At last we have arrived at a point where the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation is free to soar without the original series cast hanging around. It was finally time for their first venture on their own with Star Trek: First Contact.
Of course, we left off last time with the old Enterprise NCC-1701D had been destroyed, so the whole crew starts out in the next Enterprise, NCC-1701E. At one point during the film Picard even quips that there are still more letters in the alphabet.
It does leave one to wonder about what kind of organization Star Fleet really is. They never have another ship handy and have to send the Enterprise everywhere, even when it is broken down or when the next one they’ve built hasn’t been fitted out yet. And I marvel at an organization that has so little other opportunities that the same bridge crew is hanging around for years on end.
Truly, Captain Sulu is the hero of the film series having gotten his own command, the Excelsior, and kept it rather than running back to Papa Kirk the moment something scary happened.
But I am getting way off point here. That happens when you mash together a couple decades worth of films into a short series of viewings I suppose, the meta patterns begin to appear. But I will admit that this latest Enterprise is at least not half finished and missing bits right from the get go.
After all of that, I am going to praise Generations for starting off strong.
The Borg are coming, headed towards Earth… again I think? I have some memory of the battle at Wolf 459 from TNG, but I haven’t watched that show in more than 20 years. I had to go look it up after the film to remind myself of the timeline.
Anyway, that first battle was where Picard got himself assimilated… take that European imperialists! So the Borg were coming back and Star Fleet was getting everybody on deck to intercept the Borg cube… except the Enterprise, because Picard had been previously assimilated.
I have to wonder what the quality of 24th century psychological care is and why, if you cannot trust Picard in these circumstances, why would you put him in charge of the baddest ship in the fleet? Who is running Star Fleet HR? I mean it is bad enough they gave that scrub Mercer another ship… wait, scratch that. Maybe the captain shouldn’t be leading away teams.
So the Enterprise is sent to go watch Romulans for a bit to keep Picard from being triggered or whatever. But they tune in the battle on the subspace radio and hear it is going badly, so Picard defies orders and sets course for Earth and the Borg cube, arriving just in time to rescue Worf, who had pulled a Sulu and got his own command, only to have to go back to work for the Frenchman again.
The battle rages, the Admiral leading the defense fleet is blown up and Picard takes charge and uses his Locutus memories to target a weak point and everything is going so well… excitement and phasers and explosions… maybe I play too much EVE Online to appreciate Trek anymore… and as Borg ship goes down it spits out a Borg sphere and… the whole movie downshifts and carries on a bit too slowly.
I mean, it isn’t The Final Frontier bad. It is even better than The Search for Spock in my quick mental ranking, which puts it in the top three so far. But we get into some time travel and James Cromwell shows up and there is no role he has ever been in since Babe that doesn’t make me say aloud, at some point, “That’ll do Pig.” Or, in this case maybe, “That’ll do Picard.”
So we spend the rest of the movie either on late 21st century earth, which is boring and a little too much like 80s Santa Cruz for my liking, or up on the Enterprise where the Borg had beamed aboard and are setting up a hive and attempting to take over the ship to phone home so they can conquer Earth before it can start throwing USS Enterprises around the galaxy to cause them problems. (And if that was an option, why wasn’t that their Plan A? Why storm the castle with a single cube when your Plan B was the obvious winner? JFC they’re as bad as Bond villains.)
You might sense I am torn, or less than enthusiastic, with the Borg as an enemy. On the one hand, they can be truly alien and terrifying and a lot of extras get to wear cool pseudo steam punk Borg outfits. They fly around in a bitchin’ cube made out of junk like Mad Max in space and they fuck up everybody they run into who doesn’t have a ship named “Enterprise.”
On the other hand, they are absolutely the most “plot device” aliens ever to span multiple episodes, being exactly what the story needs them to be… weak or strong, invulnerable or manageable, insightful or dumb… at any given moment. I mean, give me a Klingon or a Romulan any day of the week, where at least we can get some consistent motivation. The Borg started out as a spacefaring collective that just looted planets, then somehow they got into the whole assimilation thing like it was crypto or something.
We have to have a movie though. If the Borg just time traveled we’d be all about cyborg Picard in his robo-vinyard complaining about the yield or quality of the techno-soil or some such.
But the real downer is that Data and his desire to become a real boy once again becomes a major plot point, and I am tired of it. That is two for two in the TNG film. At least during the TNG series they could keep that to just a few episodes a season. Data is just not, for me, as interesting as Spock, but the show, and now the films, feel like he not only needs to carry the Spock mantle, but one up the whole thing. I would have preferred a Riker trombone solo and a few rounds of him and his chair maneuver (Did we even get a Riker chair maneuver in the films so far?), or maybe some Barcalay escapades. There are so many characters on the Enterprise, Data can just take a day off can’t he? Where is ensign Ro when we need her?
In the end, when they finally do win, save the timeline, and avoid the Vulcans who showed up in the neighborhood (I half expected one of them to be Mark Lenard because, as we’ve seen, that is one Vulcan who gets around), they just yadda yadda themselves out of their time travel, space battle predicament. Fifteen minutes ago the Enterprise was a wreck, warp coolent everywhere, and all the escape pods jettisoned and floating down to Earth, but then suddenly Data, with half his face gone and his emotion chip probably still filled with dirty images of the Borg Queen, is just going to helm the Enterprise back to the 24th century through magical space time travel, and roll credits.
Am I being too tough on it?
Okay, the special effects were good… the best of the film series so far. And there were some exciting bits. And we get some good Trek lore I suppose. And Robert Picardo appearing as the Emergency Medical Hologram was top notch.
But the Borg Queen was no Kahn, and the battle for the Enterprise… well, there was a whole lot of walking and shuffling around at times. Can somebody just roll that original series fight music and really cut loose once in a while? And can we leave the holodeck alone for a while? I know it is cool and we all want one, but it has not served the plot well in either TNG film so far.
Still, it was better than Star Trek Generations for sure.
Next up on the list is Stark Trek: Insurrection. At that point I am going to have to start stack ranking the TNG films.