slices off

Star Trek: First Contact

Star Trek: First Contact is a 1996 science fiction film and the eighth feature film based in the Star Trek fictional universe. In the film, the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation encounter their adversaries the Borg, who attempt to conquer the Earth through the use of time travel. The crew of the USS Enterprise-E attempts to restore their history, intent on saving their present and future.

First Contact is the first feature film directed by Jonathan Frakes. The rest of the television show's cast return and are joined by James Cromwell, Alfre Woodard and Alice Krige. This is the first Star Trek film without any of the original Star Trek cast.

Long serving Star Trek writers Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore wrote the screenplay, coming up with the story together with producer Rick Berman. The trio combined their ideas of a film involving time travel and the Borg and spent much time discussing where to set the film, eventually deciding on a period after the fictitious Third World War. Paramount gave the film a larger budget than any previous Star Trek film, which enabled the use of more visual effects. Critical reaction was mostly positive, and Michael Westmore was nominated for the Academy Award for Makeup.


The story begins in the year 2373, with an attack on the United Federation of Planets by a half cybernetic, half organic species called the Borg. Starfleet, the Federation's defense force, prepares to defend Earth from a Borg Cube spaceship. However, the Federation starship USS Enterprise-E is kept out of the battle because of Captain Jean-Luc Picard's past traumatic experience with the Borg.

As the tide of battle turns against the Federation forces, Picard returns to Earth to take command of the remaining ships and rescue survivors, including his former officer Worf. The Federation fleet destroys the Cube, but a smaller Sphere spaceship escapes into a time vortex. Suddenly, the appearance of the Earth dramatically changes and the Enterprise crew discover that the Borg have conquered the Earth in the past, changing the course of history and preventing the Federation from ever existing. The Enterprise follows the Sphere through the time vortex and arrives in the year 2063 just as the Borg ship attacks a run-down human settlement. The Enterprise destroys the Sphere, but a number of Borg drones and the Borg Queen transport undetected to the Enterprise.

Picard realizes that the Borg were attempting to destroy the Phoenix - Earth's first spaceship with warp drive propulsion - and leads a team to the planet below. Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge and an engineering team begin repairs on the damaged Phoenix while Commanders William Riker and Deanna Troi attempt to convince the designer and pilot Dr. Zefram Cochrane to proceed with the test flight of his spaceship. They explain that testing the warp drive will lead to first contact with the advanced Vulcan species, an event which will bring prosperity to an Earth devastated by a Third World War. Cochrane is overwhelmed by his role in "history-to-come" and reluctant to fulfill it.

Picard and Dr. Beverly Crusher return to the Enterprise with Cochrane's assistant Lily Sloane, who is suffering radiation poisoning from the attack. Meanwhile, the Borg begin to assimilate the equipment and crew members on the Enterprise, taking over the engineering section and moving upward through the ship. Picard leads an assault against the Borg, but the offensive falters and the android Lt. Commander Data is captured.

Retreating, Picard meets a bewildered Lily and explains the situation. They then lure a group of drones into the holodeck (a holographic simulation room) where Picard starts a simulation of a speakeasy. He turns off the usual safety measures so that he can use a holographic Tommy gun to kill the pursuing Borg. A computer chip taken from within a drone reveals details of the Borg plan.

The crew discover that the Borg are building a communications antenna, on the Enterprise's navigational deflector, to call for assistance from the Borg of 2063. Picard, Worf, and Lt. Sean Hawk inspect the hull of the ship wearing space suits and magnetic boots. They attempt to detach the antenna from the ship but the Borg attack and assimilate Hawk, forcing Worf to kill him. Picard succeeds in releasing the antenna and Worf destroys it with a phaser rifle as it floats away from the spaceship.

Picard refuses to sacrifice the Enterprise, but Lily convinces him that hate for the Borg is clouding his judgement. He agrees to destroy the ship, and the crew evacuate in escape pods. Picard stays behind to rescue Data, held by the Borg Queen – in an attempt to corrupt him, the Borg Queen replaces pieces of Data's artificial skin with human skin, offering to fulfill his dream of becoming human. Picard, recalling he once served the Borg as Locutus, offers to remain willingly in exchange for Data's release. The Borg Queen tells Picard that she no longer needs him; Data is a more appropriate counterpart.

Back on Earth, a now-convinced Cochrane launches the repaired Phoenix, accompanied by Riker and La Forge. To stop the warp drive test, the Borg Queen orders Data to fire the Enterprise weapons at the Phoenix. However, Data deliberately misses and with Picard's help, kills the Borg Queen, causing the remaining Borg onboard the ship to deactivate. Having detected the Phoenix, a Vulcan survey ship arrives to establish first contact with humanity. The Enterprise crew travel back to their own time, the correct version of history restored.


  • Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard: The captain of the USS Enterprise-E, haunted by his time as the Borg Locutus. Picard's character was changed from the "angst-ridden [character viewers have] seen before", to more of an action hero type. Stewart noted that Picard was a lot more physical in this film.
  • Jonathan Frakes as William Riker: The ship's first officer; Riker leads the away team on Earth. Frakes also directed the film. Frakes did not have much difficulty directing and acting at the same time, having done it in the TV series before.
  • Brent Spiner as Data: An android and the ship's second officer, who endeavours to become more human.
  • LeVar Burton as Geordi La Forge: The ship's chief engineer who helps repair the Phoenix. In between the events of this and the preceding film, Geordi has his visor replaced with optical implants. Burton had lobbied for many years to have Geordi's visor replaced so that people could see his eyes, and in this film was granted his wish.
  • Michael Dorn as Worf: The ship's tactical chief as well as captain of the USS Defiant at the start of the film. The Defiant is badly damaged in the opening battle, but survives. An earlier draft called for the Defiant to be destroyed, but Star Trek: Deep Space Nine executive producer Ira Steven Behr objected to the destruction of his show's ship and so the idea was dropped.
  • Gates McFadden as Beverly Crusher: The ship's doctor.
  • Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi: The ship's counselor.
  • James Cromwell as Zefram Cochrane: The pilot and creator of Earth's first warp capable vessel. The character of Zefram Cochrane had first appeared in the Original Series episode "Metamorphosis", played by Glenn Corbett. Cromwell's Cochrane is much older and has no real resemblance to Corbett's, and he portrays the character in a very different way to how he is shown in "Metamorphosis". Braga and Moore wanted to portray Cochrane as a character going through a major transition. He starts out as a cynical, selfish drunk who is changed by the characters he meets over the course of the film. Frakes considered Cromwell's casting a coup, as he was an Academy Award nominated actor. Cromwell had previously appeared as different characters in three episodes of The Next Generation and one of Deep Space Nine. Although the part was written with Cromwell in mind, Tom Hanks, a big fan of Star Trek, was approached for the role first by Paramount, but he had already committed to another project and had to reject the part. Frakes commented that it would have been a mistake to cast Hanks as Cochrane due to him being so well known.
  • Alfre Woodard as Lily Sloane: Cochrane's assistant. When Frakes first moved to Los Angeles, Woodard was one of the very first people he met. During a conversation at a barbecue Woodard said she would become Frakes' godmother, as he did not have one. Through this relationship, Frakes was able to cast Woodard in the film. He considered it a coup, as she was an Academy Award nominated actress. Woodard considers Lily to be the character most like herself, out of all the roles she has played.
  • Alice Krige as the Borg Queen: the Queen and controller of the Borg. Casting for the part took a long time as the actress needed to be sexy, dangerous and mysterious. Impressed by her performance in Ghost Story, and finding she had all of these qualities, Krige was cast. Frakes considers her the sexiest Star Trek villain of all time.
  • Neal McDonough as Sean Hawk: A bridge officer on the Enterprise.

First Contact is the first film in the Star Trek film series in which none of the Star Trek: The Original Series characters appear. Robert Picardo cameos as the Emergency Medical Hologram. Picardo played the permanent EMH character the Doctor in Star Trek Voyager, and his cameo in this film is a reference to that. His line "I'm a doctor, not a door stop", is a reference to the Original Series character Dr. Leonard McCoy. Picardo's fellow Voyager actor Ethan Phillips, who plays Neelix, cameos as the nightclub Maitre d' in the Holodeck scene. The scene also features a cameo from the film's stunt coordinator Ronnie Rondell who plays one of Nicky's associates, as well appearances by the screenwriters Braga and Moore. As with many Star Trek productions, the background "redshirt" characters were all new characters, with many being killed off over the course of the film. Whoopi Goldberg was not asked to return as Guinan.



Happy with the preceding film Star Trek Generations, two months after its premiere Paramount were keen to produce another film based on The Next Generation series, and wanted Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore to write the screenplay. The pair had written most of the Next Generation episodes, as well as the script for the preceding film. The film was given a "considerably bigger" budget of $45 million; more than any previous Star Trek film. This meant a larger amount of action and visual effects. Jonathan Frakes, who plays Riker, directed the film in his feature film debut. Frakes had directed multiple episodes of The Next Generation as well as the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager series. In preparation for the film, he watched Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 2001: A Space Odyssey and the works of James Cameron and Ridley Scott. Frakes was not the first choice to direct, with Ridley Scott and John McTiernan both reportedly turning the project down. Stewart met with one of the potential candidates and concluded that "they didn't know Star Trek. It was decided to "stay with someone who understood the gestalt of Star Trek", and Frakes was given the job.

Rick Berman wanted to have a story involving time travel, while Braga and Moore wanted to use the Borg, as they had not "really been seen in full force" since the episode "The Best of Both Worlds" and could never feature in that big of a role in the TV series due to budget constraints and the fear that they would lose their "scare factor". They loved the "seemingly unstoppable" nature of the Borg and had always tried to use them sparingly, but as this was a feature film, they could use them as much as possible.

They decided to combine the ideas. Much discussion took place as to when to set the film, with the original concept being in medieval times. The idea was abandoned when Stewart refused to wear tights. Eventually, they settled on a period after the fictitious Third World War. It had never been explained through any previous Star Trek medium as to how humanity had made first contact, and moved forward into a more ideal world; this was something Berman, Braga and Moore had wanted to show as it was the point where everything in Star Trek folklore began. They intended the film to be easily accessible to any moviegoer and work as a stand-alone story, yet still satisfy the devoted Star Trek fans. That said, much of Picard's role in the film makes a direct reference to his time as a Borg in the episode "The Best of Both Worlds", and so the dream sequence was added at the start to explain what had happened to him in the episode.

The Borg were always shown as a collective voice in the TV series, with no real lead character to connect with in any way. Whenever episodes were written about the Borg, after they were first introduced in "Q Who?", they were often personified in some way: for example, the character of Hugh the Borg and Picard being turned into Locutus. Braga and Moore tried to preserve the idea of the Borg as just a mindless collective in the original First Contact draft. Paramount head Jonathan Dolgen suggested adding an individual Borg villain who the characters could interact with as well, as he did not think the first draft was dramatic enough. This led to the creation of the Borg Queen.

The original draft was very different from the final film. Picard and Riker's story were essentially reversed: Picard is on Earth helping to build the Phoenix and falls in love with a photographer named Ruby, while Riker was on the Enterprise leading the assault against the Borg. Stewart questioned why Picard was not fighting the Borg himself as he hated them more than anyone else. The script was re-written and Picard and Riker's roles switched. One draft also included John DeLancie's character Q. Alternative titles included: Star Trek: Borg, Star Trek: Destinies, Star Trek: Future Generations, Star Trek: Renaissance and Star Trek: Resurrection.


Frakes used a vast array of different filming shots and techniques in the film. Throughout the run of The Next Generation the cast only ever filmed in the Paramount studios. For First Contact all of the scenes in 2063 were shot outside on location in Phoenix, Arizona. This was a thrill for the cast, even though they stayed in a "shoddy" Travel Inn and filmed most of the scenes at night. The cast were also pleased to escape their Starfleet uniforms and wear "normal" clothes. Locations included the Angeles Crest Forest and an actual missile silo, with the Phoenix being an actual nuclear missile. This proved cheaper than building a set or using visual effects. The Dixon Hill Holodeck scene was filmed at Union Station in Los Angeles and was designed as a contrast to the dark, mechanical Borg scenes set on the ship. Principal photography finished in early July 1995. Filming took place at a more leisurely pace than the TV series due to a less hectic schedule—only four pages of script had to be filmed each day, as opposed to eight which was the case for the TV series.

Although predominantly a science fiction action-adventure film, Frakes directed the Borg scenes similar to a horror film, creating as much suspense as possible. To balance and contrast this he added the more comedic scenes on Earth, intended to momentarily relieve the audience of tension before building it up again.


Following the destruction of the Enterprise-D in the previous film a new ship was required. The Enterprise-E was designed by John Eaves and Herman Zimmerman who said that it is "leaner, sleeker, and mean enough to answer any Borg threat you can imagine". Braga and Moore intended it to be more muscular and military-esque. Eaves looked at the structure of the older versions of the Enterprise, and designed a more streamlined, capable war vessel than the Enterprise-D. He reduced the size of the exposed neck area of the ship and lengthened the nacelles. The bridge set was new, and Frakes introduced it with a wide sweeping shot, and engineering was also re-designed. Zimmerman and Stewart designed Picard's quarters, including Shakespearean items and those from planets Picard has visited. Several scenes were designed similar to those in the Alien film series, Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Vulcan ship was designed to resemble a starfish, a crab and a boomerang.

\"We were on a circle, which has no geography to it. We had our three heroes [Picard, Worf and Hawk] in space suits, which look identical so you couldn't tell who was who until you got in real close. But the minute you get in close, you defeat the whole purpose of being on the outside of the ship, so you can see the cells and the stars and Earth looming in the background. It was a shooting and editing nightmare.\"
— Jonathan Frakes on the difficulty of the space-walk scene.
Each Borg has a slightly different design and Michael Westmore designed a new one each day. The Borg makeup and prosthetics took hours to apply and remove each day. In total, roughly twelve actors portrayed all of the Borg, because the costumes and makeup were so expensive to produce. Therefore, many of the background Borg were just half-finished mannequins. To produce the Borg Queen, Krige was in makeup for four hours each day and wore silver contact lenses. Krige recalled the first day she had her makeup applied: \"I saw everyone cringing. I thought, great; they made this, and they've scared themselves!\" Deborah Everton was the costume designer, Matthew F. Leonetti was the cinematographer. Zimmerman, Everton and Westmore combined their efforts to design and create the \"borgified\" sections of the Enterprise to build tension, and make the audience feel that \"[they are being fed] the Borg.\"

The space walk scene was one of the hardest scenes to construct in the film. Everton had to design the space suits so that they would be practical, would not look ridiculous and could feasibly work. They had fans built into the helmets so that Stewart, Dorn and McDonough would not get overheated, and neon lights so that their faces could be seen. The sets for the ship's outer hull and the deflector dish were built at the Paramount studios, on a gimbal, surrounded by green screen and rigged with wires for the zero gravity sequences. Frakes considers the scene to be the most tedious in the film due to the vast amount of preparation it took to start each day's shoot.


Industrial Light and Magic worked on the film, which is the reason Frakes believes that many of the effects (such as the phasers) are similar to those used in the Star Wars films. This was the first time in any Star Trek production in which the ships were created using computer-generated imagery, although miniatures of the Enterprise were used for some shots. The opening shot in the Borg factory was inspired by a New York City production of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street in which the stage surrounded the audience, given a sense of realism. Zimmerman called it the "longest pull-back in science fiction history". Used to directing episodes for the television series, Frakes was frequently reminded by effects artist Terry Frazee to "think big, blow everything up".

To create shots shown from the view of the Borg, a 10 millimetre spherical lens was used. The Borg scenes were received positively by test screening audiences so once the rest of the film had been completed a Borg assimilation scene of the Enterprise crew was added in, featuring none of the main cast members, as there was some of the budget left over and the original scene lacked action. Frakes considers the Borg Queen's head and shoulders being lowered into her body as the "signature visual effect in the film". The scene was difficult to execute, taking ILM five months to finish. Krige wore a blue screen suit from the neck down so only her head would appear on camera, and was lowered in by a crane. It required Krige to realistically portray "the strange pain or satisfaction of being reconnected to her body", in order to best help out the animators. A one-armed actor portrayed the Borg whose arm Worf slices off with a mek'leth in order to accurately portray the effect intended.


Frakes believes the main themes of First Contact, and also Star Trek as a whole, are loyalty, friendship, honesty and mutual respect. This is evident in the film as Picard chooses to rescue Data rather than evacuate the ship with rest of the crew. The film makes direct comparison between Picard's hatred of the Borg and refusal to destroy the Enterprise and that of Captain Ahab in the novel Moby-Dick. The moment marks a turning point in the film as Picard changes his mind, symbolized by him putting down his gun. A similar Moby-Dick reference was made in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan and although Braga and Moore did not really want to repeat it, they decided it worked so well they could not leave it out. Several lines reference the 21st Century dwellers being primitive, and the 24th Century people to have evolved to a more utopian society. In the end it is Lily (the 21st Century woman) who shows Picard (the 24th Century man) that his quest for revenge is the very primitive behaviour that humans had evolved to not use. There is a love theme between Lily Sloane and Picard, and the Vulcans at the end are representative of the biblical figures the Three Wise Men.


1996 marked the 30th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise. The film premiered at Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, Los Angeles on November 18, 1996. It opened in the United Kingdom with a royal premiere, attended by Charles, Prince of Wales. First Contact was the first Star Trek film to receive a PG-13 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America, meaning parents were cautioned that it may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13. This was due to the film's violence: principally the firing of automatic weapons, and Data breaking a Borg's neck.


Opening in 2,812 theaters the film made $30,716,131 in its first weekend of release. It closed with a domestic gross of $92,027,888 and a total worldwide gross of $146,027,888. In the US it is the second highest grossing Star Trek behind The Voyage Home, and the 12th highest grossing film based on a live-action television series. It was the 17th highest grossing film in the US in 1996, and the 22nd highest grossing worldwide. Based on 44 reviews, the film garnered a 91% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and a 91% rating from the site's "Top Critics" poll. In 2007, Rotten Tomatoes placed the film 35th on their list of the "100 Best Reviewed Sci-Fi Movies", making it the highest placed Star Trek film on the list. By comparison, the film received a rating of 70 out of 100 at Metacritic, earning "generally favorable reviews".

Roger Ebert found that First Contact was one of the best Star Trek films, and praised the special effects. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times wrote "First Contact does everything you'd want a Star Trek film to do, and it does it with cheerfulness and style." He particularly noted the performance of Stewart and the evilness of the Borg. Joe Leydon gave a very positive review, concluding: "If First Contact is indicative of what the next generation of Star Trek movies will be like, the franchise is certain to live long and prosper. Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly enjoyed the film as it "displays a zippy new energy and a sleek, confident style fully independent of its predecessors". Giving it a B+ she noted "By the time Worf (Michael Dorn), knocking off a slimy attacker, growls a Schwarzeneggerish 'Assimilate this!' we've already done so, with pleasure. Although disliking the humor, James Berardinelli found First Contact to be "the most entertaining Star Trek in more than a decade," and it "has single-handedly revived the Star Trek movie series, at least from a creative point-of-view.

Although praising Woodard's performance, Emily Carlisle of the BBC disliked the film: "Focusing more on action sequences than characterisation, the breakneck pace gives an unsatisfying result. Empire's Adam Scott criticized the script for "plung[ing] right into the action" so "there's nowhere near enough time for those not familiar with the series to get to know and care about the characters," also citing the lack of screentime for Troi and Crusher.

First Contact earned an Academy Award-nomination for Best Makeup, losing out to The Nutty Professor. At the Saturn Awards the film was nominated in ten categories including Best Science Fiction Film, Best Actor for Patrick Stewart and Best Director for Jonathan Frakes. It won three: Best Costumes, Best Supporting Actor for Brent Spiner and Best Supporting Actress for Alice Krige. Jerry Goldsmith won a BMI Film Music Award for his score, and the film was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.


Further reading

  • Heirs of Estate of Jenkins v. Paramount Pictures, 90 F. Supp. 2d 706 (E.D. Va. 2000)

External links

Search another word or see slices offon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature