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With: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner,
Written by: Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga, from a story by
Directed by: David Carson
MPAA Rating: PG for sci-fi action and some mild language
Running Time: 117
Date: 17/11/1994

Star Trek: Generations (1994)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Firing Kirk

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

If you ever find yourself in an argument with a Trekkie, you can end it with three words: "Data's emotion chip." Data's emotion chip to "Star Trek" fans is the equivalent to Jar Jar Binks for Star Wars fans. The seventh "Star Trek" feature film, Star Trek: Generations (1994), is the one with Data's emotion chip. That's only a subplot, though; the real purpose of this film was to say goodbye to the original crew and hello to the crew of "The Next Generation" which would take over the movie franchise. It's kind of a monumental task, and the film more or less botches it.

I, for one, have always loved the original series much more than any of the successors. I concur that the acting is far superior on the new shows, and perhaps most of the writing as well (certainly the special effects are better). But the original crew had a strangely perfect chemistry and a weird warmth. Subsequent crews have been stiff and humorless (only the "Voyager" crew has shown any fire).

Both crews get short-shifted here. Of the original, only Chekhov (Walter Koenig), Scotty (James Doohan) and Kirk (William Shatner) are on board. They arrive as honorary guests on the re-launch of a new Enterprise, under the leadership of a new captain (Alan Ruck). The ship encounters a weird outer space phenomenon, there's an explosion, and Captain Kirk is dead.

In the future, the new Enterprise crew runs things. They're led by Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his faithful underlings: Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Data (Brent Spiner), Geordi La Forge (Levar Burton), Worf (Michael Dorn), Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) and Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis). Their latest mission is to catch an ageless madman (Malcolm McDowell) who is blowing up entire planets to divert an energy field toward himself. Whoopi Golderg turns up in a supporting role as Guinan to explain: inside the energy field is "The Nexus," a perfect world that no one wants to leave.

Of course, Kirk and Picard team up to defeat the bad guy, but it's a long and tired set-up for very little payoff. Strangely, though Stewart is by far the better actor, Shatner is more at home with this bloated material and comes across with more personality.

McDowell is also at home, savoring his bad guy role with relish. It almost makes one wish that this had been a regular movie with just the original crew instead of an awkward crossover. Yet the previous entry, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was so good that it would be a shame to nullify that bang and go out with this whimper.

Then we have that damn emotion chip, which gives Brent Spiner free license to overact his heart out. He laughs; he cries; he behaves like an idiot.

Most of the other entries were directed by cast members, or experienced filmmakers like Robert Wise or Nicholas Meyer. This one was directed by David Carson, who is mostly a television director, working on good shows ("Northern Exposure," "Karen Sisco") and bad ("Beverly Hills, 90210") with no distinguishing features. He has no style, and his skill is questionable at best. Star Trek: Generations has its moments, but not enough of them. I'd only seen it once, ten years ago, in the theater before I watched it a second time on this new DVD. Now I know why.

DVD Details: This is the seventh in Paramount Home Video's re-issues of the Star Trek movies, each in superb two-disc sets with plenty of extras. Director Carson doesn't show up on the commentary tracks, but screenwriters Brannon Braga and Ron Moore do. We also have a text commentary by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda and four audio options: Dolby Surround, Dolby 5.1 Surround, DTS and French dubbed. Disc two comes with many, many featurettes, under the headings of "The Star Trek Universe," "Production," "Visual Effects," "Scene Deconstruction," "Deleted Scenes" and "Archives."

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