In which Picard has nightmares, Deanna gets drunk, and history looks different when you’re in it.
There’s no stinger or plot hook here, just some nice music by Jerry Goldsmith to ease you in to things, but as soon as we come out of it, Picard, in his uniform, is standing in a Borg ship with a lot more curves to its design than we normally see. He gets a drill in his eye and wakes up in his chair. But in fact he does not – a Borg implant burrows its way out of his face and he wakes up again. This tells us, immediately and wordlessly, everything we need to know about the Borg this time around. Of course, for the moment it’s easy to dismiss this as PTSD, but remember that in the past, we’ve always seen the Borg as having to take people to the operating table. This is our first observation of actual self-assembly capabilities. Oh, and speaking of sowing the seeds, we also hear a female voice whispering the name Locutus.
Picard is roused from sleep by his terminal – Admiral Hayes has reports of a Federation colony destroyed by the Borg, but Picard knew that already. The newly minted Enterprise NCC-1701-E is sleek, dark, and with an Excelsior-class merged neck/secondary hull. The full rundown is as follows – one Borg ship is heading directly towards Earth, and the Enteprise isn’t going. Their orders are to patrol the Neutral Zone in case the Romulans try to take advantage of the entire fleet being mobilized. The ship is advanced, the crew is ready, but the captain is blasting opera and staring out into space. Nobody is thrilled about the assignment, or what it implies about Starfleet’s assessment of Picard’s ability. they believe his experience with the Borg will make hum unstable and unreliable. It’s during this discussion that word of the Borg engagement reaches them. It’s not going well. Picard violates orders and gives everyone an opportunity to object. Nobody does.
Worf is present at the battle in the Defiant, and it’s wrecked. He’s just ordered ramming speed when the Enterprise shows up to beam all their survivors aboard. Picard takes command of the fleet, with Hayes’ ship destroyed, and commands them to focus fire on a seemingly-insignificant area of the cube. Whether this is based on prior knoweldge of how they protect risk areas differently, or because he can hear their chatter in his head is not explicitly stated, but it works. The Cube sustains heavy damage, and launches a smaller sphere-ship, still headed directly towards Earth, almost as if that was the plan all along. Only Picard is pursuing it at this point. Picard gives Tactical back to Worf, and as the Sphere creates a temporal disturbance, the Enterprise is caught in the backwash. Outside of the backwash, Earth has changed. It has a population of nine billion, industrial-waste oceans, fluorine atmosphere, and is entirely Borg. Once more into the breach.
Cut to a debris city out in the woods. At the bar, half the chairs are just empty kegs or storage bins. Lily and “Z” are dressed like it’s all they could find, rather than as if fashion is a thing. They chat about the piloting they’re up to tomorrow – clearly some sort of test, when the sky opens up and the Borg destroy the bar they were just at with green flame. A temporally local enemy immediately springs to mind, one that’s attacked in the past. Lily wants to save the Phoenix, but Z’s just about to give up. This is the mid 21st century, ten years after World War III, and most of the major cities have been destroyed. All the governments are gone, too. They find the Sphere firing on Earth and take it out with little trouble, but its target solidifies it.
They are in April 4, 2063. The Sphere was firing at a missile complex in Bozeman, Montana, and tomorrow is the day of the first warp flight by Zefram Chochrane, and First Contact. There’s no question of not fixing the timeline – they all get into period clothing and beam down. The very first thing is to check out the damage to the silo, which is extensive. No survivors, but it’s not clear whether any of the dead are actually Cochrane. The ship itself is still standing and intact… and protected by Lily and a machine gun. Data interdicts, and is largely bulletproof, so that’s handy. The ship is leaking radiation, though, and Crusher takes Lily up to the ship to purge the radiation while Picard and Data start fixing the ship in the 48-hour window they have left.
Geordi has ocular implants now, and while he leads the repair team, he assigns one of his underlings to keep the ship running and check up on the malfunctioning environmental controls. Soon, the silo is full of costumed Starfleet officers repairing the former nuclear missile that eventually winds up in the Smithsonian. Troi hasn’t found Cochrane in the debris, which is surprising, since there was nothing more important to him than the Phoenix.
Shipboard, the environmenal system fault has spread, and the young crewman going to repair it dies a horrible not-quite-death offscreen, in true horror movie fashion, as does the Lieutenant who goes in after him. Planetside, Picard hears the Borg chatter again, and immediately checks in on the problem and goes up to take care of it shipboard. Sick Bay is being assaulted too. The Borg beamed over to the Enterprise, and are now attempting to take it over. Data takes quick action to lock out the computer, but power is being cut, and Crusher has to wake up Lily to evacuate her, and Crusher activates the ship’s EMH to distract them. He offers them moisturizer. Beverly leads her crew out, but Lily breaks away from the crew.
Picard gives a quick mission briefing, and suggests that puncturing one of the plasma coolant tanks is the best strategy, as it will liquiefy organic matter – even though they’re part machine, the machine bits can’t function without the meat bits. Also, Picard is sure, as the only human to ever come back from Borgification, to mention that killing ‘turned’ crew will be doing them a favor. The phasers also have 12 shots at most before the Borg catch up with the rotating modulation.
Earthside, Troi is very drunk. With Zefrem Cochrane, also very drunk, mourning the Phoenix. Based on her professional evaluation as ship’s counselor, they need to tell him about the timeline, because he can’t get much worse. Shipboard, they go to assault the Borg deck, and Data has the enviable ability to dactivate his emotion chip. They come across some borg, but they’re still acting like a basic hive – not attacking intruders until they show threatening behavior. Which means Borg don’t have separate protocols of colony-building in hostile environments. But they do recognize the attempt to access their stronghold. Of note – even after they adapt to charged particle weapons, beating the snot out of them physically seems to do the trick, for those crewmembers gifted with the ability. For standard human crew, this is not really an option. As they retreat, one of the Borg grabs Data and sucks him back into the hive, and a young crewman is injected by one of the Borg. Picard kills him before the change can complete, via the self-assembly procedures we saw early on. It’s about now, isolated and alone, that Picard runs into Lily. She has a phaser. Its indicators are red, which suggests its either low on power or set to ‘vaporize the hull.’ She demands answers and escape.
Data wakes up on a lumiglass table in the middle of the hive in Engineering. The Borg are trying to break into the computer, and he suggests their efforts will be useless, and the same female voice from earlier tells him that she’s not intimidated. Speaking of disbelief, Zefrem Cochrane is not buying the story. Geordi and Riker rig up his telescope to point at the Enterprise, which seems to sober him up a bit. Once he’s willing to accept, Riker explains the rest of the story. At 11AM, an alien ship will be in-system for a survey mission. When they detect a warp signature, they make first contact with Earth, and begin the golden age of Star Trek, humanity having finally been unified by proof-positive that we’re not alone. Also, this scene is just full of Title Drop.
On the ship, the Borg are adding new prostheses to infected crewmembers, but they’ve only expanded as far as deck 11, which includes hydroponics, stellar cartography, and the deflector dish (also known as the magic do-anything device). Lily is still demanding answers. Picard tries to explain things to her, and as is his M.O, he shows her the planet she lives on in order to make her understand.
Down in Engineering, Data continues his conversation with the Borg. As an isolated individual, she embodies the collective itself. The movie does a good job implying the failure of human language to successfully articulate the concepts involved: perhaps she’s the server that the Collective is running on. Perhaps the collective are her fingers, her eyes. Or perhaps they’re all running individually and she’s a sorting algorithm. That would be intriguing, particularly since it could imply that, prior to Hugh and Lore’s subsequent intervention, there may have been no need for such a node. Before, the collective was in harmony, after all. She also tries to frame the Borg’s quest in terms of Data’s quest to better himself.
A competing hypothesis, by the way, to the use of this entity as a stopgap to halt the dissent of individuality, would be that this is one of the Original Borg. The species that existed before they all hooked themselves up to constant, persistent social media and merged with it.
The Borg is able to activate Data’s emotion chip, and also shows off a skin graft on his arm… to give him the gift of humanity. Just don’t ask who the skin came from.
Picard and Lily are still wandring around the ship. The Enterprise E is a little smaller than a Galaxy-class – a little over half the decks, but longer from stem to stern. And Picard states, outright, that money no longer exists. Since we know that’s not true from Deep Space Nine, we’re going to have to interpret that as a somewhat more specific statement. Within the Federation, personal wealth is no longer a limiting factor on personal opportunity, perhaps. Universal Basic Income on a personal level, although there’s clearly some means of rationing scarcity. I kind of picture opportunity-gating that’s tied to personal growth. You can sit at home and watch movies all day if you want, but if you complete a training course in something useful, you get more opportunities to do cool things. It sounds a bit dystopic, I know, but the alternative is that somehow people are Just Better, and I’d like to see a road map for that.
Picard and Lily have to go through a Borg nest on their way through, and they duck into a holodeck and load up The Big Goodbye. You may or may not recognize the maître d’. As the Borg bust in, Picard changes the chapter to a crowded dance scene to hide in the crowd. Sadly, this is a holonovel, and drama surrounds him. He confronts the gangster of the novel, grabs the tommy gun, fires until its empty and isn’t done. He’d disengaged the safety protocols, and now he’s looking inside for the neural uplink, to find out its instructions.
The Bozeman survivor camp is putting itself back together, but Zefram isn’t. He’s going along with everything, but the fact that Cochrane is the founder of Warp travel, that his theories are required courses, that he’s the hero of the Federation. That Bozeman Montana becomes a historical monument, and that he gets a statue.
Picard and Lily make it back to the bridge, to explain the problem. They’re going to turn the deflector dish into a subspace transmitter that will link them up with the Borg collective still out in the Delta quadrant. I’m sure that won’t become relevant, by the way. Either way, they’re going to have to shut it down.
To be continued…