The wonderful thing about “Star Trek: The Next Generation” as a television show is that it didn’t seem to lean on a lot of fan gratification. The writers and producers of that show have the imagination and the confidence to put together a show with such a keen human touch that it doesn’t need to pander to us. It doesn’t need a lot of references to the original series. It is, I think, a show that stands very well on its own two legs.
I wish – oh how I wish – that I could say the same about Star Trek: Generations a movie that is clumsily and hap-haphazardly put-together in an effort to join Captain Jean Luc Picard and Captain James T. Kirk onscreen together. I don’t object to the joining of these two science fiction icons, but the story on which their meeting is mounted is nonsense. It doesn’t matter how you get there . . . just GET THERE!
Star Trek: Generations, opens with a scene that takes place in the 23rd century, and seems superfluous if you examine the rest of the plot as a whole. Three members of the old Enterprise crew, Kirk, Chekov and Scotty are on hand to witness the maiden voyage of the new Starship Enterprise (that’s Enterprise ‘B’, if you’re keeping track of such things). No sooner are they out of spacedock then a distress call informs them that two ships are in danger of being destroyed by something called a “Nexus Ribbon”, an energy anomaly that looks like a volcanic crack in space. The Ribbon threatens to rip the Enterprise to shreds, and Captain Kirk makes his way to the engine room to reprogram . . . something that will allow them to get away. The situation is diffused, but in the excitement, Captain Kirk turns up missing.
Shoot forward to the 24th century and we find the crew of the Next Generation (that’s Enterprise ‘D’, if you’re still keeping track of such things) facing the same problem. The “Nexus Ribbon” is about to destroy a heavily populated research space station. They are beamed aboard and, among them, is a crazy-eyed scientist named Soran (Malcom McDowell) who demands to be sent back. Captain Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) won’t hear of it. Some pep talk with the ship’s bartender Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) reveals that Soran is willing to destroy planets and moons in an effort to hitch a ride on this Nexus Ribbin. Inside it, she explains, is like being “inside joy”, a place where you can live out your wildest dreams, a place where time and space have no meaning. Uh-huh.
Here is where I have a logical question. Why is Soran obsessed with hitching a ride on the Nexus Ribbon to live out his fantasies when he lives in an age that provides the holodeck, a recreation room that can replicate pretty much anything you can imagine? Doesn’t it seem like a colossal waste to spend all that time causing stars to go supernova in order to hitch a ride to an anomaly that might have the potential to kill you when the technology to do the same thing already exists? The question plagued me all through the movie. On television, such questions are dealt with. Here it’s part of a plot that never got out of the outline phase.
I was also unhappy about the subplot involving the android Data (Brent Spiner) who is easily the most interesting and curious character on the show. Here he reveals his desire to have an “emotion chip” implanted in his head, to make him feel what human beings feel. Question: Why? Why with all this Soran business going on is he so worried about his emotion chip? When he gets it hooked in, he becomes insufferable, laughing out loud at inopportune moments and making inane jokes. Worse? The plot involving Data and his emotion chip are left unresolved.
Finally, I was plagued by questions about why it was necessary to have Captain Kirk in this movie to begin with (other than the obvious). Kirk reappears inside the Nexus Ribbon and has a conversation with Picard that is so innocuous and so wholly tilted toward the plot that any wonder what these two giants might talk about in the downtime is left for you imagine. The movie is no help.
Finally, when the two titans of Trek team up to take down Soran, it is on top of a rickety metal scaffolding where the battle comes down to the ancient formula of western fist fights. Here we have a series dedicated to reaching out into the galaxy and finding out what lies beyond and this movie whittles down to the oldest cliché in the book. Don’t Star Trek fans deserve better? Don’t they deserve something more than this for all their years of loyal service to this enterprise? This is a movie that feels like a very weak episode of the series. Where’s the grandeur? Where’s the wonder? Where’s the excitement? Dammit Jim! Where’s a script doctor when you need one!?