This review originally
appeared in issue 12 of THE CINEMA
STAR TREK: GENERATIONS
STAR TREK: GENERATIONS ($45) is the first film to feature THE NEXT GENERATION cast and has a story which symbolically passes the baton of movie franchise onto them. For those who are counting, this film is actually STAR TREK VII an odd numbered film, and subjected to the STAR TREK movie curse which has plagued the entire series. All of the odd numbered films have been disappointing when compared to the even numbered films. STAR TREK: GENERATIONS should have had a phenomenal story line, something triumphant to usher in the new crew. Instead, we get just an okay story. No Borg. No Q. No galaxy shaking calamity to truly blow the fans away. We all know they did much better many times during the seven year history of the television show, but they needed a story to bridge the two generations allowing Kirk and Picard to meet.
STAR TREK: GENERATIONS' opening is probably the highlight of the film, with the now retired Captain Kirk participating as an observer on the inaugural cruise of the brand new Enterprise NCC 1701B. During the cruise around the solar system, an emergency arises which allows Kirk another chance to save the day. As the Enterprise B attempts to rescue two ships carrying ElAurian refugees which are trapped inside an energy ribbon, Kirk must take over command from the inexperienced Captain of the new ship. Kirk is the hero once again, as he is able to save some of the refugees and the Enterprise B. Unfortunately, Kirk forfeits his own life as he is swept out into space after the Enterprise B suffers substantial damage during its escape from the energy ribbon.
It's almost twenty minutes (and seventy eight years later) into the film before the cast of THE NEXT GENERATION makes their first appearance. The bridge between the two stories comes in the form of Dr. Soran, an ElAurian refugee, who wants to get back to the energy ribbon at any cost. It seems that once a person enters the ribbon they also enter a temporal nexus where time has no meaning, and all their hopes, dreams and fondest wishes are instantly granted. Dr. Soran lost his family when the Borg invaded his world. Inside the Nexus he can have his family back forever.
The cast of THE NEXT GENERATION acquits themselves quite well with only the adequate story line to drive them. A few of the cast members are relegated to the background, making them little more than window dressing in this first outing. Hopefully, future films will be more character driven, allowing all the regulars some significant contribution to the plot. Patrick Stewart (Picard) and Brent Spiner (Data) are afforded the majority of screen time, which allows both of their characters significant growth. Picard suffers a personal loss, and we finally get to see another side of the man all the human vulnerability that was hidden during the run of the television series. As for Data, he finally uses the emotions chip designed for him by his "father", Dr. Noonian Soong. Data supplies the film with much of its comic relief as he discovers various emotional states. As for the film's primary villain, Dr. Soran, Malcolm McDowell gives us another one of his patented "over the top" psychotics. Lots of blustering and scenery chewing, but none too memorable. The rest of the cast includes Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, Whoopi Goldberg, Walter Koenig, James Doohan and William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk.
Now we come to the matter of STAR TREK: GENERATIONS the Laserdisc. Yes, it's THX certified, and yes, AC3 digital encoded. But is it worth $45.00? Absolutely not. You don't get a gatefold jacket, nor do you get a theatrical trailer for the money. You know what you get? An insert with advertisements. One side for the STAR TREK movie box, and the other for those atrocious pan and scan editions of the Toho science fiction films. Every one of those Toho atrocities should be destroyed, and Pioneer/Paramount should be forced to remaster them in their full Tohoscope aspect ratios. Sorry about getting sidetracked...
STAR TREK: GENERATIONS has been Letterboxed somewhere below its full Panavision ratio, and I noticed a couple of instances where the image is slightly panned and scanned. The ratio isn't way off the mark, but it could have been significantly better. Color and clarity are very good on this transfer. The darker appearance of interiors of the Enterprise D render quite well on this disc.
As for the digitally encoded Dolby Surround soundtrack, it was quite good, but I was expecting something better from a Laserdisc which carries the THX logo. The track had dynamics and atmosphere, but the directionality of the effects seemed to be somewhat lacking. The Pioneer pressing had only a smattering of inclusions. STAR TREK: GENERATIONS has been presented on three sides, with side two in CAV, thus allowing fans frame by frame analysis of the film's biggest special effects sequences. The side break between sides two and three was pretty bad and could have been handled much better.
As far as the STAR TREK films go, STAR TREK: GENERATIONS is a likable outing, but it is far from the best work of either the movie series, or THE NEXT GENERATION's own television origins. The price of this Laserdisc leaves me with a number of reservations. If you must own this disc, don't pay retail. Find a discount with a minimum of twenty percent off.
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