Star Trek 196: First Contact

196. First Contact

FORMULA: Who Watches the Watchers + The Voyage Home

WHY WE LIKE IT: The aliens' point of view is well rendered. The alien groupie.

WHY WE DON'T: Gross violations of the Prime Directive.

REVIEW: First Contact (not to be mistaken for the later movie of the same name) has some nagging Prime Directive implications which threaten to derail one's enjoyment of the episode throughout. It seems crazy to think first contact would be initiated BEFORE the first warp flight, as if that wouldn't influence their culture. And you may or may not find Riker's rescue a justifiable reason for stepping up the contact program (especially in light of the Malcorians' more closed-minded elements). It's a good thing Mirasta and Durken are so reasonable!

But if the episode nonetheless works, I think it's because we're only really shown the aliens' point of view (or more accurately, treating the Enterprise crew as the aliens here). There's something a little disappointing in their being so close to us as we are now, but I suppose that's how we can empathize with them. We see both good and bad Malcorians, and even the bad ones aren't really driven by malice as much as fear and some other ideal. Krola's attempted suicide-for-the-cause, for example, is a striking scene. Another good one, and tonally opposite, is the alien groupie scene with Bebe Neuwirth obviously having fun playing Lanel. Riker, Riker, Riker. You dirty dog.

But while they manage to find some humor, the script is mostly serious, with the focus on how incredibly transforming (and scary!) such an event would be. Picard and Riker are the only two characters to get as much screen time as the starring Malcorians (who do a very good job). Both show off their skills well, with Picard the clear winner, dealing with the situation with great diplomacy and integrity. Kinda saves the episode from being too much of a Prime Directive quagmire.

LESSON: Genetic defects have replaced rice-picker accidents as the excuse of choice for obviously alien captives.

REWATCHABILITY - High: Flawed, yes, but a nice breath of fresh air nonetheless. The formula will be used more often by Voyager later on, but rarely has it been so successful as the original.

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