Star Trek: Picard’s Battle of the Borg Is a Battle for Everyone’s Soul

Star Trek: Picard’s Battle of the Borg Is a Battle for Everyone’s Soul
Who thought the fate of the Federation would rest on an old man playing hide and seek with the Borg? (Image: Paramount)

Star Trek: Picard’s second season had a lot to wrap up coming into its last two episodes. As the threat of the Borg Queen and Q’s own 2024 shenanigans merged into an unholy matrimony between the Borg and Dr. Soong, team La Sirena had to deal with a whole chunk of mess this week — and paid some big prices to maybe change one of Star Trek’s most enduring villains forever.

Star Trek: Picard’s Battle of the Borg Is a Battle for Everyone’s Soul

“Hide and Seek” positioned itself as this big, action-packed thing — a battle between our heroes, and the now-Borgified goons Dr. Soong managed to just whip up out of nowhere for the Borg Queen to infect last week. Never ask questions about how any villain actually does things on this show, apparently, because pretty much only the stuff with the Borg Queen herself makes sense, and she was eating car batteries last week. But anyway, that was really only part of the picture. Riffing off the incredibly duff events of “Monsters” a few weeks ago, much of the episode is actually about — out of necessity, as they’re hunted by the Neo-Borg — Picard, Tallinn, Seven, and Raffi slinking their way through the shadows of Chateau Picard to avoid being “assimilated” by automatic weapons fire. Look, roll with it, the Borg Queen is working with what she’s got in 2024.

Jokes aside, this is a bit of a double-edged sword for Picard, as we’re once again forced to see our titular hero reckon with the trauma of his past. In “Monsters” this was done to incredibly clunky effect, slamming the brakes on the show’s momentum to do a quasi-mystery box most of the audience could already guess the answer to after about five minutes. Although “Hide and Seek” has a lot of similar flashbacks to the traumatic night a young Picard saw his family splinter apart, the clunkiness of these flashbacks is at least outweighed this time by being interspersed between scenes of action rather than… scenes of Patrick Stewart lying on a medical gurney in a coma. Yes, I’d much rather see Seven and Raffi tag-team a Neo-Borg with a knife than that, thank you very much.

Image: ParamountImage: Paramount

But unlike “Monsters” and its half-hearted mystery-box character arc, at the very least “Hide and Seek” uses these flashbacks into Picard’s life as an important underpinning of the plot, as Jean-Luc’s re-experiencing of that fateful night is what allows him to remember how to navigate the labyrinthine tunnels under the Chateau, avoiding capture by Soong and his goons. But it also becomes a crucial parallel between Picard and the villain he’s largely avoided for much of this season so far: the Borg Queen herself.

While team La Sirena is off playing hide and seek with live weapons fire, aboard the ship itself the Queen is slowly trying to worm her way into its systems so she can fly off and get a 400-year head start on rebuilding the Collective into a more fearsome force than ever before. After Jurati’s consciousness wrestles enough control away from the Queen’s overtaking of her body, the good doctor reveals she’s hidden an unlock code for the ship inside a combat hologram with the form of Elnor (congratulations to Evan Evagora, who actually gets to do something for about 10 minutes this season again!), buying her friends enough time to get to the ship and try and defend it themselves. Or, well, rather just Seven and Raffi, as Jean-Luc is busy processing trauma and getting cornered by goons.

And by “defend it” I mean “immediately get Seven gored by Borg Queen tentacles.” Oops.

Image: ParamountImage: Paramount

As Seven lies dying on La Sirena’s transporter pad, however, Jurati makes her big play, tying together the Queen’s arc this season with Picard’s own realisation around the trauma of his mother’s death. As Picard finally admits to Tallinn the doubts he’s always had about his involvement in his mother’s suicide — as a child, he couldn’t bear to hear his mother crying alone, so, against his father’s wishes, he opened the door to her room to sleep with her, only to leave it unlocked long enough for his mother to leave and hang herself during a depressive episode — Jurati manages to wrench control from the Borg Queen in her body long enough to avoid her finishing Seven off. But she also makes her big play, convincing the Queen that part of the reason she’s doing all this is a desperate act of loneliness. Just like Jurati, the Queen has become aimless and despondent with the loss of the Collective, and as horrifying as the Borg have been before, it was all driven by this desire for companionship. Why not, Jurati argues, work with the lonely woman the Queen now inhabits a body with to rebuild a collective that is based on a mutual desire for connection, instead of violent assimilation? Why not a Borg Collective that is a support structure across the galaxy, instead of a conquering Empire?

The pitch somehow works, and just as Picard acknowledges and embraces the pain of his own loneliness to Tallinn, the Borg Queen accepts that her own loneliness can be shaped into a Borg that’s better for the whole galaxy — and starts by healing Seven, giving Seven her implants back in the process. The two most domineering figures in the whole show, at last, accept the importance of being loved by those around them — and while for Picard it puts to rest a trauma that has lingered through his whole life, for the Borg Queen it seems to present a realisation and the chance that the Borg could be some kind of force for genuine good. It’s not the first time Star Trek has pondered if there is a kernel of something good in the idea of the Borg — several episodes of Voyager played on the healthiness of smaller-scale collectives independent from the larger hive mind, like the cooperative seen in “Unity,” or “Survival Instinct” and its former, temporarily severed Borg. But in a show that has wrestled with, and ultimately embraced, its relationship with the nostalgia of Star Trek and The Next Generation, genuinely positing that the Borg could be convinced to change, and become something new on a macro scale, is arguably the boldest piece of storytelling Picard has done for the wider Star Trek universe.

Image: ParamountImage: Paramount

But time will tell if it actually remains as bold going forward as it does in this immediate moment. Right now, it’s all potential — and prices have been paid for that potential. Jurati is, essentially, gone, now fully aboard with the Borg Queen and no longer her own self as the first step in this happier hivemind. Seven has to re-confront her own relationship to her Borg identity, and the trauma that comes with it, metaphorically and literally with the return of her implants. La Sirena is gone, seemingly dooming our friends in 2024 unless they restore the timeline. And, now, an unchecked Soong is running around with promises of his own legacy driving him.

That and… well, Picard does have one more season to go. For all the promise of a changed Borg now, very easily next season we could see this reversed, putting the Borg back in their traditionally villainous role, and now even worse thanks to all that extra foresight and prep time Jurati has offered the Queen. And what other kind of threat could bring back the classic TNG bridge crew for one last huzzah than an almighty Borg Collective, after all? There’s also of course, the inherent nostalgia of the series and Star Trek at large. Could the franchise truly handle a future going forward where the Borg aren’t a threat whenever they show up? All we can do is wait and see how it plays out.

Which, in all likeliness, won’t be in Picard season two’s finale. That episode has enough to deal with even with the Borg Queen in the rearview mirror now, and although the show has struggled to focus in this backhalf of the season, with one major threat out of the way at least that finale has to focus on Soong… and whatever Q’s still up to. Let’s see if it can at least wrap those threads up with as much potential as it did this one.

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