Star Trek: First Contact fought for the future of the franchise 25 years ago
Worf: “I never doubted the result. We were like warriors from ancient sagas. There was nothing we couldn’t do.
O’Brien: “Except the holodecks are working fine. “
– Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Path of the Warrior
Many elements come together to make Star Trek which it is, which is not so much a multimedia good as a cultural phenomenon with its own uniforms and its own jargon. (I’m not just talking jargon: there is a Klingon-language parody of the Gangnam style.) Trek, or at least I don’t think that’s why fans kept it for 55 years.
Creator Gene Roddenberry never hid the fact Star Trek was meant to be an ambitious show about a future where humanity had transcended its petty quarrels. Having Sulu and Uhura on deck alongside Kirk and Chekhov, having the human crew alongside the half-alien Spock, was meant to send the implicit message that putting our bullshit aside is our rightful fate.
Roddenberry was involved in the early seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation before his death in 1991, and while it is easy to see where his grip began to loosen on the property, TNG never lost sight of Trek‘s or Roddenberry’s main mission, which was to assert that a better world comes from unity and letting go of our worst impulses. In seven seasons of television, I can hardly name an episode where Patrick Stewart’s Captain Jean Luc Picard wins precisely because he has more photon torpedoes than the other guy.
Time and time again he and his crew, whom I still consider to be the best Trek cast of any show – reaffirm that the reason they can overcome anything is because they represent the best of the Federation – that is, the best of Roddenberry’s bright future. Even the characters themselves have thought about it over the past few years: two Company-D alumni, Worf (Michael Dorn) and Chef O’Brien, sharing a quiet moment together in an episode of Deep Space New, speak of their days aboard Picard’s ship as the culmination of their lives.
I don’t know how many admirers within the fan community this can alienate, but I felt the same about TNG like a show. It is, in my opinion, the apotheosis of Star Trek. Every show that has happened since has either knocked him down or taken great steps to shake up the formula of a capable, steel captain and a crew of 5.0 scientists on GPA rockets.
Star Trek: First Contact was not the first film starring the TNG the crew – this honor belongs to those less than well received Star Trek: Generations, who killed Captain Kirk and destroyed the Company-D. First contact brings Picard and his crew back on a new Business and finally manages to give fans of the series the solo release they deserved.
Dough named this our # 2 best Star Trek movie. I would have respectfully made it # 1 for two simple reasons: It was by far the most successful attempt to make any of the TV shows a feature film, and 25 years later I feel like that she pleads for Roddenberry’s future more desperately than already.
Jonathan Frakes, who plays Commander William Riker and who directed First contact, once called the Borg “our most interesting enemy”. It’s true. As Picard explains at length in numerous episodes in which he tries to convince some wary alien to take sides, the Federation is not just about unity, but respect for individual autonomy. It’s a theme revisited over and over again in the series and the starting point for some of its biggest episodes. The Borg are in direct and violent opposition to this. They assimilate other worlds and cultures by injecting you with nanites that make you a zombie robot. It is clear that there is nothing resembling a Gestalt consciousness here, or presumably at some point the Borg would collectively decide to stop killing everyone. You just become a brainless drone, dedicated to turning others into brainless drones.
To sum up for the audience unfamiliar with the series and remind everyone who is, the film opens with a macabre dream sequence in which Picard relives his assimilation. Writer Ronald D. Moore was also partly responsible for writing the two-part film “Best of Both Worlds,” which served as the cliffhanger ending for Season 3 and the highly anticipated debut of Season 4 of TNG, in which Picard was assimilated by the Borg and then fought to regain his humanity. Between Moore and Frakes – a decent full-fledged director who also knows (and respects) the material and the cast –First contact comes straight out the door with a powerful statement about what’s at stake, then handles the trick of introducing a twist that sets the stakes even higher.
Picard is sidelined after learning that the Borg are directly attempting to attack Earth. He follows orders for about two minutes, twisting to the rescue to find Starfleet in disarray. Using his own weird connection with them, Picard manages to detonate their ship, but not before an escape pod opens a portal to the past. After chasing them, Picard discovers that they were trying to change history by disrupting what is, by Star Trek lore, the most important event in human history: the “first contact” with an alien species that brings humanity into the Federation.
The crew split up: Riker, Geordi (LeVar Burton), Troi (Marina Sirtis) and a few others Business the crew on Earth’s surface trying to get drunk and messy historical figure Zefram Cochrane (James Cromwell) sober long enough to repair his damaged ship and perform the warp flight that will draw the story’s attention, while Picard and the rest of the crew fight. completely combating a Borg incursion that soon sees the ship transform into a nest of killer cyborgs. Meanwhile, the android Commander Data (Brent Spiner) is seduced by Queen Borg (Alice Krige), tempted by an offer of transcendence.
The movie would be nice if it was just the crew who were buddies, decent effects, and Stewart playing on camera. He handles all of these things by pulling a line under everything Star Trek is really In regards to. What is at stake, it is quickly clear, it is all the future Star Trek promises, one in which we do not desperately crawl across the face of the Earth at war with each other for scarcity or ideology, one in which two cultures meeting do not inevitably end in exploitation or subjugation for one of them.
The film plays this on more than one level. On the planet, Geordi repairs the Cochrane Warp ship because the future has a free universal university. On the Business, Picard sinks into a brutal retribution. Even though he assures present-day woman Lily (Alfre Woodard) that people of the future have a “more evolved sensibility,” he pokes fun at Worf like a coward, spending his crew like money and mercilessly slaughtering ‘former crew members who have been assimilated. In short, he surrenders to the warlike ways he has spent his life rejecting.
It’s only when he gets away with it and trusts an old friend that he wins. It turns out that Data only considered joining the Borg for 0.68 seconds. (“For an android,” he says, “it’s almost an eternity.”)
Things are bad now, everywhere. It is difficult to look to the future and see hope. There is a growing sense that our aspirations for a more peaceful and wiser way of life were brutally uprooted because of the hatred, greed and self-interest with which none of us are individually concerned. ‘OK. First contact was at least in part about the franchise defending itself at a time when the original cast of the ’60s series had largely made its final appearances. It reads completely differently now.
The crew wins the day and takes a front row seat in history as the first alien ship to ever visit Earth lands. Geordi, Troi and Riker are so happy to be there. Before parting ways, Lily and Picard tell each other that they envy the days ahead: returning to a super awesome future and building that super awesome future.
I want what they have.
Kenneth Lowe has to go hunt his whale. You can follow it on Twitter and read more on his blog.