March 26, 2009

The Contention:
Michael Jackson's Captain EO invented the Borg concept. Star Trek: The Next Generation "borrowed" the concept from Captain EO and expanded it into the Borg we know and love today.

The Initial Realization:

While watching Captain EO at home only a couple of nights ago (it's available on VHS and DVD if you know where to look), I recognized the Borg - more accurately I yelled "Omigod, those are totally Borg!" - and wondered which show came first.

The Data (pun somewhat intended):
Captain EO - the 3-D film-and-dance extravaganza that was a Disneyland attraction in the 80s and was the brainchild of Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Michael Jackson - opened in EPCOT in DisneyWorld on September 12, 1986. Star Trek: The Next Generation first introduced the idea of the Borg collective in the season two episode "Q Who?" which initially aired on June 8, 1989. A full two and a half years after the first Captain EO attraction opened. The Borg Queen didn't appear until First Contact in the TNG film franchise which opened on November 22, 1996.

The Visual Evidence:

That's the Supreme Leader in Captain EO descending from above via a complicated system of tubes and cords, some of which feed directly into her. The robotic looking guys are a few of her warriors.

That's the Borg Queen in Star Trek: First Contact descending from above via a system of tubes and cords, some of which feed directly into her. Is there an echo in here?

One of the Supreme Leader's warriors in a planetary wall dock in Captain EO.

A Borg drone in a Borg Cube wall dock in Star Trek: TNG episode "The Best of Both Worlds: Part I".

The Differences:
To be fair, there are slight differences. The Borg didn't have a queen until First Contact. They initially operated only as a collective, a hive mind which subsumed individuality and operated as a cohesive whole. The Borg Queen technically "suggests disparity where none exists", to quote from First Contact. The Supreme Leader in Captain EO, on the other hand, was clearly a totalitarian regime unto herself and her warriors were true drones in the sense that they did only what she ordered them to and no more.
And of course as far as I know the Borg have yet to be destroyed as a species though the Borg Queen was melted and snapped in half at the end of First Contact. Whereas the Supreme Leader's warriors were conquered through the power of Michael Jackson's music and dancing but not killed; they were turned into lycra-clad backup dancers. The Supreme Leader herself had her inner beauty revealed on the outside when MJ transformed her into a sort of hot aristocratic genie in a flowing rainbow-hued gown.

The Special Treatment Clause:

The Supreme Leader in Captain EO ordered Michael Jackson's robot/puppet colleagues turned "into trashcans" and "one hundred years of torture" in her dungeon for MJ himself. The Borg, on the other hand, didn't make exceptions for captains. Everybody was equal in assimilation and "resistance is futile". Unless you were Picard, of course, who got a special Borg name ("Locutus") and a retention of identity or Data who got a pound of real flesh and a Borgasm. So though the Borg essentially assimilated and the Supreme Leader apparently ordered random punishments on the spur of the moment, both made allowances for people of rank.

The similarities beg the question of which came first? The Jackson or the Borg? Definitely the Jackson, my friends. Definitely the Jackson. I believe the Borg are vamped-up versions of the prototype spawned in Captain EO.

The Bonus:

The Supreme Leader in Captain EO.

Don't you recognize her?

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