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In the episode The Best of Both Worlds, Part II an admiral says that the Enterprise has bought them valuable time so that they can amass a large fleet at Wolf 359.

Wolf 359 is 7.795 light years away from Earth. That is a HUGE distance. Even at high warp it is hours of travel. Even one Borg drone on Earth would have been a crippling blow to the Federation.

I know the fleet could set an intercept course for whatever path the cube took but since the fleet is composed of ships with different maximum speeds they would have to choose between travelling at the speed of the slowest ships or spreading out.

I would think to guarantee contact with the Borg the fleet would need to defend a much smaller area or at least spread out a bit.

A fleet of ships over 7 light years from Earth is a speck that you would pretty much have to aim for to encounter. Was the Federation brass really depending on that for the defence of their home world?

I can see why the Borg did it, they knew they were so powerful they could fight the fleet and they were all in one place so why not pass by there. But it seemed to me to be a foolish way to deploy the fleet.

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    I think the real reason is that the writers wanted a place with a really cool name to name the battle after. – HighInBC Dec 8 '15 at 4:36
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    It's been a while, but didn't they already know where it was coming from, and figured out Earth was the target from the trajectory? Deciding on a point on an already-figured-out path is not very difficult... – Izkata Dec 8 '15 at 4:48
  • @Izkata I believe the point here is that the borg will have detected the fleet well in advance and could have easily skirted around them. If their intent was the assimilation of earth all they needed was to get a few drones into an isolated region and a few into a populated region and they would soon control huge swaths of Earth. Point being that if they had skipped the fleet the Enterprise wouldn't have caught up and engaged and ultimately defeated them. – MrDobilina Dec 8 '15 at 10:42
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    Regarding the strategy of spreading out the ships - as anyone who has played the Federation and Empire board game can vouch, you always combine your fleet counters into one stack if you can help it. :) – RobertF Dec 8 '15 at 16:18
  • Re 7.8 light years being a huge distance: Yes it is, but in terms of our stellar neighbourhood it is very close. In fact, it's the 5th closest system to the sun. Star Trek ships seem to generally be able to get from system to system in pretty short periods of time, so a star that's virtually next door wouldn't be hours away at high warp. – Simba Jan 5 '17 at 16:37
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Speculation with no canon sources to back me up:

  1. Wolf 359 was the nearest star system to the battle (or simply the name of the sector), however the star may still have been light years away. There's a historical precedent with land and naval battles on Earth being named after the nearest significant terrain feature.

  2. Note that while space is indeed vast, starships have almost real time knowledge of the location of enemy ships via FTL sensors. Plus the Feds are defending Earth on interior lines. Conceivably, any maneuvers by the Borg fleet to avoid the Federation fleet could have been countered by the Fed ships (even if they're slower than Borg vessels) making an encounter unavoidable. The Federation was lucky the Borg hadn't assimilated stealth technology from the Klingons or Romulans!

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    Good point about the battle being in the same area as the star but not at the star. – HighInBC Dec 8 '15 at 15:57
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They know where they're going

When Riker contacts Admiral Hanson, the thinking behind their decision to mass at Wolf 359 should be immediately apparent:

RIKER: I strongly recommend redeploying all available defenses to protect sector zero-zero-one, Admiral...

HANSON: We're moving to intercept at Wolf three five nine. We'll make our stand there. How much longer can you maintain pursuit?

The key word here is 'intercept'. We know from previous encounters that the Borg value efficiency above all else and it seems very likely that aside from avoiding stellar phenomenon, the course they've been traveling on is most likely to be laser-straight line between their current location and Earth.

Admiral Hanson has obviously looked at a 3D starchart and spotted that the Borg's flightplan will take them near to a star system that Earth has had access to for nearly 300 years and that (presumably) already has some Federation facilities. This would offer a good explanation why he wants the fleet to group there rather than trying to meet the Borg in deep space.

The Borg don't do "passing by"

Spreading the fleet thin when the Borg have shown no inclination whatsoever that they intend to to deviate from their path would be a huge tactical error. Given the relative differences in the speeds of the ships Admiral Hanson has at his disposal, it's far better to have the big (fast) guns engage and the smaller slower ships provide support than risk the fleet being picked off one at a time as they arrive.

The Borg are really (really) fast

As an aside, we know that the Borg (and indeed other races) come out of warp when passing through star systems. Hanson may have been hoping that rather than whizzing past at warp 9.99, if the Borg's path took them through the Wolf System, they might go slow enough for his fleet to take a whack at them.

This slowdown would allow any sublight ships and slower ships to take a part in a proper dogfight rather than the encounter being limited to a single pass as the Cube zipped by.

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The big problem with the battle at Wolf 359 is that it apparently happened quite close to the star. At one point Wesley says they are nearing the Wolf system before they find the wrecked starships.

Depending or your definition of the edge, our solar system could be considered to be two billion miles to a light year (about 1,500 miles as far) in radius, and the Wolf 359 system might be much smaller.

Later the wrecked starships were illuminated by a very bright light. Since Wolf 359 is very dim compared to our sun, the wrecked starships would have be be much closer to Wolf 359 to be lit that brightly than they would have to be in our solar system. Thus it would seem that a direct line from the nebula where the Enterprise hid to the Solar System would pass very close to Wolf 359. That is statistically very improbable.

One theory is that the Borg Cube detected the fleet and changed its course to attack them at Wolf 359. A second theory is that there was a base at Wolf 359 with strong defenses and the Federation Fleet attacked the cube and then retreated to Wolf 359 to draw the cube closer to the base's defenses.

A third theory is that the wrecked ships were actually many billions, perhaps even trillions, of miles from Wolf 359, and the light which illuminated them did not come from Wolf 359 but from a closer source. The light could come from the dust and gases from destroyed starships, energized by radiation from a smashed starship which did not explode but "fizzled", releasing its tremendous energy slowly over hours instead of a split second and thus lighting up the nearby gas and dust.

  • +1 for excellent attempts at explaining bad writing. – HighInBC Dec 11 '15 at 7:36
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Because of its proximity to the real Earth source

Remember at warp speed a light year is not much:

... 487 4 light years 3 days ENT: "Damage" source

It would also keep the battle a fair distance from the Federation home world in case things got dicy.

Wolf 359 is a red dwarf that is located in the constellation Leo, near the ecliptic. At a distance of approximately 7.8 light years from Earth, it has an apparent magnitude of 13.5 and can only be seen with a large telescope. Wolf 359 is one of the nearest stars to the Sun; only the Alpha Centauri system (including Proxima Centauri), Barnard's Star and the brown dwarfs Luhman 16 and WISE 0855−0714 are known to be closer. Its proximity to Earth has led to its mention in several works of fiction.

It has been used several times in sci fi plots, in particular Star Trek: source

"Wolf 359" (1964), episode of The Outer Limits television series, written by Seeleg Lester. To test the feasibility of colonizing Dundee Planet in the Wolf 359 system, scientist Jonathan Meridith creates a miniature time-accelerated simulacrum of the planet in his laboratory. When a mysterious lifeform swiftly evolves, Meredith becomes alarmed at its potential. In his final report he writes, "Final report, Dundee Planet, star system Wolf 359. The experiment is finished. My planet is destroyed. My recommendation to the Dundee Foundation: Change the planet selected. It's not a place we can land our spacemen, but the project is feasible..."

"The Best of Both Worlds" (1990), double episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation written by Michael Piller. The Battle of Wolf 359, the subject of the second installment of the episode, is a pivotal confrontation between the Borg and a defensive Federation fleet in 2367, in which a single Borg cube obliterates a substantial fleet of 39 Federation ships. The battle and its aftermath are significant historical events in the fictional history of the Star Trek franchise. The battle appears in greater detail in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine pilot episode "Emissary" (1993) and is recounted again by the ex-Borg character Seven of Nine in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Infinite Regress" (1998).
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