Star Trek: First Contact appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While not flawless, the image usually looked very good.
Many of the Trek movie Blu-rays have been criticized for their use of digital noise reduction (DNR) and I thought that was the main – though minor - problem here. In particular, scenes that involved the Borg on the Enterprise seemed too clean. Those should have a hazy, foggy feel, but the Blu-ray tended to clean them up in a way that make them look a bit too sanitized.
This also impacted sharpness, but not to a major degree. Most of the movie came across as very well-defined and concise. Instances of softness remained rare and minor; they usually cropped up in those Borg sequences, but they weren’t a significant concern. I witnessed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes seemed to be absent. Source flaws also made no impact through this clean transfer.
Colors seemed natural and distinctive. The movie mostly offered a dark palette, but the tones came across as vivid and lively from start to finish, and I witnessed no issues related to the colors. Black levels also were deep and rich, while shadow detail appeared appropriately thick but never too dark. Only the DNR made this a “B+” image, as I thought most of the flick looked excellent.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundfield matched the expected level of activity for this sort of movie. Music showed good stereo presence, while the effects created a lively and involving sense of atmosphere. Action segments boasted fine usage of all five speakers, and the rears contributed a lot of useful material. Elements seemed appropriately located and delineated, and they moved smoothly across the spectrum.
Audio quality seemed solid. Speech remained distinct and natural, and I noticed no problems related to edginess or intelligibility. Music sounded bright and dynamic, with good range and clarity. Effects came across as tight and accurate, and they displayed clean and deep bass response. In the end, the auditory experience of First Contact lived up to expectations.
How did the picture and sound quality of this Blu-ray Disc compare with those of the prior SE DVD release? Both displayed fairly similar audio. I thought the lossless TrueHD mix was a little more dynamic but not to a tremendous degree.
Even with the slightly distracting DNR, the visuals significantly improved upon the DVD. Back in the day, First Contact was demo material for the DVD format, but that was then, and right now the Blu-ray provided a substantial step up in terms of clarity, definition, color vivacity and depth of blacks. Due to the DNR, the Blu-ray wasn’t the slam-dunk I’d like, but it remained strong and bested the DVD.
In terms of extras, the Blu-ray mixes elements from the prior SE DVD with new components. If an extra is written in blue, that indicates it’s new piece to the Blu-ray Disc.
Two audio commentaries appear here. The first comes from actor/director Jonathan Frakes, as he offers a running, screen-specific chat. Given his dual perspective as both director and actor, we might expect Frakes to present a surfeit of valuable insights. Unfortunately, we would expect incorrectly.
Much of the time, Frakes stays with extremely screen-specific remarks like “look at that!” He also might chime “you go!” at a character and makes wisecracks about different situations. At times, however, Frakes does touch upon useful topics. He tells us about his unusual relationship with Alfre Woodard, directorial issues connected to the jump to the big screen, the quirks of various actors, locations and sets, and challenges related to night shooting.
Occasionally Frakes offers some interesting moments, but much of the time he just makes barely-relevant exclamations. A fair amount of dead air occurs as well, and this ends up as a disappointing track.
For the second commentary, we hear from writers Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore, both of whom sit together for their own running, screen-specific discussion. Veterans of the commentary for Generations, they pick up the baton and run with it during their consistently compelling piece. They start with notes about the story’s origins and its development. They also chat about other plot-related issues, character arcs, working with the Borg, and general production topics. In a very intriguing segment, they discuss their thoughts about how to revitalize the franchise.
Both interact well and make the track move briskly much of the time. They even get into some aspects of the movie they don’t particularly like, though they’re easier on First Contact than they were Generations. Although the piece occasionally drags - especially during the second half - the writers create a generally lively and informative track.
Finally, a third commentary provides notes from Trekmovie.com’s Anthony Pascale and Trek 2009 producer Damon Lindelof. Both sit together and gives us a running, screen-specific chat about… well, not a whole lot. They get into some Trek/First Contact trivia and also discuss their feelings about various Trek enterprises – ha! – and aspects of the franchise.
Although I can’t say we learn a whole lot here, that doesn’t make the commentary a worthless endeavor. Actually, the track provides some good entertainment. We get a fun fan’s-eye view of the film, and both guys mix respect with irreverence well. This never becomes the most informative piece, but it keeps us interested.
Another running feature arrives with the Library Computer. This “interactive playback mode” allows you to learn about various elements that crop up throughout the movie. It gives us notes about characters, technical pieces, and other connected tidbits. Some of these are tightly ingrained – such as facts about main characters – while others are more tangential. Because of the changing circumstances of the film’s world, some of the same subjects arise multiple times; for instance, new information about the Borg Queen comes up as story elements affect her.
All of these come via links; the title of a subject appears, and you select “enter” to read about it. You can examine these in two different ways. If desired, you can have the links crop up at the appropriate times during the movie. You still have to hit “enter” – there’s no option to let them play without viewer input – but this shows the notes in tandem with the onscreen material.
The “Library” also presents an “index”. This posts the links in alphabetical order. This is a more efficient option if you want to watch the movie without interruption, but it’s less connected to the story.
Either way, the “Library” includes some nice details. It’s pretty dry, but it throws out a lot of background facts and gives us a satisfying glimpse of Trek information.
Next we go with six components under the banner of “Production”. This area starts with the 20-minute and 18-second Making First Contact. Like many of this disc’s features, “Making” melds movie clips, behind the scenes footage, and interviews. We hear from Frakes, producer/writer Rick Berman, and actors Patrick Stewart, LeVar Burton, Alice Krige, Alfre Woodard, James Cromwell, Brent Spiner, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn and Marina Sirtis.
The program covers how Frakes got the directing gig and his approach to it, the actors’ thoughts on Frakes’ work, shooting a few specific scenes, and the actors’ relationships with each other. A few good notes pop up, mainly when we hear about how Frakes earned the director’s chair, but mostly this program feels like too much happy talk. Everyone lets us know how much they like each other and Trek, which makes it a tedious show.
In the 16-minute and 34-second The Art of First Contact, we get notes from illustrator John Eaves. He discusses the design and building of the Enterprise model, issues connected to shooting it, configuring other Starfleet crafts for the battle, making the Phoenix from an old rocket, and creating the Vulcan ship at the end. Unlike the fluffy “Making”, “Art” offers almost nothing other than concrete information. Eaves goes over all the various challenges and decisions well and makes this a brisk and involving look at the subject.
When we look at The Story, the 15-minute and 29-second program includes remarks from Frakes, Braga, and Moore. They get into the evolution of the plot and the various issues that entailed. Most of the material already appeared in the Braga/Moore commentary, so don’t expect to learn much new information here. However, it acts as a good encapsulation if you don’t want to sit through the entire commentary.
The next two featurettes look at the specifics of location and set design. The Missile Silo (14:04) and The Deflector Dish (10:30) present information from Berman, Spiner, Cromwell, Eaves, executive producer Martin Hornstein, production designer Herman Zimmerman, and scenic art supervisor Mike Okuda. We learn about the silo location and adaptations made to it, some shooting specifics, physical elements of the sets, and the storyboards for “Dish”. Both cover a lot of ground connected to the scenes, and they do so with zest. They’re fine featurettes with many good nuggets of information on display.
For the final “Production” featurette, we get From “A” to “E”. This six-minute and 38-second piece gives us notes from Berman, Stewart, Spiner, Zimmerman, and Hornstein. We learn a little about the design of the Enterprise “E”, a ship new to this film, but mostly this program acts as a generic valedictory statement about what a great experience Contact was.
When we head to Scene Deconstruction, we can more closely examine three film segments. We look at “Borg Queen Assembly” (11 minutes, 10 seconds), “Escape Pod Launch” (4:59) and “Borg Queen’s Demise” (3:12). For “Assembly”, we get commentary from ILM visual effects art director Alex Jaeger and ILM visual effects supervisor John Knoll, whereas “Launch” presents Jaeger alone and “Demise” gives us Knoll on his own. They relate the various issues connected to design and execution of the sequences, and we also see a mix of movie clips, art, and rough footage. None of them shine, but they provide a nice basic look at some effects work. “Assembly” is definitely the best, as it gets into the complexities of that cool sequence.
Within “The The Star Trek Universe”, nine featurettes appear. Jerry Goldsmith: A Tribute lasts 19 minutes and 46 seconds as it looks at the late composer. We get archival remarks from Goldsmith himself as well as Frakes, Hornstein, Eaves, Braga, Okuda, Berman, composer Jay Chattaway, scoring mixer Bruce Botnick, and composer/son Joel Goldsmith. The program presents a general look at Jerry Goldsmith’s career, with a particular emphasis on his other Trek work. It also tosses in a few specifics about the music for Contact. Inevitably, a lot of the show is devoted to generic praise for Goldsmith, but that’s appropriate here, and “Tribute” acts as a nice send-off for the legendary composer.
For a look at a fictional character, we hear to The Legacy of Zefram Cochrane. The 12-minute and 18-second piece includes statements from Cromwell, Berman, Okuda, Braga, Cromwell discusses his history on Trek, his casting, his interest in the part and shooting a few scenes. We also get information about the connections between Contact and the depiction of the Cochrane character on the Original Series as well as his continuation into Enterprise. I’d have liked more about the liberties taken with the original character, but this remains a reasonably informative show.
Called First Contact: The Possibilities, the last “Universe” featurette goes for 19 minutes and 31 seconds. It presents comments from executive story editor Andre Bormanis, SETI Institute senior astronomer Seth Shostak, Planetary Society Director of Projects Bruce Betts, and Planetary Society Associate Director Charlene Anderson. They discuss attempts to locate extraterrestrial life and the prospects for doing so.
The former covers most of this program’s ground, and honestly, it often feels like a fundraising appeal; we hear so much about all the efforts that it seems as if it exists mainly to get attention for these groups. There’s a little about the possibilities of life elsewhere, but I think that should have been the focus. As it stands, this is a decent but not terribly interesting featurette.
During the Industrial Light and Magic: The Next Generation, we hear from visual effects supervisors Bill George and John Knoll, digital model artist Joel Goodson, and visual effects art director Alex Jaeger. They discuss various effects issues, with an emphasis on the film’s ships. The participants keep this from being too dry, as they make this an engaging look at their work.
Greetings from the International Space Station goes for eight minutes, 31 seconds and features astronaut Mike Fincke. He tells us of the ways he appreciates Trek and discusses a few space-related topics. Astronauts tend to be somewhat bland speakers, and that holds true here, as Fincke doesn’t present a terribly involving chat.
With that, we head to SpaceShipOne’s Historic Flight. It fills four minutes, 41 seconds with statements from Mike Melvill, the pilot of SpaceShipOne, the first commercial craft to go into space. He talks about his experiences in this good piece, one that seems relevant since Melvill feels like a real-life Zefram Cochrane.
A continuation of a piece started on the Generations disc, Brent Spiner: Data and Beyond Part 2 lasts seven minutes, 30 seconds. The actor discusses First Contact as well as other Trek topics such as conventions. “Part 1” was more interesting, but “Part 2” still has its moments.
Another program that expands on a theme from the prior disc, Trek Roundtable: First Contact goes for 12 minutes, 51 seconds. We hear from writer Larry Nemecek, Trekmovie.com’s Anthony Pascale, Planetary Association associate director Charlene Anderson, and Geek Monthly editor Jeff Bond. They reflect on the movie in a variety of ways. This is a fairly mediocre chat, as the participants don’t offer much that we don’t get elsewhere.
“Universe” concludes with Starfleet Academy SciSec Brief 008: Temporal Vortex. In this two-minute and 36-second piece, we get thoughts about time travel-related topics. It’s a decent exploration of the movie’s concept.
Inside “The Borg Collective”, three programs appear. Unimatrix One goes for 14 minute and 15 seconds with notes from Berman, Sirtis, Frakes, McFadden, Burton, Okuda, Stewart, Spiner, Krige, Braga, and Voyager actor Jeri Ryan. We get a recap of Borg history and their appearances here and elsewhere. There’s a little insight into what led to their creation and some other elements, but there’s probably not a lot here that Trek fans won’t already know. It acts as a good summary for those with a less rich background, though the ending sequence is nothing more than a tacky promo for the Las Vegas Borg attraction.
Next we learn more about The Queen. The eight-minute and 31-second piece gives us remarks from Krige. She goes over character insights and her approach to the role in this fairly intriguing program.
Finally, Design Matrix fills 18 minutes and 10 seconds. It includes statements from Berman, Frakes, Hornstein, Eaves, makeup designer/supervisor Michael Westmore, property master Alan Sims, costume designer Robert Blackman, and set decorator John Dwyer. They get into the redesign of the Borg for the movie and the execution of those elements, and Eaves chats about the Borg ships and their creation. I really like the coverage of the way the Borg changed over the years, and this program gets into all the related issues well. It moves quickly and remains consistently informative.
Inside the “Archives” we get two separate components. The Photo Gallery presents 48 stills. Most of these come from the shoot, and we see some publicity shots as well in this fairly bland collection. Storyboards presents art for four domains: “1930s Nightclub” (53 stills), “Hull Battle” (49), “Hull Battle Alternate Shots” (20) and “Worf vs. the Borg Alternate Shots” (13). These accumulate a decent little collection of art.
The disc opens with some ads. We get promos for Star Trek (2009) and various Trek movies/series on Blu-ray. In addition, we find two trailers. This area includes both the “teaser” and theatrical ads for Contact.
One of the better Star Trek films, First Contact provides a consistently satisfying affair. It mixes action with comedy and horror and comes across like a winning and engaging piece of work. The Blu-ray provides very good picture and sound plus a broad and informative – though occasionally erratic - set of extras. Without question, this becomes the most complete and enjoyable version of Contact on home video.
Note that First Contact can be purchased on its own or as part of a four-movie "Next Generation Collection". That set also includes Blu-rays for Generations, Insurrection and Nemesis.
To rate this film visit the original review of STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT