One of the biggest criticisms of the Star Trek franchise is that,
often the more we see any one alien species across a number of
episodes, that species will act more and more human each time.
Here, this "anthropomorphizing" is turned on the Borg, arguably
the least likely of all Star Trek's recurring aliens to succumb
to this phenomenon. But we get an expert job here in this tale,
written by the man who debuted by creating Data's daughter and
pulling our heart-strings as he anthropomorphized her. It seems
this idea became one of René Echevarria's signature strengths.
The early scene in which Picard looks at the unconscious Borg
in the cell is one of the most critical for me. One of the
biggest and most irrefutable reasons for aliens to continue
to act alien and not human, is in their brain chemistry and
brain structure. In the case of the Borg, this extends to include
"electronic" parts of themselves, how those parts are programmed,
and of course the continued influence from the unified Borg collective.
In this scene, the Starfleet crew layout their plan for essentially
changing the Borg's "brain chemistry", which is critical for me
to believe the changes that Hugh is going to go through.
His connection to the rest of the hive mind is already cut off
at this point, but that's not quite enough for me go on the
entire journey with him. We have to wonder how far Geordi
ever got with replacing his brain chips and programming.
They never actually say on screen, but THAT part of it would
seal the deal for me. I'd be there all the way.
This story sees some really great performances from
Patrick Stewart, Whoopi Goldberg, LeVar Burton,
and guest star Jonathan Del Arco. It's a nice multi-faceted
drama bringing out a lot of great character moments for
many of the cast. Gates McFadden is also quite good with
her character simply by insisting on doing her usual thing,
and quite strongly and rightly too. Troi is sadly upstaged
once more by Guinan.
Picard's final decision in the end is seen to be based on an
assumption, unproven here, that I really just can't buy though.
How is Hugh's new found individuality any greater or different
than that of any other individual that comes into contact with the
Borg and gets assimilated? Do they give him any kind of protection
against the usual technology that the Borg have for totally
suppressing individuality? Have they given him alternate chips
I would find the events of the next Borg adventure far more
plausible had Geordi and Data given Hugh the geometric "virus"
that they come up with here. And the virus might have been
less distasteful if scripted to disable the Borg's aggressiveness
without wiping them out. You'd think some of the research
Commander Shelby's team reportedly were working on during
"The Best of Both Worlds" would have been drawn upon as well.
Instead, what we get here simply feels like the biggest
"anthropomorphizing fantasy" of all time. Although I don't fault
this episode on its own, this does mark the end of the facelessness
that made the Borg's hive mind so effectively alien. And thus
a great adversary was lost, and a great idea diminished.