Star Trek: First Contact is light-years ahead of any other Next Generation film. There is virtually every characteristic that makes good Star Trek present here. James Cromwell as Cochrane provides the best comedy relief on Star Trek since the tribbles. The Borg infiltration reminds us of the first Alien film with its shadows and cramped airshaft scenes. The action is ramped up several notches from previous films. The basic crew seems to have found its feature legs and is more comfortable as a unit.
Purists will find some fault with the continuity errors the film brings to the Trek Universe, but after four years of Enterprise, these errors are quite minor. Jonathan Frakes is not, in my opinion, one of the brightest actors in Trek’s world, but here he does show he has the chops to be a first class director. Like Nimoy before him, it took one of the show’s main actors to breathe emotion into the franchise. The atmosphere in the cinematography is the best of any Trek before or since. This is probably technically the finest Trek film.
When the Borg retreat into Earth’s past to destroy its future, the Enterprise crew follows. The Borg attempt to stop the famous flight of Zephram Cochrane’s Phoenix. This was fated to attract a Vulcan ship in the area with its experimental warp engines. Without this important First Contact there would be no Federation. Earth would be helpless against the Borg’s attempts at assimilation.
You get a choice of two equally impressive audio tracks. The DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks each deliver a dynamic presentation. Perhaps the DTS track provides more response from the sub. Both are quite aggressive and exhibit a wonderful use of ambient sounds. The score comes through as good as it has ever sounded in any format. Dialogue is placed exactly where it should be and is never obscured by careless distractions. The dynamic range is quite wide. You’ll enjoy great depth in the lows and crisp clean highs.
There are 2 audio commentaries provided in this edition.Jonathan Frakes provides a mostly dry effort. Most of the time he’s just telling you what you already know you’re watching. You’ll find he drops out quite a bit, leaving you with only a reduced volume on the feature to listen to.
The better commentary is offered by writers Moore and Braga. Both offer some lighter anecdotes about the film and much more insight into the production. It seems they were on set most of the time because there were an unusually large number of rewrites as the filming progressed.
Star Trek: First Contact is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This is another wonderful upgrade from the barebones edition released a few years ago. The print is wonderfully clean. No specks or artifacts of any kind are in evidence throughout the transfer. Blacks are an ocean of depth and detail. Contrast is most striking particularly when the white ship is viewed against the blackness of space. Flesh tones are reference. It might even be too accurate as it appears at times the make-up on Data changes from a pale yellow to almost gold color throughout the film.
The first disc offers the film and the aforementioned commentaries. There is also the standard text commentary by Michael Okuda. I know some of you like these things. I have a hard time following them and still watch the picture. If you liked his earlier contributions you’ll like this one as it is basically more of the same.
The second disc offers extras pretty much in line with what we’ve now come to expect from this Collector’s Edition….
- The Star Trek Universe:
- Here you’ll find a much deserved tribute to the late Jerry Goldsmith, who has written several of the franchise’s themes. His work will be missed by all movie goers.
- “The Legacy of Zephram Cochrane” Mostly you’ll find comparisons to the character’s original series portrayal and the importance of the character to Star Trek lore. Of course, Cochrane is the inventor of the Warp Drive. Is there really life on other planets?
- “First Contact: The Possibilities” examines the question with some rather pessimistic conclusions.
- The Borg Collective:
- “Unimatrix One” This enjoyable feature takes us back to the good old days when we got our first glimpse of the Borg courtesy of Q. The race has certainly evolved and this is worth the look.
- “The Queen” Alice Krieg has created one of Trek’s more memorable villains. Here she discusses the role.
- “Design Matrix” Shows us some of those changes that became apparent to us in the “Unimatrix One” feature. Designers show us how and why the Borg were redesigned for their feature film debut.
- Scene Deconstruction:
- We get to see three scenes from the film and tag along with the crew as they develop the layers of process and ideas to create the finished product. The various stages are shown intercut with interviews from the cast and crew.
- First Contact Production:
- Here’s where the meaty feature is contained. The production is broken down into six elements to make for what could be an extensive feature. The elements explored are as follows: The Story, The Missile Silo, The Defector Dish, From A To E, Making First Contact, The Art Of First Contact. You can expect the by now familiar behind the scenes clips, interviews, and candid material.
- Here’s the traditional text based notes, galleries, and storyboards, as well as two trailers.
The menus are very impressive. Great new CGI work with the Enterprise is fully animated for each layer you travel in the menu system. It is important to check the box so that you know in what subsection you can find whatever it is you’re looking for.
When I watch films like First Contact, I’m often caught wondering why Trek wasn’t more like this more of the time. It appears Paramount let loose the purse strings somewhat, and that made for a higher quality production. Is this upgrade DVD worth replacing your previous release? I’d say there’s just no doubt. If you plan on an upgrade for any Next Generation film, this should be the one. No matter how large your DVD collection might be, you’ll want to “assimilate this”.