By C.J. Bunce
We highlight them all the time here at borg.com. But some of them don’t naturally come to mind when you think of cybernetically enhanced organisms–cyborgs, or borgs for short. What makes a borg? An organism, human, alien, or animal, who has been modified by technology or uses technology as part of or in place of another biological function. We use this broadly, encompassing not only a long-accepted group of borgs that are more metal than man, but also robots or androids modified with biology or biomatter, although taken to the extreme this would seem to include the bioneural starship USS Voyager from Star Trek Voyager.
Let’s start with who is NOT in the list that might come close if borgs were more loosely defined. We haven’t included the non-organic: automatons, androids, or robots. Think Lt. Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation before he met the queen in Star Trek: First Contact–despite his perfectly life-like appearance. For the bulk of the series Data was always an android, not a cyborg. He’s just a highly advanced C-3PO–until First Contact.
Droids from Star Wars, Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still, Robot B-9 from Lost in Space or Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet, the Autobots and Decepticons of Transformers, the police force of THX-1138, Box in Logan’s Run, the perfectly human appearing kid-like star of D.A.R.Y.L., the several automatons of episode after episode of The Twilight Zone, Beta in The Last Starfighter, Tron and Flynn and the other microscopic, human-like bits of data in Tron, Hellboy II’s Golden Army, the future Iowa Highway Patrolman in Star Trek 2009 (we assume he’s just wearing some police safety mask), Rosie the maid in The Jetsons, Hogey the Roguey from Red Dwarf, Marvin the Android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, X-Men’s Sentinels, Lal and Juliana Tainer from Star Trek: The Next Generation, the title character of CHAPPiE, or Iron Giant, despite their human-like or bipedal nature, none are actual borgs because they lack biological matter, living cells, or the like.
So the same applies for the robotic hosts in Westworld–Michael Crichton’s original was clear these were merely automaton robots and we’ve seen nothing from 2016’s HBO series to show that has changed (even the NY Times got it wrong). Which explains why The Stepford Wives aren’t on the list, or Fembots, either from The Bionic Woman or the Austin Powers series, or the Buffybot in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Regardless of how you define it, meet our borg.com Borg Hall of Fame, always ready for new honorees…
With Marvel’s big premiere of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, we’ll begin with Tony Stark’s Iron Man. Tony Stark is not advertised as a borg, but if your power source involves techno-gadgetry via an arc reactor and you have his fully integrated armor, we think that makes you a borg. Whedon is very familiar with borgs, having created the character Adam, the nasty, almost unstoppable foe of the Scooby Gang in Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
If Iron Man is a borg, should one of the oldest creatures of science fiction be considered a borg as well–Frankenstein’s monster? How integral are those bolts and attachments to his survival anyway? Does an external power source make a borg? Did he ever have to regenerate?
And if Frankenstein’s monster makes the cut, maybe this spin-off fellow should, too:
Yes, Frankenberry, the only cereal mascot borg? Are those pressure gauges on his head? What functions do they serve? Before we move forward very far in time, we also think we need to at least consider Maria’s doppelganger from Fritz Lang’s sci-fi film classic Metropolis as a possible borg.com honoree–a robot admittedly, but somehow transformed into a humanoid creation with flesh, used to replace the real Maria and wreak havoc across Metropolis:
From one of the biggest science fantasy franchises, Star Wars, Darth Vader began as Anakin Skywalker, but through his own rise to evil and subsequent downfall he became more machine than man:
He even caused his son to require borg technology by slicing off his arm and hand with his lightsaber, making Luke Skywalker a borg as well:
With Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, we met an interesting new villain, General Grievous, a four-lightsaber wielding almost lobster-like biological creature made up of techno-armor and, in close-up are those reptilian eyes? His apparent disfigurement and breathing problems hint at a back story that must be not unlike Vader’s.
In The Empire Strikes Back we also briefly met Lando Calrissian’s majordomo who possessed some type of brain adapter technology–we learn from action figures, trading cards and comics his name is Lobot:
And probably the very first cyborg to be referred to specifically as a “borg” (by Luke Skywalker, even), Valance was a cyborg bounty hunter in the early pages of Star Wars, the Marvel Comics series:
Some borgs are more cybernetic than organism, at least at first appearance. This would include Doctor Who’s Cybermen:
and we’d learn even the Daleks were cybernetic organisms:
and the Terminators from the Terminator movie:
and Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series, very much more machine with a bit of organics (and even Arnold’s character called himself a “cybernetic organism”):
In Star Trek: First Contact the Borg Queen alters the android Lieutenant Commander Data in such a way so as to make Pinocchio a real boy:
giving real organic material to Data, (like Maria’s double above from Metropolis?) bringing him briefly into the realm of borg status, like Isaac Asimov’s Bicentennial Man:
and this even suggests the Tin Man from L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz may be a rudimentary variant borg being along the lines of Frankenstein’s monster (and the novel states that he once actually was human until he lost his limbs (and heart) in a woodcutting injury and had them replaced by a tinsmith):
All humanoids or aliens modified to become The Borg of the Star Trek franchise clearly are good examples of cyborg beings, the most famous of which are probably Patrick Stewart’s Locutus:
the seemingly innocent Hugh:
and Seven of Nine from Star Trek Voyager:
On Earth we encounter humans all the time with bodies improved by borg technology. Because of the OSI Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers were rescued from near death with enhanced biology and appendages to become the Bionic Man and Bionic Woman:
The British agent James Bond had to take on Doctor No, an evil scientist who took on his own technological enhancements because of medical maladies, bringing James Bond into the fold of genre franchises investigating a borg character:
Featured in a 1980s movie series and soon to be the subject of a new movie, Robocop:
showed us a variant on Austin and Sommers, and a bit like Iron Man, we have the government creating technology to make super-humans, and here, a superhuman police officer. This is taken even further, making three animals into borgs for military use in the Eisner-nominated comic book mini-series WE3:
…a far darker take on the classic cartoon character Dynomutt from Scooby Doo:
and Doctor Octopus (Doc Ock) in Spider-man 2:
both were borgs that made it into big-screen films.
In the DC Comics universe we have a newer Justice League featured member Cyborg, a football player/student who is in the wrong place at the wrong time, when his father’s lab goes up in flames and his father uses his own research to save his son from death:
Before that, Frank Miller envisioned a disfigured future world Green Arrow who would need his own prosthetic cybernetic arm in The Dark Knight Returns:
Mr. Freeze was an early borg villain in the Batman series:
In Marvel Comics Rich Buckler created Deathlok the Demolisher, another cyborg creation, and one of the earliest borgs in comics:
Add to that Marvel characters like Ultron, the “living” automaton:
Ultron’s own creation, named Vision, the “synthezoid”–
and the borg called Cable:
In the 1990s Jim Lee created the Russian borg in the pages of X-Men called Omega Red:
Long before these Marvel characters the cyborgs Robotman and Robotdog graced the pages of DC Comics in the 1940s, and yes, they were not just robots:
The modern Cylons from the reboot Battlestar Galactica TV series are borgs in the Terminator sense, robots made to look and pass for human. And there were a bunch, not just background, but named characters, the most famous of which was the seductive Number Six:
Years before, Philip K. Dick would create more than one borg character in his novels and short stories, revealed to us the best as the Replicants in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner:
Several replicants appeared in the film:
…all indistinguishable from humans to the naked eye.
In the horror realm we have Ash, from Evil Dead and Army of Darkness, his arm a functioning chainsaw, and at least in the comic book, like the Star Trek borgs he has an interchangeable arm like a mega Swiss Army knife:
If we include Ash do we also need to include Cherry Darling from Planet Terror, since she has a rifle as a leg like Ash’s arm attachment?
Heck, even horrific camp troller Jason became a borg eventually in Jason X:
Todd MacFarlane’s Spawn comics had both the borg assassin Overtkill:
and the cybernetic gorilla Cy-Gor:
Speaking of borg beasties, even Japanese monster movies embraced borgs, having their hero Godzilla encounter Mechagodzilla:
In the world of manga and anime we have Ghost in the Machine’s own borg girl Motoko Kusanagi:
leader of a group of borgs, and the villain Cell from Dragon Ball:
Cowboy Bebop had the borg character Jet Black, which seems influenced by the design of Seven of Nine:
Akira had Tetsuo Shima:
And we have a new one to add to the list because of the film Prometheus, the creepy borg, David 8:
But he’s certainly not the first in Ridley Scott’s Alien universe. Don’t forget Ian Holm’s Ash in Alien:
Lance Henrikson’s Bishop from Aliens:
and Winona Ryder’s Annalee Call from Alien: Resurrection:
So here is Round 2, the 2014 borg.com Hall of Fame honorees, in no particular order:
Mike Power, the Atomic Man from the 1970s. We hope he shows up again in this year’s The Six Million Dollar Man, Season 6, from Dynamite Comics.
In the 2003 animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it was revealed the Rat King was once the Slayer, a bio-mechanical super soldier prototype.
From Dark Horse Comics’ 2014 comic book series, we have Vandroid. Half man. Half machine. All badass. Chuck Carducci is a mechanic. Vandroid is a borg created by Chuck, but will he be more van than man?
Then there is a Manborg. From the low-budget sci-fi B-movie, we reviewed Manborg here at borg.com back in 2013.
From the classic fantasy movie The Dark Crystal, it’s SkekTek the Skeksis scientist who had multiple bionic parts.
From 2013’s new TV series Almost Human, Karl Urban’s detective John Kennex (who has a cybernetic leg) is a borg, but is his partner, Michael Ealy’s out-dated android Dorian? The newer model police officers appear to be androids only, but is there any organic part, any living tissue, in Dorian?
Almost Human features a society full of androids (including the prostitute, above)–some with illegally-trafficked actual human skin–real skin, which, of course, makes them borg. We don’t know if Dorian has any organic material yet.
From the Doctor Who episode “A Town Called Mercy,” the cybernetic Gunslinger.
From the title character of the Joe Benitez comic book steampunk series, the borg survivor of a killer’s experiments, the beautiful Lady Mechanika.
In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, once she was taken over by the V’ger probe, Ilia became a computer controlled cyborg, yet kept some of her Deltan “humanity” remained.
One series of low-budget films featured borg, first Jean-Claude van Damme’s Cyborg, where the cyborg isn’t van Damme’s character, but a woman named Pearl Prophet.
Here is the late Jack Palance’s cyborg Mercy, and Angelina Jolie’s first starring role as borg Cash Reese in Cyborg 2. The second sequel Cyborg 3: The Recycler has Khrystyne Haje replacing Angelina Jolie.
In Back to the Future Part II, Griff Tannen was a descendant of Biff, who had bionic implants that made odd sounds whenever he moved.
Movies in 2014 featured plenty of borgs. Matt Damon played the cyborg Max in Elysium.
And Tom Cruise played Jack and Andrea Riseborough played Vika in Oblivion. Borgs or droids? They were called “clones”, so we think that requires them to be organic, therefore, borg.
And now we have a new Alex Murphy in 2014’s brilliant remake of the ultimate borg story, RoboCop.
Academy Award winner Denzel Washington played Lt. Parker Barnes from the film Virtuosity.
From the Marvel Comics universe, Rom the Space Knight, was often referred to as a cyborg in the series of the same name.
Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 and the other supersoldiers from the Halo series were borgs. Also, Captain Jacob Keyes and Fleet Admiral Lord Terrence Hood had bionic parts.
Kenneth Branagh played a steampunk cyborg, Arliss Lovelace in Wild, Wild West.
Will Smith as bionic Detective Del Spooner from I, Robot.
The comic book series Concrete features a man whose brain is placed in a stone body by aliens, a very primitive way of going borg.
Renée Soutendijk played Eve VIII, referred to as a cyborg in Eve of Destruction, yet she seems to be an android who taps into her human creator’s memories, like the android Chuck in Vandroid. Borg or not a borg?
A late entry, the cybernetic Nebula from 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy:
And how could we forget Kiera Cameron from Syfy’s TV series Continuum, the cop from 2077 who comes back to present day Vancouver equipped with cybernetic brain implants that allow her to sleuth out crimes and may help her get home.
Somehow we missed Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation–before he was the cyborg Locutus, a Predator-like Nausicaan alien shoved a knife through his heart and the leader we all came to know so well always had a bionic heart. Maybe Worf’s line shouldn’t have been “He is a borg” but “He always was a borg”?
In the latest Captain America movie, we met The Winter Soldier, complete with bionic arm:
And last but not least (because we’ll keep updating our list as we meet more borgs), our current favorite, Bill Willingham’s steam era Six Thousand Dollar Man:
The latest inductees are primarily new additions to the world of fiction in 2015, but many were borgs we overlooked in prior years. A few may or may not be borg, depending on your point of view. Robots or androids that look perfectly human, for example, that have organic looking material but may not have actual living tissue are not technically cyborgs.
So here is Round 3, the 2015 borg.com Hall of Fame honorees, in no particular order:
Alicia Vikander’s Ava and Sonoya Mizumo’s Kyoko from this year’s critically acclaimed movie Ex Machina were stunning additions to the world of borg. Clearly robots with artificial intelligence but they make our list with what appeared to us to be some kind of replicated organic skin.
AMC’s TV series Humans introduced the “synths,” robotic servants that permeated the modern world. Five of these had something more than the others, the best of these being Gemma Chan’s synth Anita, and whether you count only these five or all of them as borg, we think they fit right into our Hall of Fame.
Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road was one of 2015’s biggest hits, with Furiosa on many critic’s lists of kick-ass heroines. Her mechanical prosthetic arm provides her entry ticket into our list of borgs.
In this year’s Disney adventure movie Tomorrowland, the girl Athena (Raffey Cassidy) reveals herself o be an “audio-animatronic robot,” but she looks entirely borg to us. Plenty more borgs are featured in the film, including the proprietors of the toy shop who are out to keep the secrets of Tomorrowland from humanity.
Adding to the great list of women borgs, Sofia Boutella’s Gazelle from Kingsman: The Secret Service hit the ground running with her tech-heavy, killing machine legs.
Adding to the rich world of the Terminator series was 2015’s Terminator: Genisys. Arnold Schwarzenegger added another borg to his repertoire with the superb borg Pops, another variant on his original T-800. Along with Pops we met Byung-hun Lee’s T-1000…
…plus Jason Clarke’s creepy part tech, part biological John Connor.
Somehow we overlooked Sam Worthington’s Marcus Wright from Terminator: Salvation, so we’re including him in 2015:
Avengers: Age of Ultron gave us a new look at Ultron, already a member of the Hall of Fame, but we also met Paul Bettany’s more advanced Vision:
We had two updates to the Star Wars universe for 2015. From the expanded universe’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars, if you believe Darth Maul could have survived is quick split in The Phantom Menace, then you may have seen this rather arachnid looking Maul:
And although Luke Skywalker is a charter honoree of the borg.com Hall of Fame, 2015 brought new images from Star Wars: The Force Awakens of Luke decades after the events in Return of the Jedi:
Somehow we forgot to include a borg featured in the 1987 Martin Short/Dennis Quaid film Innerspace. And that borg is Vernon Wells’ Mr. Igoe:
We have more borgs from the world of Doctor Who. First up is Bannakaffalatta, revealed to be a borg during the episode “Voyage of the Damned”:
And here’s Max Capricorn from the same episode:
This is the Half-Face Clockwork Man from the 2014 Doctor Who episode “Deep Breath”–
King Hydroflax sneaked in in the final weeks of 2015, airing in the Doctor Who Christmas special “The Husbands of River Song”–
And here is Round 4, our 2016 inductees…
Time, yep… Time itself. From Alice Through the Looking Glass, a powerful Father Time-esque human/clockwork hybrid who rules over Underland–
From George Lucas’s original Force-wielding character as envisioned by Mike Mayhew: Kane Starkiller from Marvel Comics’ alternate story, The Star Wars:
The Major, from 2017’s Ghost in the Shell:
Max Steel got his own movie in 2016:
Steel hails from the Mattel action figure who received multiple super powers due to an accidental infusion of nanobots:
Cave Carson from the update of the classic DC Comics comic book series spelunker, the new series Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye:
Although he was a charter member of the borg.com Hall of Fame, Darth Vader returned in Rogue One, providing some new images of the classic borg:
Rogue One included a barely visible view of Darth Vader’s remaining organic body, post-Anakin Skywalker, shown in a bacta tank (better visible as the prop that was in the tank in the behind the scenes feature released in advance of the film).
Here is the cybernetic-eyed gang leader from the comic book Barrens:
Cyborg Superman made his way to the CW Network series Supergirl in 2016:
Logan/Wolverine has a new, older look in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, to be continued in 2017’s theatrical release, Logan…
… and Logan is meeting up with the similarly superpowered character X-23:
Another borg from Logan is Donald Pierce:
How did we forget Vincent Price’s (and Tim Burton’s) creation, Edward Scissorhands?
Just like we added Lt. Cmdr. Data from his movie era biological additions, we’re bringing into the Hall Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge from Star Trek: The Next Generation, who was born blind and uses optical implants combined with his VISOR, to see. The VISOR has been twice replaced temporarily with biological eyes and, in the films, permanently replaced with ocular implants:
From Red Dwarf, the Simulants, berserker warlords who have been crossbred with humans to create insane biomechanical entities of pure evil…
… including their leader Dominator Zlurth:
And Kryten 2X4B-523P from Red Dwarf, whose brain was at least at some point partially organic:
And also from Red Dwarf, Dave Lister, whose arm was replaced with a cybernetic prosthesis:
From Masters of the Universe’s early years… several borgs, including the cyborg warrior Extendar:
And finally, Twistoid:
The half-organic, half-robotic Bionicles from LEGO qualify as borg:
The Spartans from the Halo series:
From Mortal Kombat, Cyrax…
… and Smoke:
And, finally, from the Star Wars Expanded Universe or “Legends”– Lumiya:
But these are just 134 examples of individual or groups of borgs in popular genre works. Countless books, comics and short stories have introduced other borg beings, not to mention every other new video game. What will be the next borg to enter the mainstream, with a new TV show or movie?
Should we add an Honorable Mention list to the borg.com Borg Hall of Fame, for beings resulting from the merging of humans with cyberspace? Think of characters like Tron and Flynn from Tron and Tron: Legacy? Or Neo and Trinity & Co. from the Matrix movies? You can argue some of the above in or out of the list, but we’ll be visiting most of them here now and then.