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At the end of "Q Who?", Guinan tells Picard that Q's actions led to a premature contact between the Federation and the Borg. The scene is largely in line with everything we know about the Borg and their history, but she does say one thing that seems remarkable:

"Now, perhaps when you're ready, it might be possible to establish a relationship with them."

Dude, wait what?! Since when does any race, regardless of technological level or advance warning, establish any relationship with the Borg other than open war or mutual ignorance? Q can afford to ignore them, and Species 8472 knocked them around, but that seems like pretty much the extent of what the Borg are diplomatically capable of.

We know they can make temporary alliances of convenience during times of crisis, but has any race, ever, been shown to establish a trade, research, or diplomatic relationship with the Borg in a stable, ongoing way, as Guinan seems to be implying is eventually possible for the Federation?

Or is this Guinan's way of saying "anything's possible"?

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    Out-of-universe, I think the answer is that the idea of the Borg assimilating other races didn't exist when that episode was written, they were portrayed as purely interested in technology. So the writers at the time may have imagined that if they encountered a more advanced race such that they couldn't just take the technology by force, they'd be willing to make a deal where they give something back in exchange for technology they wanted. But yeah, you'd have to find some way to retcon that line for an in-universe answer. – Hypnosifl Oct 10 '14 at 1:17
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    I think that the Borg would "establish relationships" with any species that was clearly superior to them. If the Q, Trelane, or the Edo god wanted to have some business with the Borg, should we believe that the Borg would refuse? – user30592 Oct 10 '14 at 1:40
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    I'm with @T-1000 on this. It would make for an interesting Trek novel, at least, to see someone using the Borg as mercenaries or hitmen. – James Sheridan Oct 10 '14 at 3:26
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    @JamesSheridan Something kind of like that has happened in a video game. It wasn't an alliance, though – Izkata Oct 10 '14 at 3:34
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit Or maybe I just have a childhood Pavlovian trust of Whoopi Goldberg... ;) – Nerrolken Oct 10 '14 at 18:22
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Skimming through the Borg history on Memory Beta, outside of the temporary alliance between the Borg and Voyager against Species 8472, there have been several other similar temporary alliances in non-canon novels and comics (as well as some takeovers, such as by T'Uerell), but no long-term alliances.

The closest to a mutually-agreeable alliance would probably be in a Doctor Who crossover comic, Assimilation2, where they first ally with the Cybermen due to their mutual goals, are betrayed by the Cybermen, and then ally with the Enterprise against the Cybermen.


Not knowing what was going through the writers' minds, the best I can surmise is that this is leftover from their original idea, that the Borg were insectoid and presumably had completely different thought processes than other known species:

The Borg were initially conceived by Maurice Hurley as a race of insectoids. Hurley wrote in to "The Neutral Zone" a plot point that Federation and Romulan starbases along the Romulan Neutral Zone had been mysteriously wiped out, having been "scooped off" the face of the planet in the same way that would later be referenced in "Q Who" and shown in "The Best of Both Worlds". [...] By the time they made their first appearance in "Q Who", the villain species had been changed from insect to the more budget-friendly cyborg form. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, pp. 169, 180)

Having been switched from insectoid to cyborg, their motivations may not yet have been fleshed out, and indeed in this early appearance they did seem interested only in technology, not assimilation of life-forms.

When viewed in this way, Guinan's line makes a lot more sense - with this early non-assimilatory version of the Borg, or the insectoids originally envisioned, it may have been possible to establish a relationship. When they were made more aggressive in later appearances, with the goal of assimilating all life-forms they encounter, such a possibility no longer makes sense.

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The Borg's approach to assimilating the human race is unlike any other they have used before. Rather than simply mass-assimilating them as a whole, they utilize an entity, Locutus, to represent the Borg as a face. This indicates that the Borg can adapt their strategy as well as their form for the sake of assimilation.

What Guinian may have been hinting at was a possible highly-advanced Federation far more powerful than the Borg could possibly assimilate. In the case of Species 8472, their only other option was to destroy the species and their threat to the Borg.

But what if they had offered a treaty with the Borg instead? A powerful ally, with which they can assimilate many more species and expand their own power, it certainly would be beneficial to the Borg, and if they are indeed as adaptable as they seem to be, this wouldn't be too far of a stretch. Yes, it would be different than anything we've seen so far of the Borg, but so was their capture of Locutus and their use of him during their attempt to assimilate the human race.

Guinian may have forseen this - that if the Federation had all the time in the world to evolve and strengthen their position, the act of assimilating their race may have become too high a risk for the Borg, forcing them to adapt a different strategy.

  • Not even "all the time in the world" -- it takes the Federation less than 100 years from first contact (not First Contact, though) to became near-immune to the Borg threat. – Brian S Oct 10 '14 at 14:06
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Guinan was prophetically correct. Picard did establish a relationship with the Borg, Hugh, in "I Borg". Hugh abandoned his intent to assimilate the crew of the Enterprise. After returning to the collective, his individuality infected the rest of the collective, as seen in "Descent".

Guinan was also correct about "When you're ready...". At that moment, he had not yet been transformed into Locutus. This transformation prepared both Picard and the Borg for their encounter in "I Borg".

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