So far in my posts about the Star Trek film series I have repeated the comment that this film or that feels more like a one hour episode bloated out to movie run time. That may or not be fair, and it may or may not be simply the nature of the series, which has its foundation in one hour, four act episodic content, a situation that may influence both the writers and my own view of the Star Trek franchise.
Even with that however, the scripts so far feel like that would have made good, or at least forgivable, one hour episodes. Within that context things have been mostly pretty good.
Which brings us to the ninth entry in the film canon of Star Trek, Star Trek Insurrection, which attempts to answer the question, “What happens if they try to turn a bad one hour script into a movie?”
Seriously, if this had been a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, it would have been a mid-season stinker, one the team would have sandwiched between a couple of better episodes and never mentioned again. This would have been a side quest episode, easily forgotten once the next one aired.
I will at least allow that the whole thing was not centered on Data as the key secondary plot, though the way the film starts I was worried that we might be going back to that well again.
We start off with The Culture… I mean The Federation… closely observing the small, peaceful, and completely humanoid population, the Ba’ku, on an extremely Earth-like planet in the middle of a complicated nebula. This is a joint program between the Federation and its new allies the Son’a, and ugly and aggressive race that looks like they all have been undergoing youthful restoration treatments from Dr. Jaffe in the film Brazil. We see, right on screen, F. Murray Abraham’s complications develop some complications.
It is made clear up front that the Federation is keen to get in bed with anybody who can strap two nacelles onto a dumpster and achieve warp 1 due to the pressures of the Borg, the Domnion, and the Kardashians… I mean the Cardassians. The last 20 or so years of pop culture have successfully made Gul Dukat sound like somebody who gets lip injections. (My wife literally asked me, “Did he say the Kardashians?” while we were watching this.)
So they are doing their observing, wearing stealth suits and sitting in their fake rock blind, when Data suddenly runs amok in the village they are watching… why he is there seems nebulous given the Enterprise is not, save as an excuse to get the Enterprise crew on scene… oh, and Worf just happens to be visiting the Enterprise from Deep Space 9, so the main cast is reunited once more… and reveals the whole observation gig to the locals.
But we find out, once again, that the Prime Directive has loopholes. The Ba’ku didn’t evolve on the planet, they just moved there, and so don’t get the indigenous peoples coverage that the Prime Directive provides.
The Ba’ku turn out to be space hippies… another recurring Trek theme here… who had all that nifty tech the Federation is so proud of, but gave it up to live a simple life on this planet… that happens to be bathed in life restorative radiation which makes them both effectively immortal and sexually alluring.
Meanwhile, the Son’a want the planet for themselves because they want eternal youth too. Hell, even Picard starts feeling frisky… and Riker and Troi start getting it on again.
So the plans of the Son’a are discovered, as is their dark secret, because anybody who looks like them MUST have a dark secret. This is very much a “pretty people are good, ugly people are bad” morality episode. Nobody ever asks if the Son’a could just set up shop elsewhere on the planet because the Ba’ku only have 600 people, so don’t take up much space. Or maybe that did come up, I might have dozed off or been reading something more interesting on my iPad when it was mentioned.
So there is conflict, betrayal, space fights, double crosses, and the Enterprise gets wrecked yet again. The insurance policy on that ship must come with an immense annual bill.
And, in about 140 minutes, the bad bad people are dead, those who went along for the ride but might be redeemed people are on the path to redemption, and Picard is making promises to spend his shore leave with a 300 year old doe eyed blonde. Roll credits.
I think the problem in writing this is that I might have inadvertently made the story sound more interesting than it actually plays out on the screen. I clearly did not like this entry in the series, and more actively so than some past entries. Sometimes I just despise the fluff used to pad the story out to a cinema necessary run time. This time around I did not find the story had very much in the way of redeeming qualities.
So, with three TNG films in the can now I can start to stack rank them. My current feeling is this:
- Star Trek: First Contact
- Star Trek: Generations
- Star Trek: Insurrection
First Contact is way out in front. There was no question there. I’ll take more shuffling fights with Borg thank you. Generations… I am giving it something of a pass because, despite the whole obligatory hand-off “we need to see Kirk AND Picard together in a bar fight” nature of the film, it did try to weave that together into a story that could carry forward and have some impact… even if that was mostly the Enterprise’s saucer section impacting the surface of a planet.
Which leaves Insurrection at the back of the pack.
And now we have just one more TNG film to see, Star Trek: Nemesis.