NEW YORK — Resistance is still futile.
“Star Trek” fans will converge on select movie theaters across the country Thursday night to see “The Best of Both Worlds,” a new version of a classic “Star Trek: The Next Generation” two-part episode featuring the Borg — arguably the most frightening and compelling adversary ever engaged by the Starship Enterprise.
Originally aired in 1990 as a June cliffhanger and its September season-opening conclusion, the episodes have been, as the Borg might say, adapted for cinematic release. They’ve been edited together, digitally restored, converted to high-definition and enhanced with new special effects.
“It’s stunning in terms of just how vibrant and immediate it feels,” says actor LeVar Burton. “What was great storytelling has been reinvigorated by a visual face-lift, and it’s just, ‘Wow.’”
Thursday’s event is tied in with the Blu-ray releases of “The Best of Both Worlds” and the entire third season of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The first new “Star Trek” video game in years was released Tuesday. The game features the voices and likenesses of the cast of the new movie, whose sequel, “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” beams into theaters May 17.
Not that the $257.7 million grossed in 2009 by J.J. Abrams’ first “Star Trek” movie left much doubt, but these are all signs that the “Star Trek” franchise, stunned by the 2005 cancellation of “Enterprise,” is regenerating.
Burton, who portrayed chief engineer Geordi La Forge and directed episodes of “Next Generation,” “Deep Space 9,” “Voyager” and “Enterprise,” says leaving “Star Trek” in space dock for four years made all the difference. “You can’t have a comeback,” he says, “unless you go away.”
In “The Best of Both Worlds,” fans will see both the “Next Generation” crew and their most formidable adversary at their best, says actor Jonathan Frakes. “Looking back, I think we all feel the third season is where we kind of hit our stride,” he says. “It’s really one of the best episodes we did.”
Frakes recalls the show as “the finest hour” for his character, first officer William T. Riker, and loves the performance of the series’ unlikeliest cast member, Whoopi Goldberg. “Her Guinan is unlike anything else that Whoopi does — an understated, wise, quiet character.”
Equally irresistible are the Borg, the cybernetic race bent on assimilating other species into their collective.
“The idea that a being or a power could steal your thoughts, steal your feelings, steal your body and then you would become a cog in a very cool designed machine, but you’ve lost your humanity,” Frakes says, “it was a really high concept.”
Because the Borg assimilate Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and target Earth, the stakes are especially high, says Burton. “That impenetrable inevitability about them — resistance is futile, you will be assimilated — it’s very formidable.”
“Star Trek: The Next Generation,” meanwhile, seems to be assimilating a new generation of fans. At conventions, Burton says, he routinely encounters parents with children they’ve introduced to the show.
“On my Twitter feed,” says Burton, who tweets as @levarburton, “I get a lot of stories of daughters who’ve shared ‘Next Gen’ over the years with their dad. I think there’s more love out there for ‘Next Gen’ than there ever was.”
‘STAR TREK’ BECOMES A VIDEO GAME
When the “Star Trek” merchandising machine was running at full tilt in the 1990s, it was filling toy stores with action figures and turning out one cutting-edge video game after another. The early ones, primitive by today’s standards, appealed to fans because they were story driven and featured the voices of the actors from the original series and its spinoffs.
“Star Trek: The Video Game,” developed by Digital Extremes for Xbox 360 ($60), Play Station 3 ($60) and PC (download for $49), was released Tuesday. Players can be Capt. Kirk or Mr. Spock (or both, using co-op play) in an adventure set in the universe of the J.J. Abrams movies. It’s an original story featuring a Vulcan space station attacked by the Gorn, a lizardlike adversary from the original “Star Trek” series.
The game features the voices of the entire bridge crew of the 2009 film and the sequel coming out May 17. So it’s Chris Pine you hear when Capt. Kirk speaks, though in the game’s hilarious trailer, the original Enterprise’s captain steals the show. The video shows William Shatner, 82, playing the game and trading blows with a stuntman portraying the Gorn that Kirk fought in the 1967 show “The Arena.”
Until they’re out of breath, of course. “We’re both too old for this,” Shatner tells the Gorn.