The Star Trek Next Generation Story That Connects the Borg to The Original Series Crew

The Borg may be villains from Star Trek: The Next Generation, but a 1991 novel posits a surprising connection between the assimilating aliens and The Original Series.

The Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation
Photo: CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

“Con permiso, Capitan,” the godlike being Q tells Captain Picard. “The hall is rented, the orchestra engaged. It’s now time to see if you can dance.” 

Part warning and part explanation, Q’s statement tests Picard’s insistence that the Enterprise does not need his help, that humanity is fully prepared for whatever difficulties they encounter while exploring deep space. Yes, they can deal with Romulans, Klingons, and even that fishhead alien that Mick Fleetwood played in “Manhunt.” But were they prepared for the new enemy that Q sent them to meet? Were they prepared for the Borg?

The excellent season two episode “Q Who?” effectively introduces the Borg as the defining villain of Star Trek: The Next Generation, whose influence continues in later series, especially Voyager and Picard. The conquering hivemind represents everything that Starfleet is not, a demand for sameness and no respect for other cultures or variety. They’re all about safety and domination through homogenization. With their zombie-esque attacks and their resistance to Starfleet weapons, the Borg become a major threat to the entire universe. 

But despite Q’s taunts in The Next Generation, Starfleet may have actually been more prepared for the Borg than he, or even the crew of the Enterprise-D, first thought. In fact, according to one TNG novel, the Federation unknowingly encountered a deterrent to the race back in the days of James T. Kirk and the original Enterprise. 

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In the sixth episode of The Original Series’s second season “The Doomsday Machine,” Kirk and his crew discover the remains of several star systems that have been mysteriously destroyed. Finding the Enterprise’s sister ship the USS Constellation abandoned in one of these systems, save for its delirious Commodore Matthew Decker, Kirk fears the worst. When Decker comes to, he confirms Kirk’s suspicions, describing the source of the attacks as a weapon “right out of hell,” a planet killer with an unimaginable proton beam.

Throughout the episode, the Enterprise learns that the machine derives its fuel from the remains of the planets it destroys, which allows it to operate in perpetuity. Only through the actions of the desperate, suicidal Decker, and the brilliance of the Enterprise crew, is Kirk able to destroy the doomsday machine, stopping it from continuing its march across the quadrant.

After its destruction in “The Doomsday Machine,” no other versions of the planet-killer have been rebuilt and reused in later canon Star Trek stories (this isn’t Star Wars, after all). However, the machine did return in a non-canonical Trek story one that ties the planet-killer to the Borg.

In “The Doomsday Machine,” Kirk speculates that no one would create the planet-killer with the intention of actually using it. Instead, he believes that the machine must have been a deterrent, thus turning the episode into a commentary on the Mutually Assured Destruction theory of nuclear armament. And in his 1991 TNG novel Vendetta, writer Peter David builds on Kirk’s theory.

Vendetta introduces Delcara, a powerful telepath who has been contacting Picard through visions since his days as a cadet. Delcara has control of a new Planet Killer, more advanced than the one Kirk destroyed in “The Doomsday Machine,” and plans to use it in revenge against the Borg for assimilating the rest of her race, the Shgin.

Published less than a year after “The Best of Both Worlds,” Vendetta leans heavily into the threat posed by the Borg. After all, this was long before we met kindly Hugh, the more human Borg Queen, and the heroic Seven of Nine. The Borg were still enigmatic, incomprehensible threats to the entire universe.

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That perspective is essential for understanding the genesis (pun intended) of the Planet Killer, as posited in Vendetta. David explains that the Planet Killer was created by the Preservers, the ancient and wise race first introduced in the TOS season three episode “The Paradise Syndrome,” as a deterrent against the Borg. While the threatening to destroy any planet the Borg assimilate should be deterrent enough, Delcara proves that it certainly can be used as an active weapon against the race.

Since Vendetta, the Borg have been made significantly less frightening, and Picard has not once, but twice, declared that the race has been destroyed. Furthermore, novels and comic books are not technically considered canon in Star Trek (again, this isn’t Star Wars). However, should Trek ever want to revisit the subject, the Planet Killer is an excellent way to remind viewers that the Borg are terrifying, but the weapons we employ for our safety may be even worse.