Star Trek: Generations, released in 1994, is the first Star Trek motion picture to star the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Three members of the cast from the original series and first six films do make an appearance in the film though with the beginning of Generations taking place at the christening of the USS Enterprise-B (the third ship to be named Enterprise in the Federation).

Plot Synopsis
The film begins with a bottle of champagne spinning through space as the opening credits proceed, shattering on the hull of the Enterprise-B once the credit are completed. Captains James T. Kirk (William Shatner), Montgomery "Scotty" Scott (James Doohan), and Commander Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig), all members of the original series' crew, are on hand as special guests for the Enterprise-B's maiden voyage. Scotty, Chekov, and Kirk (in particular) are generally bored with the whole ordeal... until the Enterprise-B receives a distress call that is. Hesistant to answer but given no choice as being the only ship in the area (which is odd considering they were in the Sol system, where Earth, the headquarters of the Federation and Starfleet, is located), the new and inexperienced captain of the Enterprise-B sets off to rescue a convoy of ships from a mysterious ribbon of energy travelling through space. With the aid of Captain Kirk the Enterprise-B manages to rescue a handful of the convoy's passengers and escape from the energy ribbon itself, though seemingly at the cost of Kirk's life. Amongst the rescued in the Enterprise-B's sick bay, the audience catches a glimpse of a man sedated as he's struggling and screaming that he has to get back and Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg), a semi-regular character on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The film then flashes forward seventy eight years to the officers of the Enterprise-D from Star Trek: The Next Generation on a ship that named Enterprise that would have sailed the seas of Earth centuries before the present (that is, our present, not the movie's present, which is several hundred years in the future). The ship and the sea are creations of the holodeck, a room on the Enterprise capable of reproducing life-like environments for leisure purposes. The crew is there for a ceremony honoring Worf's (Michael Dorn) promotion to Leiutenant Commander. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) leaves the ceremony early after receiving unfortunate news from Earth. The entire ceremony is cut short not a few seconds later when Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) is informed that a distress call has been received from a nearby observatory station.

Once there the away team finds the station has been ransacked by Romulans. One of the few survivors of the attack is one Dr. Tolian Soran (Malcolm McDowell), which the audience likely recognises as the man frantic to "get back" to the energy ribbon in the sick bay of the Enterprise-B almost eighty years earlier. Unfortunately he's still obsessed with returning to what the audience later finds out is a place called the Nexus and is willing to do anything to get there.

Certainly not a bad film, especially for an odd-numbered Star Trek flick, but I get the feeling that it could have been much better. The movie is pretty fast-paced and I think perhaps the want to keep this pace by the writers (Rick Berman, Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga) and director (David Carson) is what caused Generations not to become the better movie it could have been. While not necessarily "action-packed," the movie does keep going at a pretty steady, quick pace, only touching on a few things that could have given the movie a lot more depth.

Not that the movie doesn't have its good points. It does. The acting is, for the most part, very well done (something Star Trek movies aren't too strong with). In particular, Patrick Stewart does an excellent job portraying Picard in the injured emotional state he enters as a result of the news he receives. The direction is good as well. I liked a lot of quick camera work that is used in a few scenes. I also particularly liked the way the lighting was done in many of the scenes on board the Enterprise, despite it being dramatically different from the way it was done on the series (even though it was supposed to be on the same ship). The special effects are top-notch. There are several subplots going on throughout the film which, though only touched on, does make many of the film's characters seem like actual people. It's unfortunate that more time isn't spent on these or that certain characters (Dr. Beverly Crusher, played by Gates McFadden, in particular) that had been a large part of the series for years have very little screen time. Once again, it seems the movie's fast pace turns what could have been great into something good-but-not-that-good.

Bits of Trivia

  • Data's (Brent Spiner) quarters look a lot different than they did in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Doesn't really matter but it caught my eye. Data's emotion chip also looks a lot different. It's bigger. If I remember correctly, it's also supposed to go in his neck, not his head.
  • Some members of the Next Generation cast almost turned down their parts because they were too small. The script originally called for more of the original series' crew to be present at the Enterprise-B's christening but many of them actually did turn down their parts because they were too small.
  • This is the only movie featuring the Next Generation crew that wasn't directed by Jonathan Frakes (who plays Commander Riker). This won't be the case when the next film comes out, which he also didn't direct.

Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as Commander William T. Riker
Brent Spiner as Lieutenant Commander Data
LeVar Burton as Lieutenant Commander Geordi LaForge
Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Commander Worf
Gates McFadden as Doctor Beverly Crusher
Marina Sirtis as Counsellor Deanna Troi
Malcolm McDowell as Doctor Tolain Solran
William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk
Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan

There are spoilers beyond this point, primarily detailing how I think the film could have been better. Don't get me wrong: I do actually like this movie quite a bit, I just think it could have been a lot better.

The android Data implants the emotion chip he obtained from his brother Lore in the series during this film. Worried by the idea that it might overload his systems (though the reason originally given in the series for why Data didn't implant the chip is that not only was damaged but after being manipulated with it by Lore, Data believed that he shouldn't use it), Data decides to implant the chip anyway as he feels he's progressed as far as he can as an artifical lifeform without it. This topic is merely touched on before Data's best friend/Enterprise chief engineer Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) plugs the thing into Data's head and probably could have been explored further. Beyond that, Data's behavior as a result of his newly acquired emotions seems largely to result in a few scenes of comic relief (not that I didn't absolutely enjoy Data shouting "Oh shit!" when it became apparant that the Enterprise's saucer section would be crash landing into the countryside of a planet it had previously been orbiting - I remember most people in the theatre cheering at this bit of dialogue). Even though Data's emotional responses did lead to the capture of Lt. Cmdr. LaForge by Dr. Soran and the Duras sisters, Data's grief over the matter, though touched upon, seemed only a sidenote.

Basically, throughout the series' seven year run, Data has longed for real human emotions. In Generations, he finally attains them and the results seem to be only glanced at.

The appearance of the Duras sisters, a pair of Klingons that caused a ton of trouble for the Klingon Empire and, especially, Worf, seems a bit played down as well. Sure, anyone watching whose seen them in the show knows they're trouble, and they do a lot of damage in this movie, but the reactions of the characters in the film to them seems to be much less than one would expect. Worf, in particular, doesn't even seem to care, despite the pain in the ass they've been for him in the past.

And, while on the subject of the damage they caused, it seems that either destroying the current Enterprise or at least badly damaging or crippling it seems to be becoming a cliche of Star Trek movies. It seems a bit odd that after seven years of travelling around the galaxy facing all manner of deadly foes, only when the Duras sisters get lucky that Dr. Soran took LaForge prisoner and not any other crew member that they can destroy the Enterprise (or, at least, the drive section, depending on how you want to look at it). Granted, they die in the process, but come on! In the nine Star Trek movies that have been released at the time of this writing, five of them feature heavy damage to and/or the destruction of a ship called Enterprise:

  1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - Kirk's Enterprise gets the crap knocked out of it when fired upon with its shields down by Khan twice (once when the Enterprise first encounters the Reliant and again when the two ships are battling in the nebula).
  2. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock - Kirk and company set the Enterprise to self-destruct in an effort to prevent being captured and allowing the ship to fall into the hands of Klingons.
  3. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country - The Enterprise-A gets pretty beat up in a battle with a Klingon Bird of Prey that can fire while cloaked. At the end the crew is informed they are to return and the ship to be decommissioned. This one only lasted two movies.
  4. Star Trek: Generations - The Duras sisters damage the ship enough by finding a way to fire through its shields that the warp core breaches, destroying the drive/battle section of the ship (this is basically any part of the ship that isn't the saucer-shaped piece). The crew is evacuated to saucer section, which detaches and attempts to move away before the drive section explodes. They aren't far enough away, however, and the shock wave sends the saucer section crashing into the planet below. Then, before Picard can stop Dr. Soran's plan to destroy the system's star (which creates another shock wave that pretty much obliterates everything in the system), said über-shock wave destroys the planet (but fortunately because of the Nexus, Picard and Kirk return to save the day, the system, and the saucer section).
  5. Star Trek: First Contact - The Borg begin assimilating the Enterprise-E. They make a cozy little nest for the queen in main engineering and turn a good portion of the ship into... um, Borg-ness.
Maybe I just really wanted to see more than one movie with the Enterprise-D. I have seen the majority of seven seasons worth of shows with this ship. Disappointing to see her blown up so quick and easily.

And so ends my spiel on Generations. Good but could have been much better.

spoilers follow

I've seen Star Trek: Generations twice. The first time was circa seventh grade. I started watching TNG and DS9 religiously around that time, and got together with some similarly Trek-mad friends over a few sleepovers to rent all the Star Trek movies (there were seven at that time) and watch them. I remember thinking that Generations was OK... certainly better than Shatner's disaster, at least, but nothing too special. The shield modulation trick seemed kind of stupid to me back then, and some of Data's lines were hopelessly silly, but the acting was solid and the Nexus seemed like a cool idea.

That was about ten years ago. I rarely watch Star Trek any more, unless I'm flipping through the channels at my parents' house and it happens to be on Spike TV. My roommate from freshman year of college was a hopeless Star Trek nerd, and I came close to beating the shit out of him on a couple of occasions. The trivia is still there but I don't think about it much. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I downloaded a torrent of all ten Star Trek movies, basically at random, and sat back to watch some of the old classics.

Seeing Generations now, I don't hesitate to say that it's one of the best Star Trek movies. In my opinion, it vies with Star Trek VI and Star Trek II for that title. Trek 2 is a classic story of revenge; Trek 6 is the Cold War in space.

Generations is a bit more complicated, but its magic revolves around the Nexus. When Picard ends up in the Nexus, he has everything he ever wanted but could never have: a storybook home and a perfect family, where every day can be a white Christmas. But Picard, given what he's always wanted, doesn't keep it. He leaves it behind because he knows he keeps it at the expense of millions of people who died in the destruction of the solar system, not to mention the crew of his own ship. Dr. Soran, whose quest for the Nexus accounts for much of the movie's screen time, obviously doesn't care; his philosophy is apparently "look out for number one."

So what motivates Picard? Is it guilt? Or is it utilitarianism at work... an echo of Spock's line from Star Trek II, that "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?" While the original characters took great pleasure in throwing this doctrine out the window (Star Treks 3 and 6 stick out), Picard's choice to leave the Nexus is a clear election in favor of the many. Of course, he could just be guilty; he could be thinking "I could have this on a holodeck without killing an entire star system and most of my remaining friends." But what was to stop him from staying there for as long as he wanted, and then going back?

Kirk's election to leave the Nexus is totally different, of course. What moves his heart is the lack of challenge there. He can marry his sweetheart and make every jump if he wants to, but he knows it isn't real. The adventure is missing for him. And so he goes back to Picard's time for some of that adventure, only to get killed. (Guess he had nine lives after all.)

When I see the Nexus scenes, they strike a chord within me.

I don't know about you, but I have always run on dreams. Since high school, I have had one constant, unrelenting, very basic dream: twue wuv, the kind that never dies. On occasion, I feel like I'm getting close, but things never seem to work out in the end. I think most people feel the same way about their dreams, whether they admit it or not. One of my best friends, who readily admits to being a "reasoned pessimist" when it comes to most things, is incredibly optimistic about his personal future; he simply doesn't see any way that he won't be filthy rich, married to someone beautiful, and ruling the world within the next ten years. I don't decry ambition, since, as long as the dream is in front of us, we keep pressing forward, believing that we'll get there someday. But once we have the dream, what's to keep us pressing forward? What matters then? If you finally had the dream, wouldn't it be game over?

That's what goes through my mind when Picard looks at the wife and children he always wanted but could never have. When you watch TNG for a while, you notice that Picard is a rather lonely figure. He doesn't get the wildfire romances and the close friendships that Kirk always had. He's all business, and the first part of Generations shows how much that bothers him when he realizes it. Suddenly, here he is in the Nexus, surrounded by love, wrapped in joy. I don't know about you, but when I saw that scene, I was thinking: "Fuck the Enterprise, Picard... go have some Christmas turkey! Kirk, what are you doing... get off the horse and go back and marry the girl!"

But that's the Nexus for you. You finally reach the edge, and you realize: This isn't right. Indeed, I came close to leaving law school at one point, and might have ended up married to a nice woman, working as a civics teacher at some high school in Florida. I imagine that I would be as content as I am now, if not much moreso. Yet if I had done that, I might have never have made it back to Japan, never learned the real workings of the world, never began to put together a plan to change it and the power to make it better.

In the end, there's a superego telling us that we have to think bigger. So long as we have our dreams in hand, many of us won't want to listen. I'm satisfied that following that superego was the right choice. At the end of Generations, Picard feels the same way about leaving the Nexus and going back to save the solar system. While my mind said that was the wrong choice, we all know in our hearts that it was the only decent choice to make.

That is the true beauty of this movie. My middle-school brain didn't see it. Now that I see it, I feel older than ever. Maybe that's a good thing.

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