Welcome to Retro Time. In this blog, I’ll be covering topics related to film and television from past decades. These won’t be reviews, but rather a selection of memories, thoughts, and ideas designed to spark a little nostalgia and maybe inspire a conversation or two. Spoilers will likely come up, so please keep that in mind. Thanks for stopping by, and if you have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to chime in. I’d love to get your feedback. Now, let’s get ready to take a look back…
Star Trek: Generations
First, I’d like to start off by saying that I like Stark Trek: Generations for the most part. Though far from perfect, I still find it entertaining and I feel that there’s a lot of good stuff there. With that said, I can understand the criticism that many have with the film, especially the ending and its rather lackluster portrayal of Captain Kirk’s ultimate demise.
But what if I told you that there is one simple trick you can use that’ll make that whole falling to the rocks clinging to a rickety bridge thing go down much easier. Impossible, you say? I know it feels that way, but bear with me.
Like many of you, I’ve always felt that the falling bridge death was a rushed, unceremonious end for one of the most iconic figures in film and television history. I mean, come on! This is Kirk! The man who beat up Kahn, saved the whales, and took on the whole Klingon Empire without hardly breaking a sweat. He was supposed to die valiantly on the bridge of the Enterprise saving Earth from annihilation, not falling from a piece of scaffolding on some distant desert planet in the middle of nowhere.
So how can we possibly salvage this? The answer is simple, and here it is.
The person that died on Viridian III wasn’t really Kirk.
Now, I’m well aware that this is the part in the 80’s sitcom where Gary Coleman would hit me with his What you talking about, Willis? line. But allow me to explain.
Kirk, our Kirk, the one we’ve known and loved for all those years, actually died on the Enterprise-B in the opening of the film. I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in. Takes a swig of coffee. Checks his email. You good? Okay. So you heard me right. I see that moment as Kirk’s true death in the film. Before I go on to explain further, let’s take a closer look at that moment to consider why – as far as a hero’s death goes – it’s actually not a bad one. First of all, it occurred on the Enterprise. Maybe not Kirk’s own Enterprise, but an Enterprise none-the-less. Secondly, Kirk could have assumed command but didn’t. Instated, he took the risk to go below decks knowing that it was dangerous. Pretty noble if you ask me. Third, he died alone, as he always believed he would. And fourth, he died saving the Enterprise and numerous lives. It might not have been a death worthy of Viking song, but if you look at it from a pure character perspective, it ticks off a lot of boxes.
This brings us back to the film’s climatic showdown in the third act between Kirk, Picard, and the villain Soran. If that wasn’t Kirk who Picard brought back with him, then who was it? The answer to that can be found in a scene that came a little earlier in the film. If you recall, when Picard was sucked into the Nexis after Soran blew up the Viridian star, he runs into Guinan. Don’t forget, Guinan was one of the refugees on the Enterprise B that Kirk helped save earlier in the film. She’d come in contact with the Nexis while she was on her refugee ship but was saved when the Enterprise beamed her and the other survivors aboard. In that brief encounter with the Nexis, a piece of her was left behind, but not all of her. In that later scene when Picard finds her in the Nexis, she says, “Think of me as an echo of the person you know, a piece of herself that she left behind in the Nexis.”
And that’s the key.
Had Guinan not been beamed aboard the Enterprise, she would have died when her refugee ship blew up, but the echo of her would have stayed behind in the Nexis. The same goes for Kirk. The way I see it, when the energy ribbon hit the Enterprise and tore open the haul in front of him, he wasn’t sucked fully into the Nexis; he was killed. Only his echo stayed behind in the Nexis.
That’s the being that Picard eventually finds and takes back with him to face Soran. It’s a piece of Kirk, an echo of Kirk, but not the full Kirk. That Kirk died on the Enterprise. This one – let’s call him Kirk Echo – was left behind in the Nexis where Picard eventually found him.
This can be easily backed up when you look at the scene in the cabin where Picard is trying to convince Kirk Echo to help him. Kirk Echo is a bit confused and disoriented. For the remainder of the film, he’s not entirely self-aware. That’s because he exists only as a piece of his former self, a fragment, an echo. To buy this, you also have to also buy the idea that Kirk Echo gets put into a physical body when they return to Viridian III to confront Soran. I, for one, am willing to make that leap. The Nexis is a strange and mysterious entity where time and space have no meaning. Who’s to say that it couldn’t whip up some matter and throw Kirk Echo into a physical body if that’s what he wanted?
This is the version of Kirk that dies after falling form the blasted-out bridge, not the true Kirk who actually died years earlier on the Enterprise. If you look at it from this angle, it really doesn’t matter how the echo version of Kirk dies. Like I said, at this point, the real Kirk had been dead for years. What matters is that Picard was able to tap into a piece of his consciousness and bring it back for one last hurrah. In essence, Picard was able to summon a long lost hero to help him solve a dire problem. And once the job was done, that long lost hero was allowed to fade away once again.
If you think of it along those lines, it’s actually pretty cool.
So there it is. If the ending to Generations makes you want to modify the Vulcan salute into another gesture that only uses one finger, I urge you to give it another chance with these ideas in mind. It just might help you enjoy it a bit more.
Now I’m off to find the greatness that is hopefully embedded somewhere deep within bowels of Stark Trek V: The Final Frontier. Somehow, I think I have my work cut out for me.