Star Trek: Generations: Special Collector’s Edition
April 20, 2005
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Levar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Malcolm McDowell, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, William Shatner, ,
Touted as the legendary meeting of Captain Kirk (Shatner) from the classic Trek and Captain Picard (Stewart) from The Next Generation, Star Trek: Generations (1994) was seen as a symbolic passing of the torch from one franchise to the other. However, could this film break the unofficial curse of odd numbered Trek films that suck? Happily, Generations is a pretty decent movie that has aged surprisingly well. Paramount released a bare bones version on DVD awhile ago and is now revisiting the entire franchise with souped-up special editions.
Kirk, Scotty (Doohan) and Chekov (Koenig) are inspecting the new Enterprise. It’s a nostalgic trip down memory lane for the three men and in particular, Kirk who isn’t too keen on retirement. They accompany the new crew on its maiden voyage—a quick trip around our solar system. Of course, it’s never that easy and they intercept a distress call from a spaceship being battered by some unusual distortion in the space-time continuum. Kirk saves the Enterprise from being crushed by the distortion but goes missing and is presumed dead.
Flash-forward 78 years later and the latest crew of the Enterprise, led by Captain Jean-Luc Picard, investigate a space observatory in trouble. Commander Riker (Frakes) and his team beam aboard to find most of the crew dead. Among the survivors is Dr. Soran (McDowell) who turns out to be an evil scientist that has caused a nearby star to implode with the Enterprise in its path. To add insult to injury, he kidnaps Geordi (Burton) with the help of a rogue faction of Klingons. Soran wants to get back to the Nexus, a time and place where one feels completely at peace and content. It’s a place where time does not exist and has no meaning. Picard figures this out and pursues Soran all the way into the Nexus where he meets Kirk. Together, they try to stop the madman and save the Enterprise from destruction.
One of the few problems I have with Generations is the emotion chip that is implanted in Data (Spiner). What makes Data work so well in The Next Generations series is that he is a contemporary reworking of Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy). Data’s strength is his cold objectivity. This all changes in Generations once he installs the emotion chip. Data becomes the film’s comic relief as he tries alcohol for the first time, becomes a laughing idiot in another scene and even utters a curse word! I understand that the writers and Brent Spiner probably wanted to try something different with Data but the show already tried the emotion route with his evil twin brother, Lor, much more successfully.
However, there is a lot of fun to be had watching veteran actors like Malcolm McDowell and Patrick Stewart face off against each other. But the real treat is watching Stewart and William Shatner share the same screen. It is a classic meeting between the two most popular starship captains in Star Trek history. The script gives them a meaty theme to deal with: both men must confront and deal with regrets from their pasts if they are to save the future.
Throw in a rousing (and obligatory) spacecraft battle and the Enterprise crash landing on a planet (easily the most exciting sequence in the movie) and you have the makings for a fitting conclusion for the classic Trek and a nice, first cinematic outing for The Next Generation crew.
The first disc features an audio commentary by screenwriters Brannon Braga and Ron Moore. They talk about how they got the job and the rigid criteria they had to adhere to when writing the script (i.e. they had to invent a way to bridge the two generations, include a big-time bad guy and Klingons). The two men mention early drafts of the script and how the entire original cast was supposed to be in Generations. This is a decent track with lots of good anecdotes and observations.
A fitting companion to the audio commentary is a text commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda. Factoids appear with decent frequency and are interesting to even the casual Trek fan.
The second disc contains the bulk of the extras. “Scene Deconstruction” examines the special effects of the opening credit sequence by Dan Curry, the Nexus Ribbon by Alex Seiden from ILM and how the saucer crash sequence was achieved.
“Visual Effects” takes us inside ILM and looks at the models and miniatures that were created for the movie. Interestingly, this was the last Trek movie to use models. The Enterprise crash is examined in more detail with actual on-location footage of the model on an outdoor set.
“The Star Trek Universe” features a nice tribute Matt Jefferies who designed the original Enterprise. The history of the ship is also examined, including how it got its name and the actual historical sea vessels that inspired it. There is a fascinating look at the incredibly detailed Picard family album that appears in the movie. Finally, there is a look at the various weapons used in the Star Trek universe.
“Archives” includes a gallery of production photos and also storyboards for three scenes.
“Production” features a decent 25-minute featurette on the making of Generations. Shatner talks about how weird it was being a guest on the movie instead of one of the stars. The cast talk about the perks of working on a big-budget movie and how they didn’t feel as rushed as when working on the show. There is also a nice look at how they created the beautiful Stellar Cartography room and the location where they shot the climatic showdown between Kirk and Picard and Soran.
Finally, there are four deleted scenes that can be viewed separately or altogether. These are interesting to see but it is obvious why they were cut.
The Next Generation crew makes a successful jump from the confines of TV to the widescreen, epic grandeur of the cinema with this movie. Paramount has loaded this new special edition 2-DVD set with a decent collection of mostly technically-oriented extras that should keep Trek fans busy for hours.