I have always been a fan of horror. My love for scary movies pre-dates my interest in Star Trek by far. Perhaps this is why I love the Borg Queen and consider First Contact one of my favorite Trek films of all time. On our Trek panel at Geek Girl Con we are each taking a female villain from the franchise and discussing their characteristics and why we like them. I have such mixed feelings about the Borg Queen as a super villainess. At first glance, she is powerful, cunning and a strong mouthpiece for the collective. She is in many ways no different than the monsters of gothic movies such as Frankenstein or one of the evil queens from Disney films. She is the ultimate femme fatale. Perhaps this is why I don’t know how to feel about her from a feminist perspective. On one hand, I love the idea of a formidable female baddie. On the other, I take issue with how she uses her power. Why do all the female villains have all the fun in Trek? I wish other female characters had as much nuance and badassery as our evil counterparts.
The one thing that made The Borg so frightening was their faceless, nameless, hive mentality to conquer and assimilate all who get in their way. They have no emotional response. Emotions are irrelevant. Yet, the Borg Queen is one who uses very human tactics to manipulate, seduce and control her male subjects in First Contact. I am torn because I love her as a character, but I don’t buy her as a Borg. The Borg do not flirt. The Borg do no use their feminine wiles. Yet, the queen is seductive and sly in a very femme fatale way. I am not ignoring the fact that Picard is mighty sexy as Locutus. I just think if the Borg baddie was a male character, the dynamic would have been way different.
Let’s look at the role of a queen in the insect world. The queen at first glance, might seem like the epicenter of the hive world of bees. Yet, what is really her role? Her job is to endlessly reproduce. She’s a baby machine. All the drones serve her and she doesn’t have to do anything for herself. The Borg Queen in Star Trek is more of a mouthpiece. She doesn’t control them as she says she is just one of them. She is the beginning and the end. she is one who is many. She is The Borg. When she dies, the collective does not. As long as there is a piece of the collective still in tact, The Borg will continue to grow and assimilate. There’s also lots of evidence to suggest that multiple queens exist in Borg space. Yet, her role isn’t that different from an insect queen in that her main agenda is to multiply The Borg and colonize other parts of space. Their form of communication is a hive sound, similar to bees, an indistinct buzzing to which the Queen can intercept, translate and bring order to.
The writer in me understands that the Queen serves as a mouthpiece for storytelling purposes. Otherwise, what do we have? We have people running from and killing zombies. We have The Walking Dead. Star Trek is not a show that engages in violence as a way to solve problems, so what you need is a character that helps reflect our humanity back at us. You need a threat that you can communicate with. Drones are not that.
The Queen is dynamic. She is intelligent. She is a real threat that you base storylines on. I would argue that TOS and TNG are about fraternal love and chemistry. There is a certain bro-mance at the core and The Borg Queen threatens the order of this fraternity. In First Contact, she is a establishes a bit of a love triangle between herself, Data and Picard (Locutus). She uses fear and sensuality to control her male subjects. Her feeling of intellectual superiority drives her need to conquer in search of perfection. A monster without a conscience or morality is perhaps of the most terrifying order. One of the most memorable scenes in First Contact is when she has Data strapped down and grafts some human skin and then blows on the inside of his wiring. To truly assimilate Data she must throw his desire for humanity back at him. He is after all a machine too. She hits him where it hurts and yet his reaction is one of fear and desire. This is the femme fatale trope working its way in. I want to love her, but because the writers make her so different than the rest of the Borg, it’s tought to. I dislike that she relies on her sexual prowess and manipulation tactics. Therefore, it’s hard for me to say she’s a feminist villain.
On the other hand, I like that for once technology and mechanism is associate with a female. Her yearning for perfection is one where the human body is not something to be desired. In fact, many times we see her disconnected from her feminine structure. We see her as a cybernetic serpentine head. The idea that the human body is imperfect and can fall apart, but the Borg structure can adapt and add on is an interesting notion. Moreover, the mechanical world renders emotion useless. It eradicates the need for a sense of morality, emotion and concern, which are usually linked with women. Not to mention, the drones are largely male in appearance and often appear genderless. The Queen is slimy and sensual, a matriarchal monster of epic proportions.
She falls into many traps though, she is in many ways like a Disney evil queen transforming all she touches. Had she been any other species she might be the perfect villain, but because she is Borg I can’t fully get behind her. The Borg are genderless, nameless and literally numbers. She is too individual for my taste. She is too much of a trope derived by male storytellers to pose a sexy threat to the male hierarchy of the crew (and later female as seen in Star Trek Voyager). What do you think? The jury is still out for me. Is she a good character for women or just another gothic stereotype? It’s interesting because when I originally watched her, I never thought of any of this. As an older and now wiser viewer, I can see she’s just like The Borg. Her characteristics are not original or distinct.