Ever since the Borg evolved to include the nanoprobe-injecting tubules in First Contact (at least, I assume they had only recently developed them since we never saw that method of assimilation before), why did they not take it a step further and develop a ranged version of this?

I mean, even 20th-Century humans have tranquilizer darts, which inject a liquid into a target from range. Regardless of the Collective's disdain for caring about the safety of individual drones, one would think that being able to shoot Insta-Assimilate darts at your enemies would be an even quicker and more efficient method of assimilation than hoping to get close enough to poke the tubules into flesh.

Taking it a step farther, depending on exactly how tiny the nanoprobes are, could they not even be misted into the atmosphere? How screwed would a planet be if a cube basically crop-dusted them with probes?

As frequently is the case, I'm looking for in-universe speculation (I know there are no facts on this one, but I don't want to just hear "the writers couldn't make them literally invincible"). Is there some reason that either of these methods of delivery would be infficient enough to be dismissed by the Collective/Queen?

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    They never assimilated a crop duster?
    – Xantec
    May 22, 2012 at 14:49
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    Crop dusters and blow darts aren't sufficiently advanced technology. Borg can't innovate. Xantec's comment is as good an answer to this question as any.
    – Kalamane
    May 22, 2012 at 18:28
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    That's a bit of a cop-out, though. You could just as easily say that the physical restraints the Borg use to incapacitate their non-assimilated prisoners (a la Data in First Contact) are "primitive" compared to forcefields. Why would they not consider a large-scale, long-distance method for delivering nanoprobes just because it was a little bit old-school?
    – Ando
    May 22, 2012 at 18:58
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    @Ando For the same reason that the Federation didn't issue solid projectile weapons in Borg encounters.
    – Xantec
    May 22, 2012 at 20:38
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    Actually, Xantec, a very similar thing happens in the DS9 novel #5, "Fallen Heroes", where an enemy's physical body armor reflects all energy weapons, and it takes chemical-propelled projectile weapons to actually do any damage to them. Just wanted to note that
    – Ando
    May 22, 2012 at 20:50

6 Answers 6


There is no in-Universe canon to support the Borg DID NOT have the ability to deliver nanoprobes to a species en masse.

We might make the assumption they did not since they were unable to assimilate or stop Species 8472 until they were aided by Voyager. But the help Voyager gave was not JUST the photon torpedoes modified with nanites loads. It was Voyagers stealth nanoprobes that the Borg lacked the creativity or research capacity to create.

Borg nanoprobes are highly infectious and very efficient at transforming an individual in a very short time, but the Borg would not assimilate entire species one specimen at a time. It would be inefficient and illogical.

In events with the Borg, we see them assimilating individuals, but the Borg only assimilate individuals, ships or small colonies for study and analysis at close range. It is more likely when they are assimilating a species, they use their Borg nanoprobes to infiltrate a natural resource required by the species and have the infected specimens return to a single collection point once they have been properly adapted.

While the Borg are likely to have the physical manpower to do overcome a species one planet and one individual at a time, it makes more sense to allow the potential species to infect themselves and then collect them afterward for processing. Their capacity for nanite production would basically allow them to seed entire worlds with nanites and return once their transformation was complete.

Nanites are perfect for concealing in food and water supplies due to their size. Only a species that knows what they are looking for, or perhaps has a technology designed to recognize inactive nanites would even know they are there.

Consider, the Borg only sent one ship to conquer the Federation after they decided to attack it. The confrontation at Wolf 359 indicated, one ship may have been enough.

Just because we have not seen a multi-person delivery system, it does not mean they do not have one.

Once they have a specimen of the species they are going to absorb, they adapt the nanoprobes to make the transformation as efficient as possible. This does not take research, using strictly trial and error has worked for the Borg since very few species have the immunological response to resist the nanoprobes. To date, only Species 8472 have been biologically capable of resistance.

Their previous process of mass assimilation (whatever that process was) would not have worked against Species 8472, and they lacked the expertise to research why they were unsuccessful.

Voyager was successful in weaponizing the Borg nanoprobes because they were able to research why Species 8472 was resistant and, using creativity, make a process that would make the nanoproves invisible to Species 8472's hyper-efficient immune system. The weaponized versions of the Borg nanoprobes were redesigned by the Voyager crew to be ignored by the powerful immune system of Species 8472 until the process was unable to be stopped.

The innovation was not the torpedoes (though they certainly helped), it was the stealth nanoprobes that won the day. There is no reason to believe the Borg don't already possess a means of transforming a population, even if it is as prosaic as a flying vehicle dropping nanoprobes on a city. I would suspect they are more efficient than that. It's in their nature.

  • Now THAT was a well-thought-out response. Thanks for that. And it does make sense. I honestly hadn't really put thought into how they assimilate an entire world. I always assumed that they started small and like a viral video, it just spread. Think about First Contact - only a small handful of drones survived the initial sphere's destruction, and within a fairly short order (a couple of days is nothing to the Borg, I'm sure), had assimilated a large portion of the Enterprise-E's crew. Once a single person is assimilated, they quickly have the capability to assimilate someone else.
    – Ando
    May 22, 2012 at 20:17

Summary: Insta-Assimilate darts can't do the job. They could inject the nanites, but the Borg implants still need to be installed so the Borg would have to be onsite in some form.

In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Dark Frontier", Seven of Nine and the Borg Queen have the following exchange:

Queen: Species 5618, human. [...] Our previous attempts to assimilate them were all direct assaults. They failed. So we've created a more surreptitious strategy.

Seven: You intend to detonate a biogenic charge in Earth's atmosphere.

Queen: It would infect all life forms with nanoprobe viruses. Assimilation would be gradual. By the time they realised what was happening, half their population would be drones.

Seven: Inefficient. The virus would take years to proliferate.

Queen: We've waited this long.

From this exchange we learn that the Borg are willing to use weapons of mass assimilation, but generally choose not to do so because 1) it is a slower process than what they normally do, and 2) such stealthy pacification is typically not needed.

(2) is easy to understand. The Borg technology level is very high even by Federation standards, so it is likely that most species cannot put up meaningful resistance. Shock troops are sent in, the natives fight back, but resistance is futile. Those the Borg cannot initially outfight, they outlast. (Think driver ants.)

(1) makes sense if assimilation is mostly a macro process. Infusing a host with regenerative nanobots is not enough; Borg implants also have to be installed. The implants could be grown using the nanites but installing ready-made implants will always be faster, and it gets the newly created drone functional sooner. A new drone can then go out and start assimilating more of the populace. Cumulatively this produces an exponentially growing army of Borg drones that would overwhelm any remaining resistance.


The Borg only do a very small amount of "innovation", which is basically combining the best bits from what they have already assimilated. I would assume that they have either not assimilated a tribe with blow-darts (they would be too primitive), or more likely, they have not assimilated a culture that used blow-darts or tranquilizers that contained nanites.

So while there is little doubt that the Borg have all of the information needed to create something like what you've described, they simply lack the capability to combine the ideas into a product.

There is also (of course) the issue that if this were possible, then they would also create torpedoes and other methods of distributing the nanites, and would easily assimilate the galaxy (and thus no show).

  • While it's true they don't "innovate", and don't generally look favorably upon "primitive" things, First Contact and several episodes of Voyager showed that the Borg Queen is a lot more crafty than the vanilla view of the Collective that persisted through much of TNG, and I guess I just have trouble believing she wouldn't see the utility of a long-range delivery system, especially of a planet-wide scale.
    – Ando
    May 22, 2012 at 18:55
  • Although I agree that the galaxy-wide assimilation scenario would have to be avoided for the show to exist ;-)
    – Ando
    May 22, 2012 at 18:55

Mass infection of organics would likely lead to Borg cats, dogs and lizards as the nanites most likely cannot determine the level of inteligence / distinctiveness the Borg are interested in assimilating. Highly inefficent, and therefore would not be contemplated.


Considering what the Doctor was able to do with activated probes it's not worth firing ranged probe torpedoes which may be "captured" and reverse engineered


The Borg as originally portrayed on TNG had no nanotechnology (at least none relevant to assimilation and combat). I tend to think of these guys as the necro-Borg. They emphasize the pale skin and cadaverous appearance. All assimilation is done with vivisectiony and surgical prosthesis.

Later on, Michael Okuda must have read a Time magazine article on nanotechnology/nanorobots and they changed the idea behind this villain. It wasn't well-conceived. If anything, it makes them less menacing. What this means for the question though is that the implications were just never realized by the writers.

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