Star Trek: Generations (1994)

star trek generations

“They say time is a fire in which we burn.”

The Scoop: 1994 PG, directed by David Carson and starring Patrick Stewart, William Shatner, and Jonathan Frakes

Tagline: Two captains. One destiny.

Summary Capsule: Old school meets new school as a fiesty madman takes them all to school. Basically, there’s a lot of learning going on here.

Justin’s rating: Well, it’s true, anything IS better than Shatner singing, but this… I just don’t know…

Justin’s review: The question the beginning of this movie answers is: Which members of the original cast of Star Trek are desperate enough to appear in a cameo for sweet, sweet money? The answer is — in order from most broke to biggest shill — Chekov (Walter Koenig), Scotty (James Doohan), and Captain Kirk (William Shatner). These poor saps, looking as if they hijacked their retirement community’s shuttle bus and drove through the security gate into the Paramount lot and then shed their roomy terry cloth robes and slippers for tight uniforms and leather boots, won the dubious lottery to be featured in what would become known as “the” film to bridge the gap between Old Trek and New Trek. Of course, in 1994, New Trek had already been canceled, Newer Trek (Deep Space 9) was still on the air, Newish Trek (Voyager) was about to come, and Please-God-Let-Them-Like-Us Trek (Enterprise) was merely a twinkle in the sell-out souls of Rick Berman and Brannon Braga.

Wow, I really went away in that previous paragraph. That’s what this movie will do to you, fellas!

To give just a hint of proper due to Star Trek: Generations, it did generate some substantial interest at the time. Star Trek VI was a modest hit, fans were already jonesing for a Next Generation fix, and the prospect of finally settling the score — Picard vs. Kirk — was too juicy to resist. Too bad they saddled this movie’s hopes on a lame horse of a plot involving bizarre time travel and quite possibly the second dumbest villain plan EVER in the Star Trek legacy (yeah, I don’t think people will be topping the hijack-a-starship-to-go-meet-God-at-the-center-of-the-galaxy thing any time soon).

Generations‘ opening scene is, coincidentally, its only good one. Kirk, Chekov and Scotty are aboard the Enterprise-B — but as a PR boost for its maiden voyage, not as actual crew. No, the actual crew is headed up by Captain Cameron (Alan Ruck), who must’ve received his Captainy Diploma via one of those questionable spam e-mails, because the second a crisis hits, he falls to whimpering pieces. It’s up to Kirk, Kirk’s girdle, Kirk’s toupee, and possibly Scotty and/or Chekov to save the day. They do, but Kirk gets sucked into a “nexus,” which is a science fiction term for “save point.”

Then, the movie starts to slip. Going into the further future of the Enterprise-D, we find humanity at its most advanced: dressing up gruff Klingons into cute widdle sailor outfits, and pushing them overboard into a holographic ocean. Okay, here’s my mild take on the character of Worf, for anyone looking to perform a local theater version of him:

1. Your only two emotions are Deadly Serious, and Somewhat Aggravated.
2. Start by looking, deadly seriously, at a pretend control panel, then tell the captain something like (in a somewhat aggravated tone), “Captain! There’s a bumblebee off the starboard nacelle phaser relay!”
3. The crew, with their subtle racist personalities, will crack a joke at your limited acting range.
4. Grimace. Grimace as if your life depended on it. Then look away, ashamed that your Klingon heritage has come to wearing gaudy bandoleers and working for puny fleshbags.

Anyway, the plot trundles along, bringing brothers Illogic and Inconstancy with it. The crew meet up with a madman (Malcolm McDowell) who’s doing a lot of weird things that make no sense, but he’s being very hostile about it nonetheless. Sigh… I can’t really explain this plot without going into a heapload of spoilers, so be prepared.

You see, supposedly the save point Nexus is this traveling space wave that houses eternal paradise, and Looney McTunes wants to go into it. Fair enough, that’s his passion. But since he has the mental capacity of one of the less intelligent Muppets, the only way he figures he can do this is to first try to drive a starship — full of other, less Nexusy-inclined people — into the wave. When that fails, he formulates the brainfart to somehow move the wave to crash into an entire PLANET — which is of course, full of even more of those pesky people who like living.

I know that that’s a mishmash of the entire story, but trust me, they don’t explain it much better in the film. I’m sure you, the viewers at home, could think of about a thousand ideas of how to enter a giant space wave of happiness that doesn’t involve killing a ton of other people (say, just wearing a space suit and floating out to meet it), but that would make SENSE. And that wouldn’t be STAR TREK.

Perhaps I’m unnecessarily annoyed for what is, after all, just a science fiction movie about a show that I no longer care about. But even as a neutral movie watcher now, Generations is just riddled with stupidity through and through. I could even put up with the plot, such as it is, if they didn’t include a reaaaaaaaaaly loooooooooooooong segment where Picard enters the Nexus, nothing happens fooooooooorever, then he drags Kirk out so Kirk can promptly die trying to stop the bad guy (but not succeeding, as that is Picard’s domain). Yeah, die. His death isn’t so much upsetting as are the pointless circumstances that led up to it. Picard, you idiot, he was happy in the Nexus thing! You didn’t need to take him out of it, considering that he didn’t even really help you defeat the bad guy anyway!

And while we’re casually offing main characters beloved for over thirty years, why not completely break Trekkies’ hearts everywhere by destroying the Enterprise? Sure! It’ll be a blast! Pun intended! The Enterprise-D’s destruction doesn’t even have the noble sacrifice the first Enterprise’s demise held in Star Trek III. Again, it’s like Kirk’s death, in that the details were almost random and certainly without a greater meaning. Some wimpy female Klingons attack the Enterprise, get a really, really lucky shot in, and end up overloading the core. This forces the Enterprise to separate it’s top half (the “Canada section”) from the lower half (the “USA section”), and then some bad piloting happens and they end up crashing even the part of the ship they saved.

Gak.

Even if you really dig Trek, this just isn’t that fun of a movie. With the exception of Star Trek: First Contact, the Next Generation films lacked the smarts, inspired storytelling, and explorative nature of the series. Generations gets them off to an awfully bad start while creating many terribly bad endings.

When Cameron was in Star Trek land…

Intermission!

  • The slowly revolving champagne bottle during the opening credits is pretty inspired, I’ll give them that. The first time you watch this, you’re like, “What the heck is THAT? And why’s it in SPACE?” But at least there’s something going on during the opening credits of a Star Trek movie (to my immediate memory, no other Star Trek film features any action during the opening credits).
  • Here are some of the only media people that have ever appeared in any Star Trek.
  • Sulu’s daughter? Yeah, why not.
  • It’s gotta suck for the captain to have both Kirk AND the media on his bridge during his ship’s first major crisis.
  • Data, I think it’s funny. You can push them all in.
  • Troi looks concerned. As always.
  • The Enterprise is VERY “mood lit” in this movie… where is the normal, comforting soft lighting of the series?
  • Picard’s breakdown into tears is an excellent scene. So few actors can portray realistic grief on screen like this, and it’s definitely one of the few highlights of this movie.
  • Toys based on the popular Aliens toy line are apparently still around and doing well in the 24th century. In the scene where Picard enjoys Christmas with his Nexus family, one of his children is playing with his Christmas gift – a slightly modified Aliens “Evac Fighter.”
  • In the movie, Dr. Soren comments on Geordi’s response to his interrogation by saying “His heart just wasn’t in it.” This is a reference to the form of torture used in the book in which Soren used a probe to stop and start Geordi’s heart.
  • In the opening scenes on board the Enterprise-B, three different news networks (each with a reporter and a cameraperson) are represented. They are: the Federation News Network, Starfleet Broadcasting, and the Earth Broadcasting Service.
  • The destruction of Lursa and B’Etor’s Klingon ship is re-used footage from the destruction of General Chang’s ship from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
  • Tim Russ, who appears as Tuvok in Star Trek: Voyager, has a small role as a member of the bridge crew of the Enterprise B.
  • The second transport ship in the Nexis is named the “SS Robert Fox”, a link to the original series. Fox was the ambassador in “A Taste of Armegeddon”
  • A bottle of champagne in space will rotate around its centre of mass, not the midpoint of its axis of symmetry.
  • The horse that William Shatner rides is his, as are the home and farm where the sequence takes place.
  • There was a 10-day wait after completing filming of the Star Trek: The Next Generation finale before filming began on this movie. The first scenes shot were the ones on the holodeck with the TNG crew on the wooden ship “Enterprise”.
  • Most of the Enterprise sets were destroyed during filming of the crash sequence. What was not destroyed, such as crew quarters, transporter rooms, and parts of engineering was integrated into the sets of the U.S.S. Voyager from Star Trek: Voyager. The frame from Data’s Lab on Star Trek: The Next Generation can be seen among the wreckage at the Armagosa Observatory. Worf’s tactical console was all that remained of the Enterprise-D Bridge after filming.

Groovy Quotes

Kirk: Take us out.
Chekov: Very good, sir.
Scotty: Brought a tear to my eye.
Kirk: Oh, be quiet.

Dr. Soran: [To Geordi] Normal is what everyone else is and you are not.

Kirk: I take it the odds are against us and the situation is grim.
Picard: You could say that.
Kirk: Sounds like fun!

Harriman: I read about your exploits when I was in grade school.
Kirk: Oh really?

Kirk: You left port without a tractor beam?
Harriman: It doesn’t arrive until Tuesday.

Data: I hate this! It is revolting!
Guinan: More?
Data: Please!

Lursa: Where is he now?
B’Etor: Who knows? He bathed, and now he’s roaming the ship.
Lursa: He must be the only engineer in Starfleet that doesn’t GO TO ENGINEERING!

Dr. Soran: They say time is a fire in which we burn; right now I’m running out of time.

Data: “No I have not. It is most unusual.” Mister Tricorder!

Kirk: It was… fun. Oh, my…

Kirk: I don’t need to be lectured by you. I was out saving the galaxy when your grandfather was still in diapers. Personally, I think the galaxy owes me one.

Chekov: I was never that young.
Kirk: No, you were younger.

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