Yesterday’s virtual First Contact Day event put on by CBS has come after over a year of virtual “conventions” that haven’t been able to hold a candle to their normally in-person counterparts. But, with a year of learning and planning, CBS showed that this virtual event thing can actually work. During the “Remembering First Contact” panel, host Wil Wheaton asked insightful questions of Star Trek vets Jonathan Frakes, Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, and Alice Krige, getting them to spill a few stories I for one had never heard before about Star Trek: First Contact, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
Here are a few of my favorite takeaway tidbits that were new to me. For those of you walking Star Trek history encyclopedias, please feel free to expound on these stories in the comments!
Renaissance-era setting nixed for budgetary reasons… and the absurdity
During the “Revisiting First Contact” panel celebrating 25 years since the release of the beloved TNG film, Jonathan Frakes spoke about the genesis of the story of First Contact, saying:
“All three of the writers wanted a time travel story. So, the objective was to find a way to marry those big concepts [Borg and time travel]. Originally it was going to take place in Renaissance Italy, perhaps, and we were going to fight the Borg with swords? Thankfully that idea was taken away for financial reasons and logical reasons and absurd reasons, I’m sure. And, we were blessed with this, arguably the best of the Star Trek movie scripts certainly.”
Patrick Stewart had to OK Frakes as director, over Reuben sandwiches
After Jonathan Frakes was asked how he got the job as director, he told the story of the most memorable Reuben sandwich in his life.
“I believe, if the urban myth is true, the movie was offered to Ridley Scott, John McTiernan [who weren’t interested]. As I understand it Sherry Lansing, who was the head of Paramount at the time, told Rick Berman, who was the keeper of the reigns: ‘Why don’t you hire who you like?’ So, there was one caveat. The director that they hired had to be approved by now Sir Patrick Stewart. So, Rick said, ‘I’d really like you to do the movie, but Patrick’s going to have to approve you.’ So, Patrick and I had lunch at Jerry’s Deli in Studio City. And, he said, ‘I’m okay with you directing the movie. I was told that I had to make it official with you. And, that… it kind of changed my life. I believe we both had Reuben sandwiches.”
Alice Krige asked for a second audition because she thought she blew it (she didn’t)
Before her audition for the role of the Borg Queen, Alice Krige had no real knowledge of what Star Trek was all about. It took doing the audition for her to find the character, and in doing so, she was convinced she had totally biffed the audition. Of course, she hadn’t.
“My agent called me one day, and she said, ‘here are some sides for the next Star Trek movie.’ Now, I have a confession to make that I had never seen an episode of Star Trek. I said okay, but where’s the script? I can’t go in without a script. She said, ‘No, you don’t understand. NO ONE sees a script.’
I had a friend who wrote for Star Trek. I ran over to his house, and I watched all of the Borg episodes that he had on tape. I learned my lines, and I went into Paramount. And, there was Jonathan, and I did the three scenes. And, as I was doing them, I actually started to understand [the role] – it was the act of doing it – it was not intellectual. It was like a channel opened up. They thanked me politely, and I left. I ran to my car, and I drove to find the first pay phone I could find. I called my agent, and I said ‘I screwed it up. Please tell them that I can do better. And, I really want to do it again.’ Well, we didn’t hear from them for three weeks, and I thought ‘another one bites the dust’. And, then I got another call! I went in, and I did the same thing again, and I was offered the Borg Queen.”
Alice Krige needed 8 Borg wranglers to work in the Borg Queen costume
Alice Krige – who absolutely slayed in her role as the Borg Queen – spoke about how she got the role and what it was like playing the iconic character. One amusing tidbit was her mention of around eight “Borg wranglers” that were needed during her scenes.
“All the Borg wranglers. Because I must have had eight maybe? Someone who looked after my battery packs, someone who had a big pot of glue and glued the cracks. Someone looked after my feet, my hands, my head. Someone had a huge tube of – what was it? – KY jelly and a sponge. Every one of them helped make [the Borg Queen]. This was the apotheosis of collaboration for me, this role.”
Brent Spiner was terrified of doing the missile silo jump stunt
While Brent Spiner had high praise for the film’s director, script, and co-stars, there was one aspect of making the film that wasn’t to his liking.
“We were standing alongside the missile on a platform that was very high in the air. Patrick [Stewart] knows that I am terrified of heights, so he would be bouncing on the platform to terrify me – which it did. [In the film] Data jumps off the platform and sail to the ground, and nothing happens to him. Initially, it was my stunt double, Brian Williams. He did that jump, and Jonathan [Frakes] shot him coming down from the missile silo, and then Jonathan cut to me. They printed all of that, then Jonathan came to me and said, you can tell that it’s not you. You’re going to have to do it. They took me to a soundstage, put me in a harness. And I was terrified. I hated it. They brought me up 3 feet and dropped me, and I hated it, then they took me all the way to the top, and they were to drop me, and a few feet before I hit the ground, a hydraulic slowed me down. I had to be Data, and I was able to do it, and look confident, and I landed, and the crew applauded, and I was so glad it was over. And then ‘Two-Takes Frakes’ came to me and said, ‘can we do that again?'”
Watch the full 25th-anniversary panel
Paramount+ has uploaded the entire Star Trek: First Contact anniversary panel to Youtube.
Find more articles on Star Trek history at TrekMovie.com.
Alice Krige wax the only logical choice to play the Borg queen. While Susanna Thompson was good on Voyager, Alice nailed it and I’m glad she also came back to the roll.
the 1st time Star Trek was a ‘cool’ movie to go see at the cinema
What about The Voyage Home?
yes but that was more of a comedy like Crocodile Dundee/BTTF in space, not so much an Aliens/Terminator type ‘cool’ pg13 scifi action movie that kids teens non fans could rave about in the playground, water cooler, pub etc
The first Trek movie I got to see in the theater…I was 4. I still remember gagging in my seat when Data made out with the BQ. Also I love this cast so much, I wish I was around to get pranked.
This panel was great! And yes even after 25 years and endless conventions it’s always nice to hear new stories and anecdotes which this had a lot of. Spiner’s story about being afraid of heights and doing the jumping scene in the movie was hilarious!
FC definitely had an amazing script and felt the most cinematic out of all the movies not counting TMP or the Kelvin movies. The premise worked so well and a great way to tie into the 30th anniversary sort of how well TUC and its premise tied into the 25th.
While I liked Beyond that was one of its biggest missed opportunities and not having a bigger hook that tied into the 50th anniversary more. It’s a story that could be told in any episode. But I digress.
Anyway great panel!
50th anniversary movie was there for the taking (Orci/Shatner/battle for the timelines) and could’ve been as pleasing as VI and FC, but,like a poor marksman, they missed the target..
I was on set standing in Picard’s Ready Room doorway they filmed all the takes of the “interplexing beacon” dialog scene where Alfre Woodard and Picard come up through the floor. I was so stunned that I was on set watch the new film being made. I remember touching the embroidered delta shield insignia on the back of the seats on the bridge. Jonathan Frakes made the cast do one more take of a shot and said “ok, once more with grace and alacrity” and Patrick Stewart started into a whole Shakespeare joke about the epic love story of Grace and Alacrity, acting it out while the cast and crew laughed as the lights were moved. It was all very funny and surreal. I also got to sit in the Phoenix cockpit and walk (only on the very edge) of the deflector dish. I can’t believe that was 25 years ago. Yikes. I’m old. Oh and I also interviewed Alice Krige in her house in Malibu about playing the Borg Queen. She fed me salt and vinegar potato chips and her little black dog kept licking the crumbs off my fingers. 25 years?? Where does time go???!!!!
That’s a lovely story!
Yes that is a great story. But I thought the interplexing beacon scene was on the bridge? But I love that whole bit. It had some great lines:
“The reports of my assimilation have been greatly exaggerated”
“I am a Klingon”
“I think’s it time we take a little stroll”
And the gag with Worf scared of zero-G. Love it. Why can’t all Star Trek films be more like this?
Wow. 25 years. I saw this movie in the theaters when I was in college. Dang I feel old now. But I just watched it again yesterday for FC Day and it still holds up very well. I love this movie.
I did hear the Renaissance story before. But it was actually someone wanted to do the time travel to the Renaissance story and someone else wanted to do the Borg. I’m glad they dropped the Renaissance bit and went with the Zephram Cochrane and First Contact story instead.
My regret is that Tom Hanks was initially cast as Zephram Cochrane, which I think would have made for a better and more popular movie. He couldn’t do it since he was directing another movie, but he did want to since he was a big Star Trek fan. James Cromwell was ok, but Hanks would have brought a big name to Trek.
Didn’t Tony Pascale do a DVD commentary for it with Damon Lindelof?
I don’t agree. Hanks was too famous. Too big. I would have watched all the Cochrane scenes and just thought “that’s Tom Hanks talking to Will, Deanna, and Geordi”. Same with the abandoned Eddie Murphy role in Star Trek IV. I’m glad they didn’t happen.
Now, if they want Hanks to cameo as Captain April on SNW, I can be down with that.
But the fact he was so famous could’ve been an added bonus for the character as Cohrene was this huge mythical figure that the TNG guys were in awe of
Tom Hanks is a fantastic actor and I think his performance would have quickly allowed the audience to believe he was Zethran Cochrane in the movie.
Big name actors appear all the time in Star Wars, just check the names.
Cromwell was great as Cochrane (and even more prestigious when you take into account he was in the classic LA Confidential the following year) but yeah Hanks in FC would’ve been a huge deal for a Trek movie in the mid 90s when Hanks was pretty much the biggest movie star on the planet at that time (along with Mel Gibson & Tom Cruise), and maybe brought in another 50 even 100m in box office worldwide
I prefer Cromwell, much more believable as a drunk, also he’s a fantastic guy and an activist I’ve marched alongside. Meeting him was a big deal for me, I never thought I’d be meeting the man who invented warp drive!
Cromwell was also coming off of an Academy Award nomination that year, so he leant a nice little nugget of prestige in his own way.
i still cringe when everyone, including the Vulcans, have their little dance party, twisting the night away to Roy Orbison’s Ooby Dooby. Not Trek’s finest moment!
The end shot was also very similar to Trek V
I remember during the live watch of First Contact with Jonathan Frakes some months back, he also related how Patrick had to approve him directing. He didn’t mention the sandwich thing though at that time. Also, the tone I got from the live watch was that Frakes was never in any danger since he and Patrick are good friends and Patrick rubber stamping Frakes’ directorship was basically a formality.