Episode 78: Bridging the Gap between Generations

Upon the outset of staring into a green light that promises a bright future, I find myself looking back as my muse directs my slow yet deliberate typing. Two months ago I promised myself to write a post a day no matter what. Perhaps in that ambitious hope I set myself up for failure and in that lofty goal perched so high the fall was even more painful. In that time I have not achieved what I had planned and yet I have gained much more than what I once thought likely. For upon emerging from the depths of despair I soon found myself in a enthralled in a happiness I once believed to have sacrificed. But that is a post for another day.

Now I write something that goes beyond the personal pleasures of one individual or even one fandom. I have written before about sequels and the careful tightrope walked between new material and familiarity to appease current and potential readers/viewers. Today I write about something more than the next in line of an installment or even a remake done decades later, this is about succession. In the narrative sense, this means that there is something new that still goes in line with the original. They may still take place within the temporal framework of the story, maybe even share a character or two, but there is a deliberate choice to be independent rom the original. DC Comics did a very literal succession with the not too distant future of Batman Beyond, passing the cowl unto Terry McGinnis as Bruce served as Oracle to him. Saved by the Bell did a pretty awful job when making the third incarnation of the program (post College years with Screech now working alongside Mr. Belding where a new group of high school students rehashed all the old plots). But if I had to pick one succession that worked amazingly well it has to be Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Even in it’s own title it states that it is its predecessor’s son. Political allegories were still there but these were not the main focus of the show. Scifi elements and technobabble took more of the spotlight as the Holodeck became the centerpiece of boundless imaginitive control in the flagship of Star Fleet. The brash and suave Captain James Tiberius Kirk was now replaced with the philosophical and reserved Captain Jean Luc Picard. Outside of sharing the same ship name and overall mission, these were two very different narratives and both excelled in their own way. I believe it was in Wayne’s World where the titular character in an almost non sequitor analogy states how TNG is equal or superior in many ways than the original but will never obtain the same amount of fame because the classic was the one that broke ground.

As separate narrative entities, they had their own particular styles, but what would happen if both worlds were to come together. Narratively speaking it would a stretch since there is at least century’s diference between the adventures of both crews. For fandoms, the temporal distance of over two decades is just as much a barrier to get new fans and old to join forces, if only momentarily. Such an ambitious project came to fruition with the seventh film of the cinematic series, or as it is best known, Star Trek: Generations.

Breaking the expectation that only even numbered films were worth watching, Generations brings together both pats of the series through the narrative device of The Nexus, a chaotic magnetic force that brings about destruction but encases all within it to a cage of happiness. The movie starts with a now retired Kirk, Chevok, and Scotty doing what is basically a publicity appearance on a new Enterprise. Danger appears, and the old crew rallies the newbies to save the day but at great risk and Kirk pays the ultimate price for saving them. This entire section of the film was done to fit just about every detail of how the classic was made, almost as if they had made a new old episode. Fast forward a bit and the crew from TNG finds a science sattellite recently attacked by the evil Romulans. In the meantime, you have the emotional trauma of Picard losing his nephew and surrogate son in a horrible accident, alongside Data installing an emotion chip into his system which will be the main source of comic relief. Amongst the survivors we find a scientist who was one of the people rescued by Kirk and the gang long ago. This guy (I actually had to look up the name but knew full well that Malcolm McDowell was the actor) Dr. Tolian Soren is actually the main antagonist, who is using a splinter cell of radical Klingons to help him basically blow up entire stars just to alter the path of the Nexus so that he can reenter it. An emotionally vulnerable Picard walks into Soren’s trap and gives the Klingons a way to destroy the Enterprise. Commander william T. Riker in command must do some pretty quick thinking to save everyone and destroy the Klingong ship but the Enterprise is crippled and crash lands on a nearby planet. Picard tries to stop Soren but his attempts are futile as he blows up the nearby star, alters the flow of the Nexus, and destroys a few inhabitted planets (including the one with semi destroyed Enterprise.

That’s right, the heroes fail as destruction encases everything in sight and the screen fades to black. But then you hear voices and a blindfold is lifted to show that Picard is surrounded by his children as they are getting ready for Christmas dinner. He quickly realizes that this is all part of the Nexus. Psychic Whoopi Goldberg serves as Virgil through this Hell of unreal happiness and directs him towards a way to undo Soren’s destruction. Thanks to wonky time space continuum weirdness in the Nexus, Picard can get out of it at any moment and place he wishes, plus he can recruit people along the way. Whoopi Goldberg suggests Kirk, who was trapped in the Nexus all those years ago. After some philosophical discussions over the importance of responsibility over happiness (something I’ll probably discuss in the next post), the two super captains join forces to stop Soren and alter history. A lot of weirdness ensues but in the end Soren dies after some quick sabotage by Picard and Kirk is moratlly wounded. In his final words, the metaphorical torch is passed as one generation is definitively gone while the other is down but not out.

Generations were bridged through both narrative and cinematographic elements. The new Star Trek movie attempted the same thing with the inclusion of Leonard Nimoy as old Spock but never to the success that its predecessor achieved. There many other incarnations of Star Trek after TNG (none of which I personally got into) which have their merits but I feel that they were done so close to the finale of the previous version that the former audience basically had to pick too quickly whether or not to add in these versions to their ammalgamated construction of that which is Star Trek.


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