We revisit the Star Trek The Next Generation crew’s best big-screen adventure, Star Trek: First Contact, pitting them against the Borg Queen!
When Star Trek Generations came out in 1994, it did a lot better than anyone expected. It did almost as well as Star trek VI: The Undiscovered Country at the box office, leading many to think that the Next generation crew was ready for a long run in the big screen. Paramount’s main goal in making Star trek movies up to this point was to keep budgets as low and as simple as possible. The series had never done well internationally, so it was not worth spending an A-budget on them. But, that thinking changed, for a while anyway, when Paramount went ahead and greenlit the most ambitious Star Trek movie since The Motion Picture: Star Trek First Contact.
None of the enemies the Next Generation crew faced on the Enterprise D were more feared – or iconic than the Borg. A hive collective of cyborgs that consisted of assimilated humans, they became a favourite from their first appearance in the episode Q-Who. They were frightening, but they also looked fantastic. Thanks to Robocop and The Terminator, cyborgs were hot at the moment, and The Borg instantly struck a chord with fans.
One could say that The Borg defined Star trek The Next Generation as many admit that the third-season finale/fourth-season premiere, The Best of Both Worlds was when The Next Generation really came into its own. In this landmark two part episode, Captain Picard was kidnapped by the Borg and assimilated, becoming Locutus. Picard is rescued by the Enterprise crew, and the Borg equipment is removed from him. However, he remains mentally scarred for the rest the show, making him more vulnerable than any hero the franchise has seen to that point. Picard was not only traumatized by his time with the Borg but also knew that he, as Locutus played a part in the Battle of Wolf 359 in which 11,000 people died, including Benjamin Sisko’s wife, the protagonist of Star Trek spin-off Deep Space Nine.
Despite being popular, The Borg were not often featured on The Next Generation for both budgetary reasons and to keep them frightening. The Borg were brought back with a feature film budget, and the backstory of The Best of Both Worlds was essential to the most action-packed Star trek movie of the past.
The Star trek Generations creative team, including Rick Berman, Brannon Braga, and Ronald D. Moore were all retained for Star trek First Contact but they knew they would be writing a bigger film. Paramount also wanted to include time travel, so they chose to tell the story “First Contact” where Zefram created the first warp ship and led to the first contact between humanity and extra-terrestrials, in this case, the Vulcans. Tom Hanks, a major Star Trek fan, almost played Cochrane, only for James Cromwell, who had just broken out in the film Babe, to win the role.
Paramount gave the filmmakers a $45 million budget, $10 million more than Generations cost. Patrick Stewart, who was not impressed by John McTiernan or Ridley Scott, was approached to be the director of the film. Jonathan Frakes – Riker himself – was hired as he had proven himself as a director on all three current Star Trek series, including The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager.Looking at the movie now, what’s remarkable about First Contact
is how different it was tonally from what the other films had done. Jonathan Frakes gave the franchise a much-needed testosterone boost, with the film feeling distinctly inspired by James Cameron’s Aliens. It’s a more action-packed film than usual. The franchise even received its first PG-13 rating. This edge was intended to attract non-Star Trek lovers. I remember hearing my bullies say “Yeah Star Trek is sucks but that First Contact film is kind of cool.” They also toughened up Patrick Stewart’s Picard. William Shatner’s performance as William Shatner, the erudite, brainy hero of Star trek Generations, was undoubtedly the best. Picard even gets to use a Tommy Gun at one point. Picard gets to use a Tommy Gun in one scene. Cromwell steals the scenes as the drunken, self-loathing Cochrane. But it’s Alice Krisge who everyone remembers for being one of the best star trek villains. It’s hard to not think of her Borg Queen as sexy, despite the slimy HR Giger look. She becomes Data’s quasi-love, and he briefly looks like he has been seduced by The Borg. Jerry Goldsmith’s soundtrack is a great addition to the action-packed feel, and he returns to the franchise after Star trek V
. His hard-driving music makes this feel much more cinematic than
Generations, which is helped by the fact that the crew has completely redesigned outfits now that they’re stationed abroad, the more battle-ready Enterprise E. The movie hit theatres at the perfect time, synching up with the franchise’s thirtieth anniversary. It was the biggest hit of the series since Star trek The Voyage Home with $92 million in domestic sales and $146 million in international sales. It was a high point for the franchise. None of the
Next Generation films did as well. It was a short success, but it was still a success. For many, this is the definitive entry in the Star trek Canon.