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STAR TREK: INSURRECTION

Directed by Jonathan Frakes (1998, Paramount Pictures)
Starring Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner,Jonathan Frakes, and F. Murray Abraham

Picard and crew save the peaceful Ba'ku and the fountain of youth from their enemies and Starfleet.

View count: Twice

 

 

2 stars

September 17th, 2001 on TV  
    I found this instalment of the movies to fall victim to a number of typical Trek clichés, but with some added problems. The effects were excellent in most cases, but so much of the humor was misplaced, and it made it seem very modern, instead of futuristic.

In so many of the places that I was supposed to laugh, I typically snorted, or laughed at how absurd the humor was. It was trying to be lighthearted, but it didn't come across as anything except looking like it was trying to be lighthearted. It was too obvious. I did like Worf saying he didn't know the new crewmembers Gilbert and Sullivan, and Data feeling Riker's face and shaking his head that no, it wasn't as smooth as an android's bottom. But even those were rather misplaced. 

Worf was the butt of so many of the jokes that I really felt bad for him. The pimple, "definitely feeling aggressive, sir!", and the hair growth and oversleeping could have been cut to put in some more interesting stuff. Not to mention Data's line repeating the comments about boobs firming up, which should have been cut.  Can you tell this movie is written by men?

So Picard finally gets a love interest. It should have happened soon after Generations, where he learned that he was the last Picard. But of course, he cannot do anything about it, because this is Trek. 

The Enterprise (I forgot they were on version E; though I prefer the Enterprise D, this ship is still pretty cool!) is called to an obscure planet where the Federation is conducting a blind study of the natives. Only these people are not natives -they are over three hundred years old, colonists from elsewhere, preserved better than original by some sort of radiation in the planet's rings. It turns out that some of their people were outcast after trying to take over the colony, and now they have returned, eager for revenge, and to bottle up the life-restoring radiation. Their ultimate purpose is kept secret until the very end of the film, because they want the help of the Federation. 

Picard arrives because Data was part of the expedition, and he has gone berserk. When they find him and get him under control, they discover that he found a cloaked ship under the water, with a holodeck programmed to look just like the natives' village. It is obvious to Picard, immediately, that it was meant for relocation of the Ba'ku. How he makes this leap is inconceivable. Perhaps it was meant to simulate the village, so that the Federation could do additional studies and tests. Relocation is not the most obvious answer. But we had to push the plot along, didn't we?

When Picard confronts Admiral Dougherty, the Admiral orders him to leave, because the life-preserving radiation is more important than the six hundred people living there. He says that he will be restoring them to their original way of life, which they left three hundred years ago. But their culture would be wiped out, being based as it was on their long lifespan, their lapse of technology, and they might grow disfigured the way the So'na did after leaving the planet. Picard asks the very interesting and relevant question "how many people does it take before it becomes wrong to move them" after the Admiral says "it's only 600 people!"

It is never made clear how the So'na became what they were. I re-watched this on TV, and I think a bit was cut (to make room for commercials) on what happened to them so that they became so "hideous" (other than the fact that they are the bad guys). When Deanna and Riker research the So'na, they discover that the population is in the thousands, that they are galactic bad guys, and that they manufacture ketracel white, the stuff the Jem'hadar need to live! This happened in 100 years? And the fact that the Ba'ku could still figure out what was wrong with Data after three hundred years of not using technology is unbelievable. Sure, they might remember what an android and a hologram was, but they would not retain their technological skills if they didn't use them in their daily lives.

Of course, the So'na are hideous and the Ba'ku are beautiful. We have to make the distinction between good and evil. Even the bad Admiral is nowhere near as handsome as the Enterprise crew. Didn't he spend a few hours down on the planet, so he could get younger, too? Doesn't look like it. Did Ru'afo or his crewmates spend time on the planet -one did, at least- and start to heal? Why did Ru'afo go through those skin stretching sessions when he could spend hours in the duck blind and heal, even if only a little? Don't say that it would take time -if Geordi can get his eyesight back, when he never ever had any, in just a few days, then the disfigurement would begin to heal soon, as well.

So we end up with a confrontation. Picard, Worf and a few others go down to the planet to evacuate the Ba'ku, get them near some transporter-inhibiting minerals so that they cannot be transferred to the hologram ship. They spend boring hours (minutes, thankfully, to us) walking along the foothills, until the So'na tag many of them with transporter-enhancing darts. Ru'afo's claim that it would take hours to tag all the Ba'ku proves to be unfounded, as the machines were pretty quick at tagging a lot of people, and would have finished the job in minutes if nobody had been shooting at them. And what is with the tagging robots stopping just over the ridge, as if they were cowboys in a bad western? They seem to bow to their enemies (Picard and his crew), wait a few seconds (Picard's crew also waits those few seconds before opening fire), and then they charge! Dramatic effect, I suppose, but it doesn't make sense.  However, the drones themselves were pretty cool looking; sort of like a modern Sith probe, eh?

It is inevitable that the So'na would cause the caves to collapse, that the young boy would go back to find his lost (and very cute) CG creature-pet, and that Anij (Picard's love interest) would go back to rescue the boy. Then, of course, Picard goes after her, and the two of them get caught behind a rockslide. Gee, I couldn't have predicted that! But what comes of it? In the next scene, after what is supposed to be hours, they have been rescued, and Anij is healed by Dr. Crusher. Did they get the Ba'ku into those other caves and come back for Picard? Or did they abandon their duty and cut through the rockslide immediately to get to their captain, whom they should have abandoned (the other exit wasn't sealed, though Anij probably would have died). There seems no point to him being trapped there, except to injure Anij, so that the pair can be tagged when they are out in the open and be transported to the So'na ship. 

Meanwhile, Riker is out destroying the Enterprise. Again.  We always like to see the Enterprise in battle, but every time Riker is in charge of the ship, it ends up taking a real beating! It happened in several TNG episodes ("Rascals" being the one that leaps to mind -taken over by Ferengi!), and in Generations he destroyed the Enterprise D (yes, it was his fault). While we got some really stunning shots of the nebulous Briar Patch, often the ships looked completely fake, like the CG creations they were (especially data's ship, at the beginning). The nacelles trailing smoke was terrific, but what happened to them afterwards? I suppose Geordi fixed them, but they looked pretty damaged to begin with. Are shields of no use? Suffice it to say that when Riker decides to turn around and fight, he still doesn't do very well. He has to scoop up and re-vent some of the conveniently explosive nebulosity ahead of the enemy ships so that they are destroyed when they fire into the stuff. He escapes and contacts the Federation council, and gets back in time to rescue Picard. 

If the Enterprise was 20 hours away from contacting the Federation, that means Picard and his charges were walking among the hills for 40 hours! Ru'afo was so sure that they couldn't wait even a couple of hours before harvesting this radiation. He actually waited that long before deciding to harvest it anyway? 

Once he made the decision to harvest it even though it would kill everybody on the planet, he killed the Admiral (face-stretching has to be a painful way to die -it's to the Admiral's credit that he didn't cry out in pain), then deployed the collector. Picard uses his debating skills to get help from one of Ru'afo's subordinates, helped along by the fact that there was already a wedge driven between him and Ru'afo. They end up transferring Ru'afo to the hologram-ship, where the man thinks he has deployed the collector, because it is an exact replica of his bridge. See! A replication that was used to run simulations of the collecting sequence! The village could have been created for similar purposes!

Once Ru'afo figures this out, he isolates a transporter and transfers himself to the collector, where he resumes the countdown (not from several seconds, where he left off on his bridge, but from three minutes, so that we have time to disarm it). After Picard stops congratulating himself, he notices, and has Worf beam him over there, too. Picard evades Ru'afo, who has left the controls for some reason, and initiates the self-destruct sequence, using the fact that every computer in the galaxy (and perhaps beyond) is organized the same way, in the same language, with easy-to-read instructions.

Of course, the So'na take control of their ship, overpowering Worf so that he cannot rescue Picard. Picard prepares to die, but the Enterprise, which disables the So'na ship with two shots (no shields again, I guess) arrives just in time, riding in like the cavalry as their captain watches the flames shoot through the collector. 

So they make their goodbyes. Data gets to play hide-and-seek with the boy ("I have to go home now" he says when Picard tells him it is time to leave), and Picard tells Anij that he cannot stay around, but that he'll take nearly a year's worth of shore leave on her planet (whenever he gets around to it, and if he isn't killed in the Dominion War, which wasn't over by this time). And one of the So'na is reunited with his mother, so the healing begins.

I did appreciate the mention of the Dominion War throughout the film. Ru'afo is correct when he says that the Federation has been challenged by every major power (he neglected to mention the Klingons, too). Either the Federation is dying (with corrupt Admirals like Dougherty, and Layton from DS9's "Paradise Lost", or self-serving Janeway in "Endgame", I would wonder if that was possibly correct), or it is getting too powerful, and the others want to stop it before it is too late. 

This was a typical episode of the TV series. It wasn't a terrific episode. It could have been very good if they had avoided all the bad jokes and one-liners. There were some nice touches, like Geordi getting his sight back (how permanent is that?), but they lasted about a single scene before moving on to something else. What really makes this look good is what happened to Voyager during its last season: the stories were not very good or interesting, but the presentation was outstanding. And sometimes it takes a while to realize that. I found myself enjoying Voyager for the first time in a long time in its seventh season, but looking back on it, the show was just as it has always been, but with a much better presentation. For Insurrection, they spent a lot of money, and it seemed like they really enjoyed doing it. But it was rather standard fare, just looking better than ever. I guess the curse of the odd-numbered movies is not broken, and I don't think there will be another odd-numbered movie with the TNG crew. Let's hope Nemesis can live up to the even numbered movies' successes!
 

 

2 stars

December 11th, 1998 in the Theatre  
    The movie was like a long episode of The Next Generation.  The story was minimal, but let the characters go their natural ways.  It was much lighter than the last Trek outing, and contained a lot of humour.  But the humour was well directed, as opposed to the one-liners delivered in ST:IV.    The bad guys were ok, and the space scenery was terrific.  But it also confirms my view that Riker should never be left in charge of the Enterprise -ever!  All in all, a solid outing.  
   

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