Star Trek: First Contact wasn’t going to feature Jean-Luc Picard battling the Borg.
Star Trek: First Contact is arguably the best film in the franchise, though some may disagree with that. It’s a fantastic story of the new U.S.S. Enterprise-E flying into a battle with the Borg on the outskirts of Earth’s orbits. The Enterprise destroys the Borg’s vessel but not before they’re able to trigger a time-travel event. The Enterprise pursues and eventually finds themselves helping the great Zefram Cochrane build his rocket so the events of First Contact, the day the Vulcans landed on Earth, can happen and history could be restored. Jean-Luc Picard and William Riker ended up branching off from one another and essentially having two movies.
For Riker, he was the one that helped Cochrane rebuild his ship, with half the crew on Earth. Picard on the other hand had to deal with the fact that the Borg weren’t all killed by the Enterprise after going back in time and were now on the ship. It fit both characters brilliantly and even led to one of the greatest speeches of all time in Star Trek history.
“The line must be drawn here! This far, no farther!”
Except, that’s not how it was originally written.
William Riker and Jean-Luc Picard’s storylines were swapped originally.
The original script had William Riker on the ship, battling the Borg alongside Worf and Data, while Deanna Troi and Geordi were on Earth with Picard. So why the change? Why do you think…Braga told people at Star Trek Las Vegas 17 that Stewart demanded the switch.
"We were summoned to Patrick Stewart’s apartment in New York, where he said ‘I should be battling the Borg’… so we changed it."
Stewart wasn’t wrong. The history that Picard had with the Borg made the script so much more compelling. Watching Picard battle his way through three different enemies; the Borg, his emotions, and his trauma made the scenes so much better. Especially when the final confrontation with the newly revealed Borg Queen took place, and Picard had to face the possibility that Data had been corrupted by the promises of the Borg.
The emotional resonance was so much more palpable because of Picard’s history with the Borg, and Data to boot. After all, it was Picard who was often Data’s loudest champion. So the whole thing just worked better with Picard.