Directed by Jonathan Frakes
The Borg travel back in time to assimilate Earth and prevent first contact with the Vulcans and destroy the Federation. Now the crew of the Enterprise-E must follow and maintain the timeline.
First Contact is a good action adventure movie, but I never liked how they watered down the Borg even further here. When the Borg first appeared, they were unlike any other threat that had been in Star Trek before. They were a single-minded unstoppable force far in advance of anything the Federation had encountered before. Even in their second appearance they were just as unique and threatening. The only difference was that they came with a plan to attack their new foes. As time went on though they just got watered down further and were not as threatening. Along the way they became easier to defeat. This adaptive enemy that assimilated other species in order to grow were even messed up by one of their own that experienced individuality. HOW?! Their whole schtick is eliminating individuality and one Borg that was disconnected from the collective screwed up a whole cube. It was not until a single episode of Star Trek: Enterprise that the Borg became as frightening as they had originally been. Unfortunately this is not that episode and I am getting off track.
Borg were disconcerting and frightening when they were one collective mind and came at the Federation like a force of nature. They were the loss of individuality and freedom in the face of advancing technology. You could not talk to them and negotiate. And defeating them took ingenuity and a willingness to risk everything. Then they started focusing on individual Borg and then here they got a hierarchy. They went from a force of nature to a species with a head of state (Alice Krige as the Borg Queen) that you could reason with. Not my favorite development. Paramount head Jonathan Dolgen was reportedly the one responsible for this terrible idea.
Picard (Patrick Stewart) once again works through his feelings over being assimilated. I say “again” because I’m pretty sure in the TNG episode “Family” and the episode “I, Borg” that introduced the character of Hugh he had already worked through those feelings-TWICE! It seemed rather pointless for him to do it this time around after the series with Lily Sloane (Alfre Woodard) who is an assistant to Zefram Cochrane. I am not sure why they rehashed something that was already done but that is kind of what they did with Generations as well. During the series Picard had already come to the point he was not going to give up command as well as coming to terms with not having children, but they did it again here with rehashing coming to terms with Borg trauma. Try harder. It is Star Trek. You are examining the human condition. There is plenty to examine.
Something that has never been clear to me was if the Borg plot of time travel was a Plan B or was it their plan all along. If it was their plan all along then why didn’t they just time travel before they got to Earth? They are outside of the solar system and then they go back in time. That seems like a better idea then time traveling once you have lost your main ship and the bulk of your forces. They used the better idea once their troops and resources were nearly wiped out.
Why no Guinan? Like Picard, she has a strong connection to the Borg since her world was attacked by the Borg. We learned that in the episode “Q Who?” and were reminded that she came to Federation space as a refugee fleeing the Borg in the previous movie. The Borg are significant to this character who lives and works on the Enterprise, but she is M.I.A. from the story here. Word is Whoopi Goldberg assumed she was going to be in the movie given what she knew of the plot so it is not as if she would have turned an offer down. Lieutenant Barclay (Dwight Schultz) and Nurse Ogawa (Patti Yasutake) show up briefly but Guinan whose world was destroyed by the Borg? Nope.
One thing I did like about this movie was that each character got a little more to do. They were all a little more important to the plot. Even Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) got more to do than just diagnose people and send them on their way. Her use of the Enterprise’s EMH (Robert Picardo) to distract the Borg was funny and very creative.
Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) was the comedy relief for the most part here with her interactions early on with Zefram Cochrane (James Cromwell) the father of human warp flight. While trying to talk to him and convince him to do what he must, she got drunk off her ass.
Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) got more to do than react and repair things. His story about going to Zefram Cochrane High School is what tipped Cochrane into trying to get away. Burton’s performance was aided by the unexplained loss of his character’s VISOR device which was replaced by ocular implants.
Riker’s (Jonathan Frakes) part was not that big, but he was a notable presence nonetheless. He had to corral everybody and keep the mission on track. This is probably because Frakes was directing as well as acting in the film.
It was nice to get Worf (Michael Dorn) back on the Enterprise. Given the distance that Deep Space 9 was from Earth, how we made it in a matter of hours seems a little incongruous but I am good with any excuse that gets the whole crew together again. And when Worf said “Maybe it IS a good day to die” that was just a cool moment for the character. Very Klingon.
Data (Brent Spiner) was given a significant presence in this movie. Aside from his brother Lore (also Brent Spiner) taking over the Borg that had been severed from the collective because of one Borg’s brush with individuality and manipulating him in “Descent Pt. 1 and 2,” I am not sure why the focus was so placed on him. The events of that episode had few if any reverberations in the series. It is not like he had suffered at the hands of the Borg in a manner similar to Picard or Guinan who is not the movie yet had her world wiped out by the Borg. Some might be able to make an argument for the story centering around Picard and Data, not Picard and Guinan with Data’s connection to those independent Borg but it is not as strong of a connection as Guinan’s.
When they touch on the character of Zefram Cochrane they make a nice point that often the way we view historical figures is not exactly how they were. We tend to build up the ones that we have singled out as great into superior versions of humanity. It is a nice bit of commentary there.
The movie benefits from reaching into Star Trek mythology (even if they do screw it up) as well as the mythology of TNG for its plot. Zefram Cochrane is a TOS character. There he was much shorter and younger though his youth was being maintained by an alien entity in that appearance. The assumption was that by the time he encountered the being he was still a young man but here in First Contact he is played by the significantly older and taller James Cromwell. Originally the character was a decent guy and not a raging alcoholic and apparent womanizer. Here they portrayed Cochrane as a jerk with a serious drinking problem. This was a bit too much of a change for me. And do not get me started on how he was geriatric in the pilot episode of Star Trek Enterprise.
The Borg stories usually provided for some cool action and this is no different. The tension always skyrockets when the characters walk through a cube or any place the Borg are. One wrong move and the Borg will identify them as a threat and the battle begins. The longer they walk the more the tension builds, and you anticipate whatever that one mistake will be. And in space battle they blow a lot of stuff away.
First Contact is not a bad movie. It is a good action adventure romp with some good character moments. The issue I have is the continued weakening of the Borg as a threat as well as the exclusion of Guinan. And let us not forget the muck up of the Zefram Cochrane character. That should not have ever happened. It is not a bad movie. It is just not as strong as it could be.