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STAR TREK: GENERATIONS
Special Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brett Spiner, LeVar Burton, Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, William Shatner, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Malcolm McDowell
Director: David Carson
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, DTS 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 117 Minutes
Release Date: September 28, 2004

"I take it the odds are against us, and the situation is grim?"

"You could say that."

"Sounds like fun."

Film ***

Every time I sit down to watch Star Trek: Generations, I'm reminded of a story a friend of mine once told me. He got to meet Marina Sirtis, aka Counselor Deanna Troi at a Star Trek convention shortly after this movie came out, and she started by telling the fans she had to get something off her chest. In the seven years The Next Generation was on the air, she explained, everybody got to fly the ship except her: the blind guy, the android, the kid…heck, anybody in a red uniform who happened to be passing got to take a crack at it. But not her character. Finally, in the first motion picture featuring the Next Generation crew, she got her first ever chance to steer the ship.

And it crashed.

When I first saw Generations in the theatre, I thought the Enterprise wasn't the only thing that crashed. Having been a big Next Generation fan during its remarkable seven year run, and an equally big fan of the previous film The Undiscovered Country, Generations had a lot to live up to in my zealous Trekkie mind, and frankly, I thought it didn't quite meet expectations.

But each time I've seen the film since, I've liked it a little more. Case in point: when I first reviewed the original DVD release for the website I used to write for, I had given it a ** ½ star rating; still slightly below a true recommend. But now, I'm ready to go ahead and give it the credit I think it's been missing for too long. 

I guess the magic of the Star Trek universe has always resided in fans' affinity for the characters. Because we love the people we see on the bridge of the Enterprise, we tend to invest our emotions a little more freely. Sometimes we expect more than we get; that's the bane of the Trekkie. But in the end, we start to love the experiences because of our affection for the people…that's the boon.

In the specific case of Generations, I'm surprised at how I tend to react more and more emotionally to the core pieces of the story each time I see it. At first, I may have been distracted by the silly scenarios involving Lt. Commander Data (Spiner) and his emotion chip misadventures, or the awkward stab the movie took at creating some kind of notion of heaven, but subsequent viewings move the minor flaws to the back burner for me. I tend to think about the impact of Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Stewart) realizing the loss of his family and beginning to rethink the course of his life for possibly the first time. I think about the more tragic aspect of Data and his new experiences, rather than the broad, goofy tries at comedy.

And mostly, I think about how Star Trek's greatest icon was finally laid to rest. With the death of Captain James T. Kirk (Shatner), there was a true sense of finality and resolution for the series' original hero, and it seemed like the torch had really passed from one generation to the next.

The linking of the two generations comes about in the past (so to speak), when the new Enterprise B sails on her first test run, with a retired Captain Kirk, Scotty (Doohan) and Chekov (Koenig) present as guests and observers. But when the ship has to perform an emergency rescue operation in face of a strange, unidentifiable but powerful energy ribbon, Kirk seems to have been killed in action…and at least one of the rescued party members, a Dr. Soran (McDowell), seems less than thrilled about having been saved from the ribbon.

Flash forward to the Enterprise D, where Picard and crew are summoned to an attacked science station. There, once again, we meet up with Soran, and the beginnings of the plot begin to be revealed: the energy ribbon, dubbed the Nexus, was actually some kind of ripple in time and space where neither had meaning. Individuals inside were in a state of pure bliss and contentment; their hearts' desires were fully realized. Soran was snatched from that state of paradise nearly a century earlier…now his plan to re-enter the Nexus threatens the lives of millions as he wants to collapse a giant star in the middle of a populated solar system.

The emotional impact of the story comes from seeing how the Nexus works; it actually laid out a chance for Picard to undue his life's regrets in a beautifully touching way. Walking away from such an offer had to be the most difficult choice of his life, but otherwise, millions would die from Soran's single-minded plan. And so, meeting up with the long-thought deceased Kirk in the Nexus, the two plan to leave their second chances behind and fulfill the lives they chose a long time ago in an effort to right Soran's wrongs.

As I've said, this is a story that grows more affecting to me every time I see it. It could just be the affinity for the characters, but maybe it has to do more with getting older myself. It's been ten years since the movie first came out, and in the decade in between, I admit to having had moments of looking back with bits of wondering how making different choices might have made for different outcomes in my life. Maybe the idea of a Nexus no longer seems as silly to me as it once did. And maybe understanding the appeal of such a thing is also a key to appreciating the inherent danger of it as well.

Who knows? In another ten years, this movie might have evolved for me all the way to a **** rating. In any event, I'm glad for the chance to revisit this Star Trek entry once again with fresher eyes and a newfound appreciation for the ideas the story was trying to get across.

Video ****

Wow, wow, WOW! This is Paramount's finest work to date in the restoration of Star Trek films for these special edition re-releases. The original DVD offering of Generations was non-anamorphic and decidedly disappointing, but this re-issue gets everything right and then some. Colors, shapes and details ring through with spectacular clarity and vibrancy. Scenes that once seemed a little dull and muted now exhibit striking contrast, with crisper lines and better definition than ever. This was a visual feast from start to finish. Considering I've always touted Paramount's original release of First Contact as one of the best looking DVDs ever put out, I truly can't wait to see what's in store for the special edition re-release of that film!

Audio ****

Again, wow, wow, WOW! Generations marks a new apex in Star Trek movie DVD quality as far as audio quality, too. This is the first Trek special edition to feature a DTS soundtrack, and man, does it ever make a difference. The sound is impactful and dynamic all the way, with a full range of thunderous explosions and space battles trickling down all the way to subtlest humming of engines and ambient sounds. All channels get maximum use, keeping you firmly in the center of the action. Spoken words are clean and clear, Dennis McCarthy's music score is a plus, crossover signals are frequent and smoothly executed. Absolute reference quality.

Features ****

The one constant in the special edition re-releases of these films has been the generous helping of extras. Like the earlier entries in the series, Generations is a double disc set loaded with goodies. The first disc features audio commentary by writers Brannon Braga and Ron Moore, plus the always excellent text commentary from Star Trek Encyclopedia authors Michael and Denise Okuda. This time, instead of just subtitles at the bottom of the screen, the factoids appear in easier to read boxes of black text against white background…a nice touch.

Disc Two boasts some fantastic animated menus replicating the Enterprise's stellar cartography room, and features the rest of the extras. There are four "Star Trek Universe" featurettes including a tribute to Matt Jeffries (the designer for whom the 'Jeffries Tube' was named), the Enterprise lineage, Captain Picard's family album, and 24th century weapons. Three production featurettes include "Uniting Two Legends", which not only details Kirk and Picard sharing the screen for the first time, but examines the Next Generation's leap from TV to big screen, plus how the stellar cartography scene was made and a look at the Valley of Fire location.

Two special effects vignettes and three on scene deconstruction are also included, as well as four deleted scenes and archives for storyboards and a production gallery. Some early prints of this disc show a trailer and teaser included; they are not. The early discs have been recalled to correct the printing error, but if you happen to get one of the first releases, not to worry…the discs are exactly the same; only the information listed on the box cover is different.

Summary:

Star Trek: Generations seems to get a little better with each subsequent viewing. If you haven't seen it in a while, this fantastic reference quality special edition re-release from Paramount is the perfect opportunity to do so.

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