(1996)3Karl WilliamsThe best of the first three big-screen productions to feature the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, this eighth film in the long-running Paramount Pictures cash cow thankfully ups the action quotient. Every familiar character in the film from Picard (Patrick Stewart) to Data (Brent Spiner) has received a welcome double dose of testosterone and adrenaline. Screenwriters Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga have also deftly worked the series' most fearsome villains, the Borg, into a plot line that revisits the science fiction franchise's canonical roots. At the same time, the filmmakers offer up just the slightest whiff of sexuality in the relationships of Data with the Borg Queen and Picard with space greenhorn Lily (Alfre Woodard). The regular cast members are comfortable and solid in their recurring roles, while getting able support from character actors Woodard, James Cromwell and a riveting, scenery-munching Alice Krige as the Borg Queen. There's a lot going on here with a story involving time travel, cyborg villains, and the invention of interstellar space flight, but the pace buzzes along at a rapid clip and the action is handled with sure-footed aplomb by first-time director Jonathan Frakes. His familiarity with his co-stars and their roles proves just as valuable an asset as did Leonard Nimoy's in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986). Only a few entries in the ever-growing Star Trek feature library are outright duds, but the rest can admittedly be divided up into those that will appeal to hardcore fans only and those that will be appreciated by anybody who likes a ripping yarn. Star Trek: First Contact (1996) is the first Next Generation picture to fall into the latter category.