Star Trek The Next Generation iBorg
Ah, yes. The Borg. If there ever were an antithesis to the Federation, it is the Borg, at least on a conceptual level.
They are monocultural power that seeks conformity and expressionless adherence to the collective, as opposed to, as Picard put it, freedom and self-determination. They are the Vulcan maxim of “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one,” taken to an extreme, an extreme fueled by emotionless logic. They are dangerous.
And they are a bit one-sided.
As a primary adversary in TNG, they served their purpose masterfully, thankfully eclipsing the misguided attempt to make the Ferengi the main foes in the first season. By the time we see them, post-First Contact, in the series Voyager, people begin to claim they lost their bite. They aren’t completely wrong in that regard. Perhaps, by trying to live up to audience expectations of seeing the Borg on their home turf in the Delta Quadrant, they were over explained in order to make them seem complex and also oversimplified as seeking continual “perfection”.
The turning point for me was when I felt some sympathy for them after seeing their struggle against Species 8472. Did that absolve them of all of their terrible acts against almost everyone in about half of the galaxy? No, but that is the point they lost their boogeyman status for me. And the thing is, I’m personally fine with that.
Looking at history, the Roman Empire fell to the “barbarians” of Europe, but upon closer scrutiny, they actually had been integrating and assimilating European cultures for centuries. The fall of Rome wasn’t some night and day transition, but instead a phase over time of Roman identity shifting from a Mediterranean perspective to a more Continental European one. By the time the western half of the Roman empire fell, its conquerors felt more than they were inheriting Rome than destroying it. Meanwhile, the eastern half of the empire had long since assumed a more Greek identity than a Roman one.
And what about the Mongols who conquered most of the world’s largest continent? Just like Alexander the Great’s Greek empire centuries before that, it fragmented into several smaller states that were amalgamations of the conquerors and the conquered.
The point here is that looking at history, a monoculture cannot survive.
While the Federation’s encounter with the Borg may have been a turning point for them to realize that they couldn’t be too complacent in facing the dangers of exploring the galaxy, the Borg also met a similar turning point when encountering the Federation and its bounty of cultures. Furthermore, how many cultures can one power assimilate before it is pulled away from its origins toward something else?
While the Borg may have lost their status as the ultimate big, bad, horrible villain in Star Trek, if we step back and take a look at the big picture, I think we are seeing a galactic power crumble under the weight of its own extreme principles.