3 Star Trek First Contact nits we’ll never stop picking

Discover Paramount's 'Star Trek: First Contact' collector's edition DVD on Amazon.
Discover Paramount's 'Star Trek: First Contact' collector's edition DVD on Amazon. /

Star Trek First Contact is a great movie—but nothing’s perfect.

Star Trek First Contact consistently lands at or near the top of lists of the best Star Trek movies. Indeed, as of this writing, it enjoys a 92% “Certified Fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes, putting it second only to Star Trek (2009)’s 94% rating.

It’s not hard to understand why fans, critics, and general moviegoers alike can enjoy Star Trek First Contact. While it depends heavily on key elements of Star Trek’s mythos—namely, Captain Picard’s assimilation by the Borg and Zefram Cochrane’s invention of warp drive—its plot is an easily accessible and downright thrilling action-adventure story, with generous helpings of Star Trek’s trademark optimistic humanism folded in.

Its smart script, snappy pace, and engaging performances all make Star Trek First Contact a crowd-pleaser. But even the best Star Trek productions have their flaws.

Last year on First Contact Day, our own Chad Porto called out five things he thought didn’t work in Star Trek First Contact. Not to pile on, but on this First Contact Day, I’d like to add three more to the list.

1. Picard skips ahead in his Dixon Hill holonovel

The Dixon Hill holodeck sequence already feels shoehorned into Star Trek First Contact. I appreciate the story’s need for Picard to get his hands on a Borg drone’s neural processor and do so in a relatively bloodless way that doesn’t jeopardize the films PG-13 rating. And watching Picard go ballistic with a machine gun dramatically demonstrates his trauma. But the whole “I’ll shoot them with holographic bullets with the safety protocols turned off” plan seems unnecessarily convoluted.

To make matters worse, the sequence starts in the wrong chapter of the holonovel. As soon as the bartender tells “Dix” he hasn’t seen “Nicky the Nose” in months, Picard realizes, “This is the wrong chapter,” and tells the computer to jump ahead to Chapter 19.

It’s a brief exchange and contributes nothing to the story. I can only speculate it’s there to give non-Star Trek fans a little bit more time to “get” the holodeck concept—although a room that can be anyplace you can imagine is not one of Star Trek’s more difficult concepts. Less charitably, perhaps it’s there to give the production team a fun transition shot. Either way, it’s an annoying few seconds of filler that slow down an otherwise lean, streamlined story.

2. Lily screams something about the “ECon”

Early in the 2063 portion of the film, the survivors’ camp in Bozeman comes under attack from the Borg. As the first laser bolts rain down, Lily shouts, “It’s the ECon!” Cochrane asks, “After all these years?”

Later, when Lily is aboard the Enterprise, Picard assures her, “I’m not a member of the Eastern Coalition.” As it turns out, the “Eastern Coalition” is the “ECon” Lily screamed about earlier. But because both references to this “faction” fly by so fast—and the first, in such a chaotic moment—it’s never quite clear what the whole business is about.

Turns out, these lines are artifacts of early script development. As co-scriptwriter Ronald D. Moore says in last year’s Star Trek: First Contact: The Making of the Classic Film:

"In an early draft, we came up with a name—the Eastern Confederation or ‘ECon’—implying that [World War III] was between China and North America. The studio didn’t want to get into that politically, so we shied away from specificity and just used a bit of that terminology (page 36)."

The studio probably made the right call—not only politically but also because big U.S. films must play well internationally, including in China, to be profitable. But the result is a murky couple of dialogue moments. They’re not insurmountable obstacles to enjoying the film, but they are distracting.

With no context, it almost sounds like Alfre Woodard is screaming something about the state of the post-apocalyptic economy!

3. Zefram Cochrane “title checks” Star Trek

When they wrote the Star Trek: The Next Generation series finale, “All Good Things…,” Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore “namechecked” the franchise in a deliciously deft way. They had Q tell Picard, “It’s time to put an end to your trek through the stars.”

Unfortunately, Moore and Braga couldn’t duplicate their success when they tried for a repeat in Star Trek First Contact. After Riker, Troi, and La Forge explain the historic importance of the Phoenix’s flight to Zefram Cochrane, the would-be warp pilot says, “And you people, you’re all astronauts, on some kind of star trek?”

Not even Academy Award-winning actor James Cromwell could make that clunker of a line sound natural. Cochrane might as well have started whistling Alexander Courage’s or Jerry Goldsmith’s Star Trek theme. The line pulls me out of the movie on every single viewing, almost 27 years after I first heard it.

Star Trek First Contact will always be one of my favorite Star Trek movies. But, just like all the others, it has nits I’ll never stop picking.

After all, isn’t that part of the fun of being a fan?

Next. 7 people you may have forgot were in Star Trek: First Contact. dark