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First Contact: proof the Enterprise still has some gas in it

Star Trek: First Contact

Directed by Jonathan Frakes

Written by Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga.

Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, James Cromwell, Alfre Woodard, Alice Krige.

Showing Saturday at LSC

3 p.m., 7 p.m., and 10 p.m. in 26-100

By Teresa Huang
Staff Reporter

Star Trek: First Contact is an exciting and intelligent film free of cheesy one-liners that provides further evidence that the "even/odd rule" still applies to Star Trek movies. (Ask a Trekker if you don't know it.) Directed by "Number One" Jonathan Frakes, the movie presents fresh ideas and a new conflict between the ever peaceful Federation of Planets and the Borg, a man-machine race determined to assimilate other races into their collective.

First Contact doesn't waste any time getting right into the action. After a spectacularly rendered opening segment recalling Captain Jean-Luc Picard's abduction and assimilation by the Borg, the movie opens to find the entire Federation at battle with several Borg ships. The U.S.S. Enterprise-E, led by Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart), pursues an escaping Borg ship, traveling back in time to the 21st century, where they learn the Borg plan to sabotage and prevent the space mission in which humans made first contact with alien life. While an away team led by Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Lieutenant Commander Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton), and Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) beams down to Earth to make sure the mission is completed, the crew of the Enterprise-E deal with problems of their own, namely Borg attempts to assimilate their ship. So much for the Enterprise-E.

The action in this movie was great. Even though there weren't any huge space explosions or chases, the close encounters with the Borg were frightening and suspenseful. The special effects were excellent, too, thankfully with no long, drawn-out inspection of the new ship.

The Borg are easily the most sinister and threatening force the Federation has ever encountered. They are connected as one being, and have the power to adapt to any weapon used against them, making them the most popular and complex adversary in Star Trek history. While the original Star Trek series held some degree of anti-machine sentiment, Star Trek: The Next Generation reflected a new attitude toward increased interaction with ship computers and the inclusion of Data (Brent Spiner), a constant reminder of the happy coexistence of man and machine. The Borg were introduced to challenge this notion by representing what happens when technology loses its humanity.

According to Star Trek history, the Borg have never really wanted to be more human. They strive to be more perfect and view humans as flawed beings in fragile bodies. First Contact is interesting because the Borg here weren't just trying to assimilate into their collective, but we see that the Borg now strive for a partnership rather than a domination of the human race, a theory explained by the Borg Queen, played by Alice Krige (Sleepwalkers).

Alice Krige was sufficiently creepy as the Borg Queen. Even though the leader of the Borg collective was a woman and displayed plenty of feminine, human qualities, she was still frighteningly machine-like and cold, which gave an interesting contrast.

Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes saw their roles reversed: Stewart was the tough guy yelling at everyone while Frakes was rather likable. Patrick Stewart's performance was good, though not stellar. His role did, however, give the audience an opportunity to see the complexities of his character and show how his experiences with the Borg affected his command and his personality in ways he still hadn't realized himself.

Alfre Woodard (Primal Fear, How to Make an American Quilt) gives a terrific performance as Lily Sloane, the 21st century woman who accidentally awakens while in the Enterprise's sick bay and who gets caught up in the chaos on the ship. Though her role was not always clear, she provided most of the comic relief and stood as a layman's challenge to the future. The introduction Captain Picard gives her to the ship and to the future is wonderfully visionary and also serves as an introduction to the non-devoted Trekker.

James Cromwell (Babe) was also great in his role as Zefram Cochrane, the man who invented the warp drive and made first contact with alien life. There were also plenty of terrific cameos by recognizable characters, including one introduced by Doctor Crusher that is sure to please fans.

First Contact isn't just another Star Trek movie, but a good action-packed drama as well. It's an effective mix of Star Trek culture, action, and suspense, serving as a good introduction to the technological and social utopia Star Trek depicts. If you're a Trekker, First Contact may be just what you've been waiting for from the Next Generation cast. If you're not a Trekker, go see it anyway - you may become one after all.