The cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation has come into their own.
Ending the successful, if rocky, reign of the previous crew of the Enterprise at the box office, the Next Generation crew stars in their first stand alone adventure. Star Trek: First Contact breaks new ground in the Star Trek universe for several reasons, which I will endeavor to explain in this article. Forgive me if I fail at some, we are all human.
Released in 1996, Star Trek : First Contact continued to build on the franchise by not only giving fans of the series more service, but also by cranking up the action. They also introduced a new audience to one of Trek’s best villains, The Borg.
Back story: The Borg were introduced in season two of Star Trek: The Next Generation by the alien entity Q. They originate in the Delta Quadrant and have only one purpose: to assimilate other life forms into their collective consciousness. The Borg cannot be reasoned with, negotiated with or bargained with. They have no interest in anything other than adapting other species and cultures to service the collective. The only mission of a Borg drone is to create more Borg drones. They were thwarted in their attempts to assimilate Earth and the Alpha Quadrant on several occasions, but in the season 3 finale and season 4 opening episode, the Borg kidnapped and assimilated Captain Picard. He became Locutus, the only Borg to ever have a personal name instead of a designation and was responsible for the destruction of most of the fleet. He was later rescued by his crew and restored, but he still lives with his actions and his inability to resist.
The film starts with Picard having a nightmare about being on a Borg ship, with a female voice calling him Locutus and reliving the torture he endured when they made him a Borg. He wakes up to find an incoming message from Starfleet telling him that a Federation colony has been destroyed by the Borg. On board the new Sovereign class USS Enterprise -E, Picard calls his senior staff to a meeting to discuss the situation. When Data informs him of how long it will take for them to reach the rendezvous point, Picard interrupts and explains to them that they are not going. They have been tasked to patrol the Neutral Zone to monitor the Romulans. His crew is visibly puzzled, especially Geordi who comments that the new Enterprise is the most advanced ship in the fleet and should be on the front lines. Picard dismisses his crew and they depart to start scanning the Neutral Zone.
Commander Riker, First Officer of the Enterprise asks him later why they are scanning for what amounts to particles of space dust and comets and Picard explains to him that Starfleet has nothing but confidence in the ship and its crew, but they are unsure about sending in a Captain who was assimilated by the Borg back into a situation where he would have to face them again. They receive a communication from the battle scene and both men go to the bridge to listen to it. What follows is something that we had never seen in any previous Star Trek film, an actual Star fleet. Up to this point, we heard of other ships in the fleet and saw maybe one or two, but we finally got to see an actual fleet in battle against the Borg.
Back Story: Two small items for Trek fans in this sequence. The message includes audio from the starship USS Bozeman. The USS Bozeman, Captained by Morgan Bateson was trapped in a temporal loop for almost 80 years until it was freed by the Enterprise in season 5. It is also mentioned in the previous film Star Trek: Generations for having to make a course correction when the Amargossa star exploded. The second item is Worf. Worf. Worf joined the cast of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in their fourth season and both lives on and commands the USS Defiant, which is featured in this battle. (For more information about the Defiant see my previous article about my favorite sci-fi ships.)
The Borg launch a smaller ship before theirs is destroyed and it continues on its path to Earth. The Enterprise pursues and their sensors show that the Borg cube is emitting tachyon radiation in order to perform time travel. When the ship disappears, the Enterprise is caught in its temporal wake. They scan the planet and see that all life signs on the planet, all ten billion people are Borg. Picard orders them to enter the vortex created by the Borg and follow them back to prevent what they just witnessed.
On Earth, a clearly drunk man is trying to coax his female companion to return with him to the bar for another drink, when they notice something in the sky. As they try to determine what it is, it fires on them destroying buildings and causing damage to the surrounding area. The Enterprise emerges, sees the Borg sphere firing on the surface and opens fire, destroying the ship. Picard and his crew pinpoint the damage to Montana and determine by the date that they have arrived in the year 2063. They have arrived after the end of the third world war and the day before first contact.
First contact is the date when humanity first encounters alien life. Picard realizes this because renowned scientist Zephram Cochran launches the first warp-enabled human spacecraft on that date, which attracts an alien species to Earth when they realize that humanity has evolved. This change ushers in a new era for humanity. It begins the end of war, poverty and famine and starts the creation of the Federation. If the Borg can prevent this, then they can take over the entire quadrant starting with Earth because there will be no resistance. Picard, Crusher and Data beam down to the planet to determine if there are any survivors and if the ship, called the Phoenix, can be saved.
Dr. Crusher find the woman who left the bar at the missile silo housing the Phoenix and beams her aboard to treat her for radiation poisoning after inoculating them all. The ship is still in good shape, but there are repairs that need to be performed so Picard calls Geordi to send an engineering team down to the planet. Picard, who can hear the Borg in his mind when they are close, calls the ship for a status report. He is told that there have been some minor changes in the environmental controls and he immediately beams back up to the ship with Data, leaving Riker in command on the surface.
Once on board the ship, Picard asks for the specific temperature in engineering. He determines that it’s the exact temperature of a Borg ship right as the systems on the bridge begin to go crazy. Data springs into action and immediately locks out the main computer using encryption that only he can decipher and Picard takes a strike team to main engineering.
When the Enterprise emerged from the vortex, its shields and sensors were down. The Borg beamed over to the Enterprise as their ship was destroyed and they decide to assimilate the Enterprise and everyone on board.
The strike team is attacked and Data is captured. Picard and the survivors escape and the additional teams are taken by the Borg as the ship is assimilated deck by deck. The Borg have taken half the ship and stop at deck 11.
On Earth, Riker and Troi manage to convince Cochran of the importance of his flight the next day by telling him the truth. He doesn’t take either the news or the ensuing hero-worship well and literally has to be stun into sobriety. Cochran and the Enterprise crew on the ground proceed to fix the ship and prepare for the voyage the next day.
Data is confined in Engineering and is introduced to the Borg Queen.
The Queen is the collective and all of the drones serve her interests. She knows that the encryption Data used to lock out the computer cannot be forcibly removed, so she attempts to coerce the information from him by offering him the one thing that he has never able to have even with his emotion chip, actual feelings. She is grafting actual skin to his android body and allowing him to feel actual tactile sensations. She also attempts to seduce him by triggering his emotions.
At the same time, Picard has intercepted the woman beamed on board and is traveling with her. The woman, named Lily, is hesitant at first, but she slowly begins to trust Picard as the two of them enter the holodeck to lure two Borg drones to follow them. Picard kills the drones by turning off the safety protocols in the program and finds a neural device that gives the Borg their orders. Lily notes that the drone is one of his crew. Picard does not seem to care as they make their way back to the bridge.
Picard and Worf determine that the Borg are using the main deflector dish on deck 11 to create a beacon to contact the Borg in the Delta Quadrant. With most of the systems down, including the transporters, the only way to stop them is to release the clamps holding the dish and destroy it. The only way to reach the dish is for them to leave the ship and reach it from the outside.
After releasing the clamps, Worf destroys the dish. With her plans changed, the Borg Queen decides to try another tactic. Picard’s crew and Lily urge him to activate the self destruct to stop the Borg, but Picard refuses. After explaining to Lily why he hates the Borg so much, she reminds him that he is acting like Captain Ahab hunting Moby Dick. When Picard realizes that she is right, he activates the self destruct and instructs all remaining crew to abandon ship. They enter the life boats and depart. Picard decides to stay and tells Lily that he is staying so that he can attempt to rescue Data because Data and his crew risked everything to save him when he was assimilated.
Picard is allowed to enter Engineering and confronts the Queen. He realizes that the reason she made him Locutus and not another drone was because she wanted an equal. She was looking for an equal in Locutus and he rejected her. He agrees to willingly turn himself over to the Borg, knowing that the ship is on a 15 minute silent countdown to self-destruction. She tells Picard that she has found someone new and that Data will be her new companion. He willingly joins her, shuts down the self destruct and arms the torpedoes.
Cochran, Riker and Geordi launch the Phoenix and see the Enterprise in the distance. They think that the ship is there to see them off, but they are being targeted. As the Phoenix prepares to make the jump to warp, Data launches a spread of torpedoes at it. As the Queen, Picard and Data watch the torpedoes get closer to target, the Borg Queen relishes the end of their future. When the torpedoes pass by the ship harmlessly, the Queen realizes that Data has betrayed her. Data ruptures the plasma coolant tanks, flooding the room with a gas that dissolves organic material. Picard escapes as the Queen attempts to recapture him. Data pulls her down into the gas, dissolving away her flesh, thus killing all of the drones on the ship when their neural connection to the Queen fails.
The Phoenix makes the jump to warp speed and then makes its return to Earth. With the launch successful, the Enterprise hides itself as the alien ship lands on Earth and Cochran and Lily, with the Enterprise crew watching, are greeted by the Vulcans.
From a Trek fan standpoint, Star Trek: First Contact has been the gold standard for Star Trek films and I can’t deny how fun this film is to watch. It is currently streaming on Netflix and I highly recommend it for anyone who is a Trek fan or just wants to see the best film from the Next Generation cast.