Star Trek – TNG’s Assimilating Challenge

cube.jpgAs my lists of the worst Star Trek-TNG episodes expand from previous posts (see below), it’s time to balance the scales and give high praise to those forty-seven minute stories that captured the very best glimpse of the Twenty Fourth Century envisioned by Gene Roddenberry.

The creation, development and outcome of the Borg storyline which began from a series of events set in motion by Q, introducing the Enterprise to an unknown adversary that does nothing but assimilate: “They are not interested in your political conflicts or wealth and power as you know it. They see your technology as something to consume. (Q, Episode 142, ‘Q Who?‘).” A sentiment echoed loudly in Guinan’s stern and terrified anecdote: “You don’t reason with them, at least I’ve never known anyone who has.”

sevenofnine.jpgThe Best of Both Worlds (Episode 174-5), generally considered the finest of Star Trek episodes, has many undercurrents that gave it the feel of a movie. The Borg, introduced a year before, have now arrived to assimilate sector 001. An episode filled with anticipation, intrigue and the unexpected abduction of the beloved captain of the Enterprise, accomplished mediator rendered helpless by an unyielding hive mind with no bent for reason. An ethical dilemma when the possibility of mediation holds no hope for resolution and defending against an untested adversary resolute on the destruction of individuality is faced on a cultural level set against the backdrop of outstanding special effects and musical score.

guinan1.jpgHigh praise goes to Riker, who as Number One, held the future of the known galaxy, struggling to accept full responsibility as captain without the approval of Picard as Guinan argues with him, “If they know everything Picard knows, you have to throw that book away and let him go.” A difficult choice when facing the isolation of leadership and the weight of the known world as high drama and uncertainty present an opportunity to display the character struggle faced when losing a leader that one must now replace and treat as an adversary. A coming of age story of betrayal, irony and redemption for both captains of the Enterprise.

stqwho.jpgThe aftermath of the confrontation with the Borg is challenged by introducing a drone with a developing personality, preconceived notions exposed, attitudes about the collective disproved, and prejudice to overcome as I, Borg (Episode 223) forces a re-evaluation of a proven enemy, once thought beyond the ability to negotiate. Descent (Episode 252-3), follows the drone separated from the collective struggling with individual identity, chaos, responsibility for having a distinct personality, and choice.

Analogies drawn from the Borg can be made on numerous levels. The virus or bacteria that invades, knows only exploitation of weakness of an organism. Forcing a rational society to fight for survival developing strategies defined by pharmaceuticals, often a defensive offense against the enemy’s life cycle. The emotional turmoil of dependency then loss constrained by insurmountable odds that forge growth, development, and evolution of thinking often defining invention in an existence fraught with danger and vulnerability.

A shining moment in Science Fiction that used fantasy effectively to explore potential contemporary issues by giving a sense of sobering realism, perhaps allowing us to consider issues that elude other forms of story telling. Star Trek- The Next Generation, highly respected by critics and fans alike, sometimes over-simplistic, but rarely irrelevant and always engaging.