“Captain of the Enterprise?
Close to retirement?
I’m not planning on it.
Well let me tell you something. Don’t! Don’t let them promote you. Don’t let them transfer you. Don’t let them do anything that takes you off the bridge of that ship because while you’re there, you can make a difference.”
“Risk is part of the game if you want to sit in that chair.”
-Kirk to Captain Harriman
This one isn’t considered one of Trek’s best and it seems, at first glance, to fulfill the “Every odd-numbered Trek film is lame” curse, but there’s some good stuff here. Its main issue is its shallowly-written villain and uneven pacing, but it’s a great love-letter to Trek fans who have been with the series since the beginning.
Star Trek Generations (1994)
The Ship(s): The Enterprise B (Excelsior class, but not as sleek and amazing as the Excelsior itself; they added some weird stuff to the ship’s design and it looks all…bulky…not a fan), and the Enterprise D in her final voyage *sniff.* The H.M.S. Enterprise also makes a cameo on the holodeck during Worf’s promotion at the beginning, which is fun.
The Captain(s): hoo boy, we’ve got a lot. We’ve got Captain Kirk, now retired and the guest of honor at the launch of the Enterprise B, commanded by Captain Harriman (Alan Ruck). And then we’ve got Captain Picard doing his thing on the Enterprise D 70 years in the future.
The Premise: A mysterious ribbon of energy is careening through space. It’s super weird.
The Enterprise B, on her maiden voyage, encounters the ribbon after answering a distress call (because they were the only ship in range, of course) and Kirk is “killed.”
The Enterprise D is investigating an attack on a stellar observatory when the star suddenly goes nova. The only one who seems to know anything is the El-Aurian Dr. Tolian Soran (Malcolm McDowell), who, it turns out, was one of the people rescued by the Enterprise B during her first voyage. *stirring slows as the plot thickens*
It turns out Soran is trying to get to the ribbon, which is the doorway to a weird ethereal realm called the Nexus, a place where the first captain of the Enterprise is now trapped.
It’s up to Picard (and later Kirk) to stop Soran before he destroys entire worlds in his fanatical attempt to enter the Nexus.
Oh, and Data gets his emotion chip up and running! Dr. Soong was going to give Data the chip in the TNG episode “Brothers,” but Lore stole it (cuz he’s mean). Data got it back in “Descent Part 2” after Lore was destroyed, but the chip was damaged. Data had clearly been working on repairing it over the years, and after a mishap with Worf and Dr. Crusher, he decides to install it, beginning one of the most inconsistent subplots in the TNG films. At the end of this film, Data says the chip cannot be removed. But in the next movie, he can deactivate it. In the movie after that, he can remove it at will. In the movie after that, it’s gone completely (if you count the novels as canon).
The Best Moments: I really like Captain Harriman as a character. He’s very different type of captain, one whose confidence is practically obliterated during his first mission. He’s timid, inexperienced, and at the very beginning of his first command, but unlike Captain Picard, he hasn’t yet found himself. I always wanted to see how the voyages of the Enterprise B played out with Harriman developing from Terrified Commanding Officer to Captain of the Enterprise.
I also love the moment when Harriman puts Kirk in charge of the bridge and Kirk accepts, taking the chair with all the authority of an experienced commander, but then changes his mind and gives the captain’s chair back to Harriman. Now, granted, it’s cuz Kirk wants to be all action-y and hero-y, but still, as someone who stole or took the command of the Enterprise on three occasions, it shows some lovely growth on his part.
Data + Emotion Chip = Much Hilarity, chiefly his “Life Forms” song. But there’s also the fantastic moment between Data and Picard in the stellar cartography lab where JLP helps Data deal with his emotions. It’s fantastically acted and, though a bit melodramatic, really shows off how well Brent Spiner and Patrick Stewart play off one another.
When Picard has his moment of emotional frailty when talking to Troi about the death of his brother and nephew. It’s a key moment in Picard’s arc and helps to set him apart from Kirk who faced mortality by trying to escape from it. Picard is faced with the mortality of his family’s heritage which bothers him much more than his own personal mortality. I always liked that nuance of his character.
That got heavy…so I’ll also say that I’m rather fond of the “Human females are so repulsive” scene. No idea why. It just amuses me. Lursa and B’Etor are fun, but I feel like the script gives them a raw deal. These aren’t just cackling villains. They’re political geniuses who helped orchestrate a Klingon civil war and used shrewd manipulation to further their own house after their brother was killed. I wish they’d been given more to do.
Oh yes, and Data’s “Oh shit” moment followed by the crazy awesome “Holy crap the Enterprise half exploded and half crashed” sequence!
Also, Data finding Spot in the wreckage of the Enterprise and breaking down reduces me to a sobbing mess every time. It’s just such a beautiful moment.
My favorite moments are primarily dramatic, emotionally heavy scenes, and that’s one of the reasons why I think fans didn’t wholly embrace this one. It has a theatrical quality that, in pieces, is very engaging and dramatic, but as a whole can be a bit much. I like the deep character moments, but I wish there was more fun adventure like Star Trek VI had.
Why It’s Awesome: The Enterprise looks great in wide-screen, but I wish the effects budget had been bigger. The Enterprise B and the crashing of the Enterprise D saucer section seems to have hogged all the budget because we don’t get a lot of really good “Enterprise D being graceful in space” shots. Plus ILM didn’t do the effects, which sucks. There are a lot of reused stock footage of the Enterprise in space. They even reuse shots from Star Trek VI to show the Bird of Prey blowing up, which is good for saving money, but not great for fans who want to see STAR TREK ON THE BIG SCREEN the way they did with the big Kirk era films.
But I’ll get over it because Trek has always been about people and ideas, not effects.
Soran is a potentially great villain, but I wish he was explored more. McDowell is a phenomenal actor and he really does the intense mad scientist thing really well. He’s just given a lot of cliche villain lines that weaken his impact as a truly memorable villain. His motivations are just, “I want the thing” which is blah. I mean, this is the dude from Clockwork Orange, for crying out loud. He can handle advanced, nuanced writing. Seriously.
The Nexus is an interesting concept, but it’s given no explanation. Is the ribbon natural or artificial? Where is the Nexus and what is its purpose? I just don’t buy the “It’s a naturally occurring strip of pure destructive love that blows up ships and lets you live your greatest fantasies just because” explanation Guinan gives us. Also, if it’s so perfectly alluring, how is Picard able to go, “Eh, I’m not feeling it. Can I go?” after being in it for five minutes? Is the script insinuating that JLP is boring and humorless and so immune to joy? Because I’m not having any of that nonsense. Picard rocks. End of story.
I wish they’d been brave enough to say it was created by the Bajoran Prophets (who exist outside of linear time) as a means of giving hopeless people a way to rediscover joy, but that would have required waaaay too much exposition and would have slowed down the pacing of a TNG movie with lots of DS9 mythology. It wouldn’t have worked, but that’s my headcanon, if you were curious.
I am supposed to be talking about why it’s awesome, aren’t I?
The truth is, it’s filled with awesome moments that I really love, but they don’t form a terribly satisfying whole. This movie has grown on me over the years, and I do enjoy it, but I think it could have been better. I know the TNG writers have said that they put all their effort into the TNG finale (which was spectacular) and by the time they got to this one, which began filming ten days after filming ended on the show, everyone was pretty worn out.
One moment that I wish was better was Kirk’s death (ZOMG 22 YEAR OLD SPOILER!!). Kirk is the captain who got this whole franchise going and his death doesn’t have much punch. I suppose we got a good “death” scene in the beginning on the Enterprise B, but still. It seems like a missed opportunity. When Data finding his cat is more emotional than Freaking James T. Kirk dying, you know you messed up somewhere.
But I am glad that Spot survived.
Ahem, it’s an entertaining flick with lots of Trek fan service. Watch it, enjoy it, and treat it as an extended episode, and then prepare yourself for the awesomeness that is to come. Next week, we’ll be looking at my favorite of the TNG films, First Contact!