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Star Trek: First Contact (SE)
DVD disk
Mar 23, 2005 By: The Shootin Surgeon
Star Trek: First Contact (SE) order
Director:
Jonathan Frakes

Actors:
Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as Commander William Riker
Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
The crew from Star Trek: The Next Generation faces their biggest challenge yet as the dreaded Borg finally make their way to Earth and travel to its past in order to assimilate mankind and prevent the Federation from ever forming. Tagging along in the Borg time warp, the Enterprise finds itself in the middle of the 21st century, invaded by a hive of Borg with its crew’s fate hanging by a tread.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
As far as Star Trek films go, this one ranks right up there among the best of them with an exciting blend of action, humor and sci-fi, a real credit to Jonathan Frakes in his first foray behind the camera of a major motion picture. The flick kicks off on a very ominous note with a refresher of Picard’s televised assimilation by the Borg during the series and goes on as one of the darkest, creepiest Star Treks to date. The theme of time-travel, well explored already in STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME has some new life breathed into it and Picard finally gets a chance to use his muscle instead of his mind. The techno-babble was also pared down and replaced with some ass-kicking which means that all in all, FIRST CONTACT was a great film for moderate trekkies and an even better introduction for those riding along on the Enterprise for the very first time.

The one major addition in terms of character was that of the Borg Queen, played to perfection by Alice Krige, a shift from the previous philosophy of the leaderless Borg acting as one collective consciousness. A roundabout way was used to ensure continuity but the end result, a super-sexy (and horny too!) bad-ass alien dominatrix with a short fuse was well worth it. The major focus was kept on Captain Picard with Riker leading the way in a subplot involving man’s first contact with alien life (initiated, as per Star Trek lore by Zefram Cochran, played here by James Cromwell). Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton), Data and Worf (Michael Dorn) were effective as support but some other characters such as Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) and Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) were barely used (quite mercifully in Sirtis’ case).

FIRST CONTACT is a first rate story with some great dialogue, featuring the best out of each of its beloved characters and allowing returning fans to bask in the return of their franchise (I’m ignoring STAR TREK: NEMESIS from 2002!). The only real con I found was with the side plot in which characters seemed to have no choice but to violate the Federation’s prime directive and interfere with the past. It just seemed silly that after breaking it reluctantly, they eventually just waived it off and started getting really involved in everything. I guess it was the only way to get some screen time for Sirtis’ knockers. Not going to hold that against Frakes though, who did a bang-up job on this one!
THE EXTRAS
DISC 1:

Audio Commentary by Director and Actor Jonathan Frakes: Frakes has always come off to be as the good-natured goofball on the cast but he speaks like a very intelligent man who knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s also very lively and delivers a very entertaining and upbeat commentary track chock-full of information regarding the film and where he chose to take the franchise.

Audio Commentary by Screenplay Writers Brannon Braga and Ronald Moore: Writer commentaries are part of that realm I usually dread to enter but this was far more entertaining than most screenplay writer tracks which tend to drag on sometimes. These two dudes deliver at a solid pace more fit to screen than paper and pack in a lot of information about where and how this film all fits into the Star trek universe. One thing I did pick up from this though that I also got the feeling about in some of the other features is that it was seemingly a huge pain in the ass to work on STAR TREK: GENERATIONS a few years prior… Bill Shatner anyone?

Text Commentary by Michael and Denis Okuda: These two Star Treksperts are becoming a staple on the DVDs and they do more than there fair share of work contributing solid text tracks with lots of pertinent info and very little fluff. A must-see for the trekkies and you can play it at the same time as the audio commentaries to fill in some of the lulls.

DISC 2:

FIRST CONTACT: PRODUCTION

Making First Contact (20 mins): All the lead actors chip in with their comments on the film, its shoot and its director. There’s nothing really out of the ordinary but at least everybody seems passionate about what they do which is nice. There’s also a section about special effects, storyline and the likes.

The Art of First Contact (15 mins): Illustrator John Eaves walks us through the design phase for the ships in First Contact with an obvious focus on the massive redesign of the Enterprise. Lots of nice concept art to check out and to relate to other Trek ships.

The Story (15 mins): The screenwriters take some time to discuss the story and its elements such as the choice of the Borg as bad guys, time travel as a plot etc. Quite standard but interesting nonetheless.

The Missile Silo (15 mins): An important set in the film is that of the missile silo housing the ship Phoenix. An actual Cold War era silo was used which makes for a few interesting stories to be heard in this feature.

The Deflector Dish (10 mins): A pretty interesting rundown of the making of an immense set that plays a part during a spacewalk by the crew on the belly of the Enterprise. Pretty impressive if only in scale!

From “A” to “E” (5 mins): I had imagined by the title that this would create a link between all the different versions of the Enterprise but rather it’s a quick summary of the production with most of the time featuring set designer Herman Zimmerman.

SCENE DECONSTRUCTION: Three effects-laden scenes are decomposed in order to show the techniques used to make them and the progression in blending actors and effects. The scenes are:

Borg Queen Assembly (11 mins): In which the Borg Queen is put together from a few parts.

Escape Pod Launch (4 mins): In which we see the Enterprise’s escape pods used for the very first time.

Borg Queen’s Demise (2 mins): In which the movie is spoiled for you if you read the back of the box or any other features list such as this one before watching the film for the first time.

THE STAR TREK UNIVERSE

Jerry Goldsmith: A Tribute (20 mins): A touching tribute by Jonathan Frakes, Rick Berman and other filmmakers and composers for the late Jerry Goldsmith who composed some of the greatest film music ever including the resounding Star Trek anthems.

The Legacy of Zefram Cochrane (12 mins): James Cromwell is interviewed about and discusses his character Zefram Cochrane who according to Star Trek legend, invented the first warp engine and initiated first contact with an alien species.

First Contact: The Possibilities (20 mins): A group of scientists and astronomy enthusiasts discuss the research and possibilities of ever making contact with an alien species. There are plenty of nice theories but like one of them says in the feature, we’re still nowhere near a shred of evidence of life outside our planet.

THE BORG COLLECTIVE Unimatrix One (15 mins): For those uninitiated to what or whom the Borg is, this featurette provides a good intro into one of Star Trek’s now legendary species.

The Queen (9 mins): With Alice Krige discussing her character, you’ll get some nice insight on what it took to bring this very eerie and disturbing character to life. This chilling bad guy (or bad girl?) is a blast to watch even in extra features!

Design Matrix (20 mins): A relatively detailed explanation and observation of the Borg costumes, sets, ships and everything else Borg. The only thing one who escapes scrutiny is Swedish tennis legend Bjorn Borg!

ARCHIVES: Included is a set of Storyboards for selected scenes from the film as well as alternate scenes and a Photo Gallery with your favorite stars.

TRAILERS: You’ll find the Teaser Trailer, Theatrical Trailer and a Borg invasion Trailer for a Las Vegas attraction.

EASTER EGG: I usually suck at finding these but if you go to the “Production” heading on the extra features disc and click right, you’ll find a list of titles that were thought of for the movie before they eventually ended up with First Contact. You’ll probably agree with me after seeing this, First Contact will seem like the best choice.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
One of the best Trek movies since STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME, STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT comes packaged in an awesome DVD well worth its price. Trekkies will undoubtedly run blind for this one but even those who are unfamiliar with the series will enjoy what is also a great standalone flick. Grab this off the shelves and have a blast!
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