Star Trek Generations
Theatrical release poster art
|Directed by||David Carson|
|Produced by||Rick Berman|
|Screenplay by||Ronald D. Moore
|Story by||Rick Berman
Ronald D. Moore
|Based on||Star Trek by
|Music by||Dennis McCarthy|
|Cinematography||John A. Alonzo|
|Editing by||Peter E. Berger|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||118 minutes|
Star Trek Generations is a 1994 American science fiction film released by Paramount Pictures. Generations is the seventh feature film in the Star Trek franchise. Depicting the death of Captain Kirk, it is the first film in the series to star the cast of the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation.
While the film received mixed reviews from critics, it performed well at the box office.
In the year 2293, retired Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), Montgomery Scott (James Doohan), and Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) attend the maiden voyage of the Federation starship USS Enterprise-B. During the voyage, Enterprise is pressed into a rescue mission to save two refugee ships from a strange energy ribbon. Enterprise is able to save some of the refugees before their ships are destroyed and Enterprise becomes trapped in the ribbon itself. Kirk goes to deflector control to alter the deflector dish, allowing Enterprise to escape. The trailing end of the ribbon makes contact with the ship's hull, exposing the section Kirk is in to the vacuum of space. He is presumed dead.
In 2371, the crew of the USS Enterprise-D receives a distress call from a solar observatory. They find that everyone, except Doctor Tolian Soran (Malcolm McDowell), has been killed by Romulans. The android Data (Brent Spiner), who recently installed a chip that enables him to experience emotions, helps engineer Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) search the station. The two discover a compound called trilithium in a hidden room. Soran appears, knocks La Forge unconscious, and launches a trilithium solar probe at the nearby star. The probe causes the sun to go supernova, sending a shock wave towards the observatory. Soran and La Forge are transported away by a Klingon Bird of Prey belonging to the treacherous Duras sisters (Barbara March and Gwynyth Walsh). Data is rescued just before the station is destroyed.
Enterprise Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) learns more about Soran from Enterprise bartender Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg); Soran and Guinan were among those rescued by the Enterprise-B in 2293. Guinan explains that Soran's goal is to return to the "Nexus", the energy ribbon the Enterprise-B encountered, which allows those who enter to experience whatever they desire as long as they desire. Picard and Data determine Soran is altering the path of the ribbon by collapsing stars, and that he will attempt to reenter the Nexus on Veridian III by destroying its sun—and, by extension, a heavily populated planet in the system. On arrival in the Veridian system, the Duras sisters appear and offer to trade La Forge for Picard. Picard is transported to the planet's surface and finds Soran working on a missile, protected by a shield. La Forge is brought back aboard the Enterprise, unaware that his visor is transmitting a signal to the Klingons. When the Duras sisters discover the Enterprise's shield frequency, they attack. Enterprise destroys the Bird of Prey, but sustains critical damage: the warp-core is suffering an unstoppable breach. Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) orders an evacuation to the saucer section of the ship to separate from the damaged engineering section. The explosion of the engineering section causes the saucer to crash on Veridian III.
Picard finds a hole in Soran's shield, but is too late to stop him from launching the missile. The Veridian sun collapses and Soran and Picard are transported to the Nexus before the shock wave annihilates the planet. Picard asks for help from an "echo" of Guinan in the Nexus; she sends him to meet Kirk, who is also safe in the Nexus. Picard convinces the initially-hesitant Kirk to return to Picard's present and stop Soran. The two leave the Nexus, arriving on Veridian III minutes before Soran launches the missile. They distract Soran long enough to lock the missile in place, causing it to explode on the launchpad, killing Soran. Kirk is mortally wounded by a fall during the encounter; as he dies, Picard assures him that he helped to make a difference. Picard buries Kirk before being shuttled to the wreckage of the Enterprise saucer section, reuniting with his crew, and leaving the planet aboard the USS Farragut.
The entire main cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation appears in Generations. Many of the cast members, no longer working a steady job on a television series, were wary of the so-called "Star Trek curse" preventing them from finding non-Trek roles in the future.
- Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard commander of Enterprise-D
- Jonathan Frakes as Commander William T. Riker
- Brent Spiner as Lieutenant Commander Data
- LeVar Burton as Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Commander Worf. Unlike his TNG co-stars, this was Michael Dorn's second Star Trek film, having appeared on Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, portraying his TNG character's grandfather, Colonel Worf, who defended Kirk and McCoy on their trial.
- Gates McFadden as Chief Medical Officer Commander Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as ship's counselor Commander Deanna Troi
- Alan Ruck as Enterprise-B captain John Harriman
- Malcolm McDowell as Tolian Soran
- Jacqueline Kim as Ensign Demora Sulu
- Barbara March and Gwynyth Walsh as the villainous Klingon sisters Lursa and B'Etor
- Patti Yasutake as Enterprise nurse Lieutenant Alyssa Ogawa
- Whoopi Goldberg as Enterprise bartender Guinan
Many of the background players appeared in different roles throughout the run of the series. Tim Russ, who appears as an Enterprise-B bridge officer, played a terrorist in "Starship Mine" and a Klingon in "Invasive Procedures", and later joined the cast of Star Trek: Voyager as the Vulcan Tuvok.
Initially, the entire principal cast of The Original Series was featured in the film's first script, but ultimately only three members appeared in the film: William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk, James Doohan as Montgomery Scott, and Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekov. Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley declined to appear as Spock and Leonard McCoy. Nimoy (who was offered the job of directing the film) felt that there were story problems with the script and that Spock's role was extraneous—"I said to everybody concerned [...] that if you took the dozen or so lines of Spock dialog and simply changed the name of the character, nobody would notice the difference." Nimoy and Kelley's lines were subsequently modified for Doohan and Koenig. In Scotty's case, it created a seeming continuity discrepancy, given Scotty's dialogue in the TNG episode "Relics". In that episode, Scotty implied that he believed Kirk to be still alive, despite the fact that the scene's setting was after Scotty had witnessed Kirk's apparent death in Star Trek: Generations. The official explanation for the inconsistency is that Scotty was disoriented in "Relics", as he had just re-materialized after 75 years transporter stasis.
After the release of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country in 1991, it was expected that the next Star Trek feature film would feature the cast of the Star Trek: The Next Generation television spinoff series. Paramount Pictures executives approached The Next Generation producer Rick Berman in late 1992 about creating a feature film, four months before the official announcement.
Berman informed Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga that Paramount had approved a two-picture deal. Moore and Braga, who were convinced Berman had called them into his office to tell them The Next Generation was cancelled, instead found Berman asking them to write one of the Star Trek films. Berman also worked with former Next Generation producer Maurice Hurley to develop possible story ideas. Executive producer Michael Piller turned down the opportunity to develop ideas, objecting to what he saw as a "competition" for the job. Ultimately Moore and Braga's script was chosen; the writers spent weeks with Berman developing the story before taking a working vacation in May 1992 to write the first-draft screenplay, completed June 1.
Berman felt that including the original cast of the previous Star Trek films felt like a "good way to pass the baton" to the next series. In the initial draft of the screenplay, the original series cast appeared in a prologue, and Guinan served as the bridge between the two generations. The Enterprise-D's end also appeared—the saucer crash had first been proposed as the cliffhanger for Moore's original seventh-season finale "All Good Things...", which eventually became the series finale. Kirk's death initially developed in Braga, Moore and Berman's story sessions. Moore recalled that "we wanted to aim high, do something different and big... We knew we had to have a strong Picard story arc, so what are the profound things in a man's life he has to face? Mortality tops the list." After the idea of killing off a Next Generation cast member was vetoed, someone suggested that Kirk die instead. Moore recalled that "we all sorta looked around and said, 'That might be it.' " The studio and Shatner himself had few concerns about the plot point.
Refining the script also meant facing the realities of budget constraints. The initial proposal included location shooting in Hawaii, Idaho and the Midwestern United States and the total budget was over $30 million. After negotiations, the budget was reduced to $25 million. A revised version of the script from March 1994 included feedback from the producers, studio, actors and director; the writers changed a sequence where Harriman trained his predecessors in the Enterprise-B's operation after Shatner felt the scene's joke went too far. Picard's personal tragedy was written as his brother Robert's heart attack, but Stewart suggested the loss of his entire family in a fire to add emotional impact. The draft script's opening sequence took place on the solar observatory with two Rosencrantz and Guildenstern-influenced characters talking shortly before the Romulans' attack; Next Generation writer Jeri Taylor suggested that the opening should be something "fun", leading to the switch to a holodeck promotion-at-sea.
Nimoy turned down the chance to direct the feature as well as reprise the role of Spock. The producers chose David Carson. The British director had no feature film experience, but had directed several episodes of Star Trek, including the popular Next Generation episode "Yesterday's Enterprise" and the Deep Space Nine double-length pilot episode "Emissary".
Production on Generations began while The Next Generation was still filming. Scenes that did not feature The Next Generation regulars were filmed first. After the end of the show, there was only six months before the film was scheduled to be released in theaters.
Design and costumes
Generations's production designer was Star Trek veteran Herman Zimmerman, who had worked on previous Star Trek films, The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Zimmerman collaborated with illustrator John Eaves for many designs. Zimmerman's approach to realizing a vision of the future was to take existing and familiar designs and use them in a different manner to express living in the future. Taking cues from director Nicholas Meyer's approach to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Zimmerman noted that even in the future humanity will still need life support and have the same furniture needs, so a logical approach was to start with what would remain the same and work from there.
Transitioning from a television screen to a movie meant that sets and designs needed to be more detailed, the colors more subtle, and the level of polish higher. Zimmerman felt obligated to improve on the sets fans had watched for seven seasons, especially the bridge. Zimmerman repainted the set, added computer consoles, raised the captain's chair for a more commanding presence, and reworked the bridge's ceiling struts; Zimmerman had always been unhappy with how the ceiling looked but had never had the time or money to rework it previously.
The script called for an entirely new location on the Enterprise, stellar cartography. According to Zimmerman, the script characterized the location as a small room with maps on one wall. Finding the concept uninteresting, Zimmerman designed a circular set with three stories to give the impression the actors are inside a star map. Zimmerman's previous work designing a crisis management center influenced the design, dominated by video screens.
The Enterprise-B model was a modification of the Excelsior vessel first designed by effects house Industrial Light & Magic for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock a decade earlier. Production designer Herman Zimmerman designed the Enterprise-B with additions to its hull, some of which were added so that they could depict damage to the ship without harming the underlying model's surface. The surrounding spacedock was a modification of the model created for Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).
While the feature film made use of new sets and props, Dwyer reused previous Star Trek props or made new ones out of premade materials where possible rather than spend more money on entirely new items. A chair used to torture LaForge was created using a birthing chair, nosehair clippers and flashlights for accents. Packing pieces from electronics were used to form the shapes of set walls for the Bird of Prey bridge. The Amargosa stellar observatory set was filled with reused props from The Next Generation, with others added in deliberate nods to past episodes. Other setpieces were original; these included paintings of Picard's ancestors and a cowboy for the locations in the Nexus.
Robert Blackman, The Next Generation's long serving costume designer re-designed the Starfleet uniforms which the Enterprise-D crew would wear in the film. The designs combined some of the elements of the costumes seen in The Next Generation with those used earlier in the film franchise from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan onwards. These included a fastening on the right side of the chest and a slightly more militaristic approach with rank bandings on the sleeves. The costumes for the female crew-members were different - instead of the additional fastening, there was a higher than previously seen black band around the waist. These designs were ultimately never used - instead a combination of the uniforms as seen on The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and the upcoming series, Star Trek: Voyager were worn by the actors. However the news of the change in costumes came so late in production that the original re-designs were included on the range of licensed action figures by Playmates Toys. Also created by Blackman was the skydiving outfit worn by Shatner in the cut skydiving scene - this was eventually reused in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Extreme Risk" by Roxann Dawson as B'Elanna Torres.
Despite the budget cuts Generations shot many scenes on location.
The Enterprise-D promotion ceremony on the holodeck was filmed on the Lady Washington, a full-scale replica of the first American sailing ship to visit Japan. The Washington was anchored at Marina del Rey and sailed out a few miles from shore over five days of shooting. Some of the Washington's crew appeared amongst Enterprise crewmembers. The film's climax on Veridian III was filmed over eight days on an elevated plateau in the "Valley of Fire", north of Las Vegas, Nevada. The rise's height and sloped sides required cast and crew to climb 160 vertical feet using safety ropes and carry all provisions and equipment with them. The 110-degree heat was difficult for all involved, especially Shatner, as his character wore an all-wool uniform.
Picard's house in the Nexus was a private home in Pasadena, California; almost all the furnishings were custom props or outside items. The house, barn and horse jump of Kirk's Nexus recollections were filmed at William Shatner's ranch.
After test screenings, it was decided to re-shoot Captain Kirk's death. Originally, Kirk was shot and killed by Doctor Soran, but it was felt by the test audience that this was not a fitting death for such an iconic character. The re-shoot changed the manner of his death, so that instead, he sacrifices himself by leaping across a broken walkway to retrieve Soran's control pad and de-cloak the trilithium warhead. The original ending is shown in the deleted scenes of the Collectors Edition DVD.
Generation's special effects tasks were split between the television show's various effects vendors and ILM.
The previous Star Trek films used motion control techniques to record multiple passes of the starship models. For Generations, they began using computer-generated models for certain shots. No physical miniatures were ever built for the refugee ships, for instance, and the Enterprise-B's encounter in the ribbon also solely used a computer-generated model. Other CGI elements included the Enterprise warp effect, the solar collapses, and the Veridian III planet.
While digital techniques were used for many sequences and ships, a few models were physically built, including the observatory, built by model shop foreman John Goodson, and the Enterprise-B, which used the existing Excelsior model with additions designed by Zimmerman.
Because Generations featured the Enterprise-D separating into saucer and engineering sections, the original 6-foot (1.8 m) model built by ILM for the television series was hauled out of storage. The ship was stripped, rewired, and its surface detailed to stand up to scrutiny of the silver screen. A 12-foot saucer was constructed for the crash sequence, filmed in a 40-by-80 ft forest floor set extended by matte paintings. ILM shot its crew members walking about their parking lot and matted the footage onto the top of the saucer to represent the Starfleet personnel evacuating the saucer section.
Dennis McCarthy, a composer who had worked on The Next Generation, was given the task of composing for the feature. Critic Jeff Bond wrote that while McCarthy's score was "tasked with straddling the styles of both series", it also offered the opportunity for the composer to produce stronger dramatic writing. His opening music is a choral piece that plays while a floating champagne bottle tumbles through space. For the action scenes with the Enterprise-B, McCarthy used low brass chords; Kirk was given a brass motif accented by snare drums (a sound forbidden during The Next Generation), while the scene ends with dissonant notes as Scott and Chekov discover Kirk has been blown into space.
McCarthy expanded his brassy style for the film's action sequences, such as the battle over Veridian III and the crash-landing of the Enterprise. For Picard's trip to the Nexus, more choral music and synthesizers accompany Picard's discovery of his family. The film's only distinct theme, a broad fanfare, first plays when Picard and Kirk meet. The theme blends McCarthy's theme for Picard from The Next Generation's first season, notes from the theme for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Alexander Courage's classic Star Trek fanfare.
For the final battle of Kirk and Picard against Soran, McCarthy used staccato music to accentuate the fistfight. For Kirk's death, McCarthy mated lyrical strings with another statement of the Courage theme, while a shot of Picard standing over Kirk's grave is scored with more pomp. As the film closes, the Courage theme plays once more.
Generations went on general release in North America on November 18, 1994 and grossed $23.1 million during the opening weekend, averaging $8,694 across 2,659 theatres. It was the highest grossing film during the first week of the its release in the United States, and stayed in the top ten for a further four weeks. The film went on to gross $75,671,125 in the U.S. and $42,400,000 outside the U.S. making a total of $118,071,125 worldwide against a $35 million budget. In Japan, the film grossed $1.2 million its opening weekend, a large amount considering the franchise's usual poor performance in that market.
Generations's marketing included a web site, the first on the internet to officially publicize a motion picture. The site was a success, being viewed millions of times worldwide in the weeks leading to the film's release at a time when fewer than a million Americans had internet access. A novelization of the film written by J.M. Dillard spent three weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list.
Several tie-in video games were released to coincide with the film's release. These included a PC game by developers MicroProse called Star Trek Generations, which featured the film's cast as voice actors. The game roughly followed the plot of the film with the majority of the game played in a first-person perspective. Absolute Entertainment published Star Trek Generations: Beyond the Nexus for the Game Boy and the Game Gear handheld devices.
Star Trek: Generations earned mixed reviews from critics.
James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave Generations two and a half stars out of four, saying: "Despite a reasonably original story line, familiar characters, first rate special effects, and the hallmark meeting between Captains Kirk and Picard, there's something fundamentally dissatisfying about [the movie]. The problem is that [...] too often it seems like little more than an overbudgeted, double-length episode of the Next Generation television series."
Janet Maslin of The New York Times said: "Generations is predictably flabby and impenetrable in places, but it has enough pomp, spectacle and high-tech small talk to keep the franchise afloat." Jeremy Conrad of IGN gave the film a score of 7 out of 10, saying that it "feels a little rushed and manufactured," but called it "one of the better of the odd-numbered Trek films," referring to a belief that even-numbered Star Trek films are traditionally of higher quality.
In a negative review, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times asserted that Generations was "undone by its narcissism" due to the film's overemphasis on franchise in-jokes and the overuse of "polysyllabic pseudoscientific gobbledygook" uttered by its characters. Ebert also lamented the film's unimaginative script and complained "the starship can go boldly where no one has gone before, but the screenwriters can only do vice versa."
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