Who is the Borg Queen? Part II: The End
“Look up.” – ‘Agnes’ (“The Star Gazer”)
The most recent portrayal of the Borg Queen has been in the second season of Star Trek: Picard, portrayed by Annie Wersching, who previously appeared as Liana in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “Oasis”. As depicted in the first episode of Picard‘s second season (“The Star Gazer”), the Borg Queen boards the USS Stargazer but is constantly masked, raising the season-long question of who this Borg Queen is.
As originally envisioned, the Borg Queen in Star Trek: Picard would have boarded the USS Stargazer via her own personal shuttle. In the final version of “The Star Gazer”, however, a beam from her ship targets the Stargazer before she transports aboard the Starfleet vessel, prompting Agnes Jurati to remark, “That’s new!“
Similar to how the character of Locutus was originally to have been a combination of Picard and Data, Star Trek: Picard‘s writers imagined a combination of an alternate-timeline Borg Queen and Agnes Jurati, played by Alison Pill. She said, “Akiva [Goldsman] spoke to me about it early on before I even saw scripts [….] There was so much writing going on throughout the season, so we were never quite sure where it was all going to land, in which episode or how it would all come together. I spoke to writers about the through-line of why Agnes feels compelled by the arguments of the queen and how her influence on the queen might affect the idea of the collective more generally. I thought it was a fascinating tension to explore.“
The pairing of the Borg Queen with Agnes Jurati was conceived as a love story, emphasising the second season’s theme of couples. “It’s a reductive way of saying it, but her relationship to connectivity is binary,” explained Goldsman. “She’s either connected to all things or totally disconnected. And so, when you’re talking about intimacy and relationship, she’s unique in that way. And the closest partner she has is Dr. Jurati, because she is isolated in her world too.“
Hail the New Queen!
When Annie Wersching was about to audition for the role of the alternate-timeline Borg Queen, she thought it seemed like a “cool” and “iconic” part. The role was simply called “Alien” (either “Alien Mercenary” or “Alien Emissary”), not “Borg Queen”, but would clearly be a prosthetics-heavy part. “Just from reading the description and then researching,” she reflected, “I was like, ‘I think this might be the Borg Queen.’” Before recording the audition, she watched how the Borg Queen was presented in Star Trek: First Contact. She then did the audition by videoing herself at her own house because COVID restrictions had just come into place (it was April 2020). But then the pandemic shut down filming and she forgot about the role until her agent told her – eight months later – that she had the part!
After her casting, Wersching watched all the Borg episodes. “Obviously, the Borg Queen knows everything, so I wanted to try to know everything that [the Borg] know,” she laughed. She didn’t want to mimic or extensively study what Alice Krige and Susanna Thompson had done with their Borg Queen portrayals. Instead, Wersching simply wanted to absorb what they’d done, watching each episode once, and then take a little of what she’d learned to formulate her own version.
One of Wersching’s first discussions with Akiva Goldsman, via Zoom, was about the character in general. Goldsman suggested they could establish that her Borg Queen was actually Liana and that she had been assimilated. However, they ultimately decided not to venture down that route.
Makeup and Mindsets
Annie Wersching found that getting into the mindset of her character was helped by the makeup, as it made her feel “otherworldly” and “creepy,” particularly with the addition of a bald cap and with her eyebrows blacked out. “So, the make-up is huge. The costume is huge. Just being in the atmosphere on set… It was pretty easy to not feel like Annie Wersching,” she recalled. The fact that the Borg Queen had no legs for about half of Star Trek: Picard‘s second season was also “very interesting” for her to play.
The makeup application process initially took four hours and was difficult for Wersching to adjust to. After the first two weeks, though, the process became easier for her to endure and was reduced to about two-and-a-half hours.
COVID safety regulations meant Annie Wersching couldn’t wear contact lenses while playing the role, although she would normally have done so. Because she couldn’t move in many of her episodes, she was communicating a lot of emotion through her eyes. There was initially some question, during production, as to whether they’d be embellished with CGI. It was only during post-production that Wersching realized they’d been entirely replaced with black CG eyes! She was slightly disappointed by this, despite acknowledging that the black eyes were deemed necessary for the character’s look.
Annie Wersching found that, dynamically, it was impossible for her to play the Borg Queen in a way that was too “big,” although she did find that she had to reign her performance in slightly. On the other hand, she was directed, once or twice, to deliver a more passionate performance. Director Lea Thompson asked this of her.
By playing the character, Wersching discovered that the Borg Queen had many different layers, such as her power, and her frustration with humans. To Wersching, trying to find the mix of all these different sides was an interesting task.
Wersching felt that the Borg Queen in the Confederation of Earth timeline was markedly different to the previous Borg Queens. Her Queen had essentially been driven mad and out of control due to being separated from the Borg Collective’s hive mind. For a long time, she had been forced to hear “the noise of the human world.” The actress felt that the character became more like her usual self once the La Sirena journied into the past. “She comes into herself a little more, like we’re used to seeing her, and has a bit more of her power back, her authority, and her Borg Queen sassiness.” Wersching thought this was particularly true once the Queen possesses Agnes Jurati. “It’s fun, it’s playful. I feel like there’s a little bit more snark to her. I think she just was excited to have this control, and just… owning it.“
Two of One
Despite an incorrect fan theory that the masked Borg Queen would turn out to be Seven of Nine, the show’s second season finale (“Farewell”) revealed that the perpetually masked Borg Queen was actually a combination of the alternate-timeline Borg Queen and Agnes Jurati (colloquially termed “Borgati” by fans and “Agnes” in the episode).
Alison Pill, playing this character combo, enjoyed taking on the part of “an evil genius” that was totally different from her usual Jurati role. She also loved seeing how Annie Wersching developed the Borg Queen. Director Jonathan Frakes felt likewise. “She’s still an interesting, sexy character who gets in your head,” he stated. “Annie really made the costume and the makeup work for her. It was an exciting collaboration.”
Frakes also approved of how Pill portrayed the Borg Queen/Jurati combination. “The subtlety at which she’s embraced the Borg Queen inside her is magnificent and effective,” he enthused. “It’s interesting and weird and somehow she finds a way to bring some levity to it.”
Although Annie Wersching couldn’t think of anything in particular she could take to conventions that would remind audiences specifically of her Borg Queen portrayal, she was mindful that her portrayal of the Borg Queen would be important to fans for decades to come.
Alison Pill has confirmed she won’t be back for the third and final season of Star Trek: Picard. Also, Executive Producer Terry Matalas has declared that next season will not feature a conflict between her faction of Borg and the Borg Collective. It seems that, for now, the story of the Borg Queen has come to an end.
Next time: The One Who Is Many!
Editor of WarpFactorTrek, Dan is an avid Star Trek fan who lives in Aberdeen, Scotland. 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 taught at Glasgow Clyde College, and coordinates the SubSpace Chatter (formerly The Scotch Trekker) YouTube channel, which regularly features live interviews with the cast and crew of Star Trek.