ST: TNG: Season 5, Ep. 23: “I, Borg”

Capt. Jonathan:  Stardate: [This Stardate does not conform to the rules of other Stardates.  It’s also Labor Day.]  Capt. Tracy and I are college professors.  You know what that means: pretty soon, we’ll have to start working again.  Yep, while the Academy gives us a few short weeks to set our research interests to “*Judge Judy*” and “daydrinking,” the hand that giveth also taketh away. 

Pictured: "Lesson Planning"
Pictured: “Lesson Planning”

Naturally, there’s only one way to salute this return to the employment hive: a Borg episode.  And there’s no better Borg episode than “The Best of Both Worlds Parts I & II.”  But we’d already seen that so we watched “I, Borg.”  For those that need a refresher:  “I, Borg” was the one where the Enterprise & Co. find a Borg, nurse it/him back to life, give it/him a name, get attached to it/him, shake up its/his preconceived notions of the superiority of assimilation, then let it/him go back to its/his day job doing data entry on a Big Ass Cube.

Which sets up the sequel, *Space Space*
Which sets up the sequel, *Space Space*

Capt. Tracy:  I love a good Borg episode! And a coming to consciousness/coming of age/self-sacrifice episode is good no matter the circumstances! A win all around.  I think one could write about the Borg in all sorts of academic contexts, including the posthuman (of course), but what resonated with me this time is the way the Borg mess with our idea of alterity.

Kind of like this fine organization.
Kind of like this fine organization.

The crew of the ship want, even need, to believe that Borg are not at all human–not at all “us.” That’s what makes Picard’s genocidal plan possible. I think it’s pretty ballsy of the show to have both the hero (JLP) and the moral center (Guinan) be more than willing to wipe out an entire race. The discussions about how the Borg hates/hate “our way of life” I found particularly timely in the context of fundamentalist terrorism. 

Capt. Jonathan:  Yeah, a lot of that reminded me of what I saw living in New York City just post-9/11.  While there were numerous acts of selfless charity happening every day by many people, there were certainly some vocal hate-mongers that decided anyone who looked like our attackers had to be held responsible for the attack.  Through the noble Picard, we see just how easy it is for anyone to start down that path.  The episode does a wonderful job of using the word “assault” to describe what the Borg did to Picard (I might even go so far as to call it a rape, but I can see why the show wouldn’t go that route), and illustrate that it takes work to get through a trauma like that – work that even the captain of the Federation flagship must do.  It’s work that ultimately might allow us to own an – to use Capt. Tracy’s word – alterity that was forced on us violently.

Capt. Tracy:  But the Borg, and this particular Borg, refuse to remain different. He claims a gender, masculine, and a name, Hugh. The repetitions of “I am Hugh,” and the obvious homophonic connotations of “I am you” cause all sorts of psychic upset for pretty much everyone on the ship except Crusher, who refused to think of him as anything other than a fellow being the whole time, and Commander Crotch, who pretty much didn’t say anything the whole time. 

Next time: Riker teaches Hugh how to sit in a chair.  Worf switches brains with Spot.
Next time on *Star Trek: The Next Generation*: Riker teaches Hugh how to sit in a chair. Worf switches brains with Spot.

Capt. Jonathan:  Which makes me think of the other oddly-silent character in all this: Troi.  Troi has a great moment at the start of the episode where she basically tells Picard, “You have to confront your psychological demons.”  It’s a conversation that Picard basically scoffs at, and then comes around to with the help not of Troi, but of Guinan and Hugh.  But it’s tragic that Troi isn’t a bigger part of this episode.  Crusher does a great job of presenting the physical medical side of Hugh, but shouldn’t Troi be in on this?  Are physical and psychological health not equally important?  I’d like to know if Troi could feel emotions from Hugh.  If she could feel a change in Picard.  I guess that might make this a feature-length episode, but the ship’s counselor could have easily had more to do.

Capt. Tracy: I thought it was interesting that Hugh and Geordi forged the strongest connection. Geordi is also a cyborg, for all intents and purposes, but he is still “human enough” to be considered “like us.”

Next time, on *Star Trek: The Next Generation*:  Hugh rescues Geordi when he falls down a well.  Picard insists O'Brien is a "mutant."
Next time, on *Star Trek: The Next Generation*: Hugh rescues Geordi when he falls down a well. Picard insists O’Brien is a “mutant.”

Of course, he’s also not committed to assimilating alien species to feed his tyrannical death machine. So there’s that. I don’t know if Hugh’s make-up was any different than any other Borg, but I really noticed how much the tubes seem to pull at his skin, and remembered the Borg babies that the crew encountered in that other episode we watched, and couldn’t help imagining the surgeries that those infants had to undergo. Like removing the right arm, for instance. Hugh’s big takeaway from his time with the crew is that “resistance is not futile.” And his quick look at Geordi before he gets re-Borged suggests that maybe he isn’t completely lost after all.

And now, some Q&A:

Capt. Jonathan:  Q:  What is your favorite Borg pick-up line?

A:  “Hey baby, did you get deassimilated?  Because your Seven-of-Fiiiiiiiiine.”

Capt. Tracy: Q: What’s your favorite sport that is also a metaphor for quasi-erotic intellectual engagement?

A: Space fencing



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