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25 Days of TNG, Day 18: The Best and Worst of the TNG Films

Following the TNG season finale, I think it was already known that a film was in the offing. At least one. Turns out we got four, all of which you’ve probably seen, and most of which have both good and bad parts. Like these here.

The Borg Queen tells Picard to shush.

Best A-Plot: Without question, this goes to the Picard-vs-Borg fight in First Contact. While the stuff on the planet was important to the story, it was Picard taking on the guys who made him completely powerless and unable to stop himself from killing thousands of people that really made the movie compelling. Patrick Stewart threw himself into the Ahab role — it was written into the script, after all — and he completely sold the retcon of the Borg Queen as well as his (justifiable) anger at what was done to him and his desire for revenge.
Honorable mention: the need to stop Soran before he destroyed a planet full of innocent people (Generations).

Best B-Plot: Since the existence of the emotion chip was revealed in “Brothers”, the concept of Data being able to experience emotions has been in the back of everyone’s head. Well, in Generations, Data finally used the chip and it led to much hilarity. I happened to find a copy of an early script on the internet a few weeks before it hit theaters, and I have to tell you that Data saying “oh, shit!” was a true LOL moment for me. Bonus: “I hate this! It is revolting!”
Honorable mention: Riker vs the Son’a, mostly because I love a good space battle (Insurrection).

This scene still makes no sense, almost ten years later.

Biggest Plot Hole: By far this has to go to Generations and the use — and misuse — of the Nexus. I know many others have said this, but it bears repeating: why did Picard specifically need Captain Kirk to stop Soran? Once Guinan told him how to use the Nexus, why didn’t he just go back even further in time, maybe to Amargosa, and apprehend Soran there? Why did he have to come back in the middle of a tense fight scene? It just didn’t make sense.
Honorable mention: also in Generations, what was Guinan doing in Picard’s dream house? Did he subconsciously think “Guinan’s probably the only person who can tell me what to do here” and she just appeared? What was her shade doing at the time? And would that shade trust Picard like the real Guinan does? She’d only met him for a couple of days in turn-of-the-20th-century San Francisco, after all.

Best Guest Star: How do you not say that William Shatner is the best guest star in the four films? From inadvertently calling Captain Picard a dillweed to the way he immediately began playing off Picard’s “straight man” act, Shatner certainly knows how to play Kirk and how to work within the Star Trek universe — even when it’s 80-something years after his supposed “death”. The whole “meeting of the captains” bit was a bit forced in the script, but Shatner is always going to be Shatner, and that’s what makes him great.
Honorable mention: Alice Krige as the Borg Queen, one of the best villains in Trek movie history, right up there with Khan and Chang.

Worst Guest Star: I’m sorry, but I just did not get behind Anthony Zerbe as Admiral Dougherty in Insurrection. I know the character was old and the concept of having a fountain of youth for the Federation to use was tempting, but I didn’t have enough knowledge of the character to buy into him setting all of this mess up with the Son’a and involving them at the level that he did. I would’ve needed an episode specifically about this guy just to understand what brought him to the point he’d reached. I know a lot of that is writing, and Zerbe didn’t do too terribly, but there were still several places where I think he could’ve improved.
Honorable mention: James Cromwell in First Contact, in my opinion, wasn’t a great casting choice. Cromwell is certainly a good actor, but I think he was too old and too much of a stunt-casting choice to really pull it off. Someone less-known might have been better.

Biggest Missed Opportunity: Y’know, after spending all that time on Data’s emotions in Generations and First Contact, why did we go back to the old Data in the latter two films? I know it’s probably because emotionless, wants-to-be human Data was the character we all fell in love with and giving him emotions made him easier to write for, but if there was any chance of that happening, then why didn’t Data just destroy the chip at the end of First Contact? It made him almost join the Borg Queen, made him almost willing to end human history from 2063 onward; it would’ve been within the realm of possibility that Data would destroy the chip. And even though he didn’t have the chip, he had memories of having emotions, right? It should’ve helped him understand more about what was going on in Insurrection, and it would’ve given even more poignancy to “good-bye” in Nemesis. When I discussed the film with my dad, we agreed that Data doing that, without any emotion chip or programming changes, indicated that he really had evolved as a being*. The very existence of the emotion chip, though, took away some of that poignancy.

Are they on Deck 24? 26? 29? Lower? Who knows?

Strangest Thing: Studios — both film and television — hire script supervisors for a reason. One would think that a main reason for that is to avoid continuity errors. The biggest of these, to my mind, is the number of decks on the new ship. If you read the Enterprise-E page on Memory Alpha, the writers there try valiantly to explain away what are clearly mistakes made at many levels by people who should realize that they have in their hands one of the most powerful franchises in entertainment. They shouldn’t be screwing this stuff up. I mean, was there no rabid Star Trek fan on hand, paid by the studio specifically to find these mistakes? In First Contact, Picard tells Lily the ship has 24 decks, but then the Borg control decks 26 up through 11. In Nemesis, the Remans beam onto Deck 29, presumably the bottom deck of the ship (since that’s the part of the shields that were knocked down), but then Riker pulls an “I… have had… enough of you!” on the Viceroy and sends him down into a bottomless pit, which is apparently standard issue on all starships. I suppose it’s possible the Remans got higher up than Deck 29, but it seems unlikely. So did the Enterprise-E actually have even more decks than before? Or was it just a major continuity error that someone should’ve picked up long before the films made it to theaters? I’m guessing the latter. (Also, I’m not sure the amount of time since Data’s last intimate encounter was right when he told the Queen about it in First Contact. I’m not going to do the math, though; you can, if you want.)

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* Not in those exact words.

Comments (2)

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  1. Timothy P. Callahan says:

    I know I’m going against the grain a bit but I always found First Contact a bit overrated. It was good and I enjoyed it a lot, but years later I now realize it was pretty much just a zombie story set on the Enterprise and I found the introduction of a Queen went against what the Borg was supposed to be about. The Borg was scary because they didn’t have leadership, but wait, now they do and if you kill that queen the entire hive dies right then and there. Ugh, I hated that and felt they missed a chance to make an epic Borg story that could have spanned across the Federation. Plus, once again, we have Time Travel and, from my count, that was the third big story that involved time travel. The last Episode of the series, Generations, and now First Contact. I was actually glad when Insurrection came out just because it didn’t have time travel in it.

    That said, I really loved Insurrection and felt it was one of the better movies. Again, I know I’m going against opinion, and yes it had it flaws, but it felt like a pure Star Trek movie and had a twist that I found clever and one I didn’t see coming at all.

    I loved the look of Generations. The lighting and the effects felt different and in a good way. Plus, that scene in the astrohologram room (or whatever it was called) was really cool and showed what a bigger budget and better effects could get you. Wished they could have used that room more often because it was such a good idea.

    Lastly, I think Nemesis is underrated. Well, it was the worst of the movies, but still had a kick ass battle scene at the end (love me some good space battles) and Picard ordering the Enterprise to ram the ship was beyond awesome. So much so I try not to think about the fact that Suron’s shields were at 80%, nope, don’t think about that at all.

  2. Tara Li says:

    I have to agree on Insurrection – I have long felt it was way under-rated. It had a number of elements I found very enjoyable – the Federation’s arrogance straight out of TOS’s Errand of Mercy (apparently, they *REALLY* haven’t checked their mailboxes for the clues they’ve been sent), the sense of the true scale of the Federation when a one-time-only specialized ship is built, mostly in secret by black ops, to using ordinary darts to tag people for transport through interference (as opposed to some treknobabble trick). I honestly found it to be, by far, the best of the four TNG movies, in large part because in so many ways, it had the elements that made it Star Trek, and not just another big fight movie dressed up in ST costume.