Star Trek: First Contact (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Mar 29, 2023
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Star Trek: First Contact (4K UHD Review)


Jonathan Frakes

Release Date(s)

1996 (April 4, 2023)


Paramount Pictures (Paramount Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: B
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: B+

Star Trek: First Contact (4K Ultra HD)




[Editor’s Note: This title is also included in Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation 4-Movie Collection box set.]

During the shakedown cruise of the Sovereign class Enterprise-E, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his crew learn of a new invasion by the greatest enemy the Federation has ever faced, a race of cybernetic beings known as the Borg. Haunted by the experience of having once been ‘assimilated’ by them, Picard is ordered to stay out of the fight, despite the fact that his new Starship is the most powerful available. It seems that Starfleet is afraid the Borg may still have control over his actions. But the fleet’s best efforts are not enough—the Borg break through Earth’s defenses easily.

Picard ignores his orders, of course, and Enterprise arrives just in time to stop the invasion. Yet a small Borg escape craft manages to create a temporal rift and disappear back in time. As our heroes watch, Earth suddenly changes, becoming an assimilated world before their very eyes. So Picard realizes that Enterprise too must go back into the past, to undo whatever damage the Borg have done there. Upon arriving, he and his crew soon discover their nefarious plan: to prevent the most important event in Earth’s history—the flight of Zefram Cochrane’s warp-capable Phoenix... and humanity’s first contact with the Vulcans.

The entire main cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation returns for their second big-screen outing, this time directed by one of their own—Jonathan Frakes (aka William Riker). Also along for the ride are actors James Cromwell and Alfre Woodard, as denizens of a 21st century Earth still recovering from the horrors of World War III. Frakes does an admirable job behind the camera, good enough that he would go on to direct three more films and many hours of television, including installments of nearly every other Star Trek TV series since (apart from Enterprise). Still, First Contact is a somewhat uneven experience. While it starts with a bang, in a space battle that delivers great spectacle, Picard and company defeat the Borg far too easily. What follows is an overused time travel plot that quickly loses most of the film’s dramatic tension. The writers also couldn’t resist falling back on other Trek clichés, including a hyper-sexualized Borg Queen (Alice Krige), a superfluous holodeck scene, and a drunken subplot for Counsellor Troi that ranks right up there with Scotty’s from Star Trek V. But when it works, First Contact is a solid piece of entertainment and Patrick Stewart’s Captain Ahab speech is almost worth the price of admission by itself.

Star Trek: First Contact was shot by cinematographer Matthew F. Leonetti (Poltergeist, Strange Days) on 35 mm photochemical film using Panavision Panaflex Platinum cameras with C Series anamorphic lenses. (Westcam gyro-stabilized cameras were also used for select aerial shots.) Visual effects were completed using a combination of practical and digital models, and the film was finished photochemically at the 2.39:1 “scope” ratio for theaters. For its debut on Ultra HD, Paramount has completed a new 4K scan of the original camera negative and master interpositive elements to produce a new 4K Digital Intermediate, complete with color grading for High Dynamic Range (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are available). As was the case with Generations in 4K (reviewed here), the result is a significant image quality upgrade over the 2009 Blu-ray release, which was ruined by excessive digital grain reduction. But here, the improvement is even more dramatic. There’s a major uptick in overall resolution and detail, with much greater refinement in texturing as well. You can see this right from the opening shot of Picard aboard the Borg cube—in the skin on his face and the fabric of his uniform—as well as on the hull plating of the new Enterprise. Contrast is improved too, and again to a slightly greater degree than in Generations in 4K. Blacks are inky and deep, yet retain lovely shadow detail, even as the brightest areas of the frame are more bold. And the colors! When Enterprise-E is revealed for the first time, cruising through deep space near the Romulan Neutral Zone, the nebula beyond it glows with richly-saturated hues—blue, green, yellow, orange, red. Phaser blasts have a vibrant intensity, explosions are laden with bright sparks, gaseous density, and debris. Best of all, a lovely wash of organic film grain is visible at all times. This is a beautiful and cinematic image that has quite simply never looked better.

Primary audio on both Paramount’s new 4K Ultra HD and remastered Blu-ray is included in English 7.1 surround in lossless Dolby TrueHD format, essentially the same track found on the 2009 Blu-ray (though with subtle adjustments, as the BDs were 5.1 only). While some fans might bemoan the lack of a new Atmos mix, the TrueHD was then—and continues to be—a fantastic surround experience. The soundstage is medium-wide and highly immersive, with lovely use of the rear channels for ambience and score. In the film’s opening shot, you can hear random Borg voices coming from all around the listening space. When Picard listens the Berlioz opera Les Troyens while awaiting word of the Borg attack on Earth, the music exhibits full-sounding tones and excellent fidelity. So too does the terrific Jerry Goldsmith score throughout—arguably the best Trek score since The Motion Picture (which Goldsmith also composed). The dynamic range is pleasing indeed; from the quietest bits of dialogue to the thunderous blast of explosions, clarity is excellent at all times. Bass is muscular, panning is smooth, and there’s lively movement all around, particularly during Starfleet’s battle with the Borg cube. This is a great surround mix that matches the visuals perfectly. Additional audio options include English Audio Description, German 5.1 Dolby TrueHD (German 5.1 Dolby Digital on the Blu-ray) and Spanish, French, and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitles on both the Blu-ray and 4K are available in English, English for the Hearing Impaired, Danish, German, Spanish, French, Japanese, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, and Swedish. There are also subtitles for the commentary tracks (including the text commentary) in English, German, Spanish, French, and Japanese.

Paramount’s new 4K UHD release is a 2-disc set (UHD and Blu-ray). Each offers a simple menu interface featuring the theatrical poster artwork for the film. The 4K disc includes the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary by Jonathan Frakes
  • Audio Commentary by Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore
  • Audio Commentary by Damon Lindelof and Anthony Pascale
  • Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda

The director’s commentary with Frakes is decent, and certainly reveals his enthusiasm for the project, but too often he’s simply reacting to what’s happening on screen. The writers’ track with Braga and Moore is more interesting. The duo has a strange dynamic here; Braga clearly loves Star Trek, but you get the sense that he’s been involved with it for a little too long at this point, whereas Moore sounds energized and upbeat. Both of these tracks were created for the 2005 DVD release, as was the excellent Okuda text commentary. The third track was added for the film’s 2009 Blu-ray, and why anyone would pair Damon Lindelof and Anthony Pascale up for it is a bit of a puzzle. While Pascale works diligently to offer comments of real substance and interest, Lindelof’s lame attempts at humor constantly derail it.

First Contact is included in remastered 1080p HD on a Blu-ray in this package as well (and this disc is also available separately). It adds the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary by Jonathan Frakes
  • Audio Commentary by Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore
  • Audio Commentary by Damon Lindelof and Anthony Pascale
  • Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda
  • Library Computer Viewing Mode (HD)
  • Production
    • Making First Contact (SD – 20:19)
    • The Art of First Contact (SD – 16:34)
    • The Story (SD – 15:29)
    • The Missile Silo (SD – 14:04)
    • The Deflector Dish (SD – 10:30)
    • From “A” to “E” (SD – 6:38)
  • Scene Deconstruction
    • Borg Queen Assembly (SD – 11:10)
    • Escape Pod Launch (SD – 4:58)
    • Borg Queen’s Demise (SD – 3:12)
  • The Star Trek Universe
    • Jerry Goldsmith: A Tribute (SD – 19:46)
    • The Legacy of Zefram Cochrane (SD – 12:19)
    • First Contact: The Possibilities (SD – 19:31)
    • Industrial Light & Magic – The Next Generation (HD – 12:17)
    • Greetings from the International Space Station (HD – 8:31)
    • SpaceShipOne’s Historic Flight (HD – 4:41)
    • Brent Spiner: Data and Beyond – Part Two (HD – 7:30)
    • Trek Roundtable: First Contact (HD – 12:51)
    • Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 008: Temporal Vortex (HD – 2:36)
  • The Borg Collective
    • Unimatrix One (SD – 14:15)
    • The Queen (SD – 8:31)
    • Design Matrix (SD – 18:10)
  • Archives
    • Storyboards: 1930s Nightclub (HD)
    • Storyboards: Hull Battle (HD)
    • Storyboards: Hull Battle – Alternate Shots (HD)
    • Storyboards: Worf vs. the Borg – Alternate Shots (HD)
    • Photo Gallery (HD)
    • Easter Egg: Alternate Titles (SD – 1:05)
    • Easter Egg: Ethan Phillips Cameo/Interview (SD – 4:00)
    • Easter Egg: Queen’s Demise (SD – 3:51)
  • Teaser Trailer (HD – 1:26)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD –2:26)
  • Borg Invasion Trailer (SD – :32)

Most of this material was created for the 2005 Collector’s Edition DVD, while the rest was produced for the 2009 Star Trek: The Next Generation Movie Collection Blu-ray box set. Nothing new is included, but the good news is that everything from those previous discs carries over here—even the trio of Easter Eggs that were hidden in the 2005 DVD menus. There are featurettes on the film’s production design, its story development, the major locations, and the new Enterprise-E Starship design. You get interviews with the cast and crew, as well as behind-the-scenes video and artwork. Highlights include a tribute to Goldsmith, more background on the character of Zefram Cochrane (who first appeared in The Original Series), a deeper look at the Borg race, and a couple of NASA-related items. Both of the film’s trailers are included too, and even the promo for the Borg Invasion experience at the Las Vegas Hilton is still here. A Digital Copy code on a paper insert completes the package of supplements.

Star Trek: First Contact isn’t quite the Next Generation’s Wrath of Khan, but cast members new and old comport themselves well and director Jonathan Frakes delivers enough entertainment value that you can mostly overlook the film’s flaws. One still can’t help thinking that the cinematic debut of the Borg should have packed a lot more punch, but—unlike the other Next Generation films—First Contact has actually improved with age, especially in the wake of the recent final season of Star Trek: Picard. Most importantly, Paramount has delieved a terrific new 4K and Blu-ray remaster that should thrill even the most critical fans of this franchise. If you count yourself among them, don’t hesitate for a moment to make the upgrade. Recommened.

- Bill Hunt

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