Reviews: Star Trek First Contact

Into Darkness? Pah! Let me show you how it's done...

First Contact (or Star Trek VIII for wankers) means a lot to me, because its the closest the TNG crew ever got to a great theatrical debut. It employs the entire crew skillfully, no mean feat given the relatively sparse cast of The Original Series and their easy repartee. The Trek formula looks easy on paper: doctor, engineer, captain, and poof! Instant adventure. Maybe throw in a miniskirt and BAM, and you're set.

The problem is, TNG's crew had less personality beyond their jobs, a pattern which got worse with each new series. There are only so many variations on wacky doctor. So, First Contact gives Beverly, Troi, and Geordi things of interest to participate in. Engineering is the Borg breeding ground. Troi futilely tries to analyze Cochrane. Beverly locks horns with the EMH. Worf actually wins a fight. We even get a little of Dixon Hill. Which is great, because it works as set piece and great continuity.

In later films, these characters would either stand around doing nothing, or hold laser rifles.

The mood of the film is a bit schitzo. They were obviously going for a Voyage Home feel with the swarthy earthlings, which is starkly contrasted with the H.R. Geiger future looming overhead. So in that sense, it's effective. All of the worst excesses of Picard's and Data's characters are here: picking up girls (which they're ordinarily rubbish at), the gunplay, the hammy ACTING! moments. However - again - the crew is now facing an unusual problem. We expect them to go to extreme lengths they normally wouldn't. It wasn't until Insurrection and Nemesis began recycling the same gorram "scenario" that the franchise went down the tubes.

What Star Trek is all about

This film is one of the best the Star Trek franchise has produced. It has an exciting plot, epic battles, lighter moments, character scenes... everything you'd expect out of a Star Trek movie.

The premise of the movie is that the Borg travel back in time to assimilate Earth before humanity's first contact and prevent the Federation from forming, while the Enterprise-E follows them to preserve history. From there, the movie follows two distinct plots; the main one on the Enterprise as Picard fights the Borg, and the subplot of getting first contact back on track down on Earth. The Borg plot is, appropriately, the darker, more dramatic of the two, with the Zefram plot providing most of the comic relief. But the Borg plot has its lighter moments, and the Zefram plot has its drama.

The crowning moment of the movie is at the end, when first contact occurs as history records, but with a few extra observers. Mostly dialogue-free, it nevertheless conveys the birth of the Star Trek universe as we know it. It's a powerful scene that exemplifies Star Trek at its best.

The Sign of the Shark

I am a huge Star Trek fan. I've seen nearly all the movies, and have had to deal with some good ones (Movie II, IV, VI) and some bad ones (Movie V, X). Of all the ones I've seen, generally the Next Gen films don't do very well; and you'll never guess what, First Contact is no exception.

STORYTELLING: I actually like most of the Borg scenes. They play very well with the established collective character of the Borg, and tell a good story for Picard. Where it falls apart is the subplot. The time travel story was completely unnecessary and was just thrown in because "the best of Trek involved Time Travel." There were plenty of good non-time-travel episodes, so this is guilty of the Correlation Equals Causation fallacy. The look back in time is just filler. It could've been dropped with no change. Storytelling gets a 3/5.

CHARACTERS: Well, everyone's the same as they've always been, even Data, who spends more time in the movie with his emotion chip turned off. Good idea. Where it falls apart are the new characters. The Borg Queen is a frivolous addition to the collective, created because the audience "needed an object for their hatred". Except there's a better solution than that; it's called an avatar. And don't give me that she represented an avatar, she explicitly said she WAS the collective. That, combined with the fact that her death takes down the entire collective makes her useless.

But we've gotten to the part I really hate, and that's Cochrane. Cochrane already appeared in the show, in the episode "Metamorphosis, and in that episode, he was an adventurer, an explorer. THIS Cochrane is content to sit on his hands and drink. He just wants to get rich and meet women. Apparently Cochrane was brought in to show "the Federation was the result of an ordinary human," which means, according to you, Berraga and Berman, that humans are horrible, awful creatures...except you. 2/5 for characters.

VISUALS: Well, can't say much bad about this part. The use of physical models looks more organic, which really helps. 5/5

AUDIO: No problems here either, with Jerry Goldsmith returning to score the film in his own way. 5/5

OVERALL: 2/5. It had promise, but the treatment of humanity just shows that this is where Star Trek started to jump over shark-infested waters. It really needed the reboot. Badly.