating the plague to attempt a new treatment upon her. Nanotech was introduced into her body, which eliminated the virus and restored her. However, the nanotech was programmed not to make her as she had been before, but to make her perfect. Since she was naturally imperfect, they changed her body and brain, augmenting them with technology and creating the first Borg Queen. The scientists who changed her were put to death by her grandfather, who tried to kill her with gas. Her body adapted to this, removing the need to breathe and allowing her to introduce her nanobots into the wall of the room holding her, melting it and allowing her to escape. While fighting her guards, she accidentally put the nanotech into one of them, creating a link and changing him. In this way, the first Borg were born. Assimilating their homeworld, the Borg began to conquer other planets.

Famous maxim

The classical Borg hail is as follows:

"We are the Borg. Lower your shields and power down your weapons. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated."

In the movie Star Trek: First Contact, the following hail is heard:

"We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile."

This saying bears a striking resemblance to that of Cybermen: "Resistance is useless!" which was said on many occasions by them. Also in Doctor Who, the Cybermen's head leader; The Cybercontroller (equivalent to the Borg Queen) once stated to the Doctor that "To struggle is futile!" In the serial Tomb of the Cybermen, the Cybercontroller says, "You belong to us. You will be like us."

Additionally, Locutus (assimilated Picard) was known to say (at the Battle of Wolf 359):

"I am Locutus of Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile. You will disarm your weapons and escort us to Sector 001. If you attempt to intervene, we will destroy you."

And before the battle:

"I am Locutus of Borg. Resistance is futile. Your life as it has been is over. From this time forward you will service us."

In the video game Star Fox: Assault, the Aparoids, a race much like the Borg say:

"We will answer. We are the ultimate existence. You will join us. You will not resist us."

Pronounciation Variations

  • Most borg pronounce futile as "few-tile" although 7 of 9 says "few-tle".
  • It is interesting to note that the first person to use the phrase "Resistance is futile" in Star Trek was the British actor Patrick Stewart, in the guise of Locutus of Borg. The pronunciation "few-tile" is the standard in Britain, but is far less common in the US. Even though the Borg Collective speaks with an American accent, it has retained Stewart's pronunciation in all subsequent reappearances.
  • Commander Data when freed from the influence of the Borg also pronounced it "few-tle" although this does not really count as he was never really under their influence to begin with.

Borg species identification

Borg identify species uniquely with a number assigned to them on first encounter. The following is a list of species and their number. Some species have only been identified by their Borg identification and do not have a "name".

# Species Episode # is mentioned
116 Arturis
125 Unknown, Borg Queen's species "Dark Frontier"
149 Unknown, but mentioned by Seven of Nine on ST:VOY A species with advanced medical knowledge. The Borg assimilated them and nanoprobe technology to reverse cellular necrosis. "Mortal Coil"
180 Ferengi
218 Talaxians "The Raven"
259 Unknown – from Galactic Cluster 3 "The Gift" [VOY]
262 Unknown – Related to the omega molecule; primitive "The Omega Directive"
263 Unknown – Related to the omega molecule; primitive "The Omega Directive"
312 Unknown species who had similar technology to the shielding that hid the Ventu. "Natural Law" [VOY]
329 Kazon – considered unworthy of assimilation. "Mortal Coil"
521 Shivolians
571 Unknown, species of Four of Nine – the younger male drone
689 Norcadians
2461 Brunali Icheb's species. "Child's Play" [VOY]
3259 Vulcans "The Raven"
4228 Hazari
5174 Unknown, speculated as Hirogen
5618 Human "Dark Frontier, Part 2"
5973 Unknown, mentioned as a non-corporeal by Rebi
6291 Yridians
6639 Unknown, species invented an anti-borg virus. "Infinite Regress" [VOY]
6961 Ktarians
8472 Species 8472, fluidic space dwellers "Scorpion"
10026 Unnamed. Assimilated by the Borg in 2375. "Dark Frontier, Part 1" [VOY]

All Borg episodes to date

Star Trek: The Next Generation
# Episode Appearance
126 "The Neutral Zone" No Borg are seen or mentioned, but several destroyed colonies are found which are later identified as the site of Borg attacks
216 "Q Who?" Q introduces the crew of the Enterprise to the Borg.
316
401
"The Best of Both Worlds Part 1/2" Picard is kidnapped by the Borg, who begin their invasion of Federation space.
523 "I, Borg" The Enterprise rescues a Borg survivor, and Picard plans to use him as a weapon against his nemesis.
626
701
"Descent Part 1/2" A group of Borg attack federation outposts. The crew pursues them through trans-warp conduits and discovers Data's brother – Lore – leading them in a war against organic life.
N/A Star Trek: First Contact The Borg attempt to assimilate Earth by time travelling to the 21st century. First encounter with a Borg Queen.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
# Episode Appearance
101 "Emissary" Has flashbacks to the Battle of Wolf 359, from The Best of Both Worlds)

This listing does not include the "normal" Seven of Nine episodes.

Star Trek: Voyager
# Episode Appearance
316 "Blood Fever" A single drone is shown in the last few seconds
317 "Unity" Two groups of Borg are on a planet after being severed from the collective.
326
401
"Scorpion Part 1/2" Species 8472 are found to be filling the "Northwest passage" in an attempt to eliminate the Borg.
402 "The Gift" Kes pushes Voyager well out of Borg territory.
406 "The Raven" Seven of Nine experiences Borg flashbacks.
421 "The Omega Directive"
423 "The Living Witness"
425 "One"
426 "Hope and Fear"
502 "Drone"
507 "Infinite Regress"
515
516
"Dark Frontier" Where we learn that the Borg call Humanity "Species 5618"
602 "Survival Instinct"
616 "Collective"
619 "Child's play"
626
701
"Unimatrix Zero, Part 1/2"
702 "Imperfection"
711 "Shattered"
719 "Q2" Q's son materializes them to attack Voyager
725
726
"Endgame"
Star Trek: Enterprise
# Episode Appearances
223 "Regeneration"

The Borg in computer games

The Borg as a cultural allusion

The Borg were a concept born out of necessity for Star Trek to feature a new heavy and regular enemy that was lacking during the first season of Next Generation now that the Klingons were friends, the Romulans mostly absent. Originally intended as the new enemy for the United Federation of Planets, the Ferengi failed to assert themselves as a convincing threat because of their comical, unintimidating appearance and devotion to capitalist accumulation or "free enterprise". They were subsequently re-assigned to the role of annoying but cute comic relief characters. A new militaristic threat was thus needed to replace the Klingons and Romulans. The Borg, with their frightening appearance, immense power, and most importantly a no-nonsense, totally sinister motive became the signature villains for the Next Generation era of Star Trek. Its strongest definition is most probably the fearful Luddite prophecy, (the vision that technology will eventually transform humanity into monsters?)

The Borg are one of the more recognizable and popular Star Trek villains, which has made them icons in American popular culture even outside of Star Trek. Referring to a group of people as "borgs", or "borg" (maintaining the proper plural) means that they are completely given to conformity with one another. A single person who is slavishly conformist can also be called a "drone" or "borg". Borg is also occasionally used as a slang verb, meaning to take over or absorb something. Example: "Steve borg-ed (or assimilated) my CD collection, making copies of almost every disc I own."

Sometimes, someone is refered to as being 'Of Borg', indicating they are aggressive in taking over something. Eg: "Microsoft of Borg." This is in reference to the maxim "resistance is futile".

Shortly after the introduction of the Pentium microprocessor, a floating-point arithmetic glitch was found which affected the accuracy of calculations, leading to the joke, "We are Pentium of Borg. Division is Futile - You will be approximated"

Bibliography

Digital

Print

  • Patrick Thaddeus Jackson and Daniel H. Nexon, "Representation is Futile?: American Anti-Collectivism and the Borg" in Jutta Weldes, ed., To Seek Out New Worlds: Science Fiction and World Politics. 2003. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 031229557X. Pp. 143-167.
  • Thomas A. Georges. Digital Soul: Intelligent Machines and Human Values. Boulder: Westview. ISBN 0813340578. p. 172. (The Borg as Big Business)

External links

fr:Borg (Star Trek) he:הבורג hu:Borg it:Borg ja:ボーグ nl:Borg (Star Trek) pl:Borg sv:Borg (Star Trek)

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