It’s April 5th, which in the Star Trek universe means it’s time to celebrate First Contact Day! This fictional holiday celebrates the successful flight of the first human-constructed warp-capable spaceship and the subsequent first contact with an alien species, which happened on April 5th, 2063.
When Zefram Cochrane’s spaceship, The Phoenix, hit warp speed for the first time, a passing Vulcan ship picked up the warp signature. Though the Vulcans had been aware of Earth and humans for quite some time, they’d always avoided contact because Earth was a pre-warp society. When they detected the Phoenix’s warp signature for the first time, they decided it was finally time to make official First Contact with the humans.
Shortly after Cochrane landed the Phoenix, the Vulcan ship landed on Earth. Cochrane was the first to greet the new species and welcome them to the planet. This started a partnership between the humans and the Vulcans that lasted for centuries.
Since then, First Contact Day has been celebrated on Star Trek’s Earth every April 5th. In the real world, Star Trek fans all over the world celebrate the fictional holiday as an expression of their love for the Star Trek franchise.
Here’s everything you need to know about First Contact Day.
First Contact Almost Didn’t Happen
The movie Star Trek: First Contact gave Trek fans all of the details about First Contact Day, including the fact that it almost didn’t happen. In the 24th century, the time of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Federation engaged in a major offensive against the Borg. During that battle, the Enterprise showed up against orders to help.
After saving the crew of the Defiant, the bridge crew of the Enterprise broke away from the fleet to pursue a Borg Sphere that was headed to Earth. Both ships traveled through a temporal vortex, which transported them back to Earth in the year 2063. When Captain Jean-Luc Picard found out the date — April 4th, 2063 — he correctly deduced that the Borg were trying to prevent the First Contact between the humans and the Vulcans. The Borg were already attacking the planet, so he made the decision to intervene to preserve the timeline.
An away team transported down to Bozeman Montana to meet Cochrane. The Cochrane they met was very different from the historical figure they’d all read about in their history books. In reality, Cochrane was a difficult drunk who developed warp drive because he thought it would make him rich. He had no idea how his invention would fundamentally change the planet and humanity.
Crew members from the Enterprise helped Cochrane fix the Phoenix while the rest of the crew battled the Borg, who were trying to assimilate the Enterprise.
Of course, the crew of the Enterprise was successful in both its missions and First Contact happened. Because of the Temporal Prime Directive, Cochrane and his engineer, Lily Sloane had to lie about exactly how everything happened.
The account of First Contact told in Earth’s history books did not include an account of a time-traveling crew and an attack by the Borg. However, during a commencement speech at Princeton a year later, Cochrane drunkenly recounted the real story of First Contact. This story was brushed off as a manifestation of Cochrane’s drunken eccentricity.
This story was later confirmed when two Borg drones were discovered buried under ice on Earth. However, this incident was also covered up. So, the official story of First Contact didn’t include the Enterprise or the Borg.
First Contact Day in the Mirror Universe
Every once in a while, Star Trek brought its fans into an alternate universe known as the Mirror Universe. This alternate universe closely mirrors the main universe, hence the name. There are alternate versions of each character and some of the important events in history are the same. However, the Mirror Universe has a very different society. Humans, known as Terrans, are violent conquerors out to take over the universe. The Terran Empire rules with brutality, and all that oppose it face its wrath.
In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode, In a Mirror, Darkly, fans got to see how First Contact Day went in the Mirror Universe. Cochrane still piloted the first successful warp mission, and the Vulcans still visited Earth to make official First Contact.
However, the greeting they got was very different. Cochrane and a group of humans attacked the Vulcans, slaughtering them. The group then raided the Vulcan ship and stole all the technology they could. Earth became an intergalactic superpower through stealing technology rather than sharing it with other species.
Celebrating First Contact Day
At several points throughout Star Trek, characters mention that First Contact Day was celebrated as a worldwide holiday. Kids got the day off from school and festivities were held to commemorate the day.
In the real world, events are typically held to celebrate the holiday as well. Before the pandemic, these celebrations often took the form of in-person events. This year, in lieu of an on the ground event, StarTrek.com and Paramount+ are partnering up to host a virtual mini-convention to celebrate First Contact Day.
The event includes six panels with members of the Star Trek cast and crew. The panels are all free and open to anyone who wants to attend. To join the celebration head to StarTrek.com/FirstContact at noon Pacific Time today.
Heavy will be covering all the panels, so check back tonight and tomorrow for all the details.