To wrap up my summer Star Trek blog-a-thon, before “Star Trek: Beyond” hits theaters this weekend, I decided to watch my first Next Generation movie, titled — appropriately enough — “First Contact.” I’ve watched a few Next Generation episodes before but hadn’t ever delved into the movies featuring that cast. Although the Original Series crew will always be my favorite, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (played by Patrick Stewart) is one of my favorite Enterprise captains.
“First Contact” appears to be generally regarded as the best Next Generation film, bringing back popular Next Gen baddies “the Borg” and mixing in elements of time travel. In the film, Captain Picard and his crew arrive to defend Earth from a Borg attack, only to find that the technology-loving Borg plan to travel back in time and “assimilate” all humans, turning them in Borg as well. They seek to prevent a key event in Earth history known as “first contact” — the day humans meet their first alien race, the Vulcans. Naturally, Picard and his crew aren’t about to let that happen. They fight to make sure first contact still occurs while also saving the Enterprise from a Borg infestation.
Although this film was released in 1996, now 20 years ago, I was impressed by how well its special effects have held up over time. The Enterprise looks great, and I liked the contrasting style of the Borg ship, which is basically just a giant cube floating through space. I also liked the make-up/costumes of the Borg characters; they are made up of both organic material and technology, with complicated electronic modifications on their bodies. Their quest to “assimilate” lifeforms involves them stripping individuality and personal choice from their subjects, turning them into drones that function as part of a hive mind.
Star Trek has always been about exploring interesting themes through the platform of science fiction, and “First Contact” is no exception. One of those themes is the concept of revenge and how we should never let the desire for it consume us. Captain Picard’s judgement in this movie is sometimes clouded by his desire to get revenge on the Borg, especially after they attempted to assimilate him in a previous storyline. He refuses to blow up the Enterprise in order to destroy the Borg, because he feels that blowing up the ship would compromise his victory. He wants to stay and fight until the bitter end. He doesn’t see the light until he hears a comparison of himself to Captain Ahab from “Moby-Dick,” and then he realizes stopping the threat of the Borg is more important than proving he is a superior strategist.
I also liked how the film touched on the fact that sometimes the people who do great things aren’t always great themselves. In the future, Zefram Cochrane, the man who creates the warp drive and flies the ship that makes first contact, is lauded as a heroic visionary. However, when some of the Enterprise crew members actually meet him, they find he is actually a cowardly drunk. It made me wonder if some of the visionaries we look up to from history were maybe not as great as we like to remember them. Without digging too deeply, you can probably find quite a bit of dirt on famous historical figures. Still, this also goes to show that we shouldn’t look past someone just because they don’t seem heroic. Sometimes all they need is a little push (or, in Cochrane’s case, a really BIG push) to do something great.
I enjoyed my first Next Generation film, and it made me want to watch more episodes of the TV series. I didn’t enjoy this movie *quite* as much as my favorite Original Series films, “The Wrath of Khan” and J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot, but like I said before, I have a definite bias towards the Original Series crew. 😉
Well, I guess that wraps up my summer Star Trek blog-a-thon — thanks to everyone who followed along! I’m very excited to see “Star Trek: Beyond” this weekend, especially since the reviews seem very positive so far.