In 1988, the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Q Who?" introduced what many consider to be the best villain in the Star Trek franchise: the cybernetically enhanced and single-minded Borg Collective.
Before the internet, Trek put cultural fears about technology and automation into scary black leather costumes with laser-light robot eyes. Now, over two decades later, the most recent Trek has accomplished the same thing, more or less. The Borg are not back on Star Trek: Discovery, but one human, controlled by manipulative and single-minded A.I., is front and center. And they still wear black leather.
**SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, “Perpetual Infinity.”**
Let’s get something out of the way: It’s very possible at this point that Star Trek: Discovery is doing a Borg origin story. There’s nothing in this episode that confirms the Borg outright, but there’s some imagery that is undeniably similar. And, if you do enough canon gymnastics, Discovery's timeline leading to the Borg could work.
In Episode 10, “The Red Angel,” audiences saw Leland get injected with some kind of needle. In “Perpetual Infinity,” we learn that the runaway A.I., Control, has implanted itself into his body. This manifests itself as creepy, veiny stuff crawling underneath Leland’s skin. Guess what? In Star Trek: First Contact, this is revealed to be one way the Borg assimilate people into their collective. Visually, the possession of Leland by Control looks a lot like Borg nano-probe tech.
At this point in time, however, in Star Trek history, the Borg are — in theory — too far away to be messing around with Starfleet in this part of the galaxy. Most of Star Trek happens in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, while the Gamma and Delta Quadrants are really far away. (In Star Trek: Voyager it was going to take the crew 80-plus years to get back home from the Delta Quadrant, which is where the Borg live.) Also, The Next Generation and Voyager established that the Borg has been active in the Delta Quadrant since the Earth’s 13th century. So how could Discovery be doing a Borg origin story in the year 2257 in the wrong part of the galaxy?
It honestly wouldn’t be that hard. If Leland and Airiam are sort of like proto-Borg drones, it’s possible that instead of traveling forward in time, at some point Control is sent really far back in time, and possibly in a different part of the galaxy. If Leland is patient zero for the Borg, and the crew of the Discovery sends him back in time, like 5,000 years and into a distant part of the galaxy in order to get rid of him forever, it’s possible that they could create the very first Borg, totally on accident.
Then again, Discovery could resolve this current storyline about Control and not explicitly connect it to the Borg at all. The Star Trek universe is totally big enough for more than one aggressive artificial intelligence, right? Control could just be Control, and the Borg could be the Borg. Meaning, Discovery could end, Leland could be defeated, and the connection to the Borg (despite the very big aesthetic similarity) could just be a thematic easter egg. The Vulcans aren't the only aliens with pointed ears in Star Trek, meaning Discovery could be simply introducing another hostile cybernetic enemy, which has shades — both literally and figuratively — of the Borg.
Because Discovery happens in 2257, the Borg can't explicitly reveal themselves without ruining the timeline or established Next Generation canon. But another Trek prequel, the show Star Trek: Enterprise, worked around this before. In the Enterprise episode "Regeneration," Borg drones left over from a failed time-travel invasion in First Contact are accidentally unfrozen and start to try and assimilate Earth back in the 22nd century.
That Enterprise episode stopped short of having the Borg say "We are the Borg," meaning Captain Archer and Starfleet never knew exactly what they were, thus preserving the canon for The Next Generation 200 years later. Discovery could be doing the same thing with Control, only more subtly. If Leland is the very beginning of the Borg, it might not even know what it wants to call itself yet.
Even if Control and the Borg aren't one and the same, we have learned one thing from both of them: When the robot apocalypse happens, black leather will certainly be involved.