While Star Trek: The Next Generation characters like Data (Brent Spiner), Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) and William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes) will reunite with Parick Stewart’s iconic starship captain Jean-Luc Picard (now retired) in Star Trek: Picard, two unexpected additions to the cast may prove more consequential to the plot of the new streaming series coming to CBS All Access in 2020. The Borg are back, but are they the same threat Picard faced all those years ago?

At San Diego Comic Con in July it was announced that Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) and Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco) would also appear in the TNG spin-off seriestwo characters whose presence conjure one of the United Federation of Planets most deadly enemies: the Borg. But while subsequent footage released for Star Trek: Picard confirm the Borg’s return, it’s not yet clear what role the assimilating race of hivemind cyborgs play in the galactic politics of 2399.

Picard’s Relationship to the Borg

Picard’s relationship to the Borg is best understood by watching The Next Generation Season 3 finale “The Best of Both Worlds,” in which Picard is captured and assimilated into the Borg hive mind, becoming Locutus of Borg and leading an attack on Earth. The Borg are narrowly defeated and Picard’s humanity is restored, but the trauma remains, becoming central to Picard’s militant responses to the Borg threat in future episodes and movies like Star Trek: First Contact.

Star Trek: Picard Borg Characters

Of the two Borg characters confirmed for Star Trek: Picard, only one crossed paths with Picard during his captaining days on The Next Generation. Del Arco played Borg drone Third of Five, nicknamed “Hugh,” in an episode about a Borg drone recovered by the Enterprise.

In the episode, “I Borg,” Hugh recovered his individuality after being disconnected from the Borg Collective, which led to the Enterprise crew objecting to Picard’s plan to use Hugh to upload a deadly virus to the Borg. But the episodes end on a more optimistic note, with the crew of the Enterprise hopeful that Hugh’s return to the Collective may teach the Borg about the values of individualism.

Favorite memory was my first scene of the shoot which was out of order and I’m in Picard’s ready room – I’m told it’s most fans favorite scene in #iborghttps://t.co/XSZZ9v4rkw

— Jonathan Del Arco (@JonathanDelArco) December 15, 2019

Ryan played the Borg character Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix 01 (often shortened to “Seven”) on Star Trek: Voyager, appearing as one of the series’ main characters throughout the last four seasons of the series. So while her and Picard haven’t met before, she’s the most well-developed Borg character in the Star Trek canon. With the knowledge of the Borg Collective stuffed into her human brain, Seven of Nine could make a formidable ally to Picard in the new series.

Together, the presence of Seven of Nine and Hugh on Star Trek: Picard suggests the series will place a heavy emphasis on the potential for individuality within the Borg, rather than portraying the Borg as a monolithic threat to the Federation. Several shots from trailers for Picard underline this likely approach, suggesting the Borg may not be the enemy they once were in the 2399 of Star Trek: Picard.

Have The Borg Already Been Defeated?

A handful of shots in the the Star Trek: Picard trailer released at San Diego Comic Con in July suggest the Borg may have been defeated, possibly by the Romulans. In one shot, the interior of a Romulan prison station is shown, with a telling sign in the foreground. It reads: “This facility has gone 5843 days without an assimilation,” suggesting both that the Romulans have both captured Borg and substantively neutralized them as a threat.

Later, in the same trailer, we see a glimpse of a Borg cube, but a closer look suggests it isn’t the typical world-consuming threat. Riddled with holes, patched with blue force fields and surrounded by a fleet of smaller (possibly Romulan) vessels, it’s possible that, like the prisoners, this cube is a captive of the Romulan Star Empire.

Strangely enough, our best look at the Borg cube in the Star Trek: Picard era doesn’t come from the trailers, but from an astonishingly detailed custom computer from CherryTree Inc., who created a limited edition version of their popular Borg cube computers modelled after Picard’s future Borg.

An officially licensed Star Trek product, the hand-built Borg cube computer case was first shown at Star Trek Las Vegas. The missing sections have been covered with Romulan force fields, which suggests the Alpha Quadrant races are a better match for the Borg in 2399 then they were in The Next Generation era. Still, there’s the potential for the Borg to come roaring back into power, which may be an important development in Star Trek: Picard.

The Borg, Picard, Data and Dahj

While little has been revealed about the plot of Picard beyond what’s shown in trailers, we know the series is partly motivated by Picard’s efforts to protect a young woman named Dahj (Isa Briones). It’s heavily implied that she is somehow connected to the Borg. She may also be somehow related to Data (Brent Spiner), perhaps combining the strengths of the two in a new way that could empower the Borg once more.

Of course, there’s another important Borg character who doesn’t seem likely to appear in Star Trek: Picard, but whose presence nonetheless looms over the series: the Borg Queen (Alice Krige). Introduced in Star Trek: First Contact (and further explored on Voyager), the Borg Queen acted as a central nexus of the Borg Collective, which became useful when the Borg desired to interact with individuals on an individual level. Something of a paradox in Star Trek lore, the many identical Borg Queens act as both the embodiment of the Collective and an individual capable of commanding the Borg hive mind. While there’s no evidence that the Borg Queen will appear in Picard, Dahj might be dangerous because she has the potential to similarly unify the Collective.

In “I, Borg” Picard comes close to violating the principles of the Federation in order to defeat the Borg by using Hugh as a weapon. Having made that mistake once, Picard feels that Dahj is in need of protection, whatever danger she could potentially represent to the Romulans or the Federation.

But discovering Dahj’s true relation to the Borg will have to wait for the January 23, 2020 premiere of Star Trek: Picard on CBS All Access.