Are there any references, either in the official canon or in the Extended Universe, to Borg nanites and/or nanoprobes prior to First Contact and the Voyager two-parter "Scorpion"?

During TNG, the Borg are only seen to assimilate individuals "manually", that is, by having drones add implants and components to the exterior of an individual's body. (I am mainly referring to Picard's assimilation in "The Best of Both Worlds".)

In First Contact, we see nanoprobes in use, but we also see Borg drones adding some components (e.g. cybernetic forearms) to mostly-assimilated individuals. It can be deduced from this that nanites can achieve a basic, common standard of assimilation (including cybernetic organelles) while specialized external hardware must be added manually.

Is there any evidence that TNG writers conceived of nanoprobe-based assimilation before First Contact? Alternatively, did the idea arise in the Extended Universe before being made canon in First Contact and being further refined in Voyager?

  • 5
    In "Best of both worlds" we see Picard injected with something while his skin turns gray. Out-of-universe I think nano-probes were not invented then. But in-universe I think it could easily be viewed as the result of the nano-probes at work...
    – Einer
    Jan 27, 2015 at 13:15
  • @Einer: +1 for that. What else would the Borg be doing? Injecting him with cosmetics because they don't like his skin tone? Jan 27, 2015 at 15:39
  • 1
    @Einer: Thanks, I remember the sudden skin change now. However, when Crusher talks about de-assimilating Picard at the end of the episode, she seems to suggest that it is akin to simply removing the implants. She mentions nothing about removing or terminating nanites in his bloodstream or tissues. Also, she doesn't mention nanites at any earlier point in the episode, e.g. after Picard is scanned in Sick Bay. It seems more like they injected him with something during assimilation, but what it was may not have been fleshed out yet by the writers?
    – Praxis
    Jan 27, 2015 at 15:53
  • @Einer : I seem to recall a Trek novel that dealt with the Borg and may have had details about the assimilation process and their technology, between the TNG Borg episodes and First Contact. I wonder if something was mentioned there (assuming this novel(s) is real, of course).
    – Praxis
    Jan 27, 2015 at 15:55
  • @Praxis - perhaps we can assume that part of the conversation didn't take place on-screen? De-borgifying someone seems to boil down to two steps: neutralizing the nano-probes, then removing the implants. And sense Picard could still hear the Borg as of "First Contact", he obviously still has the nano-probes in his system.
    – Omegacron
    Jan 27, 2015 at 16:34

1 Answer 1


Prior to First Contact and Scorpion, Assimilation seemed to be more of a surgical procedure during which the collective removed biological parts and added technology.

In Best of Both Worlds, Picard was rendered unconscious on the Enterprise and taken to the Borg cube where he was assimilated. Beginning in First Contact, assimilation starts when the Borg inject their victim with nanites via assimilation tubules and, prior to that film, no mention of that technology (the tubules) had been made. The nanites begin by attacking the blood cells of the victim and "grow" implants, presumably, using the minerals already present in their body

It bears mentioning that one of the methods the crew of the Enterprise considered in combatting the Borg in BOBW, was nanites. That doesn't mean the Borg were using nanites at the time only that a nanite attack could disrupt whatever technology they were using.

Alternately, the Borg COULD have been using nanites at the time of BOBW. In Scorpion, while preparing for the confrontation with the Borg, Voyager's EMH shows that he (and possibly Starfleet Medical) has knowledge of this technology. That knowledge, however, could have come from Hugh in I, Borg or from the Borg encountered in Descent or from the former Borg Voyager encountered in Unity rather than from the encounter with the Borg in BOBW.

The skin pigmentation change to Picard in BOBW always struck me as the Borg were changing him to fit their mold. His skin tone was part of his "biological distinctiveness" and it was altered to match the collective.

In the Voyager episode Survival Instinct, it is revealed in a flashback that the Borg had assimilation tubules as early as 2368 (one year after Best of Both Worlds).

To answer your question, no. The evidence is that when the Borg were a TNG only threat, Borg nanotechnology wasn't mentioned or even (really) considered beyond a passing comment Dr. Crusher made about the removal of Picard's implants being a "a matter of microsurgery." It does appear that First Contact and Voyager wanted to retcon the technology into (most of) the previous encounters with the collective though.

  • 1
    @Praxis Anytime! I'm discovering that I'm apparently more of a Trek nerd than I thought...
    – geewhiz
    Jan 28, 2015 at 18:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.