Directed by Jonathan Frakes. USA. 1996.

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Leaving the cinema after Star Trek: First Contact, I found myself actually considering that the film was one of the best of 1996, certainly one of the most enjoyable. ‘But this is a Star Trek film,‘ you might be thinking, ‘normal people aren't supposed to enjoy it, only saddos who hide communicators in their underpants, and fall asleep to the guttural sounds of Conversational Klingon.’

Well perhaps it's time to reconsider; First Contact is the best science fiction romp to shake our screens in many a moon and is unquestionably the best thing the franchise has yet beamed our way. The plot is hastily set up in the film's first few minutes and involves a Borg threat to an Earth just a few years into our future; Picard and the Enterprise crew, who once got intimate with the Borg in the TV series, set off back to the future to kick some PVC butt and save what's left of our sorry, civil-war ridden planet.

The film's title refers to Earth's first encounter with an alien race (guess who they are), though this sub-plot is thankfully kept firmly secondary to the Borg-blasting fun. Though a loose grounding in Next Generation mythology might well ease your initial digestion,  this is primarily an action film and what with all the laser battles and roasting Borg flesh there's very little room for space opera or the usual embarrassing cod-philosophy. 

The villainous Borg, are a cyborganic hive race, neither human nor machine, who float through space in huge grey cubes, neither planet nor spacecraft, on their mission to assimilate all traditional life and dress it in some rather fetching techno-fetish gear. Most of their time appears to be spent plugged into recharging booths of some kind, where presumably they get to watch all the TV channels of the other life-forms they have assimilated; otherwise they emotionlessly carry out whatever tasks are required of them. Personally I didn't see what the problem was, but I guess that's why our heroes are on the Starship Enterprise and I'm not.

First Contact is surprisingly dark in places, and this is where it gets most interesting. At the heart of the Borg is their queen, a lascivious terminatrix who seems to have taken on the combined libidos of all her drones. She kidnaps Data, the Pinocchio-like android of the Enterprise crew who fantasises about being human, and threatens to fulfil his desires in return for his loyalty. Here the film delves into some fairly heavy cyber-sexuality as Data is given the ability to feel the pleasures of the flesh that the Borg are busily striving to eradicate, and the two `droids enjoy a brief but passionate robot SM relationship that should make you think twice next time you hook two computers together.

Naturally the Borg are short-circuited, but not before several gripping set-pieces have been played out, the best involving some great anti-gravity antics on the ship's hull. First Contact is a genuine treat - fast, dark and occasionally even intelligent - it's a shame so many will be put off by the stigma of Star Trek. But now you  know better. Engage.

Mark Pilkington

Also see Boldly Going On and On by Nigel Watson.

See the book  review of Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek.
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