Captain Kirk or Captain Picard? It seems, even to this day, that this is the biggest question “Trekkies” ask one another. Do you prefer the good old-fashioned, roll-up-your-sleeves, gung-ho approach offered by Kirk, or the more disciplined, analytical, peaceable approach offered by Picard? One thing they have in common is they are both Captains of the Enterprise, albeit 80 years apart. And it’s there that their similarities end. But with two successful television shows set in the same universe (not including Deep Space Nine, which was in its 3rd season at this time), there would always be divisiveness between those that preferred the original and those that preferred the new guy. So why not put them in a movie together and see how they get along? It just makes sense.
Retired Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) is overseeing the launch of the new Enterprise-B when a mysterious energy ribbon is discovered tearing through the solar system and destroying everything in its path. Kirk goes down below to alter the deflector shields when the energy ribbon suddenly hits the ship, seemingly killing him in the blast. 78 years later, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his crew receive a distress call from a space station and learn that the same energy ribbon has returned and is on course to destroy a planet, all thanks to Soran (Malcolm McDowell), a man whose goal it is to get inside the ribbon to what’s known as “The Nexus”, a timeless dimension of non-stop bliss. On the first attempt to stop Soran, Picard fails and is pulled into the Nexus where he becomes lost in time. And there he meets the not-so-dead Captain James T. Kirk.
Any movie spun off from a TV series is often criticized as being “just a big-budget episode”, and nothing could be further from the truth for Generations. Character development is kept at a minimum, the Enterprise is exactly the same, the uniforms are the same (unless you’re an eagle-eyed Deep Space Nine fan), and the plot feels better suited to a two-part episode rather than a feature film. It doesn’t help that this movie began production while the final season was still being filmed, using the same sets and props, suggesting a very rushed production. Still, the Next Generation-style fun factor is definitely in place, an advantage to wasting no time between TV show and movie (a luxury the original Enterprise crew never had). And the humorous bits hit home, particularly those involving Data’s (Brent Spiner’s) emotion chip. You just might wish the crew had more to do than stand at their posts and speak dialogue we’ve heard them say a thousand times before.
Putting the two Captains in a movie together must have been many a fanboy’s dream come true. Unfortunately, the core plot of the film, stopping the “Nexus” from destroying a planet, is overshadowed by the obviousness that it’s all just an excuse to get the two Captains onscreen together. Not that their chemistry isn’t good. It is. Kirk and Picard couldn’t be more different as Captains and that’s what makes their partnership so intriguing. However, it’s short-lived and underwritten. I’m sure long-time fans would have preferred to see them together on the bridge of the Enterprise — any Enterprise — instead of riding horses in a field and jumping across scaffoldings in the desert. It feels like an obvious passing-of-the-torch, even if it’s 7 years (or 7 seasons) overdue. As a send-off for Kirk, Star Trek VI was far more appropriate. But it’s still fun to see him in action again.
After 7 seasons of The Next Generation, not to mention the six films prior, Star Trek: Generations had a lot to live up to, not the least of which was putting the legendary Captain Kirk with the now-legendary Captain Picard. It may feel like a big-budget episode, but it’s still worth a couple of hours. All the characters play their parts well, and the special effects were the best they’d been so far. If it didn’t feel so rushed, it could have been so much better. Still, two captains, one movie. For any Star Trek fan, it’s worth a viewing.
3 out of 5