“Timeline?! This is no time to argue about time. We don’t! Have! The time!” *drunkenly stares* “What was I saying?”
“Borg? Sounds Swedish.”
“I am the beginning. The end. The One who is many. I am the Borg.”
-The Borg Queen
Howdy nerds! This week, we’re looking at the coolest Star Trek movie ever. Are you excited? I think you’re excited. I know I’m excited!
This movie rocks so much. It’s perfectly paced, fun, action-y (that’s a technical term), and features not only one of Star Trek’s most iconic villains, but cinema’s as well.
Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
The Ship: The U.S.S Enterprise E, the only starship to ever get close to beating the Excelsior for sheer sexiness. The Excelsior is sleek and regal, but the Enterprise E is just so flipping cool looking.
The Captain: Jean-Luc Picard, who really gets to show us that, diplomatic and scholarly as he is, he can still kick all the ass when his ship is taken from him by the Borg.
The Premise: The Borg travel back in time and assimilate Earth, and it’s up to JLP and his brand spanking new Enterprise to stop them. Once in the past, they discover that the Borg (who quietly slip aboard the Enterprise when their shields are down) were trying to prevent Earth’s first contact with an alien species, the event that began Earth’s move toward becoming a unified, peaceful paradise.
The Best Moments: There are so many.
Troi getting drunk.
The introduction of the Borg Queen in all her creepy dismembered glory. The scene where her upper torso is lowered into her suit/body is still crazy cool looking.
Lily and Picard’s Ahab Smackdown is probably my favorite Trek moment ever. She stands up to him and changes his mind with a really cool literary reference. If only real life was like that. The whole thing plays out like a piece of gripping stage theater and Alfre Woodard has enough stage presence and personality to be Patrick Stewart’s match. I love it so much.
Data and the Borg Queen also have this weird creepy relationship…thing, and…I sorta ship them… Even though she’s evil and trying to assimilate the universe and he’s good and decent and upstanding, they have a wonderful chemistry. And I love the tension that arises when he considers letting her show him how to experience humanity just for a moment before he betrays her. Ugh, it’s so fantastic!
I love The Doctor’s cameo in sickbay (no, not the Timelord one, the hologram one). I know this isn’t Voyager’s EMH, but it’s nice to see him anyway.
And, of course, the actual moment of First Contact is such a delightful inspiring moment. It’s basically all of Star Trek summed up in one scene.
Why It’s Awesome: because it is! I suppose I should be more specific…
They’ve got an amazing cast. And the three important new characters Lily (Alfre Woodard), Zephram Cochrane (James Cromwell) and the Borg Queen (Alice Krige) are each given plenty of room for the actors to really create memorable performances. I love the chemistry the newbies have with the original cast. Lily and Picard develop a genuine friendship; Data and the Borg Queen make a bizarre but fun couple; and Geordi and Cochrane have some great moments as Geordi realizes his childhood hero is a mortal dude with hangups and idiosyncrasies just like everyone else.
But mad props goes to Alice Krige for giving us a villain who is creepy and dangerous, but also alluring and compelling. Some people say giving the Borg a single voice and persona was dangerous as it lessened their impact as a faceless horde, but I like the implications that, no matter how equal everyone in a society is, there will always be an innate desire for a hierarchy of some sort. A collective race can strategize and attack, but it still needs a will of some sort, and the Borg Queen is such a fun character. I also like how she’s bizarrely immortal, rising out of the Collective voice when needed (Picard notes that she was there when he was assimilated and died when that cube was destroyed). She makes a cryptic comment about thinking “in such 3-dimensional terms,” and we do see the Borg Queen again several times in Voyager, so it’s clear the Borg Queen consciousness survives within the Collective even if a body is destroyed. Ok, I’ll stop nerding out, I promise (but not really). I just love her so much.
This installment was directed by Jonathan Frakes, and boy does he ever do a good job. The whole things has a wonderful aesthetic that feels epic and cinematic, and he is able to get some really wonderful performances from the cast. I love how the shots are framed and how Frakes is able to create a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere inside the Borg-ified Enterprise without resorting to a lot of close-ups.
And the special effects look amazing. Compared to big-budget blockbusters nowadays, this one had a tiny budget, but it doesn’t show it at all. It’s sleek, dynamic, and memorable, thanks, in part, to ILM returning to handle things. Everything from the Borg cube’s verdant explosion to the Enterprise E’s detailed exterior to the choked, organic feel of the Borg themselves really sets this above the previous film. Its visual look will also inspire the aesthetic of Voyager once it finds its voice in the third season.
Next week, we’ll be looking at Star Trek: Insurrection which, sadly, is not as good as First Contact *hangs head* But it’s got some great character moments and a fun villain.
A brief note on the production timeline. At this point, both DS9 and Voyager have been running for a few years, but I haven’t yet talked about them because I’ve arranged the posts by film release date and the release date of each series’ final episode. From 1987-2005, there was always some Trek series on the air. TNG, every film from The Final Frontier to Nemesis, DS9, and Voyager all overlap in some way, so I figured I’d go by release date rather than internal chronology since that gets weird.