Star Trek: Generations (1994)

Directed by David Carson
Written by Ronald D. Moore & Brannon Braga

Yay! We finally get to move onto a whole new set of characters, a whole new adventure with The Next Generation! While I have greatly enjoyed my time with the characters and stylings of the original series, I think I am ready to move on with something new and fresh, especially as the old crew is just that, old. Let’s see what these young whippersnappers have to offer! What? What’s that you say? The film opens with Kirk, Chekov and Scotty? Noooooooooo!!!!! I mean, I get it. The film series needs a smooth handoff between the old and the new. Something to say, “We putting these cows to pasture for the young calfs to come in and have their time.” I guess for that reason, I was fine with this transitional episode in the film franchise. But as I will discuss later on, there are some clear difference between the two which seems to butt heads at times.

As I mentioned, the film begins with Kirk as an honorary attendee upon the new starship Enterprise on her maiden voyage from drydock. As they push out, the ship receives a distress call, and they’re the only ship within range to help. Ill-equipped, they go to save as many as they can, but Captain Kirk (Shatner) dies a hero along the way. Flash forward nearly a century later, and we get the new crew of the Enterprise, who are likewise called to respond to a distress signal. They come to the rescue of a scientist, Soran (McDowell), but soon find out that he is on a mission to reunite with the energy ribbon re was saved from by the Enterprise nearly a century ago.

I usually don’t go through these reviews in any chronological way, but I must comment on what immediately struck me about this film: tone. I didn’t get it. We get to see Kirk, Chekov and Scotty have one more chance to play hero when the Enterprise gets in over their heads, but man was that sequence rough! I mean, for a lot of it, I thought maybe it was a dream, or an exercise. None of it felt real, in that it felt like it had no stakes to me. When I found out I was witnessing the film’s reality, I was really thrown off. Look, it gets better as the film moves along, but there are some other moments where the tone really feels off too. To me, that is an indication of poor filmmaking, poor understanding of what makes these films tick and makes them exciting. A high intensity moments comes and goes and I’m just sitting here wondering when the real movie is going to start! Not a great sign, but thankfully things get much better.

Overall, I found spending time and getting to know the new crew very delightful. The first time we meet them is just a great scene where Picard takes the crew to the holodeck to initiate Worf with his promotion. Setting this on an old sea-faring ship is just good fun, and I think really fills out Picard as a well-rounded leader who cares about his crew deeply, but also likes to have a bit of fun. I can’t say there’s a new crew member I don’t like, though I will admit that the film glosses over a few of them, so I also get the sense that I don’t quite know everybody yet, even after a whole first film. Riker, Beverly and Troi are all given very little to do. Even Worf, who I feel like I already love as a character despite his minimal involvement, has very little to do.

Instead, characters like Data and Geordi are given the most to do. I am curious to see whether this is a regular occurrence, or each will get their due in future films. I liked Data in a very Spock way, and I’m sure that’s the intention. As a robot, he relies on programming to interact and make decisions, much like Spock would lean on logic. The wrinkle here is his emotion chip he decides to install, which makes him a giggly little school girl at first. I both love and hate this about his character in this film. I love that it instills a bit of light humor into the film, and I hope that the rest of the series is as relatively light and funny as some of the scenes are in this film. But at the same time I kind of hated it once again for the tone. These giggly bits seemed to but up right against the more serious plotting of Soran and McDowell’s rather menacing performance. Seeing them in direct sequence to one another, even including when the two come face to face, is just a weird feeling that just doesn’t work for me. I really do feel as though much of this film is tone deaf.

That being said, I think the ideas behind the film are truly brilliant, and deserving of a much better movie around them. It took awhile for them to take hold of me, but they held on tight once they did. For a film that bridges the gap between the old and the new, passes the torch, the screenwriters really new what they were doing by developing a plot device wherein the characters get to live out a fantasy life, where time has no meaning. In this way, Picard, Soran, and even Kirk get to reckon with their pasts, explore what it means to live their lives in reality by exploring their fantasies. The writers do a marvelous job of creating this world, while also bringing in the true idea of Generations. We see Picard and his crew on an old ship, signifying the past iterations of the Enterprise. We see Kirk have the chance to play hero one more time at the beginning of the film. I think for those reasons, Star Trek: Generations really nails the transitional storytelling between the original series and The Next Generation.

I just wish once again that the movie around those concepts would have been as good as the writing. Poor tone throughout, odd use of musical score too which likely contributed to the former, too many undefined characters. But there is hope with this crew, and I did enjoy the film. So now I look to what the future may hold with excitement!

★★★ – Liked It

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