“Descent” is the 26th episode of the sixth season and the first episode of the seventh season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, the 152nd and 153rd episodes overall.
Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode they once again encounter the Borg aliens.
The episode, which was aired on television in 1993, features a guest appearance by astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. He appears in the show’s opening on the holodeck in a card game with android Data, as a holographic version of himself.
On the holodeck, Lt. Commander Data plays a game of poker with holographic representations of Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking. Answering a question from Newton, Data explains that the game is an experiment for understanding “how three of history’s greatest minds would interact” in such a setting. Just as Hawking wins another hand, a red alert is issued by Riker and Data suspends the program.
The Enterprise responds to a distress call from a Starfleet outpost. On arrival, they send down an away team consisting of Riker, Worf, Data and another security guard. They find the entire crew of the outpost dead. Suddenly they are attacked by a group of Borg. During the course of the fire fight, Riker observes that the Borg are not acting like the Borg they have encountered previously. For starters, each of them is armed with energy weapons and they refer to each other as individuals. In fact, these Borg appear to be fighting more like guerrilla warriors. While fighting a drone, Data feels an emotion – anger – resulting in his breaking the neck of the drone he was fighting.
At the same time, in orbit, an unidentified ship fires on the Enterprise and the crew returns fire. On the surface, during the firefight, one Borg begins talking to himself about the nature of the away team members, when he sees and mentions Data, he appears to signal a withdrawal. The alien ship beams up the remaining Borg from the outpost and flees with the Enterprise in pursuit. Suddenly the ship enters some kind of vortex and disappears without a trace. Back on the outpost, Riker asks Data what happened, but Data cannot explain it; he just felt angry. Admiral Alynna Nechayev arrives to take command of the situation. She reprimands Picard for not destroying the Borg when he had the chance (“I, Borg“) and orders him to do so if another opportunity should present itself. Meanwhile, Data is trying to understand what caused his behaviour on the outpost. He tries to experience emotion again through simulations of the event, but does not succeed.
The Borg ship reappears and attacks another outpost. Again, the Enterprise is the nearest ship, which makes Picard suspicious, given that there are now several Starfleet vessels patrolling the area. The Borg ship reenters the vortex and disappears when the Enterprise intercepts; however, this time the Enterprise is caught in its wake and follows. Once on the other side, the Borg attack, beaming drones on to the bridge. After a brief fire fight, one drone is killed and another wounded, but the distraction allows the Borg ship to escape, which again is unusual Borg behaviour in that they always reclaim their drones, whether alive or dead.
The crew discover that the vortex they entered is a form of conduit allowing them to travel from one star system to another almost instantaneously. However they have yet to work out how it is activated which means, for the moment, they are unable to return to Federation space. Data is sent to speak with the Borg whom the Enterprise has captured in an attempt to gather intelligence, but the drone is able to manipulate Data into releasing him. They escape the ship in a shuttlecraft. Before the Enterprise can catch the shuttle it disappears into a conduit. However, the crew have learned how the conduits are activated. They give chase and track the shuttlecraft to a planet. An away team finds no trace of Data or the Borg and something in the planet’s atmosphere is blocking their sensors, so Picard decides to conduct a ground search utilising nearly the whole crew of the Enterprise. Only a skeleton crew remains on board under the command of Dr. Crusher.
Searching the planet, Picard, Troi, a security officer and La Forge enter a building and are surrounded by noisy Borg. Their leader, appearing on a platform, resembles Data but Troi recognises that it is Data’s brother Lore. Data also appears, announcing that “The sons of Soong have joined together, and together, we will destroy the Federation!”
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Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Alexander Singer.
- Writer(s): Ronald D. Moore and Jeri Taylor.
- Release Date: 21 June 1993.
- Running Time: 45 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.