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The discovery of an injured adolescent Borg brings to the surface hard feelings for both Captain Picard and Guinan for what the Borg Collective had done to them. Matters are complicated when plans to use the young Borg to destroy his people are halted when it is discovered that the Borg has become an individual.



"Captain's log, stardate 45854.2. The Enterprise is charting six star systems that make up the Argolis Cluster, an area being considered for colonization."

While exploring an uncharted system, the USS Enterprise-D receives a strange signal from a nearby moon. Believing it to be a distress call, Captain Picard sends an away team to the surface. There, Commander Riker, Worf and Dr. Crusher find a crashed starship, as well as several Borg corpses. Under the debris lies an unconscious, but very much alive, Borg.

Act One[]

When Commander Riker informs the captain of what they have found, Picard immediately prepares to bring the team back. However, Dr. Crusher disagrees, knowing the Borg will not survive if left unattended. Naturally, Worf suggests they kill it at once and make it appear it died in the crash, but Picard agrees to bring it on board for a brief time. A holding cell is prepared and La Forge has a subspace dampening field placed around it, to prevent the Borg from using a homing signal to communicate with its brethren. Picard retires to his ready room, as the team and the Borg are transported aboard, despite Crusher's protestations to treat the Borg in sickbay, not a holding cell. Counselor Troi follows, concerned that Picard is reliving old feelings from his capture by the Borg, but Picard reassures her that he's doing just fine and that he is perfectly comfortable with his decision.

Meanwhile, Crusher tends to the still-unconscious Borg. Some of his Borg implants have been damaged, but La Forge believes he'll be able to replace them without much trouble. Picard asks La Forge if he can access the root commands of the Borg with the new implants, in order to introduce an invasive program (topological anomaly), which would function as a slow-acting virus to destroy the entire Borg Collective from within. "You make it sound as if it's a disease", Crusher says. "Quite right, Doctor. If all goes well, a terminal one", Picard states.

Act Two[]

Riker and Crusher argue about destroying the Borg

"You don't kill civilians indiscriminately."
"There are no civilians among the Borg."

The crew think it would be a matter of months from the introduction of the program to the destruction of the Borg. Crusher seems to be the only one who is unsettled by this, as it appears to be pure genocide. Picard agrees that their plan would normally be unthinkable but claims that the Borg, and who they are, have left them no other choice. Riker also states that Humanity is at war with the Borg and Picard states that they must do anything they can to survive. Crusher notes that there has been no formal declaration of war but Troi notes that there has been from the Borg, as they have attacked them at every encounter. Shortly thereafter, the Borg regains consciousness and explores its small cell. It searches for a terminal with which to contact the Collective, but it can't find one. Crusher theorizes that the Borg hungers for energy, so La Forge prepares a power conduit on which it can feed. As he works, Crusher observes that the Borg almost seems scared to be so alone.

In the meantime, Picard and Guinan fence, both physically and verbally. While Crusher disagrees with Picard on the introduction of the virus, Guinan suggests the danger of having the Borg on board at all is greater than he knows. When Picard cites humanitarian reasons, Guinan demonstrates the danger by suckering Picard into an easy defeat during another round of fencing.

Worf and La Forge enter the cell and set the Borg up with a power conduit. The Borg calls himself "Third of Five," but shows no real gratitude or Humanity whatsoever, merely repeating over and over, "You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile." La Forge and Worf finish their work and leave the Borg alone.

Act Three[]

Some time later, La Forge and Crusher prepare to give the Borg perception tests in a science lab, when Crusher voices a great dislike for the proceedings. The Borg is beamed into their science lab and introduced to Crusher. After a brief discussion of how and why she saved its life and a mention of the upcoming tests, the conversation turns to names. Crusher explains that she and La Forge have names, not designations. During the conversation, the Borg believes he is being called "Hugh" (in reality, La Forge was saying "you") and the name sticks.

Hugh passes a spatial acuity test with flying colors and La Forge realizes it is because of Hugh's prosthetic eye. Hugh placidly hands over the prosthetic for examination and listens to Crusher explain that Humanity doesn't want to be assimilated. This puzzles Hugh, because he no longer hears the "voices" of other Borg that permeate his existence under normal circumstances. Crusher sympathizes with Hugh's feeling of loneliness and La Forge tells him that, after the tests are done, Hugh can be returned to the Collective, although he knows it will not be what Hugh is thinking.

After talking with Hugh, La Forge has begun to have second thoughts about their plan, so he voices them to Guinan at the bar in Ten Forward. Contrary to her normally sympathetic attitude, Guinan is completely closed off to him. She warns him what the other Borg are capable of and dismisses his soul-searching. When La Forge suggests she go and talk to Hugh, she refuses. "Then just listen; that is what you do best, isn't it?" La Forge replies. In the meantime, long-range sensors pick up a Borg scout ship about thirty-one hours away.

Act Four[]

Guinan reluctantly visits Hugh in his cell and angrily informs him that "resistance is not futile." As she describes the El-Aurians' struggle against the Borg, she laments how few of her kind are left, scattered throughout the galaxy. Processing this, Hugh realizes that Guinan, like him, is lonely. For once, Guinan is speechless.

On hearing that the Federation wants to learn about other species, Hugh observes that assimilation allows the Borg to learn everything about a species. He fails to understand why Humans do not wish to be assimilated, prompting La Forge to talk of individuality and having a sense of self and how he would rather die than lose that. Hugh listens to La Forge's explanations and when La Forge describes friendship, he observes that their current relationship fits the description.

Later, La Forge and Data present the invasive program (topological anomaly) to an impressed Picard in the observation lounge. However, La Forge voices his newfound doubt about the plan, observing how un-Borg-like Hugh is now. It doesn't feel right to him to use Hugh as an instrument of genocide, but Picard likens La Forge's attitude to that of 20th century scientists growing attached to laboratory animals. Picard coldly notes that this would become a problem when the experiments involved the scientists killing the animals. He orders La Forge to "unattach" himself from Hugh.

That evening, Guinan visits Picard in his quarters. After they exchange some small talk, she expresses her own doubts about the morality of Picard's plan. She suggests that at the very least, Picard should talk to Hugh before committing to the plan before he regrets what he is about to do.

Picard seems unmoved, but he later has Hugh beamed directly to his ready room, along with Worf. Picard dismisses Worf and Hugh recognizes Picard as Locutus of Borg, so Picard plays along, attempting to bring out Hugh's full Borg-like nature. Instead, it brings out Hugh's individuality. The thought of La Forge and the others being assimilated seems to frighten Hugh, who has developed feelings of his own and refuses to help assimilate them. Most moving to Picard is Hugh's sudden grasp and use of the word "I".

Act Five[]

Picard is shocked and calls a staff meeting to explore other options. The crew eventually decide that, although the Borg would more than likely erase Hugh's memory of recent events, there might be a short time in which Hugh's "singularity" would affect the entire Collective consciousness, perhaps altering the nature of the Borg forever. Their plan is shattered when Crusher asks what will happen if Hugh doesn't want to leave.

Picard and La Forge let Hugh choose his fate, which confuses Hugh. Picard explains that Hugh could seek asylum aboard the Enterprise instead of returning to the Collective. Although he wants to stay with La Forge, he concludes that it would be too dangerous for his new friends. It would appear that while Hugh has gained a sense of self, he has also maintained a sense of selflessness. When they beam Hugh back to the moon where they found him, Picard allows La Forge to go as well, knowing the Borg ignore individuals who pose no threat. Picard says goodbye to Hugh and he tells the captain that he does not want to forget his individuality. Meanwhile, the Enterprise hides in the star's chromosphere. Two Borg beam to the surface and link with Hugh. The Borg then reclaim the circuits from their fallen comrades and return to their ship, but as the beam whisks them away, Hugh gives a slight, but noticeable farewell nod to La Forge.

Memorable quotes[]

"Away team, prepare to return to the ship!"
"Captain, we can't leave him here. He won't survive."
"I think the captain understands that."
"I don't."

- Picard, after Crusher, Riker, and Worf discover Third of Five, a Borg

"Kill it now! Make it appear that it died in the crash."

- Worf, on Third of Five

"Infect it? You make sound as if it's a disease."
"Quite right, Doctor. If all goes well… a terminal one."

- Dr. Crusher and Picard

"I just think we should be clear about that. We're talking about annihilating an entire race."
"Which under most circumstances would be unconscionable, but as I see it, the Borg leave us with little choice."

- Crusher and Picard, debating returning Third of Five back to the Borg with an invasive program that would destroy the Collective

"When I look at my patient, I don't see a collective consciousness, I don't see a hive. I see a living, breathing boy who has been hurt and who needs our help."

- Dr. Crusher

"You felt sorry for me. Look what it got you."

- Guinan, after besting Picard at fencing by feigning injury and referring to the danger of helping the lone Borg

"We are Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile."
"Just look around, pal. You're hardly in a position to make any demands."

- Third of Five and La Forge

"You will be assimilated."
"Yes, but before that happens, could we ask you a few questions?"

- Third of Five and La Forge, before La Forge starts testing

"Let me tell you something, when this kid's big brothers come looking for him, they're not gonna stop until they find him. And they'll come looking for us, and they will destroy us. And they will not do any of the soul-searching that you're doing now."
"So why don't you go and talk to him? It might not be so clear-cut then."
"Because I wouldn't have anything to say."
"Then why don't you just listen? That is what you do best, isn't it?"

- Guinan and La Forge talk about his second thoughts on the invasive program for Hugh

"If you are going to use this person–"
"It's not a person, damn it! It's a Borg!"
"If you are going to use this person to destroy his race, you should at least look him in the eye once before you do it. Because I am not sure he is still a Borg."

- Guinan and Picard, about Hugh

"Resistance… is not futile?"

- Hugh, to Guinan

"Captain, I do not want to forget that I am Hugh."

- Hugh to Picard, before beaming back down to the crash site

Background information[]

Production history[]

Story and script[]


Cast and characters[]

Lederman directing del Arco

Robert Lederman directing Jonathan Del Arco

  • Jeri Taylor likened Hugh to the titular character of the film Edward Scissorhands, a characterization that influenced both casting and Robert Lederman's later direction. Almost thirty actors auditioned before Jonathan Del Arco won the part. (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 260)
  • Del Arco was a fan of Star Trek: The Original Series while growing up, and jumped at a chance to be on The Next Generation. He had auditioned for the role of Wesley Crusher, but when it was given to Wil Wheaton he was so disappointed that he refused to watch "The Next Generation" until he got the chance to guest star on it. He joked that prior to taking the assignment, a friend warned him that he would be asked about it for years afterwards, which indeed proved to be the case. (Intergalactic Guest Stars, TNG Season 5 DVD special features)
  • During filming, Lederman worked with Del Arco to create a "Borg meter" to reflect where Hugh was in his personal evolution, with "one" being all Borg and "ten" being nearly Human. Lederman remembered, "In every scene, we had a numerable for where he was on the scale. During rehearsal, if I said, 'Jonathan, you're at six – we need you to be at eight,' he immediately knew what I meant." (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 259)


  • This episode recalls Picard's experience spanning from "The Best of Both Worlds" to "Family".
  • The aftermath of Hugh's rejoining the Collective is revealed in "Descent" and "Descent, Part II". At the beginning of the Descent two-parter, Admiral Alynna Nechayev criticizes Picard's decision to revise the invasive program from the original plan. Hugh would also appear in the latter episode. The concept of Borg individuality is explored at length on Star Trek: Voyager with the character Seven of Nine.
  • This episode establishes that Borg are designated by numbers, in relation to small groups (ie, Third of Five, Seven of Nine, etc.). Hugh's designation, "Third of Five," is different from other Borg names (such as Seven of Nine) in that he uses the ordinal ("third") rather than the cardinal number ("three").
  • This episode marks another instance of Guinan using the term "scattered throughout the galaxy", in reference to her people. Other usages of the term were in the episodes "Q Who", and "The Best of Both Worlds".
  • The Argolis Cluster was later visited by the Enterprise-D in "True Q" and the USS Defiant in DS9's sixth season episode "Behind the Lines".


  • Rick Berman praised writer René Echevarria and director Robert Lederman. "The minute I saw the story I fell in love with it. The dramatic relationships are so vivid. Guinan, who comes from a people who were destroyed by the Borg, Picard who was brutalized and violated by the Borg – both are put in the position of being prejudiced. Geordi and Dr. Crusher are in the position of being open-minded and eventually sympathetic to this young man and the end result is a wonderful series of relationships and wonderful scenes between Guinan and the Borg […] The writing was wonderful and the acting great." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 246)
  • Jeri Taylor commented, "I think it will become a classic. I think it's a wonderful concept and it's just real special […] The Borg will never be the same again." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 246)
  • Jonathan Del Arco remarked, "All I had to go on as an actor was one of the best scripts I'd ever read. It was so – you read the script and it comes to life – I heard the voice in my head… It holds up the chalice of that highest moral that I think Gene Roddenberry meant the show to do – question, question, question, every step of the way." (Mission Overview: Year Five, TNG Season 5 DVD special features)
  • This episode was Michael Piller's favorite of the season. He called it "everything I want Star Trek to be". (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 202)
  • Piller stated, "I think it's just a great premise which forces both Guinan and Picard to confront their own prejudices. And you would think these are two characters who have none, but when it comes to the Borg the old issue is 'know your enemy.' It's a lot harder to hate them if you know them and it deals with the issue of what happens to these communal Borgs which cannot be treated as anything else but parts of the whole when one is separated and becomes an individual? I feel that if you take the unstoppable villain, the stereotype and you turn it inside out, that's great dramatic storytelling." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 246)
  • Piller noted that not all fans were as enthused with the episode. "There were some people who really felt that 'I Borg' betrayed the vision of the Borg because it humanized them more than they wanted to see. But I just think every time you can understand your enemy, those stories have a huge impact." (Mission Overview: Year Five, TNG Season 5 DVD special features)
  • In about early 1999, Susanna Thompson cited this as her favorite episode of Star Trek. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 121, p. 17)
  • Another person who was fond of this outing was J.M. Dillard. In her book Star Trek - Where No One Has Gone Before (paperback ed., p. 203), she characterized it as "moving."
  • A mission report for this episode by John Sayers was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 21, pp. 49-51.

Video and DVD releases[]

Links and references[]


Also starring[]

Guest star[]

And special guest star[]

Uncredited co-stars[]

Stunt doubles[]



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External links[]

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Star Trek: The Next Generation
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