Wednesday, 4 March 2015

He Brought Us the Borg: Maurice Hurley

As Gene Coon was responsible for the bringing Star Trek fans the Klingons, Maurice Hurley brought us the Borg.

In the same week that we said goodbye to Leonard Nimoy we also bade farewell to the producer of seasons one and two of The Next Generation. Hurley was a divisive figure in the early years of the sequel series, allegedly being the reason Gates McFadden departed (and returned once he left) and why writer Herbert J Wright also departed. Eventually it would be Hurley's relationship with Roddenberry himself which led to his own exit from the show. 

While Hurley, who passed on February 24th, was responsible in part for Shade of Gray he was also partly responsible for the introduction of Lore in Datalore and the first "proper" Klingon episode of the show in Heart of Glory. The second season was indeed troubled by the infamous writers' strike but Hurley's greatest influence on the franchise is galactic and occurred towards the end of his short tenure with the show.

With sole writing credit for Q Who, his second Q episode after Hide and Q, Maurice Hurley brought the biggest and most lethal threat Star Trek had ever seen to the screen. Their desire for assimilation of other species would not be established until later in The Best of Both Worlds but here a potentially undefeatable enemy was firmly nailed to the board. An enemy so popular and dangerous that they would feature in a further five episodes of The Next Generation, a movie, be influential on the character of Sisko in Deep Space Nine's pilot episode and be a key part of the last four seasons of Voyager even  giving us a main character in Seven of Nine.

For me though, while I can't say I'm a big fan of Hurley's other episodes, Q Who is excellent and one of the best the show ever made - even if it is in the uneven first two years. A brilliant Q story to boot (and he's not in it that much), Hurley managed to erase the badly realised villain Ferengi in 45 minutes and propelled The Next Generation into a different league. Star Trek had never seen such a chilling, silent foe relentless in their pursuit of the Enterprise and a moment which led into some previously unseen continuity to be experienced in the season three finale.

Hurley's script sets out the collective nature of the Borg, establishes their overwhelmingly massive cube ships and even technically leaves Picard and the crew, for once, defeated and begging for Q's help. There's also the rather random Borg nursery yet even though they are not fully realised and are to a degree left quite mysterious the basics are there and easily recognisable - just imagine what could have been if the Borg had stayed as the insectoid race they were originally conceived as (see the Xindi). 

I love the script and the apparent conflict between Guinan and Q is even set in place here. If he'd never given anything else to The Next Generation this serves him well as an epitaph especially since it includes one of my favourite speeches from any series which comes when Q is begged by Picard to return the ship to the Alpha Quadrant:
"If you can't take a little bloody nose -- maybe you had better go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous -- with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross -- but it is not for the timid." - Q
The Borg are coming.

Hurley's time with the franchise might have been short and during the uneven formative years during its '80's rebirth but his contribution is one of the biggest in the 50 years of Star Trek's existence; at least in it's top five if not higher. For that alone, we must salute you.

Did you have a favourite Maurice Hurley episode? Was his contribution to Star Trek as significant as we think? Let us know here!

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