5 Star Trek: First Contact facts you may never have known

1996 Patrick Stewart stars in the new movie "Star Trek: First Contact".
1996 Patrick Stewart stars in the new movie "Star Trek: First Contact". /

Titan Books publishes a lavishly illustrated volume about Star Trek: First Contact.

It’s almost a year late for the film’s silver anniversary, but the new book Star Trek: First Contact: The Making of the Classic Film is a gorgeous celebration of what’s not only the best Star Trek movie starring The Next Generation cast but also one of the best moves the franchise has yet given us.

The volume is an abundantly illustrated “coffee table book” that immerses readers in most of First Contact’s memorable and dramatic moments, as well as in the behind-the-scenes movie magic that made them possible. The book is weighted a little too heavily toward full-page and even two-page reproductions of images from the movie; however, it also features some engrossing, close-up views of sets and models that will leave fans satisfied.

Author Joe Fordham’s text is engaging and entertaining, like First Contact itself. It includes interviews old and new with cast and crew that will increase future viewings of the movie. Fordham is clearly a Star Trek fan. He even includes a summary and brief discussion of “Metamorphosis,” the 1967 original series episode that introduced Zefram Cochrane into Trek lore. But he also takes pains to treat First Contact as more than a Star Trek movie. He highlights the literary and cinematic contexts in which those who made the film view their efforts, making a never explicitly stated but irrefutable case that First Contact is a great movie, period.

Here are five of the most fascinating things I found about First Contact in reading this book:

1. Patrick Stewart helped restructure the movie’s story.

In Brannon Braga and Ron Moore’s first draft, Captain Picard beamed down to Earth alone and rallied Cochrane and his fellow post-apocalyptic survivors in “a Frank Capra-like story” (p. 34). But Patrick Stewart—much as he would decades later, when helping shape season two of Star Trek: Picard—suggested Picard stay aboard the Enterprise-E to confront his traumatic past with the Borg.

2. A Michael Jackson project helped influence the Borg Queen.

According to Braga, as he and Moore developed the Borg Queen, they thought about Anjelica Huston playing the “similar-looking creature” (p. 38) in Captain EO, the Disney theme park sci-fi musical movie starring Michael Jackson. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by George Lucas, Captain EO ran at Epcot from 1986-1994 and from 2010-2015. Huston played the adversary, the “Supreme Leader,” who does indeed bear a striking resemblance to the character Alice Krige would play.

3. The on-screen Phoenix was a real, deactivated nuclear missile.

No, obviously, not in all its scenes! But the production did film at the Titan Missile Museum in Arizona, “a deactivated Strategic Air Command base that housed a silo containing a 103-foot-tall deactivated nuclear missile” (p. 76). The production crew designed and placed the fiberglass command module on top of the actual missile, a feat production designer Herman Zimmerman calls “one of the most important things we did for the movie” (p. 76).

4. Only eight Borg invaded the Enterprise.

Thanks to digital post-production, they looked like a much bigger cybernetic horde on screen. But only eight stunt performers played the various Borg who invaded and largely assimilated the Enterprise. Subtle differences in makeup and costume also helped create “the illusion of a larger collective” (p. 94). In some of the photos in the book, you can even tell that Bolians and Cardassians are among the assimilated drones.

5. The Enterprise-E design bears traces of the ‘66 Ford Mustang.

According to ILM shop supervisor John Goodson, the special effects house improvised certain details of the Sovereign-class starship’s design, including its warp nacelle struts. Goodson asked Ed Miarecki, on the model crew, to copy “a detail on the back fender” of Miarecki’s 1966 notchback Ford Mustang, “a chrome insert with little black grilles …. and that’s how that ‘66 Ford mustang detail appeared on the engine struts on the Enterprise-E” (p. 56).

Next. First Contact Day: 5 things that didn’t work that well in Star Trek: First Contact. dark