Star Trek: Picard - What To Know About Hugh, The Former Borg Drone
Hugh is unlike other Borg, and his part of the story in Star Trek: Picard seems like it'll be important.
Star Trek: Picard's first season is now complete, and through its 10-episode run, it sees several Trek characters return, both from The Next Generation and other series. Jean-Luc Picard's second officer aboard the Enterprise, Data, has already been shown to have a big influence, and Star Trek: Voyager's former-Borg crewmember, Seven of Nine, plays a role in Episode 5, "Stardust City Rag." In Episode 3, "The End is the Beginning," we saw another returning character from previous shows: Hugh, another former Borg who appeared on The Next Generation.
Hugh's presence on Star Trek: Picard was a pretty big deal. He and Jean-Luc shared the experience of being part of the Borg, but were eventually freed from the Collective. And Hugh and Picard shared another bond because of their experiences aboard the Enterprise. In a big way, Hugh changed Picard's perceptions of the Borg, and their meeting on TNG had profound effects on the way the Federation interacted with the cybernetic beings in later encounters. Picard might have destroyed the Borg for good, if not for Hugh.
Picard first met Hugh in TNG Season 5, in an episode called "I, Borg." The Enterprise discovered a crashed Borg ship, with four of its five inhabitants dead. Hugh, then designated Third of Five, survived, and Picard chose to beam him aboard the Enterprise. Dr. Crusher saved the Borg's life, and Picard and the crew began to formulate a plan.
They knew the Borg would not leave any drone behind and would eventually return to find Hugh and the other Borg from the ship, to either reclaim them or destroy their bodies. Knowing that, Picard figured that it might be possible to send Hugh back with some kind of computer virus that would infiltrate the Borg Collective and, potentially, destroy it. He put Data and Geordi La Forge on the job of creating the virus, while Crusher continued to nurse Third of Five back to health. In the meantime, La Forge started spending time with the drone to study it and figure out how he might create a Borg-killing virus.
Things changed, though. The more time Crusher and La Forge spent with Third of Five, the more they started to consider him a person, rather than just another Borg drone. Cut off from the Collective, Third of Five started to develop individuality. Eventually, La Forge and Crusher named him "Hugh," and Hugh started to consider La Forge his friend. Even Guinan, who hated the Borg for attacking her people's planet and nearly wiping them out, found herself struggling with the idea of using Hugh as a weapon after meeting him.
With more and more of the crew questioning the morality of the plan to commit what was essentially genocide against the Borg, Picard finally felt he had to meet Hugh--and discovered that the young Borg was, in fact, an individual, and deserved to be treated with the respect that Picard and the Federation afford all life. Picard offered to let Hugh stay with the Enterprise crew, but Hugh opted to return to the Borg Collective, fearing the Borg would pursue him and threaten the Enterprise if it couldn't locate its missing drone.
Corrupted By Lore
About a year later, in Season 6, Picard and the Enterprise encountered some Borg who were attacking colonies and Federation outposts. Immediately, it was clear these Borg were different from the Collective the Enterprise had encountered in the past. They cared about their comrades, referred to themselves as "I" instead of "we," and generally gave signs of being individuals, rather than just pieces of a hive mind. Picard had speculated when Hugh returned to the Borg Collective that his individuality might get transferred to other Borg, and that that could be just as destructive to the hive mind as the virus the Enterprise crew had tried to create. Turns out, he was pretty close to correct.
In "The Descent" and "The Descent II," Picard and the crew discovered that this particular group of Borg was led by Lore, Data's evil twin android brother. After Picard, La Forge, and Deanna Troi were captured by Lore and his band, Will Riker and Worf discovered another group of Borg who had broken away from Lore's. Among those Borg was Hugh, who explained that, yes, his individuality had spread and thrown his Borg Cube into chaos.
Unable to deal with being individuals, they started fighting each other, until Lore found them and gave them a leader to follow. Lore said he'd help the Borg find perfection by becoming wholly artificial like he was, but didn't really know how to make that dream a reality, and so started experimenting on Borg drones with horrifying results. Realizing what Lore really was, Hugh and those like him hid out from the group loyal to Lore.
Eventually, Data defeated Lore once and for all and had him disassembled. Hugh was worried that the Borg would again fall into chaos without a leader, but Picard suggested that Hugh could be the one the individualized Borg followed. That's where the Enterprise crew left them--as a group of Borg who had become something different from the other drones in the Collective.
So Where Has Hugh Been?
We're not sure what happened to Hugh in the years that followed. Picard and the Enterprise crew encountered the Borg Collective again in Star Trek: First Contact, so Hugh's individuality apparently didn't transfer to the entire Borg species, just to those on his particular cube. When we meet Hugh in Star Trek: Picard, he's changed significantly--he's no longer a Borg drone, but instead has been returned to humanity, with most of his Borg implants removed.
Though we don't know how Hugh got from leading a group of Borg individuals to his role on the Artifact, we do know that he used his knowledge of the Borg to help others "XBs," or ex-Borg. He led the Borg Reclamation Project on the Artifact, the disabled Borg Cube that the Romulans studied and salvaged on Star Trek: Picard. His work focused on helping other former drones re-acclimate to society. We also know that, unlike Jean-Luc, Hugh had a hard time adjusting to his life as a human. He suggested that people in society at large didn't trust him because of his former life as a drone.
Hugh's role in the first season of Star Trek: Picard built on the long-running story of Jean-Luc's interactions with the frightening cybernetic race. It also allowed the show to explore the more human aspect of what it means to be Borg. As Jean-Luc said, though the Borg are feared, they're a race of victims--and as Hugh showed, they deserve compassion.
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