Should I Watch..? 'Star Trek Generations'
What's the big deal?
Star Trek Generations is a science fiction film based on the TV series Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry and is the seventh film in the franchise. It marked the point when the films began to focus on the cast of the TV revival Star Trek: The Next Generation instead of the original cast of the show from the 1960's and sees current Enterprise Captain Jean-Luc Picard face off against a ruthless scientist on a destructive quest for immortality. The film stars Patrick Stewart, William Shatner, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVarr Burton and Malcolm McDowell and was directed by David Carson who had directed episodes of Next Gen previously. Although the film received a mixed reaction from critics, audiences disagreed and the film went on to make more than $118 million worldwide.
What's it about?
Newly retired Captain Kirk, Montgomery Scott and Pavel Chekov attend the official launching of the USS Enterprise-B, the latest and greatest starship in the Federation. In truth, the event is little more than a publicity jaunt as the ship isn't fully equipped and manned just yet. During the vessel's maiden voyage around the Solar System, they receive a distress call from two El-Aurian ships having difficulty caused by a powerful energy stream. Kirk leads the Enterprise-B to the rescue and they succeed in saving some of the passengers including scientist Dr Soran and the mystic Guinan. However, the ship is damaged by the energy ribbon and Kirk is sucked out into space, presumed killed.
Fast forward a hundred years or so and it's party-time on the Enterprise-D, commanded by Captain Jean-Luc Picard, as the crew celebrate the promotion of Lieutenant Commander Worf. Once again, the Enterprise receives a distress from a remote research facility from Dr Soran who finds himself cornered once again by the energy ribbon. But as Picard begins to lead a rescue mission, Soran's villainous objectives are about to reveal themselves...
Capt. Jean-Luc Picard
Capt. James T. Kirk
Comm. William Riker
Lt. Com. Data
Lt. Com. Geordi La Forge
Lt. Com. Worf
Chief Medical Officer Beverly Crusher
Comm. Deanna Troi
Dr Tolian Soran
Whoopi Goldberg *
Ronald D. Moore & Brannon Braga *
Release Date (UK)
10th February, 1995
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Razzie Award Nomination
Worst Supporting Actor (Shatner)
What's to like?
Like a pair of worn-out slippers, there's something comforting about the world of Star Trek. Fans of the Next Gen series will be delighted to see their heroes on the big screen, saving the galaxy one crisis at a time and going toe-to-toe with a classic Klingon battleship. The effects are certainly a cut above what you'd expect in the show, although this shouldn't come as a surprise. What I did find surprising was the subplot involving Data's emotion-chip - it was brave of the film-goers to engage with a story from the show straight off the bat instead of settling on just one story. It shows that there was an attention to detail here and I like that.
While the rest of the cast deliver the goods in role they have long become accustomed to, McDowell is in his usual snarling mode as Soran, the deranged scientist with a plot that never quite made sense. The film is pumped full of the scientific-sounding jargon we've come to know and love - talk of "gravimetric distortions" and the like do little to educate the rest of us. But to all intents and purposes, this feels like business as usual. There's the odd occasion for a new set like the stellar cartography scene which would never have appeared in the show but in essence, this feels almost like a ceremony to mark the passing of the torch from one crew to another.
- Shatner, Doohan and Koenig were the only cast members of the original series who agreed to return. Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley felt that they had already said goodbye in the previous film The Undiscovered Country, George Takei refused to appear in a cameo and Nichelle Nichols was never asked.
- This was the first Star Trek film developed after the death of creator Gene Roddenberry. The team behind the film began using ideas and concepts that Roddenberry was opposed to such as the two captains meeting.
- The vintage sailing ship that appeared on the holodeck is the same ship that doubled for the Interceptor in Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl. The real-life captain of the ship is the elderly man Troi hands the helm over to.
What's not to like?
In many ways, the fact that the film feels like an extended episode is part of the problem. It doesn't feel big enough or exceptional to stand out from its small-screen adventures. Perhaps this is due to budget constraints but the script doesn't provide anything meaty for the film-makers to indulge in. Take the final showdown between Picard and Soran on a rocky desert world - the shoddiness of the metal walkway they fight on and the ease with which it begins to fall apart is not the sort of thing we expect from a Trek movie. What happened to the zero-gravity blood effects or the chilling alien world used by the Klingons as a prison from the last movie? It doesn't even have the conviction to follow through on its subplot - Data's emotion chip is essentially forgotten about by the time the film ends, although it gives him apparent justification to drop his first swearword in the film.
If anything, the film feels like its own hurdle. It's as if the baton had to be passed somehow and this was the only way they could conceive it happening. If so, that's a shocking statement - the guff about the Nexus being some sort of time-distorting heaven never really rings true and I spent much of the film wondering where it came from, the sort of question Star Trek normally asks of such phenomena. Even the Next Gen crew seem disinterested, if though their appearance on the big screen distracted or overawed them. Stewart would become a cinema staple as Professor X in the X-Men series but I can't recall too many movies featuring any of the others. I wanted Generations to be big, bold and satisfying but instead, it's a serviceable extended episode with a big name actor as antagonist. Hmmm.
Should I watch it?
Die-hard Trekkers will be squealing in delight seeing the two captains join forces but this remains an average outing for the Trek franchise as a whole. Given the significance of handing control of the franchise over to the new crew, the film fails to provide much in the way of imagination or originality. It has its moments but Generations feels like it could and should have been much better.
Great For: Trek nerds, fans of either the original show or Next Gen, do-it-yourself commentaries
Not So Great For: reviving the franchise, inspiring audiences
What else should I watch?
The Next Gen crew always seemed underserved when it came to their big-screen adventures. First Contact might have brought the Borg with it but felt a smidge gimmicky for my tastes while Insurrection was straight-up boring. The death-knell came with Nemesis, which stopped the franchise in its tracks until the only way to carry on was to reboot via J.J. Abrams' Star Trek. Fancy visuals and new cast aside, it still struggles to escape from the shadow of Roddenberry's original vision.
Which brings us back to the original crew led by Shatner's usual hammy routine as Kirk. In spite of him chewing his way through the films like a humanoid Pac-Man, they did hit upon a couple of films worth seeing. The Undiscovered Country is the perfect blend of space opera, murder mystery, tongue-in-cheek humour and effects and encapsulates everything that made the original series so good. Also worth a look is The Wrath Of Khan which strips back the exploration of space and the human condition and settles for being a tense, thrilling duel between the Enterprise and arch-villain Khan. It was so good that it dictated the direction of the franchise over the next three films.
© 2018 Benjamin Cox