In the 22nd century, after the Enterprise NX-01 destroyed a Borg ship, Doctor Phlox told Captain Archer about a subspace message he was receiving when he was infected by the Borg's nanobots. The numeric sequence of that message was decoded to the spatial coordinates of Earth, which led to the conclusion that they were sending the location of Earth to their home world. Archer also decoded the location to where the message was being sent, it was somewhere deep in the Delta Quadrant. Then, T'pol said that it would take at least 200 years for a subspace message to reach Delta Quadrant. And, Archer replied something similar: "Sounds like we have just postponed the invasion temporarily until 24th century."

Now, my question: It was Archer's first encounter with Borg and he didn't even know the name of their race. There wasn't even any evidence of them in the Vulcan database. So, he didn't know anything about their Transwarp Conduit / Transwarp Corridor. It was normal to think like this: "The subspace message would reach their home world in 200 years. Then, they would start their journey to Earth. As the speed of warp vessels was less than the speed of subspace transmission, it would take at least another 200 years to reach Earth." So, with normal thinking, it should be the 26th century. But Archer concluded it would be the 24th century. How?

  • 2
    Simple mistake - confuse the one-way distance with a round-trip and do the maths?
    – HorusKol
    Oct 29, 2014 at 22:33

4 Answers 4


Look at what they saw in that one episode (Regeneration):

  • The Borg (although Starfleet never learned their name) modified a shuttle with a maximum speed of warp 1.4 to travel at warp 3.9. Then, within a short time, it's modified even more to travel at warp 4.8, and by the time the Enterprise catches up with it, it's traveling at close to their full speed. That's Borg tech working on a Starfleet ship, not on their own ship.

  • At this time, Vulcan ships have only achieved Warp 7, so they also have no way of knowing the asymptotic upper limit exists.

  • Phlox reports that the voices in his head indicate they are some type of collective intelligence, able to easily communicate with others of their kind over at least short distances in space.

  • They have nano-technology and personal shield technology that's far beyond anything the Enterprise has seen.

  • They were using the transport to escape (and send the signal), but, again, that's Starfleet tech, so it's also quite possible this advanced race has even more advanced tech on their own that would have sent an even faster signal

Also, if it took them 200 years to reach Earth, there would be almost no point in invading an area that far away unless they had a faster way to reach it. Their new territory would be cut off from them and unable to get help or reinforcements from the Borg home land (or collective, as we know it), so if they are exploring and invading an area that far away, they can likely reach it in a reasonably short time (with their technology), otherwise, there would be no point in tipping their hand with a scout ship or pre-invasion force.

So Archer has seen enough to know this species is extremely advanced, and if they're using their own tech (instead of modifying Starfleet tech), that they'd way ahead of humans. He also knows there's no logic in invading a place so far off it can't easily get reinforcements when they would be surrounded by enemies.

  • You posted as I was typing up mostly the same thing, so I just added one of my reasons to your post =P
    – Izkata
    Jan 31, 2012 at 0:43
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    Also, there's one more thing that's pure theory: Near the beginning of the episode, Archer is reading about Zephram Cochrane's speech about the Borg, but all he explicitly says is "the future". It is possible the century was mentioned there.
    – Izkata
    Jan 31, 2012 at 0:44
  • @Izkata: That's a good point -- the century may have been mentioned by Cochrane. But as to the asymptotic curve, the cure is in how we measure warp drive speeds, not in actual speeds. That was done because in the original series there was never any upper limit, so speeds went to higher and higher warps. Roddenberry wanted a speed limit so we'd get tense as the numbers got closer to it.
    – Tango
    Jan 31, 2012 at 1:03
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    @SachinShekhar: Another related point is if we can conceive of transwarp conduits now, that it's quite possible they were able to imagine that there was something like that which an advanced race might use.
    – Tango
    Jan 31, 2012 at 6:17
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    They also had knowledge from the future, if I recall the episode right. Doctor Cochran(sp?) and his assistant Lily had had first hand knowledge of the Borg when Picard and crew visited in First Contact. In the episode they mentioned that Cochran had spoken about them in one of his speeches.
    – Xantec
    Jan 31, 2012 at 14:54

The answer may lie in the question: "When does an invasion begin?" When they decide to start their journey or when they reach their destination? I think it is safe to say that Archer was airing on the side of caution, not knowing the technological advances that would occur over the next 200 years, there would be no way of accurately calculating when they would arrive. So he went with the invasion starting when they got the message and by extension when they would begin the trip.

  • If he was targeting their decision event, he'd never had said that he postponed the invasion..
    – user931
    Jan 30, 2012 at 17:15
  • If he hadn't acted, the invasion would have taken place immediately but since he did act he postponed it, until 200 years later when they received the message. There is no way Archer could be expected to predict the exact time that they would have arrived after receiving the message, so he states correctly that the postponement was 200 years.
    – NominSim
    Jan 30, 2012 at 17:40
  • Are you saying, Archer was dumb enough to assume that they would be capable of traveling with infinitely high speed in 200 years... so, its not safe to extend at least 1 century??
    – user931
    Jan 30, 2012 at 17:46
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    No... I am saying he was too smart to assume that there wouldn't be any advancement in ship speeds in 200 years, so he said the only time that he could be sure of, 200 years. He wasn't going to just arbitrarily extend the time by making some uneducated guess. The invasion would start when they received the message and began their journey.
    – NominSim
    Jan 30, 2012 at 18:03
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    @SachinShekhar: Given what Archer had just seen, it really wasn't safe to extend at least one century. Archer was smart enough not to assume that they wouldn't be capable of travelling with infinitely high speed in 200 years. (He was right, too; Borg can move at the speed of plot.)
    – Tynam
    Sep 28, 2012 at 12:14

He surmised within the episode that the Borg he was encountering were the same as the invading aliens from the future, mentioned by Cochrane some time prior in his Princeton commencement address; with this knowledge, it's not a significant deductive leap to deduce that he was witnessing the beginning of the causality loop first-hand: as soon as that message reaches Borg space, they're going to go "ooh, humans, yes let's go get 'em" which, again, he already knows is going to happen. The timeframe he specifies is loosely the time at which the Borg collective as a whole are highly likely to begin their entire anti-humanity campaign.


The subspace message sent from that assimilated transport ship was stated by T'Pol it would take at least 200 years to reach the Delta Quadrant.

At some point in the 24th century (around the year 2346), the Hansens set out to study the Borg (probably originating from Starfleet's original scant data from the 22nd century and El'Aurians report from the 23rd century) and it is likely they set a course for region of space outside the Alpha Quadrant - even Annika's mother said that they deviated from their flight plan). So, eventually, they encounter and shadow/study the cube for 3 years (2349) and get assimilated (Annika is 6 years old at this point).

The Borg have Transwarp capability, so it would take them short amount of time to get to the Federation... but once there, I suspect they might decide to use a slower Warp capability.

But, I suspect that when the Borg get the message, it might be badly distorted with a set of incomplete coordinates that would attract them to the Neutral Zone and result in all the outposts on both Federation and Romulan sides to be scooped up (the initial assimilation of Hansens might not have attracted the Borg to the Federation).

  • How does this answer the question of how/why Archer came up with the figure of 200 years for the Borg to receive the message & turn up in the Alpha Quadrant? It seems to answer a different question about how the Borg knew that the Alpha Quadrant was a plum target.
    – Valorum
    May 22, 2018 at 21:55
  • I explained that T'Pol mentioned in the episode it would take the subspace message 200 years to reach the DQ - and this message incidentally prompted the Borg's interest into coming to the Neutral Zone. I mentioned the Hansens because the Borg obviously never visited the federation shortly after assimilating them... so the message they received likely prompted more interest and saw the outposts worthy of absorption. The message might have told them how to find Earth, but it was also took 200 years to reach them, meaning, it might have been incomplete, leading the borg to the neutral zone
    – Deks
    May 22, 2018 at 22:53
  • Which is fine, but we're back to the assumption that it takes 200 years for the message to reach them, then 0 years for them to travel from the Delta Quadrant to the Alpha Quadrant. You seem to be intent on answering a different (albeit quite interesting) question.
    – Valorum
    May 22, 2018 at 23:07
  • For which I explained that the Borg have Transwarp capability... meaning it would take the Borg less than a day to get to the Alpha Quadrant (and the Neutral Zone). Once reaching the Alpha Quadrant, they might decide to slow down and absorb more things in preparation for mass assimilation.
    – Deks
    May 22, 2018 at 23:10
  • Yes. We (the audience) know that the Borg have transwarp. Does Archer know that?
    – Valorum
    May 22, 2018 at 23:11

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