ST "First Contact":

(they enter a nineteen-thirties night club pursued by two Borg)

MAITRE D': I'm sorry, gentlemen but we're closing, and you do understand we have a strict dress code? So if you boys don't leave right now I'll...

(the Borg discover the Maitre d' is a hologram)

To clarify the two Borg scan the character and figure out he's a hologram.

ST TNG "I Borg":

CRUSHER: That's right. He's gotten every one. Eight out of eight. That blows the top right off the spatial-acuity percentiles.

LAFORGE: It's the prosthetic eye. It seems to be giving him very complex visual information.

CRUSHER: Like some kind of holographic imaging system.

LAFORGE: That could be helpful. Hugh, I'd like to take a closer look at your eyepiece. Is that okay?

BORG: Here. (he takes the eyepiece off and hands it to Geordi)

ST Voyager "Relativity":

SEVEN: My ocular implant can detect irregularities in space-time.

TORRES: Torres to bridge. We've found the problem.

So my question is, since the borg were able to figure out these were holo images inseconds simply by scanning them, and their occular implants were so advanced as to see temporal fluctuations at a level above starfleets abilities hundreds of years later, how were they not able to pick out Picard and Lily out of the crowd immediately?

  • 2
    I thought we agreed that Seven's implant wasn't better at seeing time fluctuations, just that she could get onto the Voyager unnoticed.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 9:54
  • Different Borg have different types of implants. Different tools for different jobs. It could also be that some Borg could differentiate holograms from flesh-and-blood humans, but the Borg that boarded the Enterprise simply weren't equipped with those tools at that time. Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 12:49

4 Answers 4


"Scanning them" means attempting to disrupt the rendering of the holo-characters, and this requires focused energy.

The interaction between the Maitre D' and the Borg in scene from First Contact implies that the holo-characters need to be scanned one-by-one to determine if they were corporeal or holographic.

As you can see from 0:18-0:27 in the clip above, one drone holds the Maitre D' still with its arm and then the two drones both scan the Maitre D' simultaneously.

What is really happening when the drones "scan" the Maitre D'? The drones are using beams of energy from their ocular implants to disrupt the character's holographic matrix, and then use the resulting disruption to decide that the character is not "real".

This suggests that in order to scan the population of the holodeck all at once, the Borg need to use enough energy to simultaneously disrupt the matrices of all of the holo-characters.

I doubt that their ocular implants could produce this kind of energy. The implants have a maximum energy output and generating a room-wide disruption beam from the ocular implants would only distribute a small amount of energy to each holo-character, which would likely not disrupt them at all, rendering the test inconclusive.

Given that Borg drones don't typically have to wade through mixed crowds of people and holograms trying to discern "real" from "fake", one wouldn't expect drones to come equipped with a better means for accomplishing this than what we see in the scene from First Contact. (However, having now had to do this, they may adapt in the future and not be so easily slowed down by such an obstacle.)

  • 'The word "scan" is probably wrong in the context.' - What else is an (active) scan than looking for a specific interaction between the scanned subject and some signal sent out from the scanner? Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 20:54
  • 1
    @O.R.Mapper : The intent of my answer is to get to the root of the problem, which is the question's assumptions on the word "scan", i.e Why don't we just "scan" the whole room to see who is a hologram and who is not? In any case, I've updated the wording -- thanks.
    – Praxis
    Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 21:12
  • 3
    @O.R.Mapper : It's probably for economy's sake --- one would expect that they don't usually have to wade their way through a crowd of holograms. Now having had to, they may have made a note to themselves to make an adaptation for this. :-)
    – Praxis
    Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 21:29
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    Makes you wonder why only a handful of Federation ships had ship-wide holographic projectors (Prometheus had them). They could fight boarding parties using holograms. While it would take a LOT of energy, energy is there in overabundance and is expendable, as opposed to crewmen
    – Petersaber
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 20:05
  • 1
    Also If I remember correctly Picard was very concerned with Lily not acting normally - that supports this answer greatly, once the Borg realize its a room full of holograms (which they cant assimilate), they would switch to face ID and looking for abnormal behavior/looks from people in the room - just like how we would find someone in a crowd. That seems to be the exact reason he tells her not to look and to act normally. I'm not going to post this as an answer because I think this answer covers most of that
    – Matt
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 20:16

I am not sure they were all-out looking for Picard to begin with. Quite reasonably the holo characters would be still more things to assimilate, if not be outright fought.

We know they are characters in a play, but the borg do not, and would not have presumed to be free to wade through them unfettered.


Some Borg from the same Sphere were shown being tricked by the Enterprise's EMH program, so it's probably a localised issue. Maybe it was caused by being sent back in time and losing direct contact with the Collective?


My best guess was that they just didnt realize they were just holograms. It seemed that when analyzing the ship previously, they focused on offensive and defensive capabilities. They probably never thought of a recreational holigram room. They were taking in and processing the data, and making a "hive mind" decision. It didnt take too long for them to realize the holigram people and start really looking hard. Thats right when picard got the tommy gun. He realized the jig was up.

  • How does this add to the existing answers?
    – Politank-Z
    Commented Jul 31, 2016 at 4:15

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