In the late 23rd Century, the newest Enterprise is launched. Captain Kirk, Captain Scott, and Commander Chekov are aboard to witness the launch, when they are called to a distress signal a few light-years away. When they arrive, Captain Harriman tries to be cautious, but one of the ships caught in an energy wake explodes. Captain Kirk takes charge and rescues the survivors, but the Enterprise is caught in the wake. Scotty devises a theory on how to get out, and Kirk rescues the ship, only to be struck by a ribbon from the energy wake, and is presumed dead.
78 years later, the crew of the Enterprise-D enjoys a whimsical way of promoting Worf to Lieutenant Commander, but a message from Earth sours Captain Picard’s mood, and a distress call breaks up the festivities. They arrive at a space observatory and begin investigating the damage. The find an injured doctor, and dead Romulans. Data, having caused a debacle at the party, decides to install his emotion chip and begins experiencing human emotions on his own for the first time. Meanwhile, Dr. Soran has a discussion with Captain Picard and leaves him with a warning about time running out.
When the investigation dead ends, LaForge and Data head to the observatory to search for clues. They are accosted by Dr. Soran, and he prepares his experiment to continue. Captain Picard, however, has not been himself, and it is during a session with Counselor Troi that we learn that his family burned to death. As he deals with his grief, the nearby star explodes. Riker and Worf beam to the observatory to retrieve their shipmates, but a firefight ensues and Dr. Soran escapes on a Klingon Bird of Prey, taking LaForge with him.
Captain Picard, with the help of Data, deduces Dr. Soran’s plans, and takes off for the planet at the center of if all, Veridian III. He forces the Klingon ship to decloak, and offers a prisoner exchange. LaForge returns, and Picard beams to the surface to appeal to Dr. Soran’s morality. Unfortunately, LaForge was implanted with a transmitting camera, which the Klingons use to gain valuable tactical data. They attack Enterprise, which is rendered helpless before them. A quick maneuver by Worf and Data allow them to destroy the Klingons, but the damage destroys the Enterprise as well.
Picard, having been rebuffed by Dr. Soran, attempts to attack him, but is defeated in combat. The rocket Dr. Soran worked on launched, and destroys the star. The energy wake Dr. Soran had been tracking flies over the planet, taking Dr. Soran and Picard with it, and the planet explodes.
Picard wakes up in a Victorian house during Christmas and surrounded by a wife and kids. After seeing one of the ornaments replay the destruction of the star, Picard realizes that this is not real, and seeks help. He finds Guinan’s echo, who tells him how to get out and points him to Captain Kirk, who was caught in the wake himself. Picard tries to convince Kirk to join him, but Kirk refuses, until Kirk realizes that his life wasn’t real as well. They leave the Nexus and go to Veridian III just before the rocket is launched.
Kirk and Dr. Soran fight, as Picard sabotages the rocket. Their efforts were successful, but Kirk dies from injuries sustained when the bridge he was on collapses. The Enterprise crew rescues Picard, and they beam on board the Starfleet salvage fleet, which warps out of the system.
Review and Analysis:
This movie is one of the worst movies that the Star Trek franchise ever deployed to the screen. Distill this movie down to its core and you realize that nothing really happened except that Kirk dies, the Enterprise-D is destroyed in the most boring ship battle and crash sequence since Return of the Jedi, and Picard’s family dies in a fire (and not the Internet meme).
What You Aren’t Supposed to Notice:
The banter that Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov engage in at the beginning of the film is actually supposed to be for Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. When Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelly both had told Berman, Moore, and Braga to take a hike, James Doohan and Walter Koenig both took the jobs, and the script was altered by using “CTRL-R” and replacing names.
Most people realize that the explosion of the Duras Sisters’ Bird-of-Prey was simply a mirrored copy of Chang’s Bird-of-Prey explosion from Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. What most people may not realize, however, is that the use of the Bird of Prey explosion was planned all along. On top of this, Rick Berman (who was the Star Trek franchise executive for Paramount) made comments about wanting to use a new Enterprise design for the movie, since it was believed that the Galaxy-class Enterprise did not film well on the big screen.
The end result is a hackneyed ship battle and Dennis McCarthy trying with all of his might to make the battle as exciting as possible, but it’s hard to be excited about the prospect of watching the Klingon equivalent of a World War II PT Boat sinking a Battleship with relative ease.
From the “Who Really Cares” Department:
This was a case of having a villain that was not well thought out, a plot that does not stand up to basic common sense, and a solution that seems to fly in the face of satisfying fandom. The Nexus was going to be a one-way trip, so sending a one man ship would have accomplished what Dr. Soran was trying to get to. That makes Data’s explanation of “Every ship being damaged or destroyed” kinda silly in retrospect.
Defamation of Character for Taking a Paycheck:
One of the reasons why Berman, Braga, and Moore (yes, that Ron Moore) have been excoriated often in my reviews and deconstructions is because they fail at creating a coherent tapestry for the larger story they work within. In this case, the trio insisted in the story taking place aboard Enteprise-B. Also, they insisted in Scotty being present when Kirk was presumably killed at the Nexus incident.
The problem, however, is that for this movie to work within the confines of the Star Trek story that had already been told, Montgomery Scott now has to have some form of dementia, denial, or Alzheimer’s to make the events of the movie coincide with that of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “Relics” in which Scotty believes that Jim Kirk had brought the Enterprise-A out of mothballs to mount his rescue (this is before Scotty is told that he is 80 years into the future). The revised novelization reflects this change for Generations, and Scotty is…well…no longer the competent engineer given a final chance to ride off into the sunset. Instead, he is now some forgetful old coot that is often ignored at the nursing home.
Minor inconsistencies can usually be ignored or handwaved without too much damage to the fabric of the story. The Wrath of Khan, for all of its issues, falls into this category. Generations, on the other hand, is a case of a tear in the fabric that can only be patched by slandering a beloved character. And since the three of them at some point have gone on record for their disdain for the Original Series and its characters, Scotty’s newfound dementia is a casualty they can live with.
The Destructive Legacy of “The Voyage Home”:
The comedy in this film sinks an already shaky film to the bottom of the river. Spiner’s scenes where his emotion chip starts to run out of control for the sake of bad comedy serve no purpose whatsoever to the main story of Generations. But since the studio mandates the use of comedy in a Star Trek movie (none was present in The Motion Picture, none in The Wrath of Khan, and merely incidental in The Search for Spock), the theme of the movie gets lost with such jarring and plot-halting moments that pepper the film.
It also does not help matters that Brent Spiner does not like cats and the writers spent as much time as possible trying to put Spot (Data’s cat) into situations to make Brent squirm. Such thinking needs to be placed on a practice boat and blasted away during live fire drills. The movie is already on a precipice; there is no need to send it over the edge because of grade-school petty humor.
Who Cares, Part 2:
The family that Picard ‘creates’ in the Nexus is supposed to harken back to The Wrath of Khan’s Carol and David Marcus showing up for Jim Kirk – and their discussion in the Genesis underground. It is apparent that the Generations writers missed the entire buildup before their meeting – where both Kirk and the Marcus family had established their familiarity with each other before their face-to-face reunion. Thus, when Kirk and Carol have a discussion about their son David, it seems somewhat natural.
The Picard family in Generations, however, did not build this connection. Most Star Trek fans know about Picard’s sordid love life – and all of the women Picard has ever loved, particularly the one woman he never confessed to, Commander Beverly Crusher. Even more disconcerting, however, is that in the rush to drop in a ‘dream family’ on the audience, no thought was ever given to how Picard would have really reacted.
Given that he just lost all of his family, I seriously doubt that Picard would dream of a woman he never knew, with kids we’ve never seen before, and just place his nephew Rene in the middle of it. It probably would have been better if Picard had dreamed his brother’s family, who perished in the fire, back, along with Picard himself as a family man with any one of his previous long-term loves (Vash the Adventurer, Lt. Cmdr. Neela Daren, Commander Beverly Crusher, or so on), along with a child or two of his own. Also, Picard knows that the Nexus provided dream is not real, but it is “real enough” and comforting enough for him to want to stay…for a little while.
But this is what happens when you spend so much time planning how to destroy the ship the crew has called home for about 9 years, then taking more time on how to kill the face of the Star Trek franchise in a supposedly ironic fashion. If that was not enough, taking even more time to drop excruciating comedy into the film. All of this results in little time to create a coherent story and plausible plot that Star Trek fans would enjoy.
The house looks like it’s set in the English Victorian Era, complete with people who look like they belong on the set of “Oliver.” Although Patrick Stewart is English, would it be impolite to point out that Jean-Luc Picard is supposed to be French?
Fans vs. General Audience Sidebar:
One of the arguments often heard as to why some story elements get tossed in favor of something far more “mindless” is because the fans of a franchise should never be completely pandered to. The image of the Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy is the quintessential stereotype of the franchise super-fan, who expresses resentment when a new product does not reconcile with something that was mentioned in a forgotten episode as a passing reference.
This however, misses the point. Oftentimes, a general audience will look for a story that makes sense. Ironically, a fan’s complaint about events not lining up only catch part of the problem with bad movies within a franchise. The other part is that the characterization is so poor, that not only are the fans themselves not happy with the finished product, but the story falls flat and leaves nothing for the non-fan or the casual fan that knows very little about the franchise, but may like elements of what the movie was supposed to offer.
In other words, a bad story will sink the film for everyone for different reasons.
When Picard chides Data regarding his emotions, one could not help but wonder if Starfleet is indeed a quasi-military organization. This was not a conversation that needed to take place while on duty, if it all. This was supposed to be emotional drama, but it had all the charm of a flat tire in Death Valley. Picard tries the same dialogue with Kirk, and Kirk slaps him down with recycled dialogue courtesy of James Doohan.
But the movie itself has slowed to a crawl by this time.
Jeannette Goldstein, of Aliens fame, is finally able to don a Star Trek uniform. She was Gene Roddenberry’s original choice for Chief of Security in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Unfortunately, it would have been as Lt. Macha Hernandez, which would have continued Jeanette’s brownface routine as well as Star Trek’s Incredible Race!Fail that permeated throughout the series. When she declined because of other commitments, Marina Sirtis won the role of Macha Hernandez. However, the producers soon switched Marina’s role with Denise Crosby’s, and the cast was rounded out.
Tim Russ, best known for his role as Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager, makes a cameo as a lieutenant aboard the Enterprise-B. Much like Jeannette, he was also almost a member of the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast as Geordi LaForge. Roddenberry, however, favored LeVar Burton.
Women of Color Sidenotes:
Whoopi Goldberg is the only Black Woman of significance in this movie. And she is only needed because of the long-living capabilities of the alien species she is a part of.
For a liberal/progressive show, Star Trek has been rather atrocious regarding cultural casting decisions. In the case of Generations, Korean-American Jacqueline Kim is cast as Pan-Asian Japanese-American Demora Sulu, who is supposed to be Captain Hikaru Sulu’s daughter. In fact, there have only been two real instances of Asian actors/actresses playing their actual culture: George Takei, albeit with a non-Japanese last name – and only in The Undiscovered Country do we get confirmation that Sulu has Japanese ancestry; and Patti Yatsutake, who plays Alyssa Ogawa in this film (albeit in a very minor role). All the other mainly Japanese characters in Star Trek are portrayed by Chinese and Korean Actors. The few Japanese Actors that grace the Star Trek franchise play Pan-Asian or Non-Descript Asian characters.
I don’t think this is what is meant by Infinite Diversity.
24th Century Reality Television:
This was a plot device to allow the Klingons the ability to destroy the Federation Flagship, despite being outgunned 100-to-1.
Bad Comedy Dry Run:
In a scene which should have been a small ceremony among the senior crew and a reception afterwards, Worf is finally promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander in a Holodeck Simulation of the HMS Enterprise. What transpires here is the same feeling most casual Star Wars fans had during their first viewing of The Phantom Menace; that feeling of dread washing over them that this scene is only a precursor to the approaching trainwreck.
If insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over hoping to achieve a different result, then Paramount Pictures can be committed to an asylum. They have insisted in comedy in the Star Trek franchise since The Voyage Home, and despite the lack of success of Generations, the comedy will return full force in Star Trek: Insurrection, before finally sinking the franchise under Berman’s reign for good in Star Trek: Nemesis.
Missing in Action:
Science Fiction and Space Fantasy writers never seem to know what to do with Doctors and Engineers when the shooting starts. And Paramount’s writers make them disappear before the third act in Star Trek movies begins.
This data rod breaks often in Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s movies.
(Anti) Climatic Battle Scene Redux:
Originally, Kirk was shot in the back after de-cloaking Dr. Soran’s star killing missile. Picard then shoots Dr. Soran after getting a hold of his gun. The movie’s ending focus-grouped so badly that Paramount allocated an emergency budget to rewrite and re-shoot the entire ending. This time, we get Kirk falling on a bridge, and a final conversation that felt rushed – because it was.
Watching this movie makes it very clear that the writers spent most of their time drawing plot devices out of hat and somehow try to make them fit in this movie. The grand idea to kill Kirk AND destroy the Enteprise-D in the same movie for such a minor movie made Rick Berman and Brannon Braga two of the most hated people within the Star Trek franchise. Allowing Spiner’s brand of comedy overwhelm the B-Story torpedoes the movie, and David Carson is overwhelmed by the responsibilities of directing his first feature film. Generations was heavily marketed, and underwhelmed because of this.
This film is filled with characters that we get no connection to, since they are mostly air-dropped in or pop out of nowhere, only to fade into obscurity. Without the Death of Kirk, this movie would also fade into obscurity. Instead, this movie gets to live on in infamy, and Star Trek as a movie franchise will begin its inexorable nosedive.
The lesson? Don’t kill beloved characters. If you do, at least make their last hurrah on screen memorable.