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TV Legends: How Did a Writers’ Strike Change the Borg Forever?

by  in CBR Exclusives, TV News, TV Comment
TV Legends: How Did a Writers’ Strike Change the Borg Forever?

TV URBAN LEGEND: The Borg changed dramatically from when they were originally going to be appear, when their first appearance was halted by a TV writers’ strike.

Naturally enough, for a business that is constantly in the process of creating new content (whether new episodes of current series or pitches for new series), when there are things like writers’ strikes that halt all new content creation, the television industry is thrown for a loop. We have covered in the past how the 1980 Writers Strike, in particular, really threw Tom Selleck for a loop. In the case of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” the 1988 Writers Strike changed the history of the Borg forever.

The 1988 strike by the Writers Guild of America came as the creators of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” were finishing up Season 1 and starting Season 2 of the syndicated TV series. Due to the strike, the second season of the series was reduced from 24 episodes to 22, and time constraints forced them to re-use an unused script from the dropped “Star Trek Phase II” TV series (that instead turned into “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”) for the season premiere of Season 2 of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

While Season 2 was affected the most, the end of Season 1 was also affected. The show had to get the season finale written very quickly, as the strike was imminent. So staff writer Maurice Hurley, who became the head writer for the series in Season 2, took a fan submitted story by Deborah McIntyre and Mona Clee and used that as the basis for the finale of the season, “The Neutral Zone.” Their idea was that the Enterprise would encounter three people from the 20th century who were cryogenically frozen centuries earlier. They would then have to adjust to life in the future.

However, while that ended up being the main part of the story, Hurley initially intended that to be just the FIRST part of a two-part story, a story that would bring the Romulans together with the Federation to fight against a common threat – the Borg! Remember the outposts that Starfleet think might have been destroyed by the Romulans? However, after some diplomacy is used, it becomes clear that the Romulans don’t know what’s going on, either. So they agree to work together to find out who is behind it all (although Captain Picard rightly notes that he doesn’t trust the Romulans, and they do, indeed, become major villains again in Season 2, after Season 1 was spent mostly avoiding any villains from the original “Star Trek” series).

In any event, the culprits were going to be the Borg (and, indeed, it was later confirmed that it was the Borg who destroyed those outposts) and that was going to be the season finale, with the Enterprise and the Romulans teaming up against the Borg.

However, Hurley’s original idea behind the Borg was that they were an insectoid race with a hive mind. They likely weren’t called the Borg at the time, either.

When the delays at the start of Season 2 were settled (delays that included an episode involving gay crew members on the Enterprise being squelched and the writer of the episode asking to leave before the second season began due to the episode being squelched), the Borg finally debuted in the 16th episode of the second season, “Q Who?”…

The Enterprise crew on a Borg ship in “Q Who?”

Only due to budgetary concerns, the insectoid design was dropped and they were instead done as cyborgs (before cyborgs, they were almost reptilian-looking aliens), as designed by Durinda Rice Wood…

This is presumably where the name Borg came from, as well. While the design was changed, the hive mind idea was kept (and obviously the notion that they were predatory aliens who killed lots of people).

Now, was the insect idea ALWAYS destined to be dropped for budgetary reasons? That’s possible, but we’ll never know because Hurley wasn’t able to debut the Borg when he wanted to (not for nothing, but just changing the context of their introduction period likely also changed the Borg period). In addition, while the insectoid look might have always been doomed to fail, who is to say that the cyborg look would have always been the follow-up? They DID try a reptilian look before settling on cyborgs, so maybe that would have won the day had the characters debuted in the Season 1 finale? We might have never had the Borg (as the Borg) at ALL!

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Be sure to check out my archive of TV Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of TV. Click here for more legends just about Star Trek.

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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