TNG: S4E01: “The Best of Both Worlds: Part 2”

In which Riker fires blanks, Picard becomes a mass-murderer, and this is probably the most realistic hacking scene ever to grace a screen.

I am Locutus of Borg. Resistance is futile. Your life as it has been is over. From this time forward, you will service us.

Before we begin, let’s unpack what we know about the Borg so far. The Borg is a collective hivemind of cybernetically enhanced beings which are mainly humanoid. The Borg refers to itself as ‘we,’ whereas Q refers to it singularly. It hasso far been mainly interested in technology, but has recently found it prudent to specifically target Picard and use that body as a speaker (or, in Latin and coincidentally Borg, ‘locutus’) and have now decided to take a more active interest in organics.

And now, pew pew pew!

"And we sing Bounce a graviton particle beam/ off the main deflector dish..."

“And we sing
Bounce a graviton particle beam/
off the main deflector dish…”

You will recall that Riker and Geordi have come up with a way to use the deflector dish to lay some smack down on the Borg. Riker, having gotten tired of taking shit from Shelby for playing it safe, tries to kill Picard. The main cannon powers up and fires ze lazers, which appears to do jack diddly to the Borg before engines threaten to go critical. Turns out Picard’s knowledge was absorbed into the collective, so they’re ready for him. They have all the tactical options that had been prepared.

So of course, like any competent organization, the first thing they do is scramble the command codes that Riker and Worf used in “Peak Performance” to spoof the Enterprise computers, right? Using an algorithm that Data makes up on the spot just in case Picard saw the old one once and the Borg have the ability to extract that level of detail from his memory, right?

Nah, just messing with you. They stand there and look stunned. They have to spend 8-12 hours repairing the warp engines while what you will recall is the entire rest of Starfleet assembles at Wolf 359 to stop the Borg from reaching Earth. The first defensive wave will be 40 starships. Actually, it’s unclear as to whether that’s the first defensive wave or the entire rest of Starfleet. The Klingons are sending aid, certainly.

Picard is being considered a casualty of war and Riker gets a field promotion to Captain by Admiral Hanson. Riker works with Worf to try to divine strategies that Picard won’t be aware of. Worf claims they have the advantage that the Borg have neither honor nor courage, but that smells like nonsense to me. Their advantage more likely lies in the fact that the Borg seem to be more adept at assimilating other known tech, rather than innovating their own. Phasers that auto-rotate frequencies is just about the only thing they have so far, though.

Starfleet has engaged the Borg at Wolf 359, but it’s not looking good, which kind of puts a damper on the mood where Riker makes up with Shelby. He keeps everyone in the positions and makes Shelby his XO. There are valid reasons to do so – she’s the only one who’s not a subject matter expert and wouldn’t be disrupted by the new role. There’s a dearth of options on the ground, and apparently projectile weapons have been gone so long that nobody thinks of them. Then again, the Borg do have energy shields.

"This is me being as polite as I can when I tell you to shut up and sit down, Earth boy, beacuse you're not as wise as you think you are."

“This is me being as polite as I can when I tell you to shut up and sit down, Earth boy, beacuse you’re not as wise as you think you are.”

Riker asks Picard’s empty chair what he would do, and then Guinan comes in because, as we saw in “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” she has an instinct for timelines and knows where she’s going to be needed. She points out that morale is down and that’s going to make everything worse, and Riker needs to stop keeping the chair empty for Picard. She describes her relationship with Picard as “beyond friendship, beyond family” as well. One can never be quite certain, though, whether she’s saying things that are true, or just to make a point. Playing to Picard’s book is now playing to a book that the enemy knows by heart.

So, somewhere along the way, the Star Trek writers figured out how to write personal drama that didn’t suck.

One of the tragic limitations of television is that the Borg have an actual viewing station, rather than a brief paragraph about how the collective consciousness simply receives any visual information they need to process via direct occiptal lobe stimulation.

One of the tragic limitations of television is that the Borg have an actual viewing station, rather than a brief paragraph about how the collective consciousness simply receives any visual information they need to process via direct occiptal lobe stimulation.

The Enterprise makes it to Wolf 359, where there is nothing left but wreckage, including the ship Riker turned down command of. Riker prepares to modify a plan Picard was aware of in order to throw Locutus a curveball – Shelby takes Ensign Crusher and some no-name lieutenant who’s probably going to die to the battle bridge.

They keep Locutus talking long enough to trace his location and seem to have some sort of counter-countermeasure that will get them through the Borg shields. Oh good, Riker does think to scramble their encryption before he gives Shelby command of the saucer section and the two sections go into battle. Locutus seems to have advised the Borg that the saucer section is not a significant threat, because… well, after ignoring the option to separate the saucer section for so long, Picard must have believed the separation capability was worthless.

We were all fooled, apparently. Apparently, in addition to two of the main phaser batteries, the saucer section can also just spit out antimatter. It seems to be more of a chaff attack than anything else, but enough to distract the Borg from Data and Worf in a shuttle and get inside the transporter scrambler. From there, it’s a hop, skip, and a being-disassembled-quark-by-quark and hurtled through space to a tactical boarding action to re-kidnap Picard’s mutilated, mobile corpse.

"Incorrect  strategy, numbah one."

“Incorrect strategy, Numbah One.”

So now the question is, how effective are Borg backups? Because if they retain the knowledge that Picard had, then it’s also possible he might retain some of the knowledge that they had. Of course, first they have to de-borgify him. As it is, Locutus is still functional and will perform as the Borg ambassador, at least until Data figures out how to shut down the hive-mind-net without his machine bits self-destructing.

Just offscreen, Picard is naked.

Just offscreen, Picard is naked.

So here’s the thing about the Borg. Locutus explains to Worf that the Borg are trying to raise all beings to their level, which is really quite nice of them. It’s a complete mystery to them why everyone they assimilate tries to fight back. Locutus calls Data a primitive obsolete lifeform that will soon be obsolete. I think we all know that eventually the Borg are going to change their tune. Possibly because he’s about to hack into Picard using his brain. O’Brien asks what Data’s Safe Word is, and Data neglects to set one.

Fully functional in every way, and programmed in multiple techniques.

Data’s positronic brain is able to process the Borg consciousness, or at least to parse it. They divide into subcommands, but they’re all vulnerable to root account hacking. Sadly, that’s where Locutus wakes up and starts trying to wreck Data’s lab. Still, Picard’s endoskeletal structure is not as strong as Data’s, and the shock is just enough to allow Picard to break through. And if they can’t shut down the link, then they can do some very primitive cyber-warfare. They can’t, say, shut down the weapons or shields or other critical systems because they’re all protected. Riker prepares to go to Warp on a collision course with the Cube before Picard manages to hint that ship-wide maintenance mode would be just as good as disrupting the actual critical systems.

Now that that problem is solved, let’s think about what would happen if the Enterprise went to warp on a collision course with something.

Best estimates for how the Warp Drive work are that it encases the ship in a bubble of altered spacetime with different universal constants (see “Deja Q”). Now, if the Enterprise reaches superluminal velocities and the field collapses when it intersects the Borg ship, the effects would likely wipe out both ships. There’s no air to plasmise, at least until bits of the Enterprise make it through Borg hull. But let’s suppose the field doesn’t collapse. The Alcubierre drive concept does this but with more real-world science, and the concept is to use gravitation to contract the space in front of a ship and expand it behind the ship. If that field were held up as the Enterprise rammed the ship at warp, it would tear the Borg ship open shortly before the collision. In fact, what they really ought to have are torpedoes that just sustain a warp field in front of them and rip through solid matter via the kind of gravitational lensing that allows you to exceed the local speed of light.

A society capable of FTL would only need to invent any other weapon in order to be less lethal than their own stardrive. Just sayin’.

Anyway, they put the Borg to sleep just before they finish cutting through the hull and render it dead in the water, while I wish I had the persistence to rewrite this so that the Enterprise and the Borg are both good at cybersecurity. Apparently, the Borg ship can’t handle every drone regenerating at once, and explodes, and Picard has his mind back, if not his body. Also, he remembers presiding over the destruction of a good quantity of Starfleet. Good thing that’s not going to leave deep and profound mental scars that drastically alter Picard’s behavior for decades yet to come.

Aww, I made myself sad there...

Aww, I made myself sad there…

Did we miss something awesome?