Star Trek: First Contact

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson


Paramount, widescreen 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced, languages: English DD 5.1 & 2.0 [CC], French DD 2.0, subtitles: Spanish, single side-single layer, 31 chapters, 2 theatrical trailers, rated PG-13, 111 min., $29.99, street date 10/6/98.

Studio Line

Academy Award: Nominated for Best Makeup, 1997.

Directed by Jonathan Frakes. Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Levar Burton, Michael Dorn, , Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Alfre Woodard, James Cromwell.

The time is the 24th century and the ship is the newly commissioned Enterprise-E. It's captain, Jean-Luc Picard, has been ordered not to interfere in a combat between a Borg Cube and ships from the Federation. However, seeing the Federation is about to lose, Picard ignore his orders and take command of the defending fleet. With his knowledge of the weak spot of the Cube, they destroy it. However, a small part of it escapes and plot a course directly to Earth. The Enterprise chases it and enters a time distortion created by the Borg. They end up in the mid 21st century, their only chance of stopping the Borg from assimilating Earth being to help Zefram Cochrane make his famous first faster than light travel to the stars...

Picture/Sound/Extra (A/B+/D-)

It was deja vu all over again: when Star Trek: Generations (ST: G) - the first film to feature the cast of ST: The Next Generation - appeared in 1994, it did fairly well financially but received a bit of a drubbing from critics and Trekkers alike. This echoed the performance of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979. I thought these comparisons were unfair; ST: TMP was one of the dullest, most unwatchable pieces of dreck ever filmed, while I found ST: G to be rather entertaining and fun. Nonetheless, the impression that both series of films started with a thud remains.

Deja vu, part two: just as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan went a loooooong way toward livening up the franchise in 1982 - it's still arguably the best of the series - 1996's Star Trek: First Contact (ST: FC) silenced all the critics who thought the Next Generation crew couldn't hold the original cast's tricorders. The film provided more action and a more coherent plot and it proved to be quite successful.

While I clearly don't feel there's nearly as great a contrast between these two Next Generation vehicles and the first two "classic" films, ST: FC does get the nod as the superior film. With ST: G, as with ST: TMP, it seemed that the crew simply tried too hard; they wanted so badly to make a grand STATEMENT that much of the sense of fun and adventure essential to good Trek evaporated along the way. ST: FC is pretty much all fun and/or adventure, and it makes for a highly entertaining two hours. When I rank the nine Star Trek films, ST VI and ST II are at the top of the list (ST VI gets the nod from me by a small margin), but ST: FC makes it to third place without much difficulty.

I'd like to take more time to discuss my opinions of the Star Trek films, but I'm nearly as tired of writing acronyms as you are of reading them, so I'll move on to my impressions of the DVD. ST: FC (ack! another acronym!) was one of Paramount's initial batch of DVDs. Unlike other companies whose product improved over time, Paramount took the ironic road and did their best work right out of the gate.

The DVD of ST: FC probably demonstrated Paramount's finest performance. The picture is enhanced for 16X9 screens and the image is damn near immaculate. Some low-light scenes prove a little hazy and problematic, but those types of images will almost always look less than exemplary on NTSC screens. Overall, I can't find much fault with the picture, and there's a lot with which I was impressed; for example, scenes with hole-filled steel grates showed no signs of the shimmering that normally plagues them.

The sound quality of the 5.1 mix of ST: FC DVD doesn't impress quite to the degree that the picture does, but nonetheless it works very well. It's not a tremendously showy mix ala something like Twister, but it creates a solid three-dimensional image and uses rear surround effects cautiously but effectively. Throughout the film, all sound is crisp and clean.

Now to the point at which EVERY Paramount DVD to date has failed: the supplemental materials. Like EVERY Paramount DVD to date, ST: FC contains virtually no extras. You get a teaser trailer, a theatrical trailer, and that's it (I'll be cold and in the grave before I ever refer to "scene selections" as a "special feature!"). The trailers keep this DVD from earning an "F" - I can't call it an "F" unless it's COMPLETELY devoid of extras - but Paramount certainly merits an "F" for their efforts to date.

All anti-Paramount bitterness to the side, ST: FC makes for a high quality DVD. I cautiously recommend the DVD to owners of the laserdisc. While the sound quality is the same on both LD and DVD, the image is significantly improved on the DVD. Whether that's important enough to warrant a repurchase is up to you, but the image on this DVD - unlike ST VI, Face/Off and many other DVDs - does represent a clear improvement over the LD picture.

For anyone who doesn't already own a laserdisc version of this film, however, I recommend ST: FC highly. Additional extras would have been nice, but at least Paramount got this DVD right where it counts.

Related Sites

Current as of 1/25/99

  • Official Site--The official home of Star Trek on the web.
  • James Berardinelli's ReeViews--"First Contact has single-handedly revived the Star Trek movie series, at least from a creative point-of-view."
  •"Only those who have devoted countless hours of their lives steeped in the expanding legacy of Star Trek can possibly understand half of what is going on in this movie."
  • Celebsite: Patrick Stewart--full bio, news, and fan sites ratings.
  • Brent Spiner Page--The site seem to be abandoned, but still a good source for profile.
  • The Gates McFadden Homepage--Contains bio, career, Beverly Crusher, episodes, and more.
  • International Marina Sirtis Fan Club--Galleries, interviews, biographies, and more. Filmtracks--A full review of the score composed by Jerry Goldsmith: "The music by Jerry and Joel Goldsmith is excellent, however, the release is sub-standard at best."
  • to purchase are the DVD at 30% off, the paperback novel, the hardcover Star Trek Encyclopedia: A Reference Guide to the Future, and the original soundtrack.

    LinkExchange Network
Previous: Star Trek VI | Back to Main Page