Star Trek: First Contact Movie Review

People tend to measure the quality of a Star Trek movie in relation to those near it in the cycle. Compared to episodes before (5 and 7) and those that followed (9 and 10), this eighth installment of the unkillable series is surprisingly watchable.

Jonthan "Riker" Frakes is at the helm this time, taking the Next Generation crew on its first mission without the original series cast. The setup comes fast, as Frakes trots out one of the series' most reliable villains: The Borg. Building from the mythology set up in the series, Picard (a former Borg captive) has a serious axe to grind, and when Starfleet ends up in a skirmish with an invading Borg ship, he defies orders and engages them in battle. The day is won, but an escape pod shoots from the ship, tunnels through time (stop rolling your eyes), and lands on earth. We see the effects immediately: The Borg has completely taken over the planet. The only sensible solution: Follow the Borg through the time hole and try to wipe 'em out in the past.

Trek has been on time trips like this before (notably in #4, the one with the whales), only this time we're given a bit more of a tech-friendly setup, as the destination is the eve of mankind's first spaceflight with warp drive (that is, faster than the speed of light). As history tells us, this is when the Vulcans make first contact with a war-torn earth, changing everything and opening up the planet's golden age of space exploration and good feelings. But there's trouble: the warp drive's inventor Zefram Cochrane (James Cromwell) is a drunk and doesn't live up to the expectations of a hero. And the Borg have managed to set up shop right on the Enterprise, slowly assimilating decks while they set up a radio system to call home for reinforcements. The story progresses on both fronts, as the crew aids Cochrane in getting off the ground (never mind the paradox) and Picard and his gang fight the Borg on the ship. (The unilateral highlight of all of this is the appearance of Alice Krige as the Borg "queen," dripping a unique kind of sexuality that is making me feel dirty just thinking about it.)

As for depth, the episode takes a refreshing look at how we elevate long-gone people into heroes, knowing nothing about what they were really like. Plus, the Borg battles are innovative (including some zero-G fun) and a pleasant enough diversion for close to two hours. As Trek movies goes, this is easily the best (and actually the only truly watchable one) from the Next Generation crew. If it weren't for some really tired antics -- time travel again, Alfre Woodard in an absurd role (and delivering one of the series' silliest speeches, comparing Picard to Captain Ahab), and a finale that doesn't quite end in the self-destruction of the Enterprise -- we'd almost have a classic installment on our hands.

The film is available on Paramount's now well-established Special Edition DVD set, two discs full of extras designed for the Trek fanatic. Two commentary tracks and the usual trivia track are included; unfortunately the trivia track is very intrusive, as the subtitles consume close to a quarter of the screen. Disc two offers tons of making-of featurettes and interviews (more Krige!), plus archive material.


Star Trek: First Contact Rating

" Good "

Rating: PG-13, 1996


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