And all I got was this Lousy T-Shirt!!!
The first hint of The Borg was in the TNG episode "The Neutral Zone", but even in that episode they weren't seen. In the second season shocker "Q Who?", we received our first look at the Borg, and their ominous threat loomed over many episodes between that one and these two. After the two part episode "The Best of Both Worlds", Star Trek wasn't the same. The specter of "The Battle of Wolf 359" informs just about every major engagement since, be it during the Dominion Wars, the Borg themselves or the generic Villain of the Week in all three "Next Generation" series. In fact, the Borg Onslaught detailed in these episodes looms as a constant demon over Benjamin Sisko of Deep Space Nine. Not only do the events of this episode affect the venerable Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart, or as I prefer to call him, "Dad") but also led to a new, more war-worthy fleet of starships. Before long, the happy, multi-family cities in space like the Enterprise-D are a thing of the past, having been replaced by the sleek, dark warships like the Defiant and the Enterprise-E.
"The Best of Both Worlds" remains as two of the most popular episodes of any Star Trek serial and was voted by fans to be the all time favorite episode (taking the first and second spaces, of course) of all of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It's a hell of an episode to be sure. The concept of "Assimilation" is introduced much more clearly here (though, somewhat less than what we later see) and we get our first ever glimpse of the actual Borg Assimilation process (right on down to the Nanoprobes). We also get our first real voiced statement of "Resistance is Futile" and a much better view of the "Collective Consciousness". Unfortunately for some, fortunately for others, this viewpoint is most assuredly from the inside!
When Smilin' Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) leads an away team to the Town Center of the New Providence colony, he finds himself instead standing on the edge of a crater the size of Ivana Trump's fur allowance. Because Riker is indeed smart enough to know his butt from a hole in the ground, he gets his butt the hell away from said hole but quick. The writing was on the proverbial wall because this headache has "BORG" written ALL OVER IT!
Starfleet, of course, has some serious shiver factor about the Borg. Because of this Admiral J.P. "Chuckles" Hanson (George "Chuckles" Murdock) assigns Lt. Cmdr. Elizabeth Paula "Eppie" Shelby (Elizabeth Dennehy) to the Enterprise not only to take her sweet time "confirming" that they're really dealing with the Borg, but also annoying the churning PISS out of any and every person she comes across, regardless of race, color, creed, gender or rank. That goes triple for ol' "Tug-Tug" Riker, whom Starfleet has a few designs on as well. See, "Fire At" Will is due to step into the rank of Captain. Problem is... he doesn't want to. Problem for ol' Eppie... she wants his job as First Officer of the Enterprise!
What, at first, seems like an almost corporate soap opera in the vying and tug-of-war between Shelby and Riker, evolves quickly into a sensible set-up as soon as the Borg arrive. Luckily, with Shelby's help, the "Finest Crew in the Fleet" is equipped with some brand-new Borg-Busting weapons that make them more than a match for the single cube the Collective sends to the Alpha Quadrant.
As soon as the Crew finds themselves taken over the Collective's Knee and Spanked, Powdered and Diapered like the baby ship they are, they turn tail and run like Kirk into the nearest nebula. Surprisingly, the Borg follow them in. Why? What interest do the Borg have in a single starship?
The answer comes to fruition as Captain Picard himself is kidnapped by the Borg. What follows are some of the North-Pole-Coolest Team Up scenes you could ask for as Data (Brent Spiner) and Worf (Michael Dorn) take point, standing back to back and shooting up the Borg Cube from the inside with wild, yet precise modulating phaser fire. (The previous sentence will forever rank as one of the nerdiest things I have ever written. And that's noteworthy for me.) As cool as that is, the next scene is every bit as chilling, as we discover exactly what The Borg had in mind for Picard when they snatched his ass.
Ladies and Germs, let the Assimilation begin. Picard's resistance was proven to be indeed futile and the latest addition to the Collective's Hive Mind is not a number, but a name: Locutus of Borg, the individual voice who will facilitate the assimilation of mankind.
As the story continues, Riker (will he ever learn?) has to determine whether his latest infallible weapon against the Borg is worth using with the Captain on board. The line that signifies that decision has been made is one of the coolest you could ever hope to hear from Commander Fuzzy-Wuzzy Imzadi.
The problem is, with Picard having been fully assimilated (and boils and ghouls, is that a sight to see), The Borg Collective knows every little thing that Picard knows (probably even some of the more erotic adventures that you and I both know ol' J.L. embarks on now and again with veritable harems of women... oh, just me?). This means that not only is Riker's panty-waist deflector weapon not going to make a single dent, but Starfleet's Last Stand at Wolf 359 is likewise sure to be more in Dire Straits than Mark Knopfler!
One cool thing here is to see Riker stepping up as Captain (complete with all four pips shining at his neck line). Meanwhile, Shelby's rank is increased to make her a full Commander (and Riker's new First Officer). The cliffhanger of Part One could very well have led into a continuation of the series in a very different way than what actually unfolded. The presence of Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) serves Picard well during his impending "Hopeless" battle, and Riker during his unconscious competition with the "ghost" of Picard. There is also a stronger hint of what Guinan and Jean-Luc might be doing behind closed doors... and I'm thinking it's not 3-D Chess!
Meanwhile, the ass kicking, Borg Blasting duo of Data and Worf continue to rock the cube and look cooler than a Vancouver Swim Meet doing it!
The best of "The Best of Both Worlds" is, of course, Patrick Stewart's performance. This trained Shakespearean actor successfully immersed himself in the role of Picard by the third season, making a fine show even greater. While many may cringe at the thought of actors of similar caliber strapping on black rubber and spandex with white makeup and a red laser pointer, Stewart feels less like an "Actor" here and more like "Picard" and "Locutus". The performance is completely different for each guise and each one is steady and dead-on. This is especially true during the second half, when the two personas begin to fight for control of consciousness.
It all leads up to one of the best and most surprising endings of Star Trek's many episodes. This isn't merely because of the clever "Twist" ending that Michael Piller wrote into the script, but for the less obvious, introspective aspects. These comment silently on what Picard has gone through and what has changed in the mission of Starfleet. When asked what he remembers, Picard's response of "Everything!" has a chilling ripple-effect through many major peaks and valleys, especially seen in the next great episode, "Family".
The episode wouldn't be the same without the smart direction (of both parts) by Cliff Bole, who captures the pathos and excitement of this multi-faceted episode, never getting in the way by attempting to be "too clever". This, coupled with the great special effects and make-up, is virtually exceeded only by the fantastic score by Ron Jones. His exciting, vibrant and horn-heavy music blasts through the most action packed scenes and carefully holds together the most emotional and difficult moments. Jones incorporates some of the best notes of Alexander Courage's original "Theme from Star Trek" and Jerry Goldsmith's now-ubiquitous theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (which, of course, together make up the Main Title to Star Trek: The Next Generation). These musical motifs are more than an homage. Instead these stand up as a well-chosen punctuation to the progress of the show at the best times possible. I mean, you know, you wouldn't want to Mosh to it, but it's pretty darned riveting, man!
There is a rule in writing for a Franchise TV show such as Star Trek. Any submitted script should resolve itself before the end of the episode so as to neatly fit within the continuity at any logical point. Michael Piller was one of the first to break this rule, going far beyond the simple idea of a "Story Arc" (which is a staple of the best of Trek) into a two-part episode that changed just about everything from this point on. Truly, this is The Best of Both Worlds...
Four and One Half Stars out of Five for Star Trek: The Next Generation's Third to Fourth Season bridge "The Best of Both Worlds". It's a brave and enthralling adventure worth its reputation and more than worth a few repeated viewings. For a hell of a Borg Weekend, watch these two episodes, followed by the Big Screen sequel Star Trek: First Contact. Then take your time and check out the episodes "I, Borg", followed by "Descent" parts 1 and 2. Then, get ready for the Coup de Grace... check out the sexiest Borg of them all, sweet, sweet Seven of Nine whose face, hair and body could melt the Borg Collective, and probably take over all of the Federation as well. But then again, if all Borg looked like Sixty-Nine... oh, sorry, I meant Seven of Nine, there wouldn't have had to be any Battle of Wolf 359. No need for First Contact and Lore could stay home and play with his Chip.
Think about it... A Sphere (it's curvier than the Cube) shows up and there's the delicately delectable Annika in her silver cat-suit. She says "You will be Assimilated! Resistance is Futile! We will add your Biological and Technological distinctiveness to our own!" and every ship out there says "YOU HAD US AT BIOLOGICAL distinctivenessS! Assimilate away, baby!" Well, that's how MY Star Trek script would go.
You're right. I'll see you in the next reel and I'll leave the rest to the likes of Piller. Sigh.
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