Following up on yesterday's debut of our "Countdown to Star Trek: Picard", we continue our trip down memory lane with Star Trek: The Next Generation. We look at the introduction of one of the franchise's most memorable characters Hugh, played by Jonathan Del Arco – and also take a look at Spock's (Leonard Nimoy) post-Federation purpose in life in "Unification".
"Star Trek: The Next Generation" – "I, Borg"
"I, Borg" took place late in TNG's fifth season exchanging roles of the Enterprise and the Borg. An away team finds an incapacitated lone Borg drone at a crash site. They rescue him as per Starfleet humanitarian protocol. Initially named Third of Five, the drone learns he can't impose his will on his captors. As the senior officers stare at him in his cell, Third of Five has difficulty adjusting. He can't hear the voices from the Collective.
The Enterprise's chief engineer Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) overcomes the initial social awkwardness. He starts engaging him in teaching the drone about individuality. To further embrace the drone's individuality, La Forge renames Third of Five to "Hugh." The two develop a bond as a mentor has for a student.
As the crew eventually starts coming around, Picard (Patrick Stewart) is the last to see Hugh as an individual. Referring to Hugh's designation, the captain starts issuing commands as "Locutus of Borg" to see if the drone reverts back to his old ways. When commanded to assimilate the Enterprise, Hugh refuses knowing it would hurt his friend in the process.
Written by René Echevarria and directed by Robert Lederman, "I, Borg" infuses the spirit of what the Star Trek franchise is about. There's always another way and destiny is not always pre-determined. In TNG's final season, the Enterprise learns the ramifications of bringing individuality does after Hugh rejoins the Collective. Definitely interested in seeing the backstory behind Hugh's return in Picard.
"Unification" – An Attempt at Peace with the Romulans
What the Klingons were to Kirk, the Romulans were to Picard. Having achieved peace during the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the Federation and the Klingons found themselves a mutual enemy. During most of TNG's run, the Romulans became the primary antagonists of the series. "Unification" begins as the Enterprise responds to a report from Starfleet that one of their own, Ambassador Spock is looking to defect to the Romulans.
What was revealed near the "Unification" Part One's end is Spock was operating behind the scenes. He attempted to broker peace as Vulcans and Romulans share ancestry and found there are Romulans who share his ideals. Despite Spock's prior experience as a Federation officer, the presence of the Enterprise seemed to complicate matters further. As Romulan politics found its way to undo what Kirk's former first officer did, Spock remained optimistic something could be done in the future.
Since the events of "Unification", little to nothing is known about Spock's efforts regarding the Vulcans and Romulans. One thing that is clear is Spock's final stand to help his distant cousins came for naught as shown in the events of 2009's Star Trek. Attempting to save Romulus from imminent destruction, the Vulcan attempted to use red matter to contain the disaster. Unfortunately, it was too late and Spock's failure on top of Nero's (Eric Bana) strike sucked both ships into the Kelvin Universe.
While watching the J. J. Abrams film helps provide context and set the scene for Picard, it doesn't address his long-time dealings with the Romulans as "Unification" did – and it segued into the Kelvin Universe cast. At the very least, watch the episode to get a better idea of Federation-Romulan relations.