Star Trek: The Next Generation

Season 4 Episode 15

First Contact

9
Aired Unknown Feb 18, 1991 on CBS
8.4
out of 10
User Rating
210 votes
6

EPISODE REVIEWS
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Episode Summary

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Stardate: Unknown While on an undercover first contact mission, Riker is captured by the xenophobic aliens, who believe he is a scout for an invasion.

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • Very Good Episode... Almost Great

    8.0
    The issues dealt with in this episode are actually extremely interesting. When should a superior alien species make first contact, and exactly how much information should be shared? How should they gain the trust of a technologically inferior species? These are all fundamental questions that may have to be addressed by humans themselves in the distant future (perhaps as the inferior species, or as the superior one). There is great tension in this episode as one of the enterprise crew is hurt and captured by the aliens, and desperately tries to avoid exposing his true identity. The script is well done and the acting is likewise fantastic, particularly by Patrick Stewart. But this episode falls slightly short of greatness. Perhaps too much was encapsulated in a one hour period, perhaps the drama was a bit under-stated, or maybe some of the aliens were a bit too stereotyped. All in all, though, one of the best episodes of this season....moreless
  • An issue it's good to see Trek address: First Contact

    8.0
    This Riker episode (not to be confused with the second TNG motion picture) is a rare Star Trek episode written from the aliens' point of view, although the aliens themselves are an allegorical reference to mankind. (In fact, the story is simply a remake of the 1951 film "The Day the Earth Stood Still".) The structure of the episode is the classic A/B form, with the A story featuring Riker on the planet and the B story featuring Picard's efforts to recover him. Jonathan Frakes (Riker) is excellent, delivering the right amount of comedy and drama with each of his scenes. Picard, as usual, stands out as well with another great performance by Patrick Stewart. A particularly character-rich episode, the story is also enriched by some wonderful performances from several different guest stars as well. A great one!

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  • The writing is masterful from the story arc down to the dialogue, and that aspect is what I focus on in my review. And as sociological hypotheses of a first contact situation go, this episode is the best "Star Trek" has to offer.moreless

    9.5
    I was as impressed by this episode in much the same way I'd be impressed with a feature film on the subject. In fact, if you exclude the performances of the actors and the production design, I'd say it would stand up to any sci-fi classic. Not that the acting or design is poor in the least, only that for me, they were totally eclipsed by the writing.



    When I first saw that the episode had 6 writing credits (5 for teleplay and one for story) - unusual for a Star Trek episode - I was a little taken aback. Having that many people attempting to craft a relatively straightforward story can sometimes turn into a mess. But by the end, I couldn't imagine it being made any other way. It's obvious a lot of care went into the crafting of this script. It's a well-contained story that's fleshed out beautifully; the kind of sci-fi tale that evokes wonder without a hint of incredulity. You believe the actions and the responses of the various agents all the way through, and yet you're still amazed that it all comes together in the end.



    In summary, it's the story of a first-contact situation, in which Picard and Riker both play out separate facets of delicate Federation protocol. This protocol has always been one of the marvels of the Trek universe for me, and it's gratifying to see it fleshed out so well. The Federation, with Picard (and Riker) at the helm, attempts to establish relations with a culture on the cusp of interstellar travel but whose people and values may not be ready to meet an intragalactic community. This is the essential conflict of the tale, and we see it from both on the ground (Riker operating as an alien observation agent at risk of exposure) and "in the air" (Picard carrying out the careful diplomacy). This is a situation brimming with potential, and the writing manages to hold its water without springing any leaks. It's mysterious, thrilling, potent, and believable. Every character is backed up with his or her own sense of right which somehow escapes contrivance: The conservative security official, the cautious but optimistic leader, and the utterly progressive scientist provide the right, left, and middle of the world's political entity, each with their own goals and motivations. The true genius of the script is that each character is satisfied without contradictions, something that is no easy task in writing, providing a conclusion that is totally satisfying.



    The dialogue, especially when delivered by the veteran Patrick Stewart, is subtle enough to let the tensions speak for themselves. The characters almost never raise their voices - the writing is good enough that they can speak plainly and still exude personality and emotion.



    On top of this, the story manages, unlike most TNG stories, to show that the idealist Federation is not the be-all-and-end-all winner. I must avoid spoiling too much, but suffice to say that the unexpected arrives without ruining the ending, and we are left completely satisfied by its compromises.



    All in all, a true gem of a story, whose writing exemplifies thoughtfulness and wisdom.moreless
  • Probably the best "prime directive" episode TNG did. Very cleverly plotted.

    8.0
    This episode has one of the oddest, and most clever, teasers in TNG's run. It opens in what seems to be a 20th century hospital, not unlike your typical hospital drama. (Was ER already in existence at this point? I am guessing probably not.) And then in a nice twist, we see Commander Riker's wounded face and realize this really is TNG after all.



    The plot is engaging and has quite a few amusing moments. (Riker's cross-species romance with Lilith is hilarious.) The aliens are all extremely engaging, and it's a testament to the writers that they manage to carry the episode with the main cast in only a secondary role.



    The preachiness of the episode (as typical with ST, the aliens are US) approaches the "annoying" threshold occasionally, but the basic material is good enough that this never becomes a serious problem.moreless
  • Riker is injured during a surveilance mission. The Federation usually observes new worlds before attempting to make the first contact. The Malcorian doctors become suspicious when they find Riker is not like the other Malcorians and has five fingers on eamoreless

    8.0
    Riker is injured during a surveilance mission. The Federation usually observes new worlds before attempting to make the first contact. The Malcorian doctors become suspicious when they find Riker is not like the other Malcorians and has five fingers on each hand. Some Malcorian scientists have developed warp technology new to the Malcorian way of life. Knowing this, Picard and Troi make first contact to one of the scientists. The Chancelor catches word that there is alien's in his world. He thinks they are going to conquer the Malcorian way of life. I rate this one a 8.0.moreless
Patrick Stewart

Patrick Stewart

Captain Jean-Luc Picard

Jonathan Frakes

Jonathan Frakes

Cmdr. William T. Riker

Brent Spiner

Brent Spiner

Lt. Cmdr. Data

Gates McFadden

Gates McFadden

Dr. Beverly Crusher

Marina Sirtis

Marina Sirtis

Counsellor/Lt. Cmdr. Deanna Troi

Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn

Lt./Lt. Cmdr. Worf

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