Sooner or later it was inevitable that the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation would finally get their long awaited upgrade to step over from the small screen; however, there was a pertinent question you had to ask: would the crew of Picard and pals prove to be as cinematic as Kirk and co.?
After all, the best movies featuring the original crew had James T. Kirk engaging in running space battles, multible punch ups with various aliens and blatant violations of virtually every Starfleet law there is; in comparison, TNG was set somewhat in a more reasonable time, with the stoic baldness of Jean-Luc Picard being more than willing to uphold the rules and talk out any problems rather than instantly unleash a fusilade of photon torpedoes and then sweet talk some green chick into the sack. Simply put, could these intergalactic boy scouts bring the boom if necessary?
Continuing to tug on his tunic with mild anxiety at his advancing years, Captain James Kirk gets yet another shot at dodging retirement during a publicity visit for the newly launched Enterprise-B when its fledgling crew stumbles into a rescue mission involving two ships caught in the field of a massive energy ribbon. While lives are saved, Kirk’s is apparently lost when a random bolt tears the Enterprise a new screen door, but the dismayed reaction of one of the survivors has to being rescued – an El-Aurian scientist called Soran – shows that things may not be over.
Just under a century later and we find Captain Jean-Luc Picard in a morose mood after receiving word that his brother’s family have been killed in a fire which has essentially left him the only one left to carry on his family line – something that’s not easy to achieve when your to-do list involves pacifying Romulans and fighting Borg – but has to put his brooding on hold when Soren resurfaces again, still obsessed with that bloody energy ribbon thing.
However, the ribbon is a doorway to a place called the Nexus, an interdimentional realm outside of time and space where time doesn’t exist and you experience nothing but pure joy (sounds like day drinking to me…) and Soren, still mourning the death of his family after all this time, wants to enter it as a way of nulifying his grief. Teaming with a rogue band of Klingons, Soren plans to redirect the ribbon to stage a planet where he can enter the Nexus safely at the cost of an entire solar system and the crew of the Enterprise find themselves caught in the middle with little hope of a happy ending.
But there may yet be help at hand as salvation lurks within the Nexus itself; salvation who calls himself James T. Kirk.
Essentially made to plug the gap of TNG’s cancellation while simultaneously handing the baton over to the “new” crew, Generations should have been a Trekker’s wet dream of galactic proportions, but instead what we got was a surprisingly bland movie that felt more like an extended TV episode than the lavish, sci-fi extravaganza such a concept deserved.
Maybe it’s the studio’s fault, maybe their notorious penny pinching concerning the franchise finally caught up with them; maybe TNG veteran David Carson wasn’t quite the right choice to make the jump to the big screen, but despite its generation jumping plot, the seventh Star Trek movie feels underwhelmingly small.
Saddled with a pace that’s occasionally so laborious, it would make Data in danger of dozing off and dreaming of electric sheep, the movie seems chiefly stuck in minimum warp, unable to resist the gravitational pull of its TV trappings. Despite its location work, most of the scenes located on the bridge of either of the two featured Enterprises feel overwhelmingly like the sets they obviously are and even when the movie takes the time to go “big”, not even ILM’s visuals can shake the weird feeling of claustrophobia.
Also suffering from the lack of “bigness” is the new crew. Oh sure, Patrick Stewart gets to lament the death of Piccard’s family line while Brent Spiner’s fan favorite Data gets to fuck around with a newly installed emotion chip; but other than that, the rest of the cast are as poorly served as a shy person at a crowed bar. Riker, Troi, Worf, La Forge and Dr. Crusher all might as well be cameos and even an early jaunt on the holodeck isn’t enough to give the gang even a fraction of the camaraderie that their predecessors brought to their feature film antics.
Thankfully salvation is at hand in the form of dependable old ham William Shatner, who allegedly did not want Kirk head into that final frontier, is still game to suck in that paunch and dive into the breach even though the film keeps his final stand annoyingly low key. Still, brawling with an alien on a distant, rocky planet is probably the way he wanted to go – so there’s that…
However, the script seems to insist on letting Picard play the straight man to Shatner’s scenery chewing, which is utterly baffling considering Patrick Stewart is more than capable of consuming entire sets with his Shakespearean baritone if let off the chain appropriately, which is something that can also be said about Malcolm McDowell’s villain. While Soran’s motives are actually fairly sympathetic (a dead family is entry level antagonist), McDowell metaphorically moustache twirls his way through the role, giving us neither a baddie we feel sorry for or an alien Alex the Droog which kind of leaves him floating in limbo just as much as the rest of the characters.
Still, despite the fact that the filmmaker’s haven’t quite cracked how to make the Next Generation’s insistence on having discussions about everything more cinematic, the movie has just enough intergalactic interest to stop it being a total cop out with the saucer section of the Enterprise crash landing and a scene stealing pair of distractingly busty Klingon sisters keeping things ticking along – and why exactly has it taken so long to cast the hulking jawline of Brian Thompson as a Klingon thug?
Hardly an auspicious start for this new crew then, but Shatner gives it the oomph needed to keep matters… engaging.