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Patrick Stewart’s favorite Star Trek episode inspired TNG’s best movie

Star Trek First Contact is the best movie from the TNG era science fiction movies. It was inspired by Patrick Stewart's favorite episode from the TV series.

Patrick stewart as Captain Picard in Star Trek first contact

Few Star Trek fans would argue against the suggestion that Star Trek: First Contact is the best of the Star Trek movies from Patrick Stewart‘s four TNG-era outings. In fact, it’s among the best movies in the whole cinematic franchise, able to come toe-to-toe with the earlier movies from William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.

Released in 1996, First Contact sees the crew of the USS Enterprise-E travel back through the Star Trek timeline and into the past to combat a Borg plot to prevent humanity’s first meeting with the Vulcans. It stands as one of the best science fiction movies of the decade, taking the Star Trek The Next Generation cast and reshaping them to fit an action thriller movie. In doing so, it does lose some of the classic TNG-style charm, but it’s a fun and exciting adventure when all’s said and done.

Partly, that’s because it’s inspired by Stewart’s personal favorite TNG episode: Starship Mine. Nestled toward the end of season 6, Starship Mine is a Die Hard-ish action episode that sees Stewart’s Star Trek captain single-handedly take on a group of malevolent intruders (including Tim Russ, who would later appear in Voyager as Tuvok, a role he reprised for Star Trek Picard season 3).

While it doesn’t go down as a classic ‘ethical dilemma’ episode, Starship Mine is a fun adventure (which also includes a brilliant sub-plot about Data learning to make small talk), and Stewart enjoyed his time filming the episode so much that it influenced First Contact.

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Speaking with THR, the movie’s co-writer Ronald D. Moore recalled how it happened. “Patrick had really liked doing the [TNG episode] Starship Mine, where he was alone on the Enterprise-D and running around. And I think he overtly referenced that in a way like, ‘I would really like to be the one on the ship fighting the Borg instead of down on the surface’.”

Originally, the draft for the script had seen Riker stay aboard the Enterprise to fight the Borg as the more natural ‘action hero’ type character. But, Stewart’s enthusiasm saw their roles reversed, and instead, Jonathan Frakes, who also directed the movie, would lead the plot down on Earth’s surface in which the crew attempted to ensure that Zefram Cochrane successfully invented the Warp engine.

Despite the shake-ups and changes, First Contact was a big success critically and commercially, proving that the TNG cast could make it on the big screen after their previous underwhelming attempt with Generations. Unfortunately, they could never reach the heights of First Contact again, and the movie series stuttered to an abrupt end with Nemesis.

In 2023, they all reunited for one final time, though, in Star Trek Picard season 3. It was a proper send-off in the same vein as the TOS-era movies and closed the TNG chapter for good.

For more on Star Trek, check out our thoughts on a potential Star Trek Legacy release date, or keep up to date with the new Star Trek series by reading our Strange New Worlds season 2 review and reading our interview with Anson Mount and Rebecca Romijn.

You can also take a deep dive into Star Trek lore with our guide to the USS Kelcie Mae, the Klingon Dak’Rah, our picks for the best Star Trek characters, and our thoughts on which Star Trek captain would survive the zombie apocalypse. Or, see our picks for the best TV series of all time, what’s new on Paramount Plus this month, and all the new movies coming in 2023.