Why does Star Trek: First Contact hold up so well among all of The Next Generation’s films?
Star Trek: First Contact holds up, and that’s a feat these days. As a film ages, there are things about it that may not hold up. Dialogue, plot, and in the case of a science-fiction film, special effects. As far as we’re concerned, the entirety of Star Trek: First Contacts holds up against all of the other films in the Star Trek canon.
While it’s fair to say that other films across the franchise can and should be talked about as the franchise’s best offering, what we can say for sure is that First Contact, a film that is now 27 years old, is the best The Next Generation era had to offer.
But why does First Contact stand out against Generations, where Jean-Luc Picard and James T. Kirk first met, and Nemesis, where a very young Tom Hardy was present in a starring role? Aside from the quality of the writing? Well, First Contact involved the biggest aspects of The Next Generation and used them to great effect.
Star Trek: First Contact embodied all the aspects that made The Next Generation great without making it exclusive to long-time Star Trek fans
When you look at what made The Next Generation so popular, it boils down to a few key aspects. The first is that the franchise revolves around Picard’s emotional burden of the moment. Whether it was dealing with boiling tensions across the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, the definition of a living beal, or the opinions of a god against humanity, it was Picard’s emotional weight that made many of those moments huge. Namely, what happened to him with The Borg?
While the series touched on that some, the culmination of the Borg storyline never happened in an episode, but in First Contact. It hyper-focused on Picard’s emotional turmoil from all those years ago and finally boiled it clean of any impurities that may have bogged the story down and summed it up succinctly; Picard has post-traumatic stress disorder from being abducted and tortured by the Borg.
First Contact made the story of Picard easier to follow by showcasing it throughout the early parts of the film, while also allowing other characters to showcase their more baselines personalities in fun situations around them.
Geordi La Forge, ever the caretaker of the Enterprise, was now having to take care of Zefram Cochrane, the man who would shape his literal future. Will Riker could barely take anything seriously enough to stop smiling, as the man was living out his childhood dream of exploring the unknown. Deanna Troi tried to use her empathy to figure out what was holding Cochrane back and driving him forward simultaneously.
Worf was stuck in a situation where his truest desire, combat, had to be fully embraced. Data finally got to decide if he was fine being an android or if he was finally ready to be more. And Beverly, ok, well not everyone got a decent story arc in First Contact.
But isn’t that just like The Next Generation? Usually, someone gets left out due to how many stories are being told in a single episode. And that’s why the film worked, it truncated The Next Generation’s biggest aspects into an easily digestible movie that even non-Trek fans could easily get into.
It took every major aspect, from the storylines, the character portraits, the biggest villains, and the most dire of situations, and combined it into the perfect send-off for the franchise.
Too bad there were two more movies and another entire series after this.