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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Newly built Borg invasion cube is functionally hobbled by Janeway’s neurolytic pathogen.
Borg cube goes dormant.
Still hobbled Borg cube is awakened by a Medusan.
Cube moves on, tries to rebuild a new collective.
Borg cube tries to assimilate the wrong Romulan ship.
— Aaron J. Waltke (@GoodAaron) November 3, 2022
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:
Also, If it is the Artifact, then if it weren’t for Zero, Picard wouldn’t have had access to the Borg spatial trajector, the android plot would have succeeded, and all organic life in the universe would’ve been wiped out.
Which would mean Prodigy crew saved the prime universe.
— Aaron J. Waltke (@GoodAaron) November 5, 2022
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.
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