Star Trek 285: Generations

285. Generations

FORMULA: Where No One Has Gone Before + Firstborn + Descent - Family + The Wrath of Khan

WHY WE LIKE IT: Saucer section's "soft" landing. Stellar cartography.

WHY WE DON'T: It just tries to do too much.

REVIEW: It's the other series finale, really. Where All Good Things went for a one-shot story that paid tribute to everything that was cool about TNG, Generations goes the other route - having a number of storylines and ideas finally pay off. And you know why it doesn't work? There's just too much. Look at the classic movies. The best of them usually center around one big event: the death of Spock, the destruction of the Enterprise, knocking Kirk down back to captain, or bringing the Klingons in line with TNG's politics. In Generations, we have to deal with the death of Kirk (twice), Data's emotion chip, and the destruction of the Enterprise-D. Throw in two more Enterprises, some more convolutions for Guinan's timeline, Worf's promotion, the death of the Sisters Duras and Picard's family, and you're well on your way to a continuity death trap from which the non-Trekkie cannot escape.

But even for the Trekkie (I'm sorry, I can't bring myself to say "Trekker"), Generations is a failure because it doesn't use continuity ENOUGH. Despite all the continuity porn, the big meeting between the two generations' captains in the Nexus doesn't ring true at all. The Nexus is supposed to give you your heart's desire. So why aren't these men of action on the bridges of their ships, Kirk especially? No, both are dreaming of settling down and having families. Picard's Victorian Christmas can be explained by his actual family having just died in a fire, and has been brewing since The Inner Light, but it's still extremely sappy and gutted by our not recognizing the wife (unless she's really supposed to be Janet Brooks from The Loss). Look at Minuet in Future Imperfect to see how it's really done. As for Kirk, who is this Antonia we know nothing about? If we're never going to see her from up close anyway, why not make it someone we'd know? Like Carol Marcus, or a name from the original series? Non-Trekkies wouldn't recognize the name, but now neither do we, and it's hard to muster any enthusiasm for either fantasy.

Other stuff I find annoying (we'll get to the good stuff in a bit): The Enterprise-D set wasn't meant for the stark yellow lighting they give it, it's just jarring. The haphazard mix of TNG and DS9 uniforms makes no sense. Harriman, captain of the Enterprise-B, is a right moron; in an effort to make Kirk bigger than life, they've done the wrong thing and made everyone around him ineffectual. Data was no doubt supposed to be the comic relief, but his emotion chip troubles are more irritating than endearing, and it's sad to see him reduced to spouting expletives as the ship crashes down. Speaking of crashing ships, was Troi really the only person who could take the helm during this scene? Really? At least she gets something to do, which is less than what I can say about Beverly. Picard's choice of exit from the Nexus, cutting it way too close when you thought he'd learned something from Q's paradox lessons. The re-use of Chang's ship blowing up from The Undiscovered Country. Picard's family pictured as totally different actors. Worf's promotion played as a tradition, but never seen before (and we've seen Troi get a pip). The spinning champagne bottle at the beginning of the film might've been a Chateau-Picard, but no, missed opportunity. And Picard carelessly discarding a priceless Kurlan Naiskos (from The Chase) in favor of a scrapbook invented for the movie. See? At once plugging in continuity and then disrespecting it.

And a few words on the score, if you'll indulge me. For seven years, TNG wasn't able to get a theme of its own, saddled instead with the over-enthusiastic music from The Motion Picture. It returns here, as do shades of Alexander Courage's original Star Trek tune, and that's expected. What about new music written for Generations though? Well, you tell me if I'm wrong, but isn't it the Deep Space 9 theme with a different flourish at the very end? My God, those are similar. We also hear a lot of ethereal Nexus music, which doesn't do a thing for me.

But I don't want to make it sound like it's a total wash. The acting is usually quite good, for example. Patrick Stewart does an incredible job shutting down after the news of his family's death, and he has great scenes with both Troi and Data (in Stellar Cartography, which looks, well, stellar). Scotty and Chekov could have been any characters from the original crew for all the characterization given them (indeed, it was supposed to be Spock and McCoy, which explains Pavel's recruitment of nurses), but only Scotty could utter that forlorn "aye" when Chekov asks if anyone was in the destroyed section. Kirk's first death is, in fact, a lot more touching than his second. I grant that his last words are good, and the final spinning through the air pretty dramatic, but it seems like there are just too many rickety ladders whenever he's scripted to die.

Malcolm MacDowell's Soren is well-played as well, and often underappreciated because he has no connection to what has gone before (à la Khan, Klingons, etc.). He's got some good dialogue, the right intensity, and surprising combat abilities. He doesn't really feel like an El-Aurian if you take Guinan as "typical", but he's a loon, so that's fine. On the subject of our favorite bartender, the whole Nexus thing may explain why she can sense disruptions in history (as in Yesterday's Enterprise, also directed by David Carson). Perhaps she's connected to the echo of herself in the Nexus, outside of time. Of course, that's never explained.

Other good stuff: Veridian III look suitably alien, great location work there. Sulu comes up aces, and his daughter would have made a great recurring character I'm sure. The saucer separation and landing looks cool, and was something prefigured in the Tech Manual.Which leaves the Captain's yacht as the only cool feature from that book never to see the light of day (but wait until Insurrection). For Bozeman fans, it makes a correction change along with the Nexus, and it may be the small Reliant-class at the end that helps pick up the Enterprise survivors.

LESSON: Time is a bunch of stuff.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: TNG makes a the transition over to film with great difficulty and gets stuck in the quicksand of its own continuity. There are still some very good bits, but what worked on television (like the uniforms and sets) doesn't quite cut it on the big screen. It's sad to see the Enterprise-D destroyed, but it's a necessary step towards a true cinematic vision of TNG.


Matthew Turnage said...

I agree that Malcolm McDowell gives a great performance. I particularly love how he delivers the line "They say time is the fire in which we burn" to Patrick Stewart, who's reaction is equally well-done.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that the Enterprise was destroyed twice during the movie! I remember mostly because the first time, the screen faded to black, and I turned to my friend and asked, "well, now what are we supposed to watch?"

And then for that and a lot of reasons you mentioned, it was pretty hard to take the movie seriously from there. The movie might have been better served with a longer Kirk-side prologue where he works with (or usurps authority from) Harriman for a little bit. At least then Data's reunion with Spot might've gotten left on the editing room floor. Ugh!

De said...

Believe it or not, one of my favorite parts was the evacuation scene. It actually looked like people had purpose (which they did lest they be blowed up real good) unlike the strolling through corridors in "Encounter at Farpoint".

Anonymous said...

And if nothing else, you have Rifftrax to get another viewing out of it.

Anonymous said...

My least favorite Trek film, by far. There are definitely some good moments, like the acting during the Stellar Cartography scene, but for the most part it just makes me cringe.

Note to Data: It WAS funny when you pushed Beverly into the water. You DO get humor. I do not know why Geordi played you like that.


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