Thursday, June 7, 2007

Star Trek: Generations: Revised Ending

There's something that's been bothering me for a long time now, and I'm thinking maybe this is the right time and place to unload this particular bit of baggage.

Basically, like many Star Trek fans I have never liked the ending of Star Trek: Generations.

[Spoiler alert! If you haven't seen this movie, you might want to stop reading now. On the other hand, why would you be reading this if you haven't seen the movie? Hmm.]

The point behind this movie was to tie together TOS and TNG -- to pass the torch to the next generation. My problem was that this wasn't done anywhere near as powerfully as it could have and should have been done.

In particular, Kirk's death was astonishingly, unbelievably, heartbreakingly lame. There's no way he should have gone out like that. I mean, falling down a cliff after a fistfight? Huh? OK, yes, it's ACTION!... but how does that action show Kirk at his best -- at the helm of a starship leading a team of smart, skilled people out of a tough situation -- and how does it link TOS to TNG?

I don't think it did either of those things. So in my version of the movie, that's not what happened. Here's how my version goes....


We begin after the Klingon attack has destroyed the secondary hull of the Enterprise-D, and the saucer section is careening toward the surface of the planet Veridian III.

However, unlike the first timeline of the movie, despite the best efforts of the bridge crew to bring the saucer section to the ground safely, it crashes disastrously. Everyone is killed, with a broken Data surviving just long enough to communicate the extent of the disaster to Picard -- and then the collapse of the star Veridian due to Soran's missile finishes the job by destroying the entire planet.

Picard is then shown in the Nexus sequence as filmed. Kirk agrees to return to return to Picard's timeline.

But instead of Kirk showing up on Veridian III to help Picard win a stupid fistfight with Soran, Picard returns to the fight alone. He doesn't need Kirk's help; this time he's able to win the fight by knowing what Soran is going to do. Picard ducks Soran's punches with a smirk, and strikes Soran's arm so that he drops his weapon. (Remember, Picard had already seen all of Soran's moves in the first pre-Nexus timeline.) Soran, however, is a clever duck. Realizing that Picard knows what he's going to do, he changes what he would otherwise have done and scampers off to retrieve his weapon. This leaves Picard free to jam the launch sequence, and the rest of that scene follows as it did in the film.

Kirk, meanwhile, appears on the bridge of the Enterprise. Riker, recognizing Kirk immediately, explains the situation and cedes command to him as the (very!) senior Captain. Using his experience, Kirk is able to suggest some crazy-sounding trick to Data that will allow the saucer section to land safely. ("Trust me. It'll work," he says, flashing that trademark Kirk grin.)

It does work, and the landing goes better this time, but it's still bumpy. (Basically it would be the same landing from the first timeline in the actual film, only with Kirk in the Big Chair instead of Riker.) Everyone gets thrown around, but when the shaking stops everyone's OK... except for Kirk, who was flung across the bridge a couple of times and winds up under the Enterprise's dedication plaque.

It's clear that Kirk's injuries are mortal.

The bridge crew gather around him. In a voice labored with pain, Kirk slowly asks Riker, "Ship... safe? Out of danger?"

Riker nods, grief clouding his eyes.

Kirk smiles. "She's got the right name. Always take care of her, and she'll always bring you..." -- his eyes widen -- "...home."

And he dies.

The camera pulls back slowly to reveal the bridge crew comforting each other around Kirk's body, amid the debris of the bridge. As the camera pulls back further to the saucer exterior, we see various crew members emerging from the wreckage, alive and well because Kirk, for one final time, turned death into a fighting chance for others to live.

The rest of the film (excluding the scene of Picard building the cairn for Kirk's body) goes as originally shown.


Clearly I like this ending much better, and I hope you do, too, but I'd like to point out a couple of reasons why I think it's more effective.

One obvious element is the dying Kirk's quotations from previous Star Trek episodes. "Ship safe? Out of danger?" is from Spock's dying moments in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. The other quote is taken from the very first TNG episode, "Encounter at Farpoint," in which McCoy, talking with Data, explicitly links "his" Enterprise with the Enterprise-D.

These quotes perform multiple jobs:

  • They work as appropriate dialog for the scene.
  • They reference previous Trek (as a gift for the Star Trek fans).
  • They link TOS and TNG by reminding us that the Enterprise-D carries on the tradition of all the ships of that name.
  • They allow Spock and McCoy, who were so important to Kirk, to make a kind of appearance.
On that last point: although Kirk always knew he'd die "alone" (i.e., without Spock and McCoy there), quoting them gives them a chance to be there in spirit, as they should be.

The other thing that's important for me is this death has meaning, where the one shown in the actual film did not. Kirk ends his days exactly where he should be, exactly where he always should have been -- on the bridge of the Enterprise, doing what he was born to do.

As Star Trek, and as literature, I believe this would have been a far better thing for this film, and a far better rest for the original series to go to.

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