16 years ago today Dark Frontier, a special two-hour episode of Star Trek: Voyager involving the return of the Borg first aired.
Dark Frontier is a two-hour episode of Star Trek: Voyager considered both the 15th and 16th episodes of the 5th season of the show. Written by Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky, and directed by Cliff Bole and Terry Windell. The extended-length episode aired on February 17th, 1999 on UPN.
In the episode, the crew of Voyager, still stranded many years from home, hope to steal a warp device that will allow them to cut decades off their trip back to friendly space. Their target: the Borg, a terrifying race of cybernetic creatures united by one hive mind. But, the crew of the Voyager find their mission to be even tougher than they anticipated as Seven of Nine is tempted to return to the Collective by the Borg Queen, a concept established in the Next Gen movie First Contact, and played in these two episodes by Susanna Thompson.
Dark Frontiers origin is steeped in sweeps week.
“We were heading into sweeps [….] But we had no idea what we were going to do.” Co-writer Joe Menosky
The decision to run Dark Frontiers as a two hour movie was heavily effected by the success of the fourth season two-parter “The Killing Game” and “The Killing Game, Part II”. Braga and crew wanted to surpass the Borg Queen’s first appearance, in Star Trek: First Contact, and make Voyager’s two hour episode into an event.
“To do a Borg movie, telefilm, or whatever you want to call it, we had to outdo First Contact. The space battles and the Queen had to be more elaborate.”
Braga himself crafted the episode’s plot in a single night, crafting the Hansen’s backstory ( Seven of Nine’s family prior to being assimilated by the Borg) after the history of Diane Fossey. Braga deliberately left several questions unanswered, such as the fate of Erin Hansen and the possibility that the Borg planted Seven of Nine to act as a spy on Voyager.
While the Borg Queen may have been Braga’s idea, it was Director Cliff Bole who was responsible for the timing of her appearance at the end of the first part.
“I begged to get the Queen in the end. Originally, they hadn’t planned on it, and I said, ‘Guys, you can’t do this. You’ve got to tease, and you’ve got to bring these folks back, and you’ve got to have the Queen in this episode. You’ve just got to have what I call the end-teaser and introduce the Queen. I don’t care if it’s one page or two shots; just do it.'”
The photon torpedo that destroys the Borg probe in the episode’s teaser was initially deleted from the script for budgetary reasons. It was reinserted not long before the episode’s creation came to an end.
For more on the fascinating story behind this landmark episode of Voyager please check the Memory Alpha page, from which I have shamelessly cribbed all of this.