Mar 31, 2014
Star Trek: Generations (1994) (part 6 of 12)
Just as the film starts to grind to a complete halt, Picard’s breakdown is mercifully interrupted by a huge bright flash outside the window. Hurrying to the bridge, Picard is told by Riker that a nearby star has imploded, thanks to a probe launched from the observatory, and they have only a few minutes to get the hell out of Dodge before the shockwave pulverizes everything in the system.
Wow, so the plot is finally moving! And we’re only, what, almost forty-five minutes into the running time?
As they’re about to leave, Picard and Riker realize that Geordi and Data haven’t checked in, and rather than leave them to get smashed to bits by the shockwave, they send Riker and Worf over to get them.
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Over on the observatory, Soran is examining Geordi’s VISOR when a female voice calls in over the intercom, requesting his coordinates. Riker and Worf enter and quickly get into a shootout with Soran.
On the bridge, Picard is surprised as a Klingon Bird of Prey suddenly decloaks. Back at the shootout, Riker tries to get Data to help Geordi, but Data is apparently too terrified to be of any use. Well, Data’s kind of useless to begin with, but up until now he hasn’t been Captain Yellowshorts useless.
Soran beams off the observatory with Geordi, and the Klingon ship hauls ass out of there. Riker and Data beam out and the Enterprise does the same, right before the shockwave destroys the observatory. All in all, it’s a pretty good action scene.
On the Klingon ship, Soran gets to the bridge and is greeted by his partners in destruction, the villainous Klingon sisters from the series. I really don’t feel like typing their names or getting into the back story involving them, so let’s just say they’re dull characters played by dull actresses. (Okay, fine, if you really want to know: here.) Since I have to keep things relatively clear and coherent, I’ll just refer to them as Helga (the ugly one) and Brunhilda (the really ugly one).
Soran greets Helga with a punch to the face. Nice! She takes this in stride, noting, “I hope for your sake you were initiating a mating ritual.” So, Klingons take their cues on romance from the Ike Turner School of Lovemaking? Interesting.
It turns out the Romulan sun-exploding compound was stolen by the sisters. They, in turn, have given it to Soran so he can make a weapon from it. The Romulans attacked the station to get it back, I guess.
Soran tells them to go to the Veridian system, which simply takes Soran to where he needs to be, dragging the Ugly Sisters uselessly along for the ride. He could have hired a taxi, but then there’d be no fanwank continuity. Besides, the taxi might have been driven by Bruce Willis.
Don’t ask me why the writers decided to drop these two into the mix. Maybe the makeup effects team is only really happy when they get to work on Klingons. The film would work just as well with the Romulans as a menacing force, or even Soran alone. But the real reason for the sisters’ presence will be seen a little later. And brother, is it ever pathetic.
Now that we’ve set up our villains, it’s time for a big info-dump. Are you ready? The Enterprise team is finally doing a background check on Soran, and it turns out that he’s an El-Aurian, over 300 years old, and a survivor of a Borg attack that destroyed his planet and his family.
This info-dump serves two purposes: it provides Soran’s motivation, and it also establishes that Soran and Guinan are the same race, Guinan having been previously revealed as El-Aurian in the TNG episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise”.
Here’s the thing: The one thing we know about El-Aurians—and it’s even brought up in this movie—is that they’re a “race of listeners”. That’s the gag behind Guinan becoming the Enterprise bartender. We even know it from the really stupid and transparent name for their race. Why do sci-fi writers always think translating a single trait into Latin is a great way to name a planet? It’s like saying humans come from the planet Pugnacia.
The problem is that Soran, despite a joke he makes about it shortly, never, ever comes across as someone with a genetic predisposition for listening. In fact, his single most clearly established character trait, underlined in long monologues toward the end of the movie, is that the only voice he’s interested in hearing is his own.
Incidentally, given the lack of makeup on either Soran (scar aside) or Guinan, does this mean that “El-Aurian” translates to “Guest Aliens of the Week who look human because we only have so much money in our makeup effects budget”?
Picard, now in his DS9-esque uniform, has a scene with Guinan in her quarters, which look like a Class A fire hazard given all the candles strewn about. Seriously, is Pottery Barn the new Starbucks in the future?
Guinan exposits that Soran wants to get back to the energy ribbon seen at the beginning of the movie. Rather than just “some random phenomenon traveling through the universe”, it’s actually a doorway to a vague, blissful dimension that the El-Aurians (well, the ones not Borgified, at any rate) call the Nexus.
So, it’s a specific phenomenon traveling through the universe then, eh?
Guinan says it was like being “inside joy”, and no, that’s not an opening for a crude lesbian joke about The View. Besides, Joy Behar isn’t even on that show anymore. Not that I ever watched it to the point where I would know, I—oh hell, let’s just move on!
Like every scene with Guinan, things are pointlessly vague and mysterious. This works better on a television series building up towards a payoff revelation about Guinan (not that the series ever did—the closest they got was showing that Guinan was alive in the Old West, which, wow, that’s really exciting! In a “who cares” sort of way). But in a movie, it’s not good to have vague plot holes that might or might not get filled in later, depending on whether or not there’s a sequel.
Guinan exposits how powerful the attraction towards the Nexus is, and how hard it was for her to let it go, and how dangerous Soran could be if he’s still obsessed with getting back there.
Before he leaves, Picard is warned by Guinan that if he goes into the Nexus, he won’t want to come back. Well, she draws it out a bit more, but that’s the basic gist of it. This lets us in on the fact that Guinan has read the script, since there’s no reason to believe at this point that Picard would end up inside the Nexus himself.
This isn’t that bad a sci-fi concept, to be honest. The notion of a dimension that acts much like a powerfully addictive drug is a neat one that could make for a strong story, full of emotional resonance and depth. Or, it could make for a hopelessly confusing, utterly convoluted plot point in a Star Trek movie. For the life of me, I don’t know why this franchise drops the ball so much when it comes to what should be a slow pitch right over the plate.
One of the hallmarks of the franchise has been addressing fairly deep issues through science fiction. At least, that’s my take on it, but for some reason, they just can’t get writers who can fully develop their ideas. Instead, they take an idea to the exposition level, and then just throw in confusing stuff and action scenes, as we’ll see later. It screwed up Insurrection, it hurt Nemesis, and the only reason it didn’t screw up First Contact was because that movie was really intended to be more of a blend between sci-fi/action and horror.
It’s frustrating as hell. I love seeing a really good, complex story that makes you think. Sure, I love big action scenes, but when there’s an actual story going on at the same time, that only enhances the experience. Sadly, the franchise forgot this at some point in the ‘90s, and it’s only with the reboot movie that they seem to have decided to try doing both at once. Not that everyone agrees with this.