(written from a Production point of view)
Q throws the Enterprise into uncharted space where it encounters and is engaged by a vessel of a previously unknown species: the Borg. When the vessel instantly and effortlessly overwhelms the Enterprise, Picard realizes that the Federation may not be as ready for the future as he thought.
New ensign Sonya Gomez orders a hot chocolate from a replicator in engineering. While doing so, La Forge passes, and the two converse, La Forge noting Gomez's polite manners toward the replicator, saying "please" and "thank you". As the two walk to main engineering, La Forge urges the talkative and enthusiastic Gomez to relax. After arriving, he notes to her that she is carrying food or drink in the premises of engineering, which is forbidden. As she turns around to put it away, she spills some all over Picard's uniform. La Forge accepts responsibility and Picard, though not entirely unvexed, welcomes Gomez to the ship.
Picard excuses himself to change his uniform. He walks to the nearest turbolift to get to his quarters. However, when the doors open again, he finds that the turbolift did not make it to his quarters, but is inside a shuttlecraft far away from the USS Enterprise-D. He quickly realizes that he has been kidnapped by Q. Picard reminds Q about their agreement from a year earlier, when Q agreed never to trouble Picard's ship again; Q points out that they are nowhere near the Enterprise. Q is, however, kind enough to clean Picard's uniform with his abilities.
In Ten Forward, La Forge and Gomez arrive and talk some more. Meanwhile, Guinan is tending to her regular duties. While talking to Martinez, she pauses and wanders around the room for a moment, before making contact with the bridge. Commander Riker answers and wonders what she wants. Guinan wonders if everything is fine with the bridge, since she felt something she only encountered long ago, but merely brushes it off and tells Riker to forget she called. Later, La Forge notices something is up with Guinan, and wonders if she's OK. She merely responds, "I don't know."
Meanwhile, in the shuttlecraft, Picard tries to make contact with Enterprise. However, Q tells him there is no point, since at the current distance, he will never reach Enterprise. Picard attempts to communicate anyway. Q explains that they have business to discuss, but Picard will not discuss anything with him, stating that keeping him prisoner will not convince him to listen to what Q has to say. Q merely says that he will, eventually.
Counselor Troi walks onto the bridge, and wonders where Captain Picard is. When she hears he is in his quarters, she decides to contact him, but there is no response. Riker asks the ship's computer, but according to it, Picard is nowhere to be found. Furthermore, Lieutenant Worf reports that a shuttlecraft is missing from the shuttlebay. With the captain missing, Riker orders Wesley to put a stop to the ship. They hail the shuttle on all frequencies, but there is no response. In fact, there is no trace of a shuttle anywhere in the sector.
- "First officer's log, Stardate 42761.3. We have not been able to determine why or how Captain Picard left the Enterprise. We can't even be certain he is in the missing shuttle although that is the assumption on which we are proceeding. For the last six hours, we've been searching without success."
While the Enterprise continues to search for Picard and the missing shuttlecraft, Picard demands Q to return him to the ship. Eventually, he agrees to give Q's request a full hearing and in a flash, they're back on the Enterprise, and the shuttle is back in place. Worf reports that the shuttlecraft has returned, and the computer tells the crew that Picard is in Ten Forward, allowing Riker to conclude that Q has returned.
Guinan immediately confronts Q, revealing to Picard that they know one another, and not in a friendly way. Q calms down and expresses his desire to join the Enterprise crew, after being cast out from the Q Continuum. Skeptical, Picard refuses his request, especially after he put the crew on trial for the crimes of Humanity and asked Riker to join the Continuum. Q argues that they need him since they are not prepared for what awaits them. Picard claims that they are ready to confront the unknown, and Guinan adds that the Humans' ability to adapt is their great advantage.
Q, in rebuttal, seeks to test how prepared they are, and throws the Enterprise seven thousand light years into uncharted space, to give them "a preview of things to come" upon which he disappears. Guinan advises Picard to return to Federation space as quickly as possible, but he decides to explore the nearby System J-25 first.
- "Captain's Log, Stardate 42761.9. Despite Guinan's warning, I feel compelled to investigate this unexplored sector of the galaxy before heading back."
A survey of the only class M planet in the system reveals that while there was once an industrialized civilization there, it has been ripped away from the planet, "identical to what happened to the outposts along the Neutral Zone." A cube-shaped ship then approaches the Enterprise, and scans of the ship show nothing. Picard asks Guinan for her advice, and she reveals that the ship belongs to the Borg – a cybernetic race who were responsible for the near-extinction of her people. "Protect yourself, captain," she advises, "or they'll destroy you."
Picard and Worf arrive with a security team and see the Borg apparently making a survey of the ship. Q appears for a brief moment and warns Picard that it's not interested in Human lifeforms, only the ship's technology. Before leaving, he advises the captain not to allow it to interfere with the operations of the Enterprise. When the Borg attempts to do so, Picard orders Worf to stop it. A security officer tries to drag it away, only to be hurled clear across the room.
Worf then tries to stun it with his phaser, to no avail, and is forced to increase the phaser to full power. They successfully destroy the Borg, but almost instantly another is beamed aboard in its place. Worf again attempts to destroy it, but shields form around it, protecting the Borg. It tampers with the same engineering console, then turns and removes some components from the dead Borg before it is beamed back to the cube and the corpse disappears.
Picard holds a conference, in which Guinan further details what the Borg are, and how they destroyed her people. She advises them that the Borg do not negotiate with people, at which point they hail the Enterprise. Picard tries to reason with them, but the Borg voice completely ignores him and simply informs the crew that they will not be able to defend themselves against the Borg ship, threatening to "punish" them if they attempt to do so. Troi tells Picard that every Borg is part of the same mind, and that they have no distinct leader.
The Borg lock onto the Enterprise with a tractor beam that drains their shields and prevents the ship from moving. The Borg then use a cutting beam to slice a section out of the Enterprise hull, and all eighteen crewmembers in that section are vaporized. Picard orders Worf to use whatever force is necessary to sever the Borg's beam, and they are ultimately successful after three phaser attacks, which blast several craters into the surface of the Borg ship.
Q shows up at another crew meeting in the observation lounge, telling them that the Borg are not concerned with the crew nor the Federation, only the Enterprise and how they can use her technology. Picard asks him to reveal that this is just another illusion, only for Q to respond that the situation is perfectly real as everything else before vanishing. With the ship temporarily immobilized by the damage, Picard sends over an away team consisting of Riker, Worf, and Data in an attempt to learn more about the Borg over Guinan's strong objections.
- "Captain's Log, supplemental. We have been attacked without provocation by an alien race which Guinan calls the Borg. It appears that we have neutralized their vessel. Commander Riker is leading an away team in an attempt to learn more about them."
The away team discover the ship to be full of Borg, most of whom are in stasis. The few active Borg take no notice to the team, or are ignoring them. The away team then finds what they believe to be a Borg nursery, where the Borg are born as biological lifeforms, and, immediately after birth, they begin growing artificial, cybernetic implants. What Riker finds astounding is that the Borg have developed the technology to link artificial intelligence directly into the humanoid brain.
Data notices that the Borg seem to be using their combined mental powers to repair the ship, which is why the team has not been attacked. Picard has them beamed back to the bridge, and says "Let's get the hell out of here". They start leaving at warp 8, but the Borg follow with ease. Q appears on the bridge, warning the crew that the Borg will not stop until they have them in their grasp. He even says to Picard, "You should have stayed where you belonged."
- "Captain's Log, supplemental. We are unable to maintain the gap between the Enterprise and the Borg ship."
They increase to maximum warp, but still have no success in escaping. Riker orders them to arm photon torpedoes and Picard gives the order to fire, but the torpedoes have no effect. The Borg ship, after getting within firing range, fires a shield-draining missile twice and the Enterprise, now with very low shields, fires torpedoes again, with the same result.
Q then makes the Borg threat perfectly clear to Picard: "You can't outrun them, you can't destroy them. If you damage them the essence of what they are remains; they regenerate and keep coming. Eventually you will weaken, your reserves will be gone... They are relentless."
The Borg fire twice more and the Enterprise loses both shields and warp drive. The cube re-engages their tractor beam and holds the Enterprise. Riker orders Worf to prepare to launch another spread of photon torpedoes but Data warns that at close range, without the protection of their shields, it is highly likely that a photon detonation will destroy the Enterprise. Picard nods in approval as Riker orders Worf to prepare to fire.
Q prepares to leave the crew to their fate as Picard implores him to end the confrontation. Q asks the captain why he should and Picard appeals to Q's vanity. If they are destroyed, Q will not be able to gloat. Picard admits that they are frightened and that Q has – for the moment – shown them to be inadequate. Picard simply says that he needs Q's help. With a snap of his fingers, Q flings the Enterprise away from the Borg ship and back into Federation space. He congratulates Picard for admitting his need for help, claiming that "another man would have been humiliated to say those words." Picard is still upset about the loss of eighteen of his crew, but Q is unapologetic, telling him that the universe is not a safe place before disappearing. The Enterprise sets course for the nearest starbase.
Reflecting upon events in Ten Forward with Picard, Guinan says that the encounter with the Borg happened before it should have. She believes that at some point, perhaps it might be possible for the Federation to establish some kind of communication between them and the Borg, but, for the time being, they are just raw material to be consumed. Guinan begins, "Since they are aware of your existence..." "...they will be coming," Picard continues. Guinan ominously warns, "You can bet on it." Picard comments that perhaps Q did the right thing for the wrong reasons, to shake Humanity out of its complacency for whatever lies ahead.
Memorable quotes Edit
"To learn about you is, frankly, provocative. But you're next of kin to chaos."
- - Picard, to Q, when he asks to join the crew of the Enterprise
"Picard, you are about to move into areas of the galaxy filled with wonders you cannot possibly imagine. And terrors to freeze your soul!"
- - Q, to Picard in Ten Forward
"Ah, the redoubtable Commander Riker! And Microbrain! Growl for me; let me know you still care!"
- - Q, to Riker and Worf in Ten Forward
"Interesting, isn't it? Not a he, not a she, not like anything you've ever seen before. An enhanced humanoid."
- - Q, describing a Borg to Picard
"Guinan? Is that your name now?"
- - Q, after meeting Guinan again in Ten Forward
"Admit it, Picard. You're out of your league. You should have stayed where you belong!"
- - Q, when the Enterprise is being chased by the Borg cube
"We have analyzed your defensive capabilities as being unable to withstand us. If you defend yourselves, you will be punished."
- - The Borg's only message to the Enterprise
"We mean you no harm. Do you understand me?"
"'Understand' you? You're nothing to him."
- - Picard and Q, after a Borg beams into engineering
"He might try to take over the ship. I wouldn't let him!"
- - Q, commenting to Picard about the Borg intruder
"Why? Why, to give you a taste of your future, a preview of things to come. Con permiso, capitán? The hall is rented, the orchestra engaged. It's now time to see if you can dance."
- -Riker and Q, before Q leaves after sending the Enterprise to J-25
"Q... end this."
"Moi? What makes you think I'm either inclined or capable to terminate this encounter?"
"If we all die here, now, you will not be able to gloat. You wanted to frighten us. We're frightened. You wanted to show us we were inadequate. For the moment, I grant that. You wanted me to say 'I need you'? I need you!"
- - Picard and Q, about the pursuing Borg
"That was a difficult admission. Another man would have been humiliated to say those words. Another man would have rather died than ask for help."
"I understand what you've done here, Q, but I think the lesson could've been learned without the loss of eighteen members of my crew."
"If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid."
- - Q and Picard
"The Borg are the ultimate user. They're unlike any threat your Federation has ever faced. They're not interested in political conquest, wealth, or power as you know it. They're simply interested in your ship, its technology. They've identified it as something they can consume."
- - Q, commenting during a senior staff briefing
"Eighteen of our people have died. Please, tell us this is one of your illusions."
"Oh, no. This is as real as your so-called life gets."
- - Picard and Q
"You judge yourselves against the pitiful adversaries you've encountered so far: the Romulans, the Klingons. They're nothing compared to what's waiting."
- - Q to Picard in Ten Forward
"Are we going to stay out here for years? Decades? I'm ageless Picard; you're not."
- - Q, to Picard
Background information Edit
Production history Edit
- Revised final draft script: 24 February 1989 
- Filming begins: 27 February 1989 ("Lost and Found", Star Trek Magazine issue 147)
- First day of filming the Borg: 2 March 1989 ("Lost and Found", Star Trek Magazine issue 147)
- Storyboards, by Dan Curry, for visual effects shots of the Enterprise battling a Borg cube: 16 March 1989
- Premiere airdate: 8 May 1989
- First UK airdate: 7 August 1991
Story and script Edit
- Initially conceived by writer Maurice Hurley as a race of insectoids, Hurley had originally planned the season one episode "The Neutral Zone" to be the first part in a trilogy that would introduce an entirely new threat to the Federation, introducing a plot point that Federation and Romulan starbases along the Romulan Neutral Zone had been mysteriously wiped out. This was intended to lead into a series of episodes that would have introduced the Borg as a main villain in the wake of the Ferengi's complete failure to meet with audience expectations of a major Starfleet antagonist. Unfortunately, the Writer's Guild strike of 1988 prevented this, as well as many other concepts, from coming to fruition in TNG's early days.
- By the time they made their first appearance in "Q Who", the villain species had been changed from insect to the more budget-friendly cyborg form. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, pp. 169, 180) Hurley finally got to proceed with his planned sequel with "Q Who", although only one passing reference was made of the strange destruction of outposts referred to in "The Neutral Zone", by Data stating, "It is identical to what happened to the outposts along the Neutral Zone."  Not everyone picked up on the reference, partly due to the absence of the Romulans from the storyline, but they are mentioned when Q says, "You judge yourselves against the pitiful adversaries you have so far encountered – the Romulans, the Klingons, are nothing compared to what's waiting." 
- This is the only Q episode that Maurice Hurley wrote. Stated Melinda M. Snodgrass, "Maurice Hurley always thought Q was here to teach us a lesson, to guide and instruct us." (The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years, p. 107)
The Borg Edit
- Budget constraints kept the Borg from being depicted as insectoids as Maurice Hurley had originally intended, though the hive concept survived to become the overwhelming group mind known as the Collective. Costume designer Durinda Rice Wood's first idea for the Borg was kind of like a reptile spine look. In addition, the Borg's unique, cube-shaped ship, and their eerie appearance – reminiscent of both the biomechanism designs of H.R. Giger and the cybernetic, laser-eyed Lord Dread from the 1987 syndicated series Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future – all contributed to the Borg ascending to the height of Star Trek villainy, exactly as intended.
- Hurley worked together with Rick Berman and Gene Roddenberry to create the Borg, whose name was derived from "cyborg", meaning cybernetic organism. The Borg were intended to provide the series with what the Ferengi had failed to deliver – a deadly, remorseless enemy that could not be reasoned with or defeated.
- And exactly because of their powerful nature, the Borg would appear in only five further episodes through the run of The Next Generation. The producers stated that their infrequent appearance was due to their inability to find ways to defeat the Borg (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion). However, just as Khan returned to battle Kirk in the second Star Trek film, the Borg would also make the transition to the big screen in the second The Next Generation feature.
- The graphics displayed on monitors in the Borg alcoves were referred to as "Borg Spaghetti" by the production staff.
- The Borg Collective voice heard in the episode was synthesized from the voices of Maurice Hurley, director Rob Bowman and Bowman's assistant.
- While it is not explicitly stated in this episode, the overall ambition of the Borg seems to be the acquisition of technology, not the assimilation of other species as in later episodes. While "The Best of Both Worlds", the next episode to feature the Borg, dealt with this changed premise by stating in dialogue that their objectives had changed, subsequent Borg episodes would ignore it entirely.
- The Borg cube has a different appearance than the cubes used in Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Voyager, and the Borg seen here also have simplified clothing compared to later appearances in The Next Generation and other series. Obviously this is explained by budget constraints and advances in makeup that were made after this episode was produced.
- ENT: "Regeneration" and VOY: "Dark Frontier" indicate that not only was Earth Starfleet previously aware of the existence of the Borg, Federation scientists actually pursued them – even if they were considered mere rumor. While it is not impossible to imagine that Humans might have been aware of the Borg prior to "Q Who" (especially considering the events of 2293 (Star Trek Generations) and the time travel events of Star Trek: First Contact), it is nonetheless a strange continuity situation.
Cast and characters Edit
- This episode featured the first of two appearances of Sonya Gomez, who was initially intended to be a comedic recurring character, but dropped after "Samaritan Snare". Gomez later became the lead character in the non-canon Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers series of novels.
- Diana Muldaur (Katherine Pulaski) does not appear in this episode.
Special and visual effects Edit
- The complexity and cost of The Next Generation's visual effects sequences demanded detailed planning before a single frame was shot. As the visual effects supervisor for the first episode to feature the Borg, Dan Curry created these storyboards as a blueprint of the Enterprise-D's first engagement with a Borg cube. The frames from the completed episode show how closely the visual effects team followed the storyboards.
- Two sound effects are introduced in this episode and used for the rest of the series: 1) the "click/snap" effect when the main view screen is magnified; and 2) the "trigger" effect when the ship's weapons are fired.
- Ron Jones happened to compose the score for this first episode to feature the Borg before doing the music to "The Best of Both Worlds" and "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II" and after scoring "The Neutral Zone", which hinted at their existence from the start.
- This episode marks the only time Guinan's office is seen.
- This episode refers to events of previous episodes, Q's trial ("Encounter at Farpoint"), his return when Riker temporarily became a Q ("Hide and Q"), and the mysterious destruction of Romulan Neutral Zone outposts ("The Neutral Zone").
- The conflict between Q and Guinan, revealed in this episode but never fully explained, is revisited (with the tables turned) a year later in "Deja Q".
- Guinan's pose when first confronting Q is almost exactly the same as the one Whoopi Goldberg's character Celie uses when standing up to her abusive husband in the 1985 movie The Color Purple.
- In the observation lounge, for the only time during the series, the outline of the viewscreen behind Picard blinks red alert during the first senior staff conference. However, its sister viewscreen on the opposite side of the room, which displays the Borg's and Q's messages to the staff during the same conference, is not blinking.
- When Q is discussing time with Picard in the shuttlecraft, he is bouncing a ball in homage to Steve McQueen in The Great Escape.
- The drawer in which Riker finds the baby in is a Borg maturation chamber, in which assimilated children are placed until they are adults.
- It is later revealed that due to the events shown in Star Trek: First Contact, ENT: "Regeneration", and VOY: "Infinite Regress" the Borg already knew of Earth's existence and were on their way. This means Q's actions were an early warning for the Federation. Later, on Star Trek Voyager, Q would say if it wasn't for this early warning, the Federation would have been assimilated.
- During the Borg cube's first attack, the USS Enterprise-D attempts to disable its tractor beam with four phaser strikes. The first three shots miss the target by wide margins. This suggests a target lock malfunction in the saucer section's dorsal and ventral phaser arrays.
- The book Star Trek 101, by Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block, lists this episode as one of the "Ten Essential Episodes" from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- Director Rob Bowman later recalled, "That was a very abstract, almost avant-garde episode with Q and what he was trying to prove with the Enterprise, telling Picard to be aware because there are some bad-asses out there that you're not prepared for no matter what you think. This is just a lesson to you to keep your eyes and ears open because there are things out there that you don't understand, and here's an example. For television, it's big stuff, but in order to make big stuff, there's a lot of investment by everybody involved, and it all came together wonderfully." ("Rob Bowman – Director of a Dozen", The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 10, p. 19)
- A mission report for this episode by Will Murray was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 9, pp. 15-18.
- It is revealed in the novel Greater than the Sum that the eighteen crewmembers who disappeared during the Borg's slicing of the Enterprise-D's hull were actually assimilated.
- This episode won two Emmy Awards. Only four other episodes of Trek have won this many. It won for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series and Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Drama Series. It was also nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Special Visual Effects.
Video and DVD releases Edit
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 21, catalog number VHR 2504, 2 September 1991
- As part of the UK VHS collections Star Trek: The Next Generation - Q Continuum and Star Trek: The Next Generation - Borg Box: 5 December 1994
- As part of the US VHS collection Star Trek: The Next Generation - Q Continuum: 8 September 1998
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 2.6, catalog number VHR 4742, 21 June 1999
- As part of the TNG Season 2 DVD collection
- As part of the Star Trek: Fan Collective - Borg and Star Trek: Fan Collective - Q collections
- As part of the TNG Season 2 Blu-ray collection
Links and references Edit
Also starring Edit
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lt. Worf
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher
Guest stars Edit
And special guest star Edit
Uncredited co-stars Edit
- Majel Barrett as the USS Enterprise-D computer voice
- Rob Bowman as the Voice of the Borg
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Jeffrey Deacon as command division officer
- Mary Donatelli as Borg drone
- David Fisher as Borg drone
- Maurice Hurley as the Voice of the Borg
- Sam Klatman as Borg infant
- Lincoln Simonds as security officer
- Tim Trella as Borg drone
- Guy Vardaman as Darien Wallace
- Rob Bowman's assistant as the Voice of the Borg
- Unknown performers as
- James G. Becker – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Darrell Burris – stand-in for LeVar Burton
- Dexter Clay – stand-in for Michael Dorn
- Jeffrey Deacon – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- Nora Leonhardt – stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Tim McCormack – stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Guy Vardaman – stand-in for Wil Wheaton and John de Lancie
2165; 2265; artificial intelligence; beard; bloody nose; Borg; Borg alcove; Borg cube; Borg drone; Borg history; Borg missile; Borg nursery; class M; cortical array; cutting beam; El-Aurian; Enterprise-D shuttlecraft 06; Federation; French; homeless; hot chocolate; J-25 system; Klingons; locator beam; maturation chamber; microbrain; Milky Way Galaxy; number one; Q Continuum; Ranuos VI; roast; Romulans; Romulan Neutral Zone; Sector 30; Sector 31; Starbase 83; Starbase 173; Starbase 185; Starfleet Academy; three-dimensional chess; tractor beam; transporter; tricorder; type 7 shuttlecraft
Unused production references Edit
- Reeves-Stevens, Judith and Garfield, Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Continuing Mission (1997)
- Van Hise, James, Trek: The Unauthorized Behind-The-Scenes Story of The Next Generation (1992)
|TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint" • "Hide and Q" • "Q Who" • "Deja Q" • "Qpid" • "True Q" • "Tapestry" • "All Good Things..."|
|DS9: "Q-Less"||VOY: "Death Wish" • "The Q and the Grey" • "Q2"|
- "Q Who" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Q Who?" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Q Who" at Wikipedia
- "Q Who" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
| Previous episode:|
| Star Trek: The Next Generation|
| Next episode:|