What I Learned from Star Trek Movies #8: First Contact

The first Star Trek movie completely featuring the  Next Generation  cast, Star Trek: First Contact is probably my favorite Star Trek movie, with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan being either tied for first, or a close second. It has a strong combination of action and character, with an easy villain to root against. The Borg delivered a consistently strong response among fans – an enemy that was relentless, couldn’t be reasoned with, and took over everything in its path. From their first appearance in the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation (Q Who?), to the gripping two-part cliff-hanger (Best of Both Worlds), they captured the attention of fans and newbies alike.

Resistance is Futile

Directed by Jonathan Frakes, the movies starts off with a dream-within a dream sequence of Picard reliving his Borg experience.  He anticipates that the Borg have re-awakened, and are moving on Earth. When he contacts Star Fleet, they dispatch the Enterprise far away from the action, to keep from compromising Picard, who, was at one point assimilated by the Borg collective. When the Federation is overwhelmed by the Borg, the Enterprise defies orders (another theme of the series) to render assistance….just in time to save Earth…along with Worf, who is in command of his own small attack ship.

The Borg ship is destroyed….but not before sending a small ship back in time to assimilate Earth…..in the past. The Enterprise crew realizes their only hope is to go back in time and stop the Borg before they can alter history. After successfully following the Borg into the past, the crew beams down to quietly make sure that history unfolds as it should, with Zefram Cochrane launching his warp ship to make First Contact with the Vulcans.

Things are going reasonably well….until Cochrane’s camp comes under attack by the Borg, damaging his ship. Cochrane’s assistant, Lily, is injured andbeamed aboard the Enterprise. Aboard the Enterprise, however, it appears that something has changed…and it’s not good. The Borg have invaded the ship and are taking over, deck by deck. Lily is evacuated with the medical team…but sneaks off, confronting Picard with a phaser…..who eventually talks her down – because they have a bigger problem.

The Borg are expanding their reach into the ship, taking over both space…and crew members. The Enterprise has a few tools available to fight…but those quickly become outmoded as the Borg adapt. While they’re getting close to Engineering, Data is taken hostage by the Borg, and Picard has to retreat back to the bridge.  As their numbers dwindle against the Borg, Picard and Lily make some progress using the holodeck….and Lily gets to see Picard’s anger at the Borg first-hand.

The scene cuts back to Data, who has been captured by the Borg…and it turns out the the Borg is not just a faceless collective, but a highly organized society, with a queen ruling over the collective, much like an ant or bee colony. Played expertly by Alice Krige, she taunts Data with the one thing he has wanted all along….to become fully human.

When the crew is overwhelmed, and there seems no hope left….Picard retreats to his ready room to try yet another method of fighting the Borg…because no one else can understand them like he can. In one of the best moments in the movie franchise, Lily tells Picard….”Captain Ahab has to hunt his whale.” Picard replies that ‘We’ve made too many compromises already…..the line must be drawn HERE! This far, no further!” ….but his next line implies that its more than defending Earth on his mind. This is just as much about revenge.

When Picard realizes that he is on the same path of self-destruction as Captain Ahab, he relents and orders the evacuation of the Enterprise….but when he says goodbye to Lily, she realizes that he’s not leaving. Picard stays behind to rescue Data. He makes his way to the Queen, and offers himself as a sacrifice to save Data. The queen considers the offer, but rebuffs Picard, telling him that she already has a partner….Data, who stands ready to destroy the First Contact ship.

While Picard is restrained, the Queen orders Data to fire on the ship, which he does – Picard sees his mission failing right in front of him……when at the last second, the shots MISS the ship, and Data responds….”Resistance is futile!”  Picard and Data take the chance to attack, and flood the reactor room with coolant, which destroys all living tissue….which kill all the Borg, and leaves Data missing a few non-android patches.

Beauty is in the eye of the collective.

As the story winds down, the crew has re-established history, and returns to the 24th century…and all is right with the Federation once again. The following two films, Insurrection, and Nemesis were interesting, but to me, felt like extended length TV episodes, with not nearly enough engagement for the audience….so I’m going to wrap up this series with what I think is the important lesson:

What I learned from watching Star Trek: First Contact is…

 

The line must be drawn HERE! This far, no further!

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