Warp Factor Trek

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With Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s series finale “All Good Things…” having carried with it the promise of forthcoming silver-screen action for TNG’s main cast, a lot of my friends were of the mentality of thought that went, “Boy, the original crew looked great in the movies! Imagine how cool the Next Generation movie will be!!” I, meanwhile, spent a lot of time contemplating the death of Captain James T. Kirk, having expected it for a long time before seeing the film.

For me, Star Trek Generations wound up being the feel-good film of 1994. While not generally regarded as a great Star Trek film, it was the right story for that point in my life and provided some welcome relief. The film premiered shortly after I was, due to a heart murmur, permanently disqualified from not only the Air Force (which I’d been eager to enlist in, and which I considered the closest real-life equivalent to being in Starfleet), but also any branch of military service, as well as about one month after the end of a bad relationship I’d been in. Lacking any life or career focus, the transition of our Next Generation heroes from the small screen to the big one was about the only thing I really had to look forward to.

Kirk and Picard go horse-riding together (CBS-Paramount)

As it turned out, anyone hoping Generations would be a sight to behold was probably in for a disappointment, as the meeting of Kirk and Picard somehow felt like it could have been done just as well, if not better, as an episode of the TNG TV show.

That being said, this story still works pretty well for me. Why? Because, for all the familiar elements that were already capitalized on so well on television, this is still The Next Generation I had loved all through my teen years. I was actually grateful they didn’t change too much because I thought they were already nearly perfect just the way they were on TV.

The wreckage of the Enterprise-D (CBS-Paramount)

Indeed, I was extremely upset by the destruction of the USS Enterprise-D, the studio model of which had a more spectacular paint job than it had in the associated TV series (additional stations on the bridge helped it feel even bigger). The TNG Enterprise never looked lovelier, and yet they decided to destroy her in her debut film! I felt this was wrong, feeling as though the house we had been living in for the past seven years had burned down. This loss coming right on the heels of the news of the deaths of Picard’s brother and nephew seemed to me like it would be too much for him to recover from, especially after a wonderful scene where Picard breaks down over the loss of his nephew, whom he loved like a son. But this, coupled with Picard’s recent realization of his mortality, helped to drive home what this film was really all about: how well we deal with loss.

Another theme in the film, about accepting risk, is a message that does need to be reinforced, even though it isn’t the first time Kirk told us that risk is what life is all about. In a lot of ways, his death, for me, was indicative of how my life up to that point had “died” and how I needed to move on. It was, however, far less upsetting to me than the Enterprise-D’s destruction, and the manner in which he met his fate (i.e., bridge on the captain) didn’t really matter to me. Not only did his death feel relevant and even heroic but also, barring the presence of his new friend, Picard, he did indeed die very much alone (as he himself had prophesized in The Final Frontier) in a world he was unfamiliar with but that we the audience knew pretty well and would have loved to see him continue to thrive in. I was grateful his death was not cheapened by a resurrection (at least not canonically).

His body crushed under a fallen metal bridge, Kirk dies (CBS-Paramount)

So, with all of this, the destruction of a ship that meant a lot to me, and the death of beloved characters, why do I consider this to be a feel-good film? Because it brings me comfort to know that my heroes struggle emotionally just as I do; that helps me realize I’m not the only one in the world with broken dreams. That said, Riker’s comments about how he plans to live forever are kind of silly.

Rating: 3.5/5

It may not be spectacular, but Star Trek Generations does still have a way of making me feel good about my mortality. If it falls a little flat for a big-screen adventure, I can still think of far worse ways to spend two hours in front of a screen.

1 thought on “Star Trek Generations review

  1. Nice retro-review, Douglas! I appreciate your sharing how the film connected and connects with you personally. I found the 1701-D’s destruction quite exciting on the big screen myself, but I take your point and it’s a good one. Recently rewatching the movie, I think I resonated the most with Data’s arc, of having to learn to live with emotions, even (maybe especially) the unpleasant ones.

    Great article!

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