Star Trek: Picard started strongly but felt like it was dragging its heels midseason. The first episode presented a genuinely cool conundrum and believable motivation for the titular captain, but it feels like it’s taken most of the series for him to get from A to B. Fortunately, the last few episodes kicked things up a notch, with Picard finally teaming up with Soji, Data’s sort of-daughter. But this week’s episode, in particular, should generate a lot of discussion, as it not only shows Picard’s long-awaited reunion with Riker and Troi, but kills off a beloved Next Generation character, too.
The death is former Borg Hugh, played by Jonathan Del Arco. We met him at the beginning of the series as the executive director of the Borg Reclamation Project, which seeks to study and de-assimilate a captured Borg cube. But fans with long memories will have immediately recognized him from the classic TNG episode “I, Borg.”
If you’ll recall, it saw Picard’s understandable fear and paranoia about the Borg collective be challenged. The Enterprise discovers Hugh as the only survivor of a wrecked Borg scout ship. Picard orders him confined and quarantined, but Data, La Forge and Crusher decide to see if they can rehabilitate him while learning more about the Collective. They soon realize that they can use him as a kind of living bomb, uploading a virus into his brain that will wipe out the Borg when he’s reconnected.
But a wrench is thrown into the plan as the newly christened Hugh begins to display signs of individuality, causing the Enterprise to ponder whether it’s ethical to commit genocide against the Borg. This is precisely the kind of sci-fi philosophical conundrum that Star Trek does best. Over the intervening years, Hugh regained his humanity but kept his admiration for Picard, with the pair happily embracing when they were reunited after so long last week.
But now, as a direct consequence of helping Picard and Soji escape, Hugh was killed. It’s a sad end to his tale, and though he’s a minor character in the grand scale of things, he represented the best of The Next Generation. Here’s hoping we get more episodes like “I, Borg” in the future, as they’re why I like Star Trek so much.