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Stardate 2013 - Generations (1994)

The Next Gen crew make their big-screen debut.

Directed by: Rick Berman
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Malcolm McDowell, William Shatner, Brent Spiner, Levar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Alan Ruck

In 2293, the newly built USS Enterprise B is undertaking its maiden voyage with Kirk (Shatner), Scott (Doohan) and Chekhov (Koenig) aboard for the ride. The initial celebrations are interrupted when a distress signal is received from two refugee ships caught in a lethal energy ribbon. Taking Kirk's advice, the Enterprise crew beam aboard the passengers of one ship, but are unable to save the second. The Enterprise itself becomes caught in the ribbon, and Kirk is presumably killed while freeing the ship by altering the deflector shields. 78 years later, the USS Enterprise D receives a similar distress call.
By the time of 'The Undiscovered Country', the original Trek cast had become one of pop culture's biggest jokes, their advanced ages fueling many a chat show host's opening monologue. The decision was made to put them to pasture and pass the baton to the 'Next Generation'. Originally it had been intended for Kirk, Spock and McCoy to make a final appearance but Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley were uninterested in making a return. Instead, the script was rewritten for Chekhov and Scott. If Kelley and Nimoy had read said script, it's hard to criticize their decision. Chekhov and Scott are given short shrift and Kirk, though having a decent amount of screen time, departs the franchise in something of an undignified manner. His "death" is particularly underwhelming, though it does tie in with his 'Final Frontier' prophecy of dying alone. When he returns later in the film, courtesy of a plot device known as "The Nexus", he's become a rambling, somewhat senile old man. Hardly a fitting end for one of cinema and TV's most legendary figures.
'Generations' is the first Trek film to resemble a TV series two-parter. Director Carson had never worked outside TV and this is all too evident in this film's lack of scale, particularly noticeable as it follows Nicholas Meyer's great work on the previous film. It's telling that Carson would never helm a theatrical feature after this one, returning immediately to the world of episodic TV. The Next-Gen cast themselves simply aren't suited to big-screen adventures, with only Stewart possessing any real gravitas among the bunch. While Frakes, Spiner et al are perfectly fine on the small screen, they lack the charisma of Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley. This would become even more evident in later films.
The most irritating aspect of this film is the treatment of Data (Spiner), transformed into a comic figure through a cheesy  and groan-inducing subplot involving an emotion chip. The movie descends into the sort of cheap comedy the TV show wisely, and thankfully, avoided. There's a touch of the Jar-Jar about all this, as though the producers wanted to capture the kiddie market. As a result, a character who was at times fascinating on TV becomes merely an annoyance here. Aside from Picard, Data gets the most screen time, as does Geordi La Forge (Burton), ironic given he was the character most neglected on the small screen. Worf (Dorn), Riker (Frakes), Crusher (McFadden) and Troi (Sirtis) are barely represented.
Most of the film is crushingly dull but things do pick up somewhat for the conclusion, which sees Shatner, Stewart and McDowell face off in a clash of, (wildly different in style), acting greats. For the most part, 'Generations' is a disappointing farewell to Kirk and an uninspiring big-screen debut for the Next-Gen crew.

Eric Hillis