As fans of science fiction, sometimes we can be incredibly fickle with the source material of our fandom. We become very precious with the characters and their relationships. We look for any changes in their dynamics, especially when they move from the small screen to the big screen. For seven seasons, we were privileged to see the weekly adventures of the crew of the Enterprise on Star Trek: The Next Generation. After the end of the series, it was assumed by all that the Next Generation crew would take over and have their own movies and of course that was announced and I was excited.
The film begins with a ceremony to christen the new USS Enterprise-B. Retired Captain James T. Kirk, Montgomery Scott and Pavel Chekov are on board to witness the shakedown cruise along with the press who are following their every move. While the new Captain John Harriman is commanding, they receive a distress call from a transport ship ferrying El-Aurian refugees to Earth.
The ship comes upon an energy ribbon which has trapped the two ships. Captain Harriman, being untested, attempts to find ways to pull the ships from the gravimetric hold of the ribbon, but all of his attempts fail, costing one of the ships. He asks Kirk for help and Kirk tells him to use a tractor beam. Unfortunately, most of the ships systems haven’t been installed yet and won’t arrive until the following Tuesday. Kirk then tells him to move the Enterprise into transporter range.
Scotty attempts to lock onto the passengers but notices that their life signs keep phasing in and out of the space-time continuum. When he finally is able to beam them directly to sickbay, he only manages to retrieve 47 out of a total of 150 people. Chekov takes two of the reporters with him to sickbay to treat the wounded due to the medical staff not being aboard (Tuesday) and we are introduced to a confused man, who seems to desperately want to go back to the ship and a woman Star Trek: The Next Generation fans will recognize: Guinan.
Backstory: Guinan (played on the TV show and the movie by Whoopi Goldberg) is a member of the El Aurian race. They are humanoids who live an extended lifetime, travel all over the galaxy and have some psychic abilities. They are known all over the galaxy as excellent listeners, which is why many of them, including Guinan, tend to become innkeepers and bartenders. The El Aurian race became refugees because their planet was invaded by and conquered by the Borg, who wanted to add their psychic abilities to their collective consciousness.
The Enterprise is caught in the ribbons pull and Kirk and Scotty decide to use a photon torpedo to disrupt the hold of the ribbon. Unfortunately, there are no torpedoes aboard (Tuesday). So Scotty suggests using the main deflector dish (a device on the front of every ship designed to push debris out of the way of the ship in motion.) to send a resonance pulse to the ribbon, pushing the ship away from it. Harriman decides to go to deflector control to activate the pulse, but Kirk tells him that he belongs on the bridge of his ship and Kirk goes instead. After altering the deflector controls, he signals to Scotty to send the beam. The pulse pushes the ship out of the way, but its hit by an energy discharge from the ribbon.
The ship breaks free and Harriman asks for a damage report. Ensign Sulu (Captain Sulu’s daughter) informs them that the discharge caused hull breaches in Engineering that include deflector control. Scotty calls Kirk, but there is no response. Harriman, Chekov and Scotty travel to deflector control and notice the giant hole in the hull and that Captain Kirk is gone.
Seventy Eight years later, the crew of the USS Enterprise-D are on the holodeck performing a ceremony to promote Worf to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. A ceremony which includes having him walk the plank of an ancient sailing ship. When Riker causes Worf to fall in the water, everyone laughs and Data is confused as to why its funny. Dr. Crusher attempts to explain to Data why its funny and he pushes her into the water as well. Captain Picard receives a personal message from Earth, becomes visibly upset and has to leave the holodeck.
The ship receives a distress call from the Amargossa observatory, which is under attack. Riker and Worf beam to the observatory to investigate. They read 5 survivors out of a compliment of 19. One of the survivors is the same confused man from the Enterprise-B incident almost 80 years before. The man identifies himself as Dr. Tolian Soran. They find the body of a dead Romulan as well. On the ship, Data and Geordi are discussing the recent incident on the holodeck and Data decides that it might be time for him to install the emotion chip that he has been saving.
Backstory: Data’s creator Dr. Noonien Soong created an emotion chip for Data in order to give him the ability to evolve. Dr. Soong tried earlier to give an earlier android creation of his emotions. This android, names Lore, could not handle the emotions and became unhinged and homicidal, killing Dr. Soong and stealing the emotion chip in order to entice Data into joining him. Data retrieved the emotion chip after Lore was killed.
After installing the chip, Data and Geordi go to Ten-Forward (the ships lounge) and meet with Guinan. Picard meets with Soran, who insists that he be allowed to return to the observatory to continue his experiments. Picard is dismissive and leaves. Soran sees Guinan and leaves the lounge as Guinan starts to feel his presence. Worf and Riker determine that the Romulans were looking for a compound called Trilithium, which can stop all fusion within a star. Data and Geordi head over to scan for the substance. Data’s emotion chip malfunctions while they are investigating a probe. Geordi is attacked by Soran and Data’s emotion chip causes him to be afraid for the first time and unable to respond.
Counselor Troi confronts Picard over his change in demeanor and finds him looking through pictures of his family. The message from Earth informs him that his father and his nephew were killed in a fire. Picard has no family and his nephew was the last of Picard line. He grieves that his family line might die with him. As he is grieving, a probe is launched from the observatory to the Amargossa star. The star begins to collapse and the shockwave will destroy everything in the system in less than 4 minutes. Worf and Riker head to the observatory to retrieve Data and Geordi and are attacked by Soran. Soran receives a message and a Klingon Bird of Prey uncloaks. They beam Soran and Geordi aboard and leave. Riker, Worf and Data return to the Enterprise and they leave the system before the shockwave reaches them.
The Klingon ship is commanded by the Duras sisters Lursa and B’ETor. Soran is working with them and has promised to give them the technology he created to destroy a star in exchange for their help. They set course for the Veridian system.
Backstory: Lursa and B’Etor are sisters of the house Duras on the Klingon homeworld. Their ancestor betrayed the empire to the Romulans causing a massacre on the Khitomer outpost (See Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country). When this came to light, it plunged the empire into Civil War. Picard and Worf managed to help restore the empire and the Duras sisters were defeated. They went into hiding, popping up periodically on future episodes of the series and on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine attempting to find ways to retake the Klingon empire.
Picard meets with Guinan in her quarters. Guinan tells Picard that Soran isn’t interested in weapons or power. His only goal is to return to the “Nexus”. The energy ribbon is a doorway to another dimension which the El Aurian’s called the “Nexus”. Guinan describes it as pure joy and that when they were taken from it, it was like being taken off of a drug. Soran has been chasing that feeling again for almost a century. Picard wants to know why he is destroying stars and heads to Stellar Cartography.
Data and Picard determine that since ships are either heavily damaged or destroyed when they enter the ribbon, Soran is destroying stars in order to divert the ribbon to a planet of his choosing, Veridian III. Once he destroys that star, the ribbon will pass by close enough to take him back before the system is destroyed. After finding out that Verdian IV has over 230 million humanoids on it, Picard sets a course to intercept Soran and the Klingons.
The Enterprise enters the system and hails the Klingons. They demand Geordi’s return and warn that they will destroy any probe fired at the star. The Duras sisters know that they are outmatched and outgunned so they decide to send Geordi back. Picard exchanges himself for Geordi, but demands to speak with Soran himself. Geordi has returned but his VISOR has been altered so that the Klingons can see everything that he can. They watch him go to Engineering and discover the shield frequency of the Enterprise. The Klingons match the frequency and fire torpedoes, breaching the shields and hull.
Worf and Riker return fire and Data determines that the Bird of Prey’s cloaking device is vulnerable. They activate it using an ionic pulse which lowers the Klingon ships shields and the Enterprise fires a torpedo targeted directly at their primary systems. The Klingon ship is destroyed.
The subsequent damage is severe and they need to evacuate the Enterprise. The warp core is five minutes from breach and everyone scrambles to the saucer section which can separate from the drive section.
The destruction of the drive section damages the saucers stabilizers and take helm control offline, forcing the saucer into free fall.
Meanwhile, on the planet, Picard tries to reason with Soran, but the Doctor is protected by a force field which prevents Picard from reaching him or his equipment. Picard breaks through the forcefield and begins one of two really poorly choreographed old man fights as (at that time) 54-year-old Patrick Stewart (Picard) is fighting (at that time) 51-year-old Malcolm McDowell (Soran). Picard is too late and the probe is launched, destroying the star, the planet and the Enterprise as it pulls Picard and Soran into the Nexus.
Picard wakes up in his home surrounded by children and his wife. His wife asks him if he wants a cup of Earl Grey tea (Picard’s favorite tea and mine frankly. It’s like heaven in a tea-cup). He and his family are celebrating Christmas and he is content surrounded by his family, including his nephew. Everything in his life is perfect but he starts to realize something is wrong. Everything is too perfect. He remembers the destruction of the planet and Guinan appears to explain to him why he’s there. The Nexus has given him everything that he ever wanted. When the Enterprise-B saved Guinan, a part of her remained.
She explains that time has no meaning and that he can travel anywhere. He can go back and see them born or move forward and see his grandchildren. He realizes that the Nexus doesn’t give him a perfect life. It can only give him a series of perfect moments and all those moments serve as a drug to keep him from being part of reality. He decides to go back to the moment before Soran launches the probe to stop him and asks Guinan to help him. She tells him that she can’t because her real self is already outside the Nexus, but there is someone there who can and from his point of view, he just arrived as well.
Picard walks upon a man chopping wood in the forest. That man is Captain James T. Kirk. Picard is surprised. Kirk isn’t. Kirk goes back into his house and Picard introduces himself. Picard keeps trying to remind Kirk of who he is and that he is from the future, but Kirk is being flooded by memories of the past. His old dog shows up. He’s living in a house he sold and his fiance is there as well. Picard implores Kirk to come with him, but Kirk does not want to leave. He believes that he has been given a chance to change his life.
After Kirk comes to the same conclusion as Picard about he Nexus, Kirk and Picard have one of my favorite exchanges in Star Trek history.
After leaving the Nexus, they are taken back to the moment the Enterprise’s saucer section crashes on Veridian III and Picard breaches the force field. Soran is confronted by Kirk and Picard. Next begins weird old man brawl number 2 where (at that time) 63-year-old William Shatner (Kirk) starts fighting Soran. Kirk gets the upper hand to keep Soran busy while Picard goes for the launcher. Kirk goes after the controller Soran dropped and Soran destroy the walkway Kirk is on. Picard rescues Kirk as the ribbon continues to get closer.
Kirk manages to get to the controller as the walkway continues to buckle. He uncloaks the probe and Picard manages to reprogram the launcher as the walkway crashes, hurtling Kirk to the ground. Picard escapes from Soran and as the doctor attempts to launch the probe, the locking clamps won’t release, causing it to explode, killing Soran. Picard attempts to rescue Kirk as the ribbon flies by the planet. Unfortunately, Kirk is too badly injured. The two men talk to each other as James T. Kirk dies of his injuries. Picard buries him on the planet as rescue ships arrive to retrieve him and the crew.
As the Enterprise cannot be salvaged, the crew attempt to retrieve their personal property and check for lifesigns. Data finds out his cat Spot is alive. Picard retrieves his photo album and the film ends with Picard and Riker beaming to the USS Farragut and leaving the system.
Star Trek Generations tends to remind me of a film whose reach exceeds its grasp, but in a good way. I liked this film a lot when it first came out. As a long time Trek fan, everything that they did or mentioned that harkened back to the show was invigorating, but I can also see that anyone unfamiliar with the show might be lost. Many of the references and characters like the Duras sisters would seem alien to anyone who hasn’t watched the fourth and fifth seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and frankly the fight scenes are a little hard to watch without irony. I think it serves a real service to fans of the show, but it does still have its flaws. On the one hand, it gives fans of the series enough easter eggs and back story that it feels like an extended episode of the series. On the other hand, it tends to lack the depth necessary to propel the story forward or to add anything new which would distinguish it from the previous Star Trek films starring the original cast. Either way, it’s still an enjoyable film to watch as a Star Trek fan.