In Star Trek: First Contact (1996), during the battle with Starfleet which takes place very near to Earth, a Borg Sphere comes out of the damaged Borg Cube and then it uses time travel to go back in time to the year 2063 AD.

I am wondering that if it had always been the Borg Queen's intention to go back in time, why didn't she choose to go back in time while the Borg Cube was at a point in space very far away from Earth, such as at a point just outside the border of Federation space?

By doing so, she would have avoided any possibility of being destroyed by Starfleet.

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    I always read it as a last ditch attempt to win an otherwise lost battle, ie. it wasn't their plan at first, but when they saw there were losing, they came up with this last-minute plan to turn a loss into a win...
    – HeartWare
    Sep 1, 2022 at 12:19
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    Because then the movie wouldn't happen.
    – chepner
    Sep 1, 2022 at 13:53
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    (This is why time travel pretty much destroys any attempt at a logical plot.)
    – chepner
    Sep 1, 2022 at 13:53
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    I understood it as a hail Mary also, that is, there was a big chance it wouldn't work.
    – user15742
    Sep 1, 2022 at 14:45
  • Plan B, for sure. Sep 1, 2022 at 23:06

3 Answers 3


There aren't really any evidence to support any theory, but when First Contact was released, controlled time travel in universe was rare and usually unstable. Other Borg spheres encountered by Federation did not seem to have any capability of time travel, so the one deployed at Earth was probably an one-of-a-kind experimental craft, which might've lacked warp capability; as such it would've needed a delivery system - in this case, the cube. Note that spheres docked to cubes are not a commonplace occurence - the First Contact has the only instance; other spheres seemed to be fully autonomous vessels - combat vessels, which could've help the cube to win the battle - so this one was definitely unique.

Another possibility - there is some evidence that prolonged exposure to temporal distortions can result in adverse effects. It is possible that Borg expected that need to travel a relatively long distance after traversing the vortex could've rendered the sphere's crew unable to complete their mission.

Moreover, the events of First Contact suggest that Borg actually expected to win the battle. Indeed, they had the upper hand until Enterprise showed up with Picard onboard, who then directed the Federation fleet to fire at a location that otherwise wouldn't be seen as vulnerable. If Picard had followed the orders he was given, he wouldn't be present; and we can assume the battle would've been lost, allowing the Borg to insert the sphere into the past with no resistance.

Of course, this hypothesis is full of holes, but there isn't much info on capabilities of the Borg or the specifics of time travel. We can only assume that in 2373 they for some reason couldn't just move the whole cube to the past in the Delta Quadrant and then travel to Earth; and didn't expect to have that capability in the future.

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    I like this answer, BUT - why do we assume that time travel was the basis for the mission at all? A single cube almost destroyed the Federation during The Best of Both Worlds. On first viewing I assumed the Borg simply had launched another straightforward attack, and the time travel gambit was an improvisational adjustment they made once they realized they had lost.
    – tbrookside
    Sep 1, 2022 at 13:01
  • I've seen a couple of variations of arguments that the time travel in First Contact wasn't really about assimilating Earth, but was either the Borg hoping that their losses to Starfleet were the reason that they were losing the war with Species 8472 and this could help or that they're deliberately cleaning up time loops.
    – samuei
    Sep 1, 2022 at 14:18
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    @tbrookside i expanded a bit on why I think the sphere in the film was unique enough to not be something the borg whipped up after they figured out they were losing - note that it only took Picard about one and a half minute of the film to blow the cube up, so it truly was one hell of a rush job. Sep 1, 2022 at 14:27
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    @samuei the time loop cleanup argument is an interesting one, but, again, implies a significantly more impressive understanding of temporal mechanics than Borg otherwise demonstrate in the shows, IMO - but I would definitely be interested to see an answer following this line of reasoning. Destroying Starfleet - well, why not send a cube and a regular combat sphere instead? Judging by how battle went, one more ship might've been just enough to achieve conventional victory. Sep 1, 2022 at 14:32
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    @DanilaSmirnov Yeah, the fact that they could apparently have defeated Starfleet fairly easily is part of the reason people keep suggesting that it's not about defeating Starfleet. The war with Species 8472 was going really poorly for them, so it tends to get attention as an answer.
    – samuei
    Sep 1, 2022 at 16:05

To quote the Borg from First Contact:

We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.

The biological technological distinctiveness the Borg want to add to their collective is the 24th century Earth home to a wide variety of biological distinctive species and technology that the Borg want. Meanwhile 21st century earth has far more limited biological and technological distinctiveness making if far less worth assimilating.

The Borg's goal is to assimilate the latest and greatest technology and biology. As such if they have perfected time travel technology the only direction they would be interested in would be the future not the past. As such for the Borg to resort to going into the past to win is less than ideal and so would be reserved as a last ditch effort for a partial victory.

So to resort to time travel before the cube even tried to assimilate 24th century Earth would run counter to their objective. Which the cube's assault on Earth was going well... until Picard showed up.

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    Given that these events canonically take place in a time of "post-atomic horror," it's reasonable to assume that the biological distinctiveness of Earth in Cochrane's time is limited indeed, having just passed a "population bottleneck" event! Sep 1, 2022 at 14:18
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    Yes the Borg are extremely out of character here. First Contact is highly overrated. This is how franchises die - to thunderous applause. Sep 1, 2022 at 15:25
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    @lucasbachmann As seen with Species 8472, the Borg are willing to cut their losses and switch from "assimilate" to "annihilate" when the losses mount up and the Return on Investment gets too low; when the potential gain of technological and biological distinctiveness from assimilation is outweighed by the loss of it caused by counter-attacks. To do otherwise would be illogical, inefficient, and — ultimately — futile. Sep 1, 2022 at 16:46
  • @lucasbachmann If you’re talking about there being a Borg Queen, I agree. But that quote is almost word-for-word how they announce themselves in “Best of Both Worlds”: “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.” That’s very much the classic Borg, a twisted reflection of how the Federation’s strength is its diversity and assimilation.
    – Davislor
    Sep 1, 2022 at 22:09
  • @Davislor The point is time travel shenanigans is not assimilation of technology. While never explicitly stated the Borg struck me as kind of like Babylon 5's Shadows for improvement through conflict. They send one cube and if by some miracle that civilization defeats it - the Borg likely just triggered a very large investment in starship research and development. Which will benefit the Borg when they ultimately win. The Borg shouldn't resort to Hail Mary time travel just to take out a small galactic power on the opposite side of the galaxy. Sep 1, 2022 at 22:22

I tried to support a previous answer and could not (so submitting an answer).

The Borg did not jump back in time earlier, because they didn't expect to lose.

Evidence: Have they ever expected to lose? No, they expect to overcome every single time, and assimilate to continually improve a very successful plan (do you understand what the phrase 'Resistance is futile' means? When would you use it... when you have a chance, a good chance, or when your offense/defense/technology is vastly superior?

If you only have a good chance, you don't waste time talking to the enemy you go for the win!

They didn't do it proactively, it was a reaction (Dang it Locutus, that's going to destroy the cube!! What are our options, destruction is imminent -- the queen can escape in the sphere? (that doesn't do much for her, if starfleet can just shoot the sphere). But it can go back in time, and they can't follow. Good solution, otherwise, she's dead -- 'make it so' (yeah, they copied 'Locutus', he was assimilated -- so that's allowed)

I'm not an expert on the 'Borg' -- but they have always seemed to pick fights they can win, to gain more technology and combine it with what they had. They were initially presented as a problem the Federation was inferior too -- so Q thought they were superior. Can you picture the Borg coming in, and instead of the traditional statement they said "We are Borg -- may the best species win! We've got a new strategy, we might surprise you and win! We're gonna try!" The attitude, and approach are totally different.

Time travel is probably a complicated risk (anything that's a risk is a lower priority to the logical hive-mind, stick with the proven plan... destroy and assimilate)

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. This is indeed more argued than the other answer, but it could still use some evidence - that it was a reaction, not a plan, for instance. Are there any quotes you can dig up that point to the Borg's state of mind? (State of minds? States of minds?)
    – DavidW
    Sep 1, 2022 at 21:54
  • The Borg queen is not too worried about her own death. When Picard points out that didn't she die when the Borg cube in Best of Both Worlds was destroyed she responded: "You think in such three-dimensional terms. How small you've become." So the queen is not that concern about being on a cube that is about to be blown up.
    – Anketam
    Sep 2, 2022 at 15:46