TV Article

'Star Trek': Absolutely Nebulous

Exploring the 'Generations' flap

It's enough to make Spock's head spin: As Paramount officials last week were cheerily characterizing Star Trek Generations, the upcoming Trek feature, as a shipshape, smooth-running operation, other reports said Generations was in disarray, and the latter were multiplying like Tribbles. Says one source close to the film: ''There's a lot of screaming going on.''

Most of the screaming seems to have started after a Sept. 13 test screening that turned out to be a ''major disappointment,'' according to the source. For months, Trekkies have been eagerly awaiting Generations — the seventh Trek feature and the first to focus on the Next Generation crew — and its much ballyhooed teaming of captains Kirk (William Shatner) and Picard (Patrick Stewart). But in the movie seen by the test audience, Shatner reportedly made appearances only at the beginning and end of the film.

Those surveyed allegedly complained that they'd expected more Kirk — specifically, more Kirk with Picard. ''They thought Stewart and Shatner were going to be like Redford and Newman,'' says the insider.

Generations producer and Trek overlord Rick Berman dismisses these reports as ''nonsense.'' ''The test screening went extremely well,'' he says. A Paramount official agrees: ''The test audience said that this was (its) favorite of all the Star Trek films.''

Nonetheless, the filmmakers are recalling Shatner, Stewart, and Malcolm McDowell, who plays the evil Dr. Soran, to reshoot some scenes. But Berman denies the reshoots are a result of a poor test screening, and says he had always planned on bringing back the actors to ''punch up'' a scene near the end of the movie. ''It's a tiny little piece of the film that we're going back to fix,'' says Berman.

But others dispute Berman's claim that the reshoot was planned all along. The day after the screening, says one source, Berman was so pale he ''looked like Casper.'' The studio hurriedly recalled screenwriters Brannon Braga and Ronald Moore — who had to cancel an appearance at a Star Trek convention in Columbus, Ohio, to concentrate on rewrites.

Since the reshoots involve Kirk's final scenes, is Paramount rethinking the captain's fate — namely his impending death? ''They're not avoiding killing him,'' says an industry source. ''They just want things ambiguous and uplifting in a science fiction sort of way.'' Berman says the Generations reshoots won't affect Kirk's fate ''one iota.''

''Nothing to do with Kirk is being changed,'' he says. ''So to say that Kirk's death is going to be softened and more uplifting or that he's going to be standing on his head or naked — none of that applies.''

Adding to the levels of confusion are reports that one of the opening scenes, featuring Kirk parachuting into a wheat field, was ordered cut by studio officials. When first asked about the reports, a high-ranking exec maintained the scene ''was never scripted. That was never shot. That never existed.'' A studio publicist originally corroborated the executive's story, apparently unaware that photos of the scene had previously been released. For his part, Berman denies the studio ordered the cut and says that he and the director simply decided to edit it out.

In the end, Berman flatly dismisses all reports about troubles in the Trek universe. ''It's not unusual to have bizarre rumors and leaks and totally inaccurate stuff flying around,'' he says. ''It's just Star Trek.''

Originally posted Oct 07, 1994 Published in issue #243 Oct 07, 1994 Order article reprints