Here, at last, is the height of television-based Star Trek. Star Trek: First Contact (or Space Zombies from the Future, as it could be called) combines everything I love about the series into an action-packed plot that fully deserves its feature film status. What does it have? The Borg, the single most formidable, non-cosmic antagonist the Enterprise encountered; time travel, that most favorite of science fiction devices; a perfect balance of drama, tension, and humor that so eluded the subsequent two Next Gen films; impressive visuals, from the Borg’s pasty-faced make-up and prosthetics to well-defined action sequences; strong acting from Patrick Stewart as Picard, Alfre Woodard as uninitiate Lily, and James Cromwell as Zefram Cochran, plus everyone else; clever references to the series, such as Barclay’s hero worship of Cochran and a return to the Dixon Hill holonovels; and cameos from a series even closer to my heart, Star Trek: Voyager (Ethan Phillips as a holographic maître d’ and Robert Picardo as the EMH doctor). Talk about shooting high!
As a continuation of Picard’s assimilation story in the fan favorite episode “Best of Both Worlds,” the film brought to light Picard’s personal grudge against the Borg, comparing him to Captain Ahab and his quest for vengeance against Moby Dick. The filmmakers made full use of the Borg and their unique form of menace. Essentially, they’re zombies with vampire-like tubules to infect people with their individuality-draining nanoprobes, yet they’re thinking zombies (collectively speaking), which frighten on a different level from the mindless kind. This comparison is heightened by horror-inspired scenes in which they ambush “red shirts” and grab people to drag them away underneath doors. Alice Krige does a marvelously disquieting job as the Borg Queen, a creepy and seductive villainess, who returned for Voyager’s series finale.
Many found fault with Cromwell’s drunken portrayal of Zefram Cochran, who bore no resemblance to the young, cultured Cochran seen in The Original Series’ “Metamorphosis.” Considering that episode depicted a revived Cochran who was under the influence of an energy being, I didn’t mind the character’s reimagining and actually enjoyed Cromwell’s dynamic performance. Despite his unsavory behavior before, the actual first contact at film’s end does indeed feel like a moment of historical gravity that Cromwell nails, assisted by Jerry Goldsmith’s score.
A major issue of mine with other Next Gen films (and many episodes) is the continual focus on Picard and Data while the other characters are given little to do, especially Dr. Crusher. Insurrection was the worst offender, but First Contact balances its characters by splitting them up, with Picard, Data and Worf fighting Borg aboard the ship, while most of the others have their own mission on the planet. I especially loved certain character moments, like the epic launch to Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” and Deanna’s drunkenness (paired with Riker’s reaction).
Surpassing all other Next Gen films and even those of Captain Kirk, First Contact is everything fans could desire in a Star Trek movie. And yes, it’s even-numbered.
Best line: (Deanna Troi, sloppy drunk from her meeting with Cochran) “I’m just trying to blend in.” (Riker) “You’re blended all right.”Rank: 57 out of 60
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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