The Borg remain one of the most iconic and unnerving villains in all of Star Trek. While much about the origins of the Borg remains a mystery, there are some things that fans know for certain. Perhaps the most important part of their backstory is their place of origin, which, according to their official database entry on StarTrek.com, is the Delta Quadrant.
But who created them? And why is the timeline of how humanity first encountered them so convoluted? Whether you’re a new fan, or a long-time viewer looking for clarity, we’ve created an essential guide about the origins of the Borg on Star Trek, both on-screen and behind the scenes. Here’s what you need to know.
The Borg Originated in the Delta Quadrant
The term “Delta Qudarant” refers to a specific area of our galaxy. In the Star Trek universe, the Federation refers to various “galactic quadrants” to help people understand the relationship between certain star systems. As the database article on galactic quadrants notes, the Federation is located in the Alpha Quadrant, though the “border location” of our solar system being the line of demarcation between the Alpha and Beta Quadrants is a frequent topic of conversation among fans of Star Trek Online on Reddit.
As Star Trek fans know, the whole premise of the series Star Trek: Voyager was that a Federation ship was exploring this far-flung corner of the galaxy that so little was known about. However, while the Borg were certainly an important part of the Voyager mythos, Captain Janeway and her crew were far from the first Starfleet officers to encounter the Borg. Given all the time travel in Star Trek, it’s always a bit tricky to say which human had the dubious honor of the first First Contact with the Borg.
That being said, it’s fair to say Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D deserves that honor, for two reasons. Firstly, the first appearance of the Borg was on Star Trek: The Next Generation, a fact referenced in the official Borg database article. And secondly, when the Borg traveled back in time to a pre-Federation Earth to disrupt the work of Zephram Cochrane, it was Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-E who stopped the Borg, yet again. That being said, just because the Borg had never been reported by a Federation ship prior to Jean-Luc Picard’s encounter with them doesn’t preclude some other, unfortunate vessel from being the first vessel of humans to be assimilated. After all, if there were no survivors and no logs, there would be no one to describe the Borg attack.
While the first appearance of the Borg in Star Trek in terms of chronological production order definitely falls during the TNG era, it’s worth noting that the TNG film-era Borg appear in pre-Federation Trek, thanks to the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “Regeneration”. In that episode, Borg “casualties” from the Cochrane-era battle of Star Trek: First Contact are retrieved from the Arctic Circle, roughly a hundred years after the battle between the Borg and Jean-luc Picard. The “corpses” ultimately re-animated after they thawed out, causing chaos for a pre-Federation Starfleet.
The Borg First Encountered Humanity Because of Q
— Star Trek (@StarTrek) May 8, 2018
The ret-conning of the Borg on Enterprise aside, the first appearance of the Borg on Star Trek was during the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. That episode, “Q Who?”, featured the return of John de Lancie as the god-like alien, Q. As part of his ongoing ploy to “test” humanity, Q throws the Enterprise-D and its crew in the path of a Borg cube. The episode also features the revelation that Q and Guinan know each other, and that Guinan’s home planet was destroyed by the Borg.
“Q Who?” was written by Maurice Hurley, who generally is credited with the Borg concept. The development of this episode was complicated by a Writer’s Guild strike, so the alien menace in this episode definitely evolved a bit from its original concept to the final version seen on screen. StarTrek.com notes that while Hurley gets credit for the Borg, he drew ire from some fans for his involvement in the departure of Gates McFadden during the show’s second season.
Fan theories abound as to which fictional alien races might have had something to do with the creation of the Borg, with some proposing links between the Borg and the Romulans, while others extrapolate possible connections to Starfleet’s Section 31, based on past episodes of Star Trek: Discovery.
Some fans find it confusing that Captain Archer could have encountered the Borg, and yet Captain Picard had no knowledge of the cyborg menace. The in-universe explanation for this may simply be that, while viewers certainly knew that the cybernetic organisms in “Regeneration” were called “Borg”, the crew of Archer’s NX-01 Enterprise simply did not know the name of their attackers. The word “Borg” does not appear in Zephram Cochrane’s speech, which is referenced by Archer in the episode when he is searching the ship’s database for clues.
In fact, the word “Borg” doesn’t appear in any of the episode’s dialogue, prompting some fans to argue that Starfleet initially didn’t think to make the connection between this one-off event in their early history, and the first appearance of the Borg many years later. Notably, when the Borg of “Regeneration” eventually hail the Enterprise, the transmission says: “You will be assimilated, resistance is futile,” without noting “We are the Borg” or anything to that effect. Likewise, a semi-infected Dr. Phlox hears whispers of other Borg voices in the Collective, but presumably nothing clear enough to be able to learn the word “Borg”, as he only refers to the cyborgs he encounters as “the aliens” in the context of the episode.
William Shatner Had a Cool Idea About the Borg
— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) May 18, 2020
Many years after he first appeared as Captain Kirk on Star Trek: The Original Series, William Shatner put his creative talent to use as a writer of Trek tie-in novels. One these novels, The Return, tied together Borg mythology with some key backstory from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. While the events of the book may not be “canon” in terms of the TV and film timeline, the plot was still very amusing.
The novel features a key plot point where Spock is “immune” to be assimilated by the Borg…or perhaps more accurately, the Borg simply have no interest in trying to assimilate him. This is because the Borg perceive Spock as a member of the Collective already, thanks to his mind meld with the “VGER” probe in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In Shatner’s novel, the VGER probe had been upgraded with Borg technology. For fans of Shatner’s signature speech patterns, there’s good news: there is an audiobook of this novel by Shatner, as read by the man himself.
When (or if) any of these theories about the Borg will be proven true remains to be seen. That being said, with a new season of Star Trek: Picard coming soon (featuring the rehabilitated Borg character Seven of Nine), it seems likely that fans will get more information about the backstory of the Borg. After all, both Seven and Jean-Luc (as Locutus) spent time as members of the Borg collective, albeit in different quadrants.