Monday, September 28, 2009

"First Contact" is the only Next Gen movie you ever have to own

This weekend I was at Target, not because I needed anything but because Target is there and it makes me feel warm and loved inside even though they have Christmas decorations on sale already and that fills me with rage. There are ninety days and two other holidays (three if my birthday counts) between now and Christmas, and it wouldn't kill Target to let people enjoy all of Hallowthankmas season instead of just the Chriskwaanuka part.

Moving away from that rant for a moment, I was wandering the DVD section when I saw a boxed set of all four of the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" movies. For a second I was totally excited, even though I claim that I'm no longer a huge Trekkie, and I started looking it over, but then I remembered: As much as I love Star Trek, and the Next Generation, they only made one good movie and three bad ones. "First Contact: is the only movie in that boxed set worth owning, and here's why:

1) "Generations" is the movie that they had to make to go ahead and get the old Star Trek movies off the table. They had to give Captain Kirk a sendoff before anyone would accept the new movies, the same way they had to give the old series a sendoff. There's a reason why Admiral McCoy appears in the very first episode, after all. It's to wave goodbye.[1] You can practically see the Next Gen cast checking their watches and drumming their fingers impatiently on the pieces of scenery that Shatner isn't chewing while they wait for the movie to hurry up and end.

2) "First Contact" has a logical, credible enemy. In "Generations", the Enterprise is destroyed by Lursa and B'Etor, which is kind of the equivalent of the United States being invaded and conquered by WWII era Poland. Granted, they had the advantage of the Enterprise being incompetently captained at the time by Counselor Deanna "What's a warp core?" Troi [2], but still, this was almost as bad as the ship getting disabled by the Pakleds.

We'll skip right over "Insurrection"'s evil, face stretching aliens. That whole movie was like one overlong episode more than it was like a feature film, and the enemies there weren't a credible threat any more than the Duras sisters mentioned above. As for "Nemesis", yes, the Romulans are a credible threat, but the logic applied to using them in that movie was a little flawed. For one thing, where was Sela? If you're going after the Enterprise specifically, why would you not use the person in the Romulan empire who knows them best? The absence seemed glaring to Trek fans. [3] The other problem with the Romulans in that movie was the idiotic presence of a Picard clone that was, for inexplicable reasons, also bald. Picard wasn't born bald, but the movie crew must have decided that the viewers were too stupid to connect the clone to him without the shiny bald head, so they ignored that Picard had hair when he was younger, like we saw when he was de-aged in "Rascals" or in flashback in "Violations", and had a twenty year old bald clone wandering the Romulan ship instead.

"First Contact", on the other hand, has the Borg. They are the quintessential Next Gen enemies. Looking at all seven seasons, the dramatic climax of the series comes between the third and fourth seasons with "The Best of Both Worlds". Nothing before it or after it matched the drama and tension and flat out awesomeness of that two parter, and the events of that episode hung over the rest of the series whenever they encountered even a whiff of the Borg. Them showing up in "First Contact" established without doubt that this was a Next Gen movie, and in true classic movie fashion it managed to show us that everything we thought we knew about the Borg was wrong without undermining everything that came before. The appearance of the Borg Queen answered so many questions that were still hanging from the series, and she was so incredibly creepy and flat out evil that you couldn't help but love her and hate her all at once.

3) There is a logical reason for the crew to be reunited in "First Contact". Worf hadn't moved to "Deep Space Nine" yet in "Generations", so that movie doesn't really count here, but they didn't even bother explaining why he was around for "Insurrection". In "Nemesis", he forgot to go home after Riker and Troi's wedding and just started working on the Enterprise for a little while instead, as if anything like that would happen in any military in the world. While we know, as viewers, that the whole cast contractually had to be there, at least in "First Contact" they have a reasonable explanation for picking up Worf and letting him come on board for a while.

4) Everyone stays in character in "First Contact". Dr. Crusher violates the Prime Directive and the laws of time and space to bring Lilly, her patient, on board, as if this same thing didn't get her captured by terrorist in "The High Ground", didn't almost get the whole crew killed by an angry god in "Angel One", and didn't almost get her fired and drummed out of Starfleet in "I, Borg" or "Suspicions". She has a definite moral and ethical code and she sticks to it. Captain Picard's lingering scars and pain from his previous encounters with the Borg are almost palpable, and he doesn't randomly wander in Kirk's "find the female alien in charge and sleep with her" territory like he does in "Insurrection". [4] Data's striving to be human is key to the plot. Everyone hits their notes and it feels like the crew you know and love, and they're not forced to act like idiots just to satisfy the demands of an implausible plot like they are in "Nemesis", where they let B-9 freely wander the ship as if they never ran into Lore or Tasha Yar's evil sister Ishara and then act surprised when he turns out to be a tool of the Romulans.

4) Nobody gets mind-raped in "First Contact". This is kind of a nit pick, but is there a reason why Counselor Troi has to get mind-raped in "Nemesis" other than to continue painting the character as a damsel in distress and again undermining the little credibility she has? We know that Betazoid people have mental blocks to foil telepathic invasion, because Deanna's mom trots out a stream of them in "Dark Page", so why doesn't Deanna have any? Especially after getting mind-raped by the memory specialist in "Violations" or turning into a psychic waste receptacle in "Man of the People"? People who are physically assaulted get dogs, or take defense classes, or hire bodyguards, but Deanna Troi gets mentally assaulted about once a season and keeps hoping it doesn't happen again.

I'm not saying "First Contact" is totally without flaws, but out of the four movies in that boxed set, it's the only one worth watching more than once, unless you're confusing fandom with masochism.

Notes:

[1] And not just him. After McCoy, who is apprently 150 years old, shows up in "Encounter at Farpoint", Sarek shows up a couple of times, then Scotty, then Spock. They even revisted "The Trouble with Tribbles" in an episode of "Deep Space Nine".

[2] This is an actual quote, from "Disaster", and for me sums up the essence of Counselor Troi's character as a bimbo in a bunny suit who had no credibility. Sure, she was a counselor, but she was also a Starfleet officer, which means she went to Starfleet Academy like all the other cadets and had to take classes in the basic operation of a starship no matter what her specialy was. That's why Wesley had to answer that question about the matter/anti-matter ratio on the entrance exam in "Coming of Age". For Counselor Troi to show up on the bridge every day for six years and not know what the warp core was is kind of like being a flight attendant for six years and not realizing the plane runs on jet fuel. Michelle Forbes, playing Ensign Ro, deserved an Emmy for the two second, "WTF? Did you really just ask that?" look she shot at Counselor Troi when she blurted out that question.

[3] While this was not mentioned in the movie, it is entirely possible that Sela was breaking rocks in some Romulan prison or even executed following her massive failures in the invasion of Vulcan in "Reunification" and the Klingon Civil War in "Redemption". You only get so many chances in an imperial society, especially one where the Tal Shiar can have you ejected into space just for questioning their orders.

[4] Sleeping with female aliens (and the occasional genderless alien who reproduced by mutually fertilizing a husk) was Riker's job, not Picard's, even if there was that time that Picard sexually harassed the Chief of Stellar Cartography into transferring to another ship.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

1) Generations was made hap hazardly right after "All good things" (which in effect blew generations out of the water and was a great send off. Why were Scotty and Chekov with Kirk? Further, at the end of the Enterprise B scene, Scotty perceives Kirk to be dead. In "relics", Scotty says that "I'll bet Jim Kirk himself pulled the Enterprise out of Mothballs to come find me." Wait a second, Scotty was on the Enterprise B, he hadn't yet hid himself in a transporter buffer only to be found 75 years later. Secondly, hasn't Geordi been through enough? Shot by pakleds multiple times, turned into an assassin, shot first in "starship mine," Data inserts small sticks in his head in "Descent," And his firemonster mom almost killed him. Finally, 20 year bird of prey shooting through your shields?? ROTATE THE SHIELD FREQUENCIES!!! Isn't this common procedure now after the Borg attack? Also, In the time it took to discuss a weakness involving some type of coils, FIRE AT WILL!! YOU ARE THE FLAGSHIP OF THE FEDERATION ITS A 20 YEAR OLD BIRD OF PREY (maybe older because when it blew up it looked a lot like the BOP explosion at the end of Star Trek 6.)

2. First Contact. Yes best of the next gen movies. Troi can't drive a starship, why the hell is she the mission control person? Also, Picard does his captain Ahab routine and breaks all his ships because he hates the borg and hasnt gotten over it after "best of both worlds" right? Wrong. He could have infected them all in "I Borg," but decided not to because they are a sentient race and he's the bigger person. My final gripe with this one, Dominion hadn't invaded yet. The Borg ship was arguably the biggest threat to earth in a long time. Everyone sends ships and wants their best people there. Deep space nine however, sends the "B" team. Worf, and some other dude. (Worf also shows concern over the defiant when he gets to the bridge and seems glad to know that it is "adrift but salvagable." HE WAS READY TO RAM THE DAMN THING INTO THE CUBE 2 SECONDS AGO perhaps that day wasn't really a good day to die.

3. Insurrection...ughhhhhhhhhhh. All I have to say is that Picard hates Indians. (see "Journey's End").

4. Nemesis...(Joel I have since seen the error in my ways). This was Wrath of Khan's bastard stepchild. A. Picard caught Shinzon monologuing and secretly pulled a trick on him by ramming the enterprise into the scimitar. i.e. Kirk pulling a fast one on khan and lowering the Reliant's shields. Khan (best star trek movie there is) must have been the only piece of star trek the director saw. B. Wesley good to see you! Hows the traveler?
C. Romulan Ale isn't illegal anymore Geordi, embargo got lifted during dominion war. D. No Sela, No Tomalak. E. How the hell did Shinzon build this HUGE F'ING SHIP without the Romulans who pride themselves on knowing everything finding out? F. hmmm...there is a huge nebula (Khan again) that ships cant communicate through. Why wouldnt the fleet meet the Enterprise B4 (no pun intended) they got to that nebula???

That's all I've got.