Plot Synopsis: Q throws the Enterprise into uncharted space where the crew encounters and are engaged by a vessel of a previously unknown species: the Borg.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser here is wonderful. We meet a newly-assigned ensign who makes maybe the worst first impression ever on Captain Picard, but we don’t have time to reflect on this as Picard unexpectedly finds himself on a shuttlecraft, greeted by none other than Q! Plot A revolves around Q and the Borg, there is no plot B. Picard is essentially a hostage on the shuttlecraft in the middle of nowhere, being held by Q. Not long after this Guinan realizes something is wrong, then Troi comes on the bridge asking after Picard–perhaps sensing Q’s presence as she did in the pilot–and the crew starts searching for him. After Picard agrees to Q’s terms, which boil down to listening to him for a few minutes, they arrive at Ten Forward. What does he want? To join the Enterprise as a crew member after being kicked out of the Q Continuum following their last encounter. After a bit of discussion Picard declines, Q pitches a bit of a fit and hurls the Enterprise about 7,000 light years through space. The reason becomes apparent after a few minutes: they find a planet with rips on its surface identical to those from the Neutral Zone, only this time the mystery doesn’t last long as a gigantic ship is introduced. It’s the Borg, Guinan informs them, and encountering them will change TNG forever. The tension of the plot increases and increases as we realize the Enterprise is simply outclassed by the Borg, and this leads to an ending that perhaps no fan would have anticipated.
Favorite Scenes: The whole Ten Forward scene at the beginning is enjoyable, lots of tension and with Q you just know something crazy is going to happen. The scene when the Borg first arrive in engineering is chilling, and is just a taste of how vulnerable you realize the crew are. The first Borg attack is even worse as they actually cut into the hull and kill some of the crew. And right after this they decide to board the alien ship? Craziness, and completely compelling writing. Everything that happens on the Borg ship is interesting, and as the Borg keep coming the feeling of dread builds.
Use of Cast/Characters: Diana Muldaur had this episode off. I’m honestly not sure how Picard comes across in this episode. His scenes with Q are great, and you can’t really fault his decisions during the Borg encounter. Still, I remember coming away a bit disappointed that Picard couldn’t think his way out of it. An admirable quality he has that shines through here is his willingness to do whatever it takes to save the lives of the crew, and he does whatever he needs to make that happen, but… Riker has some lines and leads the away team but overall doesn’t contribute much. Neither do Data, Worf or Troi, and Wes has probably the least to do. Geordi’s handling of Ensign Gomez is great, and it makes him even more likable than he already was. We get some more character development out of him and how he is able to work with people. John deLancie is at his most villainous in this episode, causing an encounter with a hostile alien race and not caring in the slightest about being indirectly responsible for the deaths of 18 people. He’s marvelous. Whoopi gets quite a bit of character development here. We learn about the fate of her race, some kind of history she has had with Q, and her relationship with Picard is developed a bit at the end. It’s nice to see and I tend to enjoy about every appearance she makes on the show. Lycia Naff plays Ensign Sonya Gomez, and I liked her. She only appears in two episodes though, oh well.
Blu Ray Version: CGI was added to the big interior shot of the Borg ship. I’m glad it’s brief, the more I looked at it the less I liked it; I don’t think it blends that well, it just looks like CGI. Some of the special effects such as the weapons have been punched up a little, which is enjoyable without being jarring. Far more detail is seen and some small errors are fixed.
Nitpicks: My first nitpick is the title, which again is so ambiguous as to be nonsensical. There’s a little sleight of hand here with Q’s involvement in this episode at all: Q explicitly stated that he would “stay out of humanity’s path forever”, back in Hide and Q, and here it’s modified to “you agreed you would never trouble my ship again.” The writers painted themselves into a corner and are sidestepping a bit to get out of it. I’m glad they did, as virtually every visit from Q is great. I do question Q’s interest in wanting to join the Enterprise crew. I guess he would be a little hard up given his personality, but to offer to renounce his powers? Also, when the bridge crew have their first conference about 24 minutes in, why isn’t Worf there? He’s the head of security! The last scene, with Guinan, is lit too darkly, something that happened often during the first two seasons.
Overall Impression: Finally, an adversary that TNG fans can actually respect! After the failure of the Ferengi, they got these guys right. The Borg will appear in a ton of episodes across all of the subsequent Trek series as well as a movie because they make such great villains. They are portrayed the best in this episode and the Best of Both Worlds, where they are just unstoppable. They really are unlike any other villain on Star Trek. They don’t have personalities, they aren’t driven by power, they don’t have a leader (which was a problem I had with First Contact), they just adapt to any weapons and they are merciless. The special effects are prominent here also, and are terrific; it’s a real pleasure to watch. An extremely plot-driven episode, it fires on all cylinders right up to the end. However, I’m not quite positive how I feel about the ending. In the long-term it was the best possible way to end it; how can you set up a villain any better than to have failed against them previously? In terms of just this episode however, having Q save them at the end feels like a bit of a cheat. Nobody expects an episode in which the Enterprise loses, which dramatically in and of itself takes tremendous guts–I give it full credit there, but the Q rescue keeps me from giving it 5 stars. I rate this episode 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: Originally the Borg were supposed to be an insectoid race. If you think about it for a bit it does make sense: the hive-mentality, the drones, etc. This was supposed to be part two of a trilogy that began with the Neutral Zone, but the writer’s strike prevented it from coming to fruition. The mechanized Borg were more “budget-friendly” and in the end I liked it a bit better, as without the ability to be assimilated there would be no Locutus. The term “Borg” is derived from the term cyborg, a cybernetic organism. The Borg here are interested in technology, not civilizations. Beginning in their next episode this will change, and their interest in technology won’t be mentioned again. According to the episode’s director, Rob Bowman, Patrick Stewart did not like the ending of the episode at the time, where the captain has to concede to Q, and used his feelings of antipathy to feed his performance of that scene. This episode was nominated for three Emmys, winning for Sound Editing for a Series and Sound Mixing for a Drama Series, and was nominated for Achievement in Special Visual Effects. If Sonya Gomez looks a bit familiar, it’s because she was the triple-breasted prostitute from the original Total Recall, and played another prostitute in Lethal Weapon. According to Rob Bowman she was supposed to be a potential love interest for Geordi. This episode was listed as one of the 10 Essential Episodes of TNG from Star Trek 101.
Missable/Unmissable? Absolutely unmissable. The impact of this episode and the introduction of the Borg can hardly be overstated. Watch this episode! The next one I can’t recommend nearly as highly.