Earlier this year, I sat down with Michael Bailey and talked about the comic books of 1994. He talked about how this was a landmark year for him as a comic collector because it was the year that the greater DC Universe opened up to him. I actually remember it as being a bit of the opposite. I didn’t stop collecting comics or anything, but I did find myself becoming more discerning as a comic book reader and collector. As I’ve thought about 1994 and its importance in the decade, I’ve come to realize that this also applies to Star Trek.
I was a pretty big Star Trek fan from the time I was about nine years old and saw Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home for the first time in the movie theater and through most of junior high and the first year or two of high school. Being a fan of Trek wasn’t exactly popular at the time and I definitely took a fair amount of shit, but I seemed to take a fair amount of shit for simply breathing when I was in the eighth grade, so whatever.
Anyway, 1994 is a landmark year in Trek because it marked the end of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the show that really cemented the concept of Star Trek as a show with a legacy beyond a 1960s television show and a series of popular movies starring the same group of people. I had been kind of cold to the show when it premiered in 1987 because I was huge fan of original series reruns and original series movies, but it grew on me. I never found myself watching it on a regular basis, but I do remember streaks of several weeks in a row because one episode hooked me in (my all-time favorite is the two-part cliffhanger “The Best of Both Worlds”).
“All Good Things,” which was the final episode of ST:TNG, aired on May 23, 1994 and being in the New York area, that was on WPIX at either 7:00 or 8:00 on a Saturday night. I missed the original airing because I had to go to some family party, so I programmed the ancient top-loading Panasonic VCR in our basement to tape it when I got home. For whatever reason–probably user error–it didn’t tape. I was bummed but apparently not bummed enough to try and find a rerun because I didn’t actually see “All Good Things” until about 2009 or 2010 when I found it randomly on cable one night.
But the Trek faithful didn’t have too much to be upset about that year when it came to losing their favorite show. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was still on the air (although I admittedly didn’t watch it) and that November, Star Trek: Generations hit theaters. This was a movie that was set up to be a pretty big deal–Kirk and Picard were going to be on screen together. There was time travel involved, of course, but it was going to be huge.
I missed this in the theater and when I eventually saw it on video, I was kind of glad I did. Star Trek: Generations is not that great of a movie. It’s not Star Trek V horrible by any means, but it definitely follows the pattern of odd-numbered Trek movies being “meh.” Granted, I haven’t watched it in two decades so I may be wrong, and that’s why I’m not going in-depth with a review of it or offering up a podcast episode.
What strikes me, though, when thinking about this, was how it was one of the first times where I hit a point that I definitely could say that I was at the end of my fandom of something. It’s not that I stopped liking Star Trek by any means–in fact, I went and saw First Contact in the theater (and thought it was pretty good)–it’s that I was no longer so attached to it. And really, I wasn’t used to that. Since then, it’s happened with several things from bands like Metallica to comics like Batman, but Trek was the first “living” thing that I could turn to and feel a specific nostalgia for (as opposed to long-dead cartoons like Voltron, for instance), as if it reminded me of a place, time, and attitude that was no longer there.
Oh, and I still think Kirk’s death was cheap.
Great article! I started watching Star Trek as a child in the ’70s with my dad. I even watched the animated series when that was on. When Star Wars came out, I became obsessed with that. But, I got excited when Star Trek made a comeback by appearing on the big screen…only to be disappointed by a boring movie. But, Wrath of Khan won me back over. I know that Trek has a reputation for having bad odd numbered movies (I’ve even said it myself). But, I recently rewatched The Search for Spock, and it was a lot better than I remembered. You should check it out again. There was a lot of action in that movie, which appealed to me.
And just like you, I was pretty leery about Next Generation. Who wants an old looking captain? But, I warmed up to it, and did not miss an episode once I got into it.
I did see Generations in the theater, and I didn’t think it was too bad. But, I did like the beginning of the movie better – before we saw the Next Generation crew. It was a somewhat decent transition. I haven’t seen it in a while though. I’ll have to rewatch it. And once again I agree with you – Kirk’s death was cheap. His first “death” was a little better because he was saving a ship. But, no McCoy or Spock around? I guess the producers didn’t want to fork up the money for them.