Sunday, August 28, 2016

Thoughts on Watching Star Trek: Generations Again

No, no, I'm not talking about the new Star Trek movie; I haven't even seen it yet. I'm talking about the movie that bridged the original cast with the cast of The Next Generation. The thing is, I grew up watching this movie from a young age. Young enough that I used to confuse Doctor Crusher and Counselor Troi, or that I simply had no idea what was going on at certain points. In fact, it took me a long time to straighten out the plot simply because I was used to not understanding it.

For instance, I remarked a few weeks ago that I had no idea why the script called for Picard's brother and nephew to die, and in such a cruel way, as well. I found it very counter to the episode in the show ("Family" from Season 4) when Picard goes to stay at his brother's house and you see their dynamics and you see what the nephew is like and what he means for the future. It just seemed very random to me for the script to suddenly give word that they had died in a fire.

And then I watched the movie again recently and it made complete and perfect sense, so obviously so that I wondered why I hadn't noticed it before. You've probably noticed it before.

Because of the Nexus plot line, it was necessary to give Picard something he would regret and want to change, something that he missed and wanted back more than anything. Picard has always been a solitary figure. He has friends and lovers and some manner of family. But he's mostly just a lone figure and he doesn't really form close, lasting relationships other than the work relationships he has with his crew. So the closest thing the script had to draw from was his relationship with his nephew--a relationship that is as much about symbolism as anything else. And the symbolism, in fact, works better.

Rene is, symbolically, Picard's future and his home. Rene links Picard to Earth and to France, the place that he enjoyed growing up in (in a way, I think) and the place that he is glad to know is there (even if he doesn't want to be there because he'd rather be out exploring space). And Rene also has his plans to join Starfleet, too, when he grows up; this makes him, quite literally, Picard's future. So to lose Rene is for Picard to lose both his home and his future. It's enough to make him more shattered and uncertain than he has ever been before. It is enough to offer the possibility of temptation from the Nexus. There's also that wonderful line from Soran, when he is trying to convince Picard to let him go back to the research station: "Time is the fire in which we burn. And right now, captain, my time is running out." It's just a phrase Soran was using to express a point, but it resonated exactly with Picard's difficulties at that point (his difficulties with emotion that are reflected so wonderfully in Data's difficulties in handing his newly installed emotion chip).

But the Rene plot also does something else: it reinforces the concept of generations that is so strong in this movie.

I had watched a couple of episodes of the original Star Trek here and there but it wasn't until I was in college that I watched them all (and enjoyed them, too, I might add). I followed with the movies--and that was when I realized that the original cast was making movies right up into the TNG cast's reign. So it was almost necessary to have a passing of the torch moment. Funny how this movie gained such new meaning and emotion once I had gotten to know the original cast and had watched them work their way through the 80's right into this 1994 movie.

It's beautiful, really. One cast passes away into history to make room for the new cast. One generation ends and another begins. (This is the problem with the reboot movies: they ruin the beauty of continuation. It's as if you went and started Doctor Who from the beginning, abandoning the past 50 years of stories and characters. But I digress.) Everyone has their pace, their impact--and time moves on without stopping for anyone. Time did not stop for Rene. And time did not stop for Captain Kirk. But make your life a meaningful one and make a good difference in whatever way you can--that's the message of the movie. Rene is only a reminder.

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