As I have undoubtedly made clear in other reviews, I am a Star Wars fan. For whatever reason that our youthful selves conjure, I never got into Star Trek, an attitude that has stuck with me into adulthood. Still, I have good friends that enjoy the latter, and I would sometimes enter into discussions with them on the subject whenever the fancy struck. One of the ongoing debates among people who prefer the show that goes boldly where no man has gone before is who is the best captain of the USS Enterprise: the original Captain James Tiberius Kirk (William Shatner) or the man at the helm for Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994), Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Partick Stewart)? Without having watched more than a few minutes here and there of either show, my heart always said Captain Kirk. I guess deep down I always liked bravado over brains. With this argument somewhere in the miasma of the back of my brain, way back when I went with one of my best friends to see Star Trek: Generations (1994) opening weekend. Do not worry, I have seen it since then, but I will let the rest of this review tell you what I think of it.
The reason the film is titled Star Trek: Generations is because it combines what had then been the two eras of the popular science fiction franchise. We start with the older folk, who seem set to head off into retirement. They get Captain Kirk and a few of his old crewmates to be present for the maiden voyage of the USS Enterprise-B, since, I suppose, “A” had crashed somewhere, or something. Since no good deed goes unpunished, during what is supposed to be a simple cruise, the ship is called upon to help with a rescue effort. Its current captain, John Harriman (Alan Ruck), appears helpless in the face of this emergency, and Captain Kirk takes over. In the midst of his heroics, he ends up in the engine room trying to help get the ship moving again as a giant ribbon of energy bears down on them. While successful, the beam tears a gash into the side of the Enterprise, and Captain Kirk is sucked into space, presumably dead. We then shift several years into the future and the current crew of the USS Enterpise-D (we are not told what happened to C) is celebrating the promotion of one of their beloved crewmates, the Klingon Worf (Michael Dorn). Echoing prior events, the Enterprisereceives a distress call. In a nearby solar system, Dr. Tolian Soran (Malcolm McDowell) has created a missile that can fly into a star and explode it. He has also kidnapped the Enterprise’s chief engineer, Geordi La Forge (LaVar Burton) to get him to help with his calculations. The reason why Dr. Soran is doing these things is because he is trying to influence the path of that same energy ribbon with which Captain Kirk had done battle. Dr. Soran refers to it as the “Nexus,” and inside it is a place outside of time and space where you can seemingly make your own reality. Dr. Soran is also working with renegade Klingons called the Duras Sisters, who are all too happy to see Federation people and planets be destroyed. Captain Picard and the Enterprise catch up with the Duras Sisters and their ship in another system. Captain Picard offers himself up for La Forge, with the request that they get him down to the planet where Dr. Soran has set up a new base of operations. The Duras Sisters agree to this because they have rigged La Forge’s special glasses with a spy device, meaning they will be able to see inside the Enterprise. With Captain Picard on the ground, it is left to his first officer, Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), to command the ship. He has to do so with the Klingon enemy being able to fire through the Enterprise’s shields, giving his opponent an advantage. Neither is Captain Picard able to stop Dr. Soran, and the Nexus comes and envelopes both of them. When Captain Picard comes to, he is back with his family on Earth, who he had learned earlier had died. This shatters the illusion of the Nexus. He is then confronted by what is referred to as an “echo” of Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg), the bartender aboard the Enterprise, who had spent time in the Nexus. She fills Captain Picard in as to what is happening, and some of the capabilities of the beam of energy. This includes the ability to travel to a different point in time. However, Captain Picard realizes that he is going to need help. Luckily, Guinan has just the person, and that is Captain Kirk. He is a little more attached to the fantasy he had been living, but eventually Captain Picard gets through to the Federation legend by appealing to the older officer’s sense of duty. As such, they are both transported back to the moments before Captain Picard originally did not succeed in stopping Dr. Soran. Together, they defeat Dr. Soran, but not before Captain Kirk is mortally wounded. Nonetheless, their heroics are not enough to save the Enterprise. Though Commander Riker is able to blow up the Klingon vessel (I realize it is called a “Bird of Prey”), his ship, or at least the saucer section, is forced to crash land on the same planet on which Captain Picard had just buried Captain Kirk. As the survivors are retrieved by newly arriving Federation starships, Captain Picard muses that D will not be the last one to bear the name USS Enterprise. Oh, great.
There are a few other characters in Star Trek: Generations that are meant to fill out the rest of the crew. None of what they do is particularly germane to the plot, so I have all but ignored them. What is concerning to this Catholic film reviewer is the concept of the Nexus. On a surface level, one could look at the notion of a place that makes your dreams come true as a kind of heaven. This is something that we are all guilty of, or at least I know I am. I used to conceptualize heaven as me jumping into an X-Wing fighter and taking off for an eternity of adventures because, after all, I am a Star Wars nerd. Will that be what heaven is really like? I doubt it, but who knows? The problem is that nobody does, but what Faith tells you, and certain anecdotes seem to confirm, is that God is real and the afterlife with Him puts one past such desires. In this vein, I will give the film some credit. While Dr. Soran is apparently content with illusion, Captains Kirk and Picard eventually realize that whatever the Nexus is, it is not real. Like the actual Heaven, it is a place beyond space and time, but what it shows you are figments of your imagination. Whatever it is that you want to believe about what happens after you die, death is a far more concrete thing than anything you see in this film. I choose to believe that eternity with God will be preferable than anything I could ever want.
On the whole, Star Trek: Generations is a pretty dumb movie. In my introduction I said I would let the rest of this review speak for how I feel about it. I said that because in that moment, I could not remember what I thought of it back in 1994. Right or wrong, I have since let the Plinkett Reviews on Red Letter Media inform my opinion. Either way, I will stick to my Star Wars.