Star Trek: Generations appears in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Generations is the final of the Trek movies to receive an anamorphic transfer. I eagerly looked forward to this since I like Generations so much and found the old DVD to provide a flawed transfer. Unfortunately, the new one failed to do much to rectify the situation, as it demonstrated many problems of its own.
A very mixed bag, parts of Generations looked quite good. Sharpness mostly seemed positive. Some wide shots came across as slightly soft, but most of the movie demonstrated reasonably solid clarity and accuracy. Unfortunately, the image fell apart due to other concerns. Jagged edges became a serious problem, and I also noticed lots of moiré effects. Pretty much anything that could shimmer did so; even Data’s face and other facial wrinkles displayed that issue. Some moderate edge enhancement occurred as well. Haloes didn’t pop up constantly, but they marred more than a few shots.
One area of improvement connected to colors. They showed some problems during the old transfer but looked noticeably better here. The tones were consistently lively and distinctive. I noticed none of the slight runniness that affected the old image’s colors, as those of the new image were nicely vivid and vibrant.
Black levels came across as deep and tight, and shadow detail was good, which marked another improvement over the original transfer. Low-light shots lacked the moderate opacity that occasionally marred the prior image, at least if we ignore the quick “day for night” shot on the planet surface with Soran and Picard. Otherwise, shadows were tight and concise.
Where the new transfer faltered in comparison with the old one related to print flaws. The prior DVD only demonstrated the occasional speckles, but those popped up much more frequently here. In addition, I saw other blemishes and marks that didn’t appear on the original DVD. This was a demonstrably dirtier image.
So to recap the variations: both transfers suffered from too much edge enhancement, shimmering and jaggies. Black levels remained the same, but low-light shots looked clearer here. Colors also improved for the new version, but the image showed significantly elevated amounts of source defects. Because I felt all the various pros and cons mostly balanced out in the end, I gave the new Generations a “C+” to note a slight improvement over the prior set. If nothing else, the anamorphic enhancement gave it a small edge. However, I felt much more disappointed with the image here, as I really expected the new transfer to be a vast improvement.
In addition to the same Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack as the old DVD, this new release of Star Trek: Generations sported a DTS 5.1 mix, which made it a rarity among Paramount titles. Other than some volume differences - the DTS version was moderately louder - these two tracks sounded very similar to me.
After the disappointment of the visuals, the audio provided a much more positive affair. The soundfield offered the vivid and involving experience I expected. Within the forward channels, the elements moved smoothly across the front and blended together well. The mix showed a good sense of environment and also kicked to life nicely during the action sequences. The surrounds added a fine sense of dimensionality to the package, and they also featured solid individual material during the action pieces. Split-surround usage seemed especially compelling during the Klingon battle.
Audio quality also appeared fine. Speech seemed natural and distinct, and I noticed no issues related to intelligibility of edginess. Music presented good fidelity and range and presented bright and vivid tones. A few effects elements sounded a little distorted, and that part of the track came across as a little “hot” at times. However, the effects generally seemed clear and accurate, and they demonstrated tight and rich bass for the most part. In the end, the audio of Generations earned a solid “B+”.
Whereas the prior Generations DVD included absolutely no supplements, the “Special Collector’s Edition” loads on features. We begin on Disc One with an audio commentary from writers Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. I was surprised not to hear from director David Carson, as this makes Generations the first Trek special edition DVD not to include the director a director’s commentary. However, I really didn’t care since the quality of the writers’ discussion was so good.
Both Braga and Moore have been with Trek in various incarnations for quite some time, so they provide their perspective on a variety of relevant issues. They talk about the particular challenges of Generations and its creation, and we hear about abandoned concepts and various concerns. We find out about the way they go about concocting scripts and stories and learn funny details like they use of technobabble at times. While they praise elements of Generations, they display a surprising willingness to criticize the movie. They pick out many parts that they don’t like and give us a rather candid look at the whole process, all with a wry humor that makes the piece enjoyable. It’s a pretty terrific audio commentary.
In addition to this piece, the DVD provides a text commentary written by Michael and Denise Okuda, the authors of the Star Trek Encyclopedia. If you’ve checked out Okuda’s text tracks for the first six Trek special editions, you’ll know what to expect here. The pair provides a wealth of interesting notes. They detail subjects like connections between Generations and other Trek offerings, special effects and sets, the actors and their histories, and many bits of trivia. As with most of the prior text commentaries, it’s a good exploration of the different topics.
As we head to DVD Two, we get a mix of materials under different banners. Within “The The Star Trek Universe”, four featurettes appear. A Tribute to Matt Jefferies lasts 19 minutes, 37 seconds as it looks at the career of the late art director for the Original Series. We see some of his work and hear from scenic art supervisor Mike Okuda, illustrator John Eaves, production designer Herman Zimmerman, brother John Jefferies, scenic artist Doug Drexler, and Jefferies himself. The program mostly focuses on Jefferies’ designs for the Enterprise, but we learn a few other facts as well as the impact of his work in this fascinating program. It seems oddly placed here, as it’d make more sense in the Original Series set, but I really like it anyway.
During The Enterprise Lineage, we get a 12-minute and 48-second glimpse of ship-related history. It presents comments from Eaves, Matt Jefferies, Okuda, Zimmerman, Leonard Nimoy, and William Shatner. We learn about historical uses of the name Enterprise and some elements of various Trek crafts. Probably the best parts come from the notes about the space shuttle Enterprise and the visit the Original Series cast and crew made for its launch. The featurette doesn’t delve deeply into its subjects, but it provides some useful notes.
Captain Picard’s Family Album runs seven minutes and five seconds as art coordinator Penny Juday leads us through the prop from Generations. She guides us on a tour of the family album itself. This allows us a closer look at the elements and she also tells us how they assembled the parts. It’s a cool look at the details.
Finally, “Universe” ends with Creating 24th Century Weapons, a 13-minute and 47-second piece. It includes comments from official Klingon armorer Gil Hibben as he discusses his history as a knife maker as well as his work for Trek and other things. Like “Album”, it’s a nice look at some details.
When we head to Scene Deconstruction, we can more closely examine three film segments. We look at “Main Title” (three minutes, 32 seconds), “The Nexus Ribbon” (7:07) and “Saucer Crash Sequence” (4:49). For “Title”, we get commentary from Trek series visual effects supervisor Dan Curry, whereas “Nexus” presents ILM visual effects co-supervisor Alex Seiden and “Saucer” gives us visual effects camera operator Patrick Sweeney. They relate the various issues connected to design and execution of the sequences, and we also see a mix of movie clips, storyboards, and rough footage. None of them shine, but they provide a nice basic look at some effects work. “Saucer” is probably the best, as it offers the strongest true breakdown of the various elements as we see the shot come together.
More information of this sort appears in the two components of the “Visual Effects” domain. Inside ILM: Models and Miniatures fills nine minutes and 38 seconds with comments from Sweeney, model supervisor John Goodson, and model maker Howie Weed. They show us close-ups of the Enterprise model and discuss methods use to make it look its best, especially with the extra detail available for a feature film. Nothing revelatory occurs here in this basic overview, but it’s fun to get a closer look at the Enterprise-D model.
A self-explanatory title greets us with Crashing the Enterprise. It takes 10 minutes and 44 seconds to focus on the saucer crash sequence. This one concentrates on the physical model shoot, not the CG parts detailed earlier. We find remarks from ILM visual effects supervisor John Knoll and visual effects art director Bill George as we watch them film the crash of the large saucer miniature. One of the DVD’s most interesting components, this one shows all the challenges of the shoot and lets us get a fun feel for how they executed it.
Inside the “Archives” we get two separate components. The Production Gallery presents 40 stills. Most of these come from the shoot, and we see some publicity shots as well in this fairly bland collection. Storyboards presents art for three domains: “Enterprise B” (five stills), “Worf’s Promotion” (40), and “Two Captains” (34). These accumulate a decent little collection of art.
The “Production” domain presents three elements. Uniting Two Legends goes for 25 minutes, 38 seconds and looks at general parts of Generations. We see movie clips, shots from the set and the premiere, and get comments from executive producer Rick Berman, director David Carson, and actors Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Gates McFadden, DeForest Kelley, William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, James Doohan, and Walter Koenig. Shatner discusses feeling like a guest on Trek, and others talk about the increased scope of the movie compared to the series, concepts behind the flick, passing the torch from one generation to the next, and story and character elements. It’s a mediocre program. Some good tidbits appear, such as Shatner’s feelings when confronted with an alien Trek experience, Dorn’s fight over Worf’s dunking, and Sirtis’ wisecracks about finally getting to pilot the ship. However, a lot of filler appears as well, so while the show merits a look, it’s not a great program.
For another effects-oriented piece, we find Stellar Cartography: Creating the Illusion. The nine-minute and 23-second featurette examines the creation of that particular scene via film snippets, shots from the set, and interviews with Patrick Stewart, Herman Zimmerman, and director of photography John A. Alonzo. They chat about the scene itself, the design of the room, and its execution. This presents a reasonably concise and informative examination of the topic.
Finally, Strange New Worlds: The Valley of Fire fills 22 minutes and 41 seconds as it shows the cast and crew on location for the film’s climax. We see shots from that desert spot and hear from Stewart, Shatner, Malcolm McDowell, Zimmerman, Berman, Carson, stunt coordinator Bud Davis, Alonzo, and stuntmen Randy Hall, Bernie Pock and Don Pulford. They tell us a little about the scene, the hot location the sets, the stunts, and the reshoot. The information adds a little to our understanding of the shoot, but the best parts of “Fire” come from the behind the scenes material. We get many fun looks at the actors while they work, and the moments in which they goof around seem particularly fun. You won’t learn a ton from “Fire”, but you’ll enjoy this intriguing glimpse behind the scene.
Of great interest to fans will be the four deleted scenes. These occupy a total of 33 minutes and eight seconds and include “Orbital Skydiving”, “Walking the Plank”, “Christmas with the Picards”, and an “Alternate Ending”. In a way, only “Skydiving” offers a true deleted scene, as “Plank” is an extended version of an existing bit and the other two offer original footage that was reworked and reshot. The clips are interesting to see, and I think “Skydiving” might have made a good addition, but I have no problem with the removal of the others.
In addition to the scenes themselves, all the sequences other than “Plank” includes some comments about them. We hear mostly from executive producer Rick Berman but also get a little from production designer Herman Zimmerman, and actors William Shatner, Walter Koenig and James Doohan. Their notes help flesh out the scenes in question and let us know why they were redone or removed.
Footnote: as usual with Paramount releases, we find English and French text for all the materials. This continues to be a helpful feature.
Many others feel differently, but I really like Star Trek: Generations. It provides a thoughtful and lively tale that manifests greater depth than the average space opera. Unfortunately, this DVD’s picture quality barely exceeds that of the original non-anamorphic transfer, and the audio remains the same. Happily, it adds a strong and extensive roster of extras, which makes it very useful for fans.
So who should “upgrade” to this Special Collector’s Edition of Generations? Those with anamorphic displays will want it; even though it doesn’t look much better to me on my 4X3 TV, those with 16X9 sets will see more improvement. (They’ll still be bothered by the various flaws, however.) The folks with interest in the supplements will feel happy with the SCE as well, since it includes quite a lot of interesting information. Fans with 4x3 TVs - even those that feature the “anamorphic squeeze” like my WEGA - who don’t care about extras will likely be just as happy with the old disc. I can give the SCE a modest recommendation, but due to its visual flaws, it comes as a disappointment.
To rate this film visit the original review of STAR TREK: GENERATIONS