The Borg are back. During Star Trek: The Next Generation it was hinted that they would return for a second attempt to conquer Earth. But they never returned in force after “Best of Both Worlds.” Six years later, they attack again, this time changing humanity’s past to alter its present. Picard and his crew must defeat the Borg who have invaded the USS Enterprise-E while ensuring Zefram Cochrane completes his first warp flight as history recorded.
The first TNG movie was Star Trek Generations which featured Captain Picard teaming up with Captain Kirk to stop a villain from destroying a planet. It was successful enough at the box office for Paramount to ask for another film featuring the TNG crew. Rick Berman, who had been the show’s executive producer since the third season, wanted a story centered around time travel. Brannon Braga and Ronald Moore, frequent writers who also wrote Star Trek Generations wanted to feature the Borg. As soon as they were approached to write the sequel, they worked to combine the two story threads.
First Contact opens with a flashback showing Picard’s assimilation. The captain is informed by an admiral that the Borg have begun their advance. While a fleet is scrambling to head the Borg off, the Enterprise will not be joining them. Starfleet considers Picard’s previous experience with the Borg a liability so they order him to the Neutral Zone, in case the Romulans attack.
The battle does not go well. Picard decides to defy orders and join the fleet, after the admiral’s ship has been destroyed. He can sense the Borg and uses that connection to target the fleet’s weapons to a specific, non-tactical part of the Borg Cube. A small sphere escapes just as the Cube is destroyed. The Enterprise peruses and is caught in the Borg’s temporal wake. The crew watches as Earth changes to a Borg planet. They find themselves in 2063, right before First Contact. The Borg wish to prevent first contact with the Vulcans from happening as well as assimilate Earth in the past.
In 2063, Zefram Cochrane stumbles out of a bar in Montana with his flight controller, Lily Sloane. It’s the night before his flight and there’s no way he’s going up sober, much to Lily’s annoyance. They notice a flash of light among the stars before they’re shelled. Lily wants to get to the Phoenix. A bomb lands right beside Zefram and he’s spooked. When his life is on the line he doesn’t really care about the Phoenix.
The Enterprise stops the Borg sphere from shelling Montana. Picard and a few members of his crew beam down to survey the damage. They find most of the mission staff dead. Thankfully the Phoenix itself is fine with only minor damage. The captain orders Geordi La Forge down with a repair crew. They have to make sure humanity’s first warp flight happens on schedule or the Vulcans won’t make first contact. At first they fear Cochrane was among the dead, but Riker finds him in the bar, with a visibly drunk Deanna.
Data and Picard discover the Phoenix is leaking theta radiation, when they find Lily hiding in the missile silo. She’s brought aboard the Enterprise so Dr. Crusher can treat her. Picard also returns to the ship when he senses trouble. Worf reports the temperature has risen to 39.1 degrees Celsius, which Picard knows is the temperature of the Borg Cube. Unbeknownst to the crew, the Borg beamed aboard the Enterprise when the shields were down, right as the sphere was destroyed.
Quickly arming themselves, the Enterprise crew scramble to fight off the Borg invasion. They’re based in engineering but are spreading and assimilating crew members. Picard, Data and Worf take teams down to deck 16. During the fight, Data is taken hostage. Worf finds Dr. Crusher and her medical team who had to flee Sickbay. Unfortunately Lily has gone missing, Picard finds her in one of the jefferies tubes. She’s confused and scared at first, but slowly trusts the captain.
In a few short hours, the Borg have taken over half the ship. Held captive in engineering, Data is introduced to the Borg Queen, who leads the Collective. She is fascinated by the android who wishes to be human, and tempts him with human looking skin. They both know the Borg want the encryption codes to access the Enterprise computer. Data appears to come under the Queen’s sensual spell and they share a few kisses.
As a last ditch effort, Picard, Worf and Lieutenant Hawk put on environmental suits to access the deflector dish from the surface of the ship. The Borg are building a communications array on top of it that would allow them to contact other Borg in the Delta Quadrant and lead them to Earth a few hundred years early. The captain is successful, but not without casualties. Lieutenant Hawk is assimilated and Worf nearly dies when his suit is punctured.
Meanwhile on Earth, Riker and Geordi convince Cochrane to have his warp flight as planned. The Enterprise crew grew up hearing about how great Zefram Cochrane was and how he began a new era of human civilization with his warp flight. Some crew members can contain their excitement better than others and Zefram is unsettled by their huge expectations of him. Deanna leads mission control while Geordi and Riker get to fly with Cochrane. There is a brief moment where it appears the Enterprise is going to fire on the Phoenix, but thankfully the torpedos just miss the warp ship. Cochrane completes humanity’s first warp flight.
The battle against the Borg on the Enterprise is unrelenting. Worf suggests using the self-destruct which Picard almost violently denies. Lily manages to talk some sense into the captain by calling him Captain Ahab. The surviving crew head to the escape pods. Rather than joining them, Picard goes to engineering to rescue Data. He finds the android with a more human looking face and in league with the Borg Queen. They capture Picard and prepare to reassimilate him. Data unlocks the computer, and the Queen orders him to fire on the Phoenix as she gloats that humanity will end. For the briefest moment, Data hesitates, causing the torpedos to miss. He betrays the Borg, and punctures the warp plasma to destroy them.
Once the dust settles from the warp flight and the destruction of the Borg, the Vulcans arrive on Earth as they were supposed to. After witnessing First Contact, Picard and his crew quietly return to the Enterprise. They need to get back to the 24th century.
There are four TNG films, and Star Trek First: Contact is touted as the best, on par with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The two films are both sequels to episodes from their respective series, and bring back popular villains. But the Borg had to undergo a transformation in order to be in a feature film. Fan opinion on the Borg Queen is split, but I agree with the writers’ assessment that without her leading the Collective, the Borg wouldn’t work on the big screen. Even in “Best of Both Worlds” the Borg still needed a spokesperson, which is why they assimilated Picard. I enjoyed the first warp flight storyline as well. Lily Sloane is a fantastic character and Alfre Woodard is great in the role.