The second season of Star Trek: Discovery has been a wild ride. The season’s plot involves portents of the future, time travel, and a murderous artificial intelligence. At the center of it all is Micahel Burnham and her family, including foster brother Spock and mother Gabrielle Burnham, whom Michael believed to be dead. It turns out Gabrielle is the Red Angel that’s been guiding Discovery’s second season adventures. But the show’s most recent episode, “Perpetual Infinity,” may hint at something else in play. Could Discovery's adventures throughout this season be building to a key untold story in the Star Trek mythos? Could Star Trek: Discovery be revealing the origin of the Borg?
This story contains SPOILERS for the Star Trek: Discovery episode “Perpetual Infinity.” Keep that in mind before reading ahead.
This season of Star Trek: Discovery began with the mystery of the red signals that appeared without warning or explanation throughout the galaxy. This led to the search for Spock and a mission to prevent the destruction of all organic life in the universe.
Further investigation revealed that the threat to all life comes from a program called Control. Starfleet’s Section 31 used Control to assess threats to the Federation, but the program gained a level of sentience and wants to evolve. Control desires knowledge Discovery acquired from a mysterious sphere it encountered in space. That knowledge includes data about the evolution of AIs over thousands of years, and the data is vital to Control's own evolution.
The Discovery crew believed it had eradicated Control, but the program managed to copy itself onto Capt. Leland’s Section 31 ship. In “Perpetual Infinity,” Control takes holographic form and captures Leland. It plans to inject Leland with inorganic matter that will allow it to take control of Leland’s body, making it easier for Control to pursue its goal. When Leland tries to break free of his restraints, Control lets him know that “struggle is pointless.”
That single line is but a degree removed from the Borg’s infamous threat, “resistance is futile.” In fact, much of Control's conversation with Leland touches on themes reminiscent of the Borg. While what Control does to Leland isn’t Borg assimilation as Star Trek fans know it, it isn’t too far removed. Could Control be the progenitor of the Borg?
There are two challenges to the idea that this is the origin of the Borg: time and space. According to what we know of the Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager, they originate from the Delta Quadrant. The Enterprise under Capt. Picard made the first contact with the Borg only as part of one of the omnipotent Q’s games. Starfleet didn’t explore the Delta Quadrant until a powerful alien dragged Voyager across the galaxy and the ship had to take a much longer way home.
There are ways to explain how Control, and thus the Borg, end up in the Delta Quadrant. Discovery has the spore drive that allows it to teleport through space. It may be possible for it to reach as far as the Delta Quadrant. If Starfleet lets Control live, either for ethical or practical reasons, Discovery could bring it to the Delta Quadrant and drop it there. Control may then evolve to further blend organic and inorganic life, giving birth to the Borg as a subspecies and its linked hive mind.
As for time, Discovery does take place about a century before the Enterprise makes the first contact with the Borg, but it isn’t that simple. Enterprise encounters the Borg in the 24th century, but a Voyager episode reveals the Borg have existed since at least the 15th century. The Borg should be spreading across the Delta Quadrant even as these events involving Control take place.
There’s a workaround for that as well, however. As mentioned, Discovery’s second season has dealt with time travel. Project Daedalus was all about time travel and led to the creation of the Red Angel suit. It is possible that Starfleet could use similar technology to transport Control through time. Starfleet could transport Control into the Delta Quadrant a thousand or more years in the past. There, it would have time to evolve into the Borg as encountered in the 24th century.
There are ethical concerns about this idea. By the 15th century, the Borg already had assimilated a small number of planets. Leaving Control in the Delta Quadrant where it will harm others is therefore ethically questionable. Discovery could explain or rationalize this decision in different ways; Control may well become more benign by the end of the season, or perhaps leaving Control stranded in the Delta Quadrant may be an accident. There's also Section 31 still in play, which does not have the same moral scruples as most of Starfleet. Traveling through time into the Delta Quadrant could also be Control's means of escape.
There are still three episodes left in the season, which means lots of the story still left to tell. Fans will have to keep watching to see if this theory is even close to the truth.
Do you think Star Trek: Discovery is telling the Borg’s origin story? Let us know in the comments. New Star Trek: Discovery episodes become available to stream Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS All Access.
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