Star Trek Generations (1994)
Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Malcolm McDowell, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, William Shatner. Directed by David Carson.
It was a good idea. A bridge between the Star Trek films with the original cast and a new series of films featuring The Next Generation characters should have been great. But instead of a properly nostalgic farewell to the old cast and an anointing of the new, Star Trek Generations almost forgets that it has any characters at all, and focuses instead on a lumbering, cumbersome story that sort of connects the two television series but doesn’t give us much reason to care.
The plot is so uninteresting and so horribly assembled as to defy summary, but the heart of it involves a weird extradimensional energy band—called the Nexus—that gives anyone caught within it his or her heart’s desires, a euphoria so complete that people inside never want to get out, and those who do get out yearn to get back in. One character is so obsessed with returning to the Nexus that he’s willing to destroy stars in order to shift the band’s direction so that he might get caught in it, even if doing so results in the elimination of planets and all their inhabitants.
I admire the attempt at complex story to develop complex themes. Jean-Luc Picard confronts enormous grief and the temptation of having his grief allayed. James Kirk confronts his own feelings about what he sacrificed during his long tenure as captain of the Enterprise. Commander Data is given an emotion chip so that he might be more human-like, but soon discovers that emotions are more of a handicap than a blessing. This much works, at least kind of, but it does so without real interaction among the principal characters, as if each is going through all this internal stuff alone, a construct that defies the best thing about either of these series.
Yet some of the climactic action sequences are uninteresting and too long, and we have to endure them twice for reasons best left to the viewer to discover, although I can’t really say why. Not spoiling this one element of the plot doesn’t make the film any better, but I suppose if the discover is at least somewhat interesting, I’d hate to rob anyone of that one little pleasure. Goodness knows it may be all it has to offer.
The film has one aesthetic worth examining, especially in contrast to the earliest and latest films in the canon. One of my favorite things about the reboot series is how sexy and sleek Enterprise looks. The Enterprise in this film is bulky, boxy, awkward, and graceless, and the crew’s uniforms seem built to match. They are nothing like the almost Steve-Jobs-inspired look of the unis and technology in the 2000s, a difficult thing to get used to even looking back. What a time the Eighties and Nineties were.
Thankfully, the series did not suffer as a whole because of this one subpar film. Many of the TNG films are quite good, and the reboot with the classic characters is excellent, so I’m willing to chalk this one up to a task too difficult to be completely satisfying.