Star Trek Generations (1994)

Director: David Carson

Starring: Patrick Stewart, William Shatner, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Malcolm McDowell, James Doohan, Walter Koenig

Everybody, especially when we are younger, has a certain idea of how we want our lives to progress. Very few are fortunate enough to see those dreams come true. Most are left with memories of people and places long past, and some are so unsatisfied with their current state of being that all they can do is look to the past and observe “how much better things used to be.” Some would probably jump at the chance to return to that point in their lives when they felt happier than they’d ever felt before or since. Just how far would such a person be willing to go to get what they desire, were such a thing possible?

“Star Trek: Generations,” co-written by Brannon Braga & Ron Moore, attempts to answer this question. In the 23rd century, during a test run for the newly commissioned Enterprise-B (with retired Starfleet officers Kirk, Chekov and Scotty in attendance), a distress call is received from two vessels trapped in some sort of energy ribbon, known as the Nexus. Both ships are destroyed, and only a small portion of the crew of one of those ships survives. The Enterprise-B herself sustains heavy damage, and Kirk is apparently lost in the process. Among the survivors of the doomed freighters is Guinan (later the bartender on board the Enterprise-D, played by an uncredited Whoopi Goldberg) and Dr. Soran (Malcolm McDowell), who displays rather obvious distress when his pleas to be allowed to return to the Nexus fall on deaf ears.

Dr. Soran, you see, has a specific time or place in mind, during which he was perfectly content, and he would do ANYTHING to be able to relive that period as if it were happening now. His whole family was wiped out when the Borg invaded his and Guinan’s homeworld and either killed or assimilated most of the population. This traumatic event has turned a once peaceful individual into a man obsessed with regaining something he has lost for all time. The only way this can be achieved is by way of the Nexus. This energy ribbon acts as a sort of virtual reality, accessing a person’s thoughts and giving them the fantasy life they desire, be it based on past experiences (in which case one can make choices contrary to the ones they made in real life) or on dreams of an alternate present time.

Unfortunately, Dr. Soran has determined that, since he can’t safely fly into the Nexus with a ship, he must alter the ribbon’s course so that it will come to him. To do this, Soran launches probes into various stars, triggering supernovas which result in the destruction of entire solar systems and the loss of millions of lives. In 2371, 78 years after being rescued by the Enterprise-B, Soran encounters the crew of the Enterprise-D. It isn’t long before Soran’s plans are discovered by our gallant heroes. Tracking him to a planet called Veridian III, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) beams to the surface with the hope that he can reason with Soran. Being the clichéd megalomaniac villain that he is, Soran is beyond all reason.

In the middle of it all, although we didn’t know it back in 1994, this would be the first of four theatrical chapters detailing the evolution of the android Data (Brent Spiner) from a very intelligent artificial life form into one that has gained a perspective on humanity. Here, Data is given an emotion chip, allowing him to laugh, cry, feel excitement and fear, use colorful language and be disgusted by bad alcoholic drinks… all for the first time. While this does make for some of the movie’s sillier moments, it does take on a larger importance once one is able to take a step back and connect it with Data’s journey through the three subsequent films.

Eventually, Soran is able to carry out his plan with the help of renegade Klingons. The Enterprise-D is even shot down and crash lands in a spectacular special effects sequence. Yes, the Enterprise-D which was an integral part of the TNG television series that lasted for SEVEN seasons… doesn’t even get one entire movie before being destroyed. The excuse for this was that the producers needed a vessel that would be more “theater-friendly.” With the Veridian system destroyed and every living thing, including the 1,000+ members of the Enterprise-D crew, having been killed… just where is this movie taking us next? Answer: Once more unto the Nexus, dear friends!

After realizing his own fantasy of the family he’s never going to have to be just that, Picard crosses over to another fantasy world, where he finds Captain James T. Kirk alive and well. After convincing Kirk that he’s not only fooling himself if he thinks his surroundings are real but that there’s a mission out there for a man who no longer feels as if he’s making a difference, the two captains return to just before Soran’s probe is launched so they can thwart the Doctor’s plans. Sadly, Kirk is killed in the process.

Among the list of things that you just don’t do which was taught to us by singer Jim Croce, an addition must be made: You don’t kill off James Tiberius Kirk. Certainly not with as ill-conceived and undignified a death as he’s given here. Worse yet,  Kirk dies for no reason at all! Inside the Nexus, we have been told, time has no meaning. As presented, the Nexus robs the conclusion of the film of any suspense it might have had. Where’s the urgency? If you screw up, Soran gets the Nexus to come to the planet and WHOOSH! Kirk and Picard are back inside the Nexus, whereby they can once again meet, leave together, and try to stop Soran as many times as they want to!

Even worse is the problem created by Kirk and Picard leaving the Nexus to try and stop Soran. This one’s a doozy… If Soran entered the Nexus at the same time Picard did, does that mean Soran is both still there when Picard leaves AND on Veridian III when Picard travels back in time to stop him? Or has he been magically transported back, as well? If so, why doesn’t he seem to notice? It’s more likely that it’s simply a make-it-didn’t-happen scenario, and that only Kirk and Picard noticed the changes, but it’s not really explained very well. Forgetting all of that, why is Kirk even necessary? If Picard can choose any point in time to come back to, as Guinan tells him he can, then it would save time, lives and a perfectly good starship if he were to return to when Soran is first brought on board the Enterprise-D and have him thrown in the brig. End of story! …I think of these things when I have a lot of time on my hands.

I’ve admittedly watched “Star Trek: Generations” many, many times since 1994. In that time, the movie has not aged well at all. It was never one of my favorites, but I now regard it as one of the worst in the “Star Trek” film franchise. That is in no way reflective of its cast, and has everything to do with the people working behind the camera. It makes no sense to have a passing of the torch movie when that torch had already been satisfactorily passed by the previous film, “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.”

This movie is also not friendly to anyone unfamiliar with the “Next Generation” TV series. It tries so desperately to cater to longtime fans while simultaneously going out of its way to upset the vast majority of them. All with a story so full of holes that you could drive a starship through it. Almost makes one wish they had their own personal Nexus so that they could live in a world where this movie doesn’t exist.

  1. Sylvia Williams says:

    Yes, you no doubt voice the same complaints as the various fan factions had. The plot is ridiculous, but we always love seeing the actors no matter how badly conceived the film is. Good review!!

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