In our modern digital era often marred by political division and social media strife, we all could use a little bit of First Contact Day right about now.
On April 5, we celebrate a pivotal “Star Trek” anniversary in that space fantasy’s dense mythology that altered the course of Earth’s inhabitants forever as depicted in the 1996 feature film “Star Trek: First Contact (opens in new tab).”
It marks the historical moment on April 5, 2063 when humankind first encountered visitors of the Vulcan race after those logical point-eared aliens happen to detect Zefram Cochrane’s warp drive signature during his triumphant Phoenix 1 test flight.
A nearby Vulcan survey ship named the T’Plana-Hath then detoured towards our humble world to investigate, eventually touching down for the momentous meet-and-greet in Bozeman, Montana. You can see where we rank “First Contact” in our guide to the best Star Trek movies of all time, and find out how to watch it with our Star Trek streaming guide.
Created by “First Contact” co-screenwriter and producer Ronald D. Moore, First Contact Day began in 1997 in the real world as an informal commemorative occasion for “Star Trek” fans of all stripes to be observed every year on April 5 to celebrate the “Star Trek” media franchise. Moore has admitted that he chose that particular day since it was also his eldest son’s birthday.
Following First Contact, Cochrane’s theories on warp drive spur on the formation of new starship fleets to explore the galaxy as humanity is united in ways never imagined. Poverty, starvation, disease, and war become constructs of the past.
Today is the perfect time to reflect on what exactly the ramifications were in that fictional sci-fi universe and some reasons why it resonates powerfully with “Star Trek” fans around the globe.
So let’s gently dissect how First Contact Day is important and ponder how we can best honor its themes of unity, acceptance and discovery no matter where you reside on Spaceship Earth.
Boldly indulge in “Star Trek”
Besides revisiting one of the canonical “Star Trek” TV series or “Star Trek” feature films spawned by Hollywood’s dream factory, venture forth into uncharted corners of the “Star Trek” creative landscape.
Go discover IDW Publishing’s exceptional “Star Trek” comic books and graphic novels, break out the card table and gather friends for a “Star Trek” RPG session, enjoy one of the many “Star Trek” documentaries on YouTube or vintage interviews with a legacy star in old fanzines, play a “Star Trek” console video game or online MMO, or plunge into a tie-in “Star Trek” novel.
A time Trek fans can beam up
Today is a day to rejoice in the rich diversity of ways that creator Gene Roddenberry’s original vision of “Star Trek” as a “Wagon Train To The Stars” has affected our lives, our professions and our passions.
To celebrate the kinship and camaraderie offered to us as Trekkies and connecting to that diverse, enthusiastic fanbase online, at conventions, film festivals, lectures, on “Star Trek” cruise ships, collector shows, or even through a chance encounter at a coffee shop or cafe.
Related: What makes a ‘Star Trek’ Fan? Costumed Trekkies share stories
Watch the skies!
First Contact Day reminds us to tilt our heads skyward and behold the universe’s heavenly wonders amid the vast tapestry of visible stars and planets. It tells us to dust off that Night Sky Field Guide or Stargazer’s Atlas (opens in new tab) and pull out our telescopes or binoculars to peer into the cosmos while identifying familiar constellations, or lie back on a blanket or bundle up in lounge chair to watch for shooting stars during the Perseid or Leonid meteor showers.
That ominous warning from ace reporter Ned “Scotty” Scott at the end of the classic 1951 sci-fi film, “The Thing From Another World” is another example of First Contact Day’s inspiring influence. Incidentally, “Watch The Skies” was also an early title for Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” before choosing ufologist J. Allen Hynek’s alien sighting classification system. “Watch The Skies” can also be seen on a theater marquee in a background scene in “Back to the Future II,” along wth “A Boy’s Life,” an alternate title for Spielberg’s “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.”
We’re all in this together
First Contact Day is a salve for turbulent times to reconnect and point out that we’re all truly travelers aboard this Spaceship Earth, quietly spinning in our minuscule corner of the Milky Way galaxy, some 7.8 billion souls in 195 countries speaking over 7,000 languages.
Seen from the vantage point of space, boundaries and borders become invisible and our Big Blue Marble’s beauty and fragility becomes readily apparent. Recall William Shatner’s flight aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft during which he experienced the Overview Effect, that emotional moment of appreciation and perfect clarity by seeing our watery planet with its thin atmosphere bravely protecting all its inhabitants.
To relive that historic occasion when Cochrane’s converted ICBM missile first achieved warp speed and alerted the Vulcans of our presence, precipitation Mankind’s first encounter with an alien race, go back and rewatch director Jonathan Frakes’ “Star Trek: First Contact (opens in new tab),” which is considered to be one of the best examples of the franchise’s cinematic offerings.
Seen in the current wave of international exploratory space probes, SpaceX’s ambitious Starship plans, the startling galactic images being returned by the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope and NASA’s upcoming return to the moon with the Artemis missions, sitting down for a poignant two hours with a fantastic Star Trek film can be quite a rewarding affair. Resistance is futile.
Wherever or however you celebrate First Contact Day and the past, present and future of “Star Trek,” may you all live long and prosper!
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