Welcome to “Friday Favorites” which highlight some of my favorite movie-related things. It could be a favorite character or casting choice, a favorite song or score, a favorite scene, line of dialogue, shot or simply a moment. Anything is possible (costumes, sets, etc) and I’d love to hear your suggestions. Note: Just because something appears here does not make it my absolute #1 favorite thing in that category, but it is simply “one of my favorites”.
Today is an important milestone in Star Trek lore; it is exactly 50 years before First Contact, the day on which humans will meet aliens for the first time. So in honor of today’s significance (and inspired by my recent trip to one of the film’s locations), this Friday Favorite comes from Star Trek: First Contact, the film that shows us how those events will transpire, according to the Star Trek canon.
In Star Trek: First Contact, the Enterprise-E travels back in time from the 24th century after a Borg ship trying to alter history by stopping humanity’s first contact with the Vulcans, thereby stopping the creation of the Federation, the Borg’s biggest enemy. The Vulcans make first contact with Earth upon discovering that humans have built a ship capable of travelling faster than light, the Phoenix, which makes its maiden voyage on April 5th, 2063. The Borg attack the area where the Phoenix is being built, and it’s up to the crew of the Enterprise to repair the damage to make sure that events happen as intended to preserve the timeline, while also fighting the Borg.
Today’s “Friday Favorite” is a bit abstract. You see, the really clever thing about the Phoenix is that it was constructed out of the remains of a nuclear missile, after the end of World War III. The Phoenix literally takes after its namesake, rising from the ashes of a broken planet. It takes something horrible and turns it into a symbol of hope. As Data says, “It is an historical irony that Dr. Cochrane would choose an instrument of mass destruction to inaugurate an era of peace.” We are told that within 50 years after First Contact, poverty, war and disease will all have been eliminated from Earth.
I recently visited the Titan Missile Museum, where the Phoenix related scenes were filmed. The museum showcases the last of the Titan II missiles, nuclear weapons built in the 1960’s as a nuclear deterrent. In addition to the excitement that any film buff feels when visiting a filming location, I also felt a sense of waste, and I believe that is Star Trek’s message here. We devoted countless resources, money, manpower and brainpower, in designing and building these deadly weapons. The argument of whether or not they were needed is best left to others, but it’s hard not to imagine how much good could be done if those resources had been directed somewhere more positive.
This is the sort of commentary that Gene Roddenberry always envisioned for Star Trek, and it’s the kind of thing that Star Trek has always done best. In the 60’s, the original series challenged many of the issues of the day, including hot button topics such as race relations and socialism. In the 80’s and 90’s The Next Generation and its offshoots took on even more, including homosexuality and transgender issues, cloning, drug trafficking, assisted suicide and many others.
Star Trek: First Contact, which I consider my favorite of the film series, is not particularly heavy on big ideas (though it does cover topics such as vengeance and what it means to be human), yet this thought on the origins of the Phoenix, mentioned only once, stays with me long after the movie’s end. I’m always a fan of little ideas that challenge the way we look at things, and that is what has always made Star Trek great.
Come back next week for another Friday Favorite!