The title paraphrases a quote from William Shakespeare: “The devil shall have his bargain; for he was never yet a breaker of proverbs – he will give the devil his due.” (Prince Hal in “Henry IV, Part 1” – Act 1, Scene 2)–Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Era
Before there was “The Next Generation” (TNG) there was a lost series called “Star Trek Phase II” where Kirk and his crew would venture out on their second 5-year mission. This concept would eventually become what we know has Star Trek: The Motion Picture. TNG’s Devil’s Due was based on a story pitch for Star Trek Phase II, the premise of “Captain goes up against a supernatural being” is the gist of both plots and there is even a trail to prove the legitimacy of a contract between the being and a planet. However, a lot was changed from Phase2 until it became a TNG episode.
“Here’s a classic story straight fromThe Twilight Zone, dressed up in science-fiction garb to give Captain Kirk a chance to go head to head with the Devil–Or inStar Trekterms, a malevolent energy being. Like “The Child,” this script was rewritten to become an episode ofThe Next Generation, keeping the same title, with Picard taking a self-proclaimed devil to trail over the fate of a planet, and Data assuming the role played here by theEnterprise’s computer.” –Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Era
In the TNG Picard finds himself going up a con-artist who is trying to pull one over a planet. Kirk finds himself going against an energy base life form, Komether, which has a solid legal claim to the planet. The interesting update between stories is Data being named the Judge over the case instead of the Ship’s Computer, it allowed for more dynamics. In Kirk’s story, he basically outwits then kills Komether for daring hold up this deal, it is even well documented what the being did for the planet. I liked how TNG played It out, it wouldn’t be Picard’s style to interfere if it was truly a legit contract and they did a decent job of keeping Picard motivated to discover the deception. One thing I don’t understand in the TNG episode was Ardra trying to keep the Enterprise and all the personal if she had just let them take their people and leave she may have pulled off whatever heist she was planning. Her story could have used some fleshing out and maybe see her get drunk off power as people worship her then she oversteps her means by demanding Enterprise.
I think the TNG story was better thought out than the Phase 2 version, and I’m glad they made the changes they did when retooling it for TNG.
This week’s blog is about getting to know the DP and Editor of the upcoming fan production, Melbourne.
Matt Esteron is Founder and creative director, of Mozaic Studios created in 2013. Since then, he and his team have produced a multitude of media from local television commercials to varying films, documentaries, and online content. Mozaic has also assisted in productions ranging from web series’, to corporate videos, PSA’s and more.
Find more information about Mozaic at the following links.
“Matt Esteron joined the crew a bit later than some, but what he lacked in time, he more than made up with ingenuity. He has an enthusiasm for the camera and a way to see things most people don’t. His work with Jeremy behind the camera is second to none”
Vance Major, Executive Producer, Melbourne.
James) Hey Matt, thank you so much for taking the time to sit and talk with me about your role in Melbourne.
Matt) Hey James! Thanks for the opportunity to interview! Me as part of the Melbourne Files
It is somewhat rare to find interviews of DP’s and editors ha-ha! I find that most of the people that are interviewed are actors and directors, sometimes writers.
James) Well the whole Idea of the Melbourne files is to show that it is not just the people in front of the camera that play an important role in making the fan productions we see.
It is a group effort from the actors to people like you behind the scenes who work just as hard bringing up the final film.
So, Matt, I would like to start as I always do and ask about you and who you are, can you tell me a bit about yourselves what you do in life?
Matt) Ummm… I would say I am a huge sci-fi nerd! Does not matter the media (shows, movies, games), I like them all! I am somewhat a workaholic, but most of my friends are in some way related to film, so I guess that works out haha! Speaking of, I love cinematography, directing and editing, more specifically, colouring.
If someone were to tell me to choose any job out of that four…it is a tie between directing and being a colourist.
James) What is your history in filmmaking?
Matt) I started watching YouTube videos in junior high and found this channel called Freddiew, and since then I wanted to be a filmmaker.
I started making stop motion videos with my cousin, inspired by the video “Tony Vs, Paul.” I later enrolled in my high school’s video program and won two student news awards at NATAS. The class was heavy on making news stories, which was fun, but that did not stop me from wanting to make narratives. I enrolled at Olympic College and started making short films there, along with a few commercials for my local TV network.
James) Before we move onto Melbourne and more about you can you tell me more about, mozaic-studios.com
Matt) Sure thing, ha-ha!
MozaicStudios started out as a small “Production Company” around where I live. It was not anything big. My cousin and I made a few local commercials after I graduated high school, then we kept going from there. He eventually pursued other career alts. While I continued making video content. Eventually, as I pursued more narrative videos like short films, I wanted to make MozaicStudios less of a “Production Company” and more of a reflection of who I am, what I can do, etc.
It should be more of a blog or a real spot, maybe I can get rid of the “studios” part and just have Mozaic ha-ha
However, for now, that is what MozaicStudios is: a mosaic of departments coming together to make a motion picture.
James) I see you have three awards can you tell me about each of them and what you have been awarded them for.
Matt) So the Runner up for best film was for my first competition submission. The competition theme was Hollywood remake, and I remade a movie that no one there has ever heard of before ha-ha!
It was a lot of first for me, so getting any recognition was cool. The Best Editing award was from another competition, a film festival. At this point, it would have been maybe my 3rd time trying out a film festival, this time directing and partially editing one.
The NATAS awards, probably the biggest awards, were huge!
Just getting out of high school, I submitted a few of my news stories to NATAS through my class and I was awarded for two stories of mine. It was a huge confidence booster to be able to have your content is shown on screen in front of another high school, college, and professional video/news companies!
They sort of stand to be career highlights projects as well.
James) Are those the only three or have you won more?
Matt) Those are three that I have won that have also been “my” projects. I have been a part of a LOT of other projects, some winning awards and other just for online content, but similar to Melbourne, I was not the leader of the project.
A great friend of mine, brilliant filmmaker, Micah Fusco, made a Victorian era web series called Thornbrook. His first two episodes won a Webbie award! I helped in lighting and post work. Melbourne, for example, is one I am going to be personally proud of for a multitude of reasons!
Thank you for answering these it was something I stumbled across that I thought I want more info on
Matt) No problem!! I always love answering questions.
If you need extra content, I have got a short of mine coming up soon called Drone. Jeremy was the sound guy for half of it.
James) Sweeet tell me more about this.
What is it about?
It takes place in a retro sci-fi world. Ridley, the “first” sentient robot, is accidentally stranded in a desert and he has to escape while looking for his memory drive.
It is a short film I am making and leading, starting all the way to last year. However, through budget restraints and scheduling, and especially weather issues and locations, it has taken a long while to get it done. Nevertheless, as of now, 95% is shot and being edited and I could not be more excited for it and another project that had many ‘firsts’ for me.
James) Is it going to be an ongoing series or just a short?
Matt) Just a short.
I would not mind a series or a feature spin-off/remake/whatever if I got the budget to do one, however!
However, the original intention was to make an impressive short film that I want to see
James) For budget have you ever thought of crowd funding?
Matt) I did! I actually went to Kickstarter! However, the next challenge from there was learning how to advertise yourself and your project.
One thing I have noticed however is how one small project could lead to finding an audience and therefore making crowd funding much easier!
Depending on how successful Drone is received, along with Melbourne, who knows.
James) I see, It will be worth it though if you can get it off the ground, Many people do tend to throw money at larger series affiliated projects like Star Trek Fan Films.
Matt) Yeah, Star Trek fan films are a little bit easier to crowd fund since the audience is already there and inside some sort of collective (not a Borg joke hehe)
James) That is true but like you said a small project sample like a short can lead into more so it is worth keeping it as an option.
Neil Blomkamp (I think that is his name), director of District 9, to my understanding, was given a budget by Peter Jackson after Peter saw Neil’s short film Alive in Johannesburg. It was pretty much the same theme as District 9, but on a much smaller and indie level.
Hearing that was pretty inspiring.
James) That’s the thing Bout filmmaking you never know who’s watching and where it can lead….
Matt) Absolutely, Strive to make every new project impressive, something that will stretch what you know or what you are capable of doing. Be bold or be super boring to the point that it is still entertaining. Know your limits, but see if you can stretch those limits, etc
All those quotes yadda yadda
James) OK, Moving on to the main interview, other than Trek, what other TV shows you watch like B5, Walking Dead, The Flash?
Matt) Some of my favourite shows include:
Battlestar Galactica (2003), Firefly, Netflix’ Daredevil (does that count?), Transformers Prime, and maybe Doctor Who.
James) You said you love gaming what Trek themed games do you or have you played?
Matt) I will be honest and say I have not played many Trek games…! I have played Star Trek Legacy on the PC and Xbox 360 though! I loved being able to play as each ship from each ST series.
James) So being a DP and Editor….
Has a director ever asked you to do something that just goes against your idea of what good cinematography is? What do you do in a situation like that?
Matt) That is a good question!
Sure, there have been multiple times where I have a shot and they will not use it, or I sort of do not think one particular shot would work as well as what is in my head with any production. However, in the end, it is up to the director.
He/she has the final say in what is in the frame, and sometimes the idea that they have is better than yours is! The best thing to do is to swallow your pride, it is not about how cool you can get a shot (I mean, try to if you can), but it is about the story. Best-case scenario, you insert your own style and cinematic quality that fits the stories needs, and it is one that the director really likes.
James) Can you tell me a bit about your role in Melbourne?
Matt) On Melbourne, I am the cinematographer and editor.
I shoot the pretty stuff and edit said stuff to make it even prettier. I work directly under Jeremy and Vance to make sure their vision is met while also impressing them.
James) How do you as a Cinematographer want the director to communicate to you what he wants, assuming he/she does not know that much about cinematography, I know Jeremy was the director on Melbourne were there any challenges on his vision being communicating so you could interpret without misunderstanding?
Matt) Oooh, that is a good question, Jeremy luckily likes my style and believed I would make for a good DP for this project.
Therefore, that helps! Jeremy also had a few overheads and shot lists prepped, so I could easily interpret them. Storyboards would be nice. A lot of the pre-pro work really helped me understand Jeremy’s vision since I am not great in interpreting verbal stuff. Nevertheless, in the end, Jeremy and I loved the stuff we got! I would say the biggest difficulty was not having a real roof above us ha-ha alternatively being confined to shooting almost 30 pages in just 3 days.
I would have loved to mess with lighting some more since lighting is such a huge component in a film, but we have some great stuff anyway.
James) That is a good thing then that you two had a good way of understanding each other visions and wants when shooting Melbourne,
The Cinematographer has a huge influence over many of the working practices in a film: it is his or her responsibility to continue to serve both Production and the Director in the best possible way how much input did you have in the end product of Melbourne?
Matt) How much input did I have.
Luckily, Jeremy is the type of director that likes to leave other jobs to the person of that position. He trusts me enough that I could have a say in how the lighting looks, or how the set looks, but I was also extremely open to his input.
James) Describe a typical week at working in Melbourne is it a full-time endeavour of one for the love and fits in around real life?
Matt) Ha-ha it is DEFINITELY a full-time job! I think I got the least amount of sleep during that production, waking up around 6 am and sleeping around 1 is or 2 am.
However, it is all worth it. To be able to wake up and work on something fun, to pursue a passion is worth any lack of sleep! Nevertheless, right, typical work week wake up and have breakfast. Never skip breakfast! Then head to the set (sometimes still eating breakfast). I like to start things with a goal, “What are we going to accomplish/how many scenes are we going to finish today?” Then as momentum picks up and we start shooting, the rest is history.
James) I have been lucky enough to speak to almost everyone involved within Melbourne, and I know it is something special and not quite, what we always see in fan films.
However, for yourself Why tell this story, what made you think you wanted to DP this fan film?
Matt) Jeremy was really passionate about this project, that’s a big reason why I wanted to be the DP.
Usually when I hear “fan film,” I instantly am turned off by the idea mostly because the people I imagined I would want fan service more than an actual film. Which, sure, let us have some fun to make fanservice videos? But if the intention of this project is to stand out, show people how good a filmmaker we are with a subject like Star Trek, then let’s not get carried away being fanboys/girls.
Jeremy was passionate about it and with him leading, I trusted his judgement and I am glad I did. In addition, the story that was written was dark for Star Trek, and I really dug that! Not saying it needed to be dark, but it was new. On top of that, I got to work with an amazing crew, most of which have never worked on a film set! Some were cosplayers, which helped.
James) This is what I hear from a lot of people I speak to on Melbourne, That the people involved are a great bunch this from my perspective is AMAZING! I tend to be turned off when I hear bad things from cast and crew.
Since we are on the topic of how Melbourne differs from other fan films, can you tell me more from your perspective about the story, and how Melbourne is different?
Matt) Melbourne’s extremely different from other fan films mostly because of the crew.
Jeremy and I have a film background, therefore, aimed to make a story that just so happened to take place in the ST universe. Jeremy has a lot planned for future episodes, some dark stuff that will really push the audience in a positive but shocking way.
Everyone on set was really excited to be there! Even my friend who was on set, who had never seen Star Trek, loved being there because of the attitude! Everyone who was there was passionate and wanted to make the best film we could produce.
James) Is Melbourne the only “Fan” film you have made, or have you any plans to make further fan productions after Melbourne?
Matt) Ha-ha funny how I said fan films have a negative connotation with me and yet here I am I have made a lightsaber fighting video when I was in middle school! Nevertheless, I would not count that as a fan “film.” I am in talks with one of the actors of Melbourne, Kristian, to make a Star Wars short film! That will happen around springtime.
James) Is that the only fan film you have planned.
Matt) I’d love to make a Mass Effect fan film!! A friend of mine and I wrote a pitch for it, and I am thinking about expanding it to do a full episodic series of it if I ever got the budget (and the rights).
That would happen way into the future, but it is a goal!
James) I love Mass Effect it is second on my list of all time Favourite series (yes I know it is not a series like Trek but playing all 3 games, I fell in love)
As a DP and Editor of Melbourne did, you find that getting the cast together when needed was an issue.
I do know that some do not live close by, how did you get everyone together when required?
Matt) LOTS of forwarding planning! The entire crew is made up of, err, well everyone around the US. Jeremy, Kristian, Reshelle, Justin, and I are from the Seattle area.
I know a few people are from Atlanta, some from Alabama. We are everywhere! Reshoots were not an option. A small story, we actually had 4 days to shoot the whole script, but I wanted that 4th day to be for any emergencies. We ended up meeting our goal in shooting everything in 3 days, and had the 4th day as a vacation!
James) So it really was all hands on deck when shooting then if no reshoots could be done this is impressive.
Matt) The only reshoot that was needed was done here in WA with Kristian luckily. However, that could have been on the 4th day easily.
James) A topic I ask people is about the new Fan film “Guidelines” and how they affected the shoot of their fan films, not a great topic but It is an important one nevertheless.
So did they influence you in any way being the DP/Editor of Melbourne?
Matt) Luckily for me, I was not that heavily influenced by the Fan Film Guidelines. I have only heard about what happened. Unfortunately, Jeremy and Vance were the ones that had to deal with the release. However, we managed to make it work still.
James) How do you feel about them? From your perspective, are they as “bad” as people make them out?
Matt) After Jeremy told me the story as to why there was a guideline, I was disappointed. I see why the franchise had to release the film to a certain degree, and hearing about how another fan production abused their rights, causing the guides to happen, I felt like an opportunity was lost. However, Jeremy has high hopes, which helped.
His and our goal was to show the Star Trek community that we could create an amazing film with the guidelines without a budget!
James) I would like to move on to and ask more about you and your history with Trek and your experiences with the fandom.
Therefore, easy question tells me about your history with Star Trek.
Matt) I grew up with the Star Trek movies (along with Star Wars mind you) and really loved them!
The Voyage Home was always a favourite of mine then, and still is to this date, next to First Contact! Star Trek means to me what I think the show intended, to be a better version of yourself. Be kind to everyone; collaborate with one another, to think about the better of everyone rather than being selfish. I think that is pretty cool.
James) The Voyage home tbh is up there with Final Frontier as my pet hates of Trek Movies lol, What about your favourite Star Trek series, easy to some hard for others since there have been as many series as there has been butter?
Matt) My favourite series would be either TNG or Voyager!
I watched all of Voyager when it was on TV, same for TNG. Deep Space 9 rather has a disadvantage since it was never on, but I am trying to catch up on Netflix. TNG was cool since it was another “exploration” show with some drama and cool sci-fi theories, while Voyager was different. That show still had some exploration stuff, but its end goal was different. It still felt like “Star Trek” even though the goal was different.
James) YES! Someone who likes Voyager lol, so many hate that series yet to me yes it was BAD! In the start but by the time Season 3 came about it found its footing and made me want more of it.
Ok, so what about your favourite Episode, so you have one?
Matt) My fave episode…I have a few, from the Voyager episode where 7of9 goes back and forth in time to stop Braxton, (I think that is his name).
Matt) But if I had to pick one; it would be the last episode of TNG, where Picard is being tested by Q while the episode takes place in three time periods. One, the whole three different time periods was cool, how they were connected.
Two, you can sort of place yourself in Picard’s shoes and ask yourself the same questions that Q had asked. It was an episode that made you think, and it was just enjoyable to watch. In addition, Lt Yar was back!
Ok so these are your favourites but what about the worst series and episode?
Matt) Worst series…I hear Enterprise is bad. I watched some of it, and it was all right. Cool ideas! I liked how it took place before the Federation! However, I did not watch it with my critiquing eyes.
James) Enterprise is really underrated I like it, But then I have yet to see anything “Official” Trek I hate (bar Into Darkness that film is BADDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD!)
What about your “worst” episode?
Matt) Worst episode…I am not sure, to be honest.
Any episode that bore me I guess. In addition, I do not mean, “It’s Star Trek, all of its boring” but I mean any episode that was boring ABC family drama stuff childish drama or yeah, just boring ones.
James) I get that I have many I will watch because it’s Trek but I will not go out of my way to repeat it unless I find myself binge watching the series or it is on TV.
James) Have you met any Trek Actors in real life?
Matt) I have not met any Star Trek actors in real life, unfortunately…
James) I am going to see a play with Sir Patrick Stewart in this weekend (http://www.nomanslandtheplay.com/) and I plan to find a way to meet him lol he is on my list of “must meet” Trek Royalty.
Moving on, what are your experiences with the Trek Fandom?
Tell me, what have been your best and worst experiences?
Matt) The best part of the fandom, I would say is the passionate fans! Everyone who is a fan that I have met was always so nice and had good morals, and was just fun people! Some of which, you would not expect to be fans.
I have not had any bad experiences myself, but I hear Trekkies are a bit “too” passionate sometimes, maybe obsessive. Nevertheless, who can blame them; some would say I am obsessive over Mass Effect. Maybe they smell bad at cons. Idk.
Someone compared them to being passionate sports fans, though less loud.
I would say the power rangers fan film starring Katee Sackhoff,
James) Do you watch other fan productions? What would you say are the best ones you have seen thus far?
Matt) Hmm, in no particular order,
James) That one was AMAZING!
Matt) There is an interactive Mass Effect fan video; there were two good Star Wars fan films! One was about Boba Fett, and another was about a surviving force user and a rebel pilot on vimeo!
James) Do you, have any you have seen that would come under the OMG how bad category?
Matt) For the worst…it is hard to judge. Firstly, I will say that I do not really have a list.
Maybe you can count that one person ((Alec Peters)) who ruined the ST community resulting in that guideline thing. ((Axanar)) It is hard to judge fan films since a lot of them come with different backgrounds; maybe some have a film background, but most just want to make a fun project.
James) Yeah when I saw Prelude I was in awe but now I cannot watch anything that has that man’s fingerprints anywhere near it.
Anyway, do you watch listen to other Star Trek Fan Productions?
Matt) Sorry…I have not watched or listened to hardly anything else…
James) We are moving into the last segment of the interview now but one last question regarding Fan Productions, Do you have any regrets doing Fan Films.
Matt) Nah, no regrets, I have learned a lot on this production! In addition, I hope the following films, fans films or original, are the same!
James) So with your experience in the “Film Industry” if you were to impart your wisdom on someone who wanted to:
Edit and become a DP in filmmaking and Make their Film. What would you tell them?
To edit and DP.
Know that they are two very different jobs. Both have artistic values, but for one, you are standing a lot and holding heavy expensive gear, while the other, you are lounging and sitting at a monitor.
Both take up hours to work on, though. If you want to direct DP, being an editor is actually a good route since you will see everything the crew captured, what they did not capture/wish they could capture. Editing is like deconstructing and reconstructing a film. You will learn the importance of pacing, how audio and visuals go hand in hand, and it is a good way to test your patience hehe.
For becoming a DP,
Try watching b-movies. Alternatively, study how films shoot their scenes deconstructs them. See how some directors will have a certain look to their stuff (Steven Spielberg compared to Ridley Scott compared to Edgar Wright compared to etc).
Also, note that lighting is key to good cinematography. You are shot is only as good as the amount of light hitting your camera’s sensor. Lastly, go out and practice. Notice how movies are shot and try them out you. Just keep your ego low enough for the director’s input if he wants something different.
James) Only a few Questions left what would you like to say if anything to the people who will be reading this?
Matt) To fans, I would like to say, you guys are awesome! I love how passionate you guys are, and hopefully, we’ll see each other at cons and screenings!
Always strive to be a better version of yourself! Also, I like the 2009 JJ Abrams movie, and Beyond! (Into Darkness was ‘meh’)
James) Lastly, Matt is there anything else you would like to tell me from your perspective of someone involved in the fan film world. (The good, the bad, how you see the current world of fan productions)
Matt) I would like to say, keep things fun, be open minded, but stay focused as well. Do not make fan service videos (especially if you want to be a legit movie maker), unless you are not aiming for quality.
The worst movies are not the ones with crappy visuals or bad sound FX, but the ones lacking story and characters. That is the “bad” stuff (if you were to consider anything “bad”). However, if you are aiming for quality, you have a good story and characters, a dedicated crew; the product is always the best part! The film is art, but it is also a collaborative effort between people and mediums.
James) Well, Matt that is it, Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me.
Matt) No problems, Let me know if there is anything else, I can do. In addition, thanks again for the opportunity!
That is a wrap to Part Two, tune in next week, “Same place and Time!”
Well if my Computer doesn’t decide to cost me yet another small fortune 😛 and break down on me.
The show continued to address real world issues in The Next Generation. One example of this is the episode “I, Borg” in which the Enterprise crew comes to the aid of a dying Borg drone who is the sole survivor of a crash. Captain Picard is preparing to aid the survivor, as is his duty until he hears that it is a Borg. Then he promptly changes his tune, electing to leave the helpless drone to die.
This can be taken as a very exaggerated example of racism in general and racial profiling or assume something about a person based solely on their race. Despite his claim later in the episode, Picard is not entirely over his traumatic encounter with the Borg, and it shows in his reaction. As Riker, via his communicator, identifies the survivor’s species, the camera zooms in on Picard as his face hardens and viewers can almost feel the icy cold radiating off of him as he and Crusher argue over what to do with the drone. Picard maintains this coldness for most of the episode. He changes it toward the end and I will get to that a little later.
Dr Crusher is on the drone’s side from the start, being the complete opposite of the captain and completely ignoring the drone’s race. This is probably easier for her to do, as saving lives is her job and she viewed him as a survivor in need of emergency medical care who just happened to be a Borg.
As the story progresses and the drone awakes, we see a third character’s attitude toward the situation. Initially, engineer Geordi LaForge is prejudiced against the Borg, but not to the same extent as the captain.
As time goes on, however, LaForge quickly changes his tune after talking to the drone who calls himself Third of Five. Geordi seems in awe as he finds his expectations being proven wrong as Third of Five exhibits a growing curiosity about Geordi and Beverly, even as he explains what the life of a Borg drone is like. Beverly and Geordi quickly bond with Third of Five, a bond that strengthened when Third of Five asked them for a name and Geordi called him Hugh, a name of German origin which means “Bright in Mind and Spirit” ( What Does The Name Hugh Mean? ).
The name seems to fit, as Hugh seems more and more eager to learn about the world outside the Collective. However, Captain Picard refuses to see this as he insists on calling Hugh “it” and spitting out the words with narrowed eyes when he does, his voice sharp and knifelike when compared to starry-eyed, soft-spoken Hugh. By now, it is obvious to the audience that Hugh is not a threat, and this further emphasises Picard’s blatant refusal to give up his prejudice as he comes up with a sinister plan to use Hugh as an unwilling instrument of genocide.
Geordi, soon after hearing the plan, returns to Picard after speaking with Beverly and Hugh (the latter being completely unaware of the captain’s plans for the entire episode). He tells Picard he is having second thoughts, to which Picard responds with more racial prejudice. He again refuses to see Hugh as a person and compares him to lab animals used in 21st-century science labs, citing instances of scientists becoming attached to the animals, which became a problem when the animal could possibly be killed in an experiment. He advises Geordi to “detach himself” to which Geordi responds with a disappointed look and whispered “Aye sir.” Examples of such genocidal intents are alarmingly numerous in the real world, but Hitler and the Holocaust immediately come to mind.
There is one character who COULD (doesn’t mean SHOULD) be considered justified in making such genocidal plans. Guinan the El-Aurian bartender, whose world was destroyed by the Borg and her people decimated. Yet she seems indifferent to Hugh’s presence aboard the Enterprise until Geordi visits Ten Forward after Picard tells him to detach himself from Hugh. There he tells Guinan about his change of heart and his experience with Hugh, urging her to see for herself and talk to him. Guinan scoffs and tells him she would have nothing to say to the Borg.
Frustrated by the injustice he is seeing, Geordi storms out, but not before telling Guinan “Then just listen. That IS what you do best, isn’t it.”
Captain Picard later gathers his army and explains his plan for the genocide of the Borg, which Beverly tries to oppose, but she is the only one actively doing so. She tries to persuade the captain that the genocide is wrong, no matter what species it is. He brushes her off with scare tactics and exaggerated depictions of what will happen if they do not destroy the Borg now (never mind that there’s been very few problems with the Federation and the Borg since “Q Who”)
The Captain even seems to take a small bit of pleasure in the idea of killing billions of people when he agrees with Beverly’s claim that his proposed plan sounds like a disease, adding “If all goes well, a terminal one.”
Now comes the second change of heart in the story. Guinan has taken Geordi’s advice and now stands at Hugh’s cell, watching as the small drone just stands in the back of his cage. Thus begins the breakdown of her prejudice, at least toward Hugh. She’s surprised when he doesn’t tell her she will be assimilated and only says “Resistance is futile.” after Guinan says it first. She tells Hugh the story of her people’s fate at the hands of the Borg and is shocked almost speechless when Hugh not only understands that she is lonely but tells her he too is lonely. She was only able to stare at him in subtle awe as the racial barrier between them collapsed.
Guinan then confronts Picard, who lashes out at her for using Hugh’s name and calling him a person, dehumanising him entirely when he yells “It’s not a person, dammit, it’s a Borg!”, a stab to the heart of those viewers on Hugh’s side. Guinan maintains her composure advising Picard to confront Hugh and see if his attitude is justified, as she thought hers was. She warns Picard that if he doesn’t, he may find the decision to use Hugh as a weapon much harder to live with.
Now comes the change in Picard’s attitude that I mentioned earlier. We see him in his ready room, steeling himself and setting his face before he signals he is ready and Worf beams into the room with Hugh, who is out of his cage for the first time but has the same look and demeanour he had when Guinan first saw him. After telling Worf to leave, the captain tries everything he can to get Hugh to do something that aligns with Picard’s assumptions about him, even taking on his role as Locutus again. His plan backfires when he states that Geordi will be assimilated or die, triggering Hugh’s rebellious outburst in defence of Geordi. Picard’s last hope is shattered when Hugh abandons the typical Borg use of “we” and establishes himself as an individual stating that “I will not assist you.” with Geordi’s bogus assimilation. Picard is left in complete shock as all that he thought about the survivor is proven wrong, even stating “…you are Borg!” to which the drone answers “No. I am Hugh.”
At last, Picard and the others have accepted as a friend someone who comes from a race they consider an enemy, even offering him a chance to stay with his new friends and giving Hugh the choice. Sadly, it doesn’t always end this well in reality. Mexicans as a whole have been called criminals due to the actions of less than half of their population, which makes being a part of the community difficult for individuals, who can find themselves limited in where they can go in the community. They can feel trapped there, much like Hugh was trapped in a cage. Which is unfortunate, because the majority of them are just as appalled by the crimes of some of their own people as those who make the “Mexicans are criminals” claims. In middle and high schools, children of Middle Eastern descent are often teased and called terrorists simply because of their race. Like Hugh, they are often considered less than human, or not worthy of being called a person. The worst part is that there is often no Guinan to intervene on behalf of these children. Then there are all the cases of racial profiling. Police targeting a person as a suspect for a crime simply because they are black. While these black people aren’t being condemned to death as Hugh was, the injustice is still the same.
In short, the moral of this episode is acceptance, tolerance, and the ages old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. Picard learned this through his encounter with Hugh and even encourages Hugh to become the leader of the liberated Borg in a later episode.
This story of acceptance was especially relatable to me, being an asexual woman who is both visually impaired and high functioning autistic. When I look around and see discrimination, even on the individual level, around me, it is quite saddening. But “I, Borg”, like the rest of Star Trek, presents an optimistic outlook on humanity’s future. It’s a story of what I hope we someday achieve in real life. No, we may never be faced with something like the Borg, but there are already many “Hughs” in the world today, living outside people’s assumptions and seeking acceptance from those around them. Hopefully, they will receive it, and those prejudiced assumptions will one day be permanently assimilated into the Collective of Outdated and Obsolete Ideas.