What endgame will the Borg Queen play in Star Trek Picard?
In a recent interview with TrekMovie.com, Akiva Goldsman, co-showrunner of Star Trek Picard, teased that the “utility” of the Borg Queen in the series’ impending second season “is probably not what you expect it to be.”
Whatever Goldsman may mean, “not what you expect” has, ironically, been the expected where the Borg Queen is concerned! Her introduction in 1996’s Star Trek: First Contact came as an unexpected—and, for some fans, unwelcome—surprise, given the Borg’s well-defined existence and action as a faceless collective without individual distinction. The only exceptions had been Hugh and his group of Borg individuals in “Descent,” the two-part episode spanning the sixth and seventh seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
In First Contact, the Borg Queen enigmatically introduces herself as “the beginning, the end, the one who is many” who “brings order to the chaos” of the Borg Collective without exactly leading it, since the concept of leadership “impl[ies] disparity where none exists.” Played with riveting menace, intimidating intelligence, and skin-crawling sensuality by Alice Krige, the Queen gave the Collective an individual face and form for Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Data (Brent Spiner) to talk to and fight against.
First Contact shows Picard suddenly remembering the Borg Queen’s presence during his assimilation and transformation into Locutus in TNG’s highwater mark, “The Best of Both Worlds.” “You wanted more than just another Borg drone,” Picard tells her. “You wanted a counterpart.” This retconning revelation split fan opinion, but co-writer Brannon Braga has called the character “the best invention we could have probably come up with” (Altman & Gross, The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years, page 349).
In Star Trek: Voyager, the Borg Queen—played by Susanna Thompson, although Krige returned to the role for the series finale—became a semi-recurring nemesis, appearing in “Dark Frontier,” “Unimatrix Zero,” and “Endgame.” Voyager gave the Queen “more individuality than First Contact did,” writes ScreenRant’s Dana Hanson, “distancing her even more from the established Borg mythos.”
Will the second season of Star Trek Picard distance the Borg Queen from the mythos even farther?
The Borg Queen could be an active peril and not just a plot device
It’s unclear from the Star Trek Picard season 2 trailer released on Star Trek Day exactly how large a role the Borg Queen, now being played by Annie Wersching, will play, although TVLine claims the role recurs.
Were I to judge from the trailer alone, I’d conclude Picard and the La Sirena crew reactivate the Queen solely to collect some of those Borg “chronometric particles” we heard about in First Contact, to facilitate their trek back to our present.
But in that trailer, we do catch a glimpse of the Borg Queen face-to-face with an obviously fascinated, perhaps even enthralled, Dr. Agnes Jurati (Allison Pill).
It’s no mystery why a cybernetics expert like Jurati would be entranced by the Borg Queen. After all, even Picard and Data themselves found a measure of respect and sympathy for her in First Contact. But given Dr. Jurati’s troubling and traitorous actions in Picard’s first season—spying for the Romulans, murdering Bruce Maddox—is it possible her encounter with the Borg Queen, who’s known for an uncanny ability to lure others to her side, presages a darker plot development?
We know Picard and company will successfully reach 21st-century Earth. But will Dr. Jurati be fully on board with their mission to save the future by setting right the past? Or will she somehow, willingly or unwillingly, be doing the bidding of the Borg Queen? Might she even somehow be embodying Her Biomechanical Majesty?
If First Contact and Voyager taught us to expect anything about this unexpected character, it’s the fact that the Borg Queen is persistent. Apparently capable of endless return (or replacement, which not only suits the Borg model of interchangeability better but also its real-world analogue of new queen ants or queen bees replacing a colony’s old ones) the Borg Queen may still be intent on carrying out the Collective’s long-ago plan to change humanity’s past in order to conquer its future.
How better to finally achieve that end than by working with or through a human who’s already headed back to the past, to stop a different adversary’s time-tampering scheme?
Perhaps season two of Star Trek: Picard will turn out to be a tale of Q versus the Borg as much as it is Q versus Jean-Luc!
Until the season debuts in February 2022, we’ll have to keep expecting the unexpected for this complicated and controversial but ultimately irresistible character.