I had always assumed that the encounter with the Borg in "Q Who" had alerted the Borg to the Federation presence and that it was because of this encounter that they sent the cube that attacked Earth in "The Best of Both Worlds". But recently I realised that maybe the Borg were already on their way and Q was not in fact unleashing a giant threat upon the Federation just to spite Picard, but rather allowed them a glimpse into the future so they could prepare for an attack that was already underway at that time.

Now ovbiously the events in First Contact and ENT indicate that the Borg were aware of the Federation's presence by the time of "Q Who" (see e.g. this question), but I am more interested in a purely TNG interpretation of the issue, essentially only including things that had aired up to (and including) TBoBW/Family:

Did the events in "Q Who" trigger the Borg attack on Federation space, or did they merely serve to warn Picard of an attack that was already underway?

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    Q always spoke of working from a "higher morality" and Q (Quinn) mentioned that there was a larger plan at work. – Valorum Dec 11 '15 at 23:41
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    I suppose you want an in-universe answer? I think I saw somewhere that writers the original plan was that the Borg had already existed in the region and was responsible for the destruction of bases in 1e26 that never really got explained. – Zoredache Dec 11 '15 at 23:45
  • Considering that I have imposed a limitation on the scope of the question that is based on air dates of the show, I'm not convinced that it is reasonable to ask for a purely in-universe answer. – Hilbert Dec 11 '15 at 23:54
  • I think what you're asking is, "What was the intent of the writers for what the Borg were up to when they came up with the Borg concept?" Is this close? Because when Q flings the Enterprise to encounter the Borg cube, his intentions aren't clear/trustworthy (like usual). And while the Borg's presence is clear in Best of Both Worlds (assimilate all the things), it's not clear if they had already planned to head towards Earth prior to the encounter that Q created. – Ellesedil Dec 12 '15 at 0:45
  • “I am more interested in a purely TNG interpretation of the issue, essentially only including things that had aired up to (and including) TBoBW/Family” — I doubt there’s any evidence about this in TNG episodes. TV in general wasn’t written with the intention of serialisation back then. – Paul D. Waite Dec 12 '15 at 20:29

TLDR - This was probably more of a warning to the Federation, as the Borg probably knew about it; but given the limitations in your question, there's no way to say for certain.

Based on Borg stories that had aired through Best of Both Worlds/Family, we have no way of knowing if Q caused the Borg to be aware of the Federation or not. But we can theorize based on what we see on-screen.

The first season finale The Neutral Zone had a force that destroyed Federation and Romulan bases, using a level of destruction great enough that the Romulans knew that the Federation could not have been responsible. The Romulans agreed to investigate and share information about this with the Federation.

In the opening of "The Best of Both Worlds", an entire Federation colony is destroyed, it's town center a giant crater. This is confirmed as a Borg act.

While it's never connected on-screen, it's a pretty broad hint that the Borg were already present and testing out their muscle against the locals, but we'll never now beyond a doubt unless a future installment clarifies this.

All this leads us to conclude that the Borg almost certainly knew of the Federation when Q dropped the Enterprise within spitting distance of a Borg Cube. It's reasonable to suppose that the Borg might have been nudged by this event to investigate the Federation a little sooner than they might have otherwise, but we'll never really know.

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    I re-read the Memory Alpha article on "Q Who" and apparently Data mentions at one point that what they see there "is identical to what happened to the outposts along the Neutral Zone", providing an in-universe link between the events in The Neutral Zone and Q Who / TBoBW. – Hilbert Dec 12 '15 at 10:44
  • @Hilbert That's pretty convincing, I had forgotten. – neilfein Dec 13 '15 at 0:47

Predestination paradox

In the Enterprise episode "Regeneration", Borg drones who survived the events of the film First Contact are discovered on Earth in the Arctic in 2153. Before being destroyed, the drones manage to send a message to the Collective in the Delta Quadrant:

ARCHER: They told their homeworld how to find Earth.

T'POL: Did you learn where the message was sent?

ARCHER: Somewhere deep in the Delta Quadrant.

T'POL: Then I doubt there's any immediate danger. It would take at least two hundred years for a subspace message to reach the Delta Quadrant, assuming it's received at all.

ARCHER: Sounds to me like we've only postponed the invasion until what...the 24th Century?

  • Is there anything in TNG that indicates that the Borg were moving towards Federation space because they had been summoned? – Hilbert Dec 12 '15 at 10:53
  • ...and then Starfleet forgot all about it. – Schwern Apr 23 '16 at 20:07

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