In 2293, James T. Kirk (William Shatner), Montgomery Scott (James Doohan), and Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig), are on hand for the maiden voyage of the Enterprise-B. During the shakedown cruise, the ship is called to rescue two El-Aurian refugee ships that are caught in a massive energy ribbon. They are able to save some of the refugees, fleeing the Borg, among them Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) and Tolian Soran (Malcolm McDowell). But the Enterprise itself is ensnared by the ribbon. Kirk is helping in Engineering and disappears. He is presumed dead.
In 2371, the crew of the Enterprise-D is celebrating Worf (Michael Dorn) becoming Lieutenant Commander, when Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) learns his brother and nephew have been killed in a fire. He realizes that the Picard name must end with him. The Enterprise receives a distress call from an observatory. Tolian Soran is launching a trilithium probe at a star, which implodes and causes a shockwave that destroys its solar system. Soran kidnaps Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) and is transported to the Klingon Bird of Prey of the Duras sisters Lursa and B’Etor (Barbara March and Gwynyth Walsh).
The Enterprise bartender and philosopher Guinan tells Picard that she and Soran were among the El-Aurians rescued in 2293 and that Soran is obsessed with the ribbon as the entrance to the Nexus—an extra-dimensional realm outside of space and time. Picard and Data (Brent Spiner) discover that Soran is altering the path of the ribbon by removing the gravitational effects of nearby stars. He believes that if he can destroy one more star, he can bring the ribbon to the surface of Veridian III, not caring that he will kill millions of people on a nearby inhabited planet.
The Enterprise arrives in the Veridian system and Picard offers himself to the Duras sisters in LaForge’s place, but insists he be transported to Soran directly. LaForge returns to Enterprise, but the sisters use Geordi’s VISOR to transmit the ship’s defense data to them. They attack and cause an antimatter breach, but the Bird of Prey is destroyed. Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) evacuates the entire crew to the saucer section, which separates and crashes onto Veridian III. Picard fails to stop Soran and both enter the Nexus. Picard finds himself with a loving family enjoying Christmas, but knows it is an illusion. An image of Guinan sends him to meet Kirk, who is enjoying his dream horse-ranch and about to meet his long-lost love, but he too knows it is not real. Picard convinces him to leave the Nexus and return to Veridian III to defeat Soran and save millions of innocent lives.
Together, they distract Soran. Picard locks the probe in place before it can launch and it explodes, killing Soran. Kirk is fatally injured, and Picard buries him. Three Federation ships arrive for the survivors of the Enterprise crash. Picard knows the name will live on.
Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga were called into Rick Berman’s office and were afraid the Next Generation series had been cancelled, but they were asked to write a Next Generation movie. It was directed by David Carson, a British director who had directed several Star Trek episodes, and the music was written by Dennis McCarthy, principal composer for the Next Generation series. Gene Roddenberry had never wanted the Original Series and the Next Generation casts to be in the same movie, and it only happened because he was dead.
The appearance of Enterprise B means that all the iterations of the ship—A, B, C, and D—have appeared on one screen or another. The Enterprise B model was that of the Excelsior with details added that could be destroyed by the ribbon without damaging the model. The sailing ship was the Lady Washington, a replica of the first American sailing ship to visit Japan. It was owned by Grays Harbor Historical Seaport in Aberdeen, Washington. It also appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. The sailor to which Troi turns over the helm is the real Captain of the ship. Malcolm McDowell had worked with Stewart on stage and relished the chance to play the villain who kills James T. Kirk. His line “Time is the fire in which we die” is from a poem by American poet Delmore Schwartz. McDowell loved it so much he had it engraved on his watch. He is Alexander Siddig’s uncle. McDowell received death threats for killing Kirk. Originally, Kirk was shot in the back, but this tested badly, so they went back and dropped a bridge on him instead. Luckily the bridge was still there. Shatner wanted to die with a pun on his lips—Bridge on the Captain—but nobody liked that idea. DeForest Kelley was ill and could not be insured, so he did not appear. Leonard Nimoy did not care for the script and said Spock’s lines could be spoken by anyone, so they were given to Chekov. This was the last appearance of Geordi’s VISOR. Jacqueline Kim plays Helmsman Demora Sulu. When Data sings, the surprised looks were real, as he was only supposed to hum. Spot was played by Brandy, Spencer, Zoe, and Monster. It is said that Brent Spiner does not like cats; his joy at finding Spot still alive in the crashed ship is called acting. The horse and the house and the barn actually belonged to Bill Shatner. Both he and Patrick Stewart were wearing pantyhose on horseback, an actors’ trick to keep their pants from riding up. Kirk wears a red shirt on the planet, foreshadowing his death.
The movie received mixed reviews and was called safe and predictable. It strikes me as a movie by committee. It provided an exit for Bill Shatner, allowed the two Captains to appear together, passing on the torch, but the threat was not exactly cosmic. Malcolm McDowell was a fine villain, though no Khan or Chang. The crash of the ship was impressive, and Data’s troubles with his emotion chip allowed Brent Spiner to shine. Patrick Stewart got to show his acting chops as well, and was heart-breaking in some scenes, which he does not often get to be.