Jonathan Frakes. Release Date: November 22, 1996. DVD Release Date: October 6, 1998.
The eighth installment in the Star Trek franchise hearkens back to that old adage: "even-numbered Treks don't suck." It was certainly true until the Star Trek reboot of 2009, which was a light year beyond what had been done to date with the story lines, even if I wasn't happy about what happened to the Vulcans. I admit it, I'm a huge fan of the series and a few of its spin-offs, although I drew the line at wearing ears and attending conventions. The very idea makes me cringe a little bit.
I'm usually a little leery of time travel story lines. Since the original series aired back in... well, I can't remember, the 60s or 70s, those story lines have frequently been convoluted. I was fond of The Voyage Home, the fourth movie in the franchise, which was all about time travel, but the episodes with that as a story driver have generally left me pretty cold. However, I did enjoy this travel back to an Earth that's only about a century into our future, and it was a future that I don't think is such an outrageous possibility. I thought the description of the world post nuclear war was very well done. I know that "World War III" made for a major turning point in human history, and I enjoyed putting a face on people, like Zephram Cochrane, who had such a massive contribution to future story lines without actually being there.
I have to say that I also like the Borg. I've heard a few complaints over the years that half the time the Borg aren't even a threat, which makes me think they've missed a key factor in what I'll call "Borg psychology:" humans are so little threat that half the time the Borg don't HAVE to respond. It's the sci-fi equivalent of the slasher killer that doesn't feel the need to run after his or her victims. Did I love the Borg queen? Not even a little bit, but I thought her seduction of Data was a pretty slick thing. I don't even like Alice Krige as a rule, and I thought this was well done. Since I can't watch any Trek without thinking about my college political science courses, I'm wondering if I was still taking political sciences courses (where the professors constantly made parallels between Trek factions and modern political groups) whether or not the Borg would represent the polarizing effects of globalization. Certainly, "you will be assimilated" is a chronic fear for a good many folks in our global community.
As are the norm with Trek movies, I thought the special effects were better than average for the time period in which they were made. This particular Trek has a much stronger story than usual. I'd hate to have to rank this within the franchise, but this would be somewhere high up the chain. It's fun to watch, relatively action packed, and provides a bit of mental chew.
If you're interested in trying on a film in this franchise without getting too wrapped up in Federation or other politics, this is probably your best bet. There's a bit of action, but primarily this is a learning expedition for the fans, and for the random audience member. I do love a good back story, even if it's come about 40 years late.