Being the second film for the Next Generation crew and the eighth film in the entire Star Trek franchise, things were looking good for this release simply because it was an even-numbered film. And frankly after what was seen by many Trekkies around the world as the sacrilegious abomination of the previous film that killed off the iconic Captain Kirk (William Shatner), there was nowhere to go but up.
At the start of the film, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) is having nightmares about his assimilation into the Borg collective that occurred six years prior (shown in the television episode "The Best of Both Worlds"). But when he awakens he finds that it’s not completely a nightmare. Somehow he is able to sense the Borg collective and realizes that they have returned and are heading for Earth. Because of his traumatic past experience Starfleet orders the Starship Enterprise-E to guard the Neutral Zone in case the Romulans decide to take advantage of the situation and attack.
While the Borg destroys countless Federation ships, Picard disobeys orders and rushes to the defense of the planet. It makes no sense that the one person who might know the enemy best of all should not be at the heart of the battle. Quickly assessing the situation and with the help of the link that he can still feel, they manage to destroy the Borg cube.
But before Picard can claim ultimate victory, an escape ship is launched from the Borg ship, which hurtles straight towards Earth. In hot pursuit of their foe, the Enterprise-E finds itself caught in some kind of time vortex that hurls them into the past to the date April 4, 2063. A significant day for the Federation because on the following day scientist/explorer Zefram Cochrane (James Cromwell) is scheduled to test his new warp-drive engine, which will not only break the speed of light, but will draw the attention of some passing aliens who will initiate first contact with humanity.
The Borg have traveled back in time to prevent this event from ever having occurred and attack the launch site, crippling the warp ship and killing several of the engineers. Captain Picard manages to destroy the Borg attack vessel and beams down with some of the crew to make repairs and find Cochrane, but unbeknownst to him, some of the Borg survivors managed to transport aboard the Enterprise-E and are slowly taking control.
It’s always tricky for a film or television show to correctly do time travel. There are so many paradoxes that arise, questions about the reason for traveling to that specific time, or whether time is a loop or a line that the audience always has to suspend disbelief and give the writers some leeway. This film is no exception.
For most fans of the show, it’s great to see these mortal enemies locked in a life and death struggle, but there is some confusion about the Borg because at one point they were just a collective of hive minds, then they were a fractured group with the addition of Hugh Borg, who brought back the virus of individuality to the collective, and now they have a queen. Unfortunately, there is no explanation and feels like sloppy storytelling.
But the reasoning behind the Borg’s return isn’t the real center of the story. The film revolves around Captain Picard’s mental state and how he has dealt with, or in this case has not dealt with, what happened to him when he was assimilated by the Borg.
While Worf (Michael Dorn), Data (Brent Spiner), and new addition from the 21st century, Lily (Alfre Woodard) help to repel the invaders, Troi (Marina Sirtis), Ryker (Jonathan Frakes), and Geordi (Levar Burton) are the comic relief as they try to get Cochrane back on his feet, get him sobered up, and help him deal with his new role as a hero.
Even though the Cochrane storyline is a little silly at times, it really does help relieve all the tension that is going on aboard the Enterprise-E. Without it, the film would just be too dark and heavy for the Star Trek audience. There is plenty of action to satisfy everyone and with such a known enemy that fans love to watch it’s easy to overlook its issues and simply enjoy the film.