On this voyage, the commanders of the Starship Paramount had a threefold mission: construct a cinematic vehicle serviceable enough to launch the "Next Generation" crew into a long-running movie series of their own; engineer a stirring and memorable death for pop icon James T. Kirk; and

send audiences home with some sense that the experience of big-screen Trek is still worth eight bucks and a schlep to the local multiplex. In other words, the makers of STAR TREK GENERATIONS weren't exactly required to boldly go where no media conglomerate had gone before. Even so, the seventh

Trek extravaganza emerges as a disappointment, slightly better than the inept STAR TREK V but markedly inferior to Parts II and VI.

As the film begins, a still game but markedly senescent Captain James T. Kirk, ret. (William Shatner), is called upon to act as window dressing for a media event--the maiden voyage of a brand new Enterprise. When the inevitable distress call is received, the photo op becomes a rescue mission. A

heroic attempt to save two vessels ensnared in a mysterious energy field --later to be identified as "The Nexus"--apparently settles Kirk's hash: he's blown into deep space and presumed dead. A 78-year jump into the future finds a new crew aboard the Enterprise--a meeker, sleeker, more politically

correct gang captained by Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), who is soon forced to match wits with intergalactic super-villain Dr. Soran (Malcolm McDowell). Soran's out to destroy an entire planetary system; to stop him, Picard will have to enter the Nexus and enlist the aid of Captain Kirk.

Novice feature director David Carson handles the transition from television to movies with apparent aplomb, while the all-important special effects, supplied by Industrial Light and Magic, are persuasive if far from awe-inspiring. The problems here lie in the screenplay, which blithely violates

the logic of time-travel and flouts some of the most elementary rules of adventure narratives. Much worse, Kirk's death scene is a damp squib. Instead of the extravagant, glorious demise that Shatner's gloriously extravagant screen persona demanded, we're offered pure bathos: Kirk simply falls

down and can't get up.

Picard & Co., the darlings of a new generation of Trekkers, are served little better by the slack, plot-heavy scenario. Already a blander, gentler bunch than the swashbuckling originals, they're given little to do here apart from getting in touch with each other's feelings--in one unbearable

scene, Picard actually bursts into tears.