I know that many Star Trek fans praise the Next Generation as being the definitive Trek creation but I was also a fan of the original series and the original crew. Sure some of the movies were a bit dodgy but Wrath of Khan still stands as one of the best of the Trek series of films. Following a brilliant final effort from Kirk's crew in Undiscovered Country, Generations saw a convoluted meeting of the groups from the two series involving time travel and the shameful demise of Kirk. It was not a great way to bridge the gap and introduce the Next Generation crew as being the new movie stars. However First Contact, the eighth in the movie series, marks a solid return to form and a strong contender for one of the best out of all of them.
The movie kicks off with the Starship Enterprise being alerted to the fact that the Earth is under attack from the Borg, their long-running adversaries from the TV series. The Borg are a superbly realised reoccurring villain race, easily outclassing the Klingons, their sole intention to assimilate all life-forms into their one united cybernetic existence. Picard, the Captain of the Enterprise, has encountered the Borg on more than one occasion - and was once converted into one of them - so although he is desperate to help Earth, he is also more than a little wary of what happened before. After destroying the main Borg vessel, a ship is fired off through a handy time portal - its destination is Earth, but in the past, with the intention of preventing 'First Contact' between humans and aliens. This would eventually result in the assimilation of mankind into the Borg consciousness. Naturally Picard takes the Enterprise straight through the portal after it and has to split his team between handling the Borg - who attack the ship - and helping their ancestors on Earth to get their space act together.
First Contact is such a superior Trek film not just because of the choice of such a great enemy - which in turn enables Picard to spend the movie tormented by the decisions he has to make - but also thanks to its multiple story-lines. The time travel gimmick is put to good use as it enables some light-hearted interaction between different generations on the planet whilst the main action takes place on the Enterprise. Of course you also get the talents of veteran Patrick Stewart as Picard, on particularly good form given the threat he is facing from his arch-enemies and regulars Jonathan Frakes as Riker, Brent Spiner as Data, Michael Dorn as Worf (who returns to the Enterprise after a stint on Deep Space Nine) and Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi. As for new characters played by familiar faces, the helmsman is played by Neal McDonough - from the excellent TV series Boomtown and films like Walking Tall, Minority Report and Ravenous and The Borg Queen is played by Alice Krige, from Sharpe and, more recently, Reign of Fire. We also get the powerful James Cromwell, who has played the president in two Jack Ryan movies - Clear and Present Danger and The Sum of All Fears - and was simply superb in L.A. Confidential, as the man who initiates First Contact. We also get Alfre Woodard - from The Core and The Forgotten - playing a new character caught aboard the Enterprise whose naivety enables the filmmakers to explain to unfamiliar audiences what is going on. All in all, it is without a doubt one of the best of the Trek movie series and even if you are not a big Star Trek fan, there is a lot of fun to be had in this enjoyable Sci-Fi adventure.
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