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Towards the end of the TNG episode "The Best of Both Worlds (Part 2)", we have the following dialogue concerning Picard's condition:

CRUSHER: Life signs are stable. The DNA around the microcircuit fibre implants is returning to normal.

TROI: How do you feel?

PICARD: Almost human. With just a bit of a headache.

CRUSHER: We'll get you to Sickbay. We won't have any trouble getting these implants out now.

However, six years later in Star Trek: First Contact, Picard is able to hear the Borg Collective during the Battle of Sector 001, as confirmed by @Richard's answer to this question. From the licensed novelization:

...his question had already been answered by a whisper in his own head — a voice that was one, yet many; a voice that evoked the ghost of a half-remembered feminine face.

Without thinking, he rose, entranced, and moved toward the viewscreen where the image of the massive and unlovely vessel hung. They were there; he could sense them, hear them speak. For an instant, he felt as though he had only to reach toward the screen, and he would touch them.

The whisper of the one and the multitude grew briefly louder. "...critical damage to shields at power sector 1-1-1. All drones coordinate repair immediately...."

The mental whisper died abruptly, as if the speakers had realized he was listening. But it was too late; he had already experienced a revelation beyond the mere words he had detected.

They were wounded. They were vulnerable, and he knew beyond all reason the precise spot.

How is it that Picard can still hear the Borg hive mind and / or sense the Collective's presence?

Assuming that Crusher did as she said and removed all of Picard's Borg implants and organelles, there seems to be no technological or biological way for him to intercept signals from the Collective.

To contrast with Seven of Nine, she still had several Borg implants — including a Borg subspace transceiver — and so it made sense that she could still detect the Collective's presence.

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    Borg implants are like space herpes, you never quite get rid of it. <ducks> – Mark Rogers Jul 7 '15 at 1:13
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    I always thought he was kind of hallucinating – Petersaber Jul 7 '15 at 12:25
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    Could it be possible that Picard only imagined to hear the collective due to post-traumatic stress disorder? – Philipp Jul 7 '15 at 16:25
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    @Philipp : Well that would be a pretty good imagination, since he imagined exactly which points on that particular Borg vessel had become vulnerable. – Praxis Jul 7 '15 at 18:19
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The movie is quite ambiguous as to why Picard can "feel" the Borg presence. There are allusions to a telepathic link being present, which would be possible since telepathic species are present in the Star Trek universe. Vulcans, for example, may have been assimilated during Q-Who and the battle of Wolf 359, to say nothing of other species across the galaxy with telepathic abilities. Remember that the Borg assimilate the "biological and technological distinctiveness" of species.

Of course, since this is a question that likely has no canonical answer, this could all just be idle speculation. There's also the possibility that the writer just felt it made for good cinema to have Picard sense the link... ;-)

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    Ooh. That's actually a pretty good question. Are there any Borg telepaths? – Valorum Jul 7 '15 at 13:09
  • @Selezen : Out-of-universe, I agree it just makes for good cinema and adds a little depth in anticipation of Picard's Borg-related break down later in the film. But I really like your in-universe conjecture about telepaths. Nice thoughts! – Praxis Jul 7 '15 at 18:26
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Crusher may not have had the same expertise in Borg nanoprobes as Seven had, and it's possible that there were semi-dormant Borg nanoprobes still in Picard.

Nanoprobes in individuals disconnected from the Collective can still impart various abilities, such as removing intoxicants (e.g. Kadi Ambassador Tomin) and killing infectious cells (e.g. when Harry Kim was infected by Species 8472).

Although the neural transceiver is usually given as the mechanism for linking a drone to the collective, it's been suggested on screen that, even when it's disabled, some kind of latent link to the collective still exists.

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Out of canon, this is not the only instance of Picard hearing the Borg after the events of The Best of Both Worlds II:

In the novel Engines of Destiny set in 2370:

While waiting for the Wisdom, while trying to sleep, Picard experienced the whispers of the Borg Collective

There are also several instances following First Contact on the Memory Beta page for Picard where he also hears the Borg despite not being a member of the collective.

In the novel Resistance, Picard set following the events of the series Voyager:

ordered Dr. Crusher to transform him once again into a Borg, only this time an inhibitor chip would prevent Picard from being fully assimilated.

I do not have access to the book, but this suggests that some of the Borg implants in Picard were not fully removed when he was first de-assimilated, meaning the process of becoming a Borg once again was accomplished by Crusher through somehow reactivating the Borg implants remaining in him. Bear in mind the Federation's knowledge of the Borg was still relatively limited at that time and this was the first (as far as I am aware of at least) instance of a Federation medic attempting to reverse the assimilation process, explaining why some implants or Borg debris may have been missed, especially important when Crusher may not have known what exactly the parts controlled - an implant may have been required for life support for all she knew and taking it out may have killed Picard!


As a side note (this doesn't directly apply to the specifics of the question, but is interesting all the same), following the events of the video game Armada, it is explained that Picard was able to link with the Borg Collective:

through Locutus

in the Destiny novel Gods of Night.

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I know this is an old question but I think there is enough information to suggest a few things:

Even with 100% of the Borg tech removed does not mean he is exactly as he was, we know the nanoprobes can create 'organic' interlink nodes from the Voy episode Survival Instint

JANEWAY: Do you know why they were trying to access your memories?

SEVEN: No.

JANEWAY: How long have they been disconnected from the Collective?

EMH: Three or four months. However, they are still connected to each other. Somehow, the left parietal lobes of their brains have been transformed into organic interlink nodes. They've become linked together into a sort of Collective Triad.

Note that in this same episode the Doctor isn't able to remove, stop or do anything with this kind of 'interlink node' without killing them, as its organic.

Later in the episode it states that:

CHAKOTAY: How long would they survive if the Doctor deactivated this interlink network you created?

SEVEN: A month at most.

CHAKOTAY: A month as an individual, or a lifetime as a drone. Which option would you choose?

Voyager also has a lot more experience with the Borg than Crusher

Now if we put these facts together then you end up with.

  • The nano-probes can create a form of organic link that can't be removed without causing death (even in Voyagers time).
  • Crusher is inexperienced in Borg tech and would assume that just removing it all would work (wrongly).
  • The nano-probes would probably make an organic interlink node if the implants weren't being removed right or felt threatened.
  • You can remove 100% of Borg tech and still be linked with them (organic node again).
  • You also have a residual connection for a short time after (Chakotay was only linked briefly and still heard them the next day, so there is a residual link)

What this all points to is that Crusher was wrong (she may have been right that she could remove all the implants but by doing so the nano-probes adapted/resisted before they were totally removed), if she knew how to remove them properly this may not have happened - we know Borg tech retaliates when trying to be removed from Voy: The Gift. She also wouldn't have been able to remove any reconfigured organs any more than Voyagers Doctor could.

So in summary: Crusher was talking about the implants and nano-probes at the time (not knowing that they could have made organic changes), the organic changes are irreversible even in Voyagers time, she didn't know what she was dealing with and just assumed remove the tech means problem solved (wrongly). So Yes she removed all the tech but no she didn't/wouldn't be able to put him back together exactly as before. Therefore he will always be part Borg (even with no implants remaining)

This has always been my interpretation of why he can still hear them (but its also the only one that makes sense as it unites all cannon Borg facts we know about), hope it helps.

Out of universe the writers didn't know where they were heading with what the Borg could do yet, and First Contact needed a way for the Enterprise to be a hero while every other ship was being blown up left right and centre.

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