Star Trek First Contact (1996)

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There was a trend with Star Trek fans that the even numbered Star Trek films were better than the odd numbered Star Trek films. With ‘Star Trek First Contact’ being the 8th film to be released in 1996, it had to maintain this trend. Luckily, this instalment in the popular science fiction franchise did not disappoint.

In 2373, ‘Captain Jean-Luc Picard’ (Patrick Stewart) awakens from a nightmare where he revisits his assimilation by the Borg 6 years earlier and receives a message from Starfleet Command. He is informed that the Borg is on course to attack Earth. Captain Picard and the crew of the newly christened USS Enterprise-E are sent to patrol the Neutral Zone just in case the Romulans try to act on the situation and to not introduce an “unstable element”.

After surveying the Neutral Zone and finding nothing, they receive a message that a fleet of star ships has engaged the Borg and are losing the battle. The Borg informs them that if they do not surrender they will be assimilated. Captain Picard then disobeys Starfleet orders and sets course to Earth and help the fleet in the battle against the Borg. When they arrive, they see that the fleet is losing against a single damaged Borg Cube.

The Enterprise saves the USS Defiant commanded by Lieutenant Commander Worf (Michael Dorn). Captain Picard orders the fleet to aim at a set of coordinates on the Borg Cube that appear to not be “vital to their system” and they open fire. The Cube is then severely damaged and ejects a Borg Sphere before exploding. The Sphere creates a temporal vortex and travels back in time. The Enterprise follows them to April 4th 2063, the day before Humans make first contact with extra-terrestrial life.

In a small settlement in Central Montana, ‘Zefram Cochrane’ (James Cromwell) and his friend ‘Lily’ (Alfre Woodard) are leaving a bar. The Borg open fire upon the settlement attempting to destroy The Phoenix, a prototype warp ship that Zefram Cochrane and Lily intend to fly and break the warp barrier for the first time the next day. The Enterprise arrives and sees the Sphere firing upon the surface of Earth and proceeds to destroy it with their Quantum Torpedo’s. The crew of the Enterprise teleport to the surface to search for Cochrane and make sure that history is not changed and continue to fight the Borg who transported to the Enterprise before their Sphere was destroyed.

This instalment in the Star Trek franchise was hailed for its parallels to Herman Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’ and if you know the story of Moby Dick, you will see the similarities between Captain Picard’s and Captain Ahab’s quest for revenge against the creatures that hurt them. Picard wants to ensure that the future is preserved and to destroy the Borg once and for all and Captain Ahab seeks revenge against the whale that crippled him.

Patrick Stewart plays the role of the emotional Picard very well, using his traditional and Shakespearean training to his advantage to create the depth and emotions we need to see from Captain Picard who has been mentally and physically scarred from his previous encounter with the Borg where he was assimilated and forced to become a drone within their collective.

The main villain, the ‘Borg Queen’ portrayed by Alice Krige, is a perfect femme fatale, but not the typical femme fatale you expect. She leads the Borg and unlike the rest of the collective, she has emotions and utilises her sexuality to lure the android Data (Brent Spiner) to work with the Borg in exchange for giving him flesh, blood and bring him closer to being Human than he could ever imagine. She is subtle with her voice and body movements, not over doing it to create a well-rounded individual within a collective that has no individuals.

Even James Cromwell’s portrayal of the great Zefram Cochrane, the man who leads Mankind into the next frontier of Human history deserves some credit. In Star Trek lore, he is portrayed as a great man who was philosophical and a scientist who wanted to help Mankind and break the warp barrier, when in reality, this Zefram Cochrane is nothing more than a drunk, a man who is washed up and dreams of money, naked women, retiring to a deserted island and ironically doesn’t like to fly. As the man caught in the middle of his destiny and what he wants, he pulls it off with the fear being the man that the crew of the Enterprise believe he should be.

The design of the evil Borg in this film surpasses the design from their first appearance in the episode ‘Q Who’ on ‘Star Trek The Next Generation’. They look more mechanical, lifeless and frightening and are capable of giving you nightmares from the vivid and graphic depiction of their assimilation process. The emotionless expressions and movements of each Borg are frightening and they look real, like a cybernetic organism should look like.

This film maintained the trend of the even numbered Star Trek films being more superior to the odd numbered Star Trek films. Just watch ‘Star Trek Generations’ or ‘Star Trek Insurrection’, compare them to this film and you will see that this trend does apply. It was broken after the release of ‘Star Trek Nemesis’ (the tenth Star Trek film), which received negative feedback from fans and critics and was far surpassed by ‘Star Trek’ (the reboot and eleventh film released), which received positive feedback from fans and critics, was a box office success and won an Academy Award in 2010 for Best Makeup (the first Academy Award won by a Star Trek film).

These series of films or TV series may not be as popular as ‘Star Wars’ or gross as much money, with its near 45 plus years’ worth of history and canon, the skies the limit for Star Trek. This instalment proves that you don’t have to be a juggernaut like Star Wars to be fun, entertaining, and scary and have depth to be a successful film.

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