Star Trek: First Contact is a 1996 American science fiction film directed by Jonathan Frakes (in his motion picture directorial debut) and based on the franchise Star Trek.
It is the eighth film in the Star Trek film series, as well as the second to star the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
In the film, the crew of the USS Enterprise-E travel back in time from the 24th century to the mid 21st-century in order to stop the cybernetic Borg from conquering Earth by changing their past.
In the 24th century, Captain Jean Luc Picard awakens from a nightmare in which he relived his assimilation by the cybernetic Borg six years earlier.
He is contacted by Admiral Hayes, who informs him of a new Borg threat against Earth. Picard’s orders are for his ship, USS Enterprise, to patrol the Neutral Zone in case of Romulan aggression; Starfleet is worried that Picard is too emotionally involved with the Borg to join the fight.
Learning the fleet is losing the battle, the Enterprise crew disobeys orders and heads for Earth, where a single Borg Cube ship holds its own against a group of Starfleet vessels.
Enterprise arrives in time to assist the crew of USS Defiant and its captain, the Klingon Worf. After Admiral Hayes is killed, Picard takes control of the fleet and directs the surviving ships to concentrate their firepower on a seemingly unimportant point on the Borg ship.
The Cube is destroyed after launching a smaller sphere ship towards the planet. Enterprise pursues the sphere into a temporal vortex. As the sphere disappears, Enterprise discovers Earth has been altered – it is now populated entirely by Borg.
Realising the Borg have used time travel to change the past, Enterprise follows the sphere through the vortex.
Enterprise arrives hundreds of years in its past on 04 April 2063, the day before humanity’s first encounter with alien life after Zefram Cochrane’s historic warp drive flight; the crew realises the Borg are trying to prevent first contact.
After destroying the Borg sphere, an away team transports down to Cochrane’s ship, Phoenix, in Montana. Picard has Cochrane’s assistant Lily Sloane sent back to Enterprise for medical attention. The captain returns to the ship and leaves Commander William T. Riker on Earth to make sure Phoenix’s flight proceeds as planned.
While in the future Cochrane is seen as a hero, the real man is reluctant to assume the role the Enterprise crew describe.
A group of Borg invade Enterprise’s lower decks and begin to assimilate its crew and modify the ship. Picard and a team attempt to reach engineering to disable the Borg with a corrosive gas, but are forced back; the android Data is captured in the melee.
A frightened Sloane corners Picard with a weapon, but he gains her trust. The two escape the Borg-infested area of the ship by creating a diversion in the holodeck. Picard, Worf, and the ship’s navigator, Lieutenant Hawk, travel outside the ship in space suits to stop the Borg from calling reinforcements by using the deflector dish.
As the Borg continue to assimilate more decks, Worf suggests destroying the ship, but Picard angrily calls him a coward. Sloane confronts the captain and makes him realise he is acting irrationally. Picard orders an activation of the ship’s self-destruct, then orders the crew to head for the escape pods while he stays behind to rescue Data.
As Cochrane, Riker, and engineer Geordi La Forge prepare to activate the warp drive on Phoenix, Picard discovers that the Borg Queen has grafted human skin onto Data, giving him the sensation of touch he has long desired so that she can obtain the android’s encryption codes to the Enterprise computer.
Although Picard offers himself to the Borg in exchange for Data’s freedom, Data refuses to leave. He deactivates the self-destruct and fires torpedoes at Phoenix. At the last moment the torpedoes miss, and the Queen realises Data betrayed her.
The android ruptures a coolant tank, and the corrosive vapour eats away the biological components of the Borg. With the Borg threat neutralised, Cochrane completes his warp flight.
The next day the crew watches from a distance as an alien Vulcan ship, attracted by the Phoenix warp test, lands on Earth. Cochrane and Sloane greet the aliens.
Having ensured the correction of the timeline, the Enterprise crew slip away and return to the 24th century.
Star Trek Films
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Star Trek TV Series, Films, and Documentaries
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- After the release of Star Trek Generations in 1994, Paramount Pictures tasked writers Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore with developing the next film in the series.
- Braga and Moore wanted to feature the Borg in the plot, while producer Rick Berman wanted a story involving time travel.
- The writers combined the two ideas; they initially set the film during the European Renaissance, but changed the time period that the Borg corrupted to the mid-21st century, after fearing the Renaissance idea would be “too kitsch”.
- After two better-known directors turned down the job, cast member Jonathan Frakes was chosen to direct to make sure the task fell to someone who understood Star Trek.
- The film’s script required the creation of new starship designs, including a new USS Enterprise.
- Production designer Herman Zimmerman and illustrator John Eaves collaborated to make a sleeker ship than its predecessor.
- Principal photography began with weeks of location shooting in Arizona and California, before production moved to new sets for the ship-based scenes.
- The Borg were redesigned to appear as though they were converted into machine beings from the inside-out; the new makeup sessions took four times as long as their appearances on the television series.
- Effects company Industrial Light & Magic rushed to complete the film’s special effects in less than five months.
- Traditional optical effects techniques were supplemented with computer-generated imagery. Jerry Goldsmith and his son Joel Goldsmith collaborated to produce the film’s score.
- Star Trek: First Contact was released on 22 November 1996, and was the highest-grossing film on its opening weekend.
- It eventually made $92 million in the United States and Canada with an additional $54 million in other territories, combining a worldwide total of $146 million.
- Critical reception was mostly positive; critics including Roger Ebert considered it to be one of the best Star Trek films, and it was the most positively reviewed film in the franchise (93% of reviews were positive) until being marginally surpassed (94%) by the 2009 reboot film.
- The Borg and the special effects were lauded, while characterisation was less evenly received.
- Scholarly analysis of the film has focused on Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s parallels to Herman Melville’s Ahab and the nature of the Borg.
- First Contact was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Makeup and won three Saturn Awards.
You can read interesting trivia and background details about the Star Trek franchise here.
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Jonathan Frakes.
- Producer(s): Rick Berman, Marty Hornstein, and Peter Lauritson.
- Writer(s) (Screenplay): Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga.
- Writer(s) (Story): Rick Berman, Ronald D. Moore, and Brannon Braga.
- Music: Jerry Goldsmith and Joel Goldsmith.
- Cinematography: Matthew F. Leonetti.
- Editor(s): Anastasia Emmons and John W. Wheeler.
- Distributor(s): Paramount Pictures.
- Release Date: 2 November 1996.
- Running Time: 111 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.