“Star Trek: Generations” was released in 1994, during a time when the franchise was at a crossroads. “Star Trek: The Next Generation” had just ended its seven-year run on television, and there was uncertainty as to whether the franchise could continue without its beloved characters. “Generations” attempted to bridge the gap between the two casts, while also introducing a new villain and exploring the concept of mortality.
The film opens with the USS Enterprise-B on its maiden voyage, with Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) in attendance as a guest. The ship receives a distress call from two transport ships caught in a nexus, a mysterious energy ribbon that has the ability to transport people through time and space. Kirk, ever the hero, convinces the Enterprise-B’s captain to attempt a rescue mission. The rescue, unfortunately, goes awry and Kirk is presumed dead.
The story then jumps ahead to the crew of the Enterprise-D, which is celebrating the promotion of Worf (Michael Dorn) to Lieutenant Commander. The festivities are cut short when the crew receives a distress signal from a scientific outpost. Upon arriving at the outpost, they discover that the entire planet is about to be destroyed by a shock wave. In a thrilling action sequence, the crew is able to save the scientists, but not before their own ship is destroyed.
The plot thickens when it is revealed that the scientist responsible for the disaster, Dr. Tolian Soran (Malcolm McDowell), is attempting to return to the nexus, where he believes he can live out the rest of his days in happiness. Soran’s plan involves destroying entire stars, creating a shock wave that will alter the ribbon’s course and bring it closer to his location.
This brings us to the heart of “Star Trek: Generations,” the relationship between the two captains. Kirk, who was presumed dead, is actually trapped in the nexus. When Picard (Patrick Stewart) realizes what Soran is up to, he enlists Kirk’s help in stopping him. What follows is a thrilling climax that involves space battles, hand-to-hand combat, and ultimately, the sacrifice of one of the beloved captains.
So, what does “Star Trek: Generations” contribute to the “Star Trek” franchise? On one hand, it’s a film that attempts to bridge the gap between two generations of characters. Fans of the original series can watch Kirk in action one last time, while fans of “The Next Generation” can continue to enjoy their beloved crew. However, this approach also risks alienating both fan bases, as some may feel that their favorite characters are not given enough screen time or that the story is trying to do too much at once.
What works in Star Trek: Generations
One of the strengths of Star Trek: Generations is its portrayal of Captain Picard. Patrick Stewart is an excellent actor, and he brings a gravitas and intelligence to the role that is unmatched. In this film, we see Picard struggling with his mortality and his place in the universe. He is haunted by the loss of his brother and nephew in a fire years earlier and is questioning whether his life’s work has made a difference. This is a significant departure from the more action-oriented roles that we usually see in Star Trek movies. Picard is a thinker, and his introspection adds depth to the character.
The film’s exploration of the Nexus is also fascinating. The Nexus is a place where all of one’s dreams and fantasies can come true, but it is also a place where one can become trapped, unable to distinguish between reality and illusion. This is a powerful metaphor for addiction, and it adds a level of depth to the film that is missing from some of the other Star Trek movies.
What doesn’t work in Star Trek: Generations
When discussing Star Trek: Generations, it’s very easy to shoot holes in it. So here goes!
One of the biggest issues with Star Trek: Generations is the script. The story is convoluted and confusing, and it’s hard to keep track of what’s going on at times. The film follows two captains, Kirk and Picard, as they try to stop a madman named Soran from destroying a star to enter a realm called the Nexus, where he hopes to live forever in a state of happiness. Along the way, there are time jumps, dream sequences, and a subplot involving the Enterprise crashing on a planet.
The film also suffers from some major plot holes. For example, Soran’s plan to destroy the star makes no sense. He needs to destroy the star in a specific way to open a portal to the Nexus, but it’s never explained why this is the only way to do it. Furthermore, it’s never explained why he can’t simply use a ship to enter the Nexus, or why he needs to destroy the star at all.
The film’s pacing is also problematic. There are long stretches of the movie where nothing much happens, and the action scenes often feel forced and contrived. The climax of the film, where Kirk and Picard team up to stop Soran, is underwhelming and lacks the emotional impact it should have had.
Another issue with the film is the characterization. While the characters are all played well by the actors, they are not given much to do. The supporting characters, in particular, are underdeveloped and feel like they are there just to fill out the cast. For example, Geordi La Forge, the chief engineer of the Enterprise, is given very little to do in the film beyond providing some technical exposition.
The film also suffers from a lack of focus. It tries to be both a send-off for the original cast and an introduction to the new cast, and as a result, it doesn’t fully succeed at either. The scenes with Kirk and the original cast feel disconnected from the rest of the film, and their presence ultimately feels like a distraction from the main story.
Generations comes to 4K UHD
Paramount kicks off their Star Trek Next Generation Cast Movies set on 4K with a stunning presentation. Well, one that still looks like a movie shot in the mid 90s for Paramount. Why is it that everything made at Paramount from 1992-1998 all look the same? Don’t believe me? Watch Virtuosity, The Relic, The Saint, any Brady Bunch movie and Star Trek: Generations right now.
It’s like the Mountain had a pile of film stock and made everyone spend 6 years shooting on it. Seriously, watch any film Paramount made in that period and tell me they don’t all look the same. Well, if you’ve been looking at the screenshots, you can tell that Generations looks amazingly dark in 4K UHD. I grabbed the 2009 Blu-ray set for comparison.
While that seemed pretty dark, it didn’t seem aggressively dark as this one. Most of the special features are ports over the Blu-ray. Hell, I still appreciate the text commentary tracks, as Picard Season 3 has got me really getting back into Trek. Beyond that, fans will get more mileage out of these sets.
The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track is supportive and really shines on both Enterprise sequences. The saucer crash really comes to life too. But, I wanted to hear it in Atmos. Oh well, that’s a nit pick. We’re onto First Contact!