Star Trek: First Contact (1996) is likely the finest of The Next Generation feature films. In part, this is so because the film combines an extremely popular villain, the Borg, with an extremely popular idea in the franchise: time travel.
In the 24th Century, the cybernetic Borg attempt a second invasion of Sector 001, the home of the human race. Instead of warping to planet Earth to join the battle, however, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the U.S.S Enterprise-E are ordered to stay away. Starfleet fears that Picard’s traumatic experience being assimilated by the Borg could make him an “unstable element” in the critical defense of Earth.
The Borg are really no-brainers as movie antagonists. The most beloved episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation remains the two-parter “The Best of Both Worlds,” concerning a Borg incursion into Federation space. The Borg are such popular villains because they promise a fate much worse than death.
But forget all that. Picard gets called on the carpet and called out for his obsession with Borg… by Lily (Alfre Woodard), a one-time guest star in the franchise. She goes toe-to-toe with Picard and points out how his pursuit of the Borg doesn’t make sense. She’s known him for maybe a few hours, when she makes the speech.
In spite of such problems, Star Trek: First Contact is a highly entertaining movie with many dramatic and visually-appealing high points.
Prime among these is the zero-gravity sequence in which Picard, Worf and Hunt must battle the Borg on the exterior of the Enterprise hull, on the main deflector dish. This scene is splendidly-directed, buttressed by incredible special effects, and it features an undercurrent of anxiety throughout, as the Borg – slowly becoming aware of Picard’s interference – begin to menace the crew as the team works to stop them.
In ending the film on this high note, rather than the (admittedly-satisfying) defeat of the villainous Borg, First Contact remembers and honors the highest aspirations of Gene Roddenberry and the Star Trek saga. Remember “the human adventure is just beginning?” the tag-line of Star Trek: The Motion Picture? First Contact literalizes that motto, and shows us the wondrous beginnings of man’s odyssey to the stars, beginning with the first moments of brotherhood with another race. It’s a fantastic and inspiring story-point.
I understand that Star Trek fans are divided on the subject of Frakes as a director. He gets good performances from the cast here, and manages several action scenes nicely. Judging by First Contact, he certainly seems up to the center seat...the director's chair.