Creating Star Trek's Borg Queen Was A Unique Challenge Behind The Scenes

Many of the characters "Star Trek: The Next Generation" introduced have become as recognizable as those from "The Original Series" — foremost among them, the Borg. The second (and best) of the "TNG" films, "Star Trek: First Contact," featured the Enterprise-E crew working to preserve history against the efforts of time-traveling Borg. That movie introduced the cyborgs' leader, the Borg Queen (Alice Krige), but bringing the memorable villain to life was a challenge in more ways than one.

Background on the Borg

After the Ferengi utterly flopped as villains in "TNG" Season 1, the writers relegated them to comic relief and went back to the drawing board for a new villainous race. The second time was the charm: They came up with the Borg, the most terrifying villains any "Star Trek" cast has ever faced.

According to "Star Trek Chronology" by Michael and Denise Okuda, the Borg were conceived as insectoid parasites, but budget limitations led to the writers making them cyborgs instead. This worked out for the best; the scariest thing about the Borg is assimilation. They don't just defeat their enemies, they strip them of their very identities then assimilate mind and flesh into their collective. However, vestiges of the insect idea remain in the Borg's hive mentality. Like any hive, the Borg needed a queen.

Conceptualizing the queen

The Queen was created with the idea that a single villain directly interacting with the heroes would make for a more compelling movie. According to "First Contact" co-writer Ron Moore, this decision wasn't one the writers made lightly:

"We wrestled with it quite a bit before we committed to her character. Because it was a choice that was also antithetical to the idea of the Borg. The whole concept of these villains was that they were a collection, and that there were no individuals. And that's what made them the faceless, implacable "resistance is futile" enemy. But it also limited how to deal with them dramatically because it meant that any scenes you always had to deal with this sort of collective voice, and you never had or saw a character to play to. And as soon as you bring the Queen into it, that voice became an individual and it brought up significant, in-world story questions. So we really went back and forth about it internally; the three of us argued it every which way. We decided that the story would be better if we had some individual to deal with."

While fans remain divided on the nature of the Queen, what's undeniably great is Alice Krige's performance as that character. Instead of inhibiting her acting, her intense make-up complemented it. As "First Contact" make-up artist Scott Wheeler recounted to The Hollywood Reporter, "When the lenses went in, Alice looked in the mirror and you could see how the look all of a sudden informed her about the character. She changed her posture and her presence. She turned around — and when she turned around, I kid you not, everyone gasped and stepped back. It was that moment when we went, 'OK. It works.' The Borg Queen was born."

Cybernetic seductress

Speaking of that make-up, there's something undeniably alluring about Krige as the Borg Queen. I'll let Roger Ebert take this one away: "I admired ... the peculiar makeup work creating the Borg Queen, who looks like no notion of sexy I have ever heard of, but inspires me to keep an open mind." 

Mixing sultry with creepy was the challenge behind the Borg Queen's design. In the aforementioned THR interview, Wheeler recounted the script's single description of the Queen as "hauntingly beautiful." 

"I thought, 'OK, why is she hauntingly beautiful?'... Maybe she's hauntingly beautiful because she's sort of the seductress of the ideals that the Borg are supposed to represent. There was this beautiful face that is basically stretched over a bio-mechanical form. In the very front is a façade of beauty, and as you go further back and look at her, more and more you see the horror."

Making the Queen sexy was a narrative necessity, not just an aesthetic one; her seduction of Data would ring hollow if the audience couldn't buy into it. Wheeler's point about the Queen's beauty hiding ugliness within reflects her final fate, when her flesh dissolves, leaving only her cybernetics behind.

Despite her demise in "First Contact," the Queen returned on "Star Trek: Voyager." Initially recast with Susanna Thompson, Krige reappeared in the series finale, "Endgame." The Queen also recently returned in Season 2 of "Star Trek: Picard," played by Annie Wersching. Time will tell if Wersching will be able to usurp Krige's crown.