STAR TREK: GENERATIONS commits an almost unforgivable sin: It takes a historic teaming of Captain James T. Kirk from the original series and Captain Jean Luc Picard of the Next Generation series and makes it boring. It's like magically getting a chance to see Sandy Koufax pitch to Babe Ruth and then watching Ruth walk on four pitches. What makes it so frustrating is that William Shatner and Patrick Stewart, as the respective captains, have a great chemistry together, a chemistry that should have been supported by a better script.
Even more frustrating perhaps, especially for fans of The Next Generation series, the opening scenes featuring Shatner, James Doohan ("Scotty") and Walter Koenig ("Chekov") resonate more strongly than anything else in the film. It is the first Next Generation film, and three veterans steal the show in the first fifteen minutes in their own little mini-adventure that sets up the plot. Meanwhile, if you went to this film not knowing the characters of The Next Generation, you would walk thinking that Picard was a pretty cool customer, Data a really annoying comic relief character and who are the rest of these people? The show had just finished a remarkably successful seven-year run in which it re-established Star Trek as a viable and flexible sci-fi franchise that could continue for years with new sets of characters. But in this first film, a huge, sprawling, epic film, little time is found to give most of the characters anything interesting to do. They mostly sit around saying technical things or asking Captain Picard or Data if they are all right. Malcolm McDowell spices things up a little as the main villain, but he doesn't take his character to the level of Ricardo Montalban in THE WRATH OF KHAN or Christopher Plummer in . He makes for a merely serviceable villain, but that is all.
And, as usual in a sci-fi film that goes through major stretches of tedium, you may find yourself wondering about the science part. Could a missile shot up at a star from the surface of a planet really reach it in 11 seconds and destroy it in just about the same amount of time? Let's just assume that the star is roughly the same distance away from the planet as our own sun, which we'll round off to 90 million miles. For a missile to reach that star in 11 seconds, it would have to be traveling more than 8 million miles per second. Not gonna happen. Even if you shave off a few dozen million miles of distance, it ain't gonna happen. Even if you had a missile traveling at the speed of light, the star would still have to be only two million miles away for the missile to reach it in 11 seconds. And at two million miles away, the heat and radiation from the star would make the planet completely uninhabitable to humans, which means there would be no way Kirk, Picard and the space baddie would be having adventures on it. Yet it is this shoddy science upon which the whole film revolves.
Then there is the Nexus, the flying space ribbon McGuffin where time is meaningless, nothing is real and you can go to any time you like. You can also apparently leave at will. This convenient device, created to allow the meeting of two great Enterprise captains who existed 80 years apart in real time, sets up an endless array of plot holes and questionable decisions. Just to name one: to stop the space baddie, Picard decides to go back to one minute before said evil guy executes his evil plan. Why not go back long before that and give yourself some breathing room?
It's hard to talk about the ending without spoiling it so let me just say this: plenty of Trek fans were majorly peeved at how shabbily Captain Kirk was written out of the whole franchise. If you want to know more, just go to any Trek site that covers Generations in their discussion boards.
GENERATIONS was not a good start to the Next Generation series of films. Luckily, they would go on to create a superb one with FIRST CONTACT. ½ - JB