A few weeks ago we had a free preview weekend of HBO and Cinemax from our cable company, and while I was flipping around to see what was on (probably Saturday afternoon), I caught the end of Star Trek: Generations. (Actually, probably the last quarter of the movie or so.) And of course, being the Star Trek nerd that I am, I watched the rest of it.
And, well, I had to write about it too. Feel free to completely skip this post if you have no interest in Star Trek whatsoever. Yeah, it’s like that.
Now, Generations is problematic, there’s no doubt. While I was watching, I was mentally tallying up the various problems and hence, this post.
Their intentions were in the right place: it was the first Star Trek movie featuring the cast from The Next Generation, whose series had just wrapped, so they wanted to go big. How big? Well let’s see… they gave Data emotions, explained the origin of Guinan, destroyed the Enterprise, and oh yeah, had Captain Picard meet Captain Kirk. And killed Kirk.
In order to do this latter bit, the writers contrived a thin plot around a supposed "Nexus" in Time that looked like a big sparkling ribbon flying through space. People can enter this Nexus where Time stands still and they are granted whatever they wish (while inside of it). Kind of like the ultimate virtual reality where you never age and you can have anything you want.
The token villain (played by Malcolm McDowell) was in the Nexus once before and wants to go back. So he’s blowing up stars to change the gravitational influence on the Nexus as it travels through space, just so he can direct it to a planet that he’ll be standing on at a pre-arranged time—all so the Nexus will suck him back into it when it gets to the planet.
While the movie had some good bits, there are so many things wrong with this plot, it’s embarrassing. And then, they went and got the science behind it utterly wrong.
Point: Soran (the villain) didn’t need to blow up stars or anything remotely cosmic to re-enter the Nexus. He could have just flown a shuttlecraft into it. Or barring that, open the airlock and launch himself physically into it from the back of said shuttlecraft—he could survive the vacuum of space for the three seconds it would take to accomplish this. Kirk did, after all.
In other words, shitty plotting and unimaginative writing.
Point: During the battle between the Enterprise and the Klingon ship that results in the Enterprise‘s destruction, we see that the Klingons are spying on the ship’s shield frequency modulation via LaForge’s visor—thus enabling them to shoot photon torpedoes that pass through the shields as if they weren’t there.
However, the Enterprise crew makes no effort to alter the shield modulation—something they did repeatedly during the TV series (especially versus the Borg)! How could something so fundamental get by them?
It would have been an easy fix, too: just show the Klingons (who were spying on them, remember) getting the new shield frequency every time it was changed. Would it really have cost that much more to film?
Point: When the Enterprise finally is able to fire back, Riker tells Worf to have a "full spread" of torpedoes ready to fire. When they get their moment, only one torpedo launches.
What the hell?
Point: In what is probably the worst production/science gaffe they could possibly make, Soran launches his missile from the planet towards the sun (to blow it up, remember) just as the Nexus is nearing. Immediately the sun darkens and explodes. Do you see what’s wrong with this picture?
The sun should not have appeared to change for at least 8 full minutes. Not even counting the time it would take for the missile to reach the sun—let’s suppose it has warp capabilities, to get around that issue—the light (and gravity) from the sun can only travel at the speed of light. And since they were on an Earth-looking planet, which is 8 light-minutes away from the sun, then that means there’s no possible way the sun would appear to darken immediately—and the gravitational effect on the Nexus would be similarly delayed.
Huge, huge blunder. Somebody (preferably the writers) should have been fired for that one.
Point: Picard is now in the Nexus. The planet (and the remains of the Enterprise and its crew) all blew up. Picard (with the help of Kirk) escapes the Nexus, jumps back in time to just before the missile is launched (the Nexus can let you go to any place and time, apparently), and saves the day, altering the events that already transpired. Time travel.
Thus, an alternate timeline was created, in which Soran succeeds and the Enterprise is lost with all hands.
(For that matter, why didn’t Picard return hours earlier and destroy Soran’s base and missile before any of that happened? Or any other convenient time to stop Soran?)
Point: Picard is now in the Nexus. He has been told (as have we, the viewers) that the Nexus grants your fondest desire; it gives you whatever you want. The ultimate virtual reality, remember. Well, once Picard figured out what was going on, his fondest desire was to leave the Nexus. But wouldn’t the Nexus grant that desire and give Picard a (virtual) reality where he left the Nexus and stopped Soran?
In other words, Picard never left the Nexus—he just thinks he did, the Nexus granted that wish inside its virtual reality. If he never left, then that alternate timeline I mentioned is in fact the "correct" and current timeline—and all the subsequent Next Generation movies never "happened." (Maybe a bunch of the subsequent TV series, either.)
Actually this last point isn’t really so much of a problem, more of an observation. But it makes for an interesting plot device… once that actually forms the basis for the on-again, off-again dabbling I’ve been doing in Star Trek fan fiction over the years.
(My fan fiction "series" is set in the future—yet another generation—and in the "alternate" timeline in which Picard is still in the Nexus.)
Overall, Generations wasn’t a bad movie, just flawed (severely flawed in some cases) and the weakest of the Next Generation movies.
But then again, I only caught the last half or third of it, after having not seen it for a long time… maybe I’d find a lot more to rant about if I saw it from the beginning…