Borg drones made up the population of the Borg Collective.
A drone was an assimilated individual augmented with Borg technology and capable of assimilating other lifeforms and technology into the Collective. After assimilation a drone was integrated into the collective and its consciousness and that of the collective became one. A drone possessed no sense of individuality and existed only to perform its designated function within the Collective.
Their organic bodies were enhanced, and some parts completely replaced, with cybernetic implants. (TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds", "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II"; Star Trek: First Contact; VOY: "Unity", "Scorpion", "The Gift")
Every drone was equipped with a homing device, which had its own unique translink frequency, by which it was kept in contact with the Collective through subspace transceivers, thus forming the hive mind. (VOY: "Infinite Regress", "Dark Frontier"; ENT: "Regeneration")
When equipped with an eyepiece, a drone had the ability to see everything within the EM spectrum, similar to a Federation VISOR, as well as view the nanoscale, the size of molecules, analyze every facet and dimension of any object in perfect detail, and save perfect representations of those objects in physical memory. (TNG: "I Borg")
A drone also had a personal force field which protected itself from particle beam weapons such as phasers. (TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds"; VOY: "Unity", "Scorpion", "Scorpion, Part II", "Dark Frontier"; Star Trek: First Contact)
The force field could adapt itself to counteract the threat the drone was experiencing. (Star Trek: First Contact)
Lily Sloane, a human observer local to Earth of the 21st century, characterized Borg drones as "bionic zombies" after hearing a description of them, albeit before observing them directly. (Star Trek: First Contact)
A Borg drone needed to periodically regenerate in specially fitted alcoves to "feed" its organic and cybernetic parts. The organic components of a drone were fed by their implants, which synthesized organic molecules. The implants, in turn, received energy from the drone's alcove during its regeneration cycle. However, if necessary, a drone could go without regeneration for at least two hundred hours. (VOY: "Hunters")
When regenerating, Borg drones shut down all non-essential bodily systems, such that their entire metabolism became integrated with the power system and distribution network aboard their ship, thus merging their life signs into their vessel. (TNG: "Q Who")
A Borg drone, or former drone, did not react well to long periods of isolation. This is because they were accustomed to being part of the Collective, especially when the drone in question was assimilated at a young age. (VOY: "One")
Borg drones have also shown to be seemingly incapable of running. Rather than running towards the target, they tend to calmly walk towards them in an effort to assimilate them.
Following assimilation, a drone was given a designation appropriate to its function within the collective and position within its unimatrix. For example, the third drone in a group of nine assigned to one particular function may be given the designation "three of nine" or "third of nine". (VOY: "Infinite Regress", "Dark Frontier", "Survival Instinct")
Borg drone technology
- Assimilation tubule (Injection tubule)
- Cortical implant
- Extraction tubule
- Forced plasma beam
- Proximity transceiver
- Vocal subprocessor
- DS9: "Emissary"
- Star Trek: First Contact
- "Blood Fever"
- "Scorpion, Part II"
- "The Raven" (hallucinations)
- "Living Witness" (holograms)
- "One" (hallucinations)
- "Hope and Fear"
- "Infinite Regress"
- "Dark Frontier"
- "Survival Instinct"
- "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy" (holograms)
- "Child's Play"
- "Unimatrix Zero"
- "Unimatrix Zero, Part II"
- "Flesh and Blood" (hologram)
- ENT: "Regeneration"
The original story concept for the Borg had described them as a race of insects, hence the term "drone". But due to budget constraints, this was changed to a race of cybernetic beings – Human-machine hybrids who had an insect-like social culture and a hive mentality in which the drones relentlessly carried out the commands of the collective. The first concept for the drone came from costume designer Durinda Rice Wood, who had sketched out a rough illustration showing a man in a suit with tubes running around it and plugged in at different spots. The sketches made it clear that the Borg look would have to be an integration of make-up and costume in a way that no other characters had been before. Illustrators David Fisher and Rick Sternbach also contributed their own designs for the Borg drone. (Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Continuing Mission, pp. 90-92; Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, p. 82)
The original helmets for the first drones seen in "Q Who" were actually fabricated in the makeup department while the wardrobe department was assembling the suits out of a dark, spandex-type fabric and metallic urethane. The two departments worked together initially, to make sure the helmet and suit designs integrated properly. (Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, p. 82)
The helmet headpieces were made out of foam rubber, cast from clay sculpture molds. Foam rubber was the material of choice so that the helmets would be comfortable for the actors to wear, especially on ten-hour-long shooting days. The helmets were then colored to match the dark costume. An important element of the helmets was that they not be full head coverings. They had to look like alien headpieces hardwired into the brain, not bathing caps. That was why, even from the beginning, the helmets only covered part of the skull, leaving other areas exposed. When the helmets were completed and in place, clamps were then attached to the headpiece for the tubing that was already sewn into the suits to be run around the actor's body and attached to the helmet. With that in place, the makeup artist attached the unique bits of the machinery parts that helped to individualize each drone. (Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, pp. 82-83)
Originally, the parts were fabricated out of urethane, but eventually the makeup department started experimenting with other materials, such as old parts torn out of electric equipment and pieces of motors. These odds-and-ends parts actually looked hi-tech, but reinforced the factory assembly-line look of the drones. At the same time, it added to the distinctive look each drone had, meaning no two looked identical. (Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, p. 83)
To make the drone costume even more machine-like, every time the costume left an exposed part of the body, the makeup artist would run one of the tubes directly into it. To make the tube insertion look realistic, the artists created a latex appliance that looked like a bullet hole and glued it directly to the actor's skin. They then glued the tube to the appliance. (Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, p. 83)
From the initial appearance of the Borg, the makeup department realized the drones' skin tone had to match that of the "walking dead" feel that defines the drone behavior. The makeup base they chose was a product from William Tuttle's Custom Color Cosmetics, in a shade called Shibui. The makeup department wanted a dead white look that blocked out all of the actor's skin tones. The Borg had to appear zombie-like on camera so that the audience would know, viscerally as well as intellectually, that the drones were devoid of any individuality and reason, responsive only to their programming. Before applying the base coat, the makeup artist glued the small foam latex plugs to the skin for tube attachments. The Shibui base coat was then applied, and the actor's face was shaded to give him a skull-like appearance. (Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, p. 83)
After "The Best of Both Worlds", the makeup department decided to utilize airbrush techniques for the drone makeup. This was first used in "I Borg" but quickly became standard throughout the course of The Next Generation due to the speed at which it could be applied and its ability to "individualize" each drone, showcasing the many different races that the Borg had assimilated. Once the base makeup had been applied, the actors would line up, like an assembly line, to be airbrushed. Make-Up Supervisor Michael Westmore then started shadowing the eyes and the sides of the neck where the helmet met with the face. He then worked on the cheek bones and finally the backs of the head. He liked the use of airbrushing as a technique for a number of reasons. "It gave me greater control over the final appearance of the character," he explained, "and was much faster for me to move down the assembly line than to give specific directions to individual artists." Westmore used ComArt's transparent smoke gray because it gave the right shadowing and still rendered a cadaver-like appearance for the drones. (Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, p. 84)
The drones went through a number of modifications through subsequent seasons of The Next Generation. "We not only had Borg mob scenes, but we had to Borg-ify Patrick Stewart with special electronics such as his laser headpiece," recalled Westmore. "By the time we were creating Third of Five for 'I Borg', we were using airbrush techniques and even more elaborate headpieces.". (Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, p. 84)
The look of the Borg drone was changed further still for their appearance on the big screen in Star Trek: First Contact. The first thing that Rick Berman wanted to change was the Borg helmet, so as to reveal the supposed biomechanical components underneath. As Michael Westmore recalled, "Instead of having an entire helmet, now we have these individual pieces that are on the head, so you get this bald look. That way the pieces look like they're clamped into the head individually, instead of being a full cap that pulls over the top." (Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Continuing Mission, pp. 245 & 248)
This change in appearance presented an issue when the drones were to return in Star Trek: Voyager, which had a tighter budget. Initially, because the Borg heads were encased in a helmet that was pre-painted, the only thing makeup had to do was the facial makeup. The tubing, the attachments, and the hand appliances were all prefabricated and had only to be fitted into place. This made the makeup job relatively simple and only took half an hour to complete. With the First Contact drones, makeup took around five hours to complete, down to four hours by the sixth season of Voyager. (Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, p. 159)
Indeed, much of the Borg makeup and costumes used in Voyager first appeared in First Contact. (Delta Quadrant, p. 188)
The heap of Borg corpses seen in "Scorpion" was not an on-set element but was filmed using a pile of Playmates Toys, and later added in post-production. Visual Effects Producer Dan Curry later recalled, "We didn't have the budget or the time to create full-scale body chunks, because of the cost and time it would take to do that. So, I asked our licensing department for a bunch of Borg toy action figures [....] And kudos to the person who sculpted those toys, because the detail – especially the facial detail – was so good that I was able to take the toy action figures, cut them up with a Dremel cutting tool, and then I stacked them up with hot glue and shot them at home against a little bluescreen cove." To complete the scene in which the away team members from Voyager pass the pile of corpses, the live-action footage that Dan Curry had already shot of the actors was composited together with the Borg drone models. Curry remarked, "By compositing the stack of action figures, it looked very real. And the toy faces were sculpted so well that I was able to do close-ups on a [tiny] head, [...] filling the TV screen with them, and they looked very good. Of course, it was in kind of a smoky environment, but um.... So, the toys served us well and saved the production company lots of money." ("Red Alert: Amazing Visual Effects", VOY Season 3 DVD special feature) Visual Effects Supervisor Ronald B. Moore commented, "That was something we all knew immediately was perfect for Dan [....] He really had a lot of fun painting it, showing it to everybody. He'd come in and tell us, 'It's real disgusting now,' and he had a big smile on. It was great. We used it in a couple of shots, one with our crew, and one without." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 96)
Numerous Borg drone related items were sold off in the It's A Wrap! sale and auction, from concept sketches to costume and makeup parts to props used by drones across their many Star Trek appearances. 
Michael Westmore highly approved of the Borg makeup. When asked to identify his favorite of the Star Trek makeup designs he had done, he noted, "The Borg were interesting, and the evolution of the Borg." However, Westmore also specified that they weren't the aliens he enjoyed the most (giving that distinction to the Cardassians). (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue 103, p. 15)
In the comic book An Inconvenient Truth, the Starfleet conspiracy that is later discovered by the crew of the USS Enterprise-D in 2370 stores a Borg drone and Borg alcove in its secret facility near Earth.
Borg drones also make an appearance in the video game Star Trek: Voyager - Elite Force and its accompanying comic book Elite Force, in which they are vulnerable to the "Infinity Modulator", a weapon designed by Seven of Nine that continuously rotates its modulation to prevent adaptation by Borg shielding. In the sequel Star Trek: Elite Force II, the introductory level features a boss battle with an enhanced Borg drone featuring increased shielding, weaponry and the ability to transport itself from location to location.
Borg drone are also featured on numerous cards within the Star Trek Customizable Card Game.
- Borg at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- Borg drone at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- Drone at Wikipedia
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