Welcome to the next article in a series called ‘How to Fix’, in which I will be offering my opinion on how to improve on stories from various entries in different franchises. It must be noted that not all of the films, games or episodes that I will be talking about in this series have to necessarily be ‘broken’ in order to fix them, simply that these articles will offer alternate means of telling the same stories.
Of all the Star Trek: The Next Generation films, First Contact is definitely the least terrible, objectively speaking. In many ways, it could actually be considered one of the better Star Trek movies, but there are just a few things about the film that definitely hold it back, not least the fact that it shifted the tone and focus of Star Trek ever closer to action and further from its lore-heavy sci-fi roots. With that said, here are just a few ways in which First Contact could be improved. To start:
The film should have been set on the Enterprise-D
This one is early on the list because it isn’t really fair to First Contact to criticise it on this point, since it was the previous film (the godawful Generations) that committed the ultimate crime of destroying the Enteprise-D in the stupidest way possible. Nonetheless, the impact of First Contact is lessened thanks to the Enterprise-D’s conspicuous absence, because as far as the audience is concerned this film could have taken place on any random Federation ship and it wouldn’t have made a difference. We don’t know the Enterprise-E well enough to care about it being assimilated by the Borg, which is a huge part of what drives the narrative of the film. After all, the majority of Picard’s conflict throughout the movie is related to his unwillingness to destroy the Enterprise to stop the Borg, and this would have connected with the audience if the ship he was talking about was the vessel we had come to know and love throughout the show rather than a recent replacement that we had barely seen yet.
Imagine an alternate version of this film in which it was the Enterprise-D that was being attacked and not the E. It would have been more poignant to see the D’s engine room infested with Borg, or to have the argument between Picard and Worf happen on a damaged version of the D’s bridge instead of the bland set they cobbled together for the E. And if it really was the intention of the writers to destroy the D, it should have been done here rather than in Generations, as sacrificing the Enterprise-D to destroy the Botg Queen would have been a much better sendoff for the ship than having it crash after being attacked by a ship less than a tenth of its size.
Expand on the character of the Borg Queen, or at least explain what she is
Many cite First Contact as the beginning of the end for the Borg, since it was just after this film that the threat of their constant attempts to assimilate Starfleet began to wane. This was made all the worse by their constant overuse in Voyager, but that can be a topic for another day. What threw the Borg ‘off-track’, so to speak, was the introduction of the Borg Queen without any attempt to explain why she actually exists in the first place. The film essentially turns everything we already understood about the Borg on its head, without giving any satisfying reason as to why, simply to introduce a fairly uninspired villain with confusing motives.
The Borg are a hive-mind, and by definition have no leader, and yet the writers of First Contact obviously decided that the Borg were a hive in the literal sense, as in a hive of bees, and by that logic they needed a Queen. In theory, this could work – the Borg might need one particular individual drone to store command data, or provide an imaginative insight into how the Borg should expand, or even as a variant of ‘Locutus’ that is required to communicate with other races. What we got in First Contact was a Queen who seemed totally detached from the Borg, almost as if she was some other entity that had taken control of them, and no concrete explanation as to why the Borg even need a Queen. Data himself expresses his confusion over the concept, but the Queen just brushes it off and quickly moves on. In order for this antagonist to work, it must first be explained what her motives are and why she exists in the first place.
Make Picard more like Picard
Since this was a movie and not an episode on a TV show, Picard seemed to suddenly develop a Rambo complex in this film. He brutally murders a fellow Starfleet officer in cold blood to prevent him from becoming a Borg drone, despite the fact that he himself was once assimilated and was later rescued and returned to normal. He screams like a maniac when firing a machine gun at the Borg (which definitely shouldn’t affect them since earlier in the film Data is shot with a machine gun and, strangely, suffers no damage whatsoever) and then later screams the infamous ‘NOOOOO’ while smashing up his office. And, to top it all off, at the end of the film he just snaps the Borg Queen’s neck, despite the fact that she had been beaten and was essentially a harmless spinal column writhing around on the floor.
So what should he have been like? Well, more like how he was in the TV show. He shouldn’t have been driven by hate of the Borg or a desire for revenge, because that is totally outside of what we have come to expect from his character. In fact, the entire ‘Picard has Borg PTSD’ was invented entirely for this movie – even after he was assimilated Picard fought the Borg many times, and even had a chance to totally destroy them, and yet he showed none of these feelings of anger that have suddenly cropped up for no explainable reason. If anything, it would have been far more interesting to see a character like Data go through this arc, since his newfound emotions are still somewhat unstable and he clearly finds the idea of the Borg disgusting as they want to eradicate humanity, the very thing that he looks up to.
Remove the Earth sub-plot
Admit it, nobody watches this film for Zefram Cochrane. The Earth subplot is cheesey, makes no sense in terms of the temporal Prime Directive and only serves to create a cliche tension-built climax at the end, when it looks like the Borg are about to destroy human history by ensuring they never discover Warp Travel. Admittedly, the character of Lily is an interesting inclusion, and having someone with no knowledge of starships, Borg, the Federation or phasers bumbling around on a ship in the middle of a Borg attack seems like something that The Next Generation would have done on the show. However, Lily could have ended up on the ship for any number of reasons, and then dropped off on Earth at the end while promising to tell no-one of what she saw, which would have spared the audience scenes with awful dancing, dated music, cringe-inducing dialogue and Deanna Troi getting drunk.
Alternatively, those scenes could be replaced with more of the action that is happening on the Enterprise, which is what people are actually watching the film for. If the subplot with the Phoenix has to be a focus, then perhaps Lily could be written as a character who is somehow crucial to the launch, and it is imperative that the crew get her back to Earth unharmed before the launch is scheduled to occur.
In fairness, First Contact is the best of the TNG movies, and it certainly defeats its predecessor hands down. But with just a few tweaks, it could have been one of the best Star Trek movies of all time. If you enjoyed, you can follow us either here or on Facebook and be sure to leave a like. Thanks for reading!