In the Star Trek: Voyager episodes: Scorpion and Scorpion, Part II, why did Captain Janeway decide it was a better decision to deal with the Borg than with the currently unknown alien designated by the Borg as Species 8472?

  • She didn't know them, had never communicated with them and at first glance Species 8472 would seem to make an ideal ally; they both had an overwhelming concern in common. Neither of them like the Borg at all.

  • This was the potentially a first contact with a species capable of putting the Borg on the defensive. Why wasn't she using every technology at her disposal to communicate with a representative of Species 8472?

  • 21
    Better the devil you know.
    – Mr Lister
    Oct 27, 2014 at 8:45
  • 2
    @MrLister - you stole my line.
    – Omegacron
    Oct 27, 2014 at 15:36

5 Answers 5


About 25 minutes into Part I, Kes gets a message from them, indicating that they simply wish to destroy all life they encounter:

Kes: I could hear its thoughts. The pilot of the bioship was trying to communicate with me. They're a telepathic species, I've been aware of them for some time now, the premonitions. Captain, it's not the Borg we should be worried about, it's them.

Janeway: What did it say to you?

Kes: It said, "The weak will perish."

The Borg have been dealt with on several occasions by this point and beaten back successfully. On the other hand, a single small ship destroyed the Borg cube that Voyager encountered - meaning these would be a much more difficult enemy to deal with.

It was simply too risky to let Species 8472 destroy the Borg, as all indications at this point were that they would continue attacking the Delta quadrant, and then the rest of the galaxy, once the Borg were destroyed. And according to what the Doctor determined in the following scene, only the Borg had the technology that, with Federation modifications, would allow them to successfully fight back against Species 8472. If the Borg were defeated, they would've no longer had a weapon to use.

  • 17
    Worth mentioning that they've already killed all life in their own galaxy? The Borg are the scorpion but species 8472 are the river.
    – Valorum
    Oct 26, 2014 at 7:01
  • 10
    @Richard I was debating that because "nothing else lives there" is kind of ambiguous (parallel universe physics - there may have never been anything else alive), and In The Flesh indicates it was an overreaction and they didn't know to stop with the Borg. But the question is about Voyager's choices in these two episodes.
    – Izkata
    Oct 26, 2014 at 7:08
  • 5
    I viewed her horrified statement as being indicative that they'd already committed galactic genocide.
    – Valorum
    Oct 26, 2014 at 7:40
  • 7
    Kes: It said, "EXTERMINATE!!!"
    – Adam Davis
    Oct 27, 2014 at 15:48
  • 8
    @AdamDavis Lots of harsh words are said during a war. Troops don't often yell "Until capitulation!" when charging.
    – Xantec
    Oct 27, 2014 at 19:00

Species 8472 posed a much greater threat than the Borg.

While the Borg had a clear cut tactical advantage over the Federation (and all other Alpha/Beta powers), it was still possible for Federation starships to withstand Borg weapons for a limited period of time and potentially retaliate. The battle of Sector 001 is a great example of this: yes, Federation ships were getting destroyed left and right, but we see ships staying alive long enough to take shots at the cube and inflict damage. Species 8472 Bioships can destroy Borg cubes in a single shot, and with a few more ships they can do the same to whole planets--destruction on a scale never seen from the Borg. While I'm sure the Borg could destroy planets if they put their collective mind to it, Species 8472's firepower superiority was painfully obvious from the first ten seconds of Scorpion Part 1.

Regardless of either race's destructive capabilities, Species 8472 and the Borg had fundamentally different approaches to galactic conquest. Aside from the occasional 1-cube incursion to the Alpha Quadrant, the Borg mostly stayed in the Delta Quadrant and posed very little immediate threat to the Federation. Also, since they desired to assimilate all beings they encountered, it was in their best interests to not undertake actions that would destroy the Federation's inhabitants outright (such as blowing up the earth). Species 8472 on the other hand had no desire or need to keep any of the galaxy's species alive. Indeed, since they were the only intelligent life from Fluidic Space, it's presumable that they already finished off everyone else in their home dimension, assuming other species ever evolved in the first place.

Why Species 8472 were so aggressive is never established on screen, but I believe we can infer some hints as to their motivation from what little communication with them took place. Their goal of wiping out the Borg is perfectly understandable; the Borg attacked them and Species 8472 retaliated. However, this does not explain their aggression towards the rest of the galaxy.

While Janeway never communicated with Species 8472 directly, Kes had psychic contact with them that firmly established their murderous intentions. I believe their exact word were "The weak will perish" (full quote in Izkata's answer) and "Your galaxy will be purged." This implies a "survival of the fittest" doctrine embedded deep within their culture; they probably saw our galaxy's life as inferior, and judged that it deserved to be extinguished.

So you have the choice of allowing the Borg to rest in the Delta Quadrant as they have for centuries or allowing a new, highly malicious race to crusade through the galaxy destroying all life that it encounters. In my opinion, Janeway's choice was clearly correct.

  • 2
    But Species 8472 were not interested in empire considering their territory was fluidic space... right?
    – Anon
    Oct 26, 2014 at 6:45
  • 7
    Wasn't the only reason they were fighting in the first place was because the borg tried to assimilate them?
    – Anon
    Oct 26, 2014 at 6:51
  • 3
    @Akiva: And the USSR only conquered Eastern Europe because Nazi Germany attacked them. That doesn't mean that the USSR were nice people. Species 8472 were a much bigger threat than the Borg, so aligning oneself with the Borg made sense. That is why the US tried to make nice with China during the Cold War, after all; the USSR was a bigger threat than China. Oct 26, 2014 at 7:41
  • 2
    But if the borg got the upper hand, they would assimilate them, and then become even more powerful. The long term risk is much greater.
    – Anon
    Oct 26, 2014 at 7:44
  • 6
    @Akiva: That's not logical. If Species 8472 defeats the Borg and attacks the Federation now, they will win. If the Borg assimilate 8472 - which they are shown to be unable to do - that will still be in the future, giving the Federation time to prepare. It's also illogical from a geopolitical viewpoint; if two states exist, with one more powerful than the other, aligning oneself with the weaker of the two in order to keep the stronger from annihilating the weaker, then moving on to you. There is also no need for Voyager to help the Borg win; simply keep the two fighting, thus weakening both. Oct 26, 2014 at 7:56

There was no good reason for Janeway's decision.

Apart from Kes' interactions, which was essentially like a 10 year old blind reading quotes from front line war fighters charging the enemy, Janeway had no data on species 8472 or their conflict with the Borg beyond what few sensor readings they had.

During Scorpion Part 2 Voyager was able to withstand multiple shots from 8472's bio-ships while in fluidic space, so they weren't completely defenseless. Granted, Voyager was in some way enhanced by Borg technology at the time, but this was still more effective than Borg cubes seemed to be. Also, Voyager had a weapon with close to 100% effectiveness versus 8472, unlike against the Borg where aside from some plot macguffins Star Fleet has been nearly impotent.

As we later learned in "In The Flesh" species 8472 was not the blood thirsty, galaxy sterilizing race Janeway had thought them to be based on Kes' readings. They were amiable and open to negotiation once both sides overcame their initial suspicions. Had Janeway tried to contact them using more traditional methods rather than through Kes she may have been able to interact with them in a more meaningful way.

  • 2
    Interesting 'Janeway was wrong' answer. Mar 11, 2015 at 16:18
  • 1
    +1, you'd expect a front-line soldier in an alien dimension to want to kill & destroy their enemy, even it's psychic thoughts are understandable, it could've thought Kes was trying some sort of psychic attack, and wanted to scare her away too. You wouldn't automatically expect it's whole civilization and home universe to follow through on the threat, without at least talking to them first. They might not even have realized the Borg were living in a universe with other non-Borg, maybe their home is like a closed fishbowl...
    – Xen2050
    Apr 21, 2018 at 23:59
  • In the episode there was no mention of her hailing them. A highly questionable mistake for a StarFleet captain to make. I would like to mention her deal was drastically disproportionate, "We know your race of abductors and brain washers will face complete annihilation. We'll save all that if you don't assimilate our small crew of 1000 for a month." A better deal might have been, "We'll save you if you agree never to abduct species against their will. After safe passage we'll give you the nanoprobes." Jul 23, 2018 at 0:24
  • @1.21gigawatts Maybe. But Janeway, and even the whole of the Federation, would not have any means to enforce such a deal with the Borg (to completely stop assimilating).
    – Xantec
    Jul 24, 2018 at 14:59

From a geographical perspective, the only way for Janeway to cross through Borg space was to ally with either the Borg or 8472.

The very first thing that 8472 did when they encountered the Voyager crew was attack Harry Kim, punching him so hard that he nearly died from the cells left in the wound. The next thing that 8472 did was fire on their ship with enough force to get a ship with the mass and durability of Voyager to spin like a top. Janeway probably looked at this and thought "Jesus! These people are more hostile than the Borg!".

At the same time, the only way Voyager's crew could even start an alliance was to bring something to the table. They had something for the Borg, in the form of the nanoprobes. But they had nothing for 8472. The Borg were the only option.

To answer your question of why they didn't use every technology at their disposal for a first contact, they tried to contact 8472. Kes used her telepathy to contact them. 8472 promptly shot at them. This kind of sets a bad precedent.

Yes, neither of them liked the Borg at all. But 8472 was more of "We hate you all!" rather than "We hate the Borg!". Not only does this fly directly against Janeway's principals, which would result in an unstable alliance at best, but it's difficult to ally with people who despise you.

There was also an element of long term planning. When 8472 was done with the Borg, which was within less than a few months time, 8472 was going to target other species as well, "your galaxy will be purged". If these people can take out the Borg in less than a decade, the rest of the galaxy is screwed. This was the smart move in the long run.

In summary, Janeway allied with the Borg, because in her mind, it was literally the only option.

  • 1
    To be fair, the first time the Borg were encountered they killed (IIRC) 23 people on the Enterprise by cutting out a piece of the ship. Neither of them were particularly good at inter-species relations.
    – Xantec
    Oct 14, 2015 at 21:45

The 8472s are a purely destructive force- they destroyed several Borg planets and destroyed God knows how many cubes, Voyager wouldn't stand a chance but the Borg could be beaten back or even defeated and as well as that Voyager was in Borg space so why anger the Borg when you could negotiate.


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