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Paramount Studios presents
Star Trek: Generations (Special Collector's Edition) (1994)

"They say time is the fire in which we burn."
- Soran (Malcolm McDowell)

Review By: Matt Peterson  
Published: September 06, 2004

Stars: Patrick Stewart, William Shatner, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Malcolm McDowell
Other Stars: James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Alan Ruck
Director: David Carson

MPAA Rating: PG for (sci-fi action and some mild language)
Run Time: 01h:57m:48s
Release Date: September 07, 2004
UPC: 097360523447
Genre: sci-fi

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Passing the baton is a dubious task. Doing it on the big screen is another. How does one create an engaging film with a solid story that satisfies both fans and non-fans alike, while doing justice to two separate incarnations of a very popular franchise? The first film to feature the crew of The Next Generation, Star Trek: Generations sets out to do just that, and more. It's an ambitious film filled many themes and elements; almost too many. Some of these ideas work beautifully, while others falter.

It's the 23rd Century, and the maiden voyage of the Enterprise-B is underway. Helmed by Captain John Harriman (Ferris Bueller's bud Alan Ruck), the newly christened ship carries several legends: Captain Kirk, Chekov and Scotty are on board for the festivities, which are cut short by a distress call from two El Aurian vessels caught in a powerful energy ribbon. This is the Nexus, a treacherous gateway to paradise. Seen by the crew as merely a dangerous space phenomenon, several El Aurians are rescued, but more fall victim to the ribbon's pull and Captain Harriman's hesitant decisions; among the survivors is Soran (the searing Malcolm McDowell) and the beloved bartender Guinan. In the process, Captain Kirk is pulled into space doing what he was born to do: Protecting his crew. A fine requiem ends a stunning opening sequence.

Cut to the 24th Century, where Picard and crew are enjoying a little boating on the Holodeck. After learning of his nephew's death, Picard is shaken to the core, realizing his family line will end with his passing; his career has never allowed time for a family and regret is beginning to seep in. Meanwhile, the Enterprise-D is called to the Amargosa Observatory, which has fallen under the attack of Romulans. They arrive too late, but discover a familiar passenger: Soran, a man obsessed with returning to the Nexus the Enterprise-B so violently snatched him from. Working with the Klingons, he is about to execute a dastardly scheme to bring the Nexus to him, at the cost of millions of innocent lives. It's up to Picard, and later, the man himself, Captain Kirk, to stop him.

This is a relatively good Trek film, sending members of the Original Series crew on its way once again (I always thought Star Trek VI did that fine...) and bringing Picard and company to the big screen. The adventure here feels epic and cinematic; clearly the budget is through the roof compared to your average episode, and it shows. The familiar TNG sets have been slightly modified, but look amazingly fresh and gorgeous, thanks to John Alonzo's stunning lighting. Still, this feels like another extended episode in many ways, despite its attempts to make characters advance with leaps and bounds; Data becomes a victim, whose emotion chip usage seems foolhardy (did anyone watch Descent?), but makes for some awkward, but decent comedy.

The clear theme throughout is an exploration of death and the afterlife, manifested in the Nexus ribbon, and the disasters that surround it. Picard finds Kirk living it up inside, cooking up some Ktarian eggs, happy as a clam. Am I the only one who is thinks cooking eggs is a rather undewhelming way to bring these two together? Finally convincing the Captain he is living in an illusion, the two ride off (literally...) together to stop Soran, ending in a somewhat disappointing swan song for Kirk. I never felt completely satisfied by the moment, nor was I happy with the forced dynamic between an unwilling Kirk and a chasing Picard, but here it is in all its irreversible finality (Trek can always find a way around such roadblocks, though). Some of the most affecting moments in this entry involve Picard, whose family ties, both real and imaginary, are explored with great effect. Patrick Stewart delivers another fine performance, as does Brent Spiner; the two are the real stars of this picture, as usual, and they carry many scenes to new heights.

At times, Generations feels like an excuse to maximize destruction for the sake of the big screen. The script has some thin motivations and contrived plot devices, but there are glimmers of substance that show through. It's a fun adventure that has its roller coaster moments, but doesn't forget about its characters. While not quite on the level of some of the previous films, this remains a worthy trek.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The image, thankfully anamorphic this time around, has some disappointing drawbacks. Color, contrast and detail look very good, but the image has a digital edginess to it. This looks to be the result of oversharpening. As a result, there is some shimmering throughout, along with a kind of what looks like a thin layer of video noise, but you probably won't spot them unless you're viewing the film on a high end monitor. This is not a total disaster by any means, but certainly a disappointment for those eagerly awaiting a lustrous new anamorphic treatment.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby 5.1 track is expectedly active and dynamic, immersing the viewer in crystal clear sound effects of the Nexus, transporters, torpedoes, warp drives and various other Trek norms. Channel separation and use of split surrounds is excellent, as is the mixing of Dennis McCarthy's robust score. This film sounds great, do doubt. Also, for the first time on DVD, Paramount has included a dts track for a Trek film. Unfortunately, my receiver is not dts capable at the moment, so I was unable to review this option. If past tracks are any indication, the dts is probably a bit better, but not by much.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
3 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
3 Documentaries
9 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by co-writers Brannon Braga and Ron Moore
Packaging: Double alpha
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Text commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda
  2. Production Gallery (photos)
Extras Review: Paramount has created a very impressive package this time around. Usually, these Trek reissues have some redeeming bonus features, but ultimately amount to quite a bit of studio fluff. A reasonable explanation is that most films before the 90s were produced without heavy documentation of behind the scenes activity. Generations, however, seems to have been covered quite well; this disc is full of engaging footage shot during the making of the film, and even some new interviews. All featurettes have optional English or French subtitles.

First, I want to mention the impressive motion menus. Disc One's design features the Enterprise-B approaching the Nexus, while Disc Two is set in a fine CGI recreation of the impressive Stellar Cartography set. Each option selected sends the menu into an elaborate animation, taking us to a different view of the ship or, in the case of Stellar Cartography, the galaxy projected on the room's curved walls. Well done.

Disc One contains two useful commentaries. The first and most entertaining is by writers Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga. This was their very first feature film, and these two Trek vets know they were trying to do too much. A lot of pressure was riding on them. This commentary gives the pair a time to be candid about what they regret, and even share some interesting anecdotes and early draft idea, creating one of the best Trek commentaries yet. Second is another text commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda. Using semi-translucent "pop-up" boxes, the husband and wife team share some more tidbits. There are some obvious notes here, but since the Okudas were directly involved in this film, their comments are most useful for those who know little about Trek.

Disc Two carries the motherlode. Split into five sections, this is a rather comprehensive look at the making of the film, along with some long awaited deleted scenes that have been discussed for years.

The first section is entitled The Star Trek Universe, containing four featurettes. A Tribute to Matt Jeffries (19m:36s) is a fine look at the late, humble production designer behind the innovative look of the Original Series. If you don't know his designs, you don't know Trek. It's great to see his work recognized by such current artists as John Eaves and Herman Zimmerman; The Enterprise Lineage (12m:47s) examines the history ships named Enterprise, from the original sailing vessel, to the Enterprise-E; Captain Picard's Family Album (07m:05s) is a visual tour through the intricately designed scrapbook seen briefly in the film. A lot of time, thought and effort went into creating the bits in this book, which include an invitation to the wedding of Jack and Beverly Crusher; Creating 24th Century Weapons (13m:47s) features Gil Hibben, a famous knife designer (who knew?) who covers his skilled work for Star Trek. This one was a bit dull (sorry, I couldn't resist...).

Production contains three parts. Uniting Two Legends (25m:38s) discusses the thoughts around uniting Kirk and Picard, with archival and new interview bits from William Shatner, director David Carson, among others. There is some premiere footage included, as well; Stellar Cartography: Creating the Illusion (09m:22s) is a brief look at the impressive set, guided by cinematographer John Alonzo; Strange New Worlds: The Valley of Fire (22m:40s) covers the Nevada location used for the climactic end battle, which had to be reshot.

Visual Effects has some of the most interesting featurettes. Inside ILM: Models and Miniatures (09m:38s) is a very cool look at the motion control stage at ILM and the amazingly detailed models used for the production; Crashing the Enterprise (10m:43s) shows a younger John Knoll explaining the setup used for creating the shots of the saucer crash. A massive, impressive miniature landscape and saucer section is put through the paces and we get front row seats.

Scene Deconstruction takes three portions of the film and breaks them down into the various elements that went into their creation, including storyboards and visual effects plates and passes. These bits are narrated by visual effects team members. Scenes include: Main Title Sequence (03m:32s), The Nexus Ribbon (07m:07s), and Saucer Crash Sequence (04m:49s). These are similar to the VFX pieces on the Contact DVD.

Four Deleted Scenes are next, all presented in very rough quality widescreen, with a timecode partially obstructing the screen. Some are preceded by comments from Rick Berman, Walter Koenig, William Shatner, James Doohan and Herman Zimmerman. There is a “play all” option (total run time 33m:09s). The highly controversial Orbital Skydiving scene is the only true deleted scene. The other three are alternate versions of scenes in the final film. Walking the Plank is another take on the sailing intro; Christmas with the Picards is a less emotional version of Picard's Nexus experience; Alternate Ending is the very weak original ending where Kirk is actually shot in the back! They wisely decided on a reshoot. The original Geordi torture scene is omitted.

Archives includes a gallery of storyboards (Enterprise-B, Worf's Promotion, Two Captains) and production photos.

The back of the package erroneously lists the theatrical teaser and trailer as features. They are nowhere to be found here, probably due to clearance issues. Paramount has decided to recall this title, correct the package and release it at a later date (TBA). Don't hold your breath for a new transfer, though.

Whew. There is a lot to get your phasers charged over. At a retail price of $19.99 US, this is a giveaway.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

Generations is a film of mixed emotions that works on some levels, but relies on some forced devices to bring everything together. A somewhat disappointing sendoff for Kirk, this is still a fine Trek adventure. Paramount's reissue picks up the slack with some great extras. Don't hesitate to beam it up.


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