I can’t even comprehend how shitty this game must be.

The Plot: James Kirk, uneasy with retirement, decides to go out on the maiden voyage of the brand-new Enterprise-B. The ship almost gets destroyed by an energy ribbon and Kirk apparently dies saving it. Meanwhile Seventy-eight years later, the Enterprise-D finds a survivor of a Klingon raid who also happens to have been one of the people Kirk saved who is obsessed with that same ribbon, which it turns out is the gateway to The Nexus. Picard gets into The Nexus through the back door and enlists one James Kirk to help him out. Together they save the day, and Kirk dies in a not terribly-befitting way (though the original conception of his death was a lot worse):

What Works: Usually for a screenplay written by more than one person, it’s not easy to figure out who wrote what. But with this one (and also, to an extent, with First Contact), it’s almost comically easy, and not just because some parts are shit and others aren’t (though mainly that). Generations doesn’t benefit from the team-up of Brannon Braga and Ron Moore. It’s a team-up that on paper could have worked but in reality doesn’t: both have different strengths but rather than complementing each other they sort of clash. Yes, this is part of “what works” in that Moore’s scenes largely do. Picard’s scene with Troi where he talks about his family dying, for example, is so Moore-ian that the only thing missing is an honorable, beaten-down warrior to get the entire package. Picard’s scene with Data in Stellar Cartography is also Moore-ian and quite good. Some of the exchanges between Picard and Soran are interesting too. In essence, a lot of the stuff about death and what it means to be human is good, in isolation at least.

I actually like how the Enterprise looks in this movie. Sue me. It looks cool and cinematic.

What Doesn’t Work: Oh good lord.

Star Trek Generations is a movie that simply couldn’t have been good, not with the basic framework and concepts it was playing with. I actually do not think that is true of a lot of the other lesser movies in the series. But man alive is it true for this one. The real problem here is the lack of a strong theme. As I stated, there are some strong individual moments, and there might have been a way to tie in the destruction of the Enterprise-D and Kirk’s death into a theme of mortality. But honestly we’ve kind of been there, done that with this series. Kirk’s mortality was examined pretty thoroughly in The Wrath Of Khan and The Undiscovered Country, i.e., the prior movie in the series. Actually killing him off after all that seems kind of pointless. More than kind of, in fact. It seems perverse to me to have a character have a triumph over age in one movie and then just kill him off in the next.

The thing is, even if we buy this as a movie about morality, why the fuck are we dealing with Data’s emotion chip? Or spending countless minutes with the Duras sisters? And then there’s the Nexus, which strikes me as one of the worst takes on heaven ever put to screen. It’s really just Adam Sandler’s Click, only with a spare Guinan in place of a remote control. The real problem with this to me is that giving people control of what they see in this way just kills the illusion, not to mention that it populates characters that are not living, contradicting the person’s memory. It takes no time at all for Picard to piece it together. Admittedly, it’s very hard to envision heaven, but positing it as a souped-up DVD player is really unimaginative. There’s probably some similar version of this concept that could have been fine but it’s not this one. I’ll give Patrick Stewart credit for selling it as best he can, but this just doesn’t work. Nor does Kirk’s beat of being tempted by the Nexus. It’s so pointless to simply redo life experiences in a shifting timeframe that bears no relationship to actual reality. It really gets the fantasy all wrong.

I don’t really want to talk about the awfulness of Data’s comic relief in this. It’s just really unfunny and bad for the character. Having the ending be an action setpiece, though, really begins what was so wrong about the Berman-era movies. The climax of The Undiscovered Country had a ship-to-ship fight and then a little gunplay, but really the heart of it was Kirk’s emotional epiphany and renewed optimism. With this movie, the climax really just is all explosions and punches. They devote half an hour to all of this, more if you include the “original” version of events, before history is changed.

This movie doesn’t often get included as a Wrath Of Khan ripoff but if you think about it, it really is. Picard is having an crisis over his mortality, Kirk sets him straight before sacrificing himself, then Picard’s gone through it at the end a little older and wiser. Supposedly. The emotional beats are, largely, the same. But the emotional resonance is seriously not there. There’s no David, no real concrete thing he’s gained from the process. The speech about time at the end of the film to Riker just kind of feels hollow and unearned as a result. Kirk at the end of Khan seems to have pivoted into a different phase of his life. They want us to think that this happened to Picard, but it didn’t. And, also, Kirk didn’t really mean anything to him personally, and neither did Soran. This really is the beginning of the dreaded formula.

Also, Malcolm McDowell totally phones it in as Soran. The moment where Picard comes at him with the Borg thing is the one moment where I feel he really is dialed into the character, otherwise, not so much. Still, this is probably on the higher end of projects that McDowell took after his prime era.

Also too, the score is wholly unmemorable. The Berman era truly is upon us.

Legacy: Well, it was so poor that it gave us the first Plinkett review, so that’s something. Mostly it’s just forgotten. No doubt it has its fans, but I’ve never met one.

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  1. Metavirus says:

    This is my favorite series of scifi reviews, aside from Plinkett of course :)

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