Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

star trek first contact

“Assimilate this!”

The Scoop: 1996 PG-13, directed by Jonathan Frakes and starring Patrick Stewart, Michael Dorn, and James Cromwell

Tagline: Resistance is Futile.

Summary Capsule: The new Enterprise fights a Borg invasion, warps back in time, and restores first contact with an alien race… all for the freedom to stock Starbucks!

Louise’s rating: I say 4 out of 5!

Louise’s review: My experience with Trek is, I admit, limited. I have of course been aware of the general idea all my life – there’s a spaceship, in the future, captained by a captain, they wear daft uniforms that require you to be either muscly or slender as a weasel, there are aliens that never look that alien, etc., etc. I inevitably saw odd episodes of TNG and Voyager in the ’90s when they were seemingly on our screens all the time, and I think I watched the first ten or so episodes of Enterprise, before the channel I saw it on started moving it around and I could hardly ever find it.

Then in the space of about a year I saw the 2009 prequel, Wrath of Khan, and much of the ’60s TV series, and fell completely and utterly and irrevocably in cinematic love with Mr Spock. I was intrigued by this war horse of a franchise, and I wanted to see more. Hence, I viewed The Search for Spock with the old ex-boyfriend (who had an excellent taste in DVDs, at least) and First Contact, which I serendipitously found just about to start when I flipped the gogglebox on after work one Sunday afternoon.

It is awesome. I heartily recommend it, to everyone except perhaps people like my mum, who firmly believes that anything not based in reality signifies an author on drugs (bless her… I love my mum).

Some plot, methinks! The Borg are a group of hive-minded bionic-zombie aliens, as opposed to a group of high-minded aliens, who are the sort of aliens who only think about ballet and Plato and Doing Good, and would never attack anyone. The Borg attack Starfleet, who go the other way. Jean-Luc, however, just can’t let the Hive Mind go, as he has a personal beef with them, so he disobeys orders, turns around, and wipes the quandrant clean of them! Or so he thinks, because then he sees them open up a wormhole and go back in time. Oh no! What will he do? The Enterprise follows them, of course! They follow the Borg to Earth in the mid-twentieth-century, where they have to stop the nasty aliens assimilating the defenceless planet and make sure history runs as normal. Earth in the mid-twentieth-century is an exciting place, because, as Starfleet know from studying history when they were little fauns in school, at any moment Zephraim Cochrane (James Cromwell) is going to invent the warp drive and hence attract the attention of some passing Vulcans. As you can imagine, this is a crucial moment in everyone’s history, so it has to be got right.

Incidentally, how annoying must it be, to wallop someone and, then, just when you start congratulating yourself, they open a flipping wormhole and travel through time!!! Some people are just bad losers.

Therefore *pause for breath* we eventually Jean-Luc, Data and Worf battling the Borg in the sky. There are many battles, some in space, and they mostly look very cool. Jean-Luc and Data in particular face up to the rather sexy but very scary Queen of the Borg – she has her eye on Data, but Jean-Luc makes it all about himself and refuses to believe she could have moved on. Typical man. We learn that Borg implants can cause skin irritation, the Borg will only attack you if they consider you a threat (so mind your own business around them and you’re invisible), and assimilation is a pretty horrid thing to happen to you. Oh, and you don’t have to be wearing a red shirt to be a redshirt. For your information.

Meanwhile, Troi, LaForge and Riker get an opportunity to meet a history hero – the man who invented the warp drive and has a statue in the Starfleet courtyard. What a shame he’s a drunk, with terrible taste in music, and dresses like his address is The Cardboard Box, The Bus Station, PA 97032. I think this is the most interesting aspect of the film. It’s almost like an anti-Terminator 2 – in T2 John and Sarah tell Miles Dyson how awful his future invention is going to be, while in First Contact everyone keeps telling Cochrane how amazing his future is and how he can do it if he really tries.  And he is just completely uninterested. It’s actually very funny. Troi gets drunk, Worf gets ginger, and LaForge really annoys Cochrane with his belief and hero-worship and all-round fanboy squeeing. Point is, it all ends happily, and it’s a great air-punching moment.

Watch out for the holographic novels and the Worf/Picard fight.


DNAError’s rating: I am Loctous of Nerd.

DNAError’s review:
“Hello, my name is DnaError, and..I’m a Trekkie”
“Hello Error”
“Yes. I’ve…finally admitted that I have a problem. I’ve seen every episode of The Next Generation, I could give you a detailed technical run-through of The Enterprise-C, I watched Voyager well into it’s season of suckitude-”
*Screaming breaks out*
“Sorry Dna, we’re made it a rule not to mention “the V-word”
“Oh, Sorry. Anyway, I’m here to announce…. Star Trek: First Contact is the coolest movie, EVER!”
*Massive applause breaks out*

Okay, that little playlet may have exaggerated (the best movie ever, is, as everyone knows, Road House) but Star Trek: First Contact is one hugely cool movie. Light years from the warm, genial, and mostly boring Star Trek: Generations, FC is an action slam schmorgesborg of multiple storylines, a kick-ass villain, huge explosions, nifty space-battles, cool and complex characters, nasty technology, and you don’t need a doctorate in Trek to understand it (although it helps).

In a way, First Contact can be seen as the perfect way to do a “TV-to-movie” movie. It introduces the characters quickly, assuming the audience knows the characters, then throwing us headlong into a Major Conflict. For people who haven’t been watching Star Trek (heathens)! the character Lilly, who has no idea why a bunch of cyborgs with bad skin are crawling around, is around to represent you. She is told what the hell is going on and has some interesting experiences with 27th Century technology (“It’s my first ray gun…”).

Too many TV-to-movies come off like long episodes of the TV series (X-Files anyone?) But not FC, there is a reason for using the Big Screen, The Borg. A race of alien tennis players  – I mean, cybernetic lifeforms – go back into history to try and assimilate the Earth into their Hive Mind. Thus setting the stage for the Final Battle between the plucky humans (and a certain Captain who has been waiting for this battle for some time now.) and introducing one of the coolest villains in screen history, The Borg Queen. Not since the Diva Puvalagona has there been a character that has been both alien and oddly seductive. She’s in control, baby, commanding an entire army of nearly unstoppable drones with the blink of an eye. Played to a perfect hilt by Alice Kridge the Borg Queen is how female villains should be, cunning, sly, seductive and dangerous.

Since Star Trek fans have probably seen this movie… about 10 times already… I’m here to sell to your non-Trekkers. Star Trek:FC is not just a great ST movie, not just a great sci-fi/action movie, but just a damned good time. You have action, adventure, romance, humor, character development, and a damned sexy bald lady in tight leather. WHAT MORE DO YOU PEOPLE WANT?!

Justin’s rating: JUSTIN-E

Justin’s review: I think there’s a lot of fun to be had being an ex-Trekkie who can nitpick the series and movies with fondness. So don’t think me harsh when I point out a couple of foibles that have always nagged me about Star Trek: First Contact – it comes from love! From a jilted lover! Who, disgruntled with both the Trek and Star Wars franchises, now is turning to Space: 1999 as a viable alternative!

Actually, First Contact is one of the better Trek movies, and definitely the best Next Generation film to date. As they did with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, filmmakers took one of the most exciting episodes from the series — the Borg attack on earth — and turned it into a battle-oriented film. This is good, because Star Trek is not widely known for action. They love their talk, they dig their techno-gadgets, but they’d rather try to teach an alien species the concept of “Manifest Destiny” through a series of lectures than pick up a phaser and learn how to fight like a man.

The Borg, on yet another rampage to stomp on Earth, is blocked by the brand new Enterprise-E. The two combatants square off like greasy cooks at a chili cookoff, and go at it with spicy jalapeno peppers. The Borg are crushed, due to Picard’s insider knowledge of their stock exchange, and being the poor losers that they are, they just skeedadle back in time and essentially wipe out the human race. Of course, this begs to question why they didn’t just do that in the FIRST PLACE, but trying to nitpick a time travel plot is futile. Just like resisting my bad puns.

So as the Enterprise crew fights Borg boarders on the ship, Picard and company take vacation time to screw around with history. Faster than you can say “Prime Directive,” they’re exterminating animal species left and right, while killing Hitler as a baby. Anyway.

My aforementioned gripes come during two discussions in the film, both between Picard and the mysterious lady from the past era whose name I am too lazy to check up on. It’s Lily. The first conversation has Picard wowing her with Gene Roddenberry’s humanistic view of the future. Namely, he starts bragging that they’ve all gotten SO advanced, that they no longer need money. She ooh’s and ahh’s, without thinking for a second how incredibly stupid that sounds.

I’m no economics major, but I’m fairly sure that it’s nigh near impossible to have a moneyless society. You either end up with a form of communism (Picard Stalin in Space), a bargain system (which is a the same thing as currency), or such a hokey bunch of wishful thoughts that people would be utterly inclined to work just for the sake of it. “We work to better ourselves and the course of humanity,” Picard says. YEAH right. Not having money isn’t a sign of an advanced civilization, it’s just a sign that Picard’s a big liar. What, does Starfleet work for free? And haven’t there been numerous Star Trek references to “credits” and “gold-pressed latinum” or whatever the heck that is?

Anyhow, that whole scene is just kinda dumb in comparison with a showdown that Picard has with her later on. As the Borg begin to dominate the ship, Picard is driven to battle them at any costs. I admire that, and also the speech he gives when Lily confronts him about it. He states that they’ve fallen back time and again to the Borg onslaught, and it was time to stop running and duke it out. That makes complete sense. You don’t fight a war by cutting your losses the second you get a fatality; sometimes you run, but sometimes you hold the line no matter what. As I see it, the Enterprise had a duty to fight the Borg to the bitter end, seeing as how they were literally the last line of defense between the Borg and Earth. Whoever has the most guts usually wins the fight, and Picard shows the cojones that are needed.

Yet Lily violently disagrees with him, associating Picard with Moby Dick in a blind quest for revenge. She wants Picard and crew to jump ship, blow it up, and live out their lives on Earth. Now, the movie and script portray hers as the correct decision, but this is about the most moronic choice that a battle commander could make. COMPLETELY putting aside the whole “future people living in the past would change history” question, it’s just plain crazy to cut and run at this point. First off, they don’t know if the Borg could counter the ship’s self-detonation (which, it turns out, they could), and if they all left the ship and the Borg retained control, what kind of state does that leave them in then?

Plus, Picard wasn’t making erratic decisions due to his anger, he was simply using his hatred to fuel his determination. They didn’t need some compassionate therapist for a captain at that time, they needed a military commander who wasn’t afraid to make the tough decisions. A good military commander doesn’t go, “Oh man, some of my soldiers are actually getting hurt… I better pull back! I’m a failure!”

So when the point in the film comes where Lily gives Picard a guilt trip for trying to win the battle and he concedes the point, I just have to remind myself that the Borg queen is kinda sexy and they actually took a chance with a PG-13 Star Trek flick. Deep breaths. It’s all make-believe. And Kirk’s dead.

Poop.

Kyle’s rating: Let’s try to be objective here, yeah?

Kyle’s review: I’m a Kirk guy, through and through. There is a complicated and largely familial charm to Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the rest of the NCC-1701(-A) crew that I have just never felt with the crews of Picard, Sisko, Janeway, or Archer. More than that, Captain James T. Kirk (as brilliantly portrayed by the unmatchable William Shatner) is one of the greatest characters ever, flanked by two more incredible characters in Spock and McCoy. Nothing could harm the Earth, threaten the Federation, or enslave the galaxy while Kirk and his loyal crew stood in the way. Galactic heroes? Of course. Kirk and the boys (and Uhura) would love to pound back a few with Han, Luke, and the boys (and Leia). There’s a movie for you!

Sadly, Star Trek: First Contact is completely Kirk-free. It’s a bold new step for the Next Generation cast, with a brand new Enterprise and a dedication to sci-fi kick-ass action. And it brings back what’s easily the Next Generation’s most important contribution to the Trek mythos: the Borg. Thankfully, it succeeds in being kick-ass sci-fi entertainment. But is it a great Trek film? Hard to say…

Well, no it isn’t. It doesn’t feel like great Trek to me. Of course, very little does register as “great Trek” to me: pretty much only 80% of the original series, and then Trek 2, 4, and 6 count to me. But I just don’t get that Shakespearian/grand feel to First Contact. Maybe I shouldn’t place that much emphasis on that trait for Trek, but I do. The adventures of an Enterprise crew should be large, amazing, thought-provoking, sentimental, humorous, and charming. 2, 4, and 6 definitely qualify. First Contact does not.

Still, First Contact is a fun sci-fi film with semi-strong time travel elements and a blatant homage to Moby Dick fueling the proceedings. Perhaps a weakness here is that the crew never really feels like a crew. It’s just a seething Picard and the people he’s yelling at, and then some Earth-bound people who are good-naturedly ensuring history unfolds as it should. *yawn*

Those who can’t stand the Kirk and think the Picard is a cool British dude will certainly love First Contact. It’s the best of the Next Gen films (I assume; I’ve thus far avoided Insurrection and Nemesis) and it’s largely self-contained and designed to entertain the widest audience possible. It’s a great addition to the genre, because any good sci-fi stands out, period. But as an addition to the Trek series, it doesn’t impress me much.

Now, Patrick Stewart’s muscle tone: that impresses me. Wowsers! Time for us to hit the gym, I think!

The Borg Queen’s self-confidence did not stem from her appearance, but the knowledge that she could break herself up to travel in an overhead locker if she wanted.

Intermission!

  • Picard claims the Enterprise E has 24 decks, yet a security officer states the Borg had taken decks 26 through 11.
  • When Picard and Lily enter the holodeck, they pass through a door marked “08 Holosuite 4.” When the Borg who were following them force open the same door seconds later, it is labeled “0820 Holodeck 02.”
  • When Data confronts Lily in the missile silo, she fires repeatedly at him, making numerous holes in the vest he is wearing. Immediately after, when Picard and Data, still in the silo, touch Cochrane’s warp ship, Data’s vest is intact.
  • The eyepieces of the Borg flash the Morse code of the names of people associated with the production.
  • The deflector dish is labeled AE35, the name of a component of a satellite dish in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Moby Dick is alluded to in this movie and in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. Patrick Stewart contemporaneously starred as Captain Ahab in a new TV movie version of Moby Dick.
  • During the holodeck scene, Captain Picard and Lily are greeted by a hologram played by Ethan Phillips, who plays Neelix on Star Trek: Voyager.
  • During the holodeck scene, as a 1940s-era big band plays in the background, director/costar Jonathan Frakes can be seen playing the trombone. Or can he? There seems to be some debate on this point.
  • This is the first (and so far, only) Star Trek movie to be rated PG-13 instead of PG.
  • The emergency hologram doctor (mostly seen as a regular on Star Trek: Voyager) makes a cameo here
  • In the closing credits, after ‘Stunt Players’ are listed, the ‘Stunt Borg’ are listed.
  • The opening credits are assimilated!
  • The new Enterprise-E is ripped.
  • Data swears. Again. It gets less cute each time.
  • Picard’s a take-charge guy, ya gotta love that
  • Quantum torpedoes… new and improved with twice the stain-fighting power!
  • Who’s this Lt. Hawk guy? Oh, right. Cannon fodder.
  • Data gets shot up and then says, “Greetings.” He’s the friendly Terminator!
  • Don’t these people ever watch Alien? You just don’t go barging into air ducts when your crewmates start disappearing!
  • Mid-21st century pants have the butt in front
  • Country music exists in the post-apocalyptic world. Shoot us all.
  • Borg have no panty lines.
  • Phasers are pretty wimpy weapons, when you consider them – they don’t even leave a mark on the bodies or clothes
  • Borg conversion scenes are way creepy
  • Steppenwolf and rocket takeoff: your partners in funkiness
  • The Borg makeup and suits had to be constantly touched up. Several of the Borg actors lost a considerable amount of weight while in costume due to the heat of the sets and temperature in L.A. during the shooting.
  • At the end of filming, actor/director Jonathan Frakes got the nickname “Two-Takes Frakes” because of the efficiency of his style.
  • Although the role of Zephram Cochrane was actually written for James Cromwell, Tom Hanks was originally considered for the role.
  • For inspiration prior to filming, director Jonathan Frakes says he viewed the films Alien, Aliens, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Blade Runner, and Jaws.
  • Shalen pointed out this error in Justin’s review (which has since been changed): “COJONES are testicles. CAJONES are drawers, found on a bureau near you. And since Picard’s bedroom is so darn “futuristic” we don’t know what kind of drawers he has…”

Groovy Quotes

The Borg: Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to serve us. Resistance is futile. We are the Borg.

Borg Queen: Do you always talk this much?
Data: Not always. But often.

[Troi is drunk.]
Troi: I’m just trying to blend in!
Riker: You’re blended all right.

Borg Queen: Are you familiar with physical forms of pleasure?
Data: If… you’re referring to sexuality, I’m fully functional. Programmed in multiple techniques.
Borg Queen: How long has it been since you’ve used them?
Data: 8 years, 7 months, 16 days, 4 minutes 22…
Borg Queen: Far too long.

Picard: They invade our space, and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds, and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn HERE. This far NO farther. And I will make them pay for what they’ve done.

Borg Queen: I am the Beginning, the End. The one who is many.

Lily Sloane: Borg? Sounds Swedish.

[Quoting “Moby Dick.”]
Picard: And he piled upon the whale’s white hump, the sum of all the rage and hate felt by his whole race. If his chest had been a cannon, he would have shot his heart upon it.

Emergency Medical Hologram: According to Starfleet medical research, Borg implants can cause severe skin irritations. Perhaps you’d like an analgesic cream?

Borg Queen: Small words from a small being, trying to attack what it doesn’t understand.

Cochrane: A group of cybernetic creatures from the future have traveled back through time to enslave the human race… and you’re here to stop them?
Riker: That’s right.
Cochrane: Hot damn! You’re heroic.

[Before blasting some Borg.]
Worf: Assimilate this!

Troi: Timeline? This is no time to talk about time. We don’t have the time! …What was I saying?

Picard: Reports of my assimilation have been greatly exaggerated.

Riker: Someone once said “Don’t try to be a great man. Just be a man, and let history make its own judgement.”
Cochrane: That’s rhetorical nonsense. Who said that?
Riker: You did, ten years from now.

Troi: [very drunk] He wouldn’t even talk to me unless I had a drink with him. Then he made me drink three shots of something called “tequila” before he would tell me who he was.

The Doctor: I’m a doctor, not a doorstop.

Picard: You want to destroy the ship and run away, you coward.
Worf: If you were any other man, I would kill you where you stand.

Cochrane: I’ve gotta take a leak.
La Forge: Leak? I’m not detecting any leak.
Cochrane: Don’t you people from the 24th century ever pee?

Cochrane: So you’re all astronauts on some sort of… star trek?

Data: I believe I speak for everyone here, sir, when I say… to hell with our orders.

Data: Population, approximately nine billion. All Borg.

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