Review for Star Trek: First Contact
Recently watching the first episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3, I was seriously put in the mood to watch First Contact again. Then I remembered that last year, I had bought the three decent Next Generation movies again, to take advantage of the 4k re-masters, and the new Blu-rays that resulted. The first Blu-ray release of the Star Trek movies happened almost 15 years ago, back when studios thought that people wanted aggressive DNR and hyper sharpened digital looking images from their HD cinema. The Next Generation movies weren’t quite as badly treated as the original series films in this regard, with Nemesis looking almost pixel perfect with its first BD release (the only good thing about that film!), but still they did use the original DVD era masters. The 4k re-master of the ten films for the UHD age does mean that even still, these Next Gen movies will look better on Blu-ray. So now I take a second look at Star Trek: First Contact on Blu-ray with this 2023 release.
The Borg are back! Six years previously, they had attacked Earth in an attempt to assimilate the human race, and they had begun by forcibly converting Jean-Luc Picard into their mouthpiece, transforming him into a cyborg the collective dubbed Locutus. Once again they launch an attack on Earth, and once again, the Enterprise is instrumental in destroying the Borg Cube. But this time, a vessel manages to escape the destruction, and opens a portal to the past. If the Enterprise crew are to save the future, they’ll have to follow the Borg back in time, and stop their plans. This time they have to go back to 2063, 10 years after the third world war, with humanity barely recovered from that nuclear devastation, but where in a missile silo in Montana, a cantankerous scientist named Zefram Cochrane is about to usher in a whole new age.
Star Trek First Contact gets a 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on this disc, with the choice between Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Surround English, and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround English Audio Descriptive, French, German, Spanish, and Japanese with subtitles in these languages and Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish. Even the most obvious improvement visually is still subtle, with a completely pristine print used for the source of the 4k master, no minor flecks or smidges of dirt. Detail levels are excellent, colours are rich and consistent, and contrast is spot-on. Grain is present as it should be, but subliminally so. The audio too is top notch, making full of the surround soundstage to offer an action-packed and immersive experience.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray style case, wrapped in an o-card slipcover. This release uses the original poster art. The disc boots to a static menu.
When it comes to extra features, the previous release was loaded with new and archival featurettes, hours and hours worth, but this release does add a few more, although once again, the BD-Live option is no longer here.
You get three commentaries on this disc, the first from director/actor Jonathan Frakes, the second from writers Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore, and the third created for the Blu-ray from fans Damon Lindelof (producer Star Trek 2009), and Anthony Pascale.
The Library Computer is once again the fancy pop-up trivia track.
There are a whole heap of featurettes on this disc, beginning with six in Production, which look at various aspects of the making of. These run to a total of 83:34 and are recycled from the DVD release, in SD.
There are 3 Scene Deconstruction featurettes running to 18:20 SD.
The Star Trek Universe contains 9 featurettes, 6 of them created for Blu-ray and in HD. These run to 48:26. The 3 SD featurettes run to 51:36.
The Borg Collective offers three more SD featurettes running to a total of 41:16
You get Storyboards and a Photo Gallery in the Archives, the Teaser and Theatrical trailers in HD.
New to this release are the following...
Text Commentary from Mike and Denise Okuda
In the Archive –
Alternate Titles (1:05)
Ethan Phillips Cameo/Interview (4:00)
Queen’s Demise (3:51)
Borg Invasion Trailer (0:32)
This was the one time that the Next Generation cast and crew got it right. Generations was burdened with expectations, the need to pass the torch, and the fact that they killed off Captain Kirk... twice. Insurrection was a glorified TV episode, and Nemesis was just a loathsome mess. But First Contact was a movie, a real feature film, taking the Next Generation crew to the next level when it came to the stakes in the story, and in terms of the action and the visuals.
The biggest villains that the Next Generation crew had faced returned, the machine like Borg, who this time get personified by a Borg Queen, a source of temptation for Data, and a target for revenge when it comes to Captain Picard. They are relentless, and almost omnipotent foes, which makes battling them more a series of last stands, than an even fight, and we get a glimpse of the stakes that crew are fighting for when the Borg open their time portal.
Then there is the time travel aspect of the movie, back when Star Trek still hadn’t done time travel to death. There is the inevitable comic aspects of culture clash, and this is the one Next Generation movie that gets its sense of humour spot on, but by picking a time in the future yet to come, we get to see Star Trek history, not our own and we get an idea of where that optimistic vision of the future that Gene Roddenberry spun might just have begun.
The script is tight, the action is well paced, and there’s a great balance between the lighter moments in Montana, and the fight against the Borg on the Enterprise. What’s more, Jonathan Frakes in the director’s chair is a deft hand at delivering a cinematic experience. First Contact is an entertaining, and well put together Star Trek feature film. The only nit I have to pick with it is that this is where the Next Generation ensemble feel started to be lost, and the Next Gen movies shifted into becoming the Picard and Data show.
I think the Star Trek Movies work best when they lean in on nostalgia and continuity. The best of the lot was and is The Wrath of Khan, which was a sequel to the original series Space Seed episode. It was then followed by The Search For Spock and The Voyage Home, which in terms of narrative followed on directly, making it a great trilogy. First Contact too serves as a direct sequel to the TNG Best of Both Worlds episodes. It offers a sense of familiarity and continuity to the audience that the other three TNG movies lack. As for this Blu-ray, in terms of A/V, it might not be the dramatic improvement over the first Blu-ray release that the earlier Trek films got, but it is still a marked improvement.