By Owen Quinn author of the Time Warriors and Zombie Blues
The surprise appearance of Star Trek Insurrection on the tv the other day made me think of the first time I saw it. I also remembered the “fans” that automatically said the even numbered movies were better based on box office takings etc and this led me to wonder what they were thinking. Trapped in an illusion that Star Trek in whatever form would run forever, it was the in thing to do to diss an upcoming odd numbered Trek movie before anyone had seen it.
And this gets on my nerves. Judge after you watch something and be bloody grateful there is sci fi of any sort on the big and small screen. I remember the day when a choice of sci fi was few and far between. If you missed an episode that was it, you had missed it for good.
So this trend of blasting odd numbered trek movies astounds me. It was the first one I watched with absolutely no foreknowledge of what was to come which was a first for me ever. So I watched the thing as raw and was surprisingly delighted at the outcome.
Insurrection is a really strong narrative, tackling issues that are as relevant to today more so than back then.
Each layer of the story unfolds at a great pace, slowly drawing the viewer in as the characters learn of the mystery. Data has been injured while observing a new culture in a duck blind. Picard and co are called in to stop their now rogue officer but learn things are not as they seem, Bad Starfleet Admiral O’Doherty is working with a race called the So’na, secretly trying to relocate the peaceful Ba’Ku from their world via a hidden holoship. It turns out that Data was shot to prevent this being discovered.3 Picard and crew find themselves warming to this world and its people especially when they discover that this world is in fact bombarded by a type of radiation that keeps them young forever.
The themes are so relevant to today eg slowing down to see the beautiful moments in life to help keep you grounded, the plastic surgery necessities of the So’na race, the preservation of an unspoilt nature to keep our humanities intact and not to let technology overrun us. In this day and age the rat race consumes us and most people never stop to literally smell the roses. Plastic surgery has never been more prevalent and the simple act of playing has become lost as we try to make ends meet.
Here every character discovers something about themselves that they have lost over the years; Troi and Riker’s old feelings for each other resurface like love sick teenagers, Picard is taught to stop and enjoy the moments before they pass, Data learns to play, Worf goes through puberty but the most touching is Geordi, whose eyes grow back and he is able to see a sun rise for the first time. The movie is filled with panoramic views, the director completely making the most of the snow capped mountains and lakes along with the stunning sun rise skies. We know it’s Earth but for once it feels like the ideal world that could support the Fountain of Youth.
Remember we are witnessing a crew hardened as the Dominion War sucks them in and thousands are dying every day in the battle. So to see them find an oasis amid this carnage is perfect for the movie. We saw the effects of the war in Deep Space 9 and how traumatic they were but here, the war is a story book away as the Enterprise crew find a new lease of life; one that could very to a renewed strength that could win them the war.
After years of following orders, Picard’s insurrection comes as no surprise. His moral compass just as it did in Drumhead, cannot stand by and let these people be forced off their homes especially when the same thing nearly caused a massacre between Cardassians and Native Americans in the episode Journey’s End. Everything the crew does here fits in perfectly with the surrounding Trek universe and the situation they find themselves in.
The effects are particularly outstanding here too from the battle in space between theEnterpriseand the So’na ships to the energy collector that will destroy the world it has nurtured all these years. Even the scene when Picard is taught to slow down and see moments for what they are is excellent with the visual of the hummingbird.
Even the actors involved are heavyweight award winners and fan favourites. Ru’afo played by Murray Abraham is outstanding as the movie’s main villain and not just any madman. His evil is fuelled by revenge against his people, the Ba’ku themselves as in another cracking plot point we discover both races are one and the same and the fight here is one based on family rather than territory and strategic locations as the Federation thinks. This ties in with Picard’s family, theEnterprisecrew, standing by his side no matter what as opposed to Ru’afo’s struggling to believe his actions are for the good of his crew as they still have family among the Ba’Ku. His hatred of his loved ones ends with him and Picard trapped aboard a burning collector as theEnterprisedesperately speeds ahead of the exploding station to save him. And he can give Shatner a run for his monry in the famous “”KHANNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!” stakes.
This is a movie of parallels cleverly written and woven into a solid mystery that unfolds a layer at a time. The interaction between the leads is flawless, a real family with plenty of humour that springs naturally from the story eg Data testing the theory that Riker’s newly shaven chin is as smooth as an android’s bottom and Data becoming an underwater explorer. Beautifully acted, beautifully shot, Insurrection is the perfect Trek movie to remind us that life can consume us and to slow down as well as to appreciate those around us as well as the world itself.
The end shot of the crew standing together as they beam back to the Enterprise with a renewed determination to fight the Dominion and protect their own paradise is as classic as Kirk and co beaming back to the Enterprise at the end of City at the Edge of Forever.
So the next time anyone tries to tell you the odd numbered Trek movies aren’t so good, stop a moment and take another look. You might just be surprised at how good this one really is.