Talking Movies [Star Trek Day]: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

On this day, 8th September 1966, the first episode of Star Trek (1966 to 1969), “The Man Trap” (Daniels, 1966), first aired. Since then, Star Trek has become a massive cultural phenomenon that still endures to this day, spawning numerous continuations, spin-offs, and ancillary media to become perhaps the most influential science-fiction franchise of all time. Accordingly, the 8th of September has been deemed “Star Trek Day” and is thus the perfect excuse to dedicate some more time to, and celebrate, this massive sci-fi franchise.

Talking Movies

Released: 4 June 1982
Director: Nicholas Meyer
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Budget: $12 million
Stars: William Shatner, Ricardo Montalbán, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Kirstie Alley, Bibi Besch, and Merritt Butrick

The Plot:
In the midst of dealing with a mid-life crisis, Admiral James T. Kirk (Shatner) and the crew of the starship U.S.S. Enterprise face their greatest threat yet when the genetically engineered tyrant Khan Noonien Singh (Montalbán) escapes from a fifteen-year exile to exact revenge on Kirk and acquire a powerful terraforming device named “Genesis”.

The Background:
Although Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Wise, 1979) grossed nearly $140 million, Paramount were disappointed that it didn’t perform better and Star Trek’s first big-screen outing was met with mixed to negative reviews. Paramount placed the blame for The Motion Picture’s failure on Star Trek-creator Gene Roddenberry’s many rewrites and, after rejecting his idea for a time travel plot for the sequel, removed him from the follow-up’s production and left him with the purely ceremonial position of “Executive Consultant”. Thus, it fell to Harve Bennett to put together the idea for the sequel, which would be much more focused on themes of old age and friendship. After familiarising himself with the television show, Harve settled on the character of Kahn (who first appeared in the episode “Space Seed” (Daniels, 1967)) as the natural choice for a compelling villain. The script went through numerous revisions, the most significant of which coming after the script was leaked; while many of the sets and models from The Motion Picture were repurposed and reused, the Starfleet uniforms underwent a dramatic redesign to fit the film’s more nautical atmosphere. Although Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’s $97 million worldwide gross actually meant that it made less than its predecessor, it also cost a lot less to make and was received far better as critics praised the character interactions, Montalbán’s performance, and Mister Spock’s (Nimoy) poignant send-off. The film went on to be incredibly influential and is widely considered to be one of the best Star Trek movies.

The Review:
The film famously opens with what can retroactively be seen as one of the most layered and blatant pieces of foreshadowing in all of cinema; Vulcan newcomer Lieutenant Saavik (Alley) commands the Enterprise in the infamous Kobayashi Maru, a purposely-unwinnable scenario design to teach Starfleet recruits that they will inevitably face a no-win situation when out in the field. Opting to cross the Neutral Zone and thus provoke conflict with the warmongering Klingons, Saavik’s decision sees the death of the entire bridge crew and the destruction of the Enterprise. When James T. Kirk, still an admiral like in the last film, ends the simulation to provide his feedback, he explains to Saavik that it was more a test of character to see how she (and the other trainees) cope in the face of mortal danger, but also cynically states to Doctor Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Kelley) that “galloping around the cosmos is a game for the young”.

Kirk, feeling the pressure of his advanced age, finds himself tested by an old foe.

Immediately, then, we’re introduced to a couple of themes that become increasingly important: the first is that Kirk, despite all of his close calls and adventures, has never truly faced his own death (we later learn that, while he’s the only Starfleet officer to have ever bested Kobayashi Maru, he did so by cheating since he doesn’t believe in a no-win situation) and that Kirk is struggling with his feelings of inadequacy and redundancy. Indeed, the film begins on Kirk’s birthday, an event that Bones likens more to a funeral than a celebration; Kirk is despondent to learn that his eyesight isn’t what it once was and that he now requires glasses to read and feels too old and worn out to be where he belongs (i.e. at the command of a starship). Bones candidly calls Kirk out and encourages him to get back his command before it’s too late; Kirk’s reluctance to entertain the notion is soon rendered mute, however, when he is ordered by Starfleet Command to reassume command of the Enterprise to answer a distress call from the Regula I space station (as always, the Enterprise is the closest ship in range). Unlike in the first film, where Kirk muscled his way back into a position of command when he was unsuitable for the role and floundered with the ship’s new capabilities, here he is initially willing to allow Spock to remain as the ship’s captain but it’s clear that Kirk feels a spark of his old self once he sits back in his chair.

Spock is training a new Enterprise crew that is bolstered by a few familiar faces.

Speaking of Spock, a few things have changed for the loyal Vulcan; first, he’s now the captain of the Enterprise and is directly training the ship’s new crew. Saavik, being a Vulcan, is something of a protégé of his and he seems far more comfortable and less conflicted in his loyalties to Vulcan and Starfleet. Ever the logical pragmatist, he remains on the Enterprise while Kirk and the others beam onto Regula I but is the only one smart enough to recognise a flaw in Khan’s attack patterns that helps Kirk turn the tide against his foe during their climatic space battle. McCoy gets a little more play as he accompanies Kirk to the space station, while Hikaru Sulu (Takei) and Lieutenant Nyota Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) don’t really get all that much to do beyond their standard roles as helmsman and communications officer, respectively. Similarly, Montgomery “Scotty” Scott (James Doohan) spends the majority of the film battling to re-route power and keep the Enterprise from falling apart from the engineering room, but expresses heartbreak at the toll Khan’s attack has taken on the ship.

Chekov is horrified to discover Khan, who wishes to use the destructive Genesis device to his own ends.

Surprisingly, it’s Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) who gets a fair amount of screen time in the film’s early going; now a first officer aboard the Reliant, Chekov is the one who picks up signs of life on a planet he (and the rest of the Reliant) believe to be Ceti Alpha VI and, since Doctor Carol Marcus’ (Besch) terraforming Genesis device requires a completely lifeless planet for its deployment, he accompanies Reliant captain Clark Terrell (Paul Winfield) to the surface of the barren, chaotic world that is ravaged by tumultuous sandstorms. Considering that Chekov wasn’t actually seen in “Space Seed”, it’s something of a blunder that he first recognises the wreckage of the Botany Bay and then the man himself (in hindsight, maybe swapping Chekov for Sulu would have eliminated this mistake), but it allows the under-rated Russian officer to play a pivotal role in the film’s early going by helping to exposit information on Khan both to the audience and the Kirk. As for Carol, she’s one of Kirk’s many former flames now devoted to the unlimited potential of the Genesis device, which promises to create life from death and turn barren worlds and moons into lush, hospitable environments. Her son, David (Butrick), is equally instrumental in Genesis’ construction but is wary of Starfleet; he fears that they (or someone else) may try to appropriate the device as a weapon and is initially antagonistic towards Kirk since he has no idea of his true parentage.

Khan is obsessed with avenging himself on Kirk and proving his physical and intellectual superiority.

David’s fears become all too real when Khan learns of the device from Chekov and Terrell; an enigmatic and charismatic villain, Khan is both eloquent, charming, and loquacious while being absolutely out of his mind. Sadistic and cruel, he delights in lording his physical and intellectual superiority over others and uses any means at his disposal (from disturbing, mind-controlling eels to commandeering the Reliant for his own uses) to achieve his goals. Gifted with genetically engineered strength and intellect, Khan is eager to relive his glory days from over two centuries ago and believes that he is destined for conquest and power. His men, especially Joachim (Judson Scott), have sworn to live and die at is command and obey his orders without question; however, Khan’s obsession with besting Kirk blinds him to all other concerns. Indeed, Joachim plays Devil’s advocate by suggesting that escaping their exile is proof enough of Khan’s superiority and that they should take the chance to flee unopposed into the galaxy but Khan adamantly refuses to deviate from his obsession with avenging himself upon Kirk. Believing that Kirk is testing him, and consumed by his fanatical desire to make Kirk pay for outsmarting him and unintentionally causing the death of his wife, Khan initially plots not to kill his foe, but to hurt him and leave Kirk as helpless as Khan as his crew were on Ceti Alpha V.

The Nitty-Gritty:
One of the many ways that Star Trek II excels and set the standard for subsequent Original Series movies is in the greater focus on the amusing and complex friendship between Kirk, Bones, and Spock. Each of them share a degree of banter and familiarity that makes for a very relatable and realistic relationship between the three; while they maintain a degree of professionalism in the line of duty, Bones isn’t afraid to call Kirk out in front of other officers and Spock is duty-bound to point out any logical observations even when they imply a greater threat to the crew. Additionally, the banter between the crotchety Bones and the impassive Spock makes for some entertaining exchanges between the two, and also gives Bones an opportunity to speak out against the destructive and moral implications of the Genesis device (indeed, it’s somewhat odd that Starfleet would allow such a device to be created since Carol is effectively playing God and potentially creating a weapon of mass destruction). Of course, it’s Spock who shines the most of the three; he willingly insists on handing over the Enterprise to Kirk (since, as a Vulcan, he “has no ego to bruise”) and, like Bones, submits his opinion that Kirk made a mistake in accepting his promotion since it’s his best destiny to command a starship. Finally, Spock showcases a great deal of emotion throughout the film; he is clearly protective and proud of his trainees, expresses grief at the losses suffered from Khan’s attack, bends the rules to deliver exaggerated repair times to Kirk, and surprisingly declares his affection and appreciation for the captain in a touching scene between the two.

The sets and uniforms are much more visually interesting and became the standard going forward.

Since we spend a great deal of time onboard the Enterprise, Reliant, and Regula I, it’s a good job that the sets look so good; though similar (or, in many cases, practically identical) to the first film, they’re shot and presented in a way that’s far more pleasing to the eye. In the first film, everything seemed too panoramic and brightly lit for such bland and uninspiring locations. Here, though, the bridge is seeped in an almost ominous darkness that allows the blinking lights and glowing consoles to really pop out and separates it from the more colourful Reliant and Regula I. Since I grew up watching science-fiction films of this era, I’ve always had a fondness for the impractical anachronisms of early-Star Trek; they hadn’t completely abandoned actual buttons and levers and the technology looked far less futuristic as a result, giving everything a tangible reality that helps to sell the illusion. At the same time, Star Trek II feels much more like a big-budget version of the show with its sets and environments; the first film felt like it was trying too hard to be different and change things up for the cinema screen, but Star Trek II hits the right balance between familiar and cinematic. It also helps that the Starfleet uniforms look far better in this film; no longer the bland, dull, uninspiring grey and beige attire seen in the first film, the crew are decked out in a striking maroon red ensemble that (despite the old-fashioned bell bottoms) would become the standard for the remainder of the Original Series films. The deviation more towards a naval/military look for the uniforms also helps Khan and his men stand out even more; having been marooned on a desolate planet for fifteen years, they’re decked out in shredded clothing that gives them the appearance of primitive savages that not only betrays their cunning and guile but also makes for a stark contrast once they seize control of the Reliant for themselves.

While some model shots are a little dodgy, the cat and mouse between Kirk and Khan is suitably intense.

Of course, it’s 1982 so some of the film’s special effects still look a little dodgy; while they’re far better overall compared to the last film, some shots of space and planets like Ceti Alpha VI don’t hold up as well as others but that’s to be expected and I’m hardly going to knock the film for the technology of the time. Plus, one of the biggest complaints I had about the first film was the lack of any actual, exciting space battles and Star Trek II more than makes up for that once Khan takes control of the Reliant; since Kirk has no reason to suspect that his old foe is controlling the ship, he and the Enterprise are taken completely off-guard when the Reliant opens fire on them, crippling the Enterprise and causing a number of deaths. Both ships, and space stations like Regula I, are of course represented by extremely impressive model shots; the Enterprise and Reliant circle and engage each other like humongous warships adrift at sea, which is only fitting given the film’s thematic parallels to Moby-Dick; or, The Whale (Melville, 1851), and Kirk and Khan more than make up for their lack of actual screen time together through an ever-escalating game of cat and mouse between their two ships and their respective captains. However, if you need further proof of the superiority of this film over the original, you need look no further than Kirk’s arrival on the Enterprise for inspection and the ship’s departure from the space dock; in the first film, this took about two ice ages but, here, it’s just a quick sequence for us to marvel at the depiction of the Enterprise before the plot gets underway.

Kirk is reunited with an old flame and discovers a son, and his zest for life, in the process.

Kirk is stunned when Carol sends a garbled transmission accusing him of trying to steal her work; like Spock and Bones, he’s fascinated by the implications of Genesis but is clearly torn between reuniting with Carol as their relationship fell apart when she distanced not only herself from him and his spacefaring adventures but also her son. The film implies that Kirk knew that he had a son out there in the galaxy all this time, but he’s seen to be more than startled to find David on Regula; David is initially antagonistic towards Kirk because he believes Kirk is responsible for the death and chaos wrought by Khan, which stems from a deep-rooted distrust for Starfleet and their military. Seeing how much David hates him deeply hurts Kirk, who sees in the boy a life he could have had if he hadn’t been busy chasing around the galaxy. However, when Khan leaves them marooned in the centre of the planet, the two begin to bond and David’s mere presence and existence has a rejuvenating effect on Kirk, who finally has a lasting legacy to leave behind. I always felt like David got dealt a raw deal in the Star Trek films; he really had the potential to breathe new life into Kirk’s character and to potentially lead to a new generation of Starfleet officers taking command of the Enterprise but was unfortunately robbed of any of this by being unceremoniously killed off in the very next film simply to foster additional animosity between Kirk and his foe.

Spock makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the ship, forcing Kirk to truly face death for the first time.

Although Khan appears to be victorious and takes control of Genesis, Kirk is able to outwit him and then taunt him into taking the Reliant into a dangerous nebula. With their experience in navigating and battling in three-dimensional space, the Enterprise is finally able to land a crippling blow to the Reliant that mortally wounds Khan and kills his crew; forced into his own no-win situation, Khan refuses to give up and activates the Genesis device, determined to take his hated enemy with him. As the Enterprise has no hope of escaping the blast without their warp drive, Spock takes it upon himself to enter the engine room and restore power to the ship, incapacitating Bones and subsequently ignoring the doctor and Scotty’s warnings of the lethal radiation leaking from the core. Thus, the film comes full circle as Kirk is forced to look death in the face; separated by a pane of transparent glass, Kirk is helpless to help his dying friend, who delivers a heartful goodbye in which he reaffirms his affection for his captain and asks him not to grieve before succumbing to radiation poisoning. In the aftermath, Kirk is deeply affected by Spock’s noble sacrifice, delivering an emotional eulogy in which he pays tribute to Spock’s humanity and bravery, but finds his zest for life and adventure reinvigorated from the entire experience; finally being forced to face death has made Kirk all the stronger, and he has new reason to keep going in the form of David…and to hope, since Spock’s body is jettisoned down to the surface of the lush and vibrant world that formed from the Genesis device.

The Summary:
There’s a reason Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is so beloved among Star Trek fans; its themes of life, death, and rebirth are as prominent now as they were when it first released and it delivers both as a fantastic Star Trek film and an engaging and poignant sci-fi film. This makes it a far better introduction to the film series, and the franchise in general, than the first film thanks to it dropping the slow, introspective pacing of its predecessor in favour of an emotionally charged, intense showdown between Kirk and one of his most influential and persistent foes. Although Khan and Kirk sadly never meet in person in the film, it’s hardly a negative as there’s something far more powerful in them trading threats and taunts through the viewscreen and matching their wits against each other in space combat. Arguably, Ricardo Montalbán’s performance as Khan has never been surpassed in subsequent Original Series films and he makes an immediate and lasting impression even without knowledge of his prior appearance in the show. Furthermore, Kirk’s vulnerability and relatability as a character makes him far more layered and human than in the first film (where he was a condescending egomaniac) and even the series (where he was a charming and arrogant womaniser); seeing him feeling the effects of his advanced age and losing his zest for life is incredibly significant to grounding the film in relatable themes and it’s a nice change of pace to see him both face his worst nightmare and gain a son in his quest to reignite his enthusiasm. Of course, Star Trek II earns its reputation through Spock’s emotional sacrifice alone; although this was immediately undone in the very next film, it doesn’t detract from the character’s touching end and went a long way to adding actual stakes to the Enterprise’s conflicts beyond disposable “red shirts”. Honestly, if you only watch one Original Series film, it’s got to be this one; Kirk and the crew would go on to have a few more film outings, a couple of which were pretty decent, but it’s hard to deny that this is the best of their six dedicated cinematic outings and it’s just as great now as it was when I first watched it as a kid.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Where does Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan rate for you amongst the other Star Trek films? What did you think to Khan’s dramatic return to the series; were you familiar with his previous appearance or, like me, were you introduced to him here? Were you a fan of the film’s themes of age, the inevitability of death, and the allusions to Moby-Dick? What did you think to the cat and mouse game between Kirk and Khan and would have have liked to see them face off in person? How did Spock’s death affect you at the time and do you think he should have stayed dead? Which Star Trek captain, crew, show, or movie is your favourite and why? How are you celebrating Star Trek Day today? No matter what you think, sign up to leave your thoughts down below or leave a comment on my social media.

Screen Time [Captain Picard Day]: Star Trek: Picard (Season One)

As amusing detailed in the Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 to 1994) episode “The Pegasus” (Burton, 1994), the crew and children of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D celebrate “Captain Picard Day” on Stardate 47457.1, which roughly translates to this day, the 16th of June. They do this by producing drawings, models, and paintings that the bewildered Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) must then judge. I, however, am using this as another good excuse to delve into some more Picard and Next Generation content.

Season One

Air Date: 23 January 2020 to 26 March 2020
UK Distributor: Amazon Prime Video
Original Network: CBS All Access
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Isa Briones, Alison Pill, Michelle Hurd, Santiago Cabrera, Evan Evagora, Harry Treadaway, Jeri Ryan, and Brent Spiner

The Background:
After the lacklustre critical performance of Star Trek: Nemesis (Baird, 2002) scarpered plans for further films featuring the lauded cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 to 1994), the Star Trek franchise (1966 to present) moved on to other shows before being expertly rebooted with Star Trek (Abrams, 2009). Star Trek returned to the series’ roots while still paying homage to the rich history and lore of the franchise with its split timeline. While the franchise saw something of a resurgence following this that generally explored the early days of Star Trek lore, showrunner Alex Kurtzman pushed to revisit the character of Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the original timeline and, alongside writer/director Akiva Goldsman, were able to convince Stewart to return to his famous role with the strength of their pitch. Upon being released, Star Trek: Picard immediately set a new streaming record on CBS All Access and was met with largely positive reviews. The show’s dark vision of Star Trek’s future was met with praise, as was Stewart’s performance, though some took exception to the pacing of the show; still, overall, the first season proved successful enough to justify the production of two further seasons.

The Plot:
Twenty years after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis, Jean-Luc Picard, former admiral and captain of the U.S.S. EnterpriseE, has resigned from Starfleet and retired to an obscure life at his family vineyard. However, when the mysterious Dahj Asha (Briones) visits him seeking sanctuary, Picard is intrigued to find that she is an android created from the remains of Lieutenant Commander Data (Spiner) and drawn into a conspiracy to suppress all synthetic life.

The Review:
The season opens with Picard playing poker with Data on the Enterprise-D in an amusingly heart-warming scene that depicts two old friends engrossed in a friendly game; Picard is desperate for the game not to end but is woken from this dream by the violent destruction of Mars. Disturbed and haunted by this vision, Picard awakes on his vineyard in France where he lives in solitude with his faithful dog, Number One (Dinero) and a couple of Romulan aides, Laris (Orla Brady) and Zhaban (Jamie McShane), for company. They help prepare him for his first-ever sit-down interview to commemorate the day that Romulus was destroyed by a supernova (as seen in Star Trek), an event that he was tragically unable to prevent. When the interviewer calls into question his efforts to aid one the Federation’s most lethal enemies, and the subsequent actions of a rogue group of synthetics in destroying Mars, Picard defends his motivations to save lives and vehemently opposing the ban on synthetics, and adamantly condemns Starfleet’s dishonourable actions during both events. Meanwhile, in Boston, the gorgeous Dahj is suddenly attacked by insurgents who attempt to kidnap her and end up absolutely decimated when she showcases superhuman strength and speed. Confused, scared, and hurt, Dahj is suddenly bombarded by visions of Picard following this incident and, after seeing Picard’s emotional outburst while walking the streets, Dahj seeks him out and desperately asks for his help.

Picard is devastated when Dahj is killed but quickly learns that she has a twin sister out in the galaxy.

Sympathetic to her plight, Picard is intrigued by her visions and familiarity with him and immediately takes her in and cares for her, exuding a grandfatherly warmth towards her. Picard’s visions of Data lead him to his archives at Starfleet and the discovery that Dahj is his (as in Data’s) “daughter”; Dahj is overwhelmed by this as androids have been vilified over the last twenty years and she is frightened at the prospect of being a synthetic, but Picard reassures her that her “father”, Data, was one of the most courageous and human men he ever knew and vows to protect her and guide her towards the truth. Dahj’s pursuers are revealed to be Romulans and soon track them down; though she viciously attacks them, she is immolated when one of them spits corrosive blood on her and causes her to explode. Heartbroken and distraught, Picard laments his wasted years sitting in solitude and vows to get to the root of Dahj’s origins; to that end, he visits Doctor Agnes Jurati (Pill) at the Daystrom Institute, who explains that Dahj was the result of an experiment by her colleague, Doctor Bruce Maddox (John Ales), to create synthetic lifeforms in organic bodies from the remains of Data’s neural pathways using “fractal neuronic cloning”, which was summarily shut down after androids produced by the Daystrom Institute caused massive devastation on Mars that saw the creation of synthetics forbidden.

Soji works as part of a groundbreaking project to bring relief and help to former Borg drones.

This information leads Picard to discovering that Bahj was one of a pair and he begins to formulate a plan to track down her “sister”, Soji Asha (Briones), Dahj’s exact duplicate, who works in a Borg Cube (referred to as the “Artifact”) that has been reclaimed by Romulan refugees. Unlike Dahj, who was a frightened and confused girl, Soji is a lot more mischievous and confident, though she has a real empathy towards the deceased drones (derogatorily referred to by others as “The Nameless”) within the Cube. An inherently trusting individual, Soji forms a relationship with Narek (Harry Treadaway) and the two of them assist with the Romulan’s efforts to harvest and remove the Borg’s cybernetic technology from the Artifact and the drones. When her dedication and empathy attracts the attention of the Borg Reclamation Project’s director, Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco), she is given the opportunity to interview Ramdha (Rebecca Wisocky), a Romulan girl who has also been freed from the Borg, in an attempt to construct a shared mythical framework as a therapeutic tool for the reclaimed Borg. However, Ramdha becomes distressed during this session and tries to kill herself while claiming that Soji is “The Destroyer”, which greatly disturbs Soji and leads her to discovering her true nature. Meanwhile, Picard is told by his old friend, Doctor Moritz Benayoun (David Paymer), that he is suffering from a terminal illness; though clearly moved by the news of his impending death, Picard remains resolute to track down Soji to protect her from the clandestine “Zhat Vahs” organisation (a group of Romulan fanatics who hate all forms of synthetic life) and get to the bottom of the recent events in his life. However, his newfound mission is obstructed by Admiral Kirsten Clancy (Ann Magnuson), who vehemently refuses to give him a starship after being angered at his comments in his interview and his comments about the state of Starfleet.

After recruiting the warrior Elnor, Picard’s crew of misfits is assembled and ready to go.

Undeterred, Picard pays a visit to his former first officer, Rafaella “Raffi” Musiker (Hurd). Jaded, bitter, and resentful of Picard, she initially adamantly refuses to get involved after he walked away from her and refused to support her in the intervening years but, does, reluctantly, research his story and gives him the name of a freelance pilot: Cristobal “Chris” Rios (Santiago Cabrera). Rios, a rogue who holds a resentment towards Starfleet due to the horrific losses he suffered while serving in the Federation, is eventually persuaded to assist Picard by both the promise of profit and by the many holograms (also Cabrera) that make up his crew. After saving Picard from an attack by the Zhat Vahs, Jurati joins Picard’s crusade on Rios’s ship, La Sirena, though she initially has some trouble acclimatising to the monotony of space travel. Picard is also overjoyed when Raffi decides to come along on the mission, which first takes the ship to the planet Vashti to recruit a young Romulan warrior, Elnor (Evan Evagora), to join their misfit team. Despite having relocated millions of Romulan refugees to Vashti in the past, Picard is disturbed at the civil and societal unrest on the planet, to say the least, and Elnor, resentful at being abandoned by Picard as a child, initially refuses to “bind his sword” to Picard’s cause. However, when Picard’s presence inspires anger and bitterness in a group of Romulans who resent the Federation for deserting them to their fate, Elnor doesn’t hesitate to defend him with brutal efficiency and joins his crew since the mission promises to be a lost cause worthy of his blade. Picard, however, is incensed at Elnor’s use of lethal action and demands that he promises only to act when Picard gives the order. A strange combination of Lieutenant Commander Worf (Michael Dorn) and Mister Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Elnor’s social awkwardness and naivety are used for some comedic relief and offset by the cold, brutal efficiency of his combat skills.

The Zhat Vahs are determined to eradicate synthetic lifeforms by any means necessary.

Their journey also causes them to cross paths with Seven of Nine (Ryan), a former Borg drone who was once part of the crew of Voyager and now operates as a “Fenris Ranger”, something of a bounty hunter, who leads them to the neon-and-hologram-drenched world of Freecloud, where Maddox is being held by a black market dealer, Bjayzl (Necar Zadegan). Seven uses herself as bait to get close enough to Bjayzl to kill her to avenge Icheb (Manu Intiraymi), another former drone who was basically Seven’s surrogate son and whom Bjayzl ripped apart for his Borg implants after betraying her. At the same time, Raffi attempts to reconnect with her estranged son, Gabriel “Gabe” Hwang (Mason Gooding), who is also on Freecloud; however, Gabe is unable to forgive Raffi for her abandonment and obsession with the conspiracy against the synthetics and refuses to forgive her or to entertain her desire to make amends, so she returns to La Sirena heartbroken, turning to drink and substances to numb her pain. Seven parts ways with the crew amicably and gives Picard the means to contact her but, when they finally get Maddox to safety, he is murdered by his lover, Jurati, in an action that leaves her devastated by complex feelings of grief and regret. Struggling after killing her lover, Jurati begins a physical relationship with Rios and it is eventually revealed that she was manipulated by the half-Romulan Commodore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita), Starfleet’s security chief, who is a member of the Zhat Vahs and in league with Narissa (Peyton List) to hunt down the androids as part of a prophecy the Romulans discovered that foretold of a future where synthetics are the dominant lifeform and have destroying all organic life. In a bid to stop this future from coming to pass, Oh terrified Jurati with visions of this future and her Zhat Vahs allies, Narissa and Narek, work to locate the synthetic’s homeworld of Coppelius through manipulation and brute force. Narek seduces and deceives Soji into uncovering the planet’s location while Narissa brutally slaughters Hugh’s deassimilated drones aboard the Artifact.

Picard reunites with Riker and Troi and Soji bonds with their daughter, Kestra.

Relentlessly hunted by these forces, Picard and Soji escape to Nepenthe for sanctuary at the home of his old friends and crew mates, former Captain William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Commander Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis); Troi immediately senses Picard’s illness using her empathetic abilities and, upon embracing Picard, Riker activates the defence measures of their quaint little home and offers him sanctuary without question. Unquestionably loyal to Picard, Riker and Troi have lived with the grief of the death of their son, Thad, who was denied a lifesaving procedure because of the Federation’s ban on synthetics. Confused and hurt by the recent revelations in her life, Narek’s betrayal has left Soji broken and traumatised; feeling that everyone is lying to or using her, even through acts of kindness, she struggles with an existential crisis because her trusting nature has led to her being deceived and manipulated despite her forming forming a fast bond with Kestra Troi-Riker (Lulu Wilson), a quirky and likeable young girl playing the role of a wild maiden of the woods while with Soji. Though fearing for the safety of Kestra, Riker and Troi shelter him and Soji until La Sirena arrives to pick them up; Riker is intuitive enough to figure out that Picard is on the run from Romulans and desperate to protect Soji, who he instantly recognises as being Data’s progeny, and Deanna admonishes Picard for not recognising Soji’s pain and encourages him to be his true, compassionate self in order to earn her trust. Still, Soji’s presence causes Rios to suffer a sudden panic attack because she resembles a girl he travelled with during a traumatic mission that saw his beloved captain kill two people being committing suicide, an act that scarred Rios. However, Raffi puts together that these were actually synthetics and the crew head to Coppelius to protect her home and her family (her fellow androids) from the Zhat Vahs.

Picard is finally able to say goodbye to Data and then awakens in a renewed synthetic body.

Upon arriving, however, they find a colony of synthetics living in peace with Altan Inigo Soong (Spiner), the son of Data’s creator and Maddox’s partner, who guilt-trips Jurati for killing Maddox and offers her the chance at redemption to help him complete his work on transferring an organic mind to a synthetic body. Another of Soji’s duplicates, Sutra, manipulates her (and the other synthetics) into constructing a beacon to summon mysterious, Lovecraftian synthetic beings to eliminate all organic life before they can destroy them and Picard is forced to battle against his failing health and overwhelming odds before Riker arrives with the Federation armada and he (as in Picard) is able to finally convince Soji to shut down the beacon. Sadly, Picard’s ailment overcomes him and he dies peacefully while surrounded by his newfound friends. Thanks to Jurati and Soong’s work, however, Picard’s consciousness is salvaged and maintained in a “massively complex quantum simulation”, where he’s finally given the chance to properly say goodbye to Data (whose consciousness still lingers thanks to the efforts of Maddox and Soong and who requests that Picard shut him down for good) before awakening in his own synthetic body. Given a second chance at life in an artificial body that functions exactly like a human one rather than making him augmented or immortal, Picard fulfils Data’s last request (terminating the last strings of his consciousness to finally allow him to “die”); the Federation finally lifts the ban on synthetics and Picard returns to La Sirena with his new crew to continue his journey throughout the galaxy.

The Summary:
Star Trek: Picard is very different from other iterations of Star Trek that I have ever seen; returning to the original timeline is a breath of fresh air after all this time spent lingering on exploring and reinterpreting the events of the Original Series (1966 to 1969) and it’s pretty fantastic to see what happened post-Star Trek. This is, however, a vastly different world than we remember; normally, the Federation is all about peace and tolerance but, here, they’ve kind of lost their way a bit. Picard resigns as a last-ditch effort to try to convince them to aid the Romulan evacuation and they refuse, which seems incredibly out of character for them, and then they foster widespread xenophobia towards synthetics after the events on Mars rather than properly investigating it. You can tell that the world has taken a sudden shift away from the usual utopian depiction because Star Trek: Picard features an alarming amount of casual swearing; words like “shit”, “asshole”, “bullshit”, “fuck”, and “fucking” are dropped all over the place and even Picard says the phrase “pissing me off” at one point. I’m not sure I really appreciate that; I think maybe it would’ve been better to just have characters like Rios use curse words but, instead, everyone, even Starfleet admirals, toss out the “fucks” like nobody’s business.

Picard’s story is one of atonement and he finds a cause worth living, and dying, for.

Still, this is very much Picard’s story and his return to action; having walked away from the galaxy for some twenty years, Picard is haunted by his mistakes but jumps at the chance to do some good once again in an effort to atone for his past. Picard’s mental state is often called into question; characters comment on his seemingly irrational actions and suggest, more than once, that he is suffering from dementia or insanity. While he is suffering from a terminal illness of the brain throughout the season, he remains steadfast in his vow to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the Asha androids. Stubborn and fully believing that his actions are both just and noble, he uses his vaulted charisma and diplomatic abilities to sway even the most hardened rogues to his cause; even those like Raffi and Elnor, who have every reason to refuse to assist Picard, are convinced to aid him due to his reputation and conviction. Interactions with Soji help give Picard a measure of closure when she reveals that Data loved him and his relationship with her (and Dahj and many of the other new characters) is very similar to that of a father to a daughter; his desire to protect her and to make amends for walking away from his responsibilities is the driving force of his character and informs all of his actions and, in the process, he finds not only a reason to live once more but also to die.

Some familiar faces from the past show up radically changed in Picard.

Star Trek: Picard also sees the return of many other familiar faces in supporting roles to aid Picard on his quest; while it’s disappointing that B-4 was just scrapped and tossed aside rather than exploring the potential for Data to live on through his younger “brother”, it was great to see Data return as a figment of Picard’s imagination, a spiritual guide of sorts to hint at the events of the season, but his presence and legacy are very much at the heart of the story thanks to Dahj and Soji and the controversy surrounding synthetic life. Similarly, I enjoyed seeing the return of Riker, Troi, and Seven after all these years; older and very different from the last time we saw them, many of the characters have become hardened, jaded personalities. Only Riker and Troi are content to step away from the drama of space action and exploration to focus on their family life and truly seem content and happy for it; to be fair, Picard attempted this but, by his own admission, was simply hiding from the wider galaxy. Seven is a much different character than we last saw in Voyager; a rogue vigilante of sorts, she has carved a reputation for herself as notorious Ranger and seems to have settled into the life of a wanderer while still trying to avoid killing in cold blood. Riker and Troi, though, are perfectly happy living their idyllic family life; despite the grief at the loss of their son, they’re dedicated to keeping Kestra safe and take precautions to safeguard their home but, when Picard arrives, aid him without question out of their loyalty and friendship to him and Riker doesn’t hesitate to assist him in the finale.

Picard’s new crew is made up of some interesting characters, though some had unexplored potential.

Picard is also supported by a whole crew of entirely new characters. Obviously his fatherly relationship with Soji is a primary focus of the season but he has an interesting relationship with the rest of La Sirena’s crew: Raffi’s faith in Picard is shaken and she is carrying a lot of emotional baggage from the fallout of her previous relationship with him; Rios’ loyalty is often in doubt because of him having a resentment towards Starfleet; Jurati seems trustworthy and turns out to have been manipulated by Oh; and while Elnor seems to almost be a surrogate son to Picard, this isn’t really developed or focused on all that much and I feel his potential as a character was a bit wasted. A lot of this comes to a head in the final two episodes where many of these supporting characters take a backseat to the larger focus on Picard’s end and his relationship with Soji, which makes sense given that those are two pivotal aspects of the season, but it is a bit of a shame that there wasn’t a bit more for them to do in the end (though it was great to see them end the season as a full functioning unit rather than strangers forced to work together).

Enemies both deceptive, radical, and domestic dog Picard and his crew throughout the season.

Finally, there’s the season’s antagonists; Narissa and Narek are an interesting brother/sister who have complex relationships with many of the main characters. Narek’s choice to use seduction and deception to trick Soji and betray her trust makes him quite the reprehensible, slimy asshole but he actually ends up joining forces with the protagonists for the finale to stop the common threat posed by Sutra. Narissa, however, is a bad piece of work through and through; directly responsible for the death of a beloved Star Trek character, Narissa has no redeemable qualities at all and, like Bjayzl, fully deserved to be executed for her reprehensible actions. The main antagonistic race for the season is, of course, a contingent of Romulans but the officious and out of character nature of Starfleet also causes headaches for the main characters, to say nothing of the synths, who are easily swayed into conjuring God-knows-what to pre-emptively strike back at organics. There’s a lot happening and a lot of subterfuge at work in Star Trek: Picard but I was, for the most part, intrigued by the complexities of the villains and the Zhat Vash organisation and I’m interested to see where future seasons take the prophecy concept.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think to the first season of Star Trek: Picard? Were you happy to see Patrick Stewart return to his iconic role and to finally return to the original Star Trek timeline or did the plot, swearing, and dark turn of the world put you off? Which of the returning and original characters was your favourite? What did you think to the prophecy regarding a nightmarish future for the characters? What other Star Trek characters would you like to see get their own spin-off? How are you celebrating Captain Picard Day this year? Whatever your thoughts on Star Trek: Picard, let me know in the comments down below.

Talking Movies [Star Trek Day]: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

On this day, 8th September 1966, the first episode of Star Trek (1966 to 1969) first aired, that being “The Man Trap” (Daniels, 1966). Since then, Star Trek has become a massive cultural phenomenon that still endures to this day, spawning numerous continuations, spin-offs, and ancillary media to become, perhaps, the most influential science-fiction franchise of all time. Accordingly, the 8th of September has been deemed “Star Trek Day” and is thus the perfect excuse to dedicate some more time to, and celebrate, this massive sci-fi franchise.

Talking Movies

Released: 7 December 1979
Director: Robert Wise
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Budget: $44 million
Stars: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Stephen Collins, and Persis Khambatta

The Plot:
Some time has passed since the conclusion of Star Trek; James T. Kirk (Shatner) has been promoted to admiral and the U.S.S. Enterprise is now under the command of Captain Willard Decker (Collins). When a mysterious and destructive alien cloud known as V’Ger approaches Earth, Kirk reassumes command of the ship, reuniting with his crew in the process, in a desperate attempt to discover V’Ger’s origins and intentions.

The Background:
I’ve mentioned previously that a big question facing many Star Trek fans is the choice between the Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 to 1994) and, thus, between Kirk and his successor, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). As the Original Series never seemed to be on television when I was a kid, I mainly watched The Next Generation and its subsequent spin-offs so the majority of my exposure to the original crew came through the feature-films. Although Star Trek performed well during its original run, it gained significantly more popularity during re-runs; however, production of a feature-length continuation was met with considerable difficulties and took so long to get off the ground that creator Gene Roddenberry even started shopping around a follow-up series, Star Trek: Phase II.

The success of epic sci-fi films inspired Star Trek‘s leap to cinema screens .

The success of sci-fi epics like Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Spielberg, 1977) and Star Wars (Lucas, 1977) convinced executives that they could benefit from a big-budget, feature-length Star Trek film, which was largely adapted from an unproduced script for Phase II. Necessitating the construction of extremely expensive sets, the film’s script underwent numerous rewrites and changes, often with the input and under the scrutiny of the returning cast members. Although the film grossed nearly $140 million, Paramount were disappointed that it didn’t perform as well as they had expected and the film was met with mixed to negative reviews. Even now, the film is largely considered a disappointment and one of the worst in the franchise but, if nothing else, its negative backlash led to a dramatic course correction in how subsequent films were written and produced.

The Review:
Star Trek: The Motion Picture opens promisingly enough by introducing us to the all-new, far more alien and threatening designs for the Klingons that would go on to define the alien race in all subsequent Star Trek media. An aggressive, war-like race, their first thought upon encountering the V’Ger cloud is to open fire, which promptly results in the destruction of their crafts. While this is a decent enough way to introduce V’Ger and sell the entity as a threat, it’s not much of an engaging or entertaining sequence and this is largely to order of the day for the film.

Kirk has usurped command of the refitted Enterprise mainly to fuel his own ego.

With V’Ger inexorably approaching Earth (and with the Enterprise, of course, the only ship capable of meeting it in time), Kirk manages to convince his superiors to give him back command of the ship in order to investigate the entity. Kirk, now and admiral, appears to have reassumed command of the Enterprise primarily to fuel his ego and to have a command once more as much as because of his experience with the strange and unknown. This, of course, brings him into conflict with the Enterprise’s current captain, Decker, who resents Kirk taking control away from him and believes (rightfully so) that Kirk’s previous experience with the Enterprise is no longer valid due to the ship’s recent refit; this turns out to be the case as Kirk gets a little lost touring the ship and is unfamiliar with its systems and capabilities since they’ve changed so much.

Spock rejoins the crew after becoming aware of, and fascinated by, V’Ger’s consciousness.

You might notice that Mister Spock (Nimoy) is not among the crew members for nearly an hour; indeed, Spock has left Starfleet and is labouring on Vulcan at the beginning of the film and only joins the crew after sensing V’Ger’s consciousness. Having worked to suppress his emotions in the ritual of Kolinahr, Spock’s character at first seems to have taken quite a dramatic step back as he is initially cold towards his crew mates, almost seeming like a stranger amongst them, but he eventually reacclimatises to the crew. As pragmatic and logical as ever, Spock becomes so fascinated by V’Ger’s unique form of consciousness and composition that he takes it upon himself to attempt to make direct contact with the entity and is overwhelmed by the influx of information in the process. Indeed, V’Ger’s cold, logical composition is a direct parallel to Spock’s often unemotional nature but, after mind-melding with the entity, it is revealed that the difference is that Spock’s capacity for emotion separates him from the entity, which is confused and incapable of understanding emotion or appreciating beauty.

The unique friendship between Kirk, Spock, and Bones has very few chances to shine.

While Doctor Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Kelley), Lieutenant Commander Montgomery “Scotty” Scott (James Doohan), Lieutenant Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig), Lieutenant Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), and Lieutenant Commander Hikaru Sulu (George Takei) all return in their familiar roles, there’s not a whole lot for most of them to do. Scotty gets a fair amount of time to shine in the early going as he introduces Kirk to the refitted ship and struggles to fix up the damaged engines and, while Bones only agrees to come along out of loyalty to his former captain, he plays a relatively influential role in pointing out Kirk’s disingenuous reasons for commandeering the Enterprise and commenting (in his trademark abrasive nature) on his rivalry with Decker. Unfortunately, there are far few moments for Kirk, Spock, and McCoy to interact, robbing the film of their amusing and love/hate relationship and making The Motion Picture a decidedly stale experience.

V’Ger finds a voice by transforming Ilia into a robotic duplicate.

Instead, the Enterprise is manned by a larger unfamiliar crew, the most prominent of which is Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Ilia (Khambatta), a Deltan who acts as the ship’s navigator and has a previous relationship with Decker. Unfortunately, any chance of this relationship being rekindled, or of exploring Ilia’s personality, are quickly dashed when V’Ger abducts her, apparently kills her, and has a robotic duplicate assume her form and act as its emissary. Though now a robotic lifeform, the probe contains Ilia’s memories and experiences, which it is briefly able to reignite through Decker’s influence.

V’Ger is a seemingly malevolent cosmic cloud that is just trying to find its creator.

The antagonistic force of the film, V’Ger, is the original “cosmic cloud”; a mysterious, incredibly powerful, and seemingly malevolent force that contains a form of consciousness far beyond anything previously encountered. Capable of launching devastating energy attacks, it overcomes its difficulties in communicating with its Ilia double and appears to be a sort of vast ship whose design and concept are more than a little reminiscent of the Borg. V’Ger’s goal is based upon a misinterpretation of the programming of Voyager 6 by an alien race of living machines to assimilate information and then return to Earth and “The Creator”, meaning that the entity is far from malicious and is, instead, a titanic machine that has gained sentience and is simply trying to understand its purpose and is little more than a demanding child. However, when V’Ger’s attempts at communicating with its creator go unanswered, it comes to believe that “carbon lifeforms” have infested the Earth and threatens to eradicate the infestation to fulfil its mission to return to its creator.

The Nitty-Gritty:
I think one of the things that always bugged me about this movie is that so much has changed between the Original Series and the Motion Picture. All of the familiar uniforms for gone, replaced with a dull, uninteresting outfits that are mostly grey and uninspired and, while you might think it’s good that the Enterprise has undergone a dramatic refit as it makes for bigger and far more elaborate sets (and, indeed, these are impressive), the film wastes so much time in introducing us to the ship. The model effects are top-notch, don’t get me wrong, and it really helps sell the awe, ambiance, and iconography of the Enterprise but my God! I still feel like I’m watching it even now, it went on for that long!

The model shots are great, which is good as the film spends a lot of time dwelling on them.

This is, of course, symptomatic of the era that the Motion Picture was made; sci-fi films, especially those set in space, loved their long, lingering shots and to build a sense of atmosphere and grandeur and I can respect that but it constantly grinds the film to a halt and gets in the way since the film seems more interested in showing off its impressive (if, obviously, dated) special effects and model shots than it does with actually moving the plot along. Pacing is a real problem in the film, especially in the first hour or so; it plays very much like an extended episode of the series, with the crew encountering numerous random obstacles in their otherwise straightforward journey and the film constantly featuring Kirk recording his thoughts in the Captain’s Log.

The Enterprise has changed a lot, fuelling Decker’s animosity towards Kirk.

Because of the refit, the Enterprise is in chaos as the crew try to get the ship ready for launch, immediately selling the idea that this isn’t the same Enterprise we knew from the Original Series and necessitating a quick tour of the film’s impressive sets. The downside to this, though, is that the transporters are dangerously malfunctioning, and the ship’s capabilities are limited, which mainly exists simply to fuel the animosity between Kirk and Decker since Kirk’s decisions almost get the crew killed when they randomly come across a wormhole.

V’Ger’s core and interior are certainly impressive and mysterious.

The special effects are impressive and ambitious for the time, admittedly; as I said, there’s some lovely model shots at work and the Star Trek concept clearly benefits from having a much larger budget. Sadly, the film opts to have a rather underwhelming antagonist at face value; V’Ger is literally just an ethereal cloud of blue lights but, once the Enterprise penetrates its energy field, it is revealed to be a complex biomechanical entity, of sorts, that is extraordinary to look at and clearly took a lot of time to construct but its more abstract nature makes V’Ger more like a force of nature. This is best seen during Spock’s absolute head-trip of a journey into V’Ger’s vast core, where he witnesses all of the knowledge and experience V’Ger has accumulated over the years.

Decker and Ilia sacrifice themselves to allow V’Ger’s evolution.

This all culminates in a journey to V’Ger’s core, a frankly extraordinary set that is as grand and complex as it is bland; despite this, it’s a suitably cold, alien environment, with the remains of Voyager 6 sat at its core, that dwarfs the cast. In the end, Kirk and the others figure out that V’Ger requires a now-archaic signal in order to complete its mission but, having learned all that there is to learn (a somewhat contradictory assertion since V’Ger has somehow learned nothing of emotion or carbon lifeforms), it requires tactile human contact in order to “evolve” and, thus, Decker sacrifices himself to facilitate this. Yes, in the end, Star Trek: The Motion Picture basically becomes a rip-off of 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kurbrick, 1968) and Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are left to muse on the ramifications of this new, undisclosed lifeform.

The Summary:
God, what a bore-fest! I feel like I lost two hours of my life and fell into some kind of coma watching this film. There’s a reason that I haven’t seen it in about ten years; it’s just so boring, cold, and clinical…so drab and uninteresting. I can fully understand and appreciate that the seventies were a different time and that seventies sci-fi, especially, was very much about establishing an atmosphere and revelling in the vest intergalactic ambiance of outer space but Star Trek: The Motion Picture pretty much embodies all the worst aspects of Star Trek. Needlessly mired in philosophy and scientific curiosity it sacrifices not just action but characterisation in service of its plot and it’s truly a shame as there are glimmers of the rapport between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy that were so entertaining in the show and subsequent movies and the plot is actually rather fascinating. The idea of a living machine attempting to reconnect with its creator and evolve into a higher form is intriguing and the revelation that it was all because of an old Earth space probe and the suggestion of some vast race of sentient machines all has a lot of potential but it’s so poorly executed. For Star Trek’s big feature-film debut, The Motion Picture just played things way too safe and sucked all the fun and adventure out of Star Trek and no amount of impressive and ambitious sets, models, and special effects can save this one.

My Rating:

Rating: 1 out of 5.


Are you a fan of Star Trek: The Motion Picture? If so…why? What is it, exactly, about the film that you enjoy? If you’re not a fan, what was it that turned you off about the film? What did you think to Kirk’s portrayal as an egotistical, self-serving asshole? Did you like the new designs for the Enterprise’s interiors and the new characters the film introduced? What did you think to V’Ger; do you think it should have been officially recognised as being involved in the Borg’s origin or do you think it’s best left as one of those incredible space phenomena? Which Star Trek captain, crew, show, or movie is your favourite and why? How are you celebrating Star Trek Day today? No matter what you think, feel free to leave a comment down below.

Talking Movies [Captain Picard Day]: Star Trek: Nemesis

As amusing detail in the Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 to 1994) episode “The Pegasus” (Burton, 1994) is that the crew and children of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D celebrate “Captain Picard Day” on Stardate 47457.1, which roughly translates to this day, the 16th of June. They do this by producing drawings, models, and paintings that the bewildered Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) must then judge. I, however, am using this as another good excuse to delve into some more Picard and Next Generation content.

Talking Movies

Released: 13 December 2002
Director: Stuart Baird
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Budget: $60 million
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Tom Hardy, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, and Marina Sirtis

The Plot:
After locating an earlier version of Lieutenant Commander Data (Spiner), B-4, in Romulan space, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise-E soon discovers that the Romulan Empire has been taken over by Praetor Shinzon (Hardy), a young clone of Picard, who threatens to destroy both the Romulans and Starfleet with his highly advanced and unstable battleship, the Scimitar.

The Background:
Following the conclusion of the popular Star Trek: The Next Generation, the crew, like their predecessors, moved into a series of feature-length films. Although the much anticipated meeting between Captain Picard and Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) failed to really deliver on the potential of its premise, it performed decently at the box office. The sequel (and one of my favourite Star Trek movies), Star Trek: First Contact (Frakes, 1996) performed much better, beating its predecessor by some $30 million, but the follow-up, Star Trek: Insurrection (ibid, 1998) failed to exceed at the box office or impress critics. For the fourth Next Generation movie, long-term cast member and director Jonathan Frakes was replaced as director by Stuart Baird, who wasn’t too familiar with the long-running franchise. Indeed, after numerous scenes depicting more character-based moments ended up being cut from the finished film to focus on action and many cast members questioned Baird’s suitability as director. For a film that was supposed to be the grand finale of the Next Generation crew, Star Trek: Nemesis was a crushing financial disappointment at the box office, with critics, and even with its main star. The film’s paltry worldwide gross of just of $67 million made Star Trek: Nemesis not just a box office bomb but also the lowest-grossing Star Trek film to date; it also saw any plans for a follow-up to be cancelled, and led to a major reboot of the franchise in 2009.

The Review:
Star Trek: Nemesis begins without the usual Star Trek fanfare and drops us immediately into the political intrigue that forms the basis for the movie’s overall plot by opening with peace between Romulus and Remus being debated within the Romulan senate. Of course, this peace would be achieved through an imperial alliance under Praetor Shinzon that would allow the Romulan Empire to openly and directly oppose the might of the United Federation of Planets and, when the proposal is resoundingly rejected, the council is summarily executed. We then re-join the crew of the Enterprise-E at the long-awaited wedding between Commander William Riker (Frakes) and Counsellor Deanna Troi (Siritis), which also finally sees Riker being promoted to a position of captaincy and Data replacing him as Picard’s first officer. Picard’s best man speech is a particular highlight, emphasising his rapport with his crew and the central theme of the film: family. Picard sees his crew as family, his ship as home, out of both pride and necessity, since he is the last of his family line.

Data is somewhat shaken by B-4’s existence but attempts to help his brother realise his potential.

The wedding, of course, helpfully reunites the crew with Lieutenant Commander Worf (Michael Dorn), who picks up B-4’s positronic signal. The implications of such a signal intrigue Picard on Data’s behalf and (thanks to the ion storm of Kolarus III) gives him, Worf, and Data the perfect excuse to bust out a futuristic dune buggy. It’s not often we get so see wheeled vehicles in Star Trek so it’s a nice moment of levity for Picard, who begins the film in a far more jovial and mischievous mood than usual thanks to the wedding, and leads to a pretty decent, old-fashioned car chase and shoot out. Unlike Data and Lore, B-4 is an inquisitive, naïve, child-like being; a precursor to his big brothers, B-4 has the potential to be as advanced and evolved as Data but is limited by his less sophisticated technology and childish demeanour. His existence creates something of a crisis for Data, who begins to question his creation and life and the meaning of his own existence and raises interesting questions regarding our capacity for intelligence and how important experience and personality are to our development. The film briefly explores this by downloading Data’s memories and experiences into B-4 but it doesn’t immediately affect B-4 or allow him to evolve in the same way; for the most part, it seems to be a failure but, of course, by the end we’re left with the suggestion that B-4 could, in time come to be as advanced and experienced as his older brother.

The Scimitar is a forboding and intimidating warship that dwarfs the Enterprise-E.

Normally, it’s massively convenient that the Enterprise-E just happens to be the “closest ship” to the current crisis but, in this case, it actually does make sense since the ship was heading that way, drawn to nearby Romulan space by B-4’s signal, and it’s later revealed that the ship was specifically lured there by Shinzon. Shinzon is given quite a bit of build up prior to his actual appearance; as a Remun, a race bred to simply be cannon fodder and slaves for the Romulans, it is unusual that he has reached such a vaulted position but his threat is immediately established in the dramatic reveal of his supped-up warship, the Scimitar, and the monstrous appearance of his Reman viceroy (Ron Perlman).

Shinzon’s physical appearance degrades as his true twisted is revealed.

Shinzon’s reveal is a stunning blow to the crew but especially for Picard; in Shinzon, he sees himself as a younger man, the son he always yearned for and the life he could have had were he exposed to the same traumas and horrors as the Reman warrior. As if it wasn’t immediately clear, Shinzon is a clone of Picard, bred to be placed as a destructive mole within the Federation, and exists as Picard’s obvious dark opposite. The crux of the film, and Picard’s arc, is reconciling that Shinzon’s true nature has been twisted, skewed by his experiences; to begin with, he believes he has finally found the chance to nurture a son and continue his legacy but, very quickly and harshly, learns that Shinzon desires nothing but power, destruction, and vengeance upon not just his Romulan overlords but the Federation itself. Shinzon is a charismatic and alluring antagonist; eloquent and calculating, he is perfectly capable of subtle manipulation and subterfuge and aggressive, uncompromising fury. Immediately after his introduction, we see that he has no interest in peace; he is merely curious by Picard’s existence but determined to destroy his enemies, viewing the Romulans, the Federation, and especially Picard with disgust and hatred. This is an intriguing element and really throws Picard for a loop but it’s unfortunately very underdeveloped as, almost immediately, we learn that Shinzon is a destructive, aggressive force, resentful of Picard and his other enemies, so he may as well have been introduced as a villain right away rather than through half-hearted subterfuge.

The Nitty-Gritty:
I can understand why people disliked Star Trek: Nemesis; for me, the film’s glaring flaw is the pacing. The film is very short and wastes a lot of its potential; it’s not often we get to really peel back the layers of Picard’s officious and complex personality and seeing him vulnerable, somewhat helpless against his dark doppelgänger was genuinely intrigued…for all of ten minutes or so. Similar to Star Trek Generations, the film squanders its potential but, unlike that film (which is largely a snore-fest), Star Trek: Nemesis does, at least, have a lot of action sequences packed into its run time. I mentioned in my review of Star Trek: First Contact that one of the few flaws of that film is the lack of space-based combat and, while Star Trek: Nemesis doesn’t really have a space battle until the finale, it does include an entertaining chase sequence and a shoot out between Picard, Data, and the Remuns aboard the Scimitar.

Troi’s traumatic experience isn’t as big of a focus as you might expect.

Again, though, the bulk of the film’s focus is on Picard and Data; given the plot of the film, this isn’t entirely unsurprising but it is still a bit disappointing. Riker and Troi’s long-overdue wedding is a central focus of the early part of the film but, very quickly, Riker is pushed to the background as simply a voice of concern among Picard’s crew. Troi gets an interesting sub-plot where Shinzon, enamoured by her appearance, initiates a mental invasion of her mind via his viceroy that is a very blatant allegory for rape but, again, this is only briefly touched upon. Clearly Troi is affected by this experience and she does get to extract a measure of revenge against her tormentors, but she also disappears for a lot of the film between these two events. Similarly, Doctor Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) is barely in the film, Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) exists mainly to debate the merits of B-4’s potential, and Worf doesn’t really get much of anything to do but man (Klingon?) the phaser banks.

While Picard exorcises his dark half, Data makes the ultimate sacrifice for his surrogate family.

As I mentioned, this isn’t entirely surprising and the film’s primary narratives revolving around Picard and Shinzon and Data and B-4 do go some way to making up for this. Picard is heartbroken and enraged at how selfish and disappointing his “son” is and the final confrontation with his doppelgänger is as much a fight for his (Picard’s) survival as it is against himself and the dark side that dwells deep beneath his morals and ethics. Similarly, Data is saddened by his younger brother, his childish nature, and his position as Shinzon’s slave. I mentioned earlier that family is a central theme of the film and that’s true; the idea is that the bond between a surrogate family of close friends and colleagues is just as strong as those between blood relatives. This is even reflected in Shinzon, who literally needs Picard’s blood to survive and who only truly confides and trusts in his viceroy, treating everyone else as disposable and expendable filth. In the end, both Picard and Data choose their surrogate family over their actual family, with Picard exorcising his dark half and Data willingly sacrificing his existence to ensure the survival of his family.

Nemesis explores Picard’s more vulnerable side but, sadly, fails to really capitalise on its potential.

Of course, this ending draws immediately and blatant parallels to the classic finale of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (Meyer, 1982); while Data’s sacrifice kind of comes out of nowhere, so did Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy), if we’re being really honest, and both relate to the aforementioned themes of family and sacrifice that are prevalent in both movies. It’s a sudden and heart-breaking end to a beloved character but one, perhaps, long overdue since Spiner had desired to be killed off for some time. Like Spock, Data is able to create a kind of back-up or failsafe to ensure his legacy lives on, in some way, through B-4. The similarities don’t end there either, really: Shinzon is a more blatant dark mirror of Picard but Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán) was also a dark reflection of Kirk, his ship a dark opposite of the Enterprise, and his motivations similarly based on horrific experiences that he largely blamed his opposite for. It’s a deeply personal story for Picard, one that ties into themes that have brewing since, at least, Star Trek Generations and demonstrates that the difference between nature and nurture is often an extremely blurred line.

The Summery:
I can understand, to a degree, why Star Trek: Nemesis wasn’t received all too well but, honestly, I find it to be the second-best of the Next Generation films. It’s not a complete bore-fest like Star Trek Generations or Star Trek: Insurrection, featuring a lot more action and thought-provoking narrative elements but it’s still not quite on the same level as Star Trek: First Contact. Sadly, however, the film does squander a lot of its potential; the pace is very brisk and the film just doesn’t focus itself in the right ways. There’s a very intriguing story here, a deeply personal one, for the normally composed Picard but the potential of that story is thrown out the window all too fast as any question about Shinzon’s motivations is immediately rendered mute shortly after we’re introduced to him. Shinzon is, in many ways, a fascinating antagonist; he has every reason to hate his enemies and his motivations are as understandable as they are abhorrent but, sadly, not enough is done with the concept of him as Picard’s dark mirror. Still, I feel Star Trek: Nemesis is an underappreciated and overlooked film in the franchise; it’s worth a view for the potential of the Picard/Shinzon story and Data’s ultimate, poignant sacrifice alone and it’s easily the most aesthetically impressive of the Next Generation movies so I’d say it’s worth a bit more consideration that it got upon release.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think to Star Trek: Nemesis? Where does it rank against the other Next Generation and Star Trek films for you? Do you agree that the film isn’t as bad as people made it out to be or do you think it deserves its negative reputation? What did you think to Shinzon and his position as Picard’s dark mirror, and to Data’s sacrifice? Do you think these elements were warranted or do you feel they were squandered? Would you like to see another go-around for the Next Generation crew or do you prefer to see new, unique takes on the franchise? How are you celebrating Captain Picard Day today? Whatever your thoughts on Star Trek: Nemesis, or Star Trek in general, go ahead and share them below.

Talking Movies: Star Trek: First Contact

Talking Movies

Released: 22 November 1996
Director: Jonathan Frakes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Budget: $45 million
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Alfre Woodard, James Cromwell, and Alice Krige

The Plot:
After intercepting an attempted invasion of Federation space by the Borg, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Stewart) and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise-E pursue their foes back in time to the mid-21st century where the Borg, represented by their alluring Queen (Krige), intend to use their nanotechnology to assimilate the Earth and change the course of not just human history, but the history of the entire known galaxy by disrupting the fated first contact between humans and extraterrestrials on this day, 5 April, in 2063.

The Background:
It’s the age old question, isn’t? Which do you prefer; Star Trek (1966 to 1969) or Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 to 1994)? Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) or Captain Picard? Personally, since I grew up with the original series movies rather than the television show, I’ve always been more of a Next Generation and beyond kinda guy. Regardless, after Star Trek wrapped up, the original cast reunited for a series of movie spin-offs and executive and producers were able to coerce creator Gene Roddenberry to spearhead an all-new Star Trek television show to breathe new life into the franchise. Star Trek: The Next Generation became so popular that it too branched out into feature films, with the first being the appropriately-titled Star Trek Generations (Carson, 1994), which brought Kirk and Picard together but failed to impress critics despite performing relatively well at the box office.

First Contact allowed the New Generation crew to shine after a lacklustre crossover with Kirk.

For the next film in the franchise, writers Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore decided to merge together their two most popular ideas for the franchise’s thirtieth anniversary: time travel and the Borg, with the two kicking around different ideas for the time period the movie would be set in and many different drafts of what would become the film’s final incarnation. Long-time cast member Jonathan Frakes, who had directed a number of episodes of the show, was chosen to helm the film, which delved into the Borg hierarchy, expanded upon their memorable appearance in the “Best of Both Worlds” (Bole, 1990) two-parter, and allowed the usually diplomatic and authoritarian Picard to become more of an action hero archetype. Star Trek: First Contact received widespread acclaim, particularly directed towards its gruesome special effects, and, filmed on what now seems like a paltry budget of $45 million (for comparison’s sake, Star Trek (Abrams, 2009) boasted a hefty $150 million budget), the film did very well at the box office, beating its predecessor by some $30 million.

The Review:
One of the things I’ve always respected about the Star Trek movies is how they don’t really waste a lot of time pandering to audiences who are unfamiliar with the concept or the television series; this generally allows the films to, largely, stand alone and work as products attached to, but also independent from, the show. Star Trek: First Contact differs from this formula in that it directly references, and is built off of, one of the most celebrated Next Generation episodes ever. Accordingly, the film opens with a brief revisitation of Picard trapped on the Borg Cube; if you didn’t know that he was transformed by the Borg, this is a quick and effective way to show that he is still haunted by memories of those experiences. Of course, if you’re not a fan of eye horror, this isn’t a scene for you but it also shows off the amazing updates to Borg technology and how their implants work going forward.

Star Trek: First Contact showcases a number of new sides of Picard’s character.

Of course, this opening sequence is just one of what is implied to be many recurring nightmares on Picard’s behalf and it is interrupted by the report of the Borg’s impending invasion. Despite the all-new, all-powerful Enterprise-E being the “most advanced ship in the fleet”, Picard is annoyed to inform his crew that they’re being kept out of the battle against the Borg; I love how the Romulan threat is so neutered by this point that even Counsellor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) is incredulous as to their assignment to patrol the Neutral Zone and that the Borg are considered such a threat that all it takes is one of their ships to be classified as an “invasion of the Federation”. This all sets up Picard’s tone, character arc, and conflict as Starfleet believes (rightly so, as it turns out) that he shouldn’t face the Borg again given the trauma he faced at their hands. While Commander William Riker (Frakes) disagrees, who gives a shit what he thinks? That guy couldn’t make a decision to save his life! Still, he’s right to an extent as Picard disobeys their orders and is then able to turn the tide against the Borg Cube using his knowledge of their defences and technology; however, as the film progresses and Picard launches guerrilla tactics against the Borg, it’s clear that he is driven by his rage, vengeance, and hatred of the cyborgs rather than his usual calm, measured demeanour.

The Borg Queen brings Data closer to humanity than he ever thought possible.

Just as the Original Series was often framed around Kirk, Commander Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and Doctor Leonard “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelley), the Next Generation movies primarily revolved around Picard and Lieutenant Commander Data (Spiner), who, as an android struggling to understand and become more human, was very much The Next Generation’s version of Spock. Data still has his emotion chip installed, which was his big plot point in Star Trek Generations, and is manipulated here by the Borg Queen, who plays upon Data’s wish to be more human by appealing to his emotions, stimulating his sensations, and even grafting organic skin onto his outer shell. This forms Data’s character arc as he appears to give in to the Borg Queen’s temptation and allows them to turn him into something more akin to a cyborg. It is, of course, all a ruse on Data’s part to allow him the perfect opportunity to scupper the Borg Queen’s plans but, given what we saw of him in the “Descent” (Singer, 1993) two-parter, the way the film is framed, and that this is the closest to Data’s dream of becoming human, it’s very easy to believe that he has turned against his friends and crewmates.

Cochrane is a far cry from the near-mythical figure of Starfleet teachings.

Far from the legendary, near-mythical figure of Starfleet teachings, Zefram Cochrane (Cromwell) is a disillusioned, selfish, greedy drunkard; he plays along with the crew’s predictions of the future and assists them in completing the Phoenix but is scared of the fate they readily inform him off and angered that he becomes such an influential figure when his intentions were less than noble. He tries to literally run away from this fate and is convinced to see it all through but not by lectures about how the Phoenix ushers in this new, golden age for humanity, and, instead, partially off-screen and partially through the “don’t be a man” quote from Riker. Either way, in the end, he accepts his role as the figurehead for inter-species relationships.

Lily acts as the audience surrogate and Picard’s conscience.

Cochrane’s assistant, Lily Sloane (Woodard), starts out as an angry, confrontational revolutionary who initially believes she has been kidnapped by opposing forces but is quickly convinced of the Borg’s threat by Picard. For me, she’s probably the weakest part of the film; it’s not enough to drag it down in my estimation but I’ve never been a fan of the actress or her portrayal of the character, who comes across as annoying and a liability at some points. Still, she acts as both an audience surrogate through which the uninitiated are taught about the Borg, the ship, and the future world Picard is from.

Some cheeky cameos add to the film’s charm but there’s not much for the rest of the crew to do.

If there’s one downside to the film, it’s that the remainder of the crew don’t really get a lot to do since so much of the plot revolves around Picard overcoming his trauma and Data’s temptation by the Borg Queen. Beyond her amusing drunk scene, there’s not a lot for Deanna to do here, unfortunately; similarly, Doctor Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) exhausts most of her importance after fleeing the Borg attack, though she does later personify the crew’s general blind obedience to Picard’s orders. Riker, also, is largely inconsequential to the away team mission, with Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) getting most of the focus, though this is most likely because of Frakes pulling double duty behind the scenes as well. It’s therefore all the more obvious that the never-before-seen Lieutenant Hawk (Neal McDonough) is going to suffer the fate of most Star Trekredshirts” since he gets a lot of screen time and focus for a guy who isn’t a part of the main cast so you know he’s doomed even without a deep knowledge of Star Trek. Similarly, Geordi leaves Porter (Eric Steinberg) in charge of Engineering and he and his female co-worker are summarily assimilated but cameos by the Doctor (Robert Picardo) and Lieutenant Reginald Barclay (Dwight Schultz) help to add to the film’s charm and expand the Star Trek world.

The Borg are treated as a gruesome, terrifying, and formidable force.

The film only has one space battle, which is disappointing, but it’s a fantastic way to showcase the slaughter that the Borg, even a single Cube, is capable of inflicting. The Borg are, apparently, now so advanced that they can just casually manifest a “temporal vortex” through unknown means to travel through time; it’s very convenient and not really explained much but it gets the plot moving quickly and is a much faster way to get everyone back to past. When the Borg are attacking and assimilating the crew, the film resembles a horror movie; the Borg are kept in shadows, attacking off-screen, and are not seen in full view until Picard leads a team to try and stop them before they can spread beyond Deck 16. It’s a very effective way to introduce some tension and horror and the stakes of the film since Picard emphatically orders his team to fire at will rather than leave any assimilated crew members alive despite the fact that de-assimilation is a thing and he knows that. The Borg are treated as a zombie-like, relentless force, one that will not attack unless provoked or they perceive a threat; once they do attack, there are slow and persistent, stoically allowing their numbers to fall until they learn to adapt and continuing their assault regardless, assimilating crew members without conscience or mercy.

The Borg Queen was an alluring, ghastly presence that altered the Borg dynamic.

The Borg Queen introduced a dynamic to the Borg “collective”; until this moment, the Borg were a unified voice, with no hierarchy or individuals. The closest they came to having such a central voice was Locutus and when Lore (Spiner) manipulated that rogue contingent in the aforementioned “Descent” episodes. Here, though, the exact nature of the Queen’s relationship is left somewhat vague; it appears as though she is merely a physical manifestation of the collective but she also orders the drones about and they adhere to her commands (and she refers to herself as “I”, indicating that she is their “leader”, as Data suggests). It’s clearly a filmmaking technique to allow audiences to have a clear antagonistic figurehead to focus on and, while it does work since it expands the nature of the Borg society, it does somewhat diminish the horror of their collective consciousness. Regardless, the Borg Queen is a charismatic, seductive, and manipulative presence; oozing confidence, sex appeal, and a gruesome body horror, she represents Data’s desires for humanity and Picard’s fears of the Borg since it is heavily implied that the Borg Queen personally supervised his assimilation, perhaps even sexually abused him, and that the Borg Queen has assumed numerous physical forms over the years. Her introduction is also one of the most horrific and impressive special effects shots in all of Star Trek and her make-up design looks both incredibly uncomfortable for the actress and ghastly in its execution.

The Nitty-Gritty:
There are a few conveniences, instances of hand-waving, and missed opportunities in the film, if I’m being brutally honest: there’s the aforementioned ease of time travel, the massively convenient explanation for getting Lieutenant Commander Worf (Dorn) back on the Enterprise, and I would have liked to see a little more exposition about how, why, and when Geordi decided to swap out his trademark visor.

First Contact added a high quality cinematic flair to the television show.

Still, one of the (many) things I enjoy about Star Trek: First Contact is the vastly improved uniforms for the cast and crew, despite how hot and uncomfortable they appear regardless of their high quality. Everything about the film is so much more cinematic and of a much higher quality than all of those that came before it; the Enterprise-E bridge is massive and far more detailed and the ship itself is much more like the traditional Enterprise but meaner and more capable of combat. Like the Klingons before them, the Borg benefitted greatly from the cinematic redesign; no longer appearing like pale men in black leotards with plastic attachments and hands in clear prosthetics, they appear as disgusting zombies with their cybernetic implants crafted into, or entirely replacing, their limbs in sequences that are extremely horrific for a 12-rated film and easily the most gruesome of any Star Trek production.

The zero-g sequence sticks out as a memorable and unique action scene.

The film mainly switches between the away team, led by Riker (who must work with Cochrane and convince him to help them and where the bulk of the film’s humour and levity is seen), and the main ship where Data is tempted by the Borg Queen and Picard becomes a far more pro-active and action-orientated individual in this film. Picard adopts a sleeveless variant of his uniform, showing off his physique for the first real time, and he is portrayed as an almost John McClane (Bruce Willis) type of action hero, hiding in engineering vents and striking against overwhelming odds. One of the film’s most engaging sequences is the space walk Picard, Hawk, and Worf are forced to take to keep the Borg from calling for reinforcements; it’s a rare instance of weakness for Worf, who dislikes the disorientation caused by zero-g environments, and unique in that the whole scene technically takes place upside down on the underside of the ship.

Picard’s obsession threatens to destroy him, his ship, and his crew and is the cause of much conflict.

Another memorable scene is, of course, the blazing confrontations between first Picard and Worf and then Lily and Picard. While the rest of the crew may disagree with Picard’s unwavering belief that they must fight the Borg no matter the cost, Worf is the only member of the crew to object to Picard’s orders, believing (rightly so) that Picard is letting his personal feelings influence his judgement. It’s an extremely tense moment as the two close allies and comrades almost come to blows, it seems, and leads to an awkward moment of reconciliation between the two after Picard reluctantly agrees to set the Enterprise-E to self-destruct. Lily (who acts as Picard’s conscience throughout the film, questioning his motivations and notes, with dry criticism, how aggressive and uncompromising his actions have become) also unashamedly criticises Picard’s decision and confronts him, leading to a dramatic and heated exchange between the two in which the extent of Picard’s obsession and pain is revealed. It’s a very humanising moment for Picard, usually so authoritarian and composed, and here stripped down to a tormented victim of unspeakable abuse.

Picard not only ensures the future of humanity but also confronts and overcomes his demons.

In the end, Picard mounts a solo effort to rescue Data and is willing to sacrifice himself, his ship, and Data to distract the Borg Queen and end her threat. Paralysed with fear and confusion regarding the Queen’s appearance, Picard is only able to win the day thanks to Data’s deception and subsequent release of plasma coolant to liquefy the Queen’s organic components and end her threat. Picard finds some closure in snapping the Queen’s neck and the two of them actually mourn her for her force of will and uniqueness amongst the generally zombie-like Borg. It’s a cathartic end to the trauma that has haunted Picard since his assimilation and allows him the chance to step away from the brink of self destruction and take proactive, measured action against one of the franchise’s most formidable foes.

The Summary:
Star Trek: First Contacts a fantastic Star Trek film (and a great science-fiction movie in general) that showcases a completely different side to Star Trek and, especially, Picard; ever since “The Best of Both Worlds”, Picard has been haunted by his experiences with the Borg but, while some episodes of The Next Generation dabbled in how his assimilation affected him, it was never explored as deeply as it is here. Picard is literally haunted by the Borg, able to sense their presence and hear the mutterings of the collective and is driven to animalistic rage whenever he battles them head-to-head. It drives him to an obsession that blinds him to the losses he is suffering; all he cares about is opposing the Borg rather than compromising as they have on so many other occasions. He wants them dead, to make them pay, and to take his revenge upon them no matter if it costs him his ship, his crew, or his life. It’s a powerful character arc, and series of scenes and moments, that humanises Picard and makes him a far more relatable character and a stronger man for it after he realises what his fixation with the Borg has turned him in to. In many ways, it’s a very small-scale film, much more concerned with such interpersonal deconstructions; the away team are simply constructing a warp-capable ship, Data faces temptation from the Borg Queen, and Picard is engaged in guerrilla warfare with the Borg. There’s only one space battle and no real star trekking, with even less diplomacy, making the film both grounded but also outlandish thanks to its time travel plot and the use of one of the franchise’s most horrific and persistent antagonists. It remains easily my favourite of the Next Generation films and, potentially, my favourite Star Trek movie because of its themes, presentation, and intensity of the plot.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Are you a fan of Star Trek: First Contact? Where does it rank for you compared to the other Star Trek movies? What did you think to the film’s time travel plot or the use of the Borg? What about Picard’s characterisation and Data’s character arc? Are you a fan of the Borg? If so, what are some of your favourite episodes and, if not, why is that and which enemy would you have preferred to see in the film? Where do you stand on the Kirk vs. Picard, Original Series vs. Next Generation debate? Whatever your thoughts on Star Trek: First Contact, or Star Trek in general, feel free to leave a comment below and be sure to check out my other Star Trek content.