When a new Star Trek comes out, there is always excitement in the
air. Star Trek has fans like no other series. Trekkies have almost a
religious devotion to the series. I still remember the first time I
met a master level Trekkie. I was at a party where a TV was playing,
and she was reciting not some, but all the lines before the characters
spoke them. I stared in awe at her. This review is not for her or her
likes. This review of STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT is aimed at the rest of
us. She will undoubtedly recognize and appreciate nuances in the
picture that mere mortals will miss.
First, an admission. I have seen some of the films in the Star
Trek series but not all. Some I've liked, and some I haven't. I do
not remember any that were bad nor any outstanding. As a non-devotee,
I find the films good solid entertainment, but nothing more. This is
not meant as a put-down. As a critic, it is a relief not to have every
film try to force your emotional systems into a complete meltdown.
Being able to kick back and just enjoy an old fashion adventure is a
welcome respite for my nervous system.
"I am a computer cyborg. Resistance is futile," says Captain
Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) remembering the time six years ago
when the Borgs assimilated him. He is healthy now, but the earth
The Borgs have gone back in time to the year 2063 so they can stop
earth's first contact with an alien spacecraft. If they can do that,
they will populate the earth with nothing but Borgs. The film is about
the Captain and his crew aboard the newly commissioned U. S. S.
Enterprise-E as they follow the Borgs back in time so they can stop
them. This plot device lets much of the movie be filmed in a pine
The Borgs start taking over the Enterprise, and try torture on
those they capture. "I am unlike any life forms you have ever
encountered before," tells Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) to the
Borg Queen (Alice Krige). He asserts that he can not be broken. She
resorts to that age old temptation -- sex. While he is strapped down,
she blows over the new skin on his arm and purrs at him, "Was that good
for you?" The script by Rick Berman, Brannon Braga, and Ronald Moore
never takes itself too seriously. The show is peppered with little
bits of humor.
The twenty-first century earth hero of the story is the original
inventor of the warp drive, Zefram Cochrane (James Cromwell from BABE).
Costume designers Robert Blackman and Deborah Everton chose the outfit
of a geriatric hippie for him. Cromwell has great fun playing the part
of a reluctant legend who would rather drink whiskey than do anything
else. His goal is to get rich and find a desert island full of naked
women, but his destiny is to have high schools named after him instead.
When Alfre Woodard (HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN QUILT), playing
Cochrane's sidekick Lily Sloane, is taken up in the Enterprise, she has
a rude awakening. As she looks wide-eyed back down to earth, the
Captain explains to her, "You are not in Montana anymore." This is one
of many homages to older movies.
When Lily and Picard become trapped by the Borgs, they turn a room
into a 1930's dancehall so that they can get an old fashioned Tommy gun
to mow down the Borgs. The show is full of logical flaws like this.
Why didn't he just dream up the gun? Why the whole room full of
dancing strangers? Logic, of course, is not the point, and the scene
is a colorful diversion.
Woodard gets to say some of the cornier lines including, "It's my
first ray gun," and "watch your caboose." Her performance, however, is
too removed. She never gets in sync with the rhythm of a science
fiction film. Brent Spiner as Data is the most fun to watch. Quite a
complement to Stewart's brooding as the Captain. Lily makes fun of
this with, "Captain Ahab has to have his whale." At times, the show
takes itself seriously as when Picard barks out about the Borg battle,
"The line has to be drawn here. This far and no farther."
Having recently watched sci-fi films from 50's classics to STAR
WARS to INDEPENDENCE DAY, I found the special effects by Terry Frazee
in STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT closer to the hokey 50s' material. Watch
especially the cheap model they used in the scene where they look up at
the Enterprise from a telescope on earth. I once read that the reason
the studio likes the STAR TREK series is that since they are relatively
inexpensive to film, they are always quite profitable. STAR TREK films
have a basic appeal, and fancy effects would probably just detract
STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT is directed by Jonathan Frakes who plays
number one, known more formally as Commander William Riker. Like an
old orchestra, the cast seems to run on auto-pilot so I still have
little opinion on his directorial skills.
The final question becomes: Is there enough here for non-Trekkies,
and I think the answer is yes. A completely forgettable, but pleasant
enough time at the your local Bijou. A good popcorn movie.
STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT runs about 1:50. I missed getting the
press kit at the screening, but that is about what my watch said. The
film is rated PG-13 for cartoonish violence and a few profanities.
There is no sex or nudity. The film would be fine for kids, but my
guess is that they would need to be 8 or 9 to understand it. I give
the picture a thumbs up and rate it ** 1/2.
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes