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  Star Trek: First Contact Time Warp Speed
Year: 1996
Director: Jonathan Frakes
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Alfre Woodard, James Cromwell, Alice Krige, Michael Horton, Neal McDonough, Marnie MacPhail, Robert Picardo, Dwight Schultz, Ethan Phillips
Genre: Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 3 votes)
Review: Captain Jean-luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is having that dream again, the one inspired by the occasion he was captured by a deadly enemy of the Federation: the Borg. They are cyborgs whose only aim is to assimilate as many lifeforms as they encounter, and have proven a formidable foe, but Picard's dream heralds something he realises has occured across the galaxy even without being told by his superiors: the Borg are headed to Earth. He believes he is in a unique position as a Starfleet captain to have survived an encounter with the advancing enemy and therefore capable of beating them but the powers that be do not agree, and his ship the Enterprise is ordered to stay out of it...

Fat chance of that, as if anyone could have considered leaving the Enterprise crew out of a Borg attack on Earth. If this is sounding a little overinvolved to those who have not had the pleasure of the Star Trek universe, then it wasn't all space jargon and characters with funny made up names, as First Contact operated perfectly fairly as an action adventure, and was rightly thought of as the best of the movies to feature the cast of television's Next Generation. But the fans were patently held in mind judging by the amount of references to the source for them to pick up on, and of course the crew of the Enterprise were very much the heroes who saved the day, precisely what the aficionados would have wanted.

It is the nature of heroism that concerns writers Rick Berman, Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore, all three of them stalwarts of the series. What the Borg plan to do is go back in time and assimilate the Earth of the twenty-first century as it was still reeling from the effects of the Third World War, therefore preventing the Federation from ever coming into being as they would not have achieved, well, first contact with races from other planets. The date they opt to return to is significant because it is the day that one scientist, Zephram Cochrane (James Cromwell) succeeds in achieving warp speed in his spacecraft, significantly a missile redeveloped for more pioneering ends.

So the Enterprise follows the Borg through the centuries and manage to destroy their sphere before too much damage can be done, although the bad guys do manage to fire off a few shots that might have sabotaged the mission, necessitating the good guys to venture down to the surface and check everything is tickety-boo. What they don't realise until it's too late is that the Borg have invaded their ship, and are taking over, so the cast are split into two as one lot are on the ground persuading Cochrane to go through with his experiments, and the other lot remain onboard to combat the cyborgs. Star Trek movies have always prided themselves on the ensemble style, but here more than ever the stars feel like they're doing their schtick in isolation from each other, with each getting a chance in the limelight.

However, it is Stewart who shines the brightest here as the conscious allusions to Captain Ahab from Moby Dick are put into play. The Borg are Picard's great white whale, and he is contrasted with the reluctant heroics of Cochrane in that the scientist is not keen on becoming part of history, while Picard embraces his place to the extent that his judgement becomes impaired. He gets to recognise this as a refugee from the surface, Lily (Alfre Woodard taking care of the PG-13 swearing), points out to him that his obsession with conquering that most inhuman of antagonists is rendering him less human himself, an analogy that would be more effective if it were not for what was happening to the android Data (Brent Spiner) elsewhere on the Borg-dominated section. He meets the Queen (Alice Krige) who starts to transform him into a human, which seems like one theme too far, but overall this is compact enough to survive narrative bumps in the road, and is as successful in its action as it is in its suspense, even if you do accept that the Borg were never going to win. The Federation are thus renamed the McEnroes. Music by Jerry Goldsmith.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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