Brad’s Favorite Elements of Star Trek: First Contact

| February 26, 2013

For some reason, I watched A LOT of Star Trek lately and A LOT of “First Contact” today. First the film, then the film with commentary, then the film with another commentary, the featurettes… and so forth. I should know everything about this film by now. But because my memory is getting worse with age, I won’t. But for right now, I’m as immersed in “First Contact” as I was in 1996 when the film premiered and it informed all my creative choices throughout high school. The entire aesthetic of the film saturated my short stories and artwork. And now I’m going to explain why “Star Trek: First Contact” is so badass (as if you didn’t already know):

The Enterprise-E

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The Enterprise-D was destroyed in “Generations” so they had to introduce a new Enterprise for this movie and they delivered my favorite starship design yet! The E is sleek and aggressively styled, rebuilt from the ground up. It has an integrated saucer section and body to reduce the chances of it getting separated by enemy fire and has the classically longer warp nacelles to balance out the design. You can also see the escape pods built into various sections and the captain’s yacht embedded under the hull. The interior has been upgraded as well. The bridge has more compact displays and control panels and richer lighting. The D was designed as a science vessel because the mission at the time was cataloging planets and lifeforms, but because of the growing threat of the Borg, the Federation needed a new flagship bred for war. So they christened the E and it’s dazzled the silver screen ever since.

Foreshadowing

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In one of the first few scenes, Riker sarcastically presents Picard with his Neutral Zone sensor-sweep data of which Picard also scoffs at because they both agree they’re resources are better utilized fighting the Borg who’ve now attacked Earth. The Federation has ordered the Enterprise away because they believe Picard’s history (he was assimilated) with the Borg “would introduce an unstable element to a critical situation.” Like Riker, I’d initially disagree, citing Picard’s experience with the Borg would make him the perfect man to lead the assault. But as we discover through the course of the movie, Picard’s experience does negatively impact his handling of the situation, ultimately becoming obsessed with revenge. This is something I’ve only recently come to appreciate and greatly enriches the story.

Almost a Zombie Movie

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Let’s face it. The Borg are basically robot zombies. Being assimilated is like being bitten by a walker. The Borg never seem to run faster than a stagger and their skin looks like it’s decaying. Most of them don’t speak. Also cool: they even assimilate the Enterprise.

Jerry and Joel Goldsmith’s Score

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In the eight feature film, the father and son team crafted a variation of the Star Trek fanfare that evokes nobility and an adventurous spirit and use it to great effect in the opening titles and emotionally resonant scene of First Contact. Meanwhile, the metallic and industrial score for the encounters with the Borg provide an ominous quality to those scenes.

Geordi’s Ocular Implants

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It’s the 24th century so this just makes sense. While Georgi’s visor was a visual aesthetic that made his character stand-out, with all the other advanced technology we saw in the Next-Gen universe it didn’t make sense that Geordi couldn’t have cool ocular implants. A bigger budget and CGI certainly helped make that possible and LeVar Burton could finally act through his eyes even though he’d done great so far without them. It was a big “duh, why didn’t they do that sooner?” moment when I first saw the film.

Literary Reference

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Like another great “Trek” film, this one makes a reference to “Moby Dick” in order to scrutinize a character’s quest for revenge. Picard gets obsessed with punishing the Borg instead of defeating them. It takes a “primitive” 21st century character to expose the perilous path Picard is treading when she references “Moby Dick” (despite admittedly never reading it). This scene will always make you stop and pay attention. Riveting.

Expanding the TV Series

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I think “Star Trek” movies have been at their best when they take something from the television series and expand upon it in a film. “Khan” is rooted in a “TOS” episode called “Space Seed”. “First Contact” builds upon “The Best of Both Worlds” by adding the Borg Sphere, a Borg Queen, and making her minions more than guys in black spandex and rubber tubes. Zefram Cochrane originated from a “TOS” episode as well, and his legend as been perpetuated throughout the different series’ ever since. The Dixon Hill holodeck sequence goes back to Next-Gen episodes. There is even a plot point designed to draw Borg from the Delta quadrant in the 21st century to Earth. Luckily for us, that plan fails. Spoiler!

Reluctant Legend

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Does it ever seem like you grow up idolizing certain people, only to find out they were just regular, flawed people? That’s the fun twist of Zefram Cochrane, the inventor of warp drive and the first man to shake hands with a Vulcan. In the 24th century, the Next-Gen crew knew of Cochrane as a visionary, a historical legend that that ushered in a new era for humanity. There’s a giant statue of him in Montana and Geordi’s high school is named after him. But thanks to the Borg, we discover that Cochrane was actually a profiteer, a boozer, and a skirt-chaser. He built the warp engines with dollar signs in his eyes. “First Contact” eventually turned him around, but it’s interesting to see how history can be written the way we want to perceive it.

Zero-G Combat

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When the Borg attempt to convert the Enterprise’s deflector dish into a beacon to contact Borg reinforcements in the Delta quadrant, Picard enlists Worf and Hawk to walk outside the hull of the ship in order to stop them. It’s clever way to show something we don’t usually see in these films.

The Doctor

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I think it was an inspired idea to include the EMH program from “Voyager” in the film, because presumably, the new Enterprise would have the same technology. What makes this even better is that Crusher uses him for a different purpose, so he gets to homage Dr. McCoy with the line “I’m a doctor, not a doorstop.”

There’s plenty more to love about “Star Trek: First Contact” (Drunk Deanna, “little-ship”, Barclay appearance, “astronauts on some kind of Star Trek”, Worf uses a Borg arm to patch-up his spacesuit, seductive villainess) but these were some of the bigger reasons why this movie succeeds at being so damn entertaining.

About the Author:

His earliest memory of nerdiness is discovering the Star Trek motion pictures when his parents (presumably) accidentally rented the first one on laser disc. He attended his first convention at the age of 12 and has been to many Star Trek conventions since, as well as SDCC, NYCC, and E3 twice. He’s also an avid TMNT fan who has each of the first four issues of the original comic book signed by Eastman AND Laird. Brad also favors Batman and loves Nintendo so much he still plays his Virtual Boy from time-to-time. When he’s not immersed in nerd media, he’s out competing at bar trivia or working on several creative projects like podcasting, producing short films, publishing books, and drawing cartoons.

His favorite film of all-time is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie and with over 600 DVD’s and blu-rays in his collection, Brad is surely a Reel Nerd.

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2 Comments on "Brad’s Favorite Elements of Star Trek: First Contact"

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  1. Keithage says:

    Well put. I recently watched the all the TNG movies again, and this one is by far my favorite. You hit the nail on the head with the reasons for its awesomeness.

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