Star Trek: Insurrection was the third mission of the Next Generation crew on the silver screen. The movie found them on their own, both on screen and off, as they rebelled against Federation plans and appeared without the aid of familiar friends (Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov in Generations) or foes (the Borg in First Contact) to help draw an audience like the previous two.
On an idyllic planet in an area of space known as the Briar Patch, the android Lieutenant Commander Data (Brent Spiner) goes bezerk and exposes a surveillance program of the Ba’ku, a group of 600 humanoids who live a pastoral, technologically free lifestyle. The program is run by Starfleet in conjunction with a small group of aliens known as the Son’a, an aged race with a mummified appearance. Their leader, Ahdar Ru’afo (F. Murray Abraham), is frequently receiving facelift treatments that bring to mind the procedure Sam’s mother Ida receives in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.
Admiral Dougherty (Anthony Zerbe) requests Data schematics from Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) but Picard wants to see if he can figure out what’s wrong with Data before allowing Dougherty to turn him off. Lieutenant Commander Worf (Michael Dorn), conveniently on leave from Deep Space Nine, joins Picard in an Enterprise-E shuttle, which Data attacks. In order to capture Data’s ship, Picard distracts him by getting Data to sing “A British Tar” from the Gilbert and Sullivan opera H.M.S. Pinafore, which Data has been rehearsing. It has to be in the running for the worst plan in the entire Trek franchise. Once on the planet, Picard searches for what caused Data’s malfunction. They discover a cloaked ship that contains a holodeck of the Ba’ku village.
Picard confronts Dougherty and learns that the planet’s rings give off metaphasic radiation, which rejuvenates like the Fountain of Youth. Rather than study the radiation on the planet’s surface because many of them don’t have the time, the Son’a’s plan is to absorb it from the rings, but the procedure will destroy the planet, which is why they need to evacuate the Ba’ku whether they want to go or not. Picard brings up the Prime Directive of non-interference, but Dougherty claims the Federation is on board because the potential benefits could help billions. What is that in comparison to the inconvenience of 600, who aren’t even natives to the planet?
This is also a terrible plan by the Son’a and screenwriter Michael Piller. First off, I don’t know what was going on in the Trek universe at this time on DS9 or Voyager, but no way do I believe the Federation would be okay with this plan, although I don’t know if Dougherty’s claim was proven true. What makes no sense is creating a limited supply of the radiation. Yes, we are told the Son’a don’t have the time to just live on the planet because their bodies are too far gone, but they don’t actually know if their experiments with the harvested radiation would work and why would the Federation feel their lives are more important than the Ba’Ku? Surely, with all the members of the Federation, someone else beside the Son’a could find a proper way to make use of the radiation without destroying the planet.
Picard decides to protect the Ba’Ku and attempts to sneak off the ship with weapons. To no surprise, the main crew agree to join him except two who are the only ones still wearing their uniforms. No one, especially the script supervisor and costume department, were paying attention obviously. The Enterprise-E, led by Commander Riker (director Jonathan Frakes), leaves to get a message to the Federation. Anyone paying attention to the previous Trek movies or series knows who the victors will be.
Insurrection is a mixed bag, with plenty to like and dislike. It’s unfortunate the story makes such little sense because I enjoyed Picard’s “minority versus majority” scene and the reveal about the Son’a is a good twist. The performances by the cast are very good. I enjoyed Jerry Goldsmith’s score, which reuses themes from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and the Riker Maneuver scene. On the other hand, the charcoal gray uniforms are bland and unappealing. Bringing Worf back to be comic relief seems an odd choice. I know it’s not the first time, but for a Klingon to be the butt of so many jokes and to accept it seems out of character. There are a few scenes with the characters, such as Riker and Troi (Marina Sirtis) rekindling their romance and La Forge’s (LeVar Burton) eyes regenerating, TNG fans will enjoy, but they won’t strike the same chord with someone new to the franchise. Also, Picard seems more like Kirk with the action and romance, which likely works better for a movie and the actor.
I’d recommend Insurrection as a decent super-sized episode for TNG fans but am not sure there’s enough here for non-fans.