After a middling first cinematic mission, Picard and crew return for their second and best adventure with Star Trek: First Contact. The Borg attack and Picard must travel back in time to save the future of the Federation in this thrilling action-packed film helmed by Number Two himself, Jonathan Frakes. Now on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, it’s the star of the Next Generation discs with a fantastic Dolby Vision Transfer and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track to match packed with hours of archival bonus features. Highly Recommended
The crew of the Federation Starship Enterprise under the command of Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) have faced many obstacles and enemies, but none as lethal as the Borg. When a Borg cube attacks the very heart of the Federation. no one was prepared for the assault. When Picard and the fleet stop the attack, the Borg have one last trick to play by going back in time to prevent humanity’s leap into intergalactic space travel. Now Picard must face his worst fears and confront the cybernetic race that once held them within their collective to ensure the survival of all members of the Federation.
Star Trek has always enjoyed cinematic peaks and valleys. The old adage was that even-numbered films were always the best, and that was true with this eighth theatrical outing Star Trek: First Contact. Not only was this film a marked improvement over Generations - it would turn out to be the best of the four Next Generation films. Much like Star Trek: II the return of one of the television series' best villains was ripe material to explore. We had Patrick Stewart’s Picard struggling to confront his own fears and a deep-seated need for revenge. Brent Spiner’s android Data also saw a fitting character arc as an android endeavoring to become human as a captive of a race of cyborgs. Then there’s the scene-stealing Alice Krige as the Borg Queen who through mounds of makeup applications delivers one of the best Trek villains ever.
That’s a lot of rich material for this film to play around in, but unfortunately, it doesn’t give much for the rest of the crew to work with. That's my lone complaint about this adventure. By and large Frakes’ Riker, Burton’s Geordi, Dorn’s Worf, McFadden’s Crusher, and Sirtis’ Troi are mere pawns to simply move around from one plot point to the next. They’re not really there to expand their characters but to inhabit space so side characters like Alfre Woodard’s Lily and James Cromwell’s Zefram Cochrane can explore weightier issues of honor, duty, and legacy.
I took to Star Trek: First Contact largely because it was the Borg that cemented my interest in Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was all of six when the show began and I don’t remember thinking much of it the time or two my dad and I tried to watch it. We stuck to reruns of the original series and the movies. But thanks to a childhood friend, he eventually got me to watch a few of the better later-season episodes and then hit me upside the head with the exciting Borg episodes. I’m grateful his parents were a pack of devoted sci-fi nerds who taped every single episode because I was able to dig back into the show and become a fan. First Contact brought the series full circle for me while future Borg encounters could be enjoyed in Voyager and now with Picard.
It may be heavier on action than the average Next Generation episode, but it also finds time to be thoughtful and ponderous. In true grand Trek form, it explores interesting issues and needles around with them a little but doesn’t get so bogged down that it becomes a numbing slog. There’s heart, humor, and plenty of thrilling action-packed set pieces to keep the blood pumping and your attention firmly fixed on the screen. I wouldn’t call this the greatest Star Trek cinematic adventure, but it’s up at the top of the heap with the best efforts of the Original Crew and Kelvin Crew films.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
The second cinematic adventure of the Next Generation crew, Star Trek: First Contact, beams down to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a two-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital set from Paramount. Housed in a standard sturdy case, the 4K is pressed on a BD-66 with a BD-50 saved for the remastered 1080p presentation and bonus features. Both discs load to static-image main menus.
As the best film of the Next Generation franchise it shouldn’t be any surprise that Star Trek: First Contact is the star 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. The film had an okay first Blu-ray outing but left a lot to be desired. Thankfully this wait for a new transfer was worth it. Enjoying a robust 2160p Dolby Vision transfer, the film simply looks better than ever with an impressive range of clean details, bold colors, deep inky blacks, and a naturally cinematic film grain presence - all of which were missing on that last Blu-ray. From the first shots of the Borg cube to the Borg Queen and her mindless minions to the people at the Montana missile complex, fine details are terrific. Facial features, hair styling, and makeup all look incredible. I really enjoyed seeing the Oscar-nominated Borg makeup and the little imperfections in the skin and the various cybernetic implants in full 4K glory. Some of the early CGI work - especially around a particular substance in the final act - can look a little dated and dodgy, but a lot of it still holds up well, including Alice Krige’s iconic entrance.
With HDR (both Dolby Vision and HDR10), the film’s color scheme looks much healthier than the past disc. From the color designations for the crew’s uniforms to the lighting accents of the Enterprise-E’s helm, primaries are lovely enjoying a full range of shades while keeping skin tones healthy… for humans at least. Black levels are also greatly improved here with the Borg-held deck levels showing nice deep inky shades with some creepy shadows giving the image a terrific feel of three-dimensional depth. After some dodgy Paramount catalog releases over the years, it’s nice to see that with recent outings like Dragonslayer and the previous Trek discs they can deliver a great 4K disc. First Contact is easily the highlight of the Next Generation films.
As has been the case with the other Star Trek 4K releases, Star Trek: First Contact enjoys a robust, active Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio mix. Yeah, I don’t get the decision not to go full Atmos either, but what can you do? With that in mind, it's not like this track sucks on toast either. In fact, it’s an excellent mix all around. From the opening fight with the Borg cube to the Zero-G assault on the deflector array to Cochrane’s fateful first warp flight, this track is fully active. I found the low-end response even better for this outing than Generations giving those explosions and quantum torpedos plenty of heft and rumble in the subs. The Front/Center channels carry most of the workload but since this film has more action, there’s plenty of movement and imaging through the soundscape. Those quiet conversational moments between Picard and Lili or a drunken Troi still hold plenty of surround atmospherics to keep channels engaged. Dialog is clean and clear throughout without issue. This film also features one of my favorite Goldsmith scores and it sounds magnificent throughout.
Once again Paramount carries over a massive collection of archival bonus features. There’s nothing new to highlight but if you haven’t gone through these before they’re worth the look for sure. The biggest commentary is certainly the Braga/Moore offering, Frakes has some enthusiasm for the film, but it’d been nice if he had someone to work with so he didn’t have to fill gaps just talking about what he’s seeing on screen. Otherwise the rest of the material, even aged is all worth picking through.
4K UHD Disc
It’s easy to say Star Trek: First Contact is the Next Generation cinematic high point. Pulling in a classic villain from the series grounds the action and makes it personal while finally giving this crew of the Enterprise a big stage to come into their own without referencing past cremembers. Unfortunately, this is also the crew’s peak entry with following films falling well below this high benchmark. Thankfully it makes for one hell of a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray! With a new Dolby Vision transfer and a new Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track, the film looks and sounds the best it has since the theater easily outpacing the middling 2009 Blu-ray disc. Throw in a full slate of archival bonus features and you’ve for a disc that’s more than worth the upgrade. Highly Recommended