In the TNG Season 2 episode "Q Who", Captain Picard frees the Enterprise-D from the Borg tractor beam with three damaging phaser blasts.

Clearly the Enterprise inflicted significant damage on the Borg vessel. Is it specifically addressed in canon why Picard didn't continue attacking the Borg vessel?

Instead he calls another senior staff meeting, handing the initiative over to the Borg.

NOTE: I'm asking a different question from k0nane's questions in April 2014: In TNG S02 E16 "Q-Who"; Why did Picard not continue to fire phasers?.

  • I am failing to see how you distinguish between "why did Picard not continue to fire" and "why Picard didn't continue attacking".
    – Broklynite
    Nov 23, 2015 at 21:36
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    this is mainly opinion based I fear but really likely this is due to the changing ethos of Roddenberry by the time TNG came around. The 24th century vision being one of ultimately resolution by diplomacy vs blasters. This worldview eventually changes a) after his death b) as other show-runners take over (especially in DS9) - but mostly, especially in those early episodes you see a Federation / society that is largely a utopia. No poverty, no wars, etc... Picard is an explorer, not a warrior and would not needlessly take life if he could think his way out of a conflict.
    – NKCampbell
    Nov 23, 2015 at 21:38
  • @Broklynite The prior question asked why Picard didn't fire phasers while being pursued by the Borg ship at warp speed, with the answer stating phasers couldn't be activated while in warp. I'm simply asking why Picard didn't blow up the Borg ship prior to going to warp.
    – RobertF
    Nov 23, 2015 at 21:40
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    Because they aren't a war ship? Because their mission was to seek out new life and new civilizations? Not destroy everything they see?
    – Zoredache
    Nov 23, 2015 at 21:49
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    I guess I am asking why you think it wouldn't be the obvious answer. Picard, Starfleet, etc are generally not killers. So why do you think destroying the Borg is something that Picard would even do at that point?
    – Zoredache
    Nov 23, 2015 at 22:03

2 Answers 2


This was the first encounter the Federation had with the Borg, so Picard had no idea this was a foe bent on assimilating all of humanity (and everyone else too). They are not a military organization and their mission is exploration, not to destroy species they come into contact with. Quoting from the Season 4 episode, 'Galaxy's Child', after Picard gives the order that kills the space creature they have just encountered (emphasis mine):

We're out here to explore, to make contact with other lifeforms, to establish peaceful relations but not to interfere... and absolutely not to destroy. And yet, look at what we have just done.

Also, as you say, the initial round of phaser fire inflicted significant damage to the Borg cube. The Enterprise crew and Picard would have no way of knowing the Borg's capacity to generate, their ability to adapt to the Enterprise's weapons, or their lack of interest in any sort of peaceful resolution.

It's also a small possibility (pure speculation) that since this is another encounter with Q, Picard does not want to simply start destroying any being they come into contact with. It was not so long ago that Q put Picard on trial for the crimes of humanity. I doubt Picard wants to give Q additional reasons to claim humans are barbarians bent on creating war wherever they go in the galaxy.

  • Galaxy's child could have been a better episode if it was not leforge and that chick who comes on board, and their drama because of holographic her... facepalm. Nov 24, 2015 at 14:13
  • I think this is the best response we'll get . . . but I'll wager Captains Sisko or Janeway wouldn't have been so restrained when it came to the Borg. :)
    – RobertF
    Dec 4, 2015 at 14:31
  • @RobertF - Picard came from a different era of starfleet. He'd already been a captain for 31 years before being given the Enterprise-D. DS9 is Sisko's first command, and Janeway took her first command (though not at the rank of Captain) the year after Picard was given the Ent-D. During the TNG run, the federation had to come to terms that their peaceful mission and beliefs were not enough to get by in the galaxy. There is a major shift in character to the organization as the shows progress.
    – ench
    Jan 13, 2017 at 20:31

The enterprise crew were overconfident just like Q said. They thought they could beat the Borg if they wanted to, so didn't take the threat seriously. They didn't know the Borg would get shields to beat their phasers and photons so quickly.

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