a critiQal film review Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: It is the 24th century, and a collective of part-humanoid, part-machine beings known as the Borg face the Federation. Nearing defeat, the Borg travel back in to time in an attempt to prevent Earth's first contact with an alien species - and thus also negate their imminent loss. When Capt. Picard (Stewart) discovers this, he orders the Enterprise-E to follow them, hoping to protect warp drive inventor Dr. Zefram Cochrane (Cromwell), the man instrumental in bringing about that legendary first meeting.

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When I realized that several of the films in the Star Trek series were available to watch instantly via NetFlix®, I knew the first one I was going to have to check out, despite it being out of order chronologically (and since the original film is not yet available to watch instantly, that wasn’t as bad as it at first seemed): Star TreK: First Contact, where the crew of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (TV) was attacked by The Borg.

While this one had been my favorite of the series for years, would the passage of more than a decade since it’s release have tarnished the film’s entertainment value somewhat, or is resistance to this film just as futile as ever?

Since the film is an easy continuation of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (TV), and so it’s not a real surprise that the actors did a good job reprising their roles. As always, Patrick Stewart’s performance as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard has the air of the classic thespian about it, and it just as enjoyable to watch as ever. He’s the brightest point in the crew, and is a natural with the camera.

While the rest of the crew aren’t quite as big of a draw, they do play their roles well, if with maybe a touch too much melodrama (most noticably during an exaggerated drunk speech by Marina Sirtis, aka Counselor Deanna Troy). The additions this time around of James Cromwell and Alfre Woodard, Alice Krige and (as a crewman) Neal McDonough are all positives, and each contributes in their own way towards the film.

I know I’m an oddity in the “Star Trek” fan-verse, but I have always been partial to the crew of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (TV) more than the original cast. While Shatner’s Captain Kirk and Nimoy’s Spock are classic characters, the situations “Star Trek” (TV) always seemed so cheesy and ridiculous to me. With “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (TV), they amped up the special effects and delivered much better storylines – not the least of which was their encounters with a new enemy, The Borg.

The Borg, a cybernetic race which “assimilates” conquered races into it’s one “collective” mind and implants them with various technological implants, do look a bit bulky and more robotic than expected, at least in the drones wandering about. The “Queen”, however, is much more human, albeit with some nasty looking protrusions exuding from the back of her head. That only helps Star Trek: First Contact, however, as her human qualities are such a contrast to the creepy implants that abound around her it makes her seem more evil than expected.

The story in First Contact is split into two distinct parts, with Riker and some of the crew on Earth in the year 2063, and Capt. Picard and the rest of the crew on board the ship fighting off The Borg. Unsurprisingly, The Borg attack is the most interesting of these two parts, and makes for the most thrilling moments of the film, while the Earth mission seems to serve as a comical breather from the tension in the skies. While this works well for the film, it also makes the Earth mission seem incredibly trivial, and viewers will never find themselves caring about what happens on the ground – only about the struggle ensuing on the Enterprise.

While the film has grown a little weathered by age, with the special effects becoming less effective and the storyline / dialogue becoming more dated and silly, Star Trek: First Contact still stands as the highpoint of the film career of the crew from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (TV), providing them with a vicious and engaging enemy, a thrilling struggle for control of the Enterprise, and some comical interactions with the Earth of 2063.

It’s too bad, really, that their other films weren’t as enjoyable.

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