First Contact Time Travel Plot

Discussion in 'Star Trek Movies I-X' started by The Colonel, May 31, 2014.

  1. The Colonel

    The Colonel Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    First Contact was for a long time my favorite Star Trek movie, mostly because I have a blind affection for the Borg. I was a little kid when I saw it for the first time in theaters back in 1996 but I've re-watched it a few times as an adult, while I still like the film, my opinion has begun to change.

    My main problem with the movie is its wierd bifurcated plot. One half is a very dark story about Picard facing his inner demons and fighting to defend the Enterprise from the Borg in a close quarters life and death struggle. The other half is a lighthearted time travel story played up for its humor a la ST:IV. We have half the main cast clowning around on Earth with a lecherous drunk while the other half fights for their lives. This leads to some very jarring changes in tone as the movie switches between the two story lines.

    I can forgive the obvious plot holes revolving around the time travel (those have been beaten to death by other fans). I just think there was a missed opportunity to do an entire movie about the Borg where they could have been explored much further before Voyager sunk its claws into them. Also the dramatic tension would have been higher if the main cast all stayed on the Enterprise. Picard's Ahab rant to Lilly would have payed off emotionally to a greater extent if he had been speaking to Riker. Maybe they could have even shown the crew divided and at each others throats a bit before coming together again in the final act.

    First Contact is well enough written and directed that it somehow still works. I just think that the time travel story belonged in another movie or an episode of another series and its inclusion led to some missed opportunities.

    I'm interested to hear what you all think about this.
     
  2. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    TrekCore shows us where the story came from: the earlier version of the script available there shows the writers' desire to distribute the heroes evenly through the various locations, of which the Montana missile silo farm and village is very important to setting the mood of the story.

    As can be expected, the writers would initially fumble such a three-ring circus, having characters inexplicably appear in the wrong location or fail to contribute when supposedly available (Crusher is all over the scenery, say). That would be sorted out in the final version. But drama-wise and story-wise, it would be extremely important to get Riker and Troi away from Picard, so that Sloane would have the chance to act as the skipper's conscience. And stranding both of them on the planet without them even realizing they have been stranded was a pretty smooth way of doing that.

    I think it just adds to the darkness of the Borg half of the story that half the heroes are ignorant of the grim struggle taking place above their heads... It's also fun to see how Picard is ultimately surrounded by spineless yeasayers: Crusher and Worf both meet the bill perfectly, despite superficially being the characters the most likely to talk back.

    It's just too bad that we never learn what happened to Guinan, as again some superficial factors like skin color and gender conspire to remind us that her character is being replaced by a "cheap copy" here - another character who serves in the role of listener and arguer, but without further fleshing-out or padding elements to her (vs. Guinan's previous history with our heroes, her admittedly somewhat silly mysteriousness, her considerable age, yadda yadda).

    But no, I don't see the time travel plot working without the major contribution from the Zephram Cochrane half of it. Without the Cochrane story, and the splitting of our heroes between that one and the Borg fight, the time travel would make even less sense and would feel completely tacked on. Yet a generic fight with the Borg would be too simple a story to entertain us.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  3. Makarov

    Makarov Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Well I would have liked to have seen Riker dealing with the borg on the enterprise, considering his history with them in BOBW. I agree Picard's flipping out scene would have been better if he was screaming at Riker.
     
  4. Allyn Gibson

    Allyn Gibson Vice Admiral Admiral

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    If I remember correctly, the initial plan was for Riker to be aboard the Enterprise battling the Borg while Picard would have been on the surface interacting with Cochrane. Then someone among Berman, Braga, and Moore realized that, given Picard's personal history with the Borg, he needed to be aboard the ship, so the Riker and Picard roles were essentially reversed.

    Frankly, I have a hard time imagining that Patrick Stewart would have been happy with the script had Picard been part of the fish-out-of-water comedy storyline.
     
  5. Kevman7987

    Kevman7987 Captain Captain

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    I heard somewhere (I think it it was the Moore/Braga commentary on the DVD) that Stewart had read an early script and told them "Why the hell aren't I on my ship?" which may or may not have to do with the Action Picard that Stewart had become fond of.
     
  6. Dukhat

    Dukhat Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Or even better, they could have changed it so that Cochrane wasn't the drunk womanizing idiot that he was portrayed as.
     
  7. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    ^ Yeah, I had a big problem with how they painted Cochrane. He was no longer a contemplative engineer/test pilot with some parochial attitudes as in "Metamorphosis", but presented as an alcoholic loon who didn't seem capable of adding up numbers on paper, and much less being able to design a warp ship. It's not James Cromwell's fault though, he did what the script asked for.
     
  8. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    I'm sort of happy that the guy we see 200 years later isn't a carbon copy of the original. Surely that much experience should have some sort of an effect on a man?

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  9. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

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    ^^ :confused: Should the rejuvenating effect of the companion not have made Cochrance not only younger but hornier as well? :evil:

    THIS! :techman:

    I really can't bring myself, no matter how hard I try, to believe that after WW III some hillbillies grabbed a missile silo and invented warp drive. There is still a world of a difference between "highly improbable" and "mildly impossible".

    The only good thing about these scenes is how these served as a basis to create the amazing "negative" for the opening sequence in "In a Mirror, Darkly". :rolleyes:

    Bob
     
  10. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    Well, Glenn Corbett's Cochrane did seem to be sprouting horns when he finally noticed Commissioner Hedford. "A woman! And a beautiful one at that! Food to a starving man! Wanna take a bath?"

    He probably would have torn her clothes off if the other guys hadn't been there. ;)
     
  11. Dukhat

    Dukhat Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I'm not saying they had to be carbon-copies, just that Cromwell's portrayal of the character seemed quite unbelievable to me. Plus, they never even bothered to explain why he looked so much older than he was supposed to be in that time.
     
  12. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I can see Cromwell's Cochrane behaving differently seeing as he somehow survived WW III and his team continued to work on the warp drive program. Maybe he is suffering from deprivation and radiation . poisoning?
    You expect the rejuvenated Cochrane to look much younger but how much mental changes came from his long period of time interfacing with the Companion?
     
  13. Leto_II

    Leto_II Captain Captain

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    The movie's novelization by J.M. Dillard postulated something to that effect (that Cochrane in 2063 was suffering from radiation poisoning to a certain extent), and that it was the Companion who later rejuvenated him, at least physically.

    Although, yeah...can't really account for the mental differences beyond a similar sort of intervention. The novelization does make mention that Zefram had been subject to psychological issues prior to WWIII, and had received an subdermal "upper" drug-implant (the late-21st century equivalent of Prozac, essentially), but that it had long ago depleted its dosage after the nuclear war took place and destroyed all the pharmaceutical companies.
     
  14. Peach Wookiee

    Peach Wookiee Cuddly Mod of Doom Moderator

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    ^Yeah, everything was gone. Lily's mom died from treatable breast cancer.
     
  15. Psion

    Psion Commodore Commodore

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    I remember reading somewhere that Tom Hanks was originally sought for the role of Cochrane. Personality aside, that would have been a much closer physical match to Glenn Corbett. And following on the heals of Apollo 13, it would have added a bit of the right stuff to the role.

    But I'm with Bob ... I just don't buy the setting we saw in First Contact as the birth place of warp drive. Even if Cochrane had almost been there before the war and he was just putting finishing touches on the whole thing, it felt wrong.

    I much preferred the bigger, sprawling setting used in the novel Federation.
     
  16. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Yep. And Hanks is a huge Trekkie, so he wanted to do it, but there was a scheduling conflict with That Thing You Do! and so he had to bow out.
     
  17. Khan 2.0

    Khan 2.0 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    earth...but when?...spock?
    wonder how much box office Hanks wouldve added? Maybe another 100m
     
  18. Richard Baker

    Richard Baker Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The only thing I did like about Cochrane in that movie was that when you get a change to visit a hero you have held in high esteem your whole life only to discover that they were nothing like you imagined. Once you get past that one surprise you do wonder how this man could have a remote chance of creating what he was famous for. Even if he was a full on Doc Brown genius, that base did not seem to have the facilities to produce a Warp craft.

    Why go back to first contact in the first place. The Borg were interested in federation technology, why not visit Earth during the time of 'Q Who?'. Nobody would know what the Borg were still and assimilating the planet might take longer, but that Sphere with the queen could pretty much do anything they wanted to do before the Federation figured out what was going on.
     
  19. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Eliminating Earth as a factor could probably have better been accomplished by going farther back in time; gathering technology could have been achieved at a later date. But ensuring that the Federation is born could only be accomplished in 2063, because apparently Earth was a key ingredient in that, and Earth couldn't participate if not for the curious encounter with Vulcans at that date.

    So perhaps the Queen just went back to ensure that Cochrane flies? Alone, the poor man might have achieved nothing. But send back people from the 24th century, and their "repairs" to the warp contraption would ensure that the thing gets warpborne - after a few iterations of time travel at least. Sacrificing one Cube and one Sphere and one body might have been a small price for that.

    Second-guessing the Borg is something our heroes didn't have the time for. But it's something the audience certainly can do on their spare time...

    As for Cochrane's achievements, I trust most of the work would have been done before the war, in which Cochrane apparently lost a great deal (in both senses of the expression, I guess). But Earth wasn't bombed back to stone age in the war, as evidenced in various episodes; Cochrane could still have had powerful backers. Why did he install passenger seats on his craft if not for observers from the funding parties?

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  20. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    This, plus the fact that Picard never bothers to ask Lily what her actual involvement was with the Phoenix (he seems to assume she's some random gun-toting love interest who is only here for dramatic purposes) leads me to my personal theory that Zephram Cochrane had nothing to do with warp drive.

    That rather, it was LILY who invented the warp drive and Zephram and was just a test pilot that Lily hired because she had no spaceflight experience and no practical knowledge of how to pilot a spacecraft. Cochrane simply took the credit for the invention because 1) Everyone on the Enterprise already believed he did it anyway and 2) Lily wasn't there to set the record straight.

    That, to me, finally explains why Cochrane tries to run away just before the flight starts. "I don't want to be a statue!" It's not that he's afraid of the fame and fortune (he's clearly not, as he tells Riker later), it's that he's actually having a huge crisis of conscience getting rich and famous for something he never actually did (and also, he knows that Lily is probably going to murder him when she finds out).