Star Trek: First Contact holds the distinction of the being the best, by a wide margin, of the “Next Generation” era of Star Trek movies. Not coincidentally, it is the only one of the four that doesn’t feel like a television episode that had been blown up for the big screen and needlessly stretched to two hours.
Like the best of the movies with the original cast, Wrath of Khan, First Contact mines the TV series for its main villian. In this case, we are dealing with the Borg, a semi-robotic race that thinks as one and ruthlessly incorporates other planets into their “collective.” Our hero, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) was once “assimilated” by the Borg and when the Borg attack Earth again, Starfleet Command wants him nowhere near the action.
When the battle goes badly, however, Picard disobeys orders and charges in to the rescue. His “inside” info helps him destroy the enemy ship but the Borg also have a card up their sleeve. A smaller ship goes back in time to stop humans from developing the warp drive that powers Picard’s Enterprise and thus make them ripe for the picking. The Enterprise is pulled back in time with the Borg and her crew has no choice but to try to repair the damage and make sure that the warp drive is invented on schedule.
Two things complicate this mission. For one, the inventor of the warp drive, Zephram Cochrane (James Cromwell) only wants to get drunk and forget his creation and, oh yes, the Borg have started to assimilate the Enterprise.
What drives the story most, however, is Picard’s obsession with defeating the Borg. Their last encounter left Picard feeling violated and now he wants revenge, even if he can’t seem to admit to himself that he has such violent intent. His Ahab-like fury is the heart and soul of this movie and Stewart’s performance works admirably. First Contact probably whetted his appetite to actually play Ahab on the small screen two years later. Is it just a coincidence that two of the best Star Trek films, this and Wrath of Khan, explicitly reference Moby Dick?
Some fans of the show may complain the other characters get shorted when it comes to screen time but a movie like this needs the focus that Picard’s obsession brings to it and the caliber of performance of which Stewart is capable.