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Paramount Studios presents
Star Trek: First Contact (Special Collector's Edition) (1996)

"We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile."
- The Borg

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: March 14, 2005

Stars: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Martina Sirtis, Alfre Woodard, James Cromwell
Other Stars: Alice Krige, Michael Horton, Neal McDonough, Marnie McPhail, Robert Picardo, Dwight Schultz
Director: Jonathan Frakes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sci-fi adventure violence
Run Time: 01h:46m:00s
Release Date: March 15, 2005
UPC: 097360688740
Genre: sci-fi


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-A-A A

DVD Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation aired for seven seasons and generated an extremely large crowd of devoted fans. Immediately following its conclusion, work began on Star Trek: Generations—an ambitious feature that aimed to connect the beloved original series cast with a new group of television stars untested at the movie box office. William Shatner (Kirk) returned in a prominent role and joined star Patrick Stewart (Picard) for a match-up that could not fail. Walter Koeing (Chekov) and James Doohan (Scotty) also briefly reprised their roles. Surprisingly, the result was a mediocre effort that offered an interesting premise, but lacked the scope of its predecessors. Shatner's Captain Kirk was not given a fitting send-off, and Malcolm McDowell's villainous Soran left something to be desired. The film performed competently at the box office, almost certainly aided by Shatner, but questions remained about the future. Could the new cast maintain the franchise's success on their own?

Star Trek: First Contact opened with extremely high expectations due to its inclusion of the Federation's most notorious enemy, the Borg. Long-time Star Trek writers Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore returned to craft an ingenious storyline involving time travel and mankind's first contact with an alien race. In order to save Earth from Borg assimilation, Captain Picard and his crew must return to 2063 and ensure that the first warp-speed flight occurs. They encounter renowned scientist Zefram Cochrane (James Cromwell) as he prepares for this big journey, but convincing him to take it might not be so easy. Cochrane initially appeared in the Original Series episode, Metamorphosis, but this guy is much different than the earlier conception. Tequila, silly dancing, and the ladies seem more important than spaceflight, which adds some comic elements to an intense tale.

For uninitiated viewers, the Borg are nasty villains who emerged during the early years of the Next Generation television series. During the third season's finale, The Best of Both Worlds, Picard was abducted by the Borg and assimilated into their collective. Although he did survive, the experience still haunts his nightmares. In this story, our heroes follow the Borg back in time and apparently destroy them, but indications arise that the enemy has boarded the Enterprise. Picard leads his crew in an apparently hopeless battle to retain control of their ship. As the Borg always say, resistance is futile. Meanwhile, Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Troi (Martina Sirtis), and LaForge (LeVar Burton) join Cochrane on Earth and attempt to retain the future timeline.

This action-packed film is easily the most accessible recent Star Trek release, but this fact does not diminish its considerable success. The Borg's deliberate, precise form of attack seems nastier than the typical series villain, and the fight is even more difficult as Starfleet members become Borg. One particular scene outside the Enterprise crackles with tension and reveals the extreme difficulty of the entire situation. The brisk 110-minute running time also assists matters and avoids unnecessary filler material. Writers Braga and Moore do inject a few inside jokes typical of the film series, but they remain focused on the primary Borg conflict. Jonathan Frakes had directed numerous television episodes previously, but this was his first feature film. He utilizes a tight style that retains the energy of the early battles and carries the script through its slower moments.

With the exception of Patrick Stewart, the Next Generation regular cast usually do not receive accolades for their acting ability, but everyone performs effectively in this picture. The actors know their characters so well by now that they appear effortless. Stewart gets to flex his muscles a bit and be an action hero, and he also nicely underplays the revenge motivations until a decisive moment. Brent Spiner once again plays a major role as Lt. Data and brings energy to each scene, even while being his usual annoying self. Several prominent guest stars also make an impact, especially James Cromwell (Babe, L.A. Confidential) as the everyman Cochran. Alfre Woodard does a solid job as Cochrane's pal Lily who stands up well to Picard. One misstep involves Alice Krige as Borg Queen, whose motivations for acting sexy don't really make sense. If the Borg truly function as one mind, her odd individuality would seem unexplainable.

Star Trek: First Contact received substantial acclaim from critics and drew larger audiences than its predecessor due to its less-convoluted story. It proved that the new cast could carry the feature film franchise into the next century, and the future looked bright for the Star Trek universe. Unfortunately, its follow-up was Star Trek: Insurrection, which drew a lukewarm box-office response and felt similar to a television episode with a larger budget. Even though Star Trek: Nemesis offered a slight improvement, the momentum earned by this film had disappeared. Its well-constructed story and striking effects stand up well today and might represent the last truly memorable Star Trek film in existence.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Star Trek: First Contact represents a significant improvement over its predecessor in terms of visual effects, and this transfer presents them in effective fashion. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer improves considerably over the previous release and offers a bright, clear transfer. The outer-space images are impressive and the Enterprise looks especially remarkable. Very few defects appear during the presentation, which helps to generate an enjoyable viewing.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Another improvement with this release is the inclusion of the stunning DTS track, which perfectly utilizes the entire sound field to create a powerful listening experience. The opening space battle immerses you within the center of the fray, and this intimate feeling also occurs during the closer encounters with the Borg. This feature also includes a strong 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfer that should not disappoint even the more-discerning viewers. It lacks the DTS track's complexity, but it still makes consistent use of the rear speakers. This disc also provides a solid 2.0-channel Dolby Surround transfer.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 31 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Borg Invasion
1 TV Spots/Teasers
6 Documentaries
9 Featurette(s)
3 Feature/Episode commentaries by Director/actor Jonathan Frakes; Writers Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore; Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda (Text Commentary)
Packaging: Double alpha
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
  2. Storyboards
Extras Review: Paramount has filled this two-disc special collector's edition with extra features covering nearly every segment of the production. I have organized the following descriptions by disc and section:

Disc One
This disc includes the original feature and three feature-length commentaries. Two are the typical audio discussions, and the third is a text-based track. The information pops up in subtitle fashion and may be comined with one of the audio commentaries.

Commentary by Director/Actor Jonathan Frankes
Jonathan Frakes exerts tremendous enthusiasm for the film, and he makes a worthy effort to provide interesting details. However, his comments are a bit bland and include some quiet spaces. Frakes also spends a bit too much time with the basic plot stuff, even while speaking in silly fashion.

Commentary by Writers Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore
This track is much better than Frakes' commentary and offers loads of detail concerning the story's creation. Many of these details are repeated within the extras on Disc 2, but they still provide some great information.

Text Commentary by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda
The editors of The Star Trek Encyclopedia give numerous details concerning the film and its place within the Star Trek universe in this text track. I'm a big fan of this type of track, as it allows you to listen to the film while learning about its background.

Disc Two
The majority of the extras appear on this disc and include a tremendous amount of information. Certain pieces veer a bit into the fluff arena, but there is still plenty to like about these features. They are divided into four sections—Production, Scene Deconstruction, The Star Trek Universe, and The Borg Collective:

"Production"

Making First Contact
This 20-minute documentary is mostly fluff and dull praise, but it includes at least a few worthwhile moments. Jonathan Frakes discusses his chance to become a first-time feature director when the big-time guys passed. Interviews from the original set with guest actors like Alice Krige and Alfre Woodard also are mildly interesting. The lengthy statements about the fun on the set grow old very quickly.

The Art of First Contact
Illustrator John Eaves guides us through this excellent 16-minute piece that covers the design of the film's major settings. We learn in-depth details about the new Enterprise, the missile silo, and the Vulcan ship.

The Story
Writers Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore explain the script's development in this informative 15-minute documentary. Bragga provides most of the comments and describes this film as the best he's ever done. He also discusses the choices for the Borg and time travel and relates some of the modifications made during their writing process.

The Missile Silo
This 14-minute featurette describes the unique chance for the crew to film the hangar for the Phoenix in an actual Titan missile silo. They also discuss the difficult stunt performed by Brent Spiner when Data leaps down a long way. The actor has a mild fear of heights, which made the stunt even tougher.

The Deflector Dish
One of the film's most impressive scenes occurs on top of the Enterprise with Picard, Worf, and Hawk attempting to stop the Borg from contact their brethren. This deflector dish was filmed in a gigantic set that could barely fit its broad expanse. This 10-minute feature offers interesting behind-the-scenes footage of shooting this tense sequence.

From "A" to "E"
This brief six-minute featurette briefly includes summary comments from some of the film's major players. They all speak excitedly and consider the picture their finest Star Trek release. We also receive a quick look at the new sets, especially engineering, which was enhanced from the television series.

"Scene Deconstruction"

The Borg Queen Assembly
Visual Effects Art Director Alex Jaeger starts this section by describing the initial ideas for the Borg Queen while a slide show of drawings appears on the screen. Visual Effects Supervisor John Knoll takes over in the middle and explains the computer elements while behind-the-scenes footage plays. This 11-minute featurette is a bit long for this single issue, but it does offer an extensive look at the creation process. The completed scene plays at the conclusion of the footage.

Escape Pod Launch
This five-minute feature presents artwork of the stunning escape pod scene, with commentary by Jaeger. We also observe the initial animation created on his MAC computer.

Borg Queen's Demise
John Knoll quickly depicts the combination of Alice Krige and the computer animation necessary to showcase the queen's demise. Nearly half of this three-minute feature is the completed scene, so the description is pretty minimal.

"The Star Trek Universe"

Jerry Goldsmith: A Tribute
This loving 20-minute tribute to composer Jerry Goldsmith includes clips from some of his most memorable scores, including Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek: First Contact. That picture allowed him to work with his son Joel Goldsmith, which made the father very proud. His film credits also include Alien, L.A. Confidential, and Basic Instinct. This feature looks specifically at his contributions to Star Trek and includes interviews with Goldsmith about his work on the series. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2004 at the age of 75.

The Legacy of Zefram Cochrane
I was intrigued to learn the background of this character and his initial appearance on the original series, but that information takes a back seat to interviews with James Cromwell. It's only a slight setback, however, as the actor is an enjoyable and well-spoken guy during this 12-minute feature. Braga also appears to discuss how they took liberties with the more stoic original character played by Glenn Corbett.

First Contact: The Possibilities
This interesting 20-minute feature provides details concerning the current search for extraterrestrials in our galaxy. The participants are not crazy UFO-hunters, but instead use scientific methods to perform their explorations. The recent surge in Internet technologies has allowed them to communicate with enthusiasts around the world in much-easier fashion.

"The Borg Collective"

Unimatrix One
The Borg first appeared in the Next Generation episode Q Who? and continued to wreak havoc throughout several different series. This 14-minute featurette discusses their origins and varying appearances. The actors and creators speak alongside television clips that showcase the Borg's different looks and evolution.

The Queen
This eight-minute interview with actor Alice Krige provides her perspective on playing the sinister villain. Her comments are provided next to shots from the film and behind-the-scenes images.

Design Matrix
The Borg design has changed considerably since their first appearance on The Next Generation, which gave them very simple costumes. This 18-minute documentary depicts the evolution of the Borg design and the tactics utilized to craft their outfits and vehicles.

"Archives"
This section includes a nice collection of storyboards and a photo gallery. The storyboards cover the Nightclub holodeck scene, the Hull battle, and alternate shots of the Hull battle and Worf versus the Borg. The photo gallery includes approximately 50 color photos of mostly behind-the-scenes production moments.

Trailers
This section includes the original teaser and theatrical previews for Star Trek: First Contact. Both trailers appear in the 1.85:1 widescreen format and utilize 2.0-channel Dolby surround audio. The third inclusion is a full-frame preview for Borg Invasion 4D, which is the currect attraction at Star Trek: The Experience in the Las Vegas Hilton.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

This special collector's edition of Star Trek: First Contact offers impressive transfers and a full load of extras that should please its many fans. Star Trek has stumbled in recent years, and this action-packed thriller stands as the series' last great feature film. Avoiding most of the typical conventions, the all-out battle with the villainous Borg offers plenty of memorable scenes and deserves a strong recommendation.

 


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