This discussion and review contains some spoilers for Star Trek: Picard season 2, episode 9, “Hide and Seek”.
With “Hide and Seek”, Star Trek: Picard touches on a problem that has haunted the franchise star trek since at least February 1999: the collapse of the Borg Collective as a credible threat.
The Borg were the alien species that broke into Star Trek: The Next Generation. This was cemented by its use in “The Best of Both Worlds”, an episode that made the series a true cultural phenomenon. The Borg have been the center of attention for decades in the Star media. trekkingincluding video games, theme park experiences and even the feature film Star Trek: First Contact. No wonder the Borg came back to Picarddespite the reluctance of Patrick Stewart.
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However, the franchise has often had trouble with the Borg. Over the decades, the franchise has found new angles on many of the existing aliens. star trek : Deep Space Nine it turned the Ferengi into a complex and multifaceted species. star trek :Enterprise gave a new approach to the Klingons in episodes like “Judgment” or the “Affliction” duology. Even the Romulans gave rise to episodes of Deep Space Nine such as “In the Pale Moonlight” and “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges”.
However, the franchise has struggled to adapt and update the Borg as a viable threat, which is ironic for a species defined by its ability to adapt to any threat. It’s tempting to blame Star Trek: Voyager by the collapse of the Borg as threatening antagonists, but this was evident even towards the end of The new generationwhere last season’s cliffhanger “Descent” found the Borg effectively serving as heavy muscle for Data’s (Brent Spiner) evil twin Lore (also Spiner).
There have been a handful of featured episodes starring the Borg since the end of The new generation. “Child’s Play” is an underrated episode of Voyager that questioned the most reactionary tendencies of the series. In business, “Regeneration” largely worked by stripping the Borg of any meaning and reducing them to a horror-movie menace. Despite all its problems, even the first season of Star Trek: Picard found an interesting angle in a collapsed borg community.
Even so, the Borg suffered a unique decline among the main villains of the pantheon of star trek. There are several reasons for this. The most obvious and superficial is that the Borg ended up largely in the custody of the writers’ room. Voyagerwhile other recurring aliens were left in the care of the Deep Space creative team Nine. deep space Nine was simply a much better (and more ambitious) series than Voyagerso it was much better at developing its alien cultures, both old and new.
Perhaps related to this, the franchise of star trek he never seemed to understand what exactly the Borg stood for. The Klingons were a practical replacement for the old enemies of the Cold War. The Romulans were a space-based Roman empire that mirrored the utopianism of the New Federation Frontier. The Ferengi were grubby little capitalists. The Borg, meanwhile, were a striking image and design, but a somewhat abstract concept.
Was the Borg Collective a metaphor for the Soviet Union, the fear of the elimination of the individual in the face of communism? If so, they were quite late to the party. They first appeared on “Q Who” in May 1989, as the Soviet Union was collapsing. Just two and a half years later, at Christmas 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev would announce the end of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Ironically, the Borg weren’t even at the peak of their popularity up until that point.
Many later stories of star trek they would attempt to build on this metaphor, treating the Borg Collective as analogous to the former Soviet republics. This was the premise of episodes like “Descent”, “Unity”, “Collective” and even “Unimatrix Zero”. The Borg Collective seemed to frequently collapse in on itself, falling apart. The trend even carries over to Picard. The announcement of a revived Borg threat in “The Star Gazer” had a lot of resonance after recent Russian expansionism.
However, the Borg Collective was too important to be allowed to collapse on itself, so that allegory never worked. Really. Ironically, Deep Space Nine would deal with a pretty convincing reading of the Borg in a throwaway line in “For the Cause”, when Michael Eddington (Kenneth Marshall) suggests that they are a dark mirror of the Federation, and that “assimilation” isn’t that different from what that the Federation wants from its allies and members.
All this brings us to the central problem of “Hide and Seek”, the penultimate episode of the second season of Star Trek: Picard. This season is incredibly fanservice-laden, populated with elements like the return of Q (John de Lancie), Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg), and the Borg Queen (Annie Wersching), and the casting of Brent Spiner as other Data’s human relative. The season opened with a great tribute to First contactincluding the return of the Borg.
However, the series has no idea what to do with any of these elements, let alone how they should interact with each other. The idea of the Borg running loose on 21st century Earth is a compelling plot hook. Even a single drone trying to assimilate humanity or make contact with the Borg Collective would be a compelling threat. What do the Borg mean in the Internet age? What happens if a technology company takes over Borg technology?
“Hide and Seek” takes the idea of a Borg Queen in modern-day Earth and turns it into an uninspired run around using generic minions with some quick and easy makeup applied to their faces. The idea of using laser sights on firearms instead of red lights on drone heads is a clever visual, but it’s not enough to sustain an entire episode. There’s no reason for the “Spearhead” mercenaries in “Hide and Seek” to be assimilated, except for lazy fan service.
Everything is frustratingly generic. Stewart may be responsible for pushing the series towards his action sensibility, given his famous complaint that Picard needed to do more “fuck and fight,” but it’s disappointing to see how star trek it boils down to nondescript thugs waving machine guns down dark corridors. “Hide and Seek” even strips the Borg of their iconic cybernetic appearance, perhaps because, to quote showrunner Terry Matalas, a contemporary aesthetic is “less expensive.”
As befits an episode about the Borg, everything in “Hide and Seek” seems to take the path of least resistance. Adam Soong (Spiner) delivers a great “not so different” speech to Picard (Stewart) that is decidedly undercooked. “Captains of ships and captains of industry,” he boasts. “For men like us, love and fear, the same thing. Means to an end.” That’s silly. At one point, Seven (Jeri Ryan) strongly urges Jurati (Alison Pill): “I know you’re in there. I know you can fight.” It’s all a cliche.
There’s something potentially interesting about Raffi’s (Michelle Hurd) confession to Elnor (Evan Evagora) that she held him back out of fear, which makes her an intriguing mirror image of Soong and Kore (Isa Briones), but “Hide and Seek “It goes off the rails. “I share the memory of Elnor’s last breath,” a holographic Elnor assures Raffi, “enough to know that her last thoughts of you were not of guilt, but of love.” What sense does that make?
There’s also something potentially interesting about Jurati’s efforts to make peace with the Borg Queen. The screenwriter by enterpriseGarfield Reeves-Stevens has argued that, deep down, star trek is the story of “how our enemies become our friends”. This happened with Klingons and Ferengi, so why can’t it happen with Borg? How would that be? “What if we take this ship and build a better Borg?” Jurati asks. “A true Collective, built not on assimilation, but on salvation?”
However, to make that argument convincingly, “Hide and Seek” would have to understand what the Borg really are. In the end, Jurati tries to reduce the Borg to hackneyed pop psychology. “It was never about perfection,” Jurati scoffs. He insists that the Borg Queen needed more due to some psychological dependency. “It was never enough because you’re just like me, lonely.” She is reductive and simplistic, reducing an entire culture to the psychosis of an individual character.
In fact, the most revealing moment of the episode is ultimately a small one. Seven is wounded during the great climactic battle. Jurati convinces the Queen to heal and resurrect Seven. The Queen is convinced, but she warns that “saving her has a cost”. That cost turns out to be… the restoration of Seven’s Borg implants after they were erased in “Penance.” The price is the restoration of the status quo, the restoration of Seven of Nine to factory values, to the classic action figure mold.
There is an emptiness in all of this, the feeling of watching a shell game in action. There is no progress, no growth, no development. Nobody ends much further than where they started. There is no sense of what any of this really means, beyond the idea that the iconography might have some material value divorced from any understanding of it. It’s fitting that much of “Hide and Seek” takes place in a run-down, crumbling mansion. It may be the best metaphor of the episode.
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‘Hide and Seek’ Proves How Star Trek Lost Sight of the Borg
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