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Captains Picard and Kirk meet in Star Trek: Generations.

Captains Picard and Kirk meet in Star Trek: Generations.

  Feb 25, 2021

After watching the Star Trek: The Next Generation films, I think asking my boss for a pay raise isn’t too far out of the question.

The Next Generation (show) takes place around 75 years after the original series, and stars Captain Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton), Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), Data (Brent Spiner), Worf (Michael Dorn), and Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) as the new Enterprise crew.

The first Next Generation film, Star Trek: Generations, was directed by David Carson and released in 1994. 

The film’s selling point was that Captain Kirk (played by a returning William Shatner) was in the film, with both captains meeting each other face to face for the first and only time.

The film follows the Enterprise crew trying to stop a madman named Soran (played by Malcom McDowell) from blowing up a solar system’s star to return to a place called The Nexus, where everything you wish is true and you don’t want to leave.

This film’s pacing could rival the speed of light with how fast it goes; because of this, very rarely is there any time to really breathe or have character moments aside from brief ones. 

Bless Malcom McDowell, I could really tell he’s trying. There are some good moments with how crazy he acted, but he’s such a weakly written villain that very rarely am I ever intimidated by him or even care about his cliche backstory. 

You see, his family was killed by another species called The Borg (I’ll go over them more next film so be patient) and he wants to get into The Nexus so he can see them again. But when Picard points out it will kill millions of people, he says that everyone dies eventually, but he wants to return to the Nexus so he could see his family who are dead.

Also, if Soran wants to get into the Nexus so bad why not just beam into space in a spacesuit and wait, because he knows where the Nexus will be.

That’s not mentioning the Nexus itself; it is not very well explained what exactly it is, how it works, if it’s just in their heads or is it an alternate universe, and what exactly they are breathing because it can’t be air because the nexus just floats around in the middle of space.

Also, the Nexus’s existence makes the ending (no spoilers) lose any tension it might have had.

There’s also the matter of Data, who’s an android and wants to be more human, but doesn’t feel emotions. However, when he does the unspeakable crime of pushing Crusher into water, he decides to install an emotion chip to become more human. And this leads to a bunch of unfunny “comedy” and frankly (and I hate using this term) cringeworthy moments. Whether it’s him uncontrollably laughing (which gets old quick, let me tell you), him playing with his tricorder, or singing a song about how much he loves scanning for lifeforms, I almost never chuckled at his antics. 

There are good parts of the film (when it doesn’t fly by it), mostly about Captain Picard, who is very proud of his family roots. He is the last of the Picards because his brother and nephew died in a fire and he doesn’t have any other family.

The film’s message of “use your time well, because you’ll never get it back again” is a decent one, though it is poorly handled and is as subtle as getting hit in the face with a sledgehammer.

And the scenes with Kirk and Picard are legitimately well written and acted, with both working well off each other. 

Earlier I mentioned this film has brief moments where it takes a breath, and that’s how I’d describe this film; it has brief moments of good writing or fun spectacle, but you have to get through the swamp of bad writing and cringeworthy jokes.

Thankfully it appears God took pity on me and decided to grace the world with at least one good Next Generation film, that being Star Trek: First Contact (directed by Jonathan Frakes and released in 1996).

The film is about the Enterprise trying to stop The Borg (who are basically space-zombies; just replace “caused by a virus” with “caused by technology”) from changing history. They must stop them from taking over the ship, so that Zefram Cochrane (played by James Cromwell AKA farmer Hoggett from Babe) can make first contact with an alien species. 

This movie goes for a less philosophical tone and more of a personal story with Picard being the proverbial Captain Ahab to The Borg’s Moby Dick, with him being so fixated on The Borg that he can’t see the bigger picture.

The film focuses more on action, though less spaceship battles and more trying to stop The Borg from taking over the ship and fighting them floor by floor. The action itself is fine, nothing special, but tense enough to get the job done.

The side plot with Riker and Geordi trying to fix Cochrane’s ship, The Phoenix, while Cochrane is nothing more than a helpless drunk, is a less serious, but still fun part of the film.

The practical effects for the film actually still hold up pretty well. Whether it’s the models they used for the ships or the way The Borgs look, the practical effects have aged very well.

However the time travel of the film is confusing and doesn’t make much sense. The film doesn’t explain if the past was always like this or if the past was changed.

The main villain The Borg Queen (Alice Krige) is pretty boring and kind of ruins The Borg. If The Borg is supposed to be a collective or a hive-mind, why do they have a queen giving orders? The whole point of The Borg is that they don’t have leaders; they’re all connected to each other with the collective able to solve a problem more quickly than a single person barking out orders.

Unfortunately, after watching this film it was back to the Gulag for me, as I was forced to watch Star Trek: Insurrection, once again directed by Jonathan Frakes and released in 1998.

The film is about the Federation deciding to move the Ba’Ku, a peaceful species, from their planet, so the Federation can harvest their planet’s fountain of youth powers. Captain Picard. not being down with that, decides that rebelling against the Federation is the only possible option to stop them.

 In a way, this film is very impressive. It combines the tediousness from Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the terrible writing that makes you want to find the nearest sharp object from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

With the synopsis I just stated, you might think this film would be more serious, with moral nuance, rather than a light-hearted adventure. Well you would be wrong, as this film is decidedly more family friendly.

The film doesn’t know what it wants to be. It sets up a semi-interesting moral quandary but just goes and says “No, The Federation is wrong,” in no uncertain terms.

The problem with that idea is that when this film was made the show, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was on, and in the show the Federation were in a war with a powerful enemy called The Dominion, with the Federation losing badly. In the show itself it was estimated that if the Federation loses, 30 million people will die. 

So, when the Federation decides to move (not kill) the 300 hundred Ba’Ku to an equally hospitable planet but without the magic healing powers, so that they can harvest the planet’s energy to save more lives on the battlefield and find the cure to incurable diseases, I’m 100 percent on their side. 

One would get an obvious connection with this film’s plot and the Native Americans’ forced relocation in American history. The two big problems with that connection is that the context is completely different and Ba’Ku aren’t originally from the planet so it’s not their ancestral home.

It doesn’t help that the Ba’Ku are a bunch of smug hippies who believe we should get back to nature and reject all technology, completely ignoring any good it might bring. 

That completely goes against everything Star Trek stands for. At the end of the day Star Trek shows that the future is a bright one partly because of technology. But these smug jerks are all like “You use an electric razor? You deserve to croak!” Even though we see that they have a fully functional dam and they use automated irrigation techniques and believe it or not, THAT’S TECHNOLOGY! 

Also the place is remarkably clean for a place with no vacuum cleaners, because have you ever been to a barn? I have, and immaculately clean ain’t how I describe it. 

And if the Ba’ku are supposed to be a different species why do they look like humans? In the original series it was understandable, it was a low budget ‘60s show. This is a full blown movie: There is no excuse!

Later on in the film it turns out that the eeeeeevil race working with the Federation are dying and need this planet’s energy to survive.

The film’s comedy doesn’t work. It goes from painful to confusing. Whether it’s Worf going through Klingon puberty or everyone acting childish because of the planet. Though I’ll admit the part where they’re singing Gilbert and Sullivan was mildly entertaining.

The action, while not awful, is so boring you’d wish that it was rather Kirk vs Gorn (which for those not in the know, is thought of as one of the worst fights ever put on film). 

The effects once again are fine, but nothing special and nothing we haven’t seen before in earlier and much better films. 

Thankfully the next film Star Trek: Nemesis (directed by Stuart Baird and released in 2002), is just regular bad and not absolutely horrible like the last film.

The film is about Picard’s clone, Shinzon (played by a young Tom Hardy) being made the new leader of the Romulans, an old enemy of the Federation. And Picard trying to stop him from doing any more damage.

Let’s start with one of the few good points this film has, the question of nature vs nurture. An interesting concept, but how the film handles it is a different story altogether. The acting is fine, if nothing special and the special effects also look all right, except where they don’t (like the shot of the Romulan capital city, which looks like the beginning of the game Oblivion).

They try, they really try, to make Shinzon a complicated and deep villain. All that effort goes out the window when he (for no reason) does something horrible to Troi (I’m not going to say it here out of good taste) and even worse, it doesn’t seem to really affect Troi. I’m sorry but after what he did to her, she should be reeling! 

Also having him do this implies that Captain Picard, the man who is supposed to represent all the good of humanity, had the potential to do this if his life went down a different path, and that is a horrible idea to put into a viewer’s head.

That’s not mentioning the other characters, who act like complete morons, for instance trusting the obviously untrustworthy android, deciding to betray each other because the other person doesn’t reciprocate their feelings, or leaving a potentially dangerous enemy alive instead of just killing them.

After watching these films I can see why Paramount decided to make films taking place in a different timeline.

From best to worst the films go Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Generations, Star Trek: Nemesis, and Star Trek: Insurrection.