Star Trek First Contact (12)

Directed by Jonathan Frakes
Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Michael Dorn, Levar Burton, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, James Cromwell, Alfre Woodard, Alice Krige.

This is the first Star Trek film to feature only the Next Generation cast. There is no Kirk, Spock or McCoy here, and it is all the better for it. The original series was special to many fans, but I am one fan that loves the newer incarnations of Star Trek, but never really liked the overly macho posturing of Kirk and co.
This film also benefits from having the most fearsome foes seen on Star Trek, the emotionless, half machine half lifeform Borg. In the Next Generation series they were incredibly effective and the film opens with Captain Picard's(Stewart) memories of his capture and assimilation by the Borg. Soon, they are attacking Earth, and when that attack is doomed to failure, the Borg travel back in time to try and rewrite history in their favour. Of course, time travel IS a bit of an old trick, but it is handled very well here largely due to the excellent cast, and the strength of the characters. The time period the Enterprise travels back to is when warp travel was initially tried out, and first contact with an alien species was achieved. There, some of the crew meet with Zephram Cochrane (Cromwell), inventor of warp travel, and his assisstant Lily (Woodard) who is taken back to the Enterprise and becomes involved with the battle against the Borg. The crew of the Enterprise must make sure Cochrane's flight takes place and defeat the Borg who are trying to take over the Enterprise.

Like the last Star Trek film, the character with the most to do is Patrick Stewart, and as he is by far the best actor, this is a good thing. He is a man of action in this film, and gets to run around with a gun, and even ends up in a vest a la Bruce Willis!
Of the rest of the Enterprise crew, Data is the next biggest role. The addition of the emotion chip in Generations was not popular with some fans- like me! Seven years of building up his character only to change it all and have some very nasty overacting from Spiner. Here, he is more restrained generally. Data is taken prisoner by the Borg and meets the Borg queen(Krige),which seeing as we have always thought of them being part of a collective consciousness, seems a contradiction. One of the most frightening things about the Borg is their lack of acknowledgement of an individuals personality. The thought of losing our awareness of self is a scary one. Still, bees have queens, and I suppose the producers wanted a baddie. The queen's entrance is especially effective as we see just her head and spine being lowered onto a body. She is also a surprisingly sexy Borg, not a side we have seen of them before. She seduces Data with the idea of humanity and reminds Picard of a bond they had.

Meanwhile, on Earth, Riker, Troi and LaForge(now with eyes) are working with the eccentric Cochrane. Cue for a VERY embarrassing drunk scene from Marina Sirtis as Troi. Riker does little here-Jonathan Frakes had enough to do directing, although he does look as though he's lost a little weight. No Slim-Fast here! We get a brief appearence from Dwight Schultz as Reg Barclay in a terrible wig, and a much better cameo from Robert Picardo as the Emergency Medical Hologram, trying to hold off the Borg by offering them skin cream for the chafing of their implants!
I enjoyed this film a lot. Despite the aging of the crew- how long is it since the show finished?- the characters are likeable. However, the chief strength is the outstanding Patrick Stewart, as it was in the series itself. He is a captain I would follow. His relationship with Lily, the 21st century Earth woman is a good one. Woodard is a skilled actress, who shows Lily's confusion, and realistic outlook. She persuades Picard to rethink his attitude to the Borg, using a Moby Dick analogy.(Have they been talking to Agent Scully?)

The design of the original Borg was outstanding, and wisely, it hasn't been changed a lot. They are made a bit more mean looking and a bit less blank. The way they assimilate Enterprise crew members is very like the scenes in Aliens where the marines were cocooned. Frakes was quite open about taking ideas from the best of Science Fiction film making, a good attitude for his first feature film as a director.
All in all, this is a fine addition to the Star Trek stable. Exciting, tense and dramatic, a must for Trekkers, but a lot of fun for non-devotees too.

December 1996

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