Star Trek Forget Its Scariest Cliffhanger To Save Its Best Villains

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

While the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation was exceedingly rocky, most fans agree that “Conspiracy” was a standout episode. It involved a mysterious race of aliens who nearly succeeded in taking over Starfleet, and the episode ended on a seeming cliffhanger as Data theorized that one of the creatures had activated a homing beacon to bring more of the creepy critters to this neck of the galactic woods. Fans spent years wondering why we never got a follow-up to this, and the surprising reason is they were going to be part of the Borg introduction before the plan was dropped.

The Lasting Impact Of Conspiracy

When the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Conspiracy” first premiered, it felt like the show had increased the stakes in the biggest possible way. Like The Original Series before it, most previous episodes of TNG had focused on far-flung adventures in which our characters explored the cosmos. In this episode, however, Picard and crew have to travel back to Starfleet headquarters to investigate a series of mysterious Starfleet deaths, and they end up discovering a conspiracy where aliens who are walking around in the bodies of high-ranking officers are planning to take over Starfleet without anybody even knowing.

The Most Gruesome Episode

The titular conspiracy of this Star Trek episode ends when Picard and Riker destroy the head parasite hidden within Lieutenant Commander Remmick. The scene is memorable for how gruesome it is…to this day, “Conspiracy” holds the dubious honor of having the grossest scene in franchise history thanks to the over-the-top death of Remmick and his parasite. Still more memorable is the very end, however, in which Data highly implies we’ll be seeing these creatures again.

Evil Insects

That didn’t happen, though: not only did the aliens never appear again in Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they never popped up in any other show in the franchise. When the third season of Picard premiered, some fans thought the aliens from “Conspiracy” would make their triumphant return. Instead, fans discovered (somewhat depressingly) that the Borg had returned. In a weird turn of events, however, this wasn’t the first time the Borg kept these parasites from returning.

The Borg Connection Was Dropped

Michael and Denise Okuda (a Star Trek graphic designer and writer, respectively, who are basically franchise royalty) wrote in the Star Trek Chronology that the writers originally wanted “Conspiracy” as an episode “to lead to the introduction of the Borg.” However, by the time the Borg introductory episode “Q Who” came out, “The Borg connection was dropped…and the truth about the parasites remains a mystery.” Since the franchise quickly embraced the Borg as the new Big Bads of Star Trek, there was seemingly no need to keep the parasites around after their would-be Borg connection was severed.

The Borg Were Originally Very Different

star trek borg

How, though, would the “Conspiracy” parasites have connected back to the Borg, though? The Okudas didn’t say anything, and we can only speculate, but it likely had to do with the early plan to make the Borg more of an insectoid species than a cybernetic one. These plans were dropped due to budgetary constraints, but we can’t help but think insect Borg would have been the perfect match for organic parasites, and making the Borg a cybernetic race that relies on nobody but technology and themselves completely ended plans to follow-up on “Conspiracy.”

The Borg Ended The Conspiracy

There you have it, Star Trek fans. Like you, we’ve been waiting decades to see the “Conspiracy” aliens return, and we were as surprised as anyone to discover that the Borg are (inadvertently) responsible for preventing their return. Of course, that’s the irony about the Borg: these bionic villains are all about assimilating “biological and cultural distinctiveness,” yet their constant overuse in the franchise (yes, including the Picard finale) has made the franchise feel less distinct than ever before.

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