In the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy we read:

FORD: Alright, just stop panicking!

ARTHUR: Who said anything about panicking?!? This is still just a culture shock.

FORD: Arthur! You’re getting hysterical. Shut up!

VOGON GUARD: Resistance is useless!

FORD: You can shut up as well!

VOGON GUARD: Resistance is useless!

FORD: Oh, give it a rest! Do you really enjoy this sort of thing?

VOGON GUARD: Resistance is……what d’ ya mean?

FORD: I mean does it give you a full satisfying life? Stomping around, shouting, throwing people out of spaceships?

VOGON GUARD: The hours are good.

In Star Trek TNG The Best of Both Worlds we see the Borg say:

Capt. Picard: I have nothing to say to you; and I will resist you with my last ounce of strength.

The Borg: Strength is irrelevant. Resistance is futile. We wish to improve ourselves. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service ours.

In particular we see the Vogon say "Resistance is Useless" and the Borg say "Resistance is Futile".

These seem remarkably similar. Perhaps even paying homage.

My question is: Is there a link between the Vogon's "Resistance is Useless" and the Borg's "Resistance is Futile"?

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    Actually, the phrase "Resistance is useless" appeared earlier, in the 1964 Doctor Who episode "The Daleks".
    – Praxis
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 11:45
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    Also, the exact phrase "Resistance is futile" appeared in Space: 1999 in 1978.
    – Praxis
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 11:47
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    Useless futility is resistant. Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 20:42
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    See Google ngrams.
    – MvG
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 14:41
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    These responses are very old (2016), but I just came across a much earlier reference. 20,000 leagues Under The Sea, Jules Verne, used the phrase in chapter 23, when Captain Nemo ordered Professor Aronnax, Conseil and Ned to be confined to their quarters. "After that I stopped objecting and started obeying because resistance was useless." Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 11:05

3 Answers 3


It's possible, but it's equally likely both were inspired by some earlier work that used the phrase, with Doctor Who being a particular likely candidate. The Daleks and Cybermen on Doctor Who said "resistance is useless" in many episodes that aired prior to either TNG or HHGTG--for example the Daleks said it in "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" from 1964 (you can do control-F on a PC, or command-F on a mac, to search the script for a particular phrase) and the Cybermen in "The Moonbase" from 1967. If you google "resistance is useless" (in quotes) along with site:http://www.chakoteya.net/DoctorWho you'll find more examples from other episodes (you can find more episodes searching for variants like 'useless to resist' and 'futile to resist' and 'struggle is futile' and 'struggles are futile'). "Resistance is futile" was also used by another Doctor Who villain, The Master, in "The Deadly Assassin". Looking at the TV Tropes page for Resistance is Futile, it doesn't seem to list any earlier examples of these phrases, so it seems likely that Doctor Who popularized it.

Other reasons to suspect an influence: as mentioned here, Douglas Adams wrote a number of Doctor Who episodes and was the script editor for season 17 which ran from 1979-1980, which was after HHGTTG (the radio series premiered in 1978) but at least increases the likelihood that he had been familiar with the show beforehand. And although the TNG writers haven't acknowledged this, it's also fairly plausible that the Cybermen were one of the sources of inspiration for the Borg due to a number of similarities, as discussed here:

Like the Borg of Star Trek, Doctor Who's Cybermen are born in human form. Like Cybermen, the Borg graft mechanical parts and limbs onto their organic bodies to "improve themselves." Like the Cybermen, the Borg assimilate other cultures and transform individuals into members of their own race. Like the Cybermen, the Borg eschew personal identity and concentrate on the goals of the "collective." Like the Cybermen before them, the Borg are more advanced each time the Enterprise encounters them. The Cybermen even once stated a variation on the line "Resistance is futile" in the Season 5 episode "Tomb of the Cybermen." Also, like the Cybermen before them, the Borg often are seen retreating into hibernation in their own personal cells or wall units. Lastly, bot the Borg and the Cybermen can survive in the vacuum of space without dying, as witnessed by the invasion attempt in Doctor Who's "The Wheel in Space" and the Enterprise hull-sensor dish sequence in Star Trek: First Contact.

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    Other parts of Ford's conversation with the Vogon guard are taken almost verbatim from Adams's script for "The Pirate Planet" (where the dialogue is between the Doctor and a pirate guard). The DVD commentary for that <i>Doctor Who</i> story suggests that the Doctor's dialogue was written first, but I don't know for sure.
    – Buzz
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 16:33
  • "Futile" is just a way of saying "Useless" so that you aound smarter. So I'm not surprised The Master did this.
    – Spencer
    Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 18:09

It's likely a direct reference to Space: 1999.

In the episode "The Dorcons" of the 1970s television series Space: 1999, we have the following dialogue:

CONSUL VARDA: Commander, the Psychon will tell you how futile it is to resist us.

PSYCHON: Resistance IS futile.

Note that Ron Moore and Michael Piller, TNG staff who were very involved with the creation of the Borg and with "The Best of Both Worlds" in particular, were loyal fans of Space: 1999 and have pondered rebooting that show.

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    This was just a one-off use of the phrase on Space: 1999 rather than a repeated catchphrase of any villain(s) on the show, right? If so I think it makes it a little less plausible that Moore and Piller were specifically thinking of it, and Freiberger wasn't involved in the writing of TNG.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 11:59
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    @Hypnosifl: The one-off-ness of the phrase in Space: 1999 has nothing to do with whether or not they were referencing it. The Freiberger thing is a side comment ("another Star Trek connection").
    – Praxis
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 12:00
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    I think it does have to do with the likelihood they were referencing it, since A) they haven't memorized every line, so they'd be less likely to remember a one-off phrase than one that was repeated, and B) if it was intended as any sort of "tip of the hat" that other Space: 1999 fans would recognize, they'd be more likely to pick a repeated phrase since very few fans in the days before googling would be likely to pick up on the connection to a one-off phrase like this.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 12:03
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    @Hypnosifl : Writers often make obscure references and enjoy watching fans try to identify them. Also, they were fans of Space: 1999, so they could know all sorts of minutiae about the show, just the way you and I know obscure things about Star Trek: TNG. I think the most relevant features are that they were fans of Space: 1999 and the phrase appears exactly. Anyway, I know from experience that you and I can debate these things to the moon and back, so let's agree to disagree. ;-)
    – Praxis
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 12:08
  • Well, I wasn't saying it's highly implausible they were referencing it, I just said that it being a one-off made it "a little less plausible" than if it were a repeated phrase on the show, in relative terms. I would disagree with your "almost certainly", but otherwise I think it's a reasonable speculation.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 12:20

I would say that the phrase in both works has its origin in Nazi declaration of war against the Netherlands. The second line is

Elk verzet volledig zinloos.

which can be translated as resistance is completely (futile/useless/meaningless).

But more usually

Resistance is futile.

Since Daleks are space Nazis this is probably where Dr Who writers and Space: 1999 picked up the phrase. Nazi tropes were rife in the era.

So probably not any real link.

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