Episode: "First Contact"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 4, Episode 15
February 18, 1991
An important away mission has gone wrong. Riker was supposed to be on reconnaissance on Malcor III, a world on the brink of discovering warp technology. The Malcorians are nearly ready for first contact, the initial introduction to the Federation and, through them, the broader, inhabited galaxy. Instead, Riker is injured and lying in a hospital. His cover seems likely to be blown at any given moment.
"First Contact" is a fascinating episode. We know already, from "Who Watches the Watchers,"
that the Federation keeps an eye on pre-warp civilizations but until now, we don't know how much about how the initial encounter is supposed to go. Granted, our Enterprise heroes still manage to screw it up but that's really not the point of the story. Instead, we see that even with the prerequisite technological advances, the Malcorians still aren't quite ready from a cultural standpoint. There's a broader life lesson in there, too: just because I'm ready for you does not mean you're ready for me.
"First Contact" is unusual in the franchise in that it is told from the perspective of an "alien" world seeing our friends as the outsiders. A few weeks back, we had a discussion in the post comments about the fact that there's not yet been a Trek series told from a non-human point of view. Perhaps a first contact narrative could be a good launching point for such a series.
Bebe Neuwirth has a wonderful cameo in "First Contact." She plays the part of Lanel, a Malcorian eager to help Riker but even more eager to have sex with him, always having wanted to make love with an alien. The role was written with Neuwirth in mind and Jonathan Frakes loved working with her.
Beatrice "Bebe" Neuwirth was born December 31, 1958 in Newark, New Jersey. She started ballet at age 5, then fell in love with musical theater when she went to see Pippin on Broadway at 15. She went to Julliard but didn't stay long. She took acting classes at the YWCA and found work in local ballet and theater but the big time was coming.
She got her first Broadway role in A Chorus Line in 1980. She won her first Tony in a revival of Sweet Charity. In truth, she probably could have been a star on stage alone for years but the highlight role of her career came on television as Dr. Lilith Sternin Crane on Cheers and, later, Frasier. Lilith brought her two Emmys - the second in 1991, in fact. A second Tony would come in 1997 for Chicago. On the big screen, the Jumanji franchise has been especially kind to her. She was in both the original film and the sequel Jumanji: The Next Level.