It was the end of two eras in the history of the Star Trek franchise. At the same time, Paramount decided to end the journey of the crew from The Original Series and end The Next Generation’s seven-year run in syndication.
According to The New York Times, Paramount decided it was time for the Next Gen crew to take their story to the big screen for purely financial reasons. After seven seasons, the cast was earning a lot of money per episode, at the cost over $1.7 million for each. The show was very much a hit for Paramount, and it made sense to transition Patrick Stewart’s crew to the big screen. After all, TNG’s replacement series, Deep Space Nine, had been chugging along since 1993.
But when it came down to it, ending the original Trek cast’s story was difficult, and the studio asked for two versions. One was written by TNG showrunner Maurice Hurley, while the other version was penned by Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore. The second script won out, and Braga and Moore’s tale of two iconic captains in one epic battle was what we all saw in 1994’s Star Trek: Generations.
The Hollywood Reporter noted that the duo was made to wrap a story around quite a few demands from the studio, including just a brief portion of the film could include the TOS cast, and Kirk could appear at the end.
This is precisely what happened, as Scotty (James Doohan) and Chekov (Walter Koenig) appeared in just the story’s Enterprise-B portion. William Shatner’s Kirk beamed in toward the end to work with Picard.
In the end, Picard and Kirk joined forces to face the villainous Dr. Tolian Soran, played by Malcolm McDowell. Soran was trying to do anything to get back into the “Nexus,” which was an energy wave. Inside the Nexus, people lived in a timeless, dreamlike existence. This was how Kirk and Picard met and how they united to defeat Soran.
Those who disliked Generations‘ ending should take heart — it’s much better than what was filmed originally. Executive Producer Rick Berman explained in the Star Trek: Generations blu-ray extras deleted scenes that after showing the first ending to test audiences, they knew they had to do something.
“We ended up with a much more effective and exciting climax to the film,” said Berman. This cost the studio another $5 million to reshoot, according to ScreenRant.
This is undoubtedly true, as the first ending had Soran only shooting Kirk with a phaser. Picard would stop Soran’s missile from launching, pick up the gun and shoot Soran. Kirk then died in Picard’s arms, without saying a word.
The refilmed finale featured an epic hand-to-hand battle worthy of a TOS episode. Picard emerged victoriously, but only after a bridge fell on Kirk, ending his life. Soran did not make it back to the Nexus, but he did finish Captain James Tiberius Kirk‘s adventures.
While this version was markedly better, some die-hard Trek fans were angry about the outcome and wanted someone to blame. Rather than go after Berman, they focused their energies on McDowell. They threatened his life, and the news got to him through his nephew. Here’s how McDowell recalled the story to the Tulsa World:
“My nephew (Alexander Siddig), who was in Deep Space Nine, called me and said, ‘Your life’s been threatened.’ I went, ‘God almighty! What, for killing him?’”
McDowell said that he didn’t take the threat seriously but that Paramount did.
“I suppose they had to because they didn’t want a lawsuit,” McDowell told author Bryan Reesman. “They assigned two detectives to come with me to New York to do the press. It was a complete waste of time and quite funny. I kept telling the guys to go home, and they were going to stay outside my room the whole night at the Carlyle Hotel.”
Did Kirk Really Die?
You could also argue that everything in Star Trek Generations happened inside the Nexus and that it was Picard’s subconscious trying to justify being trapped there & hoping to leave. https://t.co/EZji8xAENp
— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) November 20, 2020
Over the years since Generations, Shatner has authored a series of books that have his character surviving the ordeal against Soran. The script and final cut of the film even reveal that Kirk died twice in the story. Who says that he can’t die a third time?
Angry at the Wrong Person
While the fans had every right to be angry at Paramount and Berman for letting Kirk die in such an abrupt way, they should have listened to what McDowell thought of the situation. He agreed with them.
“I don’t care whose fault it was,” McDowell told StarTrek.com in 2011. “Whoever came up with his death at the end, I thought it was really cheesy. I just think the man, whether you like him or not, should have been given a blazing death. And I, of course, would have been happy to have supplied that.
“Look, I just think it was a missed opportunity for this great, iconic figure that everybody loved or everybody loathed. He was one of those great figures that caused dissension and debate and arguments.”
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