Dark ‘Star Trek: Prodigy’ Theory About Zero Connects The Borg From ‘Voyager’ To ‘Picard’ And Beyond

The latest episode of Star Trek: Prodigy, “Let Sleeping Borg Lie,” did far more than introduce the show and new audiences to one of Star Trek’s most iconic villains, it changed what we understand of the future history of the Borg. There is a theory that the events of this episode connect the finale of Star Trek: Voyager to those of Star Trek: Picard and possibly beyond. This theory—with some dark implications—appears to have been confirmed by Prodigy’s lead writer.

2378: Janeway brings chaos to the Borg

Before getting into what happened in the latest episode of Prodigy, it’s worth going back to 2001 and “Endgame,” the series finale of Star Trek: Voyager. That episode featured an Admiral Janeway coming back from an alternate future to help her younger self and crew of the USS Voyager get home from the Delta Quadrant sooner than she had, with a little help from the Borg transwarp conduit network. The plan, which required Admiral Janeway to allow herself to be captured and assimilated by the Borg Queen, worked because she brought a little surprise along with her in the form of a neurolytic pathogen that infected the collective from within. This future tech disabled the collective’s ability to communicate, resulting in the destruction of the Queen, her central complex, and the transwarp network.

The Borg Queen feels the chaos from Janeway’s infection in “Endgame.”

2384: The Protostar finds a dormant Borg Cube

While Janeway appeared in the 2002 film Star Trek: Nemesis (set one year later) and namedropped the Borg, there were no details on the state of the collective. And while the Borg have been featured or been mentioned in more recent Trek series set further in the future (more on that later), the years immediately after the Voyager finale are unclear at best, which is what makes the latest episode of Prodigy so significant.

Set just six years after Voyager made it home, “Let Sleeping Borg Lie” featured the USS Protostar encountering a Borg cube in the Delta Quadrant. This is the first confirmed encounter with the Borg in official Star Trek canon (remember, books, games, and comics don’t count) following “Endgame.” When the Protostar is first made aware of the Borg cube via a proximity alert, Zero determines the “cube is dormant” and “the Borg are sleeping.” Hologram Janeway briefs the Protostar kids:

It seems this cube went dark for a reason. A neurolytic pathogen disabled their nanoprobes and shut down their drones.

The USS Protostar approaches a Borg cube in “Let Sleeping Borg Lie.”

2384: Zero’s assimilation wakes up the Borg cube

The implications of this line of dialogue are huge, at least when it comes to this cube, which appears to have been dormant since future admiral Janeway infected the collective. The Borg being “asleep” allowed the Protostar away team to safely board, hoping to get information stored in the Cube’s vinculum that might help them disable the Vau N’Akat weapon The Diviner implanted into the USS Protostar. In order to access the vinculum, the kids determined someone was going to have to plug into a Borg alcove and enter the collective.

Zero, a Medusan who has experience being part of a hive mind, volunteered. Once inside the collective, Zero was able to establish contact with the Borg, who were already aware of Medusans, designated as “Species 802.” The Borg welcome Zero with:

Your uniqueness is acknowledged here. Your distinctiveness will be added to our own.

Zero speaks to the Borg in “Let Sleeping Borg Lie”

2384: The cube goes dormant again… temporarily

The impact of the Borg is “overwhelming” to Zero and the Borg immediately start scanning the Protostar as Holo Janeway warns the crew that the Borg are “waking up.” It appears something about Zero—likely due to them being Medusan—helped awaken these Borg when they added Zero’s “uniqueness” and “distinctiveness” to the collective. This allowed the drones to go after the other kids, eventually capturing all but Gwyn. Finally awake, the Borg still seem limited as they don’t seem  able to use nanoprobes and resort to strapping the kids down for a more extended assimilation process. It appears that they hadn’t been able to reverse all the effects of future Janeway’s neurolytic pathogen… at least not yet.

Gwyn and the rest of the kids were able to break through to Zero, appealing to their love and friendship , somewhat like Data was able to break through to Jean-Luc Picard when he was assimilated in the TNG episode “Best of Both Worlds.” Like Data and Picard, Zero was able to put the rest of the Borg on the cube back to sleep, allowing the kids and USS Protostar to escape. However, Zero made it clear they were not able to put the Borg back into the same state they were left in by future Janeway’s pathogen six years earlier. Zero says:

I lured them into a dormant state, but it won’t hold for long.

Zero assimilated in “Let Sleeping Borg Lie”

2380s: A Borg cube assimilates a Romulan ship

On Prodigy, the Protostar leaves the cube behind and it does not pursue, leaving its fate unknown. The next known encounter with the Borg in Trek canon is told through backstory during the first season of Star Trek: Picard, set in the year 2399. At that time the Romulans were in possession of a former Borg cube (referred to as “The Artifact,” being kept at the Romulan reclamation site) that had been cut off from the collective after assimilating a Romulan scout ship in the 2380s. Without getting into deep detail about why (read about Ramdha and the Admonition on Memory Alpha) the key point is that there was an active Borg cube in the 2380s continuing to perform assimilation that was in touch with other Borg until this encounter caused a “submatrix collapse.” Therefore, the cube that eventually became the “Artifact” was not suffering the effects of the future Janeway’s neurolytic pathogen infection from 2378.

Ramdha from “The End is the Beginning”

The Theory: The Artifact is the same cube Zero woke up

While the timing of when the cube that became The Artifact was disabled is unclear, the latest episode of Prodigy may offer a clue. Assuming that the cube the USS Protostar encountered was typical, then the Borg Collective had been made dormant by future Janeway’s infection. Clearly, that particular cube was still dormant six years later, until Zero entered the cube’s collective and woke it up. Zero made it clear that putting the drones back into a dormant state was only temporary, meaning this cube was going to return to operation. Prodigy director and executive producer Ben Hibon offered another clue, revealing at NYCC that the second half of season two will include Romulans, indicating the Protostar (and therefore Borg cube they encountered) are near Romulan space. Even though it is difficult to compare animation to live-action visual effects, there is at least a strong resemblance between the cube seen on the latest Star Trek: Prodigy episode and The Artifact from Star Trek: Picard.

So to put it all together: The cube the Protostar discovered later encountered that Romulan scout ship. The cube from this week’s Prodigy cube is the Artifact from Picard. Even though it was again disabled, this time by assimilating Ramdha and her awareness of the Admonition, the damage was done; more Borg cubes had been re-activated thanks to Zero waking up that first cube.

The Artifact in “Remembrance”

It gets darker…

There are only a few snippets of information about The Borg after the 2380s, but it is clear they remained active into the late 24th century. In the Picard season 2 premiere (set in 2401), Dr. Jurati says, “The Borg we know have been effectively decimated, functionally hobbled.” Even if Zero awoke the Borg in 2384, the impact of Janeway’s 2378 infection of The Borg appears to have a lasting effect on the Collective—but “decimated and hobbled” is still more than totally dormant and disabled. In that same Picard  episode, Seven makes it clear the Borg are still considered a threat, pointing out there are “many in Starfleet who fear the Borg.” Seven spoke in the present tense about how the Borg “consume” and “assimilate,” indicating they remain dangerous in 2401. Starfleet clearly saw the Borg as a major power in the galaxy when they sent Admiral Picard to negotiate with a Borg entity that claimed to want to make an alliance, which Jurati said could make the Borg the “greatest ally the Federation may ever know.”

Seven talks about the Bog in “The Star Gazer.”

So again, everything the Borg did after 2384 was a direct result of the actions of Zero and the USS Protostar crew. They awoke a cube that awoke others. Even though that first cube may have been disabled later in the 2380s (becoming The Artifact), other Borg moved on, and even in their “hobbled” state were able to cause great harm to many. In Picard season 2, arguing against any alliance with the Borg, Seven reminded Admiral Picard that the Borg “wiped out entire races” and “killed tens of millions,” indicating they were still in the assimilation business in 2401, even if they were possibly isolated to parts of the Delta Quadrant and perhaps less organized.

The ripple effects of Zero awakening the Borg in 2384 may go on far, far longer. In the season 4 finale of Star Trek: Discovery (“Coming Home”), set in the year 3190, Ni’Var President T’Rina attempts to telepathically communicate with Species 10-C, saying she connected to “all of them,” and Federation President Rillak responds, asking if 10-C were “like the Borg.” While it’s possible Rillak was making a historical comparison, would she go back eight centuries for an analogy in the post-Burn era? The implication is that the Borg are still active as a collective in the 32nd century. While they have not succeeded in assimilating the entire galaxy, they are still known to the Federation and have likely caused harm to countless millions over the centuries.

And it’s all Zero’s fault.

Rillak mentions the Borg in “Coming Home.”

But what about Lower Decks?

There is a possible wrinkle in the theory, depending on how you view certain moments from Star Trek: Lower Decks, which is set between the Voyager finale in 2378 and Prodigy in 2384. In the season 2 episode “I, Excretus,” the Borg Queen returns (again voiced by Alice Krige) in a simulation called “Borg Encounter,” but it’s unclear if this program is a historical scenario or something that could be current. And in the season 3 episode “Reflections,” space archeologist Petra Aberdeen tries to dissuade some potential Starfleet recruits with “You want to be a Borg?”  and “Starfleet crews get assimilated all the time.” But it isn’t known how factual that statement was (as Aberdeen was trolling Mariner and Boimler at the Starfleet recruitment booth). Also, it isn’t clear how widely known the events of “Endgame” and the impact on the Borg are known to the general public or even Starfleet personnel in the immediate years after the return of the USS Voyager.

The Borg Queen in a simulation from “I, Excretus”

In fact, there’s a moment from Lower Decks that supports the theory: Season 2’s”wej Duj” ends with a brief shot on Borg Cube 90182, showing Borg drones in their alcoves. Presuming this scene is set at the same time as the rest of the episode, this Borg moment actually predates the episode of Prodigy by four years and supports the theory that all the Borg remained dormant following future Janeway’s pathogen attack in 2378.

The Borg on Star Trek: Lower Decks

Dormant Borg drones in “wej Duj”

Prodigy head writer says maybe Zero waking the Borg was a good thing

The idea that there is a connection between the cube seen in “Let Sleeping Borg Lie” and the Artifact from Picard has been suggested by some fans on social media. Prodigy head writer and co-executive producer Aaron Waltke weighed in, and while he hasn’t confirmed it, he gives the theory a “maybe,” even spelling out the possible string of events.

This topic was also discussed on the latest episode of TrekMovie’s All Access Star Trek podcast (recorded before the episode’s release), where Tony and Laurie noted that the actions of the Borg into the late 24th century and beyond were all Zero’s fault. This got the attention of Waltke, who responded on Twitter. While still not outright confirming the theory, Waltke pointed out if it were true, it was actually a good thing:

Do you see the connections?

Do you blame Zero for the return of the Borg? Do you see more connections? Let us know in the comments below.

Keep up with news about the Star Trek Universe at TrekMovie.com.

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Maybe. Maybe not. Could go either way. Guess we’ll see what the writers cook up next.

Once again, Prodigy demonstrates that it dominates all other current era shows in its mastery of and creative faithfulness towards canon.

No dancing between raindrops required.

There’s also a contemporary Borg cube shown in Lower Decks’ “wej Duj,’ but since they are only seen to be hibernating there’s no telling if it’s a cube disabled by the pathogen.

Indeed that moment can only enhance the theory. I guess we should add that. Thank you

I thought of that too, but there was no indication it was contemporary- it could have been years earlier.

There were no flashbacks in the story or titles stating this scene was set in another year. It’s safe to air on the side of normal dramatic conventions and assume it was set at the same time as the rest of the episode.

Yeah, you’re probably right.

I loved that scene, by the way. I laughed throughout it, and probably harder than at any other moment in Lower Decks, which is saying a lot.

The perfect capper to what I think is still their best episode!

I told my wife, pretty much a minute into the Prodigy Away Team exploring the Cube, that I thought it was the Artifact.

I love this theory!

An appealing theory, indeed. I think there are a few gaps that the various writers would need to fill in for it to really work. To begin, I think we need a definition of a “hive mind.” In the case of the Borg, it must mean that there is one overarching intelligence guiding things, the Queen (or maybe several Queens overseeing different Borg collectives as in the case now of Queen Agnes) since drones are incapable of independent thought or action while connected (via subspace link?) to the Queen. If Janeway’s pathogen destroyed inner-Borg communications, it seems to have rendered all the drones mindless as well as out of communication since all the scattered Borg cubes did not apparently become autonomous little collectives but inert. This appears to be the condition of the cube found by the Protostar. What was it that Zero could have done? Either (A) they awoke that cube’s crew, who would remain out of communication with other cubes or a Queen somewhere; or (B) Zero somehow restored the link among the entire Borg population everywhere. But how would that be possible if all the rest are seemingly still incapacitated? (Even this cube’s crew are severely weakened.) Also, what is the nature of the (let’s call it) “group mind” in which Zero participates? It cannot be like the Borg’s since Zero and the Medusan ambassador in “Is There in Truth No Beauty?” have independent mentalities. It also cannot be technologically based since Medusans are incorporeal. Individual Medusans must be linked telepathically, which is consistent with both TOS and Prodigy. Have the temporarily revived Borg crew in the cube found by the Protostar somehow assimilated Medusan telepathy when Zero connected with the vinculum, necessarily telepathically? That would be a really dangerous development, although one wonders why this hadn’t happened when the Borg first became aware of the Medusans or of other telepathic species? Can a machine-based intelligence become telepathic (despite Asimov’s later robots)? Anyway, lots of questions are raised by this interesting theory. Thanks!

I’m just not convinced that Janeway disabled the entire Collective with her pathogen. We only saw the Queen’s complex being destroyed. Thanks to Icheb, we know that Janeway isn’t the first person to use a pathogen against the Borg, so it wasn’t necessarily her pathogen that disabled the cube in Prodigy. Especially since Holo-Janeway didn’t take credit (or give real Janeway credit) when she mentioned the pathogen. The Borg in Lower Decks could have just been regenerating.

The assumption that the kids from Prodigy helped Picard, has one big flaw. Picard was on the cube because Soji was there. But in case that Zero would not wake up the Borg. There would be no romulan ship assimilated, there would be no Artifact and Soji in Picard will be working on completely different project. So there will be no need for spacial projector in that different timeline.

This is all based on the assumption that PRO and PIC are set in the same timeline. Since the crew of the Dauntless wear totally different uniforms and insignias than we’ve seen in the PIC flashbacks and some sort of time travel element is part of PRO, I’m not 100% convinced that this is the case.

They’ve said it’s the Prime Timeline in earlier interviews.

Maybe, but as long as there is zero effort for inter-series continuity I at least have a hard time to believe that.

There is inter-series continuity. We have Janeway and Chakotay on PRO and Seven on PIC. All three of which are from VOY.

Starfleet changes their uniforms every five minutes. They probably had two different uniforms in service simultaneously.

We see the different uniforms in LDS: the California Class folks have one set, different than the rest of Starfleet.

As for Cody’s comment about this taking place in a different timeline… I’ve been thinking that since we first saw the Protostar. Everything about that ship and the technology on that ship screams Kelvin Timeline. But, Trek visually reboots itself all the time (starting with TOS to TMP), so, I guess this takes place in the Prime Timeline, despite having Kelvin-style transporters (for when they’re actually used) and Kelvin-style ship-landing-on-the-planet (yes yes, I know Voyager did it first) and Kelvin-style clear panels everywhere (even on the tricorders) and Kelvin-style lens flares (😁).

Either way, this theory is amazing. And I for one welcome our new canon overlords. Thanks Zero!

The fun of fandom.

Slow news day

My head hurts after reading all of that, lol….

Maybe I’ll win… saved by zero. — Fixx

It’s also possible that the Borg still do exist well into the 32nd century (hence the comment from President Rillak in Discovery), but given the events in Picard, Season 2, this could be the new, friendlier Borg established by Jurati. Their existence would still be known, but they may no longer be an aggressive threat… or could even be on good terms with the Federation.

Given the finale of Picard, Season 2, the status of the Borg from that point forward is really up in the air.