In 1989, in the episode “Q, Who?” Star Trek: The Next Generation took the word "cyborg" and clipped it down to its cold essentials, gifting the world with a new terror: the Borg. Though Doctor Who purists might tell you the Borg are a knock-off of the Cybermen, the black leather aesthetic combined with laser-pointer eyepieces and that chilling catchphrase — "You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile" — all cemented the Borg as one the most iconic sci-fi concepts of all time.
The Borg is essentially internet addiction writ large, an enemy that makes you part of its server. In Star Trek: Picard, the Borg are back and several of the main characters (Picard, Hugh, Seven of Nine) were all previously assimilated by the Borg Collective. This means that revisiting some of the more pivotal Borg moments is essential for your Picard homework.
The Borg appear in six episodes of The Next Generation, one episode of Deep Space Nine, one episode of Enterprise, the film Star Trek: First Contact, and 23 episodes of Voyager. And, if you count every single episode of Voyager in which former-Borg Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) appears, that’s 100 episodes right there. So that’s possibly a total of 32 episodes or 108 Borg episodes and 1 feature film, depending on how you look at it. That’s a lot of Borg to binge! So, in honor of Borg efficiency, here are the 7 essential Borg stories to quickly assimilate and help make watching Star Trek: Picard even more ... engaging.
The Next Generation: Season 3 Episode 26 and Season 4, Episode 1, “The Best of Both Worlds Parts 1 and 2”
Although the first canonical appearance of the Borg happens in the TNG Season 2 episode "Q, Who?" whispers of the Borg are hinted at as early as the Season 1 finale, "The Neutral Zone." That said, you don't really need to start getting your Borg on until the Season 3 finale, "The Best of Both Worlds."
That's the famous episode where Picard is singled-out to be assimilated by the Collective, and the Borg make a bee-line to conquer Earth. The conclusion of this two-parter was the Season 4 premiere of TNG, and the repercussions of that episode changed Jean-Luc Picard forever.
The Next Generation: Season 5, Episode 23, "I, Borg"
In Star Trek: Picard, the former-Borg know as Hugh (Johnathan Del Arco) has a semi-regular role, and in the trailers, we've seen a more human-looking Hugh in a few quick shots. What's happened to Hugh since The Next Generation hasn't been revealed yet, but Hugh's origin story is this classic episode, "I, Borg."
The Enterprise finds an injured Borg, Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) and La Forge (Levar Burton) decide to nurse the Borg back to health to learn more about the Collective. Without spoiling anything, this changes the way Picard and everyone else starts to think about the Borg in a big way. Hugh returns in the two-parter "Descent," in Season 6 and season 7, but you can probably skip those ones if you're pressed for time. This is the essential Hugh episode, and, probably defines the possibilities for what can happen to former Borg drones.
Voyager: Season 5, Episode 15, “Dark Frontier”
Arguably, to fully prepare for Seven of Nine's (Jeri Ryan) return in Star Trek: Picard, you might want to rewatch the entirety of Star Trek: Voyager starting with Seven's first appearance in the season 3 finale "Scorpion Part 1." But, that's also little like saying you should rewatch every episode of TNG to make sure you know everything about Jean-Luc Picard. Seven of Nine is one of the greatest Star Trek characters of all time, and creating a list of the very best Seven episodes is its own thing entirely.
But, if you're only trying to download the most essential Borg lore into your brain, rewatching the epic "Dark Frontier" won't disappoint. This episode reveals how Seven was first assimilated into the Borg collective, and why. Plus, it suggests that all former Borg drones have a complicated relationship with the Collective and the Borg Queen in specific.
When it originally aired in 1999, "Dark Frontier" was presented as an extra-long two-hour episode. Netflix preserves it this way, but sometimes, you'll see reference to "Dark Frontier Part 1 and Part 2." Don't be confused; it's all the same thing.
Voyager: Season 6, Episode 16, "Collective"
This episode introduced yet another variation on what it was like for former Borg drones to suddenly live outside of the interconnected hivemind of the collective. The difference this time was that the liberated Borg were all kids. Sure, Hugh was young, but he wasn't a little kid. In this episode, Seven becomes a de facto mother figure/teacher to a group of children, who, just like her, had been assimilated when they were super young. This episode also introduces the character of Icheb, a reoccurring ex-Borg who would later develop an obsession with Starfleet history, with a special interest in Captain Kirk.
Voyager: Season 6, Episode 26 and Season 7, Episode 1 “Unimatrix Zero Parts 1 and 2”
As its title suggests, "Unimatrix Zero," is kind of like the Matrix in The Matrix. But, in this version, the idyllic cyberspace world is a good thing, because it's literally the only place Borg drones can "go" to be themselves. In the virtual sanctuary of Unimatrix Zero, Borg can meet, and converse, and imagine how they may have been or looked before they'd been assimilated. They can also meet and speak with drones whose bodies are plugged into Borg ships millions of light years apart.
So, basically, it's a secret virtual reality chatroom for people who are enslaved by an AI hivemind, which, if you think about it objectively — even outside of the context of Star Trek — is a freaking awesome idea for a story. As a two-part episode of Voyager, "Unimatrix Zero," is one of the best. And as a Borg episode to prep you for Picard, the essential thing about "Unimatrix Zero" is that it basically proves that even when we think we know everything about the Borg, we totally don't.
Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
It's Picard and Data versus the Borg!
Hailed as perhaps the greatest Star Trek film of all time (or at least in a dead heat with The Wrath of Khan), First Contact mostly focuses on Picard's deep-rooted hatred for the Borg, and his desire to enact his revenge, no matter what. It also is the first introduction of the Borg Queen (Alice Krige), a character who adds a layer to the Borg that makes them seem both much scarier, and weirdly a little more explicable. The Borg Queen is deranged, to be sure, but it's not clear she's evil, per se.
If you haven't seen the movie, I won't tell you what happens between her and Data (or her and Picard) but let's just say, this: the Borg Queen might be the most interesting villain in all of Star Trek. And, based on everything we learned in Star Trek: Voyager, she also might be indestructible.
Voyager Season 7, Episode 24: "Endgame"
Before there was Avengers: Endgame, there was Voyager: Endgame! In the series finale of Star Trek: Voyager, Admiral Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), travels back in time from the year 2404, to help get the USS Voyager home to Earth about 23-years sooner than they did the first time around. Future Janeway's workaround is all about hijacking a transwarp hub used by the Borg to pop-around the galaxy with relative ease, much quicker than the Starfleet warp drives. But, Admiral Janeway's plan involves slightly more than just stealing some propulsion tech.
Without spoiling anything, the ending of this episode will make you wonder what state the Borg Collective could possibly be in during the time of Picard. "Endgame" took place in 2378, and the events of Picard happen in 2399. Whatever happened to the Borg in those 21 years might not be 100 percent answered in Picard. But, in terms of the Star Trek timeline, "Endgame" is where we left the Borg. So, when we see them again, the events of this episode will almost certainly have impacted the Collective. Even if they're too shy to mention it.
Star Trek: Picard debuts Thursday, January 23 on CBS All Access.