The Trek Trek
Part XIV: SPOILER ALERT!
There are a few laws to Star Trek. A couple of constants throughout the series which, whether the writers of this show mean it or not, are infallible. We all know the “Curse of the Red Shirt” truth, but there are other truths out there other than “Random ensigns who go on away missions will not survive.” Another of the same sort is that you do not want to be the other captain appearing on Star Trek. Meaning if this is The Original Series (TOS), you don’t want to be any captain but Kirk. The same will hold true throughout Next Generation (TNG) and will even creep into Deep Space 9 (DS9). If you are another Star fleet Captain of some other Federation ship and you so happen to appear in an episode, by the end you will either be dead or disgraced in one form or another. It’s sad, but its true, and that’s just the way it is.
At this point in the Trek through Trek it has been some time since I’ve last seen a Star Trek film. I have since started and finished 7 seasons of TNG and am currently deeply immersed into DS9 and in the honeymoon stage of Voyager (VOY). I found myself thinking about Generations as it approached. A certain bit of expectancy was there sure, but a bit of uncertainty as well. Mainly because this is a TNG and TOS crossover. To have it now and here seems odd as TOS seems long ago and approaches irrelevancy. I’m not happy about feeling that way. I believe in knowing one’s roots, and I do have the utmost respect for TOS, but the story is so expanded now. I’ve got the Delta, Gamma and Alpha quadrants to deal with at this point. The federations bickering with Romulans from a century ago has lost its flavor.
I was expecting this to be a true cross over. Kirk and co. on the Enterprise D. Two teams side by side overcoming impossible odds. Maybe even Kirk would have a go at Troi. I was very wrong to assume this would be the case. Rather than a true crossover, this film is simply Captain Kirk’s appearance with the TNG crew. Which would actually be fine by me. When the three characters who appeared separately in TNG showed up it was a welcome surprise. McCoy’s cameo in “Encounter at Farpoint” was a wine bottle smashed onto the pilot of TNG wishing it well on its journey. Scotty’s one episode appearance in “Relics” brought a smile to my face like seeing an old friend again. Of course there’s “Unification“, Spock’s two-part episode which was as exciting and memorable a part of TNG as any of their bests. So James T. Kirk being James T Kirk, if we want him to interact with the crew of the Enterprise D, it’s not going to be a casual two-part TNG TV event of the week. No, the silver screen is the only screen.
The problem though is that, for the most part, the whole movie could have just been another episode of TNG. Some major things happen sure, but I would say too many big things happen. So each of the major events, which I will not go into here, get compressed and don’t get the real attention or feeling of importance they deserve. The worst part of it all is that all of the major and exciting TNG involved events have absolutely nothing to do with Captain Kirk. Kirk does not see the Enterprise D, he does not bang Troi, or say some hilarious Spock-esque remark to Data, or get into a macho contest with Riker. Captain James T. Kirk only meets one member of the TNG crew, Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
Cool enough though, right? Yeah, I can live with that too. Kirk and Picard side by side in a great space battle stopping a force which will destroy everything the Federation has worked for. Nope. Here is what occurs during the… I’d say roughly 15 to 20 minutes they’re together in the film. Kirk chops some wood, then cooks some eggs, they go horse back riding, then they get in a fist fight with Malcolm McDowell. Finally, being as Kirk is the other Captain appearing in a TNG tale, he follows the laws of Star Trek and does what any good other Captain does, and he dies. Sure there’s some nice conversation regarding personal growth between them and Kirk helps Picard overcome a sadness he was not expecting in his aging days. But, can’t we have this chat while in a running from some Romulans in a ship they just stole or something? Maybe not on horseback in some magical plane of existence? Maybe?
Instead of giving Kirk some side story in the woods, write his character into the rest of the movie or just leave him out of it! Kirk’s presence and death just overshadows and demeans what is otherwise not a bad movie. I’m fairly certain the creative process of this movie involved coming up with a great storyline and writing the script for it. Then shortly before filming is to begin some suit at Paramount says “Hey, let’s have Kirk be in it and have him die and just wrap that whole thing up.” So then the writers went back squished the whole movie together and squeezed Kirk in there. It’s crammed, it’s clunky, it’s not the best. What it did do for me though is what that suit intended it to do. It gave me closure on “that whole thing.” It let me know it’s okay to let the Original cast and series go and focus on the future of Star Trek. The film even puts an end to some major TNG components, reminding me that even TNG is at its endpoint. So to lose Kirk is just a warning shot, as at this point of the Trek Trek I now have more episodes behind me than I do in front of me and TNG is only three more movies away from completion itself. I better get used to saying good-bye to Star Trek.