In the Star Trek: TNG two-parter Best of Both Worlds, Starfleet assembles a fleet of 40 ships to engage the Borg at Wolf 359. In Deep Space Nine's first episode, Emissary, we learn that civilians were still on board the ships facing the Borg. (At the very least, Jake and Jennifer Sisko were still on board, but likely more since in the opening sequence Sisko gives the order, "Let's get the civilians to the escape pods Lieutenant.")

I realize the fleet was assembled in a hurry, but in Part 2 of Best of Both Worlds we see the Enterprise crew communicate with Admiral Hanson who is leading the fleet. In this communication he appears busy, but seems to suggest that the Enterprise has bought them some time. Why during this time were the civilians not evacuated from the ships going to face the Borg?

Even if there was no suitable planet to evacuate them to, or insufficient time to do so, why not launch the civilians in escape pods before the ships get mostly destroyed by the Borg. It seems unlikely, given the Federation's experience with the Borg, that they were under the illusion that they would not suffer heavy losses. Supposing some ships did survive the encounter, they would be able to retrieve the civilian escape pods in the aftermath.

Related: A question regarding why civilians were on Federation star ships more generally.

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    “given the Federation's experience with the Borg” — they really didn’t have much at that point. Two encounters with the Enterprise-D, that was it. Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 8:38
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    Not only civilians; these ships could probably have been operated by skeleton crews significantly smaller than the regular complements.
    – Raphael
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 8:55
  • @Rori yeah you definitely wouldn't want your wife floating around in a pod in the middle of a forty one starship battle, lol.
    – JMFB
    Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 2:14
  • @rori did you delete your comment about why you awarded me the correct answer or did somebody else delete it. I appreciated you letting me know why you awarded it to me. And I got a silver badge out of it to boot! Just curious...
    – JMFB
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 22:17
  • @JMFB I accidentally deleted it. I'm not all that familiar with the SE system just yet. Three more votes and I get a silver badge out of the question. woohoo!
    – Bamboo
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 22:26

4 Answers 4


I would take a little different approach and go a couple lines down from the quote used in the other answer.

Star Trek TNG "Best of Both Worlds Part 2":

HANSON [on monitor]: In less than twenty four hours, this armada's going to hit that Borg vessel with everything we can muster. Either they survive or we do. As for Picard. A great man has been lost. Your Captain. My friend. Commander Riker, I hereby promote you to the field commission of Captain. The Enterprise is your ship now. Congratulations. I wish the circumstances were different.

RIKER: Likewise. Good luck, Admiral.

HANSON [on monitor]: To us all.

This clearly shows, at least to me, that the Admiral wasn't overconfident.

So perhaps the answer is a question, evacuate them where? As the Admiral stated "Either they survive or we do." They had little time to prepare. If they beat the Borg then everythings ok, if they lose to the Borg all the crews on the ships, pods, the Mars colony, and all of Earth would be assimilated anyway.

Also remember there aren't forty starships just hanging around earth.

HANSON [on monitor]: Your engagements have given us valuable time. We've mobilised a fleet of forty starships at Wolf three five nine, and that's just for starters. The Klingons are sending warships. Hell, we've even thought about opening communications with the Romulans.

They actually had to mobilize an entire fleet of 40 ships. So as the Admiral stated in the above quote, it had to be mobilized. They weren't going to send the ships, or have the time to send the ships, to Earth to drop a few thousand civilians off. Their concern was to get them to one location as quickly as possible, with a coordinated strategy to protect Earth and all of humanity.

As for you question about just abandoning the pods. They only had the one encounter with the Borg at this point, so they didn't know what would happen exactly. Would the Borg scoop up the pods first? Would they consider them a threat and just blow them all up first? Would they need the pods later to really evacuate the crew or civilians that were left at the end of a battle? Etc. There are a plethora of possibilities as to why that might not be a very sound strategy.

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    The Borg would just beam people from the pods
    – Petersaber
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 7:09
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    it's a fair point that meeting the cube in a timely manner was of critical importance. It's a bit of a ret-con but if you have to choose between the civilians aboard 40 starships and all the civilians of Earth, then you choose the latter. Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 10:10
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    the point about meeting the borg in under 24 hours i think is key, did the enterprise litterally need 24 hours to reach the borg cube at max warp? did other ships also have this same situation? probably, out of the 40 ships some were likely much closer then others, and probably would have had time for some form of offloading of civilians, other ships however could have been at the edge and would only arrive right at the start of combat. and as adam says, its civilians on these ships vs which ever planet the borg hit first.
    – Himarm
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 13:05
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    "If they beat the Borg then everythings ok, if they lose to the Borg all the crews on the ships, pods, the Mars colony, and all of earth would be assimilated anyway." What if they beat the Borg, but only after a bunch of their own ships had been destroyed? Wouldn't it be better in that case if the civilians on those ship had been shot off in escape pods to some region of space away from the battle?
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 13:47
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    @Hypnosifl Sure, but think of the gravity of the situation. Everytime there's a battle they don't unload civilians. One point I didn't make is that civilians play a role on starships. But either way if I'm commanding this mission I'm not worried about a few thousand civilians on board the fleet, I'm worried about the billions on Earth and the colonies. So I'm not pulling anybody out of the battle to drop people off & as Himarm stated some of the ships probably arrived right as the battle started & the admiral also didn't know that the Enterprise would buy them some time when he assembled it.
    – JMFB
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 19:31

I believe that it was a matter of overconfidence, and a failure to take into account Locutus' influence, partly because of an emotional assessment of Picard's loyalty.

While the Enterprise's initial encounter with the Borg in "Q Who" suggested that a Borg cube was far more powerful than a single Federation starship, I believe Admiral Hanson was confident that 40 starships would be able to take on a single cube. What they didn't factor in properly was Picard's influence as Locutus.

HANSON [on monitor]: Well, we'll miss you at the party.

RIKER: The Enterprise'll be there, sir. Maybe a little late, but we'll be there, sir.

HANSON [on monitor]: Your engagements have given us valuable time. We've mobilised a fleet of forty starships at Wolf three five nine, and that's just for starters. The Klingons are sending warships. Hell, we've even thought about opening communications with the Romulans.

SHELBY: You realise, Admiral, that with the assistance of Captain Picard, the Borg will be prepared for your defences.

HANSON [on monitor]: Lieutenant a few years ago, I watched a freshman cadet pass four upper classman on the last hill of the forty kilometre run on Danula Two. The damndest thing I ever saw. The only freshman to ever win the Academy marathon. I made it my business to get to know that young fellow. I got to know him very, very well. And I'll tell you something. I never met anyone with more drive, determination or more courage than Jean-Luc Picard. There is no way in hell that he would assist the Borg. I want that clear.

SHELBY: Of course, Admiral.

In general, one can ask the question, "Why not evacuate civilians before any military encounter?" For instance, why not evacuate civilians from the Enterprise before each hostile encounter? The idea is that the Enterprise usually has sufficient technology -- and officer expertise -- to protect those civilians. (Also, civilians likely have to agree to the potential dangers of living on a starship.)

I believe that Hanson felt that the size of his armada would level the scales during the Battle of Wolf 359 and make it more like the kind of firefight starships are used to, and civilians are not typically evacuated during these.

Based on his comments about Picard, he probably also believed deep inside that Picard would somehow help the fleet rather than hinder it, giving him another reason not to worry about civilians on the ships.

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    So, basically, Hanson fails at Commanding 101. Was there ever a plot line concerning Starfleet's admirals being corrupt and incompetent boobs? Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 2:40
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    I disagree that the Admiral is overconfident and prepared an alternate answer below.
    – JMFB
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 3:34
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    Was there ever a plot line concerning a Starfleet admiral who wasn’t a corrupt and/or incompetent boob? Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 8:39
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    @PaulD.Waite: Admiral Ross was arguably extremely competent, if sort of somewhat corrupted in the line of executing that competence :P Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 16:15
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    @PaulD.Waite Also, Admiral Thomas Henry walks out of the hearings in The Drumhead. At least for this episode (which I believe is the only time he appears), he behaves in a very intelligent and morally upright manner (even if it is only a 5 minute appearance with no lines).
    – jpmc26
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 8:28

It is possible families and civilians were given the option to evacuate prior to the engagement. Perhaps the Sisko family decided early on to stay together regardless of the mission. It would be difficult for families to constantly be separating before each dangerous mission. The Sisko family may have decided to stay together, live together, and die together.

Space is a dangerous place. Each mission has a level of risk. Granted, this mission had much more risk that others. Civilians understand that living aboard a starship is not for the faint of heart.

From the Episode Q Who:
Q: It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross, but it's not for the timid.

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    And of course, there's no guarantee the civilians would be safer outside of the ship. In many combat situations, the ship is the safest place to be - at least it's shielded and armoured. Unlike escape pods, for example.
    – Luaan
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 15:45
  • "Live together, die alone" Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 16:15
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    However, in several deep space nine battles they did evacuate the citizens to Bajor before the battle. I don't think Sisko wanted to put his wife or son in harms way so they could "die together." It was simply a function of time.
    – JMFB
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 20:45

I'm moving my note to a full answer because I think all the answers are incorrect. They stem from assuming the writers were completely perfect omnipotent beings incapable of creating a plot hole, and then coming up with "what if" and "maybe" scenarios to fill in the details.

The actual answer is simple:

The writers did it so they could put his kid on the ship (and add tension by showing the suffering of people). It doesn't have to "make sense", because it doesn't. Just because Earth falls, doesn't mean humanity falls--this was directly addressed by Guinan:

[TNG: The Best of Both Worlds]

Guinan: This isn't the end.

Capt. Picard: You say that with remarkable assuredness.

Guinan: With experience. When the Borg destroyed my world, my people were scattered throughout the universe. We survived - as will humanity survive. As long as there's a handful of you to keep the spirit alive, you will prevail - even if it takes a millennium.

Bringing the civilians--as opposed to launching early escape pods / shuttle crafts / teleporting them to a station, planet, allies, and traders that frequent Federation space! ... Bringing them into a suicide fight makes no sense--unless you want a reason for Sisko to watch his wife to die at the hands of Borg Picard--setting up a series long arc for Sisko to both hate, and eventually learn to let go and forgive, Picard.

Bringing civilians into a suicidal battle with a ship that has killed many ships before you got there, and continued to kill ships, without once thinking "My gosh, what about our civilians?" is so incredibly out-of-character for the 1990's-era Federation that it can only be reduced to one thing: It's a plot hole. In PLENTY of the TNG episodes they explicitly deal with this exact problem and jettison the saucer section, or put medbay on standby and move civilians to the most protected sections, and so on.

"Overconfidence"? That's silly. You're fighting possibly the largest ship ever seen (which had destroyed multiple outposts already), and assembling the entire star fleet (which as far as we know has never been done before) but we're still confident enough to not worry about civilians? Scrambling all warships (and improvised warships) and "overconfidence" are not two compatible ideas.

"Humanity is doomed if we lose, so let the kids die"? Directly addressed by Guinan. Humans are survivors. They wouldn't just give up and die if their fleet dies. That goes against the core of all Star Trek canon--humanism, that humanity (and not needing "gods") can achieve and overcome anything, including conquering the stars. And Andromeda (while not "technically" star trek) basically is set on the premise of the Federation collapsing--the ultimate failure--and yet with a single guy surviving, he still goes right at it, to attempt to reunite the commonwealth.

  • There was no series long arc involving Picard. Jennifer was certainly a story element for a long time, but Picard was not.
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Jan 24, 2020 at 13:24
  • Yeah, now I remember more. The Picard part was "resolved" during Emissary with Sisko giving a much less hostile final conversation with Picard. And Jennifer became a lasting battle with letting go of the past. But it was still the reason she was on the ship. She was supposed to die (for both the Picard tie-in--connecting TNG to DS9--as well as the long arc with Jennifer). Even if Jennifer was an officer on the same ship (to give her a reason to be there), his civilian son should have been dropped off before a suicidal battle-to-end-all-battles. Commented Jan 26, 2020 at 6:19

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