“They say time is the fire in which we burn,” says Dr. Tolian Soran to Captain Jean-Luc Picard. “Right now, Captain, my time is running out. We leave so many things unfinished in our lives. I’m sure you can understand.”
1991 marked the 25th anniversary of Star Trek as well as the death of creator Gene Roddenberry and the release of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the final Star Trek film to feature the entire original cast. It was known that the next Star Trek film would feature the cast from TV’s Star Trek: The Next Generation (which wouldn’t be possible until 1994). It was decided that the new film would be a passing-of-the-torch kind of film. Paramount also had a list of things they wanted to include in the film (and were quite insistent). David Carson, who had helmed a number of episodes for the show, was brought on to direct, and series writers Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore came on board to write the film (as well as include everything on Paramount’s list). I didn’t get to see the film during its original theatrical run; I would have to wait almost nine years to see it on the big screen at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater as part of “Star Trek Saturdays.”
1994’s Star Trek: Generations picks up around a year after the events of the previous film. Captain James T. Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov attend the christening of the U.S.S. Enterprise-B, which gets interrupted by a distress call from the S.S. Lakul, a ship carrying El-Aurian refugees. Being the closest ship, the Enterprise-B heads off to rescue the refugees, but encounter an energy ribbon that has already destroyed one refugee ship. After Scotty manages to beam some of the refugees off of the Lakul before it, too, is destroyed, he and Kirk devise a plan to help the Enterprise-B break free from the energy ribbon’s grasp. Their efforts result in the saving of the Enterprise, but at the cost of Kirk’s life. 78 years later, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D rescue Dr. Tolian Soran, an El-Aurian scientist, at a Federation observatory that was attacked by Romulans. The investigation into the attack uncovers Soran’s true motives for his experiments and for launching solar probes that stop all fusion within a star. Soran kidnaps Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge and escapes, prompting Picard and his crew to track Soran down before he destroys any more stars and ends the lives of millions.
The cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation (Patrick Stewart as Picard, Jonathan Frakes as Commander William Riker, Brent Spiner as Lieutenant Commander Data, Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi, Levar Burton as LaForge, Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Commander Worf, and Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher) took center stage and gave terrific performances (Stewart and Spiner in particular stood out). The “guest stars” offered strong performances as well: Malcolm McDowell (as Soran), William Shatner (as Captain Kirk), James Doohan (as Scotty), Walter Koenig (as Chekov), Alan Ruck (as Captain John Harriman), Jacqueline Kim (as Ensign Demora Sulu), Barbara March (as Lursa), Gwynyth Walsh (as B’Etor), Whoopi Goldberg (as Guinan), and cameos from Brian Thompson (as a Klingon helmsman), Jenette Goldstein (as the Enterprise-B science officer), and Tim Russ (as an Enterprise-B lieutenant). Shatner was excellent in his final cinematic appearance as Captain Kirk. McDowell was also excellent as Soran, a man whose actions to achieve his goal are completely despicable but yet hide an intriguingly sympathetic character who’s spent almost 80 years trying to find a way to be reunited with his family.
David Carson did a terrific job on this film; his direction made easier by a main cast that had worked together for seven years already. The screenplay by Braga and Moore works quite well, but as they’ve admitted, a much less demanding list of requested items from Paramount would’ve resulted in a better script. John A. Alonzo’s cinematography was terrific. For many Enterprise-D room interiors, he used the sun (artificially created, of course) as the main (if not only) source of light coming in through the windows. The use of multiple candles to light Guinan’s quarters was brilliantly executed. Herman Zimmerman’s production design was top notch, making some alterations to the Enterprise-D and Klingon sets, as well as creating new ones for the Armagosa observatory, the various scenes in the Nexus, and Soran’s outpost on Veridian III. Robert Blackman took over as costume designer, making alterations to the Starfleet uniforms. He also did terrific work with the designs for the El-Aurian refugee costumes.
The special effects were first-rate (I loved the fx for the energy ribbon and for the Stellar Cartography scene). The sound design was top notch, as well as Michael Westmore’s makeup design. Dennis McCarthy, who had scored the majority of the episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, was brought on to score this film. He created a new heroic and adventurous main theme, as well as a Klingon motif and a choir-led motif for the Nexus. His score became a wonderful addition to Star Trek music. This passing-of-the-torch film was a successful one, reminding us it’s never too late to fight the good fight and cherish the good times in our lives. If we cannot let go of a painful past, it will consume and destroy us (as well as others).