At last we come to my favorite of all the Star Trek films, Star Trek: First Contact. I think this is an extraordinary movie. It’s got a great story, great character development (every cast member from the series is given their due), a memorable villain, and something I never expected from a Star Trek movie, moments of tension and horror. I remember my experience seeing this movie in the theater. The Borg in this film are truly scary…the stuff of nightmares. The elements are all interwoven and blended together to create a unique and believable storytelling experience. From comedy, to drama, suspense, action, and adventure, this movie works on all levels.
The best element of any movie is when the protagonist has an issue he/she is dealing with and the rest of the movie is there to help support it. In this case, it’s Jean Luc Picard having to fight with his trauma of being assimilated to the Borg six years prior to the events in the film. Here, Picard’s trauma reflects the majority of his decisions, including telling his crew men to wipe out any other crew members that have been assimilated by the Borg, saying they will be doing them a favor. Of course this reflects his true desire, which is to see all of the Borg wiped out, erasing them from his existence like the terminator. Picard has often been in denial over many things based on his code of Starfleet ethics. He believes that his sense of humanity has grown past the desire for revenge, but he’s very wrong as pointed out by Lily (Alfre Woodard). In comparison to Ahab and Moby Dick, his fighting desire to stay and fight off the Borg leads to one of my favorite scenes in the movie, where Picard has the brass to call Worf a coward, and Worf’s retaliation, “If you were any other man I would kill you where you stand!” You know something is wrong when even Worf knows a mission is suicide, and the Klingon whose blood lives for battle understands when it’s time to walk away. It’s a great scene. I even love Picard’s apology scene later. Picard: “Mr. Worf, I regret some of the things I said to you earlier.” Worf: (annoyed) SOME.
Picard’s story about getting through and surviving his trauma is successful for the same reasons that Kirk’s story about his fear of death in Wrath of Khan resonate with us to the day. We are able to witness in First Contact how the adventure brings out the best (and worst) in Picard and helps him find balance again in his life. The story never forgets that, and all the other plots of the film come together to support the main arc of Picard’s journey. This is the first Next Generation film where the cast is finally allowed to come into their own. Each of them has a memorable moment. Crusher calling the EMH Doctor to block the door from the Borg. Troi doing Tequila shots. Riker and LaForge helping Zephram Cochrine carry out his warp flight. And my personal favorite is Worf who just kicks ass in this movie. Data is also much more tolerable in this film, as is his story regarding his emotion chip. I suppose the only thing I was left wondering by the end is whether or not Data really learned anything about the worthiness of his quest to be more human. The Borg Queen (while using a manipulation tactic) tries to get him to embrace his machine side by doing the exact opposite…giving him what he wants and making him more human, grafting skin on his body. While it’s tolorable, it’s still probably the only aspect of the movie I don’t care for because I don’t find anything really interesting about Data’s desire to be human. I have several problems in this which I talked about in my Star Trek: Generations Review. The Borg Queen’s tactic is clever, but we know in the end Data isn’t going to force himself to really think about what happened to him, and as a result, nothing really changes about his character by the end of the film. The android is just too stubborn to really think about what he could be capable of in his machine side.
One of the lighter comical highlights of the film is James Cromwell’s portrayal of Zephrem Cochrine, the man who invents warp drive. He’s given a wonderful arc in the story, as a man who doesn’t care about the future or making history, and just wants to find a peaceful place where he can be left alone. That all changes when the Enterprise crew comes in to convince him to carry out his mission so they can go back to their own future. One of the sequences that makes me laugh is when Lt. Barclay (Dwight Schultz) can’t contain his fandom at getting to work with their history’s greatest legend. It’s funny because it makes Cochrine even more resistant to his destiny, when he just wants everyone to leave him alone.
Also shining in this film is Alfre Woodard’s Lilly, who develops a great relationship with Picard. She is not just the lone outsider, but the one keeping both her men (Picard and Cochrine) grounded. I have two favorite scenes with her. The first is when Picard opens the bay door with the view of Earth, showing her that she’s “not in Kansas anymore”. The second is when she fights with Picard to blow up the ship, telling him he’s become Captain Ahab on a quest to destroy the whale. The most endearing part of the scene is near the end when Picard quotes Moby Dick. “Actually”, she says, “I never read it.”
I do have to say that out of all the Star Trek films, Wrath of Khan is the best story. But this film will always be my personal favorite. It’s just a wonderful, exciting, and action packed adventure. I’ve always been more partial to TNG because it’s what I grew up with. But this is the only feature they made where everyone really gets to shine. It’s a good, well told story, and it’s too bad that we never got another film like it after this.