DVD
Star Trek: Generations
Special Edition

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Malcolm McDowell and William Shatner
Paramount
RRP 24.99
PHE8416
Certificate: PG
Available 20 December 2004


Seventy-eight years after the legendary Captain Kirk is lost during the
Enterprise B's encounter with a strange energy ribbon called the Nexus, the same space-time phenomenon causes problems for another Starship Enterprise. Captain Picard of the Enterprise D must prevent an amoral scientist, Dr Soren, from wiping out millions of sentient beings in his quest to enter the Nexus...

"Time is the fire in which we burn," proclaims Malcolm McDowell as Dr Soren. Here's another time-related musing: every time I watch this film, my opinion of it swings like a pendulum.

When I first saw Generations at the cinema, I was disappointed. The trailer had been cut together in such a way as to suggest that Kirk (William Shatner) would meet the whole of the 24th-century crew, and consequently I felt let down when he only encountered Picard (Patrick Stewart).

Following the destruction of the original Enterprise in Star Trek III and the decommissioning of its successor in Star Trek VI, nor was I too pleased to see another starship being written off, even though the special effects were (and still are) truly awesome. Having said that, the space battle with the Klingon sisters Lursa and B'Etor (Barbara March and Gwynyth Walsh) seemed to be over as soon as it had begun.

Worse of all, the activation of Data's (Brent Spiner) emotion chip, and all the overacting that entailed, was a big mistake.

Later, when I watched the film on VHS, my expectations had been lowered, so I was able to enjoy the good bits for what they were, rather than getting too irritated by what the movie wasn't. Now that I knew Kirk wasn't going to reappear until near the end of the film, I was able to get on with enjoying the scenes with the Next Generation crew... barring that dratted emotion chip and the unfunny "dunking in the ocean" scene, naturally. This, I felt, was a visually exciting movie, with lots of great set pieces: the christening and subsequent devastation of the Enterprise B; the impressive Stellar Cartography room; and, of course, the crash-landing.

Seeing the movie again on double-disc DVD, I find its visual impact is all the more appealing. However, some old bugbears have reared their ugly heads again.

Why couldn't better use have been made of Kirk? I realise there were probably concerns that Shatner might overshadow the new cast (well, new to the movies anyway). But if he had reappeared earlier on in the story, he could actually have been a device for introducing the Enterprise D crew to uninitiated members of the audience, since the 24th-century setting would be just as new to him. A golden opportunity was missed by not having Kirk meet Worf (Michael Dorn) - how would he have reacted to the presence of a Klingon in Starfleet? Surely that would have been preferable to the potentially confusing (and unfunny - Geordi is right when he says, "Not funny!") holodeck scene that brings us into the 24th century.

Not only does Data's emotion chip lead to some truly embarrassing overacting by Brent Spiner, it also reveals a major double standard in Picard. When Data's emotions get the better of him, the captain refuses to relieve him of duty, declaring that the android must learn to live with his feelings whilst continuing to perform his job. This from the man who, earlier on in the film, abandoned his own duties to wallow in grief over the death of his family.

Perhaps Picard's sombre mood explains why no one dares to switch any lights on aboard the Enterprise D! The constant near-darkness may be atmospheric, but it is also very distracting. I just keep wondering how the crew can work in such conditions. Maybe the former television set couldn't stand up to scrutiny on the big screen, and the low lighting helped to obscure the fact.

I have now come to terms with the premature destruction of this starship, and I accept that it is a great excuse for some jaw-dropping special effects. It also lends extra drama to the subsequent film, First Contact, because when the captain plans to destroy the Enterprise E, it seems only too likely, given the movie series' track record, that he will go through with it!

Disc 2 contains more than two and a half hours of special features, uncovering many of the secrets behind the making of the movie, including the saucer crash sequence and the Stellar Cartography set. There's also a tribute to Matt Jeffries, the legendary set designer for the original series - but surely this extra would have been more at home in one of the TOS box sets?

There are a few deleted scenes as well, including the original showdown between Kirk and Soren, though these clips are of disappointingly poor quality. How come there is surviving footage of the making of these deleted scenes, yet all that remains of the scenes themselves are what appear to be multi-generation video recordings? In fairness to the director and producers, though, they were absolutely right to remove these scenes - Kirk's pre-credit skydive, more from the holodeck (did I mention this scene isn't funny?) - and to re-shoot the ending.

But where is the scene that was obviously cut from the middle of the movie, in which La Forge (LeVar Burton) is tortured by Soren? Afterwards, Dr Crusher (Gates McFadden) informs the engineer that she has "removed the nanoprobes". What nanoprobes? Presumably they were used by Soren to extract information.

I have whinged, but despite its flaws Star Trek: Generations remains a very enjoyable film. Though not of the same standard as the subsequent First Contact, it has a slight edge over Insurrection - and it wipes the floor with Nemesis.

Richard McGinlay

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