Star Trek: First Contact is easily the greatest Star Trek movie with The Next Generation cast. Further proof that the genuinely good even numbered installments extended past the original cast. Although not everyone was confident in the success of a Star Trek film with only the newer cast involved. Despite Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager keeping the franchise relevant on the small screen, Trekkies were still mad that The Next Generation was cancelled. Generations had the intrigue of Captain Kirk meeting Captain Picard, but it was nothing more than an extended episode. So the writers made the wise decision to essentially do what made The Wrath of Khan and even The Voyage Home work so well.
Starting with two separate story concepts that blended perfectly together. Time travel wasn’t done too frequently on The Next Generation, but it led to some of the most fascinating episodes. Rather than focus on the Renaissance, First Contact explores a pivotal moment in Star Trek history. Much like The Wrath of Khan, genuinely intimidating enemies from the past were chosen as villains. The Borg are so intense that First Contact became the first Star Trek movie with a PG-13 rating. Unlike the many close calls of the original cast, Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, and Marina Sirtis were always loyal to the franchise. When more high profile directors turned the project down, Jonathan Frakes was just the Star Trek enthusiast for the job…
Star Trek: First Contact is also similar to The Wrath of Khan for representing everything fascinating about the USS Enterprise-D crew of The Next Generation. Jonathan Frakes understood the franchise better than most Trekkies. In addition to playing the always charismatic Commander William T. Riker, Frakes directed 8 episodes of the series. Including 3 episodes each for Deep Space Nine and Voyager. So directing the eighth installment in the franchise wasn’t a difficult task for number one. It practically became a tradition after Leonard Nimoy worked so well. The only trick was thinking more cinematically. Although budget was still a partial concern, First Contact took advantage of technological advancements by incorporating more CGI into starships and the robotic nature of the Borg. Since the movie was more distant from the series than Generations, Starfleet uniforms are now grey & black with color underneath. The destruction of Enterprise-D also meant a more modified Enterprise-E.
Captain’s Log, Stardate 99115.82: First Contact begins with Captain Jean-Luc Picard suffering from a nightmare. Star Trek has far more antagonistic alien races than just the Klingons. Since the Klingons established peace with the Federation, the number only grew with The Next Generation. Enterprise-D faught the Romulans, the Firangi, and the Cardassians, but none of them could ever hold a phaser to the Borg. The Borg are a cybernetic collective with a hive mind that assimilate alien races to achieve perfection. Ever since their debut in the episode “Q Who?,” the Borg were not a threat to take lightly. They were so unstoppable that they only ever made a handful of appearances. Their last substantial role was in the season 3 finale/season 4 premiere special “The Best of Both Worlds.” Picard’s nightmare recaps his traumatic experience as Locutus of Borg. Whoopi Goldberg was strangely never asked to appear as Guinan despite her personal history with the Borg. When Starfleet is faced with the Borg Cube, Picard avoids confrontation by ordering his crew to patrol the Neutral Zone for Romulans. They make it so, but disobey orders by joining the fight anyway.
An epic space battle breaks out between the Borg Cube, the Enterprise, and any other Starfleet ship in range. One of which is the USS Defiant captained by none other of than former chief of security Commander Worf. Although I’ve yet to watch Deep Space Nine, I do know that Worf was added to the series to boost ratings. Since the Enterprise wouldn’t be complete without the honorable Klingon, they find a way to insert him in the conflict. The Cube is destroyed before it can reach Earth, but a smaller ship manages to fly into a vortex. The Borg successfully assimilate the planet by traveling to the past. So the Enterprise travels from the 24th century to the 21st century where the Borg attempt to prevent first contact. The title refers to the pivotal meeting between humans and Vulcans. Thanks to the invention of the warp drive by key Star Trek figure Zefram Cochrane. The character was actually introduced as far back as the original series episode “Metamorphosis.” It was a strange introduction that saw a younger Cochrane stranded on a planet with an entity that fell in love with him.
Star Trek alumni James Cromwell plays an older Zefram Cochrane who isn’t exactly the hero everyone was expecting. After the fallout of World War III, Cochrane became a cynical drunk womanizer who only built the Phoenix rocket ship for financial gain. First Contact gives the entire crew time to shine whether on the ship or on Earth. Riker leads a team on Earth that slowly realizes Cochrane isn’t what they were expecting. Deanna Troi tries to counsel Cochrane, but she ends up drunk in a hilarious moment with Riker. Chief engineer Geordi La Forge tries to help Cochrane work on the warp drive. Although Geordi is known for his visor, Burton always wanted La Forge to receive ocular implants. That way we can finally see his eyes. Even Dwight Schultz pops in as the nervous, but starstruck Lt. Reginald Barclay from the show. Most of what we see on Earth is more comical than what happens on the Enterprise. The Borg systematically invade the ship more like a horror movie. Their cinematic redesign is like Alien meets Hellraiser. A countless number of ‘Redshirts” are killed or assimilated in a disturbing manner.
Although he’s typically much more refined, Picard is given a much more physical role where he leads Worf & Lieutenant Commander Data against the Borg. Ordering any assimilated crew members to be killed. Dr. Beverly Crusher takes action when Cochrane’s assistant needs medical attention. Alfre Woodard gives an Oscar caliber dedication to Lily Sloane. Her 21st century cynicism perfectly clashes with Picard’s experience in the near-utopian 24th century. They team up to escape the Borg using the Holodeck in epic fashion. In The Next Generation, Picard often used the Holodeck to portray his favorite literary character Dixon Hill. First Contact gives the noir detective persona the cinematic treatment. Picard fires a tommy gun on the Borg after disabling the Holodeck’s safety protocols. Meanwhile, Data is captured by the Borg. As an android who strives to be human, Data is sought by the never before seen Borg Queen. Alice Krige plays the creepy, but seductive leader of the collective. She gives Data skin to finally experience touch and uses it to uncomfortably seduce him.
Picard converges with Worf and another “Redshirt” to perform an impressive spacewalk on the surface of the Enterprise. They engage a group of Borg trying to contact reinforcements. When the Borg become too much for the crew to handle, Worf & Picard come to blows when the former suggests destroying the ship. Picard’s obsession with revenge is the second comparison to Moby Dick in the franchise. Stewart’s brilliant master class acting is shown in a passionate speech about destroying the Borg once and for all. The 21st century Lily calls out the primitiveness of his quest and he realizes destroying the ship is the best action. But not before rescuing Data. SPOILER ALERT! When the rest of the crew escape, Picard finds Data swayed by the Borg Queen. Although Picard offers to become Locutus again, Data betrays the queen after deactivating the ship’s self destruct. Cochrane gets his act together and flies his ship without error. The Borg are defeated by Data striking a coolant tank that dissolves the threat and spares the Enterprise. The crew celebrate their victory by watching the historic moment between humans and Vulcans. Star Trek: First Contact is a thrilling struggle that proves the next generation has what it takes to deliver engaging movies. “Live long and prosper.”