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Ido's nitpicking guide to "Star Trek: First Contact"

Deciated to Ido Razon (1979-2000).

Ido's nitpicking guide to "Star Trek: First Contact"


Preface


"Star Trek: First Contact" is a great movie. Really great. There
are only two things you have to do to fully enjoy this fantasic feature
film:


  1. Watch the film only once.

  2. Never, ever stop to think about the movie again.
    Instead, just linger on the feeling that you've immensly
    enjoyed the movie the one time you've seen it.



The sad reality is that, while ST:FC is an awfully fun movie to
watch once, it crumbles under any repeated viewing. The moment
you stop being amazed at the rabbits the writers pull at you,
and start actually thinking about the stuff seen, you
realize it really doesn't fit together.

Take, for instance, the notion of the Borg Queen. It made for
some good dialogues between her, Data and Picard, and might even
have made the movie seem deeper than it was. But stop to think
about it for a while, and doubts begin to raise. Why is it, for
instance, that the Borg Queen had never been mentioned before,
not even by Picard? Why was there no previous reference to the
Borg ability to speak into Picard's head, either? If the Borg Queen does
the thinking for the entire Borg (or at least the entire cube), how come
she thinks and talks so emotionally - so un-Borg? If she doesn't do the
collective thinking, what is her significance? And why is it
that all inquiries about her nature are answered with obviously
unhelpful enigmas like "I'm the beginning, the ending, the one
who is many"?



I think the basic problem with the movie is that the writers seemed
to concentrate themselves on the main idea of the movie, and just
skimmed everything else. The best example of that is the movie's
exposition; it introduced the new Enterprise, a Borg attack,
a violation of orders, a fight over Earth, the return of Worf, the
travel back in time, and the mission ahead. This stuff would have
filled an entire episode in TNG's days; here, it took less than
15 minutes
.

Another way to look at it is that whenever a plot or plausability
problem arised, the writers were inclined to just
mention the problem was there, instead of actually dealing
with it. Again, the whole exposition seems to be an example, but
perhaps a more direct instance of this is at the ending of the
exposition; Picard and the crew leave the Bridge, Picard says
"Computer, mid-21st century civilian clothing", and the
computer cheerfully chirps as an indication of success. It never
occured to the computer to ask what it should do with
the clothing, like how many of them to make, and where it should
put them. This might seem to be petty, but it demonstrates the
basic problem: plot problems were mentioned, not resolved.



On the whole, "Star Trek: First Contact" can be divided
into three parts: a main plot on the Enterprise that suffered
from major plausibility and plot problems; a secondary plot on
Earth that was so obviously pure fluff I'm barely even going to
mention it elsewhere; and one, single, isolated scene that was
actually good.

I've quoted that scene in its entirety at the end of the
Quotes section. For the rest of the film, my advise remains:
watch it only once, and don't ever think about it again.



If, however, you're a masochist like me who watches stuff he
doesn't like just to grind your teeth at them, you might find the
rest of this document useful; it's mostly a nitpicking guide to
all the stuff I didn't like in the movie. I hope you'll enjoy
grinding your teeth while reading it as much as I enjoyed grinding
mine while writing it.

Actually, I hope you won't.



     - Ido

Nitpicks


  • The Enterprise departed from the Neutral Zone when the fight began,
    and arrived at Sector 001 while it was still on. Since when is the
    Neutral Zone so close to Earth?



  • The Enterprise arrives at the battle ground over Earth. Half the
    fleet is floating decimated there. Of all these ships, undoubtedly
    many with survivors, they decide to beam aboard the survivors of
    one ship - the Defiant. Not the largest, probably not the one with
    the most survivors, not even one that was under any danger of
    self-destruction - and, in fact, one that might have made a
    difference by ramming the Borg. Still, the Enterprise risks itself
    immensly by lowering its shields and beaming the small crew out.
    Why?



  • Speaking of which, the Defiant being adrift and salvagable
    had probably proven very convenient to Mr. Behr and Mr. Wolfe who
    produce DS9, but was inconsistent with Borg behavior. We've seen
    earlier - in DS9, even (DS9 "Emissary"'s prologue) that
    Borg cubes destroy nearby enemy ships even when after they're
    evacuated and no longer pose danger.



  • Picard was able to destroy the Borg cube by targeting weapons at
    some non-crucical system. While it makes sense that Picard's past
    as Locutus had given him some internal knowledge about Borg weaknesses,
    it still doesn't explain: (a) how Picard knows Borg cube geography
    well enough to be able to give exact coordinates for the system;
    nor (b) why didn't Picard just relay those coordinates, like,
    hours before, and spared the fleet one of its most
    devastating battles.

    (It didn't exactly help plasubility that Patrick Stewart, when
    called upon to enter the coordinates, barely pushed two or three
    buttons without even looking at the panel, either.)

  • The Enterprise scanners managed to count 9 billion Borgs; but I
    have a faint recollection that in TNG "Q Who", it's been
    mentioned that the Enterprise's computers cannot count the
    individual Borg drones - they all register as a single entity.



  • With its several giga-giga-gigabyte capacity, it might make sense
    for the Enterprise computer to contain the original blueprints of a
    300-year-old ship; but why would Starfleet Academy teach, in the
    detail, the exact design of that ship? I don't buy the argument
    that it was an introductory lesson; we don't need to study the
    exact working of the original camera obscura, or of the
    original Guttenberg printing machine, when studying photography or
    printing. Certainly not at a level that would enable to re-create
    them from memory at a moment's notice.



  • How did the Borg manage to change the environment of an entire
    Enterprise deck - not just temperature, but also humidity and
    pressure - before having gotten computer control?



  • Situation: you're the second in command on a mission. Your
    Captain suddenly stops dead, gets a frightened look on his face,
    and makes a hefty departure along with another officer. You lose
    contact with him shortly after. Are you going to be as cheerful and
    happy about yourself as Riker was in the same situation, or is even
    the remotest sense of doubt and suspicion going to linger
    in your mind?



  • After having activated the EMH, Crusher tells it: "20 Borg about to
    break in through that door". This was before it was said anywhere
    the Borg were on the Enterprise. Is Crusher really that bright?



  • Data mentions: "plasma coolant will liquify organic material on
    contact". Yet when he turns the hose loose on the Borg Queen, the
    animation doesn't appear to be that of liquifying flesh; more like
    of dissolving flesh, as if in an acid. There doesn't appear to be
    any liquid left afterwards, either, though it might have vaporized
    or washed away with the plasma.



  • When Picard and his company approached Engineering for the first
    time, they used a floor panel near Engineering to move from Deck
    14 to Deck 15 (Engineering). This seems a bad tactical move. The
    Borg, who were only a corridor away from that opening, might well
    have been directly under it; anyone jumping through that opening
    would have been very vulnerable had the Borg been around. The crew
    was probably better off trying more conventional methods of going
    between the levels than jumping through floor panels.



  • Once again, the cliche about Borg ignoring humans as long as they
    don't pose a threat was made. This might have made sense when humans
    roamed a Borg ship, but does it still hold on when the Borg are on
    another ship and are assimilating everything in sight?



  • The Borg-in-Holodeck scene, while cute and perhaps even plausible,
    makes Picard look like he doesn't know the most basic things about
    the Holodeck. If all Picard wanted to do is to shoot the Borg with
    a 1940s machine gun, he could have just said, "computer, replicate
    a 1940s machine gun", instead of starting a Dixon Hill program. One
    has to wonder when Picard and Lily had time to change clothes.



    There's also the question of Holodeck size. Whenever we see the
    Holodeck without a program running, it is a rather small room;
    however, whenever it's running, users can travel miles without
    `bumping' into any wall. Common fan belief is that when a user gets
    close to the wall, the Holodeck `pushes' him away from the wall
    (using force beam, spatial distortion or whatever), and of course
    shifts all holograms accordingly, so that the user is in the middle
    again.

    Now, the dance hall the Borgs were in much larger than the actual
    Holodeck wall, meaning the Holodeck inevitably had to push the
    Borgs away from a wall. The very fact that it succeeded means that
    there is a way to move Borgs around freely, without them even
    knowing feeling it. It could definitely be used as a defensive
    measure (Borg drones can't harm from a distance; so if a Borg gets
    close to you, just `shove' him back). At the very least, it would
    have been a way to get rid of many Borgs - just lure them into the
    Holodeck, and tell the computer to create an infinite program, one
    without boundaries.



  • One also has to wonder if Picard had struck upon the definitive
    weapon against Borg drones, at least the ones on the Enterprise.
    Although Borg could adapt to phasers, it was probably because they
    had some sort of shielding against energetic weapons; being
    bullet-proof would imply a very basic different kind of shielding.
    The Borg might be able to adapt for it still, but it would take
    some `redesigning' of their suits, and that very likely couldn't
    happen on the Enterprise, at least not in the small time frame of
    the movie.

    (There is still the nagging question of why the drones aren't
    bullet-proof. Had the Borg never assimilated a culture that was so
    primitive, it tried to shoot bullets at them?)



  • The Borg drones are able to be in space without a spacesuit. This
    doesn't make much sense. Even if we assume that the Borg `suit'
    protects the parts beneath it, and that all parts of Borg skin that
    are exposed are synthesized, there's still the question of oxygen.
    Just about all the biological portions of the drones - especially
    the brain and muscles - require oxygen to work, and witness the
    fact that Borg ships are breathable (why maintain all this oxygen
    if it's not required?), yet the drones do not appear to carry any
    sort of oxygen tank, and definitely have no other source of
    oxygen.



  • When Data tries escaping the Borg, several drones attack him. They
    cut his hand, and then the Borg Queen gestures them to
    leave him. The Borg have a collective mind; why the need for any
    gestures?



  • Picard tells Lily the Enterprise-E has 24 decks, yet at some point
    Lt. Hawk says the Borg "control decks 26 up to 11". Perhaps the
    decks aren't numbered continuously from 1 to 24, although that
    doesn't make too much sense.

    Also on the subject of decks, while the Borg remain between decks
    11 and 26, Picard lures two drones away, and takes them to the
    Holodeck. The reading on the Holodeck doors is "0820",
    indicating the Holodeck resides at deck 8. How was Picard able to
    lure the Borgs at least three decks down? (Don't forget that
    Security was guarding every access point between deck 11 and the
    other decks, yet they must have not seen Picard, because they
    were genuinely surprised when Picard was found alive later!)



  • The whole issue of the Borg Queen seeking for someone to
    `bridge the gap between the Borg and humanity' seems
    doubtful at best, and awfully ethno-centric at worst.
    Humanity is just one of at least 8,500 other species the
    Borg had encountered. They're certainly not the most
    powerful ones they've encountered - the Borg are more powerful
    than the Federation, and they've acquired their technology
    from some species - nor are they outstanding from
    any mental or physical aspect. The only thing that might
    seperate them from the other species is that they've managed
    to survive one Borg attack, but (a) they're unlikely to be
    the only species to have done so; (b) since the Borg Queen
    sought Locutus as her counterpart, the wish for a counterpart
    extends back to before the Borg attack was defeated; and (c)
    the whole Federation survived the attack, not just humanity.

    When the Borg cube headed straight for Earth in "The
    Best of Both Worlds", it was probably because their
    intelligence (perhaps acquired by assimilating the girl who
    eventually became Voyager's Seven of Nine) indicated Earth
    to be the power center of a big `empire', not because it was
    the homeworld of a certain species; their vested interest
    in humanity now isn't quite as plausible.



  • The environmental conditions in Engineering were 39.1
    degrees celcius and 92% humidity, and Picard said these
    were the conditions on a Borg cube. At 39.1 degrees and 92%
    humidity, any human unfortunate enough to be in Engineering -
    like Picard at the end - should have been sweating his
    skin out. In fact, anyone who was ever on a Borg cube -
    like all those away missions in TNG "Q Who"
    and both "Best of Both Worlds" - should have been
    sweating like a pig. They weren't.



  • Data told the Borg Queen he hadn't had sex for 8 years,
    7 months, 16 days, 4 minutes, and 22 seconds. Now, this is obviously
    not a simple time difference (the difference between the moment he
    had sex and the moment he said that line), if only because, as Data said
    his line in 2063, the time difference is more like 300 years.
    Rather, it refers to Data's own perceived time - how much time
    he felt has passed between the two
    events. This makes time calculations slightly more complicated,
    because we have to take in account discontinuities - points in which
    Data's perception of time doesn't match the `absolute' passage of
    time. There is one such point: the time loop of TNG "Cause and
    Effect", which effectively `shot' Data and the whole
    Enterprise forward 17.4 days. (There's also the time he spent in
    19th century Earth in TNG "Time's Arrow", but because the
    several days Data spent in Earth were offset by him having returned
    to the present several days after he left, it doesn't create any
    problems.)

    So, working out the dates from stardate 50893.5 (the last noted
    date), adding perhaps one day to compensate for the time between that
    stardate and Data's line, subtracting 17.4 days for the time loop,
    and the 8.5 year figure, we arrive at roughly stardate 42221.4.
    This date lies between season two "Where Silence has Lease"
    and "Elementary, Dear Data", neither of which had anything
    to do with Data's lovelife. Of course, it's entirely possible Data
    did get lucky inbetween, it was just never seen onscreen.

    However, if we were to assume that Data (or
    technical consultant Mike Okuda) made a slight mistake and meant it was
    9 years, 7 months, etc. etc., we arrive at stardate
    41221.4. THis date falsl within TNG "The Naked Now", where
    Data was shown to have sex.

    So... unforseen love affair, or Data/Mike making a mistake? Your call.




Not nitpicks, but still overly attentive to detail


  • The Borg's time travel is attributed to `chronometrical particles'.
    It's unclear whether it's just another name to other time-travel
    particles like chronotons (DS9 "Past Tense"), or if we could add
    another name to Trek's
    growing list of
    time-travel particles
    .



  • There has been much plausability concern about Lt. Hawk being
    assimilated while still in the spacesuit. However, it might still make
    sense. In VOY "Unity", the Doctor mentions that the first step in
    Borg assimilation is injection of Borg cells, `nanites', that
    take over the body at the cellular level. This was also clearly
    seen in an earlier scene, when an officer is captured by a Borg
    drone, is subjected to an injection, and immediately begins
    assimilation. Supposedely this injection could be done through the
    suit itself (the Doctor mentioned that the injection can penetrate
    all known forms of armor, so a spacesuit should pose no
    problem).

    Even if we reject this explanation, it might simply
    have been the case that Hawk was taken back in the ship, the suit's
    head part had been removed, the assimilation was started, and the head part
    replaced so he could aid the other Borgs with the beacon (supposedely at
    this point he was not yet as vacuum-resistant as the other Borgs,
    so the spacesuit was required).



  • Am I the only one to find something ironic in Troi's line about
    humanity realizing they're not alone in the universe, given the fact
    that, even though it hadn't been mentioned for quite a while, Troi is
    not (fully) human herself?



  • Other Holodeck programs readable while Picard chooses "The Big
    Goodbye" include "Cafe Des Artistes" ("Enjoy a
    meal at a French restaurant"; we've seen it in TNG "We'll
    Always Have Paris"), "Champs-Elysses" ("Famous
    section of Paris"), a Comedy Cabaret ("Laugh in a 20th
    century comedy club") and "Equestrian Adventure".



  • History lessons learned: World War III (mentioned in TNG
    "Encounter at Farpoint" and elsehwere) ended at
    around 2053, with 600 million casualties and very few
    governments left. Earth, or at least some portion of
    North America, seems to be divided into `factions'. One
    of the factions is called the Eastern Coalition, while
    another has been named as `Econ' or something similar,
    although it might have just been `E-coal' - short for
    the Eastern Coalition.

    The first successful human warp engine has been created by
    Zephrem Cochrane, and has been first demonstrated on April
    5th, 2063. That first voyage happened to take place just when a
    Vulcan ship was visiting Earth's solar system; the realization
    that there are other worlds around them is what helped humans
    get together, help themselves and eventually form the
    Federation.





Quotes


Worf: The Defiant?
Picard: Adrift, but salvagable.
Riker: Tough little ship.
Worf: Little?
Picard: Mr. Worf, we could use some help at tactical.
Riker: You do remember how to fire phasers?
[Worf gives him a menacing look, and he retreats.]


Lily: I'm not going on that thing with a drunken pilot.
Zephrem: I sure as hell am not going up there sober.


Data: Sir, does tactile contact alter your perception of the Phoenix?
Picard: Oh, yes. For humans, touch can connect you to an object, in a
very personal way. Make it seem more real.
Data: [touching the Phonenix]
I am detecting imperfections in the titanium casing, temperature
variations in the fuel manifold, but it is no more real to me
than it was a minute ago.
Troy: [peering from above] Would you three like to be alone?


Picard: Reports of my assimilation are greatly exeggerated.


Picard: Mr. Worf, do you remember your zero-g combat training?
Worf: I remember it made me sick to my stomach...
[look of horror] What are you suggesting?
Picard: I think it's time that we took a little stroll.


Picard: I'm about to commit a direct violation of our orders. Anyone who wishes
to object, should do so now. It will be noted in my log.
Data: Captain, I believe I speak
for everyone here, Sir, when I say: "To hell with our orders."



[Borg drones are trying to break into Sickbay.]

Crusher: Alissa, is the EMH program still online?
Ogawa: It should be.
Crusher: I've sworn I'd never use one of these. Computer, activate the EMH
program.
EMH: Please state the nature of the medical emergency.
Crusher: 20 Borgs about to break in through that door. We need time
to get out of here. Create a diversion!
EMH: This isn't part of my program. I'm a doctor, not a door-stop.
Crusher: Do a dance, tell a story. I don't care. Just give us a few
seconds! [gets out]
EMH: [to drones coming in] According to Starfleet medical research, Borg
implants can cause severe skin irritation. Perhaps you'd like an
analgesic cream?


Diana: [heavily drunk] Timeline?
This is no time, to argue about time! We don't have the time!


Data: Captain, I believe I'm feeling... anxiety. It is an intriguing
sensation. A most distracti-
Picard: Data, I'm sure it's a fascination experience, but perhaps you
should de-activate your emotion chip for now.
Data: Good idea, sir. [jerks his head.] Done.
Picard: Data, there are times that I envy you.


Zephrem: Let me just make sure that I understand you correctly...
Commander. A group of cybernetic creatures from the future have
travelled back in time, to enslave the human race, and you're here to
stop them?


Zephrem: And you people, you're all... astronauts, on... some kind of
star trek?


Picard: [pointing at Earth] Australia, New Guinea, the Solomons. Montana
will be up soon. But you may want to hold your breath,
it's a long way down.



[Lily gives Picard back his phaser. Picard checks it.]

Picard: Maximum setting. If you'd fired this, you would have vaporized
me.
Lily: It's my first ray gun.


Lily: Borg. Sounds Swedish.

[Later on, after having seen the Borg]

Definitely not Swedish.


Queen: Are you familiar with physical forms of pleasure?
Data: If ... you are... referring to... sexuality, I am... fully
functional... programmed in multiple techniques...
Queen: How long it has been since you've used them?
Data: 8 years, 7 months, 16 days, 4 minutes, 22-
Queen: Far too long. [kisses him]


Riker to Geordie: You told him about the statue!?


Riker: Someone once said: "don't try to be a great man. Just be a man, and
let history make its own judgement."
Zephrem: Rhetorical nonsense. Who said that?
Riker: You did, 10 years from now.


Picard: You're afraid. You want to destroy the ship and run away. You
coward!
Crusher: Jean-Luc!
Worf: If you were any other man, I would kill you where you stand!
Picard: Get off my bridge!



[After having begun the Enterprise' self-destruct sequence.]

Crusher: So much for the Enterprise-E.
Picard: We barely knew her.
Crusher: Think they'll build another one?
Picard: Plenty of letters left in the alphabet.


Picard: Mr. Worf... I regret some of the things I said to you.
Worf: Some?



[Following the Borg Queen's death]

Data: Strange. Part of me is... sorry she's dead.
Picard: She was unique.
Data: She brought me closer to humanity than I ever thought possible.
And for a time... I was tempted by her offer.
Picard: How long a time?
Data: 0.68 seconds, Sir. For an android, that is nearly an eternity.


Lily: I envy you. The world you're going to.
Picard: I envy you. Taking
these first steps into the new frontier.


Picard: Mr. Data, lay in a course for the 24th century.



And the number one scene of the movie...


[After Picard refuses to self-destruct the Enterprise, he disappears
into the Ready Room. Lily follows him.]

Lily: You son of a bitch.
Picard: This really isn't the time.
Lily: Okay, I don't know jacks about the 24th century, but everybody out
there thinks that staying here and fighting the Borg is suicide.
They're just afraid to come in here and say it!
Picard: The crew is accustomed to following my orders.
Lily: They're probably accustomed to your orders making sense!
Picard: No one of them understands the Borg as I do! No one does. No one
can.
Lily: What is that supposed to mean?
Picard: Six years ago, they assimilated me into their collective. I had
their cybernetic devices implanted throughout my body. I was linked to
the hive mind. Every trace of individuality erased. I was one of them. So you
can imagine, my dear, I have a somewhat unique perspective on the Borg,
and I know how to fight them. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have work to
do.
Lily: I am such an idiot. It's so simple. The Borg hurt you, and now
you're going to hurt them back.
Picard: In my century, we don't succumb to revenge. We have a more evolved
sensibility
Lily: Bullshit! I saw the look on your face when you shot those Borg on
the Holodeck. You were almost enjoying it!
Picard: How dare you?!
Lily: Oh, come on, Captain. You're not the first man to get a thrill
from murdering someone! I see it all the time!
Picard: Get out!
Lily: Or what? You'll kill me, like you killed Ensign Lynch?
Picard: There was no way to save him.
Lily: You didn't even try! Where was your evolved sensibility then?!
Picard: I don't have time for this!
Lily: Oh, hey, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to interrupt your little quest!
Captain Ahab has to go hunt his whale!
Picard: What?
Lily: You do have books in the 24th century?
Picard: This is not about revenge.
Lily: Liar!
Picard: This is about saving the future of humanity!
Lily: Jean-Luc, blow up the damn ship!
Picard: No! NOOOOOOOO!
[He shatters the display glass with the back of his phaser]

I will not sacrifice the Enterprise. We made too many sacrifices already.
Too many retreats. They invade our space, and we fall back. They assimilate
entire worlds, and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn
here! This far, no further! And I will make them pay for what
they've done!
Lily: [looking at the display glass]
You broke your little ships. [She places the broken ships back in the glass.]

See you around, Ahab.
Picard: "And he piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the
rage and hate felt by his whole race. If his chest had been a cannon, he
would have shot his heart upon it."
Lily: What?
Picard: "Moby Dick"
Lily: Actually, I never read it.
Picard: Ahab spent years hunting the white whale that crippled him. A
quest for vengeance. But, in the end, it destroyed him, and his ship.
Lily: I guess he didn't know when to quit.
Picard: [leaving the Ready Room and addressing the crew]
Prepare to evacuate the Enterprise.


Acknowledgements and legalese


I'd like to thank my friend Ilay Levy for having lent me his copy of the
film, and my brother Assaf for his annoyingly correct comments and
help.



This review is copyright ©1998 Ido Razon. Permission is granted to
distribute it everywhere as a whole, as long as no changes are
made to it other than conversion to other text formats.



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