Jun 1, 2012

[Movies] Star Trek First Contact (1996)

The Borg have generally been one of the more interesting alien races introduced during the television run of Star Trek: the Next Generation. In fact, they went on to feature prominently in Star Trek: Voyager and even managed some appearances in the prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise.

I will admit though that the role of the Borg got a little hokey towards the end of their TNG run as they seemed to lose focus and drive. So it was nice to see them back in action in this second TNG movie, and we were also introduced to the concept of the Borg Queen. At first it seemed like too much of a contradiction to everything that we had learned about the Borg in the TV series but in time it made a lot more sense. And her function played  key role later on during Voyager.

The old belief about many Trekkies is that the even-numbered movies tend to be the better ones, and this may be one of the movies that helps support that little theory. I'm not saying it was the greatest one under any circumstances, but it certainly had a solid enough plot and a good amount of humor to boot.

Or maybe it was the whole time travel bit. That seems to go well with audiences, right?

Synopsis: Star Trek: First Contact is the 8th Star Trek movie released and the second to feature the cast and crew of Star Trek: the Next Generation. It was directed by Jonathan Frakes based on a screenplay by Brannon Baga and Ronald. D. Moore.

The movie begins with Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) waking up to another nightmare about his time with the Borg just as reports for another Borg incursion into Federation space reaches their vessel. But instead of joining the battle, the USS Enterprise-E is ordered to patrol the Romulan Neutral Zone in order to avoid adding an unstable element to the battle - in this case Picard himself. But they eventually disobey orders and join the battle where they link up with the Commander Worf (Michael Dorn) and the USS Defiant and manage to turn the tide of battle.

But a small vessel is ejected from the Bory cube before it is completely destroyed. The Enterprise pursues the vessel down an artificial time vortex and discover that present-day Earth is now composed entirely of Borg drones. Thus they have no choice but to go back in time and figure out a way to prevent the Borg from whatever change they triggered to alter all of history and save the their future.

There are a lot of things to talk about when it comes to this movie.

First off, the movie employed a fair amount of humor in the writing - you could argue that it's the same trick they employed in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. And while the TOS crew mostly played the fish out of water card, I found that the TNG crew ended up portraying things in a slightly more arrogant manner that was somehow mixed in with a sense of awe. And given how chaotic the time period that they venture to happens to be, it does make for some interesting results.

I could have done without the Picard semi-romantic interest angle, but then that's an opinion I've carried ever since the TV series. But I did appreciate the rather blatant Moby Dick angle to things, which did add some nice color to Stewart's portrayal. He is a Shakespearean actor after all and thus that kind of meaty characterization certainly gives him a lot to work with.

Alice Krige as the Borg Queen in First Contact
Alice Krige as the Borg Queen in First Contact (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Now Alice Krige made for a fantastic Borg Queen. Her performance was equally chilling, brilliant and not at all robotic. She managed to convey the complexity of being a somewhat unique personality within the Borg Collective and yet still embracing the original hive mind concept. While some might argue that creating her role wasn't truly necessary and may have gone down a trope-y road, I still feel it added to the Star Trek universe as a whole. And that really became evident when she would make appearances in the latter TV shows like Voyager. So yes, good job Alice Krige!

The overall plot wasn't that bad either, I have to admit. Sure, I bet there were weird inaccuracies here and there given the time travel element to things, but on the whole I felt it made a lot of sense and just worked as a narrative. Plus they even managed to integrate fun moments like the EMH (Robert Picardo) was a way to somehow stall the Borg already on the Enterprise. So yeah, the movie had a lot of good stuff for everyone indeed.

I guess the only weakness were some parts on Earth when the story bogs down a bit. James Cromwell is a pretty amazing actor under any circumstances, but even here his need to be an alcoholic scientist did get a bit  trying at times. But the action sequences back on the Enterprise helped make up for things for the most part.

I really enjoyed Star Trek: First Contact. It's a movie with a good story but also knew how to avoid taking itself too seriously. Thus it gets 4.5 Borg drone adaptations out of a possible 5.

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