The "experts" claim that the even-numbered Trek films are the good ones. The original film is stiffly pedestrian, whereas The Wrath Of Khan is a rip-roaring intergalactic adventure. Star Trek 3: The Search For Spock is a smelly cluster of space debris, while the fourth film, The Voyage Home (the one with the whales), isn't half bad. Five, The Final Frontier, is another steaming mound of celluloid excreta, while six, The Undiscovered Country, is a special-effects-crammed goodie. And Star Trek: Generations would have been tolerable if Shatner and co had let the young folk get on with it... which neatly brings us to Trek part eight, First Contact.
Whether or not you subscribe to the "even numbers" theory, this is a punchy, high-speed sci-fi flick with an eye-boggling space battle, guns, explosions and a surprisingly comfy accessibility - ie, it can be enjoyed by Trek obsessives and normal humanoid lifeforms. After failing to destroy the Earth in the opening 15 minutes of the story, mankind's deadliest enemy, the Borg (a race of half-organic, half-machine hive-mentality aliens) travel back in time to the year 2063 to stop Earth developing the warp drive and making its "first contact" with alien races. Of course, without this technological innovation Starfleet won't ever be founded, and the fleet of ships it needs for kicking the Borg's big leathery arses will cease to exist...
Against the background of this "Mankind Vs Borg" plot, First Contact tells two different stories. One takes place on Earth as Riker, Geordi and a team of assorted Starfleet extras help the inventor of the warp drive meet his date with destiny. The other is played out on the new Enterprise-E, and is a sort of whooshy-door Die Hard, the relentless and very-nearly indestructible Borg taking control of the ship and its crew deck by deck. As you'd expect, Picard, Worf and Data battle valiantly and cerebrally against them, and, although second-division Trekkers like Troi, Crusher and Geordi have to settle for puffed-up cameo roles, First Contact bangs out a rollicking good story. It has Jean-Luc Picard in a vest, and Data snogging an alien queen. How can you miss it?
Enthralling, inventive and funny, First Contact is definitely one of the "good" Trek films. First-time movie director Jonathan Frakes marshals events with enthusiasm, and, although the huge cast is unwieldy, the film has the style and feel of the best TV episodes - with bigger, better, retina-busting sfx.