As has been documented, I do not care much for anything Star Trek related. For the record, a Star Destroyer from the Star Wars universe would annihilate any ship in Star Trek. Nerd side rant over. The only reason I deal with anything from the other science fiction giant, for lack of another term, is because I have friends that like it. My best friend of all time is particularly fond of the series and movies. As such, back when Star Trek: First Contact was about to debut in 1996, I let him sweep me up in his excitement. Finally, they were going to be bringing the Borg to the silver screen! Hooray! If that statement means nothing to you, keep reading. Actually, you should continue on regardless because that would be nice of you. Hopefully, I can be equally as charitable with the rest of this review.
Like my friend (and decidedly not me), fans of the series will know that Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) of the USS Enterprise was once absorbed into the collective known as the Borg. This race of alien cyborgs with a hive mind are threatening once again in Star Trek: First Contact, and Captain Picard awakens from a nightmare about them. Because Starfleet Command knows of his previous connection to these dangerous aliens, they order the Enterprise to stay out of the coming battle. Neither himself or his crew are happy about this decision given their experience dealing with the difficult to destroy the floating cubes the Borg use to travel through the stars. As such, Captain Picard makes the decision to warp to the battle zone anyway, and arrive in time to save their old crewmate Commander Word (Michael Dorn) and the survivors of his command, the USS Defiant. As this last sentence might suggest, things are not going well for Starfleet before the Enterprise gets to the scene. Captain Picard informs the rest of the ships what to do, and they begin the process of destroying the cube. Before its final destruction, a smaller, sphere-like vessel is launched. It then creates a vortex through which it disappears. Immediately, the sensors see that Earth’s population has become Borg, which indicates that the Borg had time traveled. This makes Captain Picard’s decision for him, and he orders the Enterprise to chase. When they complete their journey, they find they have gone back to the year 2063. This is significant because, as the title would suggest, this is the year that humanity first makes contact with people from other planets. Fearing that the Borg are trying to prevent this event, Captain Picard leads a team to the surface to meet with Zefram Cochrane (James Cromwell). He is the inventor of the vessel capable of warp speed that will be responsible for the upcoming momentous occasion. He is assisted by Lily Sloane (Alfre Woodard), who is temporarily wounded when she finds strangers snooping around the Phoenix, the name Cochrane gave his ship. The newcomers are also somewhat surprised to find that this person they grew up idolizing as a historical hero is not quite the man they had been told. At any rate, Captain Picard leaves his first officer, Commander William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes) behind on the ground to guard the Phoenix and Cochrane. Meanwhile, he takes Lily back to the Enterprise to tend to her wounds. His timing, of course, is impeccable as he returns to find that surviving Borg have infiltrated his ship and are in the process of absorbing his crew. He immediately puts into motion a plan to take it back, but his android science officer, Data (Brent Spiner), ends up being captured in their failed attempt to retake the Enterprise. His next move is to try and prevent the Borg from using the ship’s communication gear in order to call into space and bring other Borg to this time and place from across the galaxy. This part is successful for Captain Picard. As this takes place, the Borg Queen (Alice Krige) begins to try and woo Data to her side, promising him the ability to feel things more like humans do. She appears to have him in her power. Things do not appear to be going Captain Picard’s way, and Commander Worf suggests that they blow up the Enterprise to ensure that the Borg are stopped. Captain Picard is reluctant, to say the least, to do so, but it is Lily that talks some sense into the emotionally compromised leader. While the self-destruct sequence is activated, Captain Picard is not willing to leave without Data. To save the android, Captain Picard offers to exchange himself, but the is refused and Data stops the ship from blowing up. As this is taking place, Commander Riker and the Enterprise’s engineering officer Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) take to space with Cochrane aboard the Phoenix. This is the moment the queen has been waiting for, and she has Data fire the torpedoes meant to prevent first contact. When they veer off course at the last moment, she realizes she has been betrayed. Data then breaks open a coolant tank, which manages to kill all the Borg on the ship, including the queen. This also allows for the Phoenix to fulfill its destiny, so to speak, which attracts a Vulcan ship to Earth. I guess the rest is history, as they say. Anyway, with the future saved and farewells made, the Enterprise travels forward to its own time.
I do not know how the Enterprise is able to so easily time travel at the end of Star Trek: First contact, but I suppose it is a moot point. What interests this Catholic reviewer more is the Data subplot. It is not all that new of a concept, apparently, for Data to want to experience life in a more human manner. There is an emotions chip that he sometimes utilizes, and in today’s film he has human flesh grafted onto his face in order to simulate the sensation of having real skin instead of the synthetic variety. The Borg queen also offers Data a place by her side in ruling their species. Hence, you have a lot of obvious temptations for the character. Resisting temptation is something that, of course, is discussed a lot in Christianity. We must deal with it on a daily basis as the enemy is always hungry for souls. There is a spiritual battle that goes on whether we acknowledge it or not between God and the devil as to where we will ultimately end up for eternity. It is telling that in the film we see this struggle take place with what is essentially a machine. Somebody like Data can be programmed to make the right decision every time. For us, it is a little more difficult, and satan knows our natures better than we do. With this knowledge, he can tempt us with things that we might associate as being good, like being more human, when in the long run they can lead to our destruction.
I will allow that Star Trek: First Contact is mediocre. That is the best I can say about most of these movies, though I did mostly enjoy Star Trek (2009). Still, it is one of those things that, if you are a fan of the series, you are going to watch no matter what I have to say.