Jammer's Review

"Star Trek: Insurrection"


Theatrical release: 12/11/1998
PG; 1 hr. 43 min.
Screenplay by Michael Piller
Story by Rick Berman & Michael Piller
Produced by Rick Berman
Directed by Jonathan Frakes

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

February 21, 1999

Nutshell: Entertaining but thin.

Two years ago, First Contact set a very respectable new standard for the Star Trek film franchise. It maintained the perfect balance of everything Trek cinema should, in my view, have: action, humor, neat sci-fi technical aspects, a story with imagination and wonder, and an overall sense of insight regarding what Star Trek is about. At the same time, it was approachable as good science fiction, so even a non-Trekker would probably find it well worth the time.

Insurrection, on the other hand, is more of a Hollywood comfort film. Omnipresent in the movie is the sense that everyone involved was so intent on having fun while making it that they could barely extend themselves far enough to tell a story bearing any consequence.

Don't get me wrong; there's a lot that works in Insurrection. But overall I couldn't escape the feeling that I was watching actors who were trying very hard to deliver lighthearted lines with the underlying attitude of, "Oh, but this is all just fluff and fun—feel good about it!" than a genuine attempt to say much new about their characters or the state of the Federation or Star Trek universe.

The plot involves a science-fiction device that's older than science fiction itself: A Search for the Fountain of Youth. The fountain might lie within the planet of the Ba'ku, a peaceful non-technological people who, as the movie opens, are being watched by Starfleet. Is it a prelude to first contact, or something more insidious? Starfleet high-ups talk ominously.

The plot thickens: Suddenly, Data comes bursting onto the scene wearing a suit that makes him invisible to the naked eye. (Pretty neat.) Having been damaged, he's malfunctioning and out of control. He turns his phaser on the hidden Starfleet watching post, making it visible to the nearby Ba'ku. The issue involving the Ba'ku is forced when Picard is brought to the planet to disable and retrieve Data, who is operating on "conscience" alone: Data knows there's something morally wrong with the Starfleet plan for the Ba'ku, but he has no mental process for addressing it. What's Starfleet's unusual interest in this planet—located in a turbulent and unstable area of space known as the "Briar Patch"—and what is the motivation behind the Son'a, the race with which Starfleet has allied itself while investigating this world?

Who are the Son'a? Well, for one, they scream "BAD GUYS" in capital letters. They speak in gruff, stern voices and wear ominous-looking hoods. (How does a hood look ominous? I dunno; it just does.) And they look as if they've had skin grafts on their faces just a few hours ago—probably because they have; on more than one occasion in the movie, we see them receiving grafts while lying down under a device that literally stretches their faces to make the new skin fit better.

Once the Enterprise arrives on the scene, Picard, along with Worf (whose presence on the Enterprise is so contrived this time around that we aren't even allowed to hear most of the throwaway lines explaining it), retrieve Data in an action scene combining music, singing, special effects, and goofy comedy in a somewhat unlikely yet effective way that sets the tone for the film: light, funny, relatively inconsequential, fairly diverting.

With Data's memory restored, a quiet investigation of the Ba'ku village leads Picard to uncover the planet's mystery. A Ba'ku woman named Anij (Donna Murphy) gives Picard the brief tour and history of their people. As it happens, the Ba'ku are not as technologically primitive as they appear; they were warp-capable space travelers at one point, but a small subset of their civilization abandoned the problems of technology in favor of a simpler life in this village. Picard becomes more suspicious of the situation when he and Data discover a cloaked ship resting in a lake not far from the Ba'ku village. The ship is equipped with a massive holographic grid, purpose unknown. Eventually, Anij levels with Picard: The Ba'ku do not age on this planet. No one does.

It's not long before the brass have to come clean with Picard: Admiral Dougherty (Anthony Zerbe), on orders from the Federation Council, has made a deal with the Son'a to relocate the Ba'ku to another planet, using a holographic simulation on the specially designed ship as a way of transporting them without their knowledge and therefore, as what would be the cause for objection, without their consent. The Federation wants to study the world because of its properties that slow or halt aging, and they've made a deal with the Son'a because only they have the technology that will allow Starfleet to harvest any permanent scientific advances from the planet's mysterious properties. Unfortunately, this will leave the planet uninhabitable. Starfleet has looked at other alternatives, Dougherty tells Picard, but this is the only option.

Picard calls the action an outright theft of a world. He will have nothing to do with it and intends to argue the matter with the council. Problem is, doing so would render the issue moot; by the time the council hears what he has to say the Ba'ku will be relocated (which could potentially have serious consequences to their survival) and the planet will be all but destroyed.

The morality question is the film's most interesting element: At what point do the ends justify the means? Is research of a phenomenon that could literally be a fountain of youth benefiting billions of people worth sacrificing one's principles? After all, Dougherty argues, it's only 600 people. But how many people, Picard responds, does it take before it becomes wrong?

As interesting as the moral question is, the film doesn't develop it nearly as far as it could've and should've. The film's titular "insurrection" comes when Picard and crew decide to take up arms ("Lock and load," Data says, obviously unaware he's been reprogrammed as a sound bite for Paramount Studios) and defend the Ba'ku from being forcefully removed from the planet. Being inside the Briar Patch, with complications arising from the intervention of the Son'a and a host of other mitigating factors, the Enterprise crew's actions comprise not so much an insurrection as a minor resistance against an adversary that becomes completely severed from the rest of the Federation's knowledge and control (though I must admit that Star Trek: Isolated Skirmish probably wouldn't have been a very good movie title). Picard isn't taking a stand against the Federation; he's taking a stand against Dougherty, whose judgment and actions clearly become suspect as the film progresses, thanks to the presence of Son'a leader Ru'afo (F. Murray Abraham) whose personal interest in the matter is neither selfless nor subtle.

Particularly since Ru'afo changes the master plan whenever he damn well pleases—deciding to remove the Ba'ku from the planet by force once Picard intervenes—the moral ambiguity dissipates rather quickly, turning the conflict into an entertaining but routine example of the Enterprise crew versus the bad guys. Admiral Dougherty just gets stuck on the wrong team.

That's a shame, because a real "insurrection" could've been very interesting—something that might've actually challenged the moral compass of the Federation. I liked the idea of Picard putting his career on the line to defend these people, but if two-thirds into the film it becomes clear that Picard's actions will ultimately be unquestionably heralded as the Right Thing by the Federation Council, it seems a little too much like the Easy Way Out. The risk to Picard's career isn't real because he was never in any real danger of facing any consequences.

The "battle for paradise," as the taglines put it, works through a familiar two-tiered plot structure. On one level is Picard's planet-bound defiance, as he leads the Ba'ku from their village into the rocky area terrain where they can hide from flying Son'a "tagging" devices, which tag people with small transmitters that beam them into a Son'a ship's holding cell.

On the other level is Riker in command of the Enterprise, which is pursued by Son'a ships, leading to the entertaining requisite battle sequences involving technobabble and gas particles that ignite and explode, thanks to the volatile properties of the Briar Patch. The space battles between the Enterprise and the Son'a ships (which look really cool, by the way) are fun in their cavalier sense, including a line where Riker actually says, "We aren't running from these bastards anymore!" and then uses a joystick to manually take control of the helm. Meanwhile, Geordi is ejecting the warp core as a necessary defensive measure, and when the Son'a regroup for another assault, Geordi gets the priceless opportunity to say, "We're fresh out of warp cores!" I liked the departure from the TNG battle standard (this turns back the clock to Star Trek II battle attitudes), although the cavalier sense also supports my argument that the film panders to a mass-market audience.

Of course, if you want mass-market pandering attitudes, you don't have to look much further than the humor undercurrent. The tone of Insurrection is very different from First Contact (and very different from its own advertising campaign), and I have no problem whatsoever with that. Star Trek has always been diverse in story theme and approach. The problem with this approach, however, is that Insurrection has a tendency at times to beat the audience over the head with the sentiment.

Natural humor is one thing; obligatory forays into humor are another. Insurrection has both, but it seems there's more of the latter than the former.

Example: "Have you noticed your boobs starting to firm up?" Beverly asks Deanna in one scene, obviously amazed at the wonderful benefits of a Fountain of Youth. Data overhears. Then he walks a few feet away and repeats what he has overheard to an innocent bystander. Funny? Somewhat so, if for the wrong reason—the I'm-surprised-they-stooped-to-such-silliness reason. There's plenty of that sort of thing in Insurrection. Worf is detoured into the film mostly so he can be on the receiving end of jokes involving pimples and the nature of Klingon puberty. (I suppose that's better than Gates McFadden's character, though; for the third movie in a row, Crusher is reduced to a cog in the wheel of the plot and given little to do.)

I have nothing against Trek humor, but I enjoy it more when it comes naturally. Star Trek IV's humor was somewhat understated, and grew naturally from the characters as we knew them. Insurrection, however, goes on fairly large detours of circumstance to arrive at goofy situational humor, and comes off as more forced as a result. But some of it is fun.

And concerning matters of romance ... it's something of a mixed bag, too. The Riker/Troi thing is something that's obviously been in the character histories for a long time, and I particularly liked the amusing issue concerning Riker's beard. But this is the sort of thing that worked better in television series format, where one could get an update every few weeks. Coming in the third TNG film, it seems out of the blue, and I have to ask if it's worth the time given how rarely we see the cast these days. It's exactly the sort of thing that makes Insurrection more difficult for the non-Trekker to understand; they aren't in on the joke. In film format, I'd rather see a solid story than a bunch of detours into past elements left unresolved.

Picard's gradual affections for Anij make more sense in story terms, and the chemistry between Patrick Stewart and Donna Murphy is always right there on the edge of being powerful ... yet it doesn't quite get there. Anij has an ability to slow down time, and she shares this experience with Picard, but in the flurry of the plot the romance almost feels like an afterthought.

The other subplot involves Data's friendship with the young Ba'ku boy, Artim (Michael Welch). Artim initially fears Data as an artificial being, as he was raised without an understanding of technology, but a friendship begins to develop, especially after the boy's father, Sojef (Daniel Hugh-Kelly), is tagged and beamed away to the Son'a ship. This subplot is amiable, but not very useful in terms of Data's quest for humanity. We've been here, and done this, haven't we? There's also the whole issue of Data's emotion chip, which now apparently can be removed on a whim. My question to the producers of the TNG film series: Do you want Data to have emotions or not? Whatever the case, it's a waste to simply have Data in a state of non-growth. The dialog here between the android and the kid at times seems to regress Data back to mid-run of the television series—at the very least pre-Generations. There are only so many opportunities for Data these days; wasting him like this is a shame.

Overall, the guest cast is entertaining, but, again, thin. They certainly cast these roles perfectly, and the guest actors did a great job with what they were given. Unfortunately, they simply weren't supplied with much substance.

Anthony Zerbe is perfect as Admiral Dougherty, a figure of bureaucracy that finds himself on the wrong side, comes to his senses too late, and pays the price for it. He gets the movie's best death scene when Ru'afo knocks him around and then shoves him into one of the face-stretching machines and face-stretches him to death. Fine and good, but there isn't much subtlety or depth to Dougherty concerning his motives and actions. His about-face once the situation runs out of control is nothing short of obvious, and the second he went into a room alone to confront Ru'afo, I said to myself, "Welp, he's gonna die."

As a villain, Ru'afo is essentially a thug. He isn't coolly bitter like Malcolm McDowell in Generations, and he isn't manipulative or mysterious like the Borg Queen in First Contact. He's an intimidating brute short on patience and high on repressed rage, and he doesn't hesitate to throw an admiral around a room when he gets ticked off.

It's almost as if a conscious decision were made in the pre-production stage that Ru'afo would be a return to the scenery-chewing comic-book villains like Khan or Kruge (which is not to slight Khan at all, because his style and dialog as such was unforgettable). The problem is, Michael Piller's script doesn't give Ru'afo much in terms of good dialog to flesh out the character. Lines like "If Picard or any of his people interfere, eliminate them" seem to emanate from the comic-book realm.

But even if Ru'afo is a one-note thug, he's a good one-note thug. F. Murray Abraham, not surprisingly, brings a lot to a relatively underwritten villain, with an explosive anger and a directness that sells the intimidation well. Abraham has an urgency that transcends the part, making Ru'afo teeter on the edge of obsession and bitter fury. When Abraham says something like "eliminate them," it's still enjoyable on a sort of cheesy theatrical level.

Ru'afo's motives aren't very nice. Perhaps that's an understatement. Turns out the Son'a and Ba'ku are really the same race. The Son'a had long ago been expelled from the planet following an attempt to revolt against the Ba'ku's non-technological ideology. Now the Son'a want the planet back (so they can harvest its life-rejuvenating properties), and Ru'afo will do whatever it takes to get what he wants. The Federation's interest in the Ba'ku planet had unwittingly found its way into the middle of a blood feud.

I did appreciate that there's subtlety to be found in Ru'afo's number two, Gallatin (Gregg Henry). He was also part of the original revolt against the Ba'ku, but it becomes clear that all the killings Ru'afo is about to commit to take the planet back is something eating away at Gallatin's conscience. With time ticking down, Picard clues in on this, and, in a scene of extreme swiftness yet surprising urgency (a Patrick Stewart performance can bring urgency to about any situation) Picard talks Gallatin into listening to his conscience and doing the right thing.

This leads to a series of events that nearly defies synopsis, as Picard somehow beams Ru'afo and his crew onto the holographic-illusion ship to trick Ru'afo into thinking he is on board his own ship. Thus, when he thinks he's activating the "metaphasic injector" (the device that will harvest the fountain of youth and poison the planet), he is actually only flipping a dummy switch, thereby buying Picard and his crew time to foil the plan. Jonathan Frakes, who brought great clarity to First Contact, does his best in directing this confusion, but it somewhat strains credibility. It makes more sense than it probably should, but I still felt the symptoms of several double-takes.

Ru'afo figures out what's going on and beams himself onto the injector to manually start it, leading Picard to beam over to stop him in The Final Showdown [TM].

Like most everything else in the movie, the special effects are entertaining and move the story along. But they're not breathtaking—certainly nothing that connects the visual with the visceral like, say, the opening shot of First Contact. The invisible suits comprised a reasonably interesting action scene. And there's the "palm pet," which was cute but hardly essential. Then there are plenty of flying tag robots, which provide a series of watchable though not exactly riveting action scenes. And the decent holographic deceptions. Oh, yes, and Anij's ability to slow down time until we can see the wing flapping on a hummingbird—one of few visual effects that exists for its emotional content rather than spectacle.

But most of the big special effects are about blowing things up. Case in point: this final showdown, which comes complete with a Movie Bomb, which naturally comes equipped with a digital readout that counts down while beeping, while Picard and Ru'afo shoot at each other inside the metaphasic injector—a huge device with awesome-looking space sails on the outside and plenty of open space (conducive for a shooting gallery) on the inside.

Original villain death scenes are hard to come by these days, but Ru'afo's death is another one of those instances where we're supposed to cheer when Picard is beamed out of the exploding injector at the Last Possible Moment, while Ru'afo gets blowed up real good. This is Hollywood moviemaking all the way, lacking imagination and instead going with the safe bet.

In a way, Ru'afo's explosive demise perfectly sums up my feelings of Insurrection. Did I enjoy watching him blow up? Sure. Was there much thought or ironic insight required to come to the conclusion that Ru'afo must be blown up? Not a chance. Did I want something more? Yep.

The movie is entertaining in a superficial way. I sort of liked Insurrection. But I also felt kind of disappointed afterward. Considering TNG movies only happen once every two (or more, in the future) years, it seems to me that more should be done with a film than to make it a glorified episode where the ship glides in, solves the problem, and glides out—end of story. What's lacking are the lingering questions. A fountain of youth is something that would change the perception of the entire Federation. Isn't that worth examining? Having one admiral (who dies) as the sole Federation representative for eternal youth is simply not enough, and watching the Enterprise fly away from what could be the Greatest Discovery Ever seems a little simplistic.

The bottom line is simple: The film is a good diversion. But you might want to be sure your brain is in the "off" position before, during, and after viewing.

Upcoming: Assuming there will be another TNG feature, I'm of the opinion they should wait more than two years for the next one. As much as I like a Trek movie, I'd much rather see them as "event" movies, rather than getting in the habit of releasing them so frequently that the receiving attitude is one of "Another Trek movie ... ALREADY?"

Previous: Star Trek: First Contact
Next: Star Trek: Nemesis

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46 comments on this review

Mike - Mon, Jan 21, 2008 - 12:24pm (USA Central)
I still agree with Patrick Stewart that this should have been the first entry in a film arc on the corruption in the Federation. "Nemesis" should have been the continuation, not what it was.
Alex - Tue, Apr 15, 2008 - 7:39pm (USA Central)
I would think Insurrection would've been good, had it been a TV episode.

It seems very lacking for a movie.
STD - Thu, Jun 12, 2008 - 2:16pm (USA Central)
This was a terrible movie and an utter failure in all aspects. I can't believe you describe it as enjoyable.

First off, there's the stupid Ba'ku, Space Amish Wholesome Small Towners. This is a Hollywood cliche that needs to die horribly, especially in SciFi. Small town people are not wholesome. At all. Ever. That is an invented romanticism by morons who have never set foot in a real small town. Secondly, the Space Amish archetype is inherently foolish; absconding technology does not make things better, it makes them worse by any possible measurement. Especially in -SCIENCE- fiction, this lunatic mooning over a "simpler" life (which is not actually simple at all -- there is a colossal amount of labor involved) is misplaced. It is also moronic in that it also doesn't work... the Ba'ku clearly use technology, even if its only Iron Age level. At what point does technology suddenly stop being good and wholesome? Furthermore, the Ba'ku clearly retain knowledge of advanced technology... one wonders where they have time to study this and how they can get practical study done without the actual devices?

We, the audience, are also supposed to fully support the Ba'ku's territorial claim and the morality of the crew of the Enterprize. The problem here is that anyone reasonable -wouldn't- approve of either; the planet is in Federation territory, and the Federation is exercising its right to that territory by moving these god-awful self-righteous primitive screw heads off it, rather than let them die horribly as they really could have. Since the Ba'ku themselves are not indigenous species, they can hardly claim rights on the planet that is in Federation space. Hmm... some advanced technology could really help right about now, huh?

Ethically, the Ba'ku don't have a leg to stand on either. The Ba'ku want the planet because... they want the planet. Furthermore, they want to keep the planet all to themselves and give a big middle-finger salute to the rest of the universe. Meanwhile, the Federation wants the planet to improve the standard of living and lives of -trillions- of people. The Ba'ku are selfish assholes who, quite frankly, deserved to fry with their planet. They do not have the moral high ground here. This is a decision weighing the -minor inconvenience- (relocation) of a few hundred people vs the health and well being of billions if not trillions. Only the most rigid, inflexible deontologist could possibly find issue here. It doesn't make the crew of the Enterprise look like heroes sticking to their moral guns, it makes them look like fanatic idiots worshiping doctrine and dogma and absconding free thought.

I could go on, but this is just a worthless shell of a film. It deserves negative stars.
Jammer - Thu, Jun 12, 2008 - 2:53pm (USA Central)
LOL. That's one seriously pissed-off post. Kudos.
Jake - Thu, Nov 27, 2008 - 1:52pm (USA Central)
Although it was nice seeing Troi & Riker hook up again, this film, like First Contact before it, began to rub me the wrong way by giving us yet another arbitrary female guest star for Picard to confide in instead of the more obvious choice of Beverly.
Gatton - Mon, Dec 29, 2008 - 10:08pm (USA Central)
I couldn't agree with you more Jake. I enjoyed Donna Murphy's performance in this movie but it seems to me they could have easily fixed the problem of Beverly having nothing to do by having her step up to the romantic lead role with Picard. A wasted opportunity if ever there was one now that there will be no more TNG movies.
Daniel Lebovic - Thu, May 14, 2009 - 5:23pm (USA Central)
The "pissed-off" poster's comments are well-taken.

While we don't know what would have happened had the Ba'ku been ASKED by the Federation to voluntarily relocate (the Federation could simply have told the Son'a, "Even though you have the technology, the planet is a Federation protectorate, so we don't have to entertain your ideas of forced relocation), the events depicted at the end of the film suggest an answer:

The last portion of the film reveals that the Ba'ku, whom we have been told are peaceful people who do not believe in using state-of-the-art technology, nonetheless used that technology in the service of exiling those with whom they had a disagreement. The Ba'ku state that the Son'a tried to "take over the colony." Even if this was done by force, two wrongs do not make a right.
The Ba'ku behavior, thus, gives one reasonable grounds to think (albeit after the fact) that had they been simply beeen asked to do soemthing for the Federation and perhaps the rest of the quadrant (with an admitted sacrifice),they would have refused. This did not justify the attempt to remove the Ba'ku by force, but I would have enjoyed a dialogue scene where, even after it was noted the Ba'ku were asked, we actually would get to the nitty-gritty of the reasons behind the Ba'ku refusal. Would leaving really destroy their culture? Would it really destroy them, as Picard speechified?

If we view the film through this alternative lens - through skepticism rather than Picard's presumed moral perfection- it becomes clear that it was not Admiral Dougherty who brought the Federation (not willingly, anyway) into a blood feud; the Federation was brought in because the Ba'ku welcomed their aid while hiding their true reason for wanting the aid (to again fend off a sub-section of their race). And of course, the Ba'ku hardly minded when Starfleet's advanced technology was used to intervene on their behalf.

If I didn't know better, I'd think that the filmmakers, one day, sat down and came up with a premise, "Hey! Let's have Picard risk everything in fighting the good fight to protect the rights of a minority," but once they had to plot that theme out-after they introduced the element of the Ba'ku planet possessing life-altering properties that the Ba'ku were happy to keep all to themselves (just....because), the self-righteousness began to seem absurd, but, having deadlines to meet, the filmmmakers continued to pursue the theme of persecution to the point where we were left with a perverse moral: every party (the Son'a, the Ba'ku and the Federaton) in this film acted from selfish purposes, but only the Ba'ku - the disingeuous hoarders - came off looking like the good guy. Self-righteousness is its own virtue and reward, the film tells us, without regard to what occurs outside of the microcosm of the boxed-in plot and the Ba'ku mindset.
Markus - Thu, Jul 16, 2009 - 9:17am (USA Central)
In my eyes, this has been by far the most intriguing , funny and overall the best done movie of the entire franchise. If anyone does not know, what StarTrek is about, this film tells him: It is about humanity. And this was one of the last SciFi-movies in general where the main plot does not focus on dark, cruel alien planets and a sad future with plenty of violence and hatred. This one is optimistic and makes much, much fun.

I watched it more than a dozen times probably - it never gets boring at all!
Nolan - Sun, Nov 8, 2009 - 12:15am (USA Central)
This movie makes me think about the seventh season episode of TNG, Homeward, where Worf's adoptive brother shows up, and move a race of aliens to another planet when their planet is about to be destroyed, using, guess what, the holodeck.

Would have been interesting if the Admiral had called Picard out on this.
Elliot Wilson - Fri, Feb 12, 2010 - 9:45pm (USA Central)

What he actually says is, quote, "We're through running from these bastards," unquote. Plus |||I||| think Isolated Skirmish would actually make a kick-ass name for a Star Trek movie! :P
MP - Wed, Feb 24, 2010 - 4:35am (USA Central)
I'm suprised you didn't mention this quote Jammer:

"Federation support, Federation procedures, Federation rules... look in the mirror, admiral... the Federation is old... in the last twenty four months, it's been challenged by every major power in the quadrant – the Borg, the Cardassians, the Dominion... they all smell the scent of death on the Federation. That's why you've embraced our offer... because it will give your dear Federation new life."

It's an interesting point. The Federation has really had everyone challenge it. He forgot the Changeling-initiated war with the Klingons, but still. It could have been carried into some message that the Federation was reaching the end of it's life or something else. Perhaps an allegory for the decline of Star Trek as a whole. It's simply too old.
MP - Wed, Feb 24, 2010 - 4:36am (USA Central)
Forgot to add the


at the end of that quote.
David - Tue, Mar 9, 2010 - 8:34am (USA Central)
It has the feel of a TV episode and nothing more.
Paul - Thu, May 20, 2010 - 4:35am (USA Central)
Nolan - Picard was subject to a fait accompli put in a position where he had to break the PD no matter what. That became a humanitarian mission to save the people - this was the opposite.
Paul - Sun, May 30, 2010 - 1:42pm (USA Central)
Enjoyed this one throughout, excellent pacing, good acting. Few clangers, yes, but still good all round. The clangers...'Are the torque sensors out of position?' 'Why, yes, Captain, 12 microns'. 'You know, when I was an ensign, I could detect 3 microns...' [cue, glances between helm officer and Geordi meaning, 'don't invite him to next party'].

Boobs, thing, yes. Believe it was Worf not 'innocent bystander'. Funny scene with Worf, where he develops spot and Data whispers into Picard's ear. Data shows great awareness to do so and then shakes head vigorously...then sneaks another look. Hilarious.

Easily the best of the TNG films. They seemed comfortable...in Nemesis they seem tired.
Paul - Sun, May 30, 2010 - 1:44pm (USA Central)
Ooh, let's not forget...'His emotion chip?' 'No he left it behind..' Is this the emotion chip that got integrated into his neural net in Generations?
Tim - Fri, Jun 25, 2010 - 5:12pm (USA Central)
It pains me that the attempts to give Data funny lines end up undoing years of character development and instead just make him look like a retard. “Have you noticed your boobs have started to firm up?” Ugh!

By the way, you know what scene we never saw in this movie? Dougherty says to the Baku, “If you were to move to another planet, yes, it would end your immortality. But you it would mean medical advances and breakthroughs for billions and billions of people. What do you say?”. And the Baku would reply, “Sorry, we prefer to live forever”.

Would have made it hard to root for the Baku, huh? But, essentially, that’s who the Baku were.
Jeff - Thu, Jul 15, 2010 - 12:56pm (USA Central)
I wonder what the Romulans would have thought about the cloaked suits and the duck blinds. Although that treaty only pertains to cloaked starships, right?
Eric Dugdale - Sat, Apr 2, 2011 - 11:14pm (USA Central)
Jeff, by this point in continuity the Treaty of Algeron has already been flagrantly violated by Benjamin Sisko on the Defiant.

Not that it matters. This sort of small-scale cloaking technology has been in use by the Federation since mid-TNG days. Remember that episode where the Federation was maintaining a cloaked observation-base on the planet with those proto-Vulcan-ish aliens? Same idea.
Jay - Sat, Sep 17, 2011 - 8:29pm (USA Central)
But going on with what Jeff said, how can a cloaked vessel like the one in the lake be of "Federation origin"?

STD is absolutely right...the morality belongs to the greater good. Even Spock said the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. That's why they had to make that side of the moral equation - the Admiral and the So'na - so cartoonishly evil (keeping subordinate races as serfs, being Dominion allies - it was really over the top the lengths to which they went), lest everyone notice that they actually had the high ground in the situation.

Nemesis was more flat-out stupid, but this movie was more unforgivaeble.

100% agree with the comments about Beverly being ridiculously replaced by Guest Woman for two films running.
Jay - Sat, Sep 17, 2011 - 8:44pm (USA Central)
Also, perhaps to reinforce the notion of them being mustache-twirlingly evil, in the S7 DS9 episode "Penumbra", there is throwaway dialogue from Gul Damar suggesting that the So'na joined the Dominion soon after the events of this film.
Jay - Sat, Sep 17, 2011 - 8:47pm (USA Central)
OMG I almost forgot how intelligence insulteing the whole "poweer to freeze time" notion was...are the Ba'ku deities? Inexcusable.
PaulW - Mon, Nov 28, 2011 - 11:00am (USA Central)
I watched this movie for the first time in a few years the other night. It aged better than I expected -- the effects are good, and the actors' performances hold up -- but there are a few things that could have been tweaked to make a decent movie go to very good.

The Picard/Anij stuff is just really dull. I think it was a mistake to give Picard a love interest. It dragged down the plot. More time could have been spent with Picard talking about the moral issues -- particularly with the whole "Federation is old" angle.

As others have mentioned, reverting Data throughout the TNG movie franchise is really annoying -- no more than in this movie.

This one has bothered me for a long time. When the senior staff goes to confront Picard, Riker and Geordi are still in their uniforms. It's almost as if they knew that Picard would choose everybody else to go with him -- or that Picard chose based on uniforms. It makes sense that those two would stay, but why would the others figure they would definitely be going?

Finally, a real issue with the movies is that the roles for the characters is pretty much the same in each movie (particularly after 'Generations'). Picard and Data always go in first, and Worf usually comes along. Riker and Picard are almost never together -- it's pretty clear the creators got bored with Riker shortly after 'Best of Both Worlds' -- and Crusher has next to nothing to do.
Petrus - Sat, Apr 7, 2012 - 1:34am (USA Central)
The tie in novel for Insurrection, was actually a lot more solid than the movie. A cousin bought me a copy for Christmas the year after the release. I was very surprised, and it demonstrated that there were perhaps elements of the script which got lost in translation.
Justin - Tue, May 1, 2012 - 11:48pm (USA Central)
It's better than Star Trek V. High praise, I know.

@ Eric Dugdale, the cloaking device on the Defiant was on loan from the Romulans and they never asked for it back, so technically they're not breaking the treaty, even though they did break the agreement to not use it in the Alpha Quadrant quite often.
Justin - Fri, May 4, 2012 - 7:59pm (USA Central)
I think it's worth noting that the Son'a were never willing to cross the line into killing any of the Baku. It makes for a more interesting story when your villains are not cold blooded killers. Although, what was with that "fresco" transporter beam? It looked cool if nothing else...
Eduardo - Wed, Sep 12, 2012 - 3:04pm (USA Central)
I just spent half a week reading Fade-In: The Writing of Star Trek Insurrection, narrated by Michael Piller himself.

I recommend it to anyone interested in the process of how the film came together, and how challenging and arduous the process and production of the film was for Piller.

It really shows the movie in a new light. It's impressive how much input these film scripts have from other sources. Most notably, a frank assessment of the script's shortcomings by Ira Behr.

No matter how hard Piller tries, the movie won't go anywhere without the okay from the following people: Rick Berman, Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner and the Paramount execs.

Also, an interesting detail as to why Piller left Voyager after two seasons. Two of the writers threatened to quit if he stayed, citing reasons related to the infamous 'Roddenberry's Box'.
Mars - Tue, Sep 18, 2012 - 2:21pm (USA Central)
I think that we should be suspicious when big budget movies appear to be awful. I am going to watch this movie again, but with a particular eye toward detecting coded messages. Everyone in this movie is a symbol of something. The symbolic interactions represent something other than what they are overtly portrayed as. Asking yourself - "what is represented by what?" in this movie may help you to grok its true meaning. Look for allusions to enlightenment, transcendence, corporeal (earthly, human) existence, something akin to the matrix, some agency who occults the "true nature" of some character(s), a struggle to uncover some truth, a striving hero, a realization or uncovering of truth, and the destruction of earthly illusions that results in a new truth being reveaeled. I think this movie is about enlightenment, and man's true nature as an eternal being of light and wisdom being hidden from him (us) by those who would profit (attain power) by keeping us sick, stupid, and slaves.
Jack - Sun, Jan 27, 2013 - 6:03pm (USA Central)
That duck blind was pretty much next to the town. How were they able to build it without being seen? I doubt that a fully constructed and fully embedded in rock duck blind can be beamed in place, cloaked, straight from a ship.

And...doesn't this all violate the treaty with the Romulans about utilizing cloaking technology?
Jay - Thu, Feb 14, 2013 - 12:04pm (USA Central)
It also seemed absurd that the Federation wouldn't realize that they really were a warp-capable species living spartanly. A natural civilization of a planet consisting entirely of one prosperpous village of 600 people and no one else on the planet anywhere? Really?
PetetongLaw - Mon, Mar 4, 2013 - 8:00pm (USA Central)
I was a young teenager when this movie was released and I waited for it with great anticipation basically from the moment I saw FIrst Contact (which rocked!). But sadly I view this movie as a colossal failure. Having waited two years I was really curious to see how the characters would have changed or evolved since the last film - who would be promoted or off the Enterprise, etc. - but sadly they just made it seem like nothing had happened at all (and the same is true for Nemesis to a large extent). I think this is indicative of Rick Berman's unchallenged helmship of the Star Trek franchise - no story arcs, no character evolutions,dismissiveness towards continuity and a belief that appealing to mass audiences at the expense of core fans is sustainable.
Patrick - Mon, Mar 4, 2013 - 8:13pm (USA Central)

"a belief that appealing to mass audiences at the expense of core fans is sustainable"

This last part, sadly, proved to be one of the biggest reasons for JJ Abrams success with his execrable reboot series. Hopefully, in time, he'll be so focused on the Star Wars franchise, he'll leave Trek the hell alone.
Nick P. - Mon, Apr 8, 2013 - 8:57am (USA Central)
@ Justin, I disagree, this was way worse than Star Trek 5. for all of the production non-sense, I "BUY" the plot concept. If there really was evidence of a god being at the center of the galaxy, I "buy" that Kirk and crew would go look for it. It was done poorly, but the plot was very trekky, this move would have you buy that Picard would give up the CURE FOR DEATH because of a good lookin space hippy?!?

@ Patrick, I sincerely hope you are wrong. Abrams isn't perfect, but I will take the fun of Abrams over the boredom and repetitiveness of Berman & Piller any day. Berman Destroyed Star Trek, Abrams breathed fresh life into it.

Paul - Mon, Apr 8, 2013 - 1:46pm (USA Central)
@Justin: It just depends on what you think makes a worse movie, but I'd give the slight nod to ST5.

The extended camping scenes and horrible characterization of every character but Bones just push me over the edge. The movie has bad effects, really hollow Klingon villains and a premise that is far more ridiculous than ST9. There's just no way Starfleet would have sent the Enterprise as it was at the beginning of ST5 to Nimbus III.

The TNG characters are largely off in ST9, but at least you can chalk that up to the youthful effects of the planet. Also, the effects are pretty good. And the movie's plot doesn't hinge on the Enterprise being so broken down that the crew is vulnerable in ST9.

Lastly, ST9 had one interesting conceptual idea whereas ST5 had none: Part of the premise -- and part of the reason Starfleet is in bed with the Son'a -- is that the Federation is struggling after the conflicts post-Generations. That was a really interesting idea. It's not very well utilized. But the only conceptual think ST5 has is more "Kirk-no-like-Klingons" (and vice versa).

Also, ST9 doesn't have anything as ridiculous as Scotty hitting his head walking down a corridor or Sulu and Chekov getting lost in the woods or Uhura doing a fan dance.
NCC-1701-Z - Wed, Apr 10, 2013 - 12:42pm (USA Central)
Ruafo's screaming fit ain't no "KHAAAAAAAAN!"
Grumpy - Sat, Jul 6, 2013 - 11:32pm (USA Central)
Thanks for the tip about Piller's memoir, Eduardo. At the risk of derailing into yet another slam against Voyager, I must say I hardly noticed any change once the writers, straining against the Roddenberry Box enforced by Piller, were supposedly set free.

In his introduction, Piller says, "Second-guess me. If you’d been writing the script would you have made the same decisions I made?" I think SF Debris had one good answer: make the story a conflict within the Enterprise family, Picard and Riker each leading factions with opposing (yet equally logical, defensible, and ethical) views on the Baku question. If this idea never occurred to Piller, it was probably because (under deadline pressure) he was too committed to the "Data as Kurtz" scenario to start over yet again.
Grumpy - Sun, Jul 7, 2013 - 3:33am (USA Central)
...And now that I've read Piller's account, I think I know where they went wrong, which explains the dissatisfaction I felt with this movie. At one point, Piller says, the story became shaped by the budget. They had to trim how many llamas could be hired. Alien makeup for the Baku was too expensive, so they ended up looking like "Wisconsin dairy farmers." Piller had conceived a story that could only work with an epic budget, but when an epic budget was not to be had, he nibbled around the edges rather than re-conceive a smaller-scale story. And the reason it was too late to start over was an old Hollywood problem: setting a release date before the script is written.

Piller's conclusion is a prediction, eerily accurate in light of his passing, of the now-dominant style of action scripting, of which Star Trek Into Darkness is a typical example.
William B - Sun, Jul 7, 2013 - 1:36pm (USA Central)
I'm reading through the original treatment right now in Piller's book. One thing that jumps out at me is that the natives of the planet are *adapted* to the planet, in biology; moving them will kill them, not merely deprive them of immortality, as turned out in the final film.
Paul - Thu, Aug 22, 2013 - 2:17pm (USA Central)
Watched this on Netflix the other night. I fast-forwarded through all the boring Anij stuff and all the dumb stuff with Data and the kid and some of the stuff with the Ba'Ku running from the tagging robots.

It's a much better movie. The battle scenes are pretty good and the stuff with the Son'a and the admiral work.
Brandon - Sat, Sep 7, 2013 - 11:07pm (USA Central)
Piller's book was revealing. It seems Patrick Stewart's ego really did sidetrack the TNG movie machine to a big extent. A lot of his original ideas were a lot more interesting. And making the Ba'ku dependent on the planet for life would have created a REAL polemic, instead of the sham that we had.

The budget constraints were obvious. Spinning the camera to simulate the shuttle careening out of control, the reduced quality of phaser shots, the set design and everything.

And man, I wish they'd gone with the original ending of Ru'afo getting sucked out into space and de-aged to a fetus by the planet's radiation. That's exactly the kind of imagination and irony that Trek has been sorely lacking.

Not that Orci and Kurtzman have enough brains for it, either. Berman may have killed Trek, but Abrams and Co did not (may God curse this excruciatingly tired cliché) "breathe fresh life into it". They just turned it into a zombie. Same body, same appearance, no life.

Moonie - Sun, Sep 15, 2013 - 9:56am (USA Central)
I disliked this movie basically for all the reasons stated by STD further above.

There is almost nothing in movies that annoys me more than the glorification of primitive, simple (wholesome...) lifestyles. I really don't want to see that kind of romanticism in a SciFi movie (it's everywhere else, in mainstream movies, in comedies, in literature... why can't we even be spared it in SciFi??) Just didn't work for me.
Eli - Fri, Feb 28, 2014 - 7:31pm (USA Central)
Funny, unpretentious, entertaining, with great scenes between the characters. This is my favorite Next Generation movie.
Eli - Sat, Mar 1, 2014 - 4:25pm (USA Central)
Oops... I meant the interactions between the characters were great. The dialogue was fun.
Baron Samedi - Wed, Aug 27, 2014 - 3:45pm (USA Central)
I agree with the "pissed-off" comment near the top - every single idea that went into this film was a bad one. Zero stars from me. There's a TNG episode where Picard follows orders to relocate a bunch of impoverished Native Americans, but here he refuses to relocate a bunch of selfish, healthy morons who don't want to help trillions of people by sharing the healing conditions of their planet that they A) found (in Federation space), rather than were indigenous to and B) only occupy a tiny percentage of anyway? The entire notion of small towns without (some) technology being conducive to a simple, happy life is absurdly stupid and directly contrary to the entire spirit of Star Trek. The guest actors are poor, the dialogue stilted, the costumes bland, the special effects cheesy, the story inconsequential. The insurrection even turns out to be supported by StarFleet at the end. What a cop-out! I can give Insurrection some credit for at least trying to be about ideas, but refusing to even show the Ba'ku facing the consequences of their decision robbed the movie of any potential power. There are some great Star Trek movies, but when they miss, they miss badly. The most tragic thing is that The Final Frontier - deservedly ravaged by critics when it came out - is only the fifth worst Trek movie thanks to Generations, Nemesis, Into Darkness, and this. Similarly, the most tragic thing about this movie is that Data singing with Picard at the beginning is only, like, the twentieth worst thing about it.
SlackerInc - Sat, Oct 18, 2014 - 10:41am (USA Central)
I too want to cosign the "pissed off" comment from STD. Great rant, kudos.
Trekker - Wed, Dec 24, 2014 - 7:23pm (USA Central)
I would disagree with STD and a few others on two major points, thought I agree that the idea of Space Amish is horrible Hollywood tripe.

It's a weak plot, but there is merit to the film from a thematic point of view, it's a slow drama/western that perfectly should have meld with Star Trek's original premise as the "Wagon Train" to the Stars that Gene Roddenberry had imagined. Before we judge this movie as bad, let's not forget that Star Trek has always been about reflecting on human history (The age of Colonialism and Imperialism) before the era of SFX.

1. The western aspect of the movie at least brings us back to Trek, not modern themes like terrorism (Into Darkness) or really crappy exotic concepts (Nemesis). I would honestly rate this movie higher than either movie easily, because it's not reflecting on our worst qualities of humanity or our sience first. That's the best part of Star Trek that we have given up on over the decades, humanism.

2. Technological progress in the Star Trek Universe and even in our universe is never quite so clear cut.

The ancient Egyptians could build massive pyramids, which were unrivaled for thousands of years, Napoleon would later stand in awe of them four thousand years later. They just needed good mathematics and labor management skills. You can advance a civilization through science without having to rely on industrial technological progression; advanced mathematics could allow you to develop tools and in Star Trek, we've seen biotechnology on exotic alien worlds operate at the level of Federation future tech.

I agree the plot is weak and dialogue is uncharacteristic (Data + Boobs = does not compute).

However, the theme and technology of the Ba'ku are not that weird or unreasonable for Star Trek as it fits really well into their universe.

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