With First Contact Day recently passed, that’s 5th April 2063 if you’re not aware, this felt like a suitable time to revisit Star Trek: The Next Generation and its place in feature film history. And we’re in luck because Paramount Home Entertainment have released the Star Trek: The Next Generation Movie Boxset in 4K UHD, and that collects the 4-films that span from 1994 to 2002, and they’re in 4K Ultra HD for the first time, with Dolby Vision and HDR-10 and you know, they look sharp.
Everyone’s favourite characters from TNG are here, and that includes Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Data (Brent Spiner), Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton), Worf (Michael Dorn), Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), and Dr Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), plus a wide scattering of stars including Malcolm McDowell, Tom Hardy, F. Murray Abraham, Alice Krige, James Cromwell, Kate Mulgrew, a momentary Wil Wheaton, and I see you, Adam Scott!
Star Trek: Generations
Of course, Generations aimed to bridge the gap of the old with the new, in that moment in time, and time itself played a huge part in our classic Star Trek captains and The Next Generation crossing over in space and time. While, of course, this wasn’t quite the cohesive celebration that everyone wanted, there’s no doubt Paramount played it reasonably safe by giving the more avid Star Trek fans things they could associate to across the TV series, for me it still gave the franchise a chance to rejig the Trekker world into something new.
Taking us back to original cast members Kirk, Scott, and Chekov, with one or two slightly underutilised, the David Carson-directed Generations definitely feels like that handing off from one to the other, and despite the extended episode vibe, there’s fun big screen escapism to be had as well. I’ve always enjoyed an element of Sci-fi diving in for time-related crossovers and William Shatner and Patrick Stewart onscreen? I’d take it every time.
Plus, Malcolm McDowell‘s Tolian Soran doing Malcolm McDowell things, even if many elements become a little generic. But beyond all that, it was time to reset the Universe, and with fan service met, onto the real big one…
Star Trek: First Contact
First Contact is one of the good ones, a proper big-screen adventure packed with genuine fun, fear, and resistance – which in this case isn’t futile despite the Borg being a huge part of proceeding, and they’ve even got Jonathan Frakes directing his feature debut, and it’s a banger!
Starting off with flashbacks for Picard, and a wonderfully inventive double-meta-opening, the Borg collective remain in his mind from the two-parter The Best of Both Worlds, but despite his escape and without knowing anything for sure… his mind knows they’re coming back. The opening sequences are explosive, engaging, and intense, the energy of First Contact is continual, and the ensemble get their time to be a part of something uniquely Star Trek but also progressive and fitting for a true cinematic escape.
What makes it specifically interesting is the concentration of plot on individual relationships, something that Frakes directing clearly notices – the essence of the TV series, and why people love it so much. The film is also an early reminder of bloody good Alfre Woodard is – she’s a fundamental and vital part in proceedings, and when up there alongside Patrick Stewart, as a rampaging Picard, brings genuine gravitas to big psychological battles and becomes so important.
Fun, lively, silly, and engaging, the chemistry works, and they enjoy every moment.
Star Trek: Insurrection
While Insurrection does hold the natural Trek energy levels, and is also directed by Frakes, this film feels a more underwhelming as a spectacle. While that’s fine for the television, in terms of cinema and scope, and on a rewatch for this release, it’s more of an extended episode vibe despite curious ideas.
It opens with Brent Spiner’s Data on an undercover mission, watching the world of the peaceful Ba’ku people but it’s not long before he begins to malfunction, becomes a liability and a rage takes over an area where peace rules – and so the subtle-nature of everything is thrown out the window. From here, we also learn that another Federation unit (the Son’a) is watching the Ba’ku and they have to contact the Enterprise to get Data’s data (now he’s been subdued), and while they tell Jean-Luc Picard (Stewart) he’s not needed to help, this level of ‘stay away’ seems a bit unusual and raises suspicion, so he heads out to get Data back himself.
There’s obviously some hidden agenda’s going on, and it’s thought-provoking enough as the secrets are dragged out of the relevant parties but the film never really leaps into hyperspace in terms of intensity, despite Riker clearly still having the time of his life, as he did in First Contact. There are also the usual scattered of in-jokes, which Star Trek has a welcome penchant for, and when that happens it brings a welcome lighter air to proceedings.
So, whereas First Contact was a respectable big-screen movie action, and as briefly mentioned, Star Trek: Insurrection feels like an episode that slows everything down – and offers an alternative side to the character and their stories. Personally, those explorations are welcome and add a reminder of the human element because there’s more soul exploring rather than in the deep, endless realms of space. Enjoyable, but one to relax with.
Star Trek: Nemesis
Nemesis holds a fascinating history because it’s not really a ‘general’ favourite from 2002, when it first came out. I haven’t re-visited for a number of years now but, you know what, I quite enjoyed it. Released in an era where major sci-fi action films like Star Trek were different, it might not be quite as you remember and I think it’s all the better for getting a little deeper and darker into the psyche, much like Star Trek Picard has been doing of late.
Directed by Stuart Baird, Star Trek: Nemesis starts with the wedding of Riker and Troi, and everything is very jolly and upbeat. Picard comes across as excessively relaxed and also a little bit slack in his usually seriousness and far too easy going with his decision making. For example, his willingness to try out new tech without much concern over where he’s heading is instantaneous, which feels in contrast to what we know of him, and what’s gone before.
Seeking out signs of something on a remote planet, close to the Romulan Neutral Zone, they play around on a fast, new vehicle (the Argo) with Data and Worf, but there’s something wrong lingering. It’s then when they start collecting android body parts, that the seriousness begins to settle in, and a Doctor Soong/Data historical link emerges.
Meanwhile, and there is a lot going on, on Romulus the Senate are rejecting an alliance from the Reman rebels and their leader Shinzon (Tom Hardy), and so the latter uses force to take power. With this unsettling the order, the Enterprise heads over on a diplomatic mission to broker peace with Shinzon but he doesn’t really want that, he actually wants Picard and why? Because he’s a clone of the captain, and will tell his story, and needs Jean-Luc for his blood because he’s dying. In truth, the overall premise is quite cool, and it works because Tom Hardy and Patrick Stewart give it everything.
I did note that Shinzon wasn’t born into the darkness but did rise from it *side look at Christopher Nolan and The Dark Knight Rises*, and also that while two of the main character might appear to have the same beginnings, the mirror to which they’re looking is only skin deep, and only natural reactions are the things they have in common. Originally, there was talk of fans missing the wider The Next Generation ‘team’ throughout the film, but they’re there, even if the story is a bit more Star Wars, than Star Trek, with their individual missions and shoot outs.
Oddly, Star Trek: Nemesis feels more like a film made today, than in 2002, with its character delves and questioning of life itself, and it might be (a little) better than you remember. After all, Star Trek must evolve, embrace, and become better – and I like that progression.
And, with this in mind, thank everything for Star Trek Picard (watch that here), because they’ve picked up some of these older threads and given them a new lease of life, and as we all know those elements are a big part of why Patrick Stewart wanted to return: for more complex character development and a different angle on the world of Star Trek itself and so this felt like a great reminder of that side of the setup, and this set of four films are very watchable.
Star Trek: The Next Generation Movie Boxset 4K UHD* is available now: https://amzn.to/3m9n1F3
*for the Special Features and to be in with a chance of winning your own copy, head to this post!