Star Trek: First Contact
Special Edition

Starring: Patrick Stewart, James Cromwell and Alfre Woodard
RRP: 24.99
Certificate: 12
Available 06 June 2005

An attempt by the Borg to invade the Earth is defeated by Starfleet, but the merciless cyborgs have a back-up plan. They send a squad back in time to prevent the very formation of Starfleet. In pursuit, Picard and the crew of the Enterprise E find themselves in 2063, the year in which Zefram Cochrane conducted the very first warp flight and made first contact with an alien species...

It's debatable whether First Contact is the best Star Trek movie of all. I certainly think it is, though it does face stiff competition from the classic Wrath of Kahn. However, few would argue with the assertion that this is the finest of the movies starring the Next Generation cast.

One of the main reasons for its success is the presence of the Borg, surely the most chilling and implacable foe ever faced by a Starfleet crew. At the time of the film's release, some fans raised a Spock-like eyebrow at the introduction of the Borg Queen (Alice Krige) as a spokesperson for the previously leaderless and homogenous collective, but Krige succeeds in making her character sinister yet unnervingly sexy at the same time. Her emotionally charged scenes with Data (Brent Spiner) make the introduction of the android's emotion chip in the previous film, Generations, and the embarrassing over-acting that ensued therein, all seem worthwhile.

It could be argued that the plot of First Contact is two episodes weaved together. While the "A" plot deals with Picard's (Patrick Stewart) battle against the Borg as they assimilate his ship, the "B" plot concerns Riker's (Jonathan Frakes) attempts to get Star Trek history back on track by helping Zefram Cochrane (James Cromwell) carry out the first warp flight. It has also been argued that the film's lighter moments indicate an unevenness of tone and undermine the more dramatic moments. The Borg plot is certainly the more exciting, but its horror and tension are accentuated, rather than undermined, by the lighter tone of the Zefram Cochrane segments. Cromwell is excellent as the surprisingly unimpressive legend-made-flesh, and both plot arcs come together in a nail-biting conclusion.

The very end of the film, which establishes the Vulcans as the species who made first contact with Earth, provides rich source material for the subsequent series, Enterprise. At the time I wondered why such an aloof and austere race as the Vulcans would want to forge a long-lasting alliance with the relatively primitive and overtly emotional humans. Just look at their reaction when Cochrane "treats" them to some music and his dancing. The consequences of this incident are convincingly developed in Enterprise.

Holding the whole thing together is director Jonathan Frakes. After helming several excellent television episodes, he is the perfect man for the job of bringing the Next Generation crew to the big screen and coaxing some of the best performances ever out of Stewart, Spiner et al. My estimation of his ability to create movie magic has only been increased by the revelation (by writer Brannon Braga in the featurettes and audio commentaries) that only eight full Borg costumes were ever made for this film.

The harshest criticism that I can level at First Contact is that, as with all the other Next Gen movies, it fails to serve Dr Crusher (Gates McFadden) very well. That's the only real criticism I can think of, though, and each of the remaining cast gets a good look-in.

Extras include more than three hours of documentary featurettes, covering such subjects as the development of the Borg Queen, the realisation of the impressive deflector dish scene, and a touching tribute to the sorely missed composer Jerry Goldsmith. There are two audio commentaries: one by Frakes, the other by scriptwriters Braga and Ronald D Moore. Frakes' commentary is by turns amusing and annoying, as the ebullient actor/director has a habit of announcing things every time he sees them - such as "Ah! Borg vision!" whenever the cyborgs' point of view is presented - and he frequently leaves his musings incomplete as he gets distracted by the next scene. There's also a fascinating text commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda, who raise and solve some nit-picks along the way (our own Johnny Fanboy would heartily approve).

Whether or not this is your first contact with the film, it's well worth picking up this two-disc release. The Borg have never come closer to achieving perfection.

Richard McGinlay

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