While we’re talking about pet peeve tropes in TV and movies, here’s a big one for me…
I’ve always found hive mind creatures fascinating within science fiction. Entire species that function as a single fluid organism with each member sharing a single mind. I first encountered the concept in the novel Ender’s Game where it is revealed that the alien species that the human race is at war with is so difficult to fight because they learn human tactics from battles and that no two tactics seem to work twice.
My second and more memorable encounter was with the TV series, Star Trek: The Next Generation with the Borg. My favorite episodes within the entire series were the two-part episodes The Best of Both Worlds. I found the Borg of Star Trek absolutely fascinating but I couldn’t entirely figure out why I preferred them so much to Buggers of Ender’s Game.
I discovered why I liked the concept of the Borg so much, and why I was subsequently let down by them when I watched the Borg-centric movie, Star Trek: First Contact in which the Borg Queen was introduced. A singular entity that controlled the entire species. One whose death immediately would cripple the entire collective.
I hated this. One reason I liked the Borg more than the Buggers was that there was—until First Contact—no centralized control over the species. No singular species off switch. No final boss that once defeated meant the game had been won. This is what made how the Enterprise defeated the Borg in The Best of Both Worlds so interesting. The characters had to work within the confines that there was no singular controlling being to take out the entire opposing force.
The idea of the simple victory by beating a single leader I find boring and trite. And it’s an idea that infests all manner of stories. It trivializes the idea of fighting a system by saying that simply taking down a single enemy solves all problems. It’s a cop-out that also cheapens the very concept of a hive mind.
The closest thing I can think of that has come close to embodying that concept of a true un-centralized hive mind was the depiction of Ultron from the second Avengers movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron. But even in that case, the creators felt the need to have a single distinguishing Ultron to make it easier for the audience to identify the “boss” while maintaining the concept that all of them were the same.
Someday I hope someone will explore the concept of the hive mind without a central leading walking kill switch for the entire species. Until then, every time another hive queen or king shows up, I’ll just have to sigh to myself again.