A the end of the "I, Borg" episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, La Forge wants to beam down to the moon together with Hugh, because he is sure that the Borg, who will eventually show up to pick up their lost drone, will pose no harm to him. Hugh confirms that by saying something like "the Borg assimilate entire civilisations, not individuals."

To cite Memory Alpha article on this:

Picard allows La Forge to go as well, knowing the Borg ignore individuals who pose no threat

How can that be true? How can any serious script writer write something like this?

Isn't it obvious that the Borg assimilate everyone and everything, everywhere they can? Through all series and movies in the Star Trek franchise I've seen so far, I can name dozens of examples of such behavior. In "Scorpion" the dual of Star Trek Voyager doctor says that the first and most important thing they should work on is how to block injection of Borg stings, because this is the first thing the Borg do always and everywhere.

How can anyone claim that anyone is safe in any kind of contact with the Borg? How can anyone claim that the Borg pose no threat to anyone under any circumstances? What am I missing?

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    The borg will assimilate individuals if they think it's worthwhile to do so (for intelligence purposes or to learn about the species). If they found a lone human, they probably wouldn't expend the energy required to assimilate them as they would gain nothing from it.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 10:42
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    @Richard: This does raise the question of why the Borg - and Picard - see Geordi as useless. The Borg undoubtedly have superior technology to the VISOR, but Geordi's engineering knowledge would prove very helpful. Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 10:44
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    There are several (a lot!) of instances where the borg ignored human individuals. Usually you can move unchallenged through a cube. In rare cases they would attack individuals. But usually they do it for a specific reason (think of Picard, Janeway or the polar-expedition-team). If they want to take over a ship, it's a whole different story of course, but I cant remember any borg who attacked a random individual...
    – Einer
    Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 11:38
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    As I recall, in the Borg's very first appearance, they transported onto the bridge of the Enterprise and siphoned their computer while ignoring crew members. The information about the Federation was more valuable to them than the individuals aboard. Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 14:23
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    I think it is important to note, that for all their advanced technology, we shown the Borg operate very primitively without the willful direction of a queen, and probably for good reason to avoid conflicts within the collective. So yes when encountered, the Borg often fail to see anything not directly interfering with them as a threat, unless those individuals have the will of a queen behind them, and will then take more direct action.
    – Ordeiberon
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 13:52

1 Answer 1


Not always and not everywhere.

(But the risk was there in Scorpion, so blocking the nanoprobes was definitely going to be a top priority. They just couldn't be absolutely certain (Warning: TVTropes) of the actions the Borg would take.)

During Voyager, when their motivations are looked at more closely, it's established that the Borg are chasing some sort of ideal of theirs, that they call "perfection". Assimilation is meant to add to their perfection by incorporating unique elements from various species' biology and technology. But first, they have to identify such uniqueness.

First, a couple quick quotes about perfection as it pertains to the Borg:

VOY 4x01, Scorpion, Part II:

Seven: They [Species 8472] are the apex of biological evolution. Their assimilation would have greatly added to our own perfection.

Movie, First Contact:

Borg Queen: We too are on a quest to better ourselves. Evolving toward a state of perfection.

Data: Forgive me. The Borg do not evolve. They conquer.

Borg Queen: By assimilating.. other beings into our collective, we are bringing them closer to perfection.

Initially, that would make it sound like they would assimilate everyone, in order to bring those individuals closer to the Borg's perfection (as described by the Borg Queen), but that is not necessarily the case. There is another exchange in Scorpion, Part II that indicates the Collective as a whole doesn't usually bother with what they consider insignificant:

Janeway: If we create smaller weapons using our torpedoes, and destroy a few of their bioships, it may deter them, convince them to give up this war.

Seven: You are individuals. You are small, and you think in small terms. [very long pause] But the present situation requires that we consider your plan.

The Borg think on a large scale. Entire species and civilizations, in order to make leaps and bounds in attaining their perfection, rather than making effort for very small gains that may or may not be worth it.

Even then, entire species can be deemed unworthy or unremarkable. For example, the Kazon (as described in VOY 4x12, Mortal Coil):

Seven: The Borg encountered a Kazon colony in the Gand Sector, grid six nine two zero.

Neelix: Were they assimilated?

Seven: Their biological and technological distinctiveness was unremarkable. They were unworthy of assimilation.

Neelix: I didn't realise the Borg were so discriminating.

Seven: Why assimilate a species that would detract from perfection?

The general point I'm trying to get at is that before the Borg assimilate anyone, they first find out if it's worthwhile.

  • Single individuals are rarely going to be worthwhile, because usually very little can be gained from getting a few new drones. They're all connected to the same Collective.
  • If those individuals are deemed a threat, there is now reason to destroy or assimilate them to protect the Collective (such as what happened to Seven's parents).
  • If those individuals indicate their species would be beneficial to the collective, there is now a reason to chase down their entire civilization (what appears to have happened with Species 8472).
  • 1
    Just wondering: why did the Collective bother to assimilate Seven (Anneka) herself? What would an eight-year-old girl bring to the Collective?
    – Wallnut
    Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 12:10
  • @Wallnut Offhand, I can think of a few possibilities: 1) Annika's parents fell under the 2nd point (possible threat) due to researching the Borg, and it was simple thoroughness ("assimilate the whole ship"). 2) Research into humans. 3) I don't recall if we saw a play-by-play, maybe Annika tried to interfere when the Borg went after her parents? Killing her would be a waste of resources, so instead she was assimilation.
    – Izkata
    Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 19:11

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