First Contact (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
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|Star Trek: The Next Generation episode|
|Episode no.||Season 4|
|Directed by||Cliff Bole|
|Story by||Marc Scott Zicree|
|Teleplay by||Dennis Russell Bailey|
Ronald D. Moore
|Featured music||Ron Jones|
|Original air date||February 18, 1991|
Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, during an away mission to observe a pre-warp civilization, Commander Riker is injured and brought to a hospital, where the locals quickly realize he is not from their world. Despite the attempted intervention of the planet's sympathetic science minister, Picard and Troi's efforts to retrieve Riker are stymied by the government's concern about the social crisis that a widespread revelation of his presence could trigger.
The humanoid race of Malcor III is preparing to develop warp drive technology. Captain Picard and Deanna Troi suddenly visit Science Minister Mirasta Yale, lead researcher on their warp experiments. They calm her and explain that they come in peace. It is normal Federation policy to make first contact with a world when it reaches this level of technology. However, they have had to move ahead of schedule because Riker, disguised as a Malcorian, has gone missing. After touring the USS Enterprise, Mirasta agrees to help and arranges a private meeting with Chancellor Durken. After the meeting, Picard returns with Durken to the Enterprise and explains the benefits of a relationship with the Federation. Durken expresses some concerns, most notably with the Federation's unwillingness to share their technology, as well as how their arrival will change his society. Picard assures him that how contact proceeds will be up to him, and if asked to leave, the Federation will do so.
Meanwhile, Riker has been detained by security forces in a hospital, where he is barely conscious following an accident. Differences in Riker's physiology make the hospital administrator believe that he is an extraterrestrial. Riker is aided in his escape by a nurse who expresses her wish to "make love with an alien". Riker accepts her offer, but the escape attempt fails: he is spotted, and the guards catch and beat him, worsening his condition. Riker's presence at the hospital is reported to Security Minister Krola, who accuses Durken of hiding the truth about the "alien" presence. The Chancellor expresses his concerns to Picard about the Federation's covert intrusions, but accepts Picard's explanation of why the Federation does this. Krola, fearing a hostile invasion by the Federation, endangers Riker's health by reviving him prematurely so he may be interrogated. He tries to frame Riker as a murderer by shooting himself with Riker's phaser. Meanwhile, Durken is made aware that Riker is in danger of dying and tells Picard where he is. The Enterprise crew bring both Riker and Krola back to the ship. They are able to save Riker's life, and discover that his phaser was only set to stun, so Krola was in no real danger.
After Krola is returned to the planet, Durken regretfully tells Picard that he feels Malcor is not ready for first contact. He fears his people are not mature enough to handle the startling announcement that they are not alone in the universe. He requests that the Enterprise leave the planet, in hopes that they may be able to return at a later time. He agrees to delay Malcor's development of warp drive technology until its people are ready. With Mirasta's project cancelled, she asks Picard if she can join his crew, and Picard agrees.
The episode ranked eighth in Entertainment Weekly's list of top 10 Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes. In 2016, The Washington Post ranked "First Contact" the tenth best episode of all Star Trek television. They highlight a funny cameo by Bebe Neuwirth, amidst complications when Riker is lost on a first contact mission to the nearly-warp capable Malcorians.
In 2017, Den of Geek ranked Bebe Neuwirth casting as one of the top ten guest stars on Star Trek: The Next Generation. In 2017, Business Insider listed this episode as one of the most underrated episodes of the Star Trek franchise.
In 2020, ScreentRant ranked "First Contact" the 15th best episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. They note how this episode excels at world building the Star Trek fictional universe, exploring its hallmark Starfleet, United Federation of Planets, and alien contact concepts.
- "'Star Trek: The Next Generation': The Top 10 Episodes". EW.com. 2007-09-20. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
- "Star Trek: The Next Generation — 10 Great Guest Performances". Den of Geek. Retrieved 2019-06-10.
- Holodny, Elena. "The 31 most underrated 'Star Trek' episodes". Business Insider. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
- "The 15 Best Star Trek: TNG Episodes Of All Time". ScreenRant. 2020-04-28. Retrieved 2020-05-10.
- Star Trek The Next Generation DVD set, volume 4, disk 4, selection 3.