Star Trek: Generations (Special Collector's Edition)

When “Star Trek: The Next Generation” came out there was one debate that was on the minds of all viewers: “Will they shove Wesley out an airlock?”. But second to that debate was the eternal question: Who was cooler, Kirk or Picard?”. Star Trek: Generations doesn’t really give an answer to the question, but it does give an opportunity to see the two captains in action, side by side. I can still remember not liking Star Trek: Generations the first time I saw it. Oh, I thought it had some really cool moments, but after seeing the “Next Generation” crew on television for seven years, it was weird seeing them in a movie environment, where the characters were the same but everything else was bigger. Luckily my opinion has changed as I’ve gotten used to the transition of the cast from series to movies.

Generations focuses on an intergalactic event called the nexus that travels around the galaxy. It is first encountered by the Enterprise B, on a brief test voyage accompanied by original series characters Scotty, Chekov, and Kirk. During the encounter with the nexus Kirk is lost as the Enterprise B rescues members of the El-Aurian race from the nexus’ hold, including Next Generation supporting character Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) and Dr. Tolian Soran (Malcolm McDowell).

Fast forward to the time of the Next Generation, where Dr. Soran is attempting to return to the nexus. It appears the nexus is almost an eden, a place of perfect happiness for those who are there, and Soran will stop at nothing to get back, including teaming with Klingons and destroying suns. It’s up to the crew of the Enterprise D to stop him. Of course, since this is “The Next Generation”, Soran isn’t the only issue - there have to be character issues as well. For Generations it’s Data coping with his newly installed emotional chip, and Picard coming to terms with the death of his brother’s family, and his own lack of offspring.

Generations is an admirable first endeavor for the Next Generation crew. It’s not a perfect film, mostly suffering from an attempt to cram too much into it. You have Kirk, and the nexus, and Dr. Soran, and Data’s chip, and Picard’s family... it just gets to be too much all at once. For a show that was often accused of being too positive and feel-good about the future in its vision, the movie spends a lot of time being downer after downer for certain characters. Also, despite all of these personal conflicts, the characters are nowhere near as developed as the trio of Star Trek - Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Those three characters spent five films getting older, and dealing with the consequences of that. Like the television show, for most of the characters there are no long term results from this movie, and almost everything is close to status quo before the film is over.

The picture is, however, visually stunning. I would put the space battles in Generations up against just about anything done in the first six Star Trek movies. The action sequences also are unrivaled in the Star Trek movie world (at least until the next film First Contact), especially the final battle between Kirk and Soran. The movie builds tension well in the conflicts, keeping things interesting as long as there is action on the screen.

Star Trek: Generations is the first film for the next Generation crew, and the seventh film overall, meaning either way you look at it, it’s an odd numbered film. I guess it does fall into the “Star Trek curse” (of odd numbered films being lesser to the evenly numbered ones) however it’s probably the best of the odd numbered films, and frankly I enjoy it more then some of the even numbered ones. Paramount released bare bones editions of all the Star Trek movies before turning around and running these “Special Collector’s Editions” of each film. For that they should earn the scorn of all DVD collectors out there. Don’t be the least bit surprised if they turn around and come up with some “Awesome Platinum Super-de-Dooper” version once they finish all the films this go-round. That said, I have really enjoyed the “Special Collector’s Editions” for the films I’ve picked up so far, and Star Trek: Generations is no different. Like the other films in the series, the “Special Collector’s Edition” is a two disc set, one for the film itself, and one for the bonus features.

The film looks great. I don’t know what it is about some movies, but when they come out on DVD I’m just impressed with how clear the picture is, or how awesome the movie sounds. This is one of those movies. The film looks and sounds great, and has a couple of different options for your viewing/listening pleasure. There is a pretty good commentary with writers Brannon Braga and Ron Moore. Moore dominates the conversation through most of the commentary track, but that’s okay because he’s a pretty dynamic speaker, keeping things interesting and occasionally including Braga. The movie can also be watched with the typical text commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda that have been included with each “Special Collector’s Edition” so far. The text commentary is interesting, referencing the library of Star Trek episodes and information, as well as other films and actors in the sci-fi genre. It is a bit obtrusive in appearance though, choosing to look like a display from one of the Enterprises consoles rather then remaining bland in appearance, but not distracting from the film.

The second disc is chock full of extras including production featurettes, looks behind the scene, and deleted scenes. I have one major complaint I’d like to voice before I get into all of the information on the disc. Every extra on the disc has end credits when it’s finished, and when I say every extra, I mean every extra. I don’t mean deleted scenes, then end credits, that would be acceptable. I mean Deleted Scene 01, then credits, then Deleted Scene 02, then credits... It’s an annoying way of crediting the people responsible that means you have to keep your remote handy as you watch anything on the disc so you can go back to the menu without sitting through credits each time.

The deleted scenes were the highlight of this set for me when I bought it. I had heard numerous times about the alternate opening and ending of the film - an opening that featured Kirk skydiving (“orbital skydiving” for the trek techs out there) and an ending that kills Kirk by... having him shot in the back? Now that I’ve seen the deleted scenes I‘m here to tell you, they are not worth buying the set over if they are the only thing you’re interested in. The scenes are all rough with no music and a few sound effects here and there when they are absolutely important. The orbital skydiving is brief, the alternate ending is horrid, and the two other deleted scenes aren’t really worth mentioning. It’s proof that sometimes the deleted material deserves to be removed, and should never be unearthed again.

Luckily the other materials on the disc are interesting enough to make up for the deleted scenes’ shortcomings. There are over ten featurettes, each focused on a specific subject. The featurettes vary in length, but most of them are at least fifteen to twenty minutes long, meaning you’re getting a detailed look at the subject matter. Those subjects range from creating weapons in the 24th century to crashing the Enterprise to filming in the “valley of fire”. Each featurette uses interviews with cast and crew to tell its story. Most of the interviews appear to be conducted while filming was going on, which adds an interesting touch when you start to note what changed between what cast members said was going on, and what actually made it on screen. All of the featurettes are interesting though, and although you wouldn’t think there’d be enough material to make that many different looks behind the scenes, they seldom cover the same ground.

The biggest omission from the set are the the film’s trailers, which were originally supposed to be included. This is the reason the set didn’t come out earlier in September like it was scheduled to - the packaging advertised trailers, and they weren’t included on the discs. This is a grievous oversight on the part of Paramount. Collectors want trailers. This is a “collector’s edition”. Where’s the confusion?

The “Special Collector’s Edition” of Star Trek: Generations is a great treatment on the movie. It’s also the treatment the film should have got the first time around, but as long as Paramount’s getting our money I guess they’ll put out whatever they want. Although the bonus material is really nice, without any real change to the movie itself, they shouldn’t expect to get my money on the third go-round.