“Jean-Luc, blow up the damn ship!” yells Lily Sloane to Captain Jean-Luc Picard. He responds, “No! Noooooooooo!” Picard shatters his display case with his phaser rifle. “I will not sacrifice the Enterprise. We’ve made too many compromises already; too many retreats. 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 further! And I will make them pay for what they’ve done!”
With 1994’s Star Trek: Generations providing the transition from the original Star Trek series cast to the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast on the big screen, there were numerous directions for the next Star Trek film to go in. 1996 marked the 30th anniversary of Star Trek, and a big villain was needed for the Star Trek film released that year: the Borg, essentially cybernetic zombies linked to a collective who assimilate others into their race. Cast member Jonathan Frakes, who had directed a number of episodes of the TV show, was chosen to direct. I almost got to see this film during its original theatrical release; by the time I convinced my father to take me to see it (a month after it came out), my local movie theater had stopped playing it and we ended up seeing the Rob Cohen film Daylight featuring Sylvester Stallone (luckily, it turned out to be a good movie). I would have to wait almost six-and-a-half years to see it on the big screen, and in early 2003 I got my chance at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater in the Lower East Side of New York City, where it played as part of their “Star Trek Saturdays” retrospective.
1996’s Star Trek: First Contact picks up two years after the events of the previous film. Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his crew are serving aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise-E, the newest flagship of the United Federation of Planets. A Borg cube enters Federation space, and a group of ships are assembled to combat this latest threat. The Enterprise is ordered to keep away from the battle, but Picard decides to violate his orders and has the Enterprise join the battle, which has made its way towards Earth. The Enterprise rescues the survivors from the U.S.S. Defiant (including Lieutenant Commander Worf), and help to defeat the Borg cube, but a small Borg sphere escapes and creates a temporal vortex. The Enterprise follows it into the vortex, and they end up in the year 2063. Picard realizes that the Borg intend to stop Zefram Cochrane’s warp flight, which led to humanity’s first contact with an alien species and much later the founding of the United Federation of Planets. Picard and his crew try to repair the damage done on Earth by the Borg while also dealing with a new Borg threat on board the Enterprise.
The returning cast (Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, and Gates McFadden) was terrific once again (Stewart in particular gives one of his strongest performances ever). The “guest stars” get a chance to shine as well: James Cromwell (as Zefram Cochrane), Alfre Woodard (as Lily Sloane), Alice Krige (as the Borg Queen), Neal McDonough (as Lieutenant Hawk), and cameos from Dwight Schultz (as Lieutenant Barclay), Patti Yasutake (as Nurse Ogawa), Robert Picardo (as the Emergency Medical Hologram), Adam Scott (as the U.S.S. Defiant Conn officer), Ethan Phillips (as the Holodeck Nightclub Maitre d’), and Don Stark (as Nicky the Nose). Krige manages to ooze both creepiness and sexiness as the mysterious Borg Queen. Cromwell is very effective as the first human to develop warp drive, and Woodard delivers one of her best performances.
Frakes did a great job in his feature film directing debut. Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore returned to write this film, and had a much easier time writing without a list of requested items from Paramount. They managed to strike a balance between the drama and the action, and throwing in some humor for good measure. Matthew Leonetti’s cinematography was top-notch, finding the right balance between light and shadow. John W. Wheeler’s editing was first rate; he keeps the film moving at a good pace. Herman Zimmerman’s production design was excellent, creating all new sets for the Enterprise-E as well as the Borg ship, the Borg-ified sections of the Enterprise, and the town where Zefram Cochrane built his warp ship.
Deborah Everton’s costume designs were terrific. She created new Starfleet uniforms and mid-21st century civilian clothes as well as re-designed the Borg costumes. The special effects and sound design were first rate, as was Michael Westmore’s Oscar-nominated makeup design (which included a re-design of the Borg makeup). And then, there’s Jerry Goldsmith’s wonderful score; his third for a Star Trek film. He reprises his Enterprise and Klingon motifs, as well as introduces a villainous motif for the Borg and a noble motif for the first contact itself. He also uses a variation of his family motif from Star Trek V as a family motif for The Next Generation crew. This well-made film is another fine addition to the Star Trek canon, and honors Star Trek’s 30th anniversary.