In the 24th Century, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) has a nightmare of his assimilation by the Borg six years before. Admiral Hayes contacts him to warn of a new threat from the Borg. He is ordered to patrol the Neutral Zone with the Enterprise, out of danger from the Borg. He knows it is because Starfleet fears he would be compromised.
When Starfleet is in danger of losing the fight, the crew disobeys orders and heads for Earth. A single Borg cube is holding off the remains of the Federation fleet. The Enterprise assists the crew of the Defiant, captained by Worf (Michael Dorn). With Picard’s expertise, the cube is destroyed, but not before it launches a sphere toward Earth. The Enterprise follows it into a Temporal Vortex, discovering that the sphere has entered the past and assimilated the entire planet Earth, which is now all Borg. They penetrate the Temporal Vortex in pursuit.
They arrive hundred of years in the past, on 4 April 2063, the day before Earth’s first contact with the Vulcans. They realize that the Borg are out to prevent First Contact so Starfleet will never be created. The Enterprise manages to destroy the sphere, but an attack had been launched on the place where the first warp-capable ship was being prepared, so they beam down to help. Zefram Cochrane (James Cromwell) is still alive, though quite drunk, and the Phoenix is still intact. His assistant Lily Sloane (Alfre Woodard) is injured and sent to the Enterprise sickbay for medical attention. Captain Picard also returns to the ship and Riker (Jonathan Frakes) is left to make sure Cochrane succeeds. He turns out to be less than the heroic figure the Galaxy remembers. He is a drunk and not sure he really wants to change history.
The Borg invade the lower decks of the Enterprise and begin to assimilate its crew. Picard and others try to reach Engineering with corrosive gas but are forced back. Data (Brent Spiner) is captured. Lily Sloane, awake now and frightened by her surroundings, holds a phaser (set on kill) on Picard, but he gains her trust. They escape the Borg by creating a diversion on the Holodeck. Picard, Worf, and the navigator Lieutenant Hawk (Neal McDonough) suit up and exit the ship to the Deflector Dish to prevent the Borg from using it to call for reinforcements. Picard orders the ship’s self-destruction and sends the crew to the Escape Pods. He discovers that the Borg Queen (Alice Krige) is altering Data and seducing him to join the Borg. She is looking for the encryption code to the Enterprise computer, which Data has in his brain.
Cochrane, Riker, and Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton)) prepare the Phoenix for launch. Picard offers to replace Data as hostage, but Data refuses to leave. He deactivates the self-destruct and fires torpedoes at the Phoenix. When they miss, the Borg Queen realizes she is betrayed. Data ruptures a coolant tank and the corrosive vapor eats away the organic parts of the Borg. In a gruesome scene, the Borg Queen ends up as a steel skull and backbone writhing on the deck. Cochrane completes his flight; a Vulcan ship detects the warp-drive and lands on Earth. Cochrane makes First Contact and the Enterprise returns to the 24th Century.
Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore developed the film. They wanted a Borg story and producer Rick Berman wanted a time-travel story, so they did both. It was directed by Jonathan Frakes when Ridley Scott turned it down. Frakes is often called Two Takes Frakes because of his efficient shooting style. Jerry Goldsmith did the music. Industrial Light and Magic did the special effects. Patrick Stewart had a role in developing the story as a follow-up to Captain Pickard’s encounter with the Borg as Locutus in the series. Locutus means “spoken”. The movie was ready in time for the 30th Anniversary of Star Trek. It was well-received by critics and is considered one of the best Star Trek films—certainly, the best of the Next Generation films.
The Phoenix was played by a decommissioned nuclear missile in the Titan Missile Museum, Tucson, Arizona. On the missile silo, one of the two silo doors must remain open so Russian satellites can look inside, according to treaties. Of all his roles, James Cromwell said Zefram Cochrane was most like himself. Alfre Woodard’s fear at seeing a Borg for the first time was not acting; she knew little about Star Trek and had never seen anything like the Borg. Geordi LaForge had turned in his VISOR for implants. The Vulcan who greeted Cochrane is named Solkar. He is the great-grandfather of Spock. The Millennium Falcon appears briefly in one of the battles with the Borg in some of the DVD versions. Captain Pickard is able to take command of the fleet at Earth, according to Starfleet regulations, because he has command of the ship with tactical superiority—not damaged and with all its armaments.
The Borg Queen was created for the movie—sexy, dangerous, mysterious, and creepy--even though her costume was painful to wear. Her entrance— head and spine being lowered into her headless body—took five months to finish. Krige talked about how actors dressed as Borg were avoided and subtly ostracized by everyone else in the cafeteria, like kids in high school. For the first time, the assimilated species was evident in the Borg body—human, Klingon, Romulan, Bajoran, Cardassian. Makeup took about five hours to do. Michael Westmore was the genius behind it. Alice Krige pretty much stole the movie, in my opinion, taking it away from veteran actors like James Cromwell, Alfre Woodard, and Patrick Stewart, mostly because of the interplay between her and Brent Spiner. The scene in which she blows on the human skin just attached to Data’s forearm, his hairs stand up, and he gasps at the sensation, is just about the closest thing to a sex-scene you are likely to see in Star Trek.