Star Trek's successor to Gene Roddenberry, Rick Berman, never allowed
the poor reviews for STAR TREK: GENERATIONS to upset him; he had been
given an 'obligation' to provide a transition film between the original
cast's series, and his own 'Next Generation' films, and 'killing' James
Kirk freed him to focus on the film he REALLY wanted to make, STAR
TREK: FIRST CONTACT. And he created a classic, a film that for many
fans has become the 'definitive' STAR TREK movie.
From the opening scenes, which re-introduce the 'Next Generation's'
greatest villains, the Borg, finally achieving their long-time goal of
attacking Earth, and literally tearing Starfleet to shreds, as Picard
and the Enterprise are ordered to stand down (Picard had been
'assimilated' once by the cyborgs, and the success of his
'deprogramming' was in question), there was an intensity that 'Trek'
films hadn't shown since THE WRATH OF KHAN. When Picard decides to
disobey orders and go 'in Harm's Way', you nearly want to cheer!
Turning the battle around, the Enterprise sees victory at hand...until
they discover that the 'core' of the Borg mother ship has plunged into
Earth's atmosphere, and gone back in time. As the crew glimpses a
'changed' Earth, with humanity totally assimilated by the Borg, they
plunge after the mother ship, to prevent history from being rewritten.
Quite an opening scene!
The film breaks into two stories, each entertaining. In an era two
hundred years earlier, with Earth reeling from internal wars that have
devastated much of the planet, Picard realizes that the Borg is
attempting to prevent warp drive creator Dr. Zefram Cochrane from ever
completing his prototype spaceship, thus denying the galaxy to the
human race, and leaving them defenseless against the Borg. As First
Officer Riker and most of the series' regulars protect the feisty
engineer (first introduced in the original 'Trek' TV series by hunky
Glenn Corbett; in FIRST CONTACT, the role is played by James Cromwell,
hawk-nosed, antisocial, and hooked on ancient Rock n' Roll music), Data
and Picard must deal with the growing Borg infiltration and
assimilation of the Enterprise, and the imperious Borg Queen (lovely
Alice Krige), who seduces Data with a chance to become 'human'.
Jonathan Frakes proves an excellent director, balancing the action,
comic, and dramatic elements with sensitivity and skill. While most of
the series' regulars have little to do (a problem that would never be
resolved in the 'Next Generation' films), Frakes still manages to give
each a bit of on-screen time to at least remind fans that they are
present, and he even manages to provide a brief but funny cameo by
semi-regular fan favorite Dwight Schultz, as the terminally shy Lt.
FIRST CONTACT has so many memorable moments that it is nearly
impossible to pick a single favorite one out. Cochrane's use of
Steppenwolf's 'Magic Carpet Ride' as launch music for his guided
missile/spaceship...Alfre Woodard's Lily Sloane, hiding in terror from
the Borg, but still able to lecture Picard on doing the 'right
thing'...'Star Trek: Voyager' regular Robert Picardo in a cameo as his
medical hologram character, at a key moment...Data delivering the
famous Borg 'tag line'...the Vulcan science party (led, although
unmentioned, by Sarek, Spock's father), bemused at meeting the 'new
kids on the block' for the first time...this movie has it all!
There is only one major continuity error; the Borg, as cyborgs, depend
on their human 'host' bodies to survive (a key factor in the film's
climax), yet in one whole sequence they operate in the vacuum of space
WITHOUT spacesuits! I cringe each time I see the scene, but I STILL
love the movie!
One other key element of the film cannot be praised enough; Jerry
Goldsmith's score is one of his finest, combining the best elements of
the STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE theme with a sweeping inspirational
hymn for Cochrane, and eerie, discordant music for the Borg. The score
is so profoundly moving that it could stand alone, as a symphonic work.
Sadly, Berman and company never achieved the same heights with either
of the subsequent 'Trek' films, but at least we have FIRST CONTACT, to
show that a 'Next Generation' feature could be done 'right'.