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In the Season 5 episode “I, Borg”, Picard directs his crew to come up with an "invasive program" to implant in their captured Borg drone "Hugh" in the hopes of annihilating the Collective.

PICARD: If we could get to the root command, we could introduce an invasive programming sequence through its biochip system and then return it to the hive.

LAFORGE: The Borg are so interconnected it would act like a virus.

PICARD: Which would infect the entire Collective. We could disable their neural network at a stroke.

CRUSHER: Infect it? You make it sound like a disease.

PICARD: Quite right, Doctor. If all goes well, a terminal one.

Geordi and Data later come up with such an invasive program that they expect to be a success.

PICARD: How can a geometric form disable a computer system?

DATA: The shape is a paradox, sir. It cannot exist in real space or time.

LAFORGE: When Hugh's imaging apparatus imprints this on his biochips, he'll try to analyse it.

DATA: He will be unsuccessful, and will store the shape in his memory banks. It will be shunted to a subroutine for further analysis.

LAFORGE: Then when the Borg download his memory, it'll be incorporated it into their network, then they'll try to analyse it.

DATA: It is designed so that each approach they take will spawn an anomalous solution. The anomalies are designed to interact with each other, linking together to form an endless and unsolvable puzzle.

PICARD: Quite original. How long before a total systems failure?

LAFORGE: Not until the shape has gone through several hundred computational cycles.

By the end of the episode, Picard decides that it is morally wrong to deploy this in their captured drone, and explores other options.

PICARD: To use him in this manner, we'd be no better than the enemy that we seek to destroy.

But with the continuing threat of the Borg (including over 11,000 killed or assimilated at the Battle of Wolf 359), I imagine that somebody else might be willing to unleash this "invasive program" that Picard refused to use.

Does this solution to try to annihilate the Borg Collective ever get attempted or revisited in any Star Trek media (including Expanded Universe)?

(To be clear, I'm not talking about whether "Hugh" ever reappeared, or if the effects of him being exposed to individuality were revisited, but rather if Geordi and Data's "invasive program" to shut down all Borg everywhere has itself made a reappearance. Did anybody try to insert this geometric form into a Borg again?)

  • Does what happened in the Voyager finale count? – OrangeDog Jul 3 at 11:51
  • There's also the virus used in the Unimatrix Zero, Part II (episode) of voyager. Then there's also the virus that Icheb carries, though he isn't exactly federation. – yetanothercoder Jul 3 at 13:01
  • @OrangeDog I don't know, I've never seen that (there's a lot of hours of Star Trek shows!). I guess I'm primarily asking if the specific solution from TNG was revisited "our records show that the Enterprise-D developed a logic bomb that would shut down the Collective almost overnight; let's try that!" or if someone else independently came up with the same solution and it was tried. – Thunderforge Jul 3 at 15:52
  • I always thought that that this was a very weak plot device. The writers could have come up with a more sophisticated virus-like plot device. – rnoodle Jul 4 at 13:36
5

Main Canon

In a word, no (or possibly maybe). Admiral Nechayev is certainly adamant (in TNG: Descent) that should the opportunity present itself again to commit genocide that Picard should take it. I think it's reasonable to assume she means by using the geometry-virus but isn't limiting her order to just that one method.

NECHAYEV: Your priority is to safeguard the lives of Federation citizens, not to wrestle with your conscience. Now I want to make it clear that if you have a similar opportunity in the future, an opportunity to destroy the Borg, you are under orders to take advantage of it. Is that understood?

That being said, the circumstances she's describing are vanishingly rare, requiring a Borg captive that (temporarily) isn't linked to the Collective but is willing to return. As far as can be told, no further attempts were made in the show or films.

Additionally, we now know, courtesy of First Contact that the Collective isn't a mindless hive operating in a figurative vacuum. It's actually run by a Queen Borg whose job is (amongst others) to detect threats to the Borg consciousness and eliminate them, even if that means sacrificing vessels. The virus likely would have gotten only so far and then been stopped in its tracks.

EU Canon

In the novel TNG: Before Dishonor the topological virus makes a reappearance. Dubbed Operation Endgame, the virus is weaponised and injected into the Borg Collective by Seven of Nine. It's super-effective and the Collective does indeed collapse, even down to explosively dismantling all of its ships in a vain attempt to solve the geometric puzzle.

The Borg cube was unable to maintain its cohesion. Neutronium might well have been able to shield the Borg from any attack that came from without. It was powerless against an attack from within, though, as its very molecular structure began to split apart. Atomic explosions erupted all along the surface. The Collective was unaware, devoted only to the overwhelming impetus to solve this unfathomable geometric progression.

The influence of the virus reached its breaking point and it broke. The Borg starships flew apart in all directions while the Borg cube imploded. It crumpled in on itself, then expanded, and then contracted once more as it shook violently.

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Probably there was no second attempt because the federation realized that it could not work?
The borg must have some subroutines that cancel analyses at some point, like when they decide "accuracy of solution is sufficient for our purpose", otherwise they would have annihilated themselves centuries ago trying to calculate PI. The same routines should also trigger at "problem is not solvable".
That it did work partially was probably due to faults in a couple of drones that prevented these routines to trigger, thus separating just a small sub-cluster from the main collective.

  • 1
    In what way did it "work partially"? If you're referring to Hugh, I thought that was because of the chaos that came from introducing individuality to the Collective, not this solution. – Thunderforge Jul 4 at 18:10
  • Oops, it seems my memory played a trick on me. I remembered that some time after that episode (one season later?) Enterprise encountered a group of Borg that were individuals (which doesn't mean they were any friendlier) and I thought that was because of the virus (how long ago was that episode - close to 30 years?), but you are right: it was because of the individuality Hugh was exposed to. However, this should not have worked, either, since the Borg had been assimilating beings that previously were individuals (like the Hanson family) and thus had to have methods to suppress individuality. – Volker Landgraf Jul 5 at 7:14

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