Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Malcolm McDowell, Micheal Dorn, Willim Shatner, LeVar Burton
A mysterious astronomical phenomenon bridging different time frames brings face-to-face the two famous captains of the Enterprise in the 24th century. A dangerous alien, Dr. Soran, pits himself against the captain in his search for glory. Also starring Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, and Gates McFadden
eyelights: Patrick Stewart.
eyesores: its long stretches of nothing. its lack of punch. it looks like a TV show. its special effects look cheap.
“Did we do it? Did we make a difference?”
It’s a good thing that I didn’t go see ‘Star Trek: Generation’ at the big screen when it came out in 1994. Having skipped ‘The Undiscovered Country‘, arguably one of the best pictures in the ‘Star Trek’ franchise, I had been left with the sour taste of ‘The Final Frontier‘, by far the most execrable entry.
‘Star Trek: Generations’, the dullest of the lot, would only have made things worse.
I had been fore-warned: A friend and work colleague of mine was a die-hard fan of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’. I mean, the guy had his own uniform, for God’s sake! And this was way before Geek Chic, so the guy was enough of a fan to be oblivious to the derision Trekkies were subjected to then.
And he was the first to say that the picture was good, not great.
His tepid response was echoed by critics everywhere, and the picture’s box office numbers, while decent, were anything but stellar: At 75 million dollars in North America (plus an additional 42 overseas), it was hardly an improvement over its predecessor. It only bested ‘The Final Frontier’.
Which is not saying much.
For me, the enthusiasm was already fairly limited well before it came out, having long heard that only William Shatner, James Doohan and Walter Koenig returned to pass the baton to the ‘ST:TNG’ crew. A tepid response and a lackluster box office return merely put a final nail in the picture’s coffin.
When I finally saw ‘Generations’ (for free, having borrowed it from my local library’s vast laserdisc collection), I was so bloody bored with it: None of the previous films’ zest, charm and sense of fun translated to this new iteration of Trek. If anything, it felt like a half-baked television episode of ‘ST:TNG’.
But double the length.
‘Star Trek: Generations’ attempts to bridge two generations of ‘Star Trek’ by retiring the NCC-1701-A and having Captain Kirk disappear into the Nexus while saving the NCC-1701-B during its maiden voyage. Later, the NC-1701-D will also encounter the Nexus and Captain Picard will discover Kirk in it.
Together, they will return to save the day.
And that is ‘Star Trek: Generations’ in a nutshell.
Yep, that’s it.
But why don’t we pick it apart a little bit anyway?
- Opening shot: Space, the final… wait, what’s that object floating in space, evoking ‘2001: A Space Odyssey‘? Oh… it’s merely a champagne bottle – for the christening of the new Enterprise, the NCC-1701-B, helmed by Captain Harriman. Meh. ‘A Space Odyssey’ this ain’t.
- Captain John Harriman: Wait… is Harriman the guy from ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’? It is! Well, goddamn! Why didn’t they just get Ben Stein, instead? “Helmsman Sulu, take us to full impulse. Helmsman Sulu…? Helmsman Sulu…? Helmsman Sulu…? Can anyone take us to full impulse? Anyone…? Anyone…?” Anyway, Ruck doesn’t have any gravitas at all. It’s hard to imagine that he has command of that ship; he feels like an impostor.
- NCC-1701-B: Man, this new Enterprise is a $#!t-looking ship.
- Launch of the NC-1701-B: Kirk, Scotty and Chekov are invited aboard for its launch, which is mired by the presence of a mob of reporters. It’s so annoying to see them there. And I couldn’t help but wonder if that would still happen in that age? Isn’t the future supposed to be a better place?
- Kirk, Scotty and Chekov: Is it just me or does this feel like a lackluster send-off? Well, apparently Nimoy found his dialogue too bland and they weren’t willing to make the changes he asked for so they gave the dialogue to Scotty instead. DeForest Kelley was too ill to get insurance to be on set so they brought in Chekov instead. Ouch. It would have been much better with Kirk, Spock and McCoy, naturally. Or simply all of them.
- Helmsman Sulu: Sulu’s daughter is the helmsman, which leads Kirk to ask Scotty when Sulu had time to have a family. Could Kirk be so clueless after all these years? Anyway, it’s a nice touch, but the new Sulu fails to make an impression.
- Instant emergency – just add water: The Enterprise is barely out of space dock and they’re immediately called on an emergency. Whatta coincidence! And are they the only ones in range? But of course! How convenient!
- Taking command: Seeing the danger and Harriman’s indecisiveness, Kirk almost bounds out of his chair; here’s Shatner lacking subtlety again. And Harriman is far too unsure of himself – how could they possibly give such a large ship to someone so inept? Eventually, he turns to Kirk for help, in what must have been a career-killing move. I know they wanted to give Kirk some final heroics, but seriously, this was weak.
- Kirk saves the day: Look, I know that the ship was short on staff because it was just a ceremonial launch (all the more reason why it shouldn’t have been sent on its first mission), but did Kirk have to go to engineering and save the day alone? Was there no other crew to take his and Scotty’s commands from the bridge? When time is of essence, seems to me you don’t hop in the lift and go do it yourself!
- Hull breach: Man, was the loss of Kirk ever anti-climactic! The whole opening is so poorly directed it’s beyond words. It’s frickin’ Kirk, for God’s sake. I dislike Shatner, yes, but Kirk deserves a little bit more drama – not just an explosion and “poof”, gone! And, again, why is engineering completely empty? Can you send a ship out without at least a technical crew?
- 78 years later: It takes 18 minutes before the picture moves on from the Original Crew to The Next Generation. And what a poor send-off that was: 18 wasted minutes.
- Worf’s promotion: In the holodeck, aboard an 18th century vessel, the TNG crew come together dressed in period dress to award Worf his promotion. Hmmm… this is not standard procedure. In fact, it feels more like an initiation that Worf’s barely tolerating. And would Starfleet approve?
- Worf gets wet: Due to a poor directive given by Commander Riker, Worf not only walks the plank, but falls in the water. Haha. Laughs abound. No.
- Data is spontaneous: After Dr. Crusher tells him that he needs to be more spontaneous, since he failed to see the humour in Worf’s misadventure, Data pushes Crusher overboard. Haha. Laughs abound. No.
- Poor performances: God, I don’t know if they were this bad in the TNG episodes of the day, but the cast is utterly uninspired here. None of them have star quality – except Patrick Stewart, that is.
- Poor exposition: In case audience members hadn’t kept up with TNG, and didn’t know that Data struggles to understand human emotions, the picture has him explain the basis of his dilemma to Geordi – as though he didn’t already know.
- Poor costuming: What the heck…? The TNG crew’s suits are ill-fitting – especially the new ones. It just looks weird. Well, it turns out that the production didn’t splurge to get new uniforms and borrowed some from the TV shows – so no wonder they didn’t always fit. Ouch. Welcome to Hollywood, gang!
- Poor lighting: The picture is far too brightly lit; it looks like a TV show, not a movie.
- Data’s emotion chip: Data and Geordi decide to put the emotion chip in – whilst on a mission. It seems to me like a poor time to be doing something risky like this, no? Wouldn’t you wait until you have downtime to do this – especially if you’re an engineer and über-intelligent android? But I guess Data needed a subplot and the picture needed a gimmick.
- Data drinks alcohol: Data and Geordi go to the cantina and order drinks (androids drink alcohol?), which elicits “funny” expressions from Data. Haha. Laughs abound. No.
- Soran: The picture’s chief villain, Soran is f-ing bland. Though it’s Malcolm McDowell playing him, an actor who stands out and has personality, Soran is downplayed to such a degree that he’s nearly meaningless. First he pops up when Scotty transports 47 people from another ship aboard the Enterprise, then he’s the only survivor of a Romulan attack on a space observatory, and now he’s in the cantina. Always in the background, and with no mystery or danger attached to him at all.
- Guinan: Guinan was also saved by Scotty and is also in the cantina. But she doesn’t see or sense Soran – he leaves before she can take notice. What a waste of Whoopee. And what a wasted moment. Again, no build-up, no drama, no tension. Soran is there, until he isn’t. Ho-hum.
- Data gets a joke: Data suddenly starts laughing at a seven-year-old joke that he just got. Laughs poorly, I might add: He’s goofy, over-the-top, loses control. Haha. Laughs abound. No.
- Captain Picard’s angst: Halfway through Worf’s promotion, Picard got a troubling call and left. It’s only much later that we discover that he learned of the death of his brother and nephew. Deanna’s reaction to the news made it seem as though she didn’t know about his family. Was this personal trivia just invented for the film or was that just poor acting? He tears up before her, telling her his nephew was the closest thing he had to his own child. It’s a strong performance, though the scene is utterly unconvincing.
- Guinan explains I: Because no one can figure out WTF is happening, they leave it up to Guinan to explain to Picard about Soran and his obsession with the Nexus. Then she also explains the Nexus. I mean, really, could the writers be any lazier?
- Data’s chip is fused in: After an incident with Soran and some Klingons, which led to Geordi being captured, Data’s emotion chip is fused in and can’t be removed. How convenient. Can you foresee how the emotions will come to play later on? Yeah, I know.
- Data’s emotional response: As he and Picard try to figure out what Soran’s plan is, Data becomes incapable of dealing with his newfound emotions. He asks to be deactivated because he feels he’s incapable of doing his job, continuously distracted by emotions. Picard flatly refuses, and tells him this conflict is part of being human. The message is okay, but the whole set-up is crap.
- Negotiating with the Klingons: Picard tells the Klingons to return Geordi in exchange for himself. Not only do the Klingons not see a trap, but they somehow discuss Picard’s value live on the monitor. Um… hello? MUTE? What kind of amateur strategists are they?
- Poor Klingon make-up: The Klingons’ make-up really looks like crap. Is it just because of the fore-mentioned lighting? Or was it due to budget cut-backs?
- Geordi’s return: Geordi’s visor has been rigged to permit the Klingons to see what he sees; they want to record the Enterprise’s engineering secrets. But no one on the NC-1701-D thought this could happen, not even Geordi? Don’t they have scans of their crew after they’ve been off-ship, and especially after they been in their enemies’ hands? Worf’s asleep on the job, apparently…
- The third act: And so begins the most underwhelming third act in bloody history! Well, not quite. But you can have a nap and not miss a thing, as Picard winds up on Veridian III trying to convince Soran to put a stop to his plans. He can’t convince him, can barely be acknowledged, and winds up just sitting there waiting, separated from Soran by a force field, while the latter toils away silently. Holy crap! BOOOOOORING!!!
- The Klingons attack: Thanks to Geordi’s visor, the Klingons find a way through the shield and attack. Yep. As simple as that. In the old movies you needed a special code. Eighty years later, one glance is all it takes; the technology has actually gotten worse.
- The Klingons’ defeat: Fist clenched, Data shouts “Yes!” after the Klingons are defeated. Um, okay. Supposed to be cute, I guess?
- The saucer separation: Due to all the damage that the ship has taken, the NC-1701-D has to separate its saucer section. Interestingly enough, they did that in the first few minutes of TNG, and here they do it in the first TNG movie. Pure contrived gimmickry. Lame. Oh, and they destroy the Enterprise. Again. Gee-whiz!
- Data curses: As the Enterprise crew braces itself for a crash, Data says “Oh Shit!”. Look, he’s so human now! Haha. Laughs abound. No.
- The saucer crashes: I don’t know who shot this, but it looks so crap: The saucer flies reeeeeeeeeeeally slooooooooooowly in light of the fact that it’s a crash landing, plus it looks like a model on a fake set. It’s not convincing at all. F-ing lame.
- Soran’s set-up: Not only is the whole set-up underwhelming, but his rocket is set in a rocky, deserted surface. Could it be more boring, uninspiring?
- Picard and Soran fight: It’s pretty lame that Picard finds a hole that wasn’t covered by the force field. Thank you, gods of coincidences. But even more lame is watching he and Soran fight. Who the hell choreographed this crap?
- Soran’s rocket: Soran launches a rocket into the sun and explodes it – which takes place within seconds, as though the rocket just hung there in the sky. Wouldn’t it take time to get to its destination? Or was the sun particularly next to Veridian III that day?
- Picard is special: Caught in the Nexus, thanks to Soran’s ploy, Picard finds himself now at home, at Christmas time, with his many kids and spouse. The Nexus does that: It takes people to a fantasy of bountiful and permanent joy – hence why Soran wished to return so badly. But why can Picard detach himself from the moment, when no one else can? What makes him so special?
- Guinan explains II: For some reason, Guinan shows up in the Nexus to explain to Picard (ahem… to the audience… *cough, cough*) what’s going on. How the f- is she there? What the heck is going on? Who’s going to explain that?
- Guinan guides Picard: Guinan also guides Picard to a “stranger” who could help him get out, go back in time and stop Soran. Guess who? Live long and prosper if you said “Kirk!”. Um… but how does she know that Kirk’s there? Who knows.
- Picard indulges Kirk: Though Picard must be keen on getting back A.S.A.P., after finding Kirk cutting wood outside his woodland house, he helps the latter with his chores, as he prepares to undo the day, nine years ago, when he told his partner that he was returning to Starfleet. I guess it was meant to be a moment of bonding, but it’s just quaint and pretty unlikely.
- Kirk is special: Picard convinces Kirk to return with him. Somehow, Kirk had also noticed that things weren’t right, so he was easy to convince. Why is he also special? Why isn’t anyone else as perceptive as they are? Frankly, it doesn’t seem so difficult to see that the Nexus is pure B.S….
- Kirk and Soran fight: The hand-to-hand combat between Kirk and Soran is also lame. Who the hell choreographed this crap?
- The bridge breaks: Kirk goes on a bridge to retrieve the rocket controller that Soran dropped. Soran shoots, and the bridge breaks. Easy-peasy. They don’t make ’em like they used to, I guess (Cheap Ferengi labour, I gather).
- The controller: Thankfully, after the bridge breaks, the controller stayed stuck in place. Phew! Thank you once again, gods of coincidences!
- Kirk dies: Kirk climbs, jumps, but the bridge collapses with him on it anyway. He says a few lame words to Picard. He dies. How underwhelming. And apparently it was worse in the original ending: He got shot in the back. What a hero’s send off! Look, I agree that Shatner doesn’t deserve it, but Kirk does.
- Rocket clamps: Picard sets clamps on the rocket, preventing it from launching though it’s ignited. The resulting explosion kills Soran as he returns to the launch site. Yep, killing is always the best solution. Wait-a-minute… there are clamps on his rocket? Why? As a one-use missile, what use could clamps possibly have? Oh, yeah… finishing a poorly-thought out script! Riiiight!
- Data keeps his chip: Already, Data feels that he can now control his emotions. Well good on him. What a pointless exercise that was.
- The Enterprise crew is rescued: The NC-1701-D is unsalvageable but, “YAY!”, the crew is rescued by Starfleet. WIN!
Yeaaaah. That‘s ‘Star Trek: Generations’, a real snoozer.
It’s a very talky movie, with very little excitement to speak of. But, then again, so was ‘ST:TMP‘. So why does this one bore me so? Because it’s second-rate. If not third-rate. It’s a terrible send off for the original crew, who are mostly absent, but it’s also a pathetic way to introduce the new crew.
No wonder they were never met with the same success; aside for the ultra-mega-die-hard fans of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’, few were impressed with this outing. There were also likely very few fans of the Trek of old who were converted to the new crew – they simply didn’t have the same magic.
As for me, it would take 1996’s ‘First Contact’ to rekindle my Trekkie flames. Only then did I start going to see ‘Star Trek’ movies at the cinema again.
Date of viewing: Aug 2, 2016