To celebrate the release of Star Trek Into Darkness, the Flickering Myth writing team look back at the classic sci-fi franchise. Next up for Star Trek Month is Ozzy Armstrong looking at Star Trek: First Contact…
“So you people are astronauts on some kind of star trek?”
Star Trek: First Contact is the story of the Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his crew as the battle against one of their most feared enemies, the Borg. The crew must travel back in time to the mid-21st century to stop the Borg from destroying the Phoenix, Earth’s first warp-speed vessel, and changing the course of human history. The film is set roughly six years after the highly rated double episode Best of Both Worlds in which Captain Picard was abducted by the Borg and assimilated into their collective, the emotional scars of which are very evident throughout this film.
As the credits begin, you feel certain level of geeky jubilation when the iconic music starts up and you are transported into the universe of show creator Gene Roddenberry. However, unlike the show, a different tone is set early on in this movie with subtle nods to films like Alien, as well as references to David Cronenberg’s famous ‘body horror’ style.
When we’re first introduced to our Captain, a horror movie quality is felt as Picard awakens from a nightmare about his previous meetings with the Borg, which resulted in his assimilation. We see, ( for one of the first times in memory), visible fear on our captain’s face. From this beginning, it doesn’t take long for the story to be set for the film as we’re thrust into the action with Starfleet taking on the Borg.
The film references the classic tale of Moby Dick as we find out about Picard’s history with the Borg and this is further developed throughout. We see our Captain struggling with his anger towards his own white whale, the Borg, culminating in him losing control in several situations. One of these is a scene where we get to see Picard exact his revenge without mercy on a crew member who has been assimilated. The lack of empathy shown is in stark contrast to our captain’s normally calm and assured demeanour and really shows his internal struggle as he tries to deal with this ultimate menace. This is also shown in an exceptional scene between the captain and his officer Worf: our captain directly challenges Worf’s honour, a move which further exposes his personal vendetta against the Borg.
While the battle for humanity rages on the Enterprise, a small contingent of our crew are on Earth trying to keep the timeline unaffected by carrying out the warp drive test flight, and this is where one of the main issues with First Contact begins to appear. Due to the cuts between Earth and the Enterprise, the tone of the film shifts far too dramatically. One minute we’re running scared, the next we’re sharing a laugh in a bar followed swiftly by another fight against the Borg. The jumps in tone can make it hard to really be a part of the story and betrays the film’s TV roots.
There are also a couple of other ‘TV’ moments in this film and they usually come from some sloppy dialogue. While many make you smile, there are several very noticeable moments that can make you shudder, one in particular being when we see one of our heroes dispatching a Borg drone while uttering the line “assimilate this”.
For many fans, the ending could also be a disappointment as it doesn’t live up to the preceding action and will leave you feeling as though there should have be something greater to cap off this mostly excellent tale.
In spite of any niggles, the story does race along and you can’t help but be drawn in thanks to some standout performances, most notably from the almost always excellent Patrick Stewart.
Many Trek fans will also delight at the numerous nods and references scattered throughout this film. Whether it’s the sight of the USS Reliant or a certain holographic doctor, there is something for every casual fan to get excited about.
The film is also surprisingly sexual in parts, especially in the interactions between the Borg queen and Data which is quite unexpected in a Star Trek outing. These scenes are intriguing to watch as it shows an almost emotional side to the Borg, as well as the manipulative nature we’ve all come to expect.
A special mention should also go the VFX team as this film greatly surpasses the previous outings with its usage of CGI and prosthetics.
Despite minor issues with the way the tone jumps around, this is a very good film and could be one of the best Star Trek films ever made. I would say that if you’re not necessarily a huge ‘Trekkie’ like me, you will still enjoy this movie as it blends the best elements of the show with a truly cinematic experience. And if you are someone who doesn’t really like Star Trek, as the Borg would say: “resistance is futile”.