Star Trek: Generations (1994)

The story goes (as has been said many times!) that the “odd-numbered” Star Trek films are the inferior ones. In my recent re-watchings (I thought some would be new watchings, but none were), I found that this difference is–for me, at least–middling at best. Hard to nail down to a switch on that front, but with a definite feeling that the odd films with the original cast were more about concepts (the central mystery of the original, the idea of the Genesis project in the third and religion in the fifth) while the others were more simply engaging and action-oriented. I’m not opposed to the ones that have a central conceit that may outdo the rest of the script and possibly lackluster action, so I didn’t take issue to those odd-numbered films.

While there have been other meetings between the original and Next Generation cast (such as Nimoy’s appearance in the latter’s television show), this is the only film that fully crosses the two, beginning with an introduction that centers on Kirk, Scotty and Chekhov experiencing the launch of the Enterprise-B, commanded by Capt. John Harriman (Alan Ruck, of fame as Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)–as well as a Conn Officer played by Glenn Morshower, who later became 24‘s Aaron Pierce, and a Science Officer played by Jenette Goldstein, who had been Aliens‘ Vasquez and Diamondback in Near Dark. Of course, incompetency and traumatic danger both rear their ugly heads and Kirk is forced to move himself from observational stance to action, and in the process disappears into an energy ribbon known only as the “Nexus.”

Coming forward in time, we see the first film appearances of the Next Generation crew, all in mariner uniforms on the Holodeck, performing a period commencement and promotion. Soon they are drawn out and into awareness of the return of the Nexus, which they learn was the cause of the death of the legendary Captain James T. Kirk, and so Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), Commander William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner), Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton), newly Lt. Commander Worf (Michael Dorn), Commander Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), and Commander Deanna Troi (Marina Siritis) must take action to stop the mad plans of Dr. Tolian Soran (the ever-effervescent Malcolm McDowell) to bring the Nexus back around so he can re-enter it.

The problem with this film for me is that it is simply lackluster. I outgrew the Next Generation series in my youth because I got tired of the slick, clean, almost sterile environments and repetitive visual palette of those Starfleet uniforms and that same bridge all the time. Something just started to bother my eyes about the lack of colour, and a feeling that it lacked variation from episode to episode–I know I chalked a lot of it up, whenever the inevitable Star Wars/Star Trek debates came up, to the fact that it lacked the anatomical variety of that other famed series and so lacked the appeal that those things had in my younger days, when nothing but humans bored me to tears. I didn’t see a return to that feeling with this movie, but that same feeling of slickness was present in another way–there was nothing overly engaging, it felt purely like “Hey, remember these characters? Look, they’re on a big screen!”–luckily this did not descend to massive explosions and a big push to emphasize the greater budget or appearance, but as a result it felt like an overblown episode that tried to pretend it had a bigger budget, or did and wasted a lot of it. This sounds pretty harsh, and really is–it’s an enjoyable movie. It’s great to see Malcolm McDowell every time, and I have nothing against the Next Gen cast, who turn in solid performances as always, and the experiences of Kirk and Picard in the Nexus are quite well done and very interesting, addressing the ideas of paradise and perceptions of it quite well, but failing to live up to the promise of a crossover between these two titanic series. That’s probably the biggest problem–it’s so “meh,” as we say these days, but we feel it should be something more because we are seeing two beloved crews interact–or at least two beloved captains in all the realms of geekdom. I don’t know why they didn’t do something more, but it does feel rushed, and perhaps that’s exactly why.

A shame, but not a bad movie–it just should have had more time and effort put into it, which was apparently Leonard Nimoy’s complaint and reason for not appearing (a shame in and of itself). Ho-hum.

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