Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Character Insight No. 110: The Borg Queen

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.


Welcome back to Character Insight, coming to you this week from the beach in North Carolina!  While cooling off my sunburn, let's take a look at the next villain on our countdown, a lady who has a complexion even paler than my own. That's The Borg Queen from Star Trek First Contact, who comes in at number 2 on our best Trek movie villains countdown. 
("Data, don't trust that face!") 

The Borg Queen represents a central nexus or representative member of the Borg Collective, introduced for the first time during the conflict where the Borg try to travel back in time to stop Zephram Cochrane's first warp flight for the human race, which eventually led to the formation of the Federation. 

In order to assimilate the Enterprise and finish her plot, the Borg Queen tempts Data with the possibility of becoming partly human, grafting a real human forearm onto his body. For most of the movie, it appears angry Picard with a gun and his crew will lose this conflict at the hands of Data. But Data proves to be loyal to his longtime Enterprise crew in the end, as he causes the torpedoes aimed at the Phoenix warp-capable starship to miss right before destroying the Queen's organic parts with warp core plasma coolant. 

Quote: "Resistance is Futile" (Data)

Her role is relatively controversial because the Borg were previously presented as a large collective hivemind with no leaders, and indeed they had to assimilate Captain Picard to serve as a spokesman during one of the initial conflicts with the Enterprise. But the movie writers struggled without a lead villain, so this queen became a new facet of the Borg Collective. When asked by Data for an explanation of how the queen relationship works, the response adds little clarity:

Quote: "bring order to chaos..."

The concept of the Borg Queen was further developed in the Voyager series and the TNG books. Essentially, the Borg hive mind operates with better decision-making efficiency when a queen is active, but the collective still functions without the queen when one is lost. This explanation kind of undermines the entire point of stopping the Queen in First Contact, but it at least harmonizes better with how the Borg were shown earlier in TNG. 

The quality of a villain can often be evaluated based on how many different stories can be told using the villain, and the top 5 of this countdown is mostly characters that show up in both TV episodes as well as movies. The Borg Queen just misses the top spot because while she is a truly memorable and evil representation of the greatest TNG villain race, the lack of explanation for her sudden appearance contrary to what we knew about the Borg before First Contact is a lazy writing choice taking slightly away from this villain. Still, the Borg and its Queen stand beside Q as the quintessential antagonists for Picard's crew and this #2 ranking reflects that.

Alice Krige played the Borg Queen in the movie, and she reprised the role one of the times the character appears in Voyager. She can recently be seen Thor: The Dark World and also in the new television series Tyrant.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

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