Picks and Pans Review: Star Trek Generations

updated 12/05/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/05/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

Patrick Steivart, William Shatner, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Malcolm McDowell

Greedily going where everyone and his brother have gone before, this sequel that dares not speak its name—Star Trek VII—is an over-hyped, underimagined walkthrough that relies excessively on flashy fireworks effects and confusing leaps in time and space.

The film has been promoted as a confrontation between the casts of the original Star Trek TV series that began in 1966 and the spinoff series Star Trek: The Next Generation, introduced in 1987 to exploit the original's extraordinary success in reruns. In fact, it is basically a Next Generation episode with Shatner and McDowell as guest stars.

Shatner is the only major member of the original cast to appear in a non-cameo role, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley having viewed their proposed parts as too small.

Since Shatner's acting style still comes in baked, boiled, spiced, deviled and chopped variations, he's no match for the Shakespearean-caliber Stewart. Shatner's exaggerated readings settle at least part of the Shatner vs. Stewart argument that Trek fans have raised to the level of such heated theoretical disputes as Mantle vs. Mays, Trigger vs. Champion, Corvette vs. Thunderbird, Ricki Lake vs. Montel Williams or Sean Connery vs. Roger Moore. (Shatner remains, however, much less chilly a personality than Stewart.)

The two Enterprise captains meet in one of the time leaps when Stewart goes back to recruit Shatner to help fight McDowell, a standard-issue Trek villain who's destroying stars and their affiliated planets to change the course of an itinerant dimensional warp (don't ask). In traditional Trek style, the plot has moralistic, allegorical undertones: McDowell is essentially chasing a kind of drug.

The main subtext involves Spiner's quizzical android, Data, who finally reprograms himself with an emotion chip so that he can be more human. (Nimoy's absence is most evident in these scenes since Spock's take on Data's tortured introspection would have been fun to see.) The results are predictable, but they provide most of the movie's enjoyment, at least for non-Trekkies.

For hard-core fans, the chance to directly compare the two Enterprise crews, despite the absence of most of Shatner's colleagues, will no doubt seem like an event of galactic proportions. (PG)

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