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Borg History

This article is intended to examine some of the contradictory evidence concerning the known history of the Borg. On the whole the various series have treated the Borg timeline quite consistently, though Voyager did fall down in a couple of areas and there is some of the usual "re-interpretation" to do...

The Next Generation

The very first direct encounter between the Federation and the Borg appears to have occurred in late 2364 during the TNG episode "The Neutral Zone". In this episode the Enterprise-D investigates the disappearance of a number of Federation outposts along the Romulan Neutral Zone. They discover that the outposts have been literally "scooped off the surface". Although Romulans are initially suspected, this theory is discounted when the a Romulan warbird arrives and confirms that something similar has happened to outposts on their own side of the border. There is no resolution of the mysterious disappearance of the outposts in this episode.

The episode "Q Who?" featured the first direct meeting between the Federation and the Borg, or at least the first one in which the Federation side survives the encounter. During the episode Q asks Picard if he can become a member of the Enterprise-D crew, stating that Picard is not ready to face the galaxy without his help. When Picard replies rather smugly that he and his crew are ready for whatever awaits them, Q throws the ship some seven thousand light years across the galaxy to star system J25.

Picard investigates the system before setting a course for home. They discover a nearby planet on which all cities and "machine elements" have been scooped off the surface. Worf reports that it is identical to what happened to the outposts along the Neutral Zone the previous year. A Borg cube then arrives.

Picard notes that Guinan is from this area, and questions her about the Borg. She replies that they are a cybernetic species, a mixture of organic and technological components which has been evolving for "thousands of centuries". She reports that the Borg attacked her home system a century ago, and although she was not present at the time there was little left of her people after the attack. This places the Borg's assimilation of Guinan's people in 2265.

There is no hint in the episode that any of the Enterprise-D crew find the Borg remotely familiar - even Data, a supposed repository of almost all knowledge, seems to know nothing about them.

The Borg appear in several more TNG episodes, but these contribute little of significance concerning their history.

Voyager

Voyager first introduced the Borg in the "Scorpion" two parter. Janeway struck an alliance with the Borg against a new and extremely dangerous species, known by the Borg designation 8472. In order to facilitate co-operation between the two sides, the Borg introduce an ambassador of sorts - Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One. Whilst Janeway works with the Borg to develop a new weapon against Species 8472 she questions Seven :

Janeway : "You're Human, aren't you?"
Seven : "This body was assimilated 18 years ago. It ceased to be human at that time."

This episode is set during early 2374, so according to her own statement Seven of Nine was assimilated in early 2356. This raises a major problem, because it directly contradicts the idea that Picard and the Enterprise-D made first contact with the Borg in 2365 - Stardate 42761.3, to be exact. However, this would be relatively easy to explain at this point - if Seven's parents had set out into deep space and then been assimilated without being able to contact the Federation, then there would naturally be no record of their exploits and so no knowledge of the Borg.

In the following episode "The Gift", Janeway does a little background digging on Seven, who she identifies as Annika Hansen. She describes records she found filed by Deep Space Four :

Janeway : "Her parents were... unconventional. They fancied themselves explorers, but wanted nothing to do with Starfleet or the Federation. Their names were last recorded at a remote outpost in the Omega sector."

This works perfectly with the speculation that the Hansens stumbled across the Borg in deep space and never sent any information back about the. So far so good. Later in the episode, Janeway confronts Seven with information about herself at a young age :

Janeway : "Her name was Annika Hansen. She was born on stardate 25479 at the Tendara colony. There's still a lot we don't know about her. Did she have any siblings? Who were her friends? Where did she go to school? What was her favourite colour?"

So Seven of Nine was born on Stardate 25479. This equates to about halfway through 2348, making her 25 years old during this episode - she should turn 26 just after the episode "Waking Moments", around the mid-point of this season. She was therefore assimilated in 2356, when she was eight years old.

In the episode "The Raven", also set in 2374, Tuvok and Seven find the ship which Annika's parents used. Tuvok describes it thus :

Tuvok : "It's a Federation vessel partially assimilated by the Borg. There are no life signs. Tritanium decay suggests it has been here for nearly 20 years."

This works well with the idea that Seven was assimilated eighteen years ago.

We see much more detail of the Hansens during the season 5 episode "Dark Frontier", set in 2375. We see various flashbacks covering the Hansen's mission to study the Borg. Some notable excerpts include a scene in which Magnus Hansen, Seven's father, is making a personal log entry concerning the beginning of his mission :

Magnus : "Field notes, U.S.S. Raven, Stardate 32611.4: It's about time. The Federation Council on Exobiology has given us final approval. Starfleet's still concerned about security issues but they've agreed not to stand in our way. We've said our good-byes, and we're ready to start chasing our theories about the Borg."

During this scene Annika/Seven is playing with a model of a Borg cube.

Annika : "What do they look like?"
Magnus : "We're not sure, exactly, but we think they might look a lot like us but with technology inside their bodies."

These scenes cause the real continuity problems, but also begin to suggest a solution. On the one hand, the episode confirms that the Federation Council on Exobiology had knowledge of the Borg on Stardate 32611.4 - just over half way through 2355. This knowledge extended to the idea that the Borg were cybernetic, and to accurate models of their spacecraft. This seems in direct contradiction to the fact that not even Data had this information in 2365 during "Q Who?"

However, the possible solution lies in Magnus's use of the "we're not sure..." line. It seems that the knowledge of the Borg is at least somewhat uncertain. More on the implications of this later.

Later on in "Dark Frontier", Janeway and Seven discuss the Hansens :

Janeway : "On the contrary, Seven. They spent their careers studying the Borg. They tracked a cube at close range for what? Two years?"
Seven : "Three"

So the Hansens tracked the Borg for three years before their assimilation.

During another flashback :





A borg cube appears a few minutes later. This entry indicates that eight months has passed between Stardates 32611.4 and 32623.5. Since 1000 stardate units equals one year, this gap should be (12.1/1000)*365.25 = 4.42 days - rather less than eight months! From a later log report :

Magnus : "Field notes, U.S.S. Raven, Stardate 32623.5: we've been tracking stray readings for nearly eight months now, but there's still no sign of a vessel. I'm beginning to wonder if the Borg are nothing more than rumour and sensor echoes."



Magus : "Field notes, U.S.S. Raven, Stardate 32629.4: after three months of tracking our Borg cube, the vessel entered a transwarp conduit. We followed in its wake. Our sensors tell us we've traveled all the way to the Delta Quadrant, the Borg's native territory."

Again the stardates do not match up. Only 5.9 units have passed since the previous log entry, which is 2.15 days rather than three months.

Another log entry :

Magnus : "Field notes, U.S.S. Raven, Stardate 32634.9: the Raven was hit by a subspace particle storm. We took heavy damage and our multi-adaptive shielding went off-line for 13.2 seconds. Unfortunately, it was long enough for the Borg to perceive us as a threat."

This is a mere two days since the last entry.

According to these stardates, the Hansens searched for the Borg for a mere four and a half days, and the entire period of studying the Borg occupied a further four days. This is directly at odds with the statement by Seven that her parents followed the Borg for three years. That the Raven was assimilated on Stardate 32634.9, which equates to 2355, is also at odds with statements that she was assimilated eighteen years prior to 2374. Since Stardates have a history of being a little less than totally consistent even after their "reform" to the TNG system of 1000 units = 1 year, I would tend to go with the more direct statements.

In the episode "Dragon's Teeth", Voyager encounters a species which survived extinction through war by going into hibernation some 900 years ago. when questioned about the species, Seven declares :

Seven : "The Collective's memory from 900 years ago is fragmentary."

Later on, Gedrin declares :

Gedrin : "The Borg? In my century, they'd only assimilated a handful of systems. It looks like they've spread through the quadrant like a plague."

This is somewhat at odds with Guinan's claim that the Borg had been developing for "Thousands of centuries". It is possible that the Borg were a major power before 900 years ago and had been badly damaged in some sort of conflict - something like the 8472 war perhaps. Or it is possible that the Borg have been developing for hundreds of thousands of years, but that for the vast majority of that time they were limited to a single planet or small group of planets. The latter is perhaps the more likely of the two options - Janeway notes in "Scorpion" that the Borg are not inventive, that they get new technology only by assimilating it from others. So they would not get warp drive until they happened across a warp-driven ship that they were able to assimilate, something which would be extremely difficult for them since by definition they would not be able to catch such a ship.

Another datapoint for Seven of Nine comes in the episode "Collective" :

Seven : "When I was first captured by the Borg, I was young and frightened. I watched my parents assimilated. Then I was placed in a maturation chamber, and the hive mind began to restructure my synaptic pathways, purge my individuality. When I emerged five years later, the turmoil of my forced assimilation had been replaced with order."

Generations

The TNG-era portion of Generations is set around Stardate 48650.1, which is around the middle of 2371. Since this is captioned as "78 years later" compared to the opening TOS-era portion of the movie, we know that Kirk's encounter with the Nexus occurred around mid 2293.

In this encounter, the Enterprise-B attempts to rescue a group of El-Aurian refugees - including Guinan - who are traveling towards Earth. The obvious conclusion is that these refugees are fleeing the Borg's assimilation of their home world which Guinan described in "Q Who?"

However, as we saw earlier the attack on Guinan's people took place in 2265 - 28 years prior to their encounter with Kirk and the Nexus. We could assume that Guinan was simply rounding her numbers a bit, but I find this unlikely. For the assimilation to have come say one year before 2293, Guinan would have to be rounding 71 years up to 100; she would have been closer to say 70 years, or even 50 years for that matter.

We can help a bit by pushing the assimilation date back a bit more, but there is only so much we can sensibly do with this. We know that Guinan's planet is likely to be seven thousand lightyears away from the Federation at the very least, since that is how far away system J-25 was. This is a trip of at least seven years even for the speedy USS Voyager. If the El-Aurian refugees had been on the run from the Borg for seven years, that would only push the assimilation date to 2286 - and still leave Guinan rounding 78 years to 100.

Of course, maybe the El-Aurian ships are really slow; for a typical TOS starship, a trip of 7,000 light years should take something like thirty years and that would make Guinan's number be just about right. But while the math works out, this strains credibility in another way - it's hard to believe that the El-Aurians would still consider themselves to be refugees from the Borg after almost thirty years - it would be like somebody today claiming they were a refugee of the Vietnam war!

No, I think we have to assume a double-whammy situation here. Yes the El-Aurians went on the run after their world was assimilated; most of the probably just kept running for a few years. While most of them probably kept on the move others would begin to settle, either singly or in small groups, assimilating into cultures which took their fancy. By the time they neared Federation space the main body of their people would most likely just consider themselves to be nomadic rather than thinking of themselves as still fleeing the Borg.

Then, shortly prior to 2293 there was another disaster which threatened either what remained of the main body of nomads or one of the groups which had hived off from them and settled down. Whatever it was put them on the run again, and it was this group which Kirk and the Enterprise-B encountered in Star Trek : Generations.

Guinan's presence with the Generations group also argues somewhat against these people fleeing the Borg. Since she states in "Q Who?" that she was not present when the Borg attacked her people, then there is no real reason that she should be present with those fleeing that attack. Again, this is not certain - Guinan might easily have joined the refugees somewhere along the journey towards the Federation.

Enterprise

In the Enterprise episode "Regeneration", the wreckage of a Borg sphere is discovered crashed on Earth in the arctic circle. This wreckage is almost a hundred years old, and although it is not stated directly the big implication is that this is the sphere that the Enterprise-E destroyed in "Star Trek : First Contact". Some Borg drones are recovered and studied; they revive, assimilate the research team and their ship, and head off into space. Archer and Enterprise manage to destroy them eventually.

The episode establishes that many images of the drones are taken by the research team, and that these are in the hands of both Starfleet and Enterprise. Detailed scans are also made and distributed. Phlox has the opportunity to study two individuals during their assimilation process for hours on end. Trip is even left with some Borg technology to study, and the wreckage on Earth remains largely intact at the end of the episode.

Conclusion

We can summarise the major data points for the Borg as follows :

YEAR STARDATE DATAPOINT EPISODE
circa. 200000 years ago Initial origin of the Borg, according to Guinan. "Q Who?"
1476 Uncertain The Borg occupied only a handful of systems near Vaadwaur space and were not well known. "Dragon's Teeth"
2063 Uncertain A Borg sphere travels back in time to this year. It is destroyed by the Enterprise-E. "Star Trek : First Contact"
2153 Uncertain The wreckage of the First Contact sphere is discovered on Earth. First contact with the Borg. "Regeneration"
2265 Uncertain Guinan's home world is assimilated by the Borg. This assumes that her "a century ago" reference meant exactly 100 years. "Q Who?"
2293 Uncertain The Enterprise-B rescues El-Aurian refugees from the Nexus. It is possible that the refugees were fleeing the Borg, and that the assimilation of Guinan's people was therefore some time shortly before this date, if we assume Guinan was rounding quite a bit in her "century ago" quote in "Q Who?". More likely, though, they were refugees from something else. "Star Trek : Generations"
2348 25479 Annika Hansen is born. "The Gift"
2355 32611.4 According to the Dark Frontier stardates, The Hansens set off to locate the Borg. "Dark Frontier"
2355 32623.5 According to the Dark Frontier stardates, The Hansens locate the Borg. "Dark Frontier"
2355 32629.4 According to the Dark Frontier stardates, the Raven follows a cube through a transwarp conduit to the Delta Quadrant. "Dark Frontier"
2355 32634.9 According to the Dark Frontier stardates, The Raven is located by the Borg. "Dark Frontier"
2356 c. 33500 Annika Hansen is assimilated at age 8, and placed into a maturation chamber. "Scorpion, Part II"
2361 c. 38500 Annika Hansen emerges from the Borg maturation chamber as Seven of Nine. "Collective"
2364 41986.0 Borg assimilate several Federation and Romulan outposts along the Neutral Zone. "The Neutral Zone"
2365 42761.3 Official first contact between Enterprise-D and the Borg at system J25. Borg stated to be "thousand of centuries" old. "Q Who?"
2366 43989.1 The first major Borg attack on the Federation; Wolf 359 fought. "Best of Both Worlds, part I"
2373 50893.5 The second major Borg attack on the Federation. "Star Trek : First Contact"
2374 51003.7 Seven of Nine is "liberated" from the collective by Voyager. "Scorpion, Part II"

As noted, the major timeline contradiction here is the mismatch between the stardates given in "Dark Frontier" and the stated time of three years which the Hansens followed the Borg for. We can also see that these dates lead to a contradiction in the year of Annika's assimilation. If we "correct" these figures by using the stated time in years from the same episode, using the previously established date of 2356 for Annika's assimilation and counting backwards, we get :

YEAR STARDATE DATAPOINT EPISODE
c. 200,000 years ago Initial origin of the Borg, according to Guinan. "Q Who?"
1476 Uncertain The Borg occupied only a handful of systems near Vaadwaur space and were not well known. "Dragon's Teeth"
2063 Uncertain A Borg sphere travels back in time to this year. It is destroyed by the Enterprise-E. "Star Trek : First Contact"
2153 Uncertain The wreckage of the First Contact sphere is discovered on Earth. First contact with the Borg. "Regeneration"
2265 Uncertain Guinan's home world is assimilated by the Borg. This assumes that her "a century ago" reference meant exactly 100 years. "Q Who?"
2293 Uncertain The Enterprise-B rescues El-Aurian refugees from the Nexus. It is possible that the refugees were fleeing the Borg, and that the assimilation of Guinan's people was therefore some time shortly before this date, if we assume Guinan was rounding quite a bit in her "century ago" quote in "Q Who?". More likely, though, they were refugees from something else. "Star Trek : Generations"
2348 25479 Annika Hansen is born. "The Gift"
2352 c. 29830 The Hansens set off to locate the Borg. "Dark Frontier"
2353 c. 30500 The Hansens locate the Borg after eight months of searching, and commence three years of studying them. "Dark Frontier"
2353 c. 30750 After three months of studying the Borg, the Raven follows a cube through a transwarp conduit to the Delta Quadrant. "Dark Frontier"
2356 c. 33500 Annika Hansen is assimilated at age 8, becoming Seven of Nine. "Scorpion, Part II"
2361 c. 38500 Annika Hansen emerges from the Borg maturation chamber as Seven of Nine. "Collective"
2364 41986.0 Borg assimilate several Federation and Romulan outposts along the Neutral Zone. "The Neutral Zone"
2365 42761.3 Official first contact between Enterprise-D and the Borg at system J25. Borg stated to be "thousand of centuries" old. "Q Who?"
2366 43989.1 The first major Borg attack on the Federation; Wolf 359 fought. "Best of Both Worlds, part I"
2373 50893.5 The second major Borg attack on the Federation. "Star Trek : First Contact"
2374 51003.7 Seven of Nine is "liberated" from the collective by Voyager. "Scorpion, Part II"

Now we have the Hansens setting off in 2352, locating the Borg in mid 2353, and then following them for the next three years before being assimilated.

The last remaining question is just how to explain the lack of Federation knowledge of the Borg, given that there was contact with El-Aurians as early as 2293. We can speculate that the reports passed on by the El-Aurian refugees were largely fragmentary and unconfirmed. The nature of the Borg is such that anybody who directly encountered them would be unlikely to survive, or at least unlikely to go unassimilated. So the refugees would not be direct witnesses to what had happened. Their information was likely in the form of very long range sensor contacts with Borg ships and drones, inflated rumours and urban legends and distress calls of the sort the USS Lalo sent off before its assimilation in "Best of Both Worlds, Part I" - "under attack by cube shaped ship, please send help!". Even these distress calls would possibly be panicked, scrambled, and often incomplete calls at that.

Given that this evidence may have then had years or even decades to become confused and diluted, Starfleet may well have faced little more than a collection of myths with little or no proof behind them. It would be hardly surprising if these stories were written down, filed in the Federation equivalent of the X-Files, and then quietly forgotten for sixty years.

When the Hansens finally came across this information, it is probable that it was being looked at in much the same way that we look at stories of the Yeti or Loch Ness Monster. This would explain why the Hansens apparently had a hard job arguing the Federation Council on Exobiology around to supporting a mission to go and locate this mystery species. It would also explain why the Enterprise-D crew didn't know about these reports, at least initially. Even Data frequently has to consult the ship's database to find out information, so he is not a repository of all knowledge ever recorded.

However, this becomes almost impossible to believe when Enterprise is taken into account. Here we are not dealing with second hand rumours; we have multiple first hand witnesses, photographs, detailed scans, ample physical evidence. It is impossible to believe that this mass of hard data would fall into the category of myth and legend in only two centuries.

"Regeneration" makes a mockery of all established history between the Federation and the Borg, even trampling all over the trampling that Voyager had already done! The only possible way out of this is to assume that either (a) Starfleet and the Federation are so horribly incompetent that they simply lost all the data and forgot about the Borg, or that (b) they considered the Borg data to be so secret that they kept it all classified.

Either one is almost laughably absurd. Simply losing an entire species? No, sorry, don't buy it. As for option b, I can see the Borg data being kept a secret for a while, I can see Starfleet letting the Hansens go off without telling them what they were getting into (though this would be a remarkably cold blooded thing to do when you think about it). But to still keep it secret once the Borg have been contacted again in Picard's time? With the Borg threatening Earth itself, the government keeps vital information secret from the very soldiers who could use it to fight them? No, that's even more absurd.

The only other way out is disturbingly sweeping in its implications. We could suggest that the passage of the Borg sphere back in time created an alternate future which differs from the one seen in TNG, despite the efforts of Picard to restore it. The implications are truly vast - if we accept this, then we have effectively de-canonised everything in TOS and all of TNG up to Star Trek : Generations. Some fans do indeed go this route - it's even been suggested that Star Trek : Enterprise takes place in this alternate universe and that this is why the show has such poor continuity with the other Trek incarnations. Some even go so far as to suggest that the alternate universe which Enterprise is taking part in is actually the pre-TOS history of the Mirror universe!

To put it mildly, my personal preference is to avoid this. Like Voyager's claim that ships can only fly in straight lines at warp speed, this particular contradiction simply falls by the wayside. Whether you choose to believe that TNG or Enterprise is the one to be disregarded is a matter of personal preference.


Yellow text = Canon source Green text = Backstage source Cyan text = Novel White text = DITL speculation


Copyright Graham Kennedy Page views : 7,456 Last updated : 1 Jan 1970