“I, Borg” is the 23rd episode of the fifth season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, the 123rd overall. It was originally aired on 10 May 1992, in broadcast syndication.
The episode was written by René Echevarria, with an uncredited assist from executive producer Jeri Taylor. It was directed by Robert Lederman, the film editor for The Next Generation, one of two directing credits he received during the course of the season.
Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, an injured Borg drone (Jonathan Del Arco) is found amid a crashed scout ship. As they restore him to health, the crew must decide whether or not to develop him as a weapon of mass destruction against the Borg, but when he demonstrates free will, they must question that decision.
The writers had problems bringing back the Borg due to their apparent near-invincibility. The idea for “I, Borg” was well received among the staff, with Taylor comparing it to the film Edward Scissorhands. The episode also saw a development in the make-up design for the Borg by Michael Westmore’s team. Del Arco was deliberately antisocial prior to his audition in order to enter Hugh’s mindset, but at the same time sought to use the innocence and wonderment generated by a friend’s death as Hugh’s voice. He was pleased when the character later returned in the two-part episode “Descent“. The episode received Nielsen ratings of 12.8 percent, and critics were positive with praise directed at both Del Arco and Whoopi Goldberg, as well as the general nature of the plot.
The crew discover a wrecked Borg scout ship with a single survivor: a young Borg drone. Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) insists on treating the surviving Borg despite the concerns of Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). On Picard’s orders, the drone is confined and monitored by security forces at all times and is prevented from contacting the Borg Collective. Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) and Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) assist Crusher in bringing the Borg back to health. As they come to understand the workings of the Borg, La Forge and Data devise an idea of using the Borg drone as a weapon of mass destruction. By implanting an unsolvable geometric formula into his mind and returning him to the Collective, the formula should rapidly spread (similar to a computer virus) and disable the Borg. Crusher is aghast at this suggestion, considering it equivalent to genocide, while Picard and the other senior crew deliberate on the ethics of this plan.
The Borg drone initially calls himself “Third of Five”, but ends up referring to and understanding himself as “Hugh” – the name given to him by La Forge. Hugh discusses how the Borg only wish to learn about other cultures through assimilation, but La Forge counters this argument, discussing aspects of individuality that make them human and unique. In further debates, La Forge finds himself becoming a friend to Hugh, and begins to doubt his previous idea. This is further complicated when Hugh shows elements of individualism. The crew now debate whether it is appropriate to sacrifice one individual to protect the majority, though Picard is still insistent on destroying the Collective. Crusher and La Forge arrange to have Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg), who has a similar loathing for the Borg because they destroyed her homeworld, speak to Hugh.
She finds Hugh to be not a mindless drone but a confused young man, and she agrees Hugh is no longer a Borg. Guinan convinces Picard to meet with Hugh, as well, and Picard comes to the same conclusion, in part because Hugh refers to himself as “I” instead of the Borg’s collective “we” during their discussion. Picard abandons the proposed plan and instead offers Hugh asylum within the Federation. Hugh expresses enthusiasm at the prospect of remaining with La Forge but ultimately refuses, recognising that the Borg will still come looking for him. He offers to be returned to the crash site, where he will be found and re-assimilated by the Borg. Picard hopes that, once Hugh is reconnected, the sense of individualism Hugh has learned will spread throughout the Collective. La Forge accompanies Hugh to the crash site and, from a safe distance, watches the Borg recover him. Just as the Borg transport out, Hugh turns to give La Forge a parting glance.
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Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Robert Lederman.
- Writer(s): Rene Echevarria.
- Release Date: 10 May 1992.
- Running Time: 45 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.