This week, Star Trek announced via their official channels that Annie Wershing would be appearing in upcoming episodes as the Borg Queen. This excites me for two reasons. One: any mention of the Borg and I get excited. They’re one of Star Trek’s greatest inventions. Two, Wershing will be the third actress to portray the role, solidifying the idea that a Queen is made as a spokesperson for the Collective rather than being a true individual. One reaction that took me by surprise, however, was when I saw people rolling their eyes and saying ‘spoilers. You’ve ruined the surprise.’ This got me thinking about the nature of spoilers, and whether or not they actually spoil anything.
In the case of the Wershing announcement, I don’t see any spoiler at all. And there’s one simple reason for this: This is something that Star Trek has told us, on purpose, before we can possibly see the show. We as an audience are expected to go into season two of Picard knowing that he will encounter the Borg Queen in some form. We don’t know if it’s a flashback, a return for the Queen, or some alternate timeline dream sequence. This is the same argument we’ve had since Q was announced to be making a return, and indeed going back to all the announcements for season one. The thing about modern Star Trek is that they expect die-hard fans to dissect the minutiae of every trailer. Nothing is put into the marketing that they don’t want potential viewers to know. Some of it is even likely to be misdirection.
The problem is that a lot of modern storytelling relies on misdirection and twists. Think of Lost, where mystery was the entire premise of the show. For a more modern example, we have The Walking Dead. The best thing about this show is that anyone might be killed off, and not knowing who will die is most of the fun. If you know who gets bumped off in any given episode, a lot of the enjoyment is gone. The Walking Dead is a show where going in blind is the best thing you can do. The shock and surprise is a massive part of its success. But it’s a double-edged sword. Because the surprises are so shocking (particularly in the earlier years of the show) they get talked about a lot by fans. Not a season went by that I didn’t have something spoiled for me. I still enjoyed the episodes, but they were robbed of that anyone-can-die tension.
Let’s take a look at Star Wars. We live in a world where everyone knows that Darth Vader is Luke Sykwalker’s father. But it was intended as a shocking reveal. You weren’t supposed to know about it beforehand. There is an alleged story that the novelisation bears the famous line on the rear cover, and this book was publicly available before the film came out, but that’s nether here nor there. Going into the film with this knowledge fundamentally changes how you view the film. See also, the unintentionally incestuous romance between Luke and Leia in rewatches of A New Hope. Watching The Empire Strikes Back for the first time, you are not supposed to know of this connection. When you watch the prequel trilogy, however, this knowledge is assumed. We see Anakin fall to the dark side knowing how it will end. His rise as Darth Vader is not a shocking turn, it’s a tragic inevitability.
None of this is to say that spoilers are not out there. If I say ‘Daniel Jackson dies in this episode of Stargate‘ then that’s going to be a spoiler for people who haven’t seen it. the problem with the massive fandoms we now connect with online is that not everyone consumes media at the same rate. Especially when Netflix drops an entire series overnight. Some people may watch it all in one go, while others ration it out. It’s almost impossible to talk about the things we love without letting slip a detail that some would consider a spoiler. Here At Boundary’s Edge, I try and avoid discussing big reveals, but when you’re reviewing a book or a show, you have to find something to talk about, or the review boils down to a thumbs up or down.
Personally, I don’t find that spoilers reduce my enjoyment of a book. I’ll happily read a review that gives everything away. For the same reason I’ll rewatch Enterprise some day despite the lacklustre ending. Because how something occurs is just as interesting as what occurs. A fully believe that the ending of a story is its defining feature, but even knowing that, the journey can be just as rewarding.
That is why the Wershing casting announcement doesn’t bother me. The producers want me to know the Borg Queen is in the show. Now i can sit back and enjoy whatever role she plays in the story.