Star Trek: First Contact (1996) – Jonathan Frakes

 

The strongest of the Next Generation films is the next stop for the Sci-Fi Chronicles book as I continue the exploration of the Star Trek cinematic universe. This one combines the best elements of the Next Generation universe, with drama, action and comedy as it combines a time travel tale with a war story and vengeance.

One of Trek’s biggest villains, the Borg, make their very welcome big screen appearance, as they lead an assault on Earth, and travel back in time to prevent human’s first contact with the Vulcans, when they detect Zefram Cochran’s (James Cromwell) warp engine signature.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the stalwart crew of the sovereign class Enterprise-E, follow the Borg, and must prevent the Borg from destroying all of humanity.

While Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Troi (Marina Sirtis) and Geordi (LeVar Burton) repair Zefram’s damaged ship, and try to convince the future icon to make the flight, Picard, Data (Brent Spiner), Worf (Michael Dorn), Crusher (Gates McFadden) and Hawk (Neal McDonough) fight to stop the Borg, and their Queen (Alice Krige) from seizing complete control of the Enterprise.

While there are moments of levity, practically all of them note perfect, the drama comes from Picard confronting the Borg, as he recalls what happened to him at their hands in the series classic, Best of Both Worlds.

As such, he is set on a path of vengeance, at almost any cost, as crewmen are sacrificed on the altar of his revenge, until one woman, Lily (Alfre Woodard) confronts him on it.

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Tightly paced, with a solid story, this film shows the Next Gen cast at their best, combining action beats with emotional ones. Both Picard and Data are forced to confront the humans they wish to be, while the rest of the cast fight to keep the human race itself on track.

Jerry Goldsmith returns, once again, to score a Trek film, and it complements the film perfectly. Frakes acquits himself as director very nicely with his first feature film, and the script by Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga couldn’t be much better! The most amazing part is that each of the main cast gets a moment to shine, difficult with so many of them, and some fantastic effects bring the world to life wonderfully.

There are some new looks, Geordi has ocular implants (finally allowing the actor to emote with his eyes), the Soverign-class Enterprise is a different beast entirely from the Galaxy class starship we’ve grown so used to, and the Borg make-up gets a cinematic upgrade.

Stewart’s captain has a great arc in this story, and it’s great to see him maintain his character even while embracing the action beats of the film.

This one is a strong, solid entry into the film series. It continues to entertain me every time I watch it, and is one of the scores, not composed by John Williams, that I find myself whistling a lot.

This was my kind of Trek film, as it balanced the theatrical need to be a bit of an event (read as action-filled) while being true to the essence of Star Trek, and the humanity at its heart.

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