Star Trek VIII:
First Contact

directed by Jonathan Frakes
(Paramount, 1996)

Perhaps a little of Kirk rubbed off on Picard during their brief encounter in Star Trek: Generations. For Picard, who was always more of a bureaucratic captain who delegated the dangerous jobs to underlings like his first officer, finally learns how to take charge and kick butt on his own.

It takes the Borg, the ultimate bad guys of Star Trek: The Next Generation, to do the job. Picard's passionate hatred of the Borg mirrors Kirk's hatred for the Klingons after the death of his son.

Also, fans of the rest of the Next Generation crew will be pleased to see them starring in well-rounded roles of their own. While Generations gave a lot of screen time to the two captains, the Enterprise-D crew held mostly supporting bits. Not so here.

The new Enterprise-E has been in space for a year when the Borg launch an assault on the Federation. Because of Picard's history with the Borg, Star Fleet foolishly sends Enterprise away from the conflict. But when the battle goes badly, Picard (Patrick Stewart) makes a Kirk-like decision to disobey orders and go anyway.

After collecting Worf (Michael Dorn, who has been passing time on Deep Space 9 since The Next Generation went off TV) from a damaged Defiant, the Enterprise follows a Borg sphere into a time vortex -- back to the mid-21st century, to be exact, just before warp drive was developed. The Borg manage to change history, and Picard must change it back.

That's made a little harder to accomplish when Borg survivors, led by the surprisingly sensual Borg queen (Alice Krige), make it onto the Enterprise and begin assimilating its crew.

At this point the film splits into two storylines. Action on the Enterprise is serious and intense, with Picard leading his diminishing crew against the powerful Borg occupation force. Meanwhile, on the Earth's surface, Riker (Jonathan Frakes), LaForge (LeVar Burton) and Troi (Marina Sirtis) try to rebuild history. Their interactions with 21st-century humans, particularly the scientist Zefram Cochrane (James Cromwell), provide the comic relief.

First Contact is where The Next Generation comes into its own. This is high-quality film-making, and top-notch Star Trek. Welcome to the 24th century.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 23 March 2002

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