November 24, 1996 -- The newest Star Trek movie, the eighth in a series of Trek films, is one of the best so far in what seems to be a never-ending science fiction saga.
First of all, a disclaimer. I am a major Star Trek fan. I've been watching the show since it first aired over 30 years ago. I've seen all of the films and all of the TV shows of all of the various Star Trek spinoff series (except for the animated ones).
"Star Trek: First Contact" stacks up well against the best of the eight films and is much better than the last Star Trek film, "Star Trek: Generations." It is also the first film in the series featuring none of the original television series cast. It literally has gone on to the next generation.
The worst films in the series are the first and fifth films in the series. The best are the fourth, eighth, sixth, third, second and seventh films in the series, in that order. Of course, I'd have to watch them all again to be sure, but that's my recollection. I know a lot of people like the second film, the one where Spock dies, the best. Too bad.
This latest Star Trek film seems to have everything, drama, action, comedy, suspense. It is a very complicated story, as most time-travel stories tend to be. First-time movie director Jonathan Frakes (who also plays first officer Wil Riker) does an excellent job holding the tale together as it weaves through the space-time continuum and holodeck realities.
Frakes' only previous directing experience was to direct some television series episodes. Previously, Leonard Nimoy successfully made the quantum leap from Star Trek actor to successful director (Three Men and a Baby, Star Trek IV).
The film also benefits from some fine acing by Patrick Stewart (captain Jean-Luc Picard), Brent Spiner (Commander Data), Alfre Woodard (Lily Sloane), James Cromwell, II (Zefram Cochrane). They managed to get almost all the usual characters in the film except Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg). She was probably too busy playing the wife of Medgar Evers (Myrlie Evers-Williams) in "Ghosts of Mississippi" to be in this one. They even managed to get a Voyager character in the film, the Doctor (Robert Picardo).
If I am losing you at this point, it means you are not a Star Trek fan. If you don't follow Star Trek, particularly the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" TV series, you will have a difficult time following this movie because it is complex and it uses so many conventions from the series. This is not a big gamble for the studio, however, because there are literally millions of Star Trek fans.
The story concerns an attack on earth by the evil alien race the Borg. The Enterprise follows a Borg vessel into a techno-babble time field. The rest of the film is spent in a drawn-out battle between the good guys and the Borg in earth's past to prevent the Borg from changing history, namely the first contact with alien species (and I don't mean in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947).
In some ways, this is the darkest of the Star Trek films. It is all-out warfare with all of its hatred and vengeance. That darkness is leavened, however, by patches of comedy. It is a very deft mixture.
The film also benefits from great special effects, fine cinematography by Matthew F. Leonetti and seamless film editing by John W. Wheeler. If they keep making Star Trek movies as good as this one, they'll still be making them when it turns into science fact. It rates an A.
Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.