tek's rating: ¼

Star Trek: First Contact (PG-13)
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Caution: spoilers.

This is the second film based on the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the eighth "Star Trek" film overall. It came out in 1996, and I feel like I might have seen it in a theater at the time, but I couldn't say for sure. I'm rewatching it in 2023 as part of my Summer of Star Trek. It was directed by Jonathan Frakes, who plays Commander Riker in the movie. I feel like the movie would best be enjoyed by fans of the TV series, who are familiar with elements of the film that originated there, but it's probably not really necessary to have seen the show to like the movie.

It begins with Picard having a nightmare about the time he was assimilated by the Borg, six years earlier. When he wakes up, he gets a call from an admiral telling him that the Borg are invading Federation space. But rather than having the Enterprise-E join the fight, they're assigned to patrol the Romulan Neutral Zone. Still, after listening to the battle, in which many Starfleet ships are destroyed, Picard decides to disobey orders and go to Earth, where the Borg are headed. The Enterprise joins another battle there, which includes the Defiant (under the command of Worf, who by this time was a regular on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). After that ship is damaged, Worf and his crew are beamed aboard the Enterprise, which is basically a handwave to let Worf take part in the movie. Anyway, Picard takes command of the fleet, and under his direction, they destroy the Borg cube, but a spherical ship launches from the cube, and the Enterprise follows it toward the planet. The sphere creates a temporal vortex to travel to the past and assimilate Earth before the Federation was established. Enterprise follows in the sphere's wake, and ends up in 2063, on April 4 (the day before First Contact between Earth and aliens). Fun side note, April 5 is celebrated by some Star Trek fans as First Contact Day. I even had it on my website's calendar for years, but eventually removed it, though I no longer remember why I did that. Maybe I should put it back. 2063 is also ten years after World War III, which left humanity scattered among different "factions", and civilization as we know it was pretty much... not as we know it, anymore.

So, April 5 is the day Zefram Cochrane (James Cromwell) would pilot the Phoenix, a ship he built out of an old nuclear missile, and use a warp drive for the first time in human history, which is what attracts the attention of the aliens, and leads to first contact. The Borg attack the settlement where Cochrane lives (in Bozeman, Montana) and cause a ton of damage, including some damage to the Phoenix. So the Enterprise crew's new mission is to find Cochrane, repair the Phoenix, and ensure the future they're familiar with comes to pass. They destroy the sphere, but unbeknownst to them, the Borg transport onto the Enterprise and begin assimilating it. And... lots of stuff happens, it will be hard for me to figure out just how much of it I need to go into. At one point, an away team encounters Cochrane's assistant, Lily Sloane (Alfre Woodard), who is hurt and has to be beamed to the Enterprise with Dr. Crusher for treatment. She eventually wanders off on her own and encounters Picard, at first believing the Enterprise crew to be the ones who attacked Bozeman, but eventually he convinces her that they're trying to help. And later, she convinces him that he's being too fanatical in his desire to fight the Borg. (She calls him "Ahab", a reference to "Moby Dick", which is reminiscent of The Wrath of Khan, but I think it kind of works even better here than it did in that movie). However, nothing much comes of Picard's change of heart, because Lily was really convincing him to go along with everyone else's belief that they should destroy the Enterprise to take out the Borg, and spoiler alert, even after he agrees to that plan, it ends up not happening, anyway.

I also need to mention that Data is captured by the Borg, and their Queen (Alice Krige) has some great scenes with him, the nature of which I don't want to spoil. She also later has a good scene with Picard. There's also a fun scene with Robert Picardo as an Emergency Medical Hologram (familiar to fans of Star Trek: Voyager, though this is not the same EMH character as in that series). And Ethan Phillips, who played Neelix on "Voyager", has a cameo here as a different character in a holodeck program. And there's a new helmsman named Lt. Hawk (Neal McDonough) who helps fight the Borg. I should also mention that Geordi's got ocular implants now. No more VISOR. All the great alternate kinds of vision the VISOR had, but also, like, actual sight. Well, the Borg are eventually defeated without destroying the Enterprise, which is a good thing considering the ship was so new. The Phoenix makes its first warp flight, and the aliens come to greet Cochrane. It did kind of bug me that they (or at least one of them) spoke English. Even granted that they knew about Earth before coming here, they would have had no reason to bother learning any of our languages. And this is before universal translators existed, I'm fairly sure. Anyway, the timeline is saved and Enterprise returns to its own time.

I really liked the acting of all the regular crew members, particularly Picard and Data. I liked drunk Deanna. And I loved both Cochrane and Lily's performances; they were very realistic and compelling characters. And I enjoyed all of the movie's humor, drama, and action. I loved all the character interactions. I loved the sense of hopefulness, from the idea that Earth could go from a post-apocalyptic society to the beginning of what it would be, a more utopian society, by the time of the first "Star Trek", in a matter of decades. I liked the use of the holodeck with safety protocols disengaged. I liked the use of music, particularly during the Phoenix's takeoff. And at one point, Geordi learns the expression "take a leak" from Cochrane, which I only mention because I had this idea that my fanfic character, Jax DeSabel, who had spent some time in the 20th century, would use the phrase around Geordi a number of times before this movie (2373), but Geordi would never hear it for various reasons, which is why he still doesn't know it until he hears Cochrane say it. But I never got around to writing any such stories, I'm afraid. Oh, and Worf has a badass line, "Assimilate this", but before I re-watched the movie I couldn't remember if it was that or "Adapt to this". Either way, I like it. And there was something about Zefram Cochrane I wanted to mention. I think fans got upset about his having been from Earth, when the original series clearly said he was from Alpha Centauri. But I suppose he just retired to Alpha Centauri, whatevs. And... it's a shame Guinan wasn't in the movie, considering her history with the Borg. But mostly I thought the movie was great on every level, and it's among my favorite Star Trek movies. (Maybe my fourth favorite, but they're all clustered fairly close together in my ratings, so there's not a ton of difference between my first and fourth favorites.) I'm probably forgetting any number of other things I would like to say about the movie, but this is probably good enough.

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