25

I just finished watching Star Trek: Voyager and it occurred to me that the Borg (especially with the transwarp hub that Voyager destroyed) could have assimilated the Alpha Quadrant with waves of ships.

In episode 26 of season 4 (Hope and Fear), Arturis mentioned how the Borg surrounded their entire system with a thousands of ships. I thought this reference was surprising as that was really the only instance of the Borg acting collectively to assimilate a species beyond the incident with fluidic space.

  • This could be a case of hyperbole - even one Borg ship, with its humongous size, is a terrifying prospect, so any number of them beyond one would likely be exaggerated. Which is not to mention that he makes no reference to what size those ships are - we only see one massive cube and one somewhat massive sphere in the Alpha quadrant, but it's possible they have smaller ships – Zibbobz Mar 25 '14 at 14:13
  • There was a "Borg scout" designed for an episode or film - I unfortunately can't remember which one - which would have been a shuttlecraft-sized Borg vessel. – James Sheridan Mar 26 '14 at 0:28
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    @JamesSheridan the Borg Scout was used in I, Borg - a TNG episode. – HorusKol Mar 26 '14 at 0:39
  • @HorusKol: Thanks for that. – James Sheridan Mar 26 '14 at 0:40
  • they don't bother to send a fleet of ships because they don't care enough. It is after Janeway's destruction of a Hub that they finally start caring and launch an invasion – Petersaber Jul 8 '15 at 6:56

13 Answers 13

18

This is a known plot hole. Unfortunately, any answer requires some speculation.

There are several theories, the best of which is that the Borg, aware of the time-loop created by Star Trek: First Contact, were attempting to keep the timeline intact up to that point, with a plan to attack in force at a later date.

There is also a theory that after the events of Regeneration the Borg sent their nearest ship to Earth in an attempt to quickly kill off the nascent Federation. Bear in mind, several hundred years worth of travel may not be out of the ballpark for a ship travelling from the Delta Quadrant, assuming the Borg were at a lower level of technological development when they received the message than they are by Q Who. This is especially the case if the cube is stopping along the way to assimilate useful technology and replace its used-up drones with new stock, as may be implied by The Neutral Zone. The follow-up attack may have been the next-closest drone.

It's also highly-likely that the Borg, while considering the Federation both worthy of assimilation and a possible threat, have more problems back home in the Delta Quadrant. After all, it is not unheard of for the Borg to bite off more than they can chew, and there are other species in the Delta Quadrant that could pose significant threats to the Borg. It is probable that the Borg only act in concert, as in the war with Species 8472 and the assimilation of Species 116, when they see a considerable threat. Humans don't yet qualify.

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    Hoshi's statement at the end of Regeneration was that the message sent would arrive in about 200 years, IIRC. So it took them only about about 20 years to arrive in Federation space. – Izkata Mar 25 '14 at 11:44
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    Thanks for that. Still, 20 years is a reasonable length of time, assuming that the Borg didn't go off half-cocked, and actually probed the area first, which The Neutral Zone indicates they did. My other points still seem to stand. – James Sheridan Mar 25 '14 at 12:04
  • 1
    I'd add one more reason to this: Arrogance. – Tango Mar 25 '14 at 15:25
  • @Tango: Great point. – James Sheridan Mar 26 '14 at 0:25
  • @JamesSheridan: Feel free to go on and include that if you want. – Tango Mar 26 '14 at 8:10
17

It'd be inefficient.

Although the wrong universe, let me motivate this in Adams's words:

Space, is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space [..]

(source)

In addition, the Borg have an almost religious attachment to efficiency (and perfection).

They are constantly in the process of assimilating new species (as shown in Scorpion) --- it's routine. There are enough of those in the Delta quadrant to keep them busy (space is big, remember?), so it'd be inefficient to dispatch an entire armada of cubes to take care of the relatively insignificant Federation on the other side of the galaxy. The time that this would occupy all these cubes is time that the same cubes cannot be flying around assimilating other species.

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    Yet the Borg repeatedly imply that they desperately want to assimilate humanity, and we see that they can get to Earth in like a few minutes. It doesn't stand up to any scrutiny. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 26 '16 at 18:06
14

All the other answers are correct, but I'd like to add one more point that no one has mentioned:

Because they don't care.

Picard was surprisingly tricky, and they had some fun hijinks with the Voyager crew, but the Borg have no reason to bring their entire civilization's might toward assimilating Earth, or even the entire Alpha Quadrant. We're just not that important.

The Borg are, above all, attracted to technology that can help them improve. The Federation has basically none. Humans are chock-full of gumption, trickiness, and a can-do attitude, so they often pull off feats that the Borg didn't expect. And because of that, they sent a cube to assimilate Picard and Earth, and another one when the first failed.

But when two cubes in a row were defeated by tricks, and with no notable tech to make the endeavor worthwhile, the Borg probably gave a galactic shrug, made a mental note to get those rascally Humans in a few hundred years, and then turned their attention back to the 10,000 other planets they were in the process of assimilating at the time.

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    Your judgement that the Fedreation has "no technology that can help the borg improve" isn't supported by the facts. We know what the Borg do to species that don't contain useful additions, and it isn't to try and assimilate them. (If nothing else, humans demonstrate an understanding of AI that seems unique in the galaxy, between Soonian androids and the numerous holographic persons.) – DougM Jan 19 '15 at 21:00
  • Exactly, humans are a intellectual curiosity at best. – user16696 Jan 19 '15 at 21:07
  • @DougM I don't remember the episode (it might be the Borg's first appearance?) but I seem to remember Q specifically saying that the Federation was unimpressive by Borg standards, and that the Borg traditionally only assimilate species whose technology interests them. The Queen does seem mildly intrigued by Data in First Contact, but otherwise the Borg's undeniable superiority indicates that the Federation's tech is nothing new. – Nerrolken Jan 20 '15 at 17:25
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    Read up on why the Borg didn't assimilate the Kazon. The federation isn't a threat or a priority, but the borg would be better with more humans and human tech. – DougM Jan 20 '15 at 19:20
  • The Queen contradicts this in Dark Frontier. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 26 '16 at 18:07
6

Because they might lose.

Sending thousands of ships to assimilate one species risks the loss of all those ships even if the Borg expect success. The risk would vastly outweight the potential reward. Consider that the Borg cube that decimated Starfleet at Wolf 359 wasn't supposed to fail, but it did. Humanity might have other tricks up their sleeves. The impossible geometric pattern attack that Picard balked at using in the TNG episode "I, Borg" could have disabled all Borg everywhere. An armada of Borg cubes may not discover their vulnerability until it is too late. Hence the more subtle strategy of detonating a biogenic weapon in Earth's atmosphere which risks much less but retains all the potential rewards of conquest.

6

They did (warning, dubious canon ahead)

In the Trek novels "Mere Mortals" and "A Singular Destiny" the Borg send a fleet of over 7000 cubes to attempt to assimilate the Alpha Quadrant. At the cost of thousands of vessels they eventually establish a toe-hold in the quadrant and, before their eventual destruction (courtesy of the Caeliar) they wreak havok on Klingon empire and kill over 63 billion sentients.

  • That's dubious canon, considering there are many other novels that contradict that story. It's also a terrible series, so let's hope it's ret-conned out of existence along the way. – James Sheridan Mar 26 '14 at 0:26
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    I believe the way Trek cannon works (or has worked prior to the re-boot) is that, if it is not on television it does not exist. With the exception of The Animated Series, it has been my understanding that only one or two episodes of that program were considered canon. Those written by Original Series alumna D.C. Fontana. – Hikaru Ichijyo Mar 26 '14 at 4:15
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    For the record, I heartily agree that the books are completely non canon. – Valorum Mar 26 '14 at 6:21
4

Efficiency

The Borg are renowned for their efficiency, and they would never throw 'waves of ships' at a target, but only what was absolutely and precisely needed.

Best of both worlds

In Best of both worlds, they only send one cube, for several reasons:

  1. It's primary role was to scout out the existence of the human race. So far from the Delta quadrant it's a waste of resources to send more than one craft if it turns out to be a red herring or an uninteresting target. They wouldn't send a small scout ship as it wouldn't have the resources to last and needs to be able to process an entire planet.
  2. They assumed the human race would willingly join the Borg.
  3. Like most other races, they assumed they wouldn't put up a fight, or not much of one. The absolute devastation of the fleet and the outer planetary defences proved this assumption correct. It was only by creativity of the Enterprise were they thwarted.

First Contact

In the case of Star Trek First Contact, they only sent one cube, because again, efficiency:

  1. They had previously devastated the defences the first time, and only one ship - the Enterprise - only posed any real threat. Enterprise wasn't even present and the fact it got that near to earth (after bypassing outer planetary defences - again) shows how likely it was to succeed.

  2. Failure was already covered with the secondary sphere, and the wormhole in time/space should have meant that no other Federation ships (not expecting such an approach) to interfere. Without the Enterprise, only one ship was needed to complete this task, as again, it correctly anticipated that pre-warp earth posed no threat.

  3. They intended to signal for reinforcements once on the other side. This is what they attempted to do by reconfiguring the Enterprise's deflector dish.

Voyager

If we compare the Voyager episode, even Voyager, with it's transphasic torpedoes, didn't prompt that many vessels to engage it. As you saw, it destroyed the first two cubes, and the third one backs off. It was only ultimately chased out by a sphere - despite being at the main transwarp hub conduit.

This suggests that the Borg only assign as many vessels as absolutely necessary and no more. And if there's a chance they will be destroyed pointlessly, they retreat. It's likely they surrounded Arturis's solar system with thousands of ships (not necessarily cubes, but spheres, diamonds, and transport ships) in order to mass process the entire solar system.

One ship is only required to change Federation history, so one ship is all they send. The Borg are about perfection, throwing waves and waves of ships is grossly inefficient, especially when they can be allocated to assimilating or processing other worlds. Although it has an interest in defeating the Federation, they are not 'Federation centric' - they are more interested in maintaining their collective empire, which is why species 8472 warrants a greater force of presence than the Federation, which at this stage poses little threat. Who would you feel more threatened by? An alien species that can blow up a planet with 8 ships, or a fleet of tiny ships that like offering up negotiations and talking every time you meet them?

3

Because It's Inevitable

I've always felt that the phrase, "We are the Borg. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile" carries more than just a singular encounter meaning.

Borg philosophy is governed by a primary directive to add the biological and technological distinctiveness of other species to that of the Borg. In this manner the Collective sought to achieve its definition of perfection; all other pursuits were deemed irrelevant.(TNG: "Q Who", "The Best of Both Worlds"; VOY: "Scorpion, Part II")

The Borg understand themselves as an inevitability.

Empires rise and fall. Entire galaxies are birthed and extinguished. To a collective species this means nothing. If the assimilation of The Federation happens, it happens. If not, we will assimilate whatever replaces it. The only tragedy is not assimilating at least one of said species, this is the only way something truly unique is lost to the collective. They've already added humanity to their collective. Therefore, whatever humanity had to offer to their "perfection" has at the least been mostly accomplished.

The only constants in the universe are the Borg and it's eventual heat death, and they're probably working on that.

  • 1
    Great answer. You did a good job simply stating what they are or at least the essence. Top notch. – Amir Feb 5 '17 at 21:09
1

They have already assimilated human DNA and ships that have (it would seem) complete databases on the federation so in theory there is nothing new for them to gain from the quadrant, there is no point in assimilating the DNA of other federation species either as what they need is 8472-we know the Borg think they have superior Genetics to all other life.

1

The one Borg cube they sent to earth was enough to surely defeat the armada. The only reason the Borg ship was destroyed was because Captain Picard’s interference.

Picard was assimilated by the Borg therefore the Borg gained a lot of experience about the Federation which resulted wolf 359 but when Picard’s humanity returned and he was no longer a Borg drone we had a lot experience about them which there was a lot from the Collective hive mind. This gave Picard the advantage of knowing weaknesses against the Borg cube. If Picard did not aid the Federation armada against the Borg heading to earth, the Federation would have been swiftly defeated.

The Borg objective is to assimilate anything worthy for assimilation and improve Borg technology; therefore most entire Borg cubes across the galaxies are assimilating species,they also are defending there own space and above all protect queen complex but for those little confused by that can refer to it as Borg capital which you can see protected by Borg cubes on one the voyager series

Sending more than one Borg cube would logically be a waste of resources—overkill—and the Borg are overconfident that they will succeed in assimilation and as can be imagined they can spare Borg cube to it be very meaningless to the queen unless losing more than one cube perhaps, and as matter of fact the Borg cube wouldn’t have failed if wasnt for Picard’s knowledge of the Borg, which we used against them just as they used knowledge they assimilated from him.

-1

The reason the Borg don't invade the Alpha quadrant is relatively simple, they can't spent the resources to conquer the alpha quadrant because they need them to fight they're war with Species 8472. Species 8472 was discovered by the Borg in the fluidic space, another dimension, and the Borg saw them has the ultimate species of organic evolution unfortunately for them this species turned out to be a bit too perfect, since it was immune to assimilation and had technology which dwarfed the Borg, a single one of their ships destroyed 15 Borg cubes. Basically the Borg are fighting for the first time an enemy which is superior to them and has such they couldn't afford send many ships to the alpha Quadrant has they would like. Although they still want the Alpha Quadrant they are prioritizing they're resources against a threat to they're very existence.

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    Welcome to SFF:SE. These are good thoughts, but you should try to support your speculations with information like dates. Had the Collective already encountered Species 8472 at the time of, say, "Best of Both Worlds"? If not, you should provide alternate reasons for why the Borg did not send waves of ships to the Alpha Quadrant. – Praxis Jul 19 '15 at 14:40
-1

When Q sends the Enterprise hurling into Borg space, Picard asks Quinan about them. She tells Picard that the Borg doesn't do things piecemeal, and when they're ready they swarm the systems they wish to assimilate. I guess the Borg just wasn't ready in ST:TNG!

-2

Only exit apertures in the alpha quadrant dedicating a fleet that large there seems wasteful when the federation isn't actively seeking to destroy them yes they are a threat but not an imediate one

  • I thought the Borg's aim was to assimilate anyone and anything regardless of how much of a "threat" they were? – F1Krazy May 29 at 22:31
  • Hi, Drew! Welcome to SciFi Fantasy Stack Exchange. Generally, when we're answering questions, we want to back our thoughts up with reliable evidence. Please see the help section for more information! – Voldemort's Wrath May 30 at 0:13
-5

From a canon point of view?

Its possible the Borg might just want to occasionally 'prompt' the Federation by sending one ship at a time to the AQ and test their technical capabilities.

When Q first introduced the Enterprise-D to the Borg, the Enterprise managed to inflict heavy damage onto the Borg cube. Each phaser beam inflicted 10% damage on the cube and had Picard continued firing, he probably could have destroyed the cube which might not have had enough information or time to adapt to it.

It wasn't until the Borg beamed into Enterprise main engineering and started downloading their data files that the Borg managed to adapt.

Also, we were lead to think that the Enterprise-D encounter with the Borg happened much sooner than it should have. Had the Federation not encountered the Borg and continued to evolve, it might have even become technologically advanced to the point where their first contact with the Borg might turn out differently (in Federation favor).

What was it that Guinan said at the end of 'Q Who?'?... 'For right now, you're just raw material. And since they are aware of your existence...'

If the Federation was closer to the Borg (in galactic terms), it is possible that they might have sent more ships to assimilate the Federation... but as it stands, the Borg might just be sending a ship at specific intervals to see the rate of technological progression and adaptation of the Federation.

From what we saw of some Delta Quadrant species, technologically, they weren't overtly impressive. And also, if the original timeline in which Voyager took extra 16 years to get back home (resulting in a total of 24 years away from the Federation), they managed to develop really powerful technology to keep the Borg at bay in that timeline. As it stands, due to bringing Voyager home earlier, the Borg did manage to assimilate the armor technology... but not Transphasic torpedoes it would seem (you'd think that it would be a good idea to erase that and some other crucial information and technology from the future shuttle and admiral Janeway memories - but for all we know, admiral Janway might have made a copy of the shuttle's database and gave it to Voyager just in case).

At any rate, since the encounter with the Borg (and if admiral Janeway never changed time)... the Federation would have sufficiently developed to defend against the Borg in about 28 years total. It is also possible that if Q never interfered, the Federatio would have developed these technologies or different (but equally effective ones) either way.

But, as others mentioned, efficiency is one of the things Borg value a lot. So, sending dozens of ships halfway across the galaxy to assimilate the Federation doesn't seem too efficient - especially if you wish to prompt the Federation to develop better technologies which you can assimilate or adapt to in the interim.

Although... I never took it as realistic that it would take very long for the Federation to adapt. This is where lack of using their powerful superluminal computing power was wasted. They could have used various verbal commands to the computer and instruct it to analyze all the sensor data the Enterprise picked up on the cube and its interior tricorder readings the away team took in Q Who episode and then request to try and develop weapon systems that would be effective against the Borg based on available data.

With superluminal processing, the computer would easily use latest in Federation scientific database to construct virtual models and run countless simulations and trials to test and see what might work and what wouldn't (even take into account Borg's adaptation into the mix).

By the time of 'Best of Both Worlds', the Enterprise should have had the computer develop and implement these new weapon systems automatically... and upgrade it multiple times over to the point where it wouldn't matter if the Borg had access to Picard or not (because as clever as he is, even he wouldn't be able to keep track of all the changes the computer would be making).

But I digress...

As stated, I suspect the Borg might be using the Federation to test their technological development and assimilate new valuable technologies that would help them in the Delta Quadrant... but save the AQ for another time.

Also, I liked the Destiny Novels, but they aren't canon. And the Borg behavior in the novels simply doesn't track with how the Borg were initially conceived (without a leader/queen) and not really vengeful.

Though from an on-screen point of view... Voyager did strike a severe blow to the Borg in Endgame. So, from on-screen sources, we might deduce that by destroying not just the TW hub, but also the primary Borg unicomplex in the Delta Quadrant, the Borg might have lost the information about assimilated future armor (the Queen did manage to only establish contact with that particular Borg sphere and gave it the information, however, that sphere was destroyed, so it's hypothetically possible that any future tech Voyager got, might actually be out of Borg hands).

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