Introduced in “Q Who?” at the backend of the 1980s, the Borg quickly established themselves not just as one of Star Trek’s most threatening villains, but as one of the most distinctive and instantly recognizable villains on TV and across wider media. So, Star Trek Needs A New Villain, but do we know the answer to this?
The episode treated audiences to a seemingly unstoppable threat – one which viewed the Enterprise-D in much the same way that we view an irritating mosquito. As the episode concluded, with the Enterprise-D managing to escape with the eventual assistance of Q, it was clear that the Borg would be shaking up Star Trek for many years to come.
Since “The Best of Both Worlds”, the Borg have maintained their status as Star Trek’s most iconic antagonist. The Battle of Wolf 359 showed that they were the Federation’s biggest threat. The Borg made tensions with the Romulans, Klingons and even future war with the Dominion seem petty by comparison.
The End Of The Borg
Star Trek’s exploration of the Borg continued throughout TNG, into Voyager, and beyond. But, as the Borg were expanded on, their mystery evaporated. The Borg Queen added personality to the Borg, but the lack of personality had previously been an integral part of their terrifying presence. Though their status as one of science fiction’s best villains couldn’t be undermined, the Borg became a crutch that Star Trek would rely on too often and their fear factor began to recede.
Recognising this, in the second season of Star Trek: Picard took the decision to significantly change the Borg. Now, with the Jurati-fiction of the Borg, it looks like their time in Star Trek’s spotlight has ended. Additionally, with the departure of Alison Pill from Star Trek: Picard, this seems like we won’t see the Borg in the upcoming season 3.
A New Villain
So, Star Trek will be on the search for a new villain as the 25th century begins. Romulans, Klingons, Cardassians, and the Dominion have all had their time to shine. However, the Pakleds are an inspired choice for the villains of Lower Decks, with their bumbling and brutish nature. However, they’re less suited to the role of live-action leading antagonists.
Of course, there is always the option to create new villains. That might be Star Trek’s best option should it choose to explore the Starfleet’s challenges in the 25th century. Remember, the Borg wouldn’t even exist now if TNG only relied on the villains established by the show’s first run. However, there is also an argument for looking into Star Trek’s back catalogue to explore previous antagonists with unfulfilled potential. In that back catalogue, there are plenty of options.
Perhaps, Star Trek could take another look at Species 8472. Or, it could focus on the undeniably cool Breen Confederacy and the aftermath of the Dominion War. But, if Star Trek wants to re-engage with the horror elements that made the Borg so universally beloved in the first place, one species stands out above the rest. And they don’t even have a name.
Revisiting The Parasites
With janky effects and lacklustre action sequences, season one’s “Conspiracy” isn’t the most well-regarded episode of Star Trek. It was a story of infiltration and paranoia, filled with disturbing imagery and shocking body horror (rest in peace, Commander Remmick!), instigated by a species of nameless parasites.
The parasites, uncovered by a Starfleet survey team on an uncharted planet, are the antagonists of the episode. Silently and covertly, they enter the bodies of high-ranking Starfleet commanders, Captains, and Admirals, in a bid to… do something. While Captain Picard eventually defeated them, he couldn’t prevent the parasites from sending out a homing beacon. That homing beacon was set to lead the rest of their species to Earth.
The story’s concept is reminiscent of the aspects of DS9’s Dominion War arc which focussed on the uncertainty and paranoia induced by the threat of infiltration. While the Dominion War arc certainly portrayed these themes more successfully, “Conspiracy” still established that Starfleet’s security was never certain, and could never be taken for granted. But, it didn’t quite hit the mark, and the story deserved more than just a single episode. Indeed, its conclusion hinted at a return of the parasites in the future. Except, they
Answering The Homing Beacon
“Conspiracy” episode gave no indication of how long we’d have to wait before that return took place. And this isn’t the only question without an answer. Were these parasites just the first scouts? What was their ultimate goal? How far did they infiltrate before being uncovered? Do they have ships? If not, how do they travel? Have they infected Federation border colonies?
If “Conspiracy” received a follow-up episode, these questions might have received answers. But instead, as far as Starfleet is aware, the parasites are still out there biding their time. With that homing beacon, still beeping away without a resolution, the 25th Century could offer the perfect chance to revisit the parasites. All these questions create space for a compelling, paranoia-inducing science fiction story with moments of chilling tension and
With one season of Star Trek, or even just a recurring arc, Star Trek could explore countless possibilities. What happens when an entire ship is infected? What damage does this do to Starfleet and its reputation? It could show how the parasites impact the personal relationships between Starfleet captains in a time of uncertainty.
It could provide a chance to examine civilian life in the Federation more closely than ever before, as fear spreads about the threat posed by this terrifying insectoid race. The reintroduction of the parasites could simultaneously be an opportunity for a call-back, and the chance to highlight a terrifying alien race which is essentially completely unexplored.
Sometimes leaving elements of a story mysterious is part of the fun. You only have to look at the enduring status of Guinan as one of Star Trek’s best characters to see that. But as it stands, the parasites are simply an underutilised potential antagonist, practically crying out for more stories.
As Star Trek enters its first steps in the 25th century, it’s time for the parasites to rest! Star Trek Needs A New Villain but are we going to see them in the universe sometime soon?
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