“If you’ll excuse me captain I’ve an appointment with eternity and I don’t want to be late.”
-Dr. Tolian Soran (Malcolm McDowell)
Plot: What’s it about?
Star Trek: The Next Generation ranks as my second favorite television show of all-time (I doubt anything will ever replace The Simpson’s). It was a staple of my late high school/early college years and even today I find myself watching an episode or two at least once a month. With the television series ending in May 1994, the die was cast for the crew of the Enterprise D to make the leap to the big screen. After all, Capt. James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and his gang had been doing films since Star Trek: The Motion Picture made its debut back in 1979. Clearly it was time to pass the baton to, well, a new generation. And that, to me, was what this movie was all about – giving this new cast free reign to “do their own thing” without being in the shadow of the original crew. This was the first of four movies featuring most of the cast and crew of Star Trek: The Next Generation and while it wasn’t the worst of the bunch, I never felt it was the best. Nevertheless…engage.
We meet some (mostly) familiar faces when Capt. Kirk (William Shatner), Scotty (James Doohan) and Chekov (Walter Koenig) are reunited about the Enterprise B. Things immediately get moving when a distress call is received and a plethora of refugees are beamed aboard. However Capt. Kirk and Dr. Tolian Soran (Malcolm McDowell) are carried away in an energy nexus with Kirk presumed dead. Flash forward nearly 8 decades and we meet the crew of the Enteprise D with Capt. Picard (Patrick Stewart) and crew have been alerted to an attack on a Federation outpost. Here they find Dr. Soran. It’s not long after their initial encounter that they discover Soran isn’t who he claims to be. His plan is to divert the energy nexus to the planet Veridian III where his goal is to re-enter it, living happily ever after. Capt. Kirk and Picard must now work together to stop Soran at any cost and, presumably, save the galaxy once again.
The best way I’ve heard this movie described was by my brother (he’d seen it before me) who said “It’s basically like a really good episode.” And…he’s right. The television show had some pretty high production values which might seem antiquated by today’s standards, but at the time they were cutting edge. The movie with its larger budget was able to take those to a higher level and thus gave the film its unique look and feel. Despite the ensemble cast all being present (even Whoopi Goldberg’s Guinan), this really is a three man show with Patrick Stewart, William Shatner and Malcolm McDowell leading the way. Heck, even Riker only gets a handful of scenes. There’s also an annoying subplot with Data (Brent Spiner) getting his long-awaited emotion chip leading to plenty of scene-chewing scenes. All in all Generations provided a segue for the three films that followed it and giving audiences what they wanted – a theatrical version of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Video: How’s it look?
I’ve seen this movie on every format available and even had the LaserDisc way back when! This is the first time the movie has been offered in 4K on disc and it’s also been a while since I’ve seen this particular film. Suffice it to say that the new 2.39:1 HEVC 4K image is a significant step up in terms of video quality. Those familiar with the television show were in for a bit of a change of pace as the film has much darker, more industrial look and feel to it. Gone are the natural warm hues of the Enterprise as they’ve been replaced by granite walls, overhead lighting and it gives the film a different look that the TV show. I’m sure that was intentional. Detail has been improved as well, though the one thing that really struck me was how well the HDR was handled. Yes, there are a few scenes that show some noticeable grain, but it’s not so much that it’s distracting. If seeing a pleasantly plump William Shatner in 4K is what you were after – your prayers have been answered.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Though one would assume these would be ripe for a new Dolby Atmos mix, we’re not going to see that anytime soon. Included is the same Dolby TrueHD mixes found on the previously-existing Blu-ray’s. Don’t let that deter you, there are some good moments in there – notably when the Enterprise crash lands on the planet (I’ll go on the assumption since the movie came out in 1994 that this isn’t a spoiler). Given the depth of the cast, we know what to expect with vocals and Dennis McCarthy’s pleasant score has some very good moments as well. The third act has the most “action” in regard to overall usage of sound, notably in the surrounds. It’s a nice-sounding mix that begs for an upgrade, but don’t let my words sell it short – it certainly delivers.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Disc One (4K)
- Audio Commentary – Director David Carson and Manny Coto collaborate on this track that’s chock full of information about the cast, crew and the shoot as a whole. This track was originally created for the 2009 release of the film in the box set.
- Audio Commentary – Writers Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore’s track carries over from the initial 2004 release of the movie on DVD. Moore knows his stuff when it comes to Star Trek, but if you’ve already heard this track – I don’t see the need to listen to it again.
- Text Commentary – Michael and Denise Okuda are the epitome of Star Trek in more ways than one and it’s a nice inclusion that their text commentary made the cut.
Disc Two (Blu-ray)
- Audio Commentary – Same as above.
- Audio Commentary – Same as above.
- Text Commentary – Same as above.
- Library Computer – The viewing mode features tons of background information, technical details, and other Trek trivia compiled by the Okudas.
- Production – A series of four shorter vignettes that help illustrate some of the more technical challenges of bringing this film to the screen.
- Uniting Two Legends
- Stellar Cartography: Creating the Illusion
- Strange New Worlds: The Valley of Fire
- Scoring Trek
- Visual Effects – A good look at how models and ILM were used for some of the effects in the film, notably the Enterprise’s destruction.
- Inside ILM: Models & Miniatures
- Crashing the Enterprise
- Scene Deconstruction – Essentially the same as above, though we get a look at the main title sequence (champagne bottle and all) as well as the ribbon and the saucer crash sequence.
- Main Title Sequence
- The Nexus Ribbon
- Saucer Crash Sequence
- The Star Trek Universe – A series of nine shorter featurettes that cover the remaining, outstanding areas of interest for the movie.
- A Tribute to Matt Jeffries
- The Enterprise Lineage
- Captain Picard’s Family Album
- Creating 24th Century Weapons
- Next Generation Designer Flashback Andrew Probert
- Stellar Cartography on Earth
- Brent Spiner – Data and Beyond Part 1
- Trek Roundtable: Generations
- Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 007: Trilithium
- Deleted Scenes – Four total, though none really offer anything of substance.
- Orbital Skydiving
- Walking the Plank
- Christmas with the Picards
- Alternate Ending
The Bottom Line
Star Trek: Generations ranks as my second favorite “new” Star Trek film with First Contact being the first. Likely any fan of the series has seen this multiple times and it’s certainly nice to have it in 4K. I have to hand it to Paramount, they do take care of their Trek fans when it comes to discs.