8/21/07

R036 Star Trek: Generations

(1994, SciFi, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy

Crap crap, jargon jargon, crap, sir.

Rating: **1/2

In a nutshell:

William Shatner and Patrick Stewart gang up on Malcolm McDowell.

Summary:

Two Captains.  One Dignified.In the far flung future, Admiral James Tiberius Kirk (William Shatner) attends the maiden voyage of the Starship Enterprise-B, which I guess is meant to be a different ship with the same name as the original. Things go awry almost instantly, as two nearby ships filled with refugees get caught in a super-magic glow thingy known as The Nexus. The Nexus destroys one ship as the new captain struggles with indecision. Kirk takes command and orders the Enterprise into the Nexus to beam as many as possible to safety. In order to escape the Nexus themselves, some frantically shouted faux science requires Kirk to descend to the engine room and swap some parts. He does so, and the ship breaks free. In a parting blow, however, the Nexus shoots out an energy bolt that blasts a hole through the engine room, presumably sucking Kirk into space.

In a future even further flung, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) leads his crew on a merry pleasure voyage over a rolling sea aboard the good ship Enterprise. Standard holodeck hijinks ensue. A personal call interrupts, sending Picard fleeing to his quarters. A subsequent distress call brings up the rest of the crew. A space station has been attacked by Romulan marauders; the sole survivor of which is Dr. Tolian Soran (pronounced “Sauron” oddly enough, and played by Malcolm McDowell). Further investigation by Enterprise crewmen Geordi (LeVar Burton) and Data (Brent Spiner) leads to the discovery of a dangerous solar probe. Soran sneaks away from his confinement aboard the Enterprise to surprise them and activate the probe. He takes Geordi hostage and beams aboard a nearby Klingon warship to make his getaway. The probe collapses the nearest star, destroying its solar system.

Picard retraces Soran’s life history to discover that he was one of the few survivors Kirk et al. managed to rescue from the Nexus way back in the opening sequence. Fortunately, one of his fellow survivors is on board the Enterprise. The ship’s bartender Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) tells Picard about how the Nexus warps time and space, giving whoever it takes an eternity of their fondest wishes. Soran has been obsessed with it since it nearly took him eighty-some-odd years ago, and will do anything to get back.

Meanwhile, a bit of exposition aboard the Klingon vessel reveals that Soran has promised to give his star-destruction research to a pair of repulsive Klingon rebel women in exchange for assistance with his mad experiments. Also meanwhile, even further exposition aboard the Enterprise shows that Soran has been destroying stars in order to alter the various gravitational fields that control the Nexus’ path through space. If he destroys just one more, the Nexus will pass though an uninhabited planet, allowing Soran to hop aboard. Never mind that the planet next door is home to several hundred million people who will perish horribly without their sun. The Enterprise rushes to intercept him.

Ham and Anti-Ham.An improbable set of circumstances leads to a situation where Picard is exchanged for Geordi and subsequently beamed down to Soran’s sun-destroying base. Picard talks to Soran, trying to reason with him while looking for a way through the base’s force fields. Meanwhile, the Klingons have bugged Geordi’s air filter-esque visor with a spy camera. They pull some information from the Enterprise’s technical screens which somehow allows them to fire through its shields with impunity. The Enterprise crew uses some little-known Klingon lore to take the warship’s shields down as well and then blow it to pieces. Their damage is heavy though; everyone aboard flees to the ship’s saucer section, which separates from the rest of the Enterprise just before the engines explode. The force of the explosion sends the saucer to crash land on the planet below.

Meanwhile, Picard finds a way under the force field and attacks Soran. They tussle for a while, but Picard fails to stop Soran from launching his deadly probe. The probe destroys the sun; the Nexus alters course; and both Soran and Picard are engulfed in ribbon of light...

Picard wakes up in a Victorian-era home, surrounded by his frippily dressed imaginary children and his lace-covered imaginary wife. With the help of Whoopi Goldberg’s ghost (I think) he recognizes it as the wish-fulfilling false reality of the Nexus. (Oh, and there was some stuff near the beginning about Picard’s bottomless grief over his only nephew getting killed in a fire. That grief comes into play here, sort of.) He abandons his imaginary family to go looking for another Nexus resident...

Kirk is chopping wood outside a rustic cottage when Picard comes across him. There’s some bemused hamminess on Kirk’s part while Picard attempts to convince him to come back and help him defeat Soran. Kirk is reluctant at first, but eventually agrees. According to Whoopi’s ghost, the Nexus can take them back to any place or point in time they wish to go, so they go back to Soran’s sun-destroying base moments before the launch. The resulting fight ends with Soran dead in the explosion that destroys his probe, and Kirk crushed beneath a fallen bridge. He gets a nauseatingly poignant death scene before the rest of Star Fleet arrives to pick them up.

Later, Picard delivers the movie’s nonsensical but nonetheless heavy-handed moral while his crew roots through the wreckage of the Enterprise.

Thoughts:

Is this before or after he terrorized all of Middle Earth?And now, the Moral of the Story: Don’t murder hundreds of millions of people to achieve immortality; it’s just not worth it...

For those of you keeping score, this is the third consecutive Star Trek film to garner a Rifftrax commentary, and of those, three have had morals that make no sense at all. Star Trek V doesn’t want us to worship genocidal aliens. Star Trek VI came down against wanton slaughter for political purposes. Star Trek VII, a.k.a. Generations comes down against wanton slaughter for mad science purposes. And I’m wondering, what happened to the old Star Trek? You know, the goofy starship melodrama that took on issues like the meaning of freedom and the uselessness of racism. I admit I haven’t done a comprehensive study or anything, but I’d be willing to bet a shiny new quarter that the vast majority of Star Trek viewers are normal, regular people, and not mad scientists, maniacal despots, or worshipers of space-based ethereal heads at all. Did Star Trek’s producers run out of real-life issues to comment on? Is modern society so devoid of social problems that the science fiction screenwriters of the present feel compelled to harangue us about imaginary new ones?

It should be noted that Generations is the best of the three Trek films featured on Rifftrax, though if you look at the last two, it would have been difficult to be worse. Not that this film doesn’t try, since the ultimately nonsensical story is riddled with gaping plot holes. (Why does Picard have to bother Kirk? If he goes back by himself and fails to stop Soran again, the Nexus can send him back for as many times as he needs until he succeeds. For that matter, why does Picard need to go back to that point in time at all? The Nexus can drop him any place at any time; if I were him I’d head to Earth a bit further back in time to save my nephew from the fire, and then send a message to the Enterprise detailing Soran’s plot. They’d imprison him immediately after rescuing him from the Romulans and several stars would never implode as scheduled.) And then there’s android Data’s emotion chip—a tiny device that sparks a horrible subplot whose irritation factor defies all description. The only reason this movie stands head and shoulders above its predecessors is that it casts trained professionals instead of aging has-beens.

Like the previous Star Trek tracks, Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy team up to provide the commentary. It starts off well with Mike raving about how his kids painted his living room wall like a star field and Kevin ranting about how much he hates the character Chekov. During the unfunny holodeck hijinks, Kevin says, “The Prime Directive should have been ‘Never Do Comedy.’” When Patrick Stewart and Malcolm McDowell meet at Soran’s base, Mike says, “It’s good to see another British actor selling out to this turd of a franchise.” When Picard tries to pull Kirk from the bridge’s wreckage, Mike puts on his best Art Garfunkel impression to sing, “Like a bridge over mangled Jim Kirk.” Superior mockery from Mike and Kevin make it funny, but more than that, superior actors debasing themselves in the service of Star Trek goofiness take away most of the pain associated with the franchise. It’s worth a look.