STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT (1996)

Don't fret, anti-Trekkies. Star Trek: First Contact, the eighth film in the Star Trek series and the second featuring the "Next Generation" crew, is designed ever for those who've never seen the show before. Indeed, this film -- sleek, energetic, and very dark -- resembles Aliens or Die Hard on the Enterprise more than any previous Trek flick, making the last few film forays look as limp and washed out as William Shatner's hairpiece. Shorthand for the fans out there -- it's the best (and bleakest) Trek since Khan.

After a grisly nightmare/flashback sequence in which Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) recalls his capture and assimilation by the frightful Borg continuum (dating from "The Next Generation's" second season), an alien collective of cybernetic uglies, Picard sums up the gist and tone of the film in his Captain's Log: "The Borg, our most dangerous enemy, have returned, and this time there may be no stopping them."

Back in the day, cornball dialogue like this proved grist for non-fans to bash on Trek as a deviant subculture for puddin'-heads. But, coming from the mouth of a Shakespearean thespian like Stewart, even bizarre cries such as "We must follow them into the past!" sound profound and urgent. In fact, Picard fans are in for a huge treat. Tormented by his Borg experience and thus sidelined by a cautious Starfleet, the erstwhile captain is burning at both ends -- he's vengeful, bloodthirsty, unstable, and yet still as lovably erudite as ever.

And the Borg, oh my! Star Trek villains have reflected the anxieties of their day ever since the Klingons (Russians) and Romulans (Chinese) menaced the crew in the Classic (Cold War) Trek era. In this post-colonial "Information Age" of media manipulation, the Trek-powers-that-be have devised a truly Organization Man conglomerate. Again and again poor Starfleet officers are assimilated into the Borg collective consciousness by way of cybernetic implants, manifested as all sorts of sharp metal objects puncturing various tender orifices. Add to this the frighteningly seductive Borg Queen (Alice Krige), the head Internet imperialist, and you have arguably the most interesting and disturbing creeps in Trek history.

As with any Trek film, the plot and scientific veracity has more holes than the time-stream. And, other than a quirky love triangle between Picard, the Queen, and the android Data (Brent Spiner), there's not much in character development either. But, as compelling sci-fi eye candy, the Final Frontier has never looked better.

[First appeared in Harvard Independent, 1995.]

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