Who is the Borg Queen? Part I: The Beginning
“Locutus.” – the Borg Queen
So begins one of the most popular of all the Star Trek films – Star Trek: First Contact. Whereas Locutus had previously been a spokesperson for the Borg Collective, Star Trek was about to introduce another, with South African actress Alice Krige playing the part. Her role is unnamed in the film but cited as “Borg Queen” in the end credits. But who was this character?
The Borg Queen wasn’t in the first couple of drafts of First Contact. Responding to the initial story outline, Paramount’s then-Chairman, Jonathan Dolgen, advised the screenwriters that they needed a strong villain. Writing the Borg as an impersonal force was considered too difficult, so the writers – Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga, collaborating with Rick Berman – took the Borg-as-ants analogy to its logical conclusion, making the Borg Collective a monarchical society.
Introducing a strong female would help differentiate the character from previous Trek movie villains, many of whom had been males. It also allowed for the character to be a creepy seductress, which the screenwriters always knew they wanted.
The script described the Borg Queen as “hauntingly beautiful,” having “raven hair slicked back” but “no legs.” The screenplay also commented, “Her features are almost angelic, but the silvery glint in her eyes betrays an inner-darkness.” While the character didn’t change much between the film’s script drafts, the Queen’s appearance evolved through multiple iterations. Originally, she was suspended by many cables. Ricardo Delgado, who produced the first concept images of the Queen, likened this “ultimate Borg” to a black widow spider: beautiful but horrifying.
The Borg Queen’s dialogue in First Contact is mind-bogglingly sophisticated! Initially, her disembodied voice boasts to Data about hearing words of resistance from “thousands of species, across thousands of worlds, since long before you were created.” She later introduces herself, while her head and metallic spine are mechanically lowered onto her torso; “I am the beginning, the end, the one who is many. I am the Borg.” This portrayal of plurality, embodied by a single compound individual, was decades before plural personal pronouns were used in Star Trek by Adira Tal and Captain Angel.
Due to the complexities of her dialogue, the Borg Queen was a difficult role to cast. When Brent Spiner read First Contact’s screenplay, he considered hers the most difficult role to perform, baffled by how anyone would portray it. Almost a hundred actresses auditioned for the part.
When Alice Krige was sent her scenes, she was interested by how unusual the dialogue was but nervous about delivering it convincingly. She auditioned for the part twice, with a three-week interim in which she assumed she hadn’t got it, before she was cast in the role and given the full script.
For the first time in her career, Krige didn’t invent a backstory for a character. She discovered that everyone she discussed the role with, during her long hours of makeup and costuming, had a different take on the character and the Borg backstory. The Queen’s physical appearance – which Krige thought suggested an obsession with fish hooks – was so striking that it made her feel naked, weirdly liberated. It’s what led her to conclude that she didn’t need a backstory to shape the character’s identity. Meanwhile re-reading A Brief History of Time, she instead developed a concept that the Borg Queen was pure, indestructible energy, manifesting whenever she chose to.
Also helpful to the performance were Jonathan Frakes, as the film’s director, and the ant analogy, which several production staffers recommended to Krige. She noted, though, that whereas a queen ant reproduces, the Borg Queen assimilates.
Krige wanted the Borg Queen – which she and Michael Westmore considered part human, part alien – to imbue as many human emotions as possible and to look like a disturbing mix of human and Borg. The actress viewed the Borg Queen as evil, totally amoral, and obsessed with power. Despite adoring the challenge of portraying someone as powerful as the Queen, Krige admitted she’d be horrified by her if they actually met.
First Contact features four main scenes involving the Borg Queen. She initially tries to tempt Data into joining her by making him more human. She’s had a patch of skin attached to his arm that she blows on, stimulating him.
Jonathan Frakes described the kiss that the Borg Queen later gives Data as “very sexy.” Brannon Braga termed their relationship “a sick and perverted romance.” Although “seduction” wasn’t mentioned on the set, Krige believed that the Queen, without anticipating the outcome, attempted to use sexuality to manipulate Data.
Brent Spiner imagined that the Borg Queen’s fascination with Data was partly due to her recalling how he’d essentially put the Borg to sleep in “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II”. When Spiner told Krige this, it inspired her to reinterpret the Queen from having a vengeful interest in Picard to being attracted to Data. Krige reasoned that this fascination was why the Borg Queen reveals herself for the first time, rather than motivating her drones to do everything in the film.
The Borg Queen’s initial plan is thwarted by the Enterprise‘s crew, so she focuses on Picard – formerly “Locutus” – who offers himself in exchange for Data. She’s furious when Data betrays her.
The Queen is then seemingly killed by him and Picard, in gaseous plasma coolant. Her “death” simultaneously destroys all other Borg aboard the Enterprise.
Picard then breaks her neck component. Krige watched the filming of that scene but suddenly found herself overcome with emotion, despite still regarding the Borg Queen as indestructible energy. Data laments the Queen’s demise and admits that, for zero-point-eight-six seconds, he was genuinely tempted by her.
Ronald D. Moore felt that the Borg Queen worked “like gangbusters” in the movie. However, he regretted how much the invention of the character conceptually altered the Borg.
Most recently, Jeffrey Combs cited Alice Krige playing the Borg Queen as the greatest guest star in all Star Trek, saying she “absolutely killed it as the Borg Queen.”
In Krige’s opinion, the Borg Queen proved memorable because she was attractive but disturbing. The actress was intrigued by the character’s subjective identity. “People have talked about the Borg Queen,” she observed, “as the personification of evil, the personification of our increasingly mechanized society, and the dark side of industrial development [….] Somehow it struck a note that resonates on a mythic and archetypal level as to the nature of good and evil.“
Next time: The End!
Webmaster of WarpFactorTrek, Dan is an avid Star Trek fan who lives in Aberdeen, Scotland. Also known as “The Scotch Trekker”, Dan has loved Star Trek ever since discovering it in his childhood. He worked as an administrator, for six years, on the encyclopedic Star Trek website Memory Alpha, which involved studying the making of the various series and films. He has been mentioned in the official Star Trek Magazine, has qualified from a Star Trek course run at Glasgow Clyde College, and ran The Scotch Trekker YouTube channel, which regularly featured live interviews with the cast and crew of Star Trek.