- This article is about the fictional race of aliens. For other uses, see Borg (disambiguation).
The Borg are a race of cyborgs in the fictional Star Trek universe.
A Borg: Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One
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 "Dr Who".
The minds of all Borg are connected via implants to a hive, a collective mind, orchestrated by the Borg Queen. 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 fulfill 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 Beta Quadrant just long enough to expose them to the Borg. The Enterprise was hopelessly overpowered, and Q brought them home after their confrontation. Q says something to the effect of "Now that they know about you, they will never stop until they find you." However, Picard later realized that the Borg cube was already on a heading towards Federation space, and in effect Q gave them an advanced warning, doing the right thing for the wrong reason.
The second 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 destroy a Federation fleet in the Battle of Wolf 359 and proceed to Earth. In the process, however, the Enterprise uses 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 of. 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 somehow engaged a self-destruct mechanism that destroyed the Cube shortly afterward.
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 Voyager—Seven of Nine (pictured above).
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 neurolithic 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 events of First Contact led to a time paradox of sorts; approximately a century after the Borg were defeated over 21st Century Earth, the remains of several drones that had crash-landed on Earth were accidentally revived by scientists. The drones assimilated an Earth vessel and departed the planet. The Enterprise NX-01 intercepted the vessel and was forced to destroy it, but not before the ship sent a signal to the Delta Quadrant which, due to the lack of subspace communications, was expected to take two centuries to reach its destination. See "Theory on Enterprise Contact" section, below, for a discussion of the implications of this early contact.
The Borg change over time
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 inhibiting said starships and planets. In their second appearance, they began to rather crudely and frighteningly assimilating 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 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 book 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 is taken aboard the ship. Eventually, due to separation from the Borg collective, the Borg (given the nickname "Hugh" by the crewmembers) begins to develop an individual personality. Events lead to him eventually returning to the collective. He seemed to lose his individuality, but 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.
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.
- 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 2003. Assuming V'Ger (Voyager 6) was launched in 2004, 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.
- V'Ger has not merged with its creator prior to this date, and thus would not yet be part human
- 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.
- 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 2370's, so contact between the Borg and Vaadwaur would be in the 1400's.
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 name of 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.
The answer 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 aquisition and integration of all of the life, culture, and technology in the Universe -- as having been born the day V'Ger "joined" with Captain Matt 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 around this:
- since the Borg were obviously able to travel back into time in the film, it's conceivable that they travelled back at another point to establish a hive in the 21st Century.
- 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.
An early cyborg concept which is intriguingly similar to the Borg are the Cybermen in the BBC television science fiction series Doctor Who. The Cybermen first appeared on British television in the 1966 serial The Tenth Planet, long predating Star Trek: The Next Generation.
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 planets 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.
This conflicts with canonical reference from the show for two reasons: In Star Trek: Voyager episode "Dragon's Teeth", aliens (known as the Vaadwaur) in the Delta Quadrant (where Borg controlled space resides) who had been in suspended animation for centuries said that 900 years ago (Earth's 1400's) the Borg were only a minor nuisance and did not control the vast swaths of territory they later would. Also, in the Voyager episode "Unimatrix Zero" the Borg Queen stated that she was not a member of the original Borg race, but she and her family were assimilated when she was a child (of course, the Queen appearing in the episode might not have been the original Borg Queen).
The classical Borg hail is as follows:
- "We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile."
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!".
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."
All Borg episodes to date
This listing is not counting the "normal" Seven of Nine episodes.
- Blood Fever (A single drone is shown in the last few seconds)
- Dark Frontier
- Survival Instinct
- Unimatrix Zero
It is plausible that the Borg could have reached the 22nd century after the time-traveling events of the film Star Trek: First Contact. Although the question "How could the Borg plausibly fit into Star Trek: Enterprise?" was fairly well answered, it remains to be seen how this will affect future continuity.
The episode essentially established a time-loop not unlike that in the film Terminator (1984): The Borg home region of space is in the Delta Quadrant of the Milky Way Galaxy, 70 year travel from Earth in the Alpha Quadrant. It was never really explained why the Borg Cube was already heading for Earth's region of space in "Q Who?", a region very far from their own Collective.
This episode attempts to fit in the concept that Borg drones damaged during "First Contact" in 2063 were freed from an Arctic crash site in 2152, well before their first contact in TNG which occurred in 2363. They stole a transport and attempted to reach the Collective. Enterprise was able to destroy all of the Borg drones, but not before they sent a signal to the Borg Collective in the Delta Quadrant that relayed the position of Earth. However, because they were using primitive 22nd century communications, it was projected that it would take nearly 200 years for their transmission to reach the Borg Collective; in the 24th century. This would explain why the Cube was heading for Federation Space in "Q Who?", and would also explain why the Borg seen in that episode appear so different to Borg seen later on in the series - they would be an earlier incarnation of the Borg, that set out from Borg space possibly centuries before.
It is also speculated that Starfleet hushed up the incident, as this was the only way continuity (in the series) could be kept: although most of the Borg wreckage from First Contact was destroyed, photographs and scans of Borg drones and equipment were left in Starfleet hands and advanced Borg technology had been assimilated into a small part of the NX-01. This may involve the covert arm of Starfleet Intelligence seen on Deep Space Nine, Section 31.
The episode "Regeneration" also provides some continuity to the episode Dark Frontier in which the crew of the USS Raven set out on a journey to find the Borg. These events take place about 10 years before The Next Generation episode "Q Who?". In addition, Star Trek: Generations featured the Enterprise NCC-1701-B rescuing refugees of a race known as the El-Aurian, who TNG established were fleeing the Borg; in fact, the character of Guinan from TNG was well aware of the Borg before Picard and his crew encountered them.
The Borg in computer games
- Star Trek Starfleet Command 3
- Star Trek Borg Assimilator
- Star Trek Elite Force 1 and 2
- Star Trek Armada (in which USS Premonition from the future tells the Enterprise that the borg plans a new invasion and clone Locutus.)
- Star Trek Armada 2 (in which the borg have set up a transwarp link between the Alpha and Delta quadrants and plan another invasion.)
- Star Trek Away Team (Spoiler Warning: The Warden, an enemy in the game have their origin in manipulated borg nanoprobes.)
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 and the Romulans mostly absent. There is little doubt that the Klingon Empire represented the Soviet Union and the Romulan Empire represented mainland China in the geopolitical situation of the Star Trek universe in the original series and some of the subsequent films. Originally intended as the new enemy for the United Federation of Planets, representing the United States, 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 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 "borg," "a borg," or a "drone." Borg is also occasionally used as a slang verb, meaning to take over or absorb something. Example: "Steve borged my CD collection, making copies of almost every disc I own."
It is common to refer to someone as being 'Of Borg', indicating they are aggressive in taking over something. Ex: "Microsoft of Borg." This is in reference to the maxim delivered by Locutus in the Best of Both Worlds.
In hacker jargon, to be a user of a Microsoft-based system is to be "assimilated" or "Borged." This is an allusion to Microsoft's wide consumer base. There is a popular picture in circulation through the Internet displaying Bill Gates as a Borg. Postings on the slashdot technology website relating to Microsoft have a graphic of Bill Gates as a Borg.
Microsoft itself is sometimes referred to as "The Borg", reflecting its tendency towards acquiring technology instead of developing it in-house. This started with its purchase of QDOS from the now-defunct Seattle Computer, which Microsoft renamed MS-DOS, its first widely successful product. The list of products based on technology developed by other companies includes Windows Media Player, the ActiMates Barney products, Content Management Server (CMS), originally developed by NCompass Labs, and many others. (It must be noted, however, that this approach is typical to many large companies.)
Microsoft, like the Borg, also has the ability to adapt to and overwhelm its opponents' strategies: initial attacks against it may have some limited success, but once it has adapted and unified its efforts against its foes, the outcome is usually the same.
"Borging" also refers to installing a distributed computing project executable on a business or university computer.
Shortly after the introduction of the Pentium microprocessor, a floating-point arithmetic glitch was found which affected the accuracy of calculations, leading to the popular expression, "I am Pentium of Borg. Accuracy is irrelevant. You will be approximated.", after the well-known Borg expression.
The term "borg" was used in Star Wars comics as early as 1978 to refer to cyborgs (cf. Star Wars's use of "droid" for "android").
- 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)
- Borg (http://www.memory-alpha.org/en/index.php/Borg) at Memory Alpha, a Star Trek WikiWiki
- The Pomona-Borg Connection (http://www.pomona.edu/Pomoniana/borg.shtml)