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‘We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.’

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With the fairly recent demise of the last of the Star Trek franchises (the ill-fated Enterprise), the executives at Paramount were left with a problem: a complete lack of new ‘product’ to sell to the public. After a bit of head-scratching, some bright spark came up with the idea to release themed boxed sets, concentrating on some of the more popular aspects of the Star Trek universe, such as time travel and alien races.

Star Trek Fan Collective: Borg contains fourteen Trek episodes across four discs, spanning three of the shows in the franchise. Of the fourteen episodes on display, one comes from the short-lived Enterprise, six from the classic Star Trek: The Next Generation and seven from the show that gave us the greatest insight into the Borg, Star Trek: Voyager.

Star Trek Fan Collective: Borg
The first disc in the set opens with the most recent episode to feature the Borg, ‘Regeneration’, although chronologically it predates all of the others as it takes place within the Enterprise timeframe. The episode opens with an Arctic research team uncovering the remains of an alien vessel, along with the bodies of two cybernetically enhanced humanoids. When contact with the expedition is suddenly lost, Starfleet dispatches the Enterprise to track down the missing scientists. Archer and his crew suspect that the scientists are being held aboard a transport after being abducted by the mysterious aliens, but when they track down the ship they encounter heavy ‘resistance’.

Next up we have the classic Star Trek: TNG episode ‘Q Who?’, in which the mischievous, godlike being known as Q transports Enterprise D half way across the galaxy as punishment for humanity’s ‘arrogance’. It is here, in system J-25, that Picard and his crew first encounter the cybernetic aliens, identified as the Borg by a troubled Guinan. Although notable for the lack of any of the well-known Borg ‘catchphrases’ (such as ‘Resistance is futile’) and some inconsistencies in Borg behaviour (the Borg seem interested only in the Enterprise and its technology, rather than the crew), ‘Q Who’ remains an enjoyable episode after all of these years.

Star Trek Fan Collective: Borg
‘The Best of Both Worlds’ is perhaps the classic Borg episode, and one of the finest Star Trek: TNG episodes ever. When it becomes apparent that the Borg are responsible for a number of attacks on Federation outposts, Starfleet prepares for the coming invasion while Jean-Luc Picard and his crew attempt to buy them some time. Unfortunately, the Borg have decided upon a new strategy for the assimilation of Earth. They abduct and assimilate Captain Picard into a spokesman named Locutus, designed to ‘facilitate their introduction’ into human society while providing them with extensive knowledge of Starfleet tactics. This was the first cliff-hanger ending on TNG, and is still one of the very best to this day. There were many Trek fans who screamed at their screens in disbelief when they learned that they’d have to wait until the next season to discover the fate of Picard and the Federation.

Disc two opens with ‘I, Borg’, a strange little episode that I still don’t know if I like. In the episode, the crew of the Enterprise encounter a lone, injured Borg, and nurse him back to health. Picard orders Geordie to look for ways of infecting the Borg with a virus that could destroy the rest of the Collective, but during his convalescence the Borg begins to exhibit signs of individuality, and eventually adopts the name Hugh. This raises a number of moral dilemmas, as Picard wrestles with his duty to the Federation, his own hatred of the Borg, and the ethical ramifications of using one individual to commit genocide. As I said, I’m still not sure about this episode, as it goes against everything that was later established about the Borg, but it does have its place in history.

Star Trek Fan Collective: Borg
Moving on we come to another two-parter, ‘Descent’. In this episode, Picard’s actions in ‘I, Borg’ come back to bite him on the arse, as a group of disconnected Borg start attacking the Federation. At the same time, Data begins to feel emotions, or rather one emotion: anger. It turns out that Hugh infected the rest of the Borg on his ship, causing them to develop distinct personalities of their own. Unable to function out of their collective state, the Borg drifted aimlessly until they were discovered by Lore, Data’s evil twin (as it were). Through clever manipulation (and use of his emotion chip), Lore is able to lure Data away from the Enterprise to the Delta Quadrant, forcing the crew of the Enterprise to follow through a Borg transwarp conduit.

‘Scorpion’ is an interesting two-part episode, partly because it was the first to use the new Borg makeup developed for Star Trek: First Contact, and partly because it introduced us to Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix 01. It was also the first episode to introduce a race that could offer any real resistance to the Borg. Species 8472, a particularly nasty bunch of aliens from an extra-dimensional region known as ‘fluidic space’, want to purge all life from the galaxy. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Captain Janeway is forced to make a deal with the lesser of two evils, and negotiates a peace treaty with the Borg in exchange for information about defeating 8472. The cliff-hanger ending sees Voyager in the grip of a Borg cube as it races away from the destruction of a nearby planet with Species 8472 in hot pursuit.

Star Trek Fan Collective: Borg
In the episode Drone, a transporter malfunction accidentally infuses the Doctor’s mobile emitter with Seven of Nine’s nanoprobes. Utilising the advanced 29th century technology of the emitter and the DNA of an unwitting ensign, the nanoprobes construct a Borg maturation chamber and begin to ‘grow’ an advanced drone. Although she initially considers terminating the process, Janeway eventually decides to let it run it course and appoints Seven as the drone’s liaison, with orders to help it adapt to life on Voyager (a task she is initially hesitant about undertaking). Things take a turn for the worse when the Collective learns of the drone—who has named himself One—and decides to come looking for him…

The feature-length episode ‘Dark Frontier’ tells the story of Seven of Nine’s assimilation into the Borg Collective and reintroduces the Borg Queen. After defeating a small Borg scout ship and obtaining tactical data, Captain Janeway decides to mount a raid on a damaged Borg sphere in order to steal a transwarp coil. If successful, this technology could enable Voyager to return to the Alpha Quadrant in record time, but Seven thinks the risks involved are far too great. Unbeknownst to the rest of the crew Seven has been contacted by the Borg Queen, who has given her an ultimatum: return to the Collective or Voyager will be assimilated. As the crew prepares for the raid, they call upon the information contained in the personal logs of Seven of Nine’s parents, the exobiologists who once tracked the Borg across the vast reaches of space undetected…

Star Trek Fan Collective: Borg
‘Unimatrix Zero’ is yet another two-part episode, in which the Borg Queen is attempting to isolate and eliminate a ‘flaw’ in the Borg’s collective consciousness. Unimatrix Zero, a place that only one in every million drones can access while regenerating, allows assimilated individuals to remember their past lives and interact with others like themselves. Unfortunately the drones lose all memory of Unimatrix Zero once their regeneration cycle is complete, and so they seek to enlist Seven of Nine and the crew of Voyager to aid them in their struggle. Sensing an opportunity to deal a crippling blow to the Collective, Janeway decides to help the by leading an away mission to infect the Borg with a nanovirus that will allow them to retain their sense of individuality. Unfortunately, the Borg Queen has other ideas…

The second feature-length episode in the set, ‘Endgame’, was also the series finale of Star Trek: Voyager. After many years in the Delta Quadrant, Voyager eventually returned home to Earth, but not without casualties. In this timeline, Admiral Katherine Janeway uses her considerable influence to obtain a device capable of opening a temporal rift and travels to the Delta Quadrant, where she meets her younger self aboard Voyager. Although initially sceptical, Captain Janeway eventually comes to trust the Admiral after she learns of the many hardships that the crew will face on their journey, and decides to listen to her future self’s plan to return them all home safely. The plan involves taking Voyager into the heart of a Borg-infested nebula using technology from the future to give them the edge. But when Captain Janeway discovers that the Admiral hasn’t been entirely truthful about the contents of the nebula, she decides to call the plan off. Unfortunately Voyager’s incursion attracts the attention of the Borg Queen, who is very keen to protect the interests of the Collective…

Star Trek Fan Collective: Borg
The episodes selected for this boxed set represent some of my personal favourites, but that’s not to say they’re all perfect. The episode ‘Regeneration’, in particular, is a controversial one. The premise that some of the Borg from Star Trek: First Contact ended up frozen in the Arctic of Earth’s past is an interesting one, but unfortunately the execution leaves rather a lot to be desired. While the Borg proved to be all-but invincible when they first encountered the 24th century Enterprise-D, the 22nd century crew are able to create weapons that the Borg have trouble adapting to, and even manage to find a cure for assimilation! The episode is still enjoyable, but there are just too many convenient plot devices (not to mention holes) for my liking.

Another problem that many (including myself) have with the evolution of the Borg is the inconsistent portrayal between series (and even episodes) and the steady erosion of the mystery surrounding the Collective. When first encountered in ‘Q Who?’ they are an unstoppable force driven by a collective will, but by the end of Voyager they are seemingly just another enemy-of-the-week to be defeated. The introduction of the Borg Queen, while giving the fans someone to boo at, also detracted from the ‘perfection’ of the Collective, as the scriptwriters never could make up their mind where to go with the character. It’s also a pity that some of the more character driven episodes, such as ‘Survival Instinct’ and ‘Collective’, didn’t make it into the set to break up the more action-oriented episodes, but I still had a lot of fun reliving some of my favourite Star Trek  memories.

Star Trek Fan Collective: Borg

Video


Each episode is presented in its original 1.33:1 (4:3) aspect ratio, with the exception of ‘Regeneration’, which is presented in the 1.78:1 ratio and is 16:9 enhanced. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the quality of the video on display, especially from the older shows. This is particularly true of The Next Generation, where some of the episodes are approaching their twentieth anniversaries. Don’t get me wrong, the quality is far from impressive and there are a number of visual problems, but I think some, if not all of that can be forgiven when you consider the age and origins of the material (we’re not talking big-budget movies here). I guess the best way to put it is that I wasn’t expecting much, and what I got was slightly better.

Unsurprisingly, the quality of the video improves with each series. Early episodes of TNG are extremely soft, suffer from excessive grain, muddy colours, aliasing, film and compression artefacts, while Enterprise suffers from only minor image artefacts. Logic dictates that Voyager should be somewhere in the middle of these two, and that’s exactly where you’ll find it. All in all the wildly disparate quality of the shows makes awarding marks in the video category quite tricky, but I feel the score is an accurate representation of the overall quality of the set.

Star Trek Fan Collective: Borg

Audio


Each episode receives a remixed English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, which range from fair to good. Obviously it is the newer shows that take greater advantage of the surround channels, but even the first episodes of The Next Generation have a surprising amount of ambience. We’re not talking gigantic explosions or constant surround utilisation though, just the hum of the Enterprise’s engines, the occasional starship flyby and the omnipresent voice of the Borg Collective. Dialogue is always clear and bass is adequate, if unlikely to shake the cat off of the sofa, and while there’s nothing here to get particularly excited about, the tracks do all that is required of them.

Extras


Paramount includes a solitary commentary track from Mike Sussman and Phyllis Strong, writers of the episode ‘Regeneration’. The track is actually fairly lively, with few gaps in the proceedings, but it does fall into the trap of the participants justifying their creative choices by rationalising certain inconsistencies. They do mention the incredibly tight deadlines that they have to work to, and that failure to adhere to these deadlines results in the producers taking the script away and finishing it themselves, which is possibly not the best environment for writing talent to work in. However, I still find it a little odd that people working on a Star Trek show seem to have so little knowledge of, or respect for, what’s gone before.

Star Trek Fan Collective: Borg
Denise and Micahel Okuda’s text commentaries found on several of the other episodes (‘The Best of Both Worlds’ parts one and two and ‘Unimatrix Zero’ part two) are reasonably informative, but I did spot one or two technical errors. This is a little odd when you consider that those involved are supposed to be the authority on all things Trek. I’m not particularly fond of text commentaries, but at least there’s something other than the commentary on offer. It still doesn’t excuse the fact that this is a pretty disappointing selection of bonus material, especially when these themed sets present interesting opportunities for innovative original content based around their respective subjects. Where is the in-depth, definitive exploration of the Borg Collective? What about interviews with some of the actors who have played Borg drones, or even the Queen (Thompson/Krige)?

Overall


If you already own the individual series boxed sets there is nothing here to warrant your further attention. However, if you’re one of the many people that didn’t feel like stumping up the ridiculous amounts of cash demanded by Paramount for the complete season sets, this release could be right up your street. The Borg are undeniably one of the most interesting and enduring Star Trek ‘villains’, and this collection presents the crème de la crème of their appearances in the franchise (and concordantly some of the best episodes of The Next Generation and Voyager). If you are able to overlook the terrible continuity problems generated by the Enterprise episode then you should definitely consider assimilating this set into your DVD collective. Just don’t expect a heap of bonus material.


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