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Star Trek: First Contact Contains a Little Something For Everybody
by Gary Johnson

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The official Web site for Star Trek: First Contact.

With the Next Generation crew now at the controls, Star Trek: First Contact strives to please everyone. The screenwriters have sprinkled the story with a little bit of everything. If you like the episodes where the crew gets to play the story for some broad comedy, well, you get some of that.

Movie poster for Star Trek: First Contact.

(©1996 Paramount Pictures)

If you like the episodes where the crew goes time tripping and we get to experience the dilemmas of messing around with the past, well, you get some of that. If you like a little sex, you get some of that (with some S&M overtures). And if you like the intense suspense offered by the Borg and their single-minded determination to assimilate everyone in their path, you'll get lots of that.

With Jonathan Frakes (otherwise known as Commander William Riker) taking over the directing duties--like Leonard Nimoy (excellent episode) and William Shatner (terrible episode) before him--this newest installment in the Star Trek saga emerges as a big audience pleaser with none of the Star Trek fans left out of the picture.

But that's exactly what's wrong with the movie. And that's why the movie never becomes particularly compelling. It's not a bad movie, but it's nothing special either. It's the kind of movie that will make fans glad they plunked down 6 bucks or more at the box office, and it'll make them not hesitate to plunk down 6 more bucks in two or three years when the next Star Trek installment appears. (And maybe that's the bottom line as Star Trek has become a huge money-making operation.)

But at the same time, First Contact plays out as if nothing is really on the line, that no one is really taking any chances here. Everything in the movie has been tried and tested many times before--with the exception of the Borg Queen, who emerges as a sexy, provocative figure, intent on seducing those men (or androids) who are difficult to assimilate.

Picard (Patrick Stewart) comes face to face with the Borg Queen (Alice Krige) in Star Trek: First Contact.

(©1996 Paramount Pictures)

For the record, Star Trek: First Contact begins when Captain Picard gets word that the Borg have entered Federation Space, on a direct course for Earth. (For the uninitiated, the Borg are a group of cybernetically enhanced aliens from an unexplored part of the universe, thousands of light years from Earth.) Picard must choose whether to follow the Federation orders and patrol the neutral zone or to disobey orders and engage the Borg. Decisions, decisions! This dilemma is only toyed with long enough to raise the hackles of the audience, so that bad boy Picard (like bad boy Kirk before him) can garner cheers when he makes the obvious decision and rushes off at warp speed to kick some alien butt. From there the story involves a Borg plan to go back in time and alter the history of Earth, but the Enterprise follows fast on their heels. It seems the event the Borg want to alter involves the First Contact with alien lifeforms, a moment with profound impact on the course of human events.

Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Geordi (LeVar Burton) in Star Trek: First Contact.

(©1996 Paramount Pictures)

This story contains lots of potential but the movie undercuts the suspense of dealing with the Borg, some truly nasty and scary creations, by bouncing back and forth between suspense and comedy. We get intense battle scenes and then we get Deanna Troi getting drunk and yukking it up. We get Picard running from the Borg as they threaten to overtake his ship, and then we get Riker and Geordi La Forge running around in what looks like some lost sets from M*A*S*H, with a goofy scientist who might be a descendent of Hawkeye Pierce. Maybe the filmmakers thought the Borg were too intense a creation and needed to lighten the mood (indeed the Borg episodes from the Next Generation TV series are some of the most intense and harrowing moments in Star Trek history), but the introduction of broad comedy while Picard is fighting for his life defuses the suspense and renders any threat harmless--and thus the suspense becomes only perfunctory.

Star Trek: First Contact is a perfect example of how to ruin a movie by aiming to satisfy everyone. Even the horrifying Borg (a creation inspired by the nightmarish works of H.R. Giger) are rendered bland and easy targets of Enterprise lasers. Ultimately, even the Borg Queen disappoints: clad in oily mechanisms that resemble a black leather outfit, she emerges as a simple sex-goddess with little real bite. But most disappointing of all is the dearth of ideas in First Contact. In the past, Star Trek offered intriguing dilemmas and solutions (the use of whales in Star Trek IV and the death and rise of Spock in II and III, for example), but First Contact simply recycles old ideas and combines them with the empty-headed visual barrage of Independence Day. Some people will love that approach, but it sort of pisses me off. Star Trek used to be a showcase for some intriguing ideas, but now it's just a good (but unspectacular) rollercoaster ride that's afraid to really scare its audience.

A Paramount Pictures Production


Captain Jean-Luc PicardPatrick Stewart
Commander William RikerJonathan Frakes
Lieutenant Commander DataBrent Spiner
Lieutenant Commander Geordi La ForgeLeVar Burton
Lieutenant Commander WorfMichael Dorn
Dr. Beverly C. CrusherGates McFadden
Lieutenant Commander Deanna TroiMarina Sirtis
Lily SloaneAlfre Woodard
Zefram CochraneJames Cromwell
the Borg QueenAlice Krige
Lt. HawkNeal McDonough
Directed byJonathan Frakes
Produced byRick Berman
Executive ProducerMarty Hornstein
Co-ProducerPeter Lauritson
ScreenwritersBrannon Braga
Ronald D. Moore
Director of PhotographyMatthew F. Leonetti
Production DesignerHerman Zimmerman
Makeup SupervisorMichael Westmore
Costume DesignerDeborah Everton
Art DirectorRon Wilkinson
Special Effects CoordinatorTerry Frazee
Borg Effects SupervisorTodd Masters
Film EditorJohn W. Wheeler
Music ComposerJerry Goldsmith
Special Visual EffectsIndustrial Light & Magic
Digital Visual EffectsPop Film
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