Star Trek: Insurrection

After First Contact, the cracking eighth entry in the movie arm of the Star Trek franchise, it seems like the Federation was at rare strength – both Deep Space Nine and Voyager were still flying high on TV and the debates about how awful the theme song for Enterprise after it’s launch in 2001 were still around six years away. The director of First Contact was, of course, Captain William Riker himself, Jonathan Frakes and he was unsurprisingly tapped to helm the next installment at warp speed, but a question persisted: how exactly do you follow up that bombastic bout of Borg bashing?
Well, Frakes’ solution was brave as it was admittedly a little disappointing, because he simply chose not to. Gone was the tense, gloomy, claustrophobic thrills of a Borg infestation and in its place was bright open spaces, a more sedate pace and the excuse for the crew to have a bit of a lark. Ballsy choice.

The since the trouble with the Borg, the Federation has been also been having issues with the Dominion and various other intergalactic ne’er do wells, but seeing as that’s a problem for the crews on the various other TV shows, Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-E are frustrated with the rather meager tasks they are being asked to carry out. Their malaise is booted into touch when they learn that Data has experienced a major malfunction while on a mission to observe the peaceful and voluntarily tech phobic Ba’ku on their home planet and so they warp on over to reign in their rampaging robot. However, after succeeding to capture and reboot their synthetic comrade (nice to see that turning something on and off again still works in the future), Picard & co realise that not everything as it seems and that the Federation may have gotten into bed with the age and image obsessed obsessed Son’a whose endless rejuvenation surgeries have left their faces looking like a rock climber’s knee.
It seems that the Ba’ku are hundreds of years old thanks to the rings that encircle their planet which has kept their bodies from degenerating with age (think immortal Amish people) and it’s this that Admiral Dougherty and the Son’a leader, Ru’afo wishes to harness for their own ends.
Realising that despite the Son’a technically have a right to pull this crap thanks to various loopholes, Picard still takes the stance that Ru’afo is essentially pissing on the prime directive from a great height. Rallying his crew (who have felt the planets benefits first hard with varying results) Picard joins forces with the Ba’ku to commit treason in order to make sure the right thing is done – at all costs.

If there’s an inherent flaw with Insurrection it’s that for all of its breezy charm and humorous warmth, it’s possibly the most forgettable Trek movie yet made – but that’s not to say that Frakes’ second go at the helm isn’t a fun little romp while it lasts even though it flirts as awkwardly with camp just as Picard does with 300 year old Great Great Great Great Great GILF, Anij (Spider-Man 2’s Donna Murphy) when the healing properties of the planet take hold. So while the previous movie was a desperate struggle for survival, this time the cast gets to chill out and relax with a string of mini-arcs that see Riker and Troi get super horny, rekindle their romance and share a soapy bath together, Geordie temporarily regaining his sight, Picard dancing the tango and Worf undergoing Kligon puberty for the second time (talk about getting the rough end of the deal). The juvenile antics of the crew stay just on the right side of cringey – but only just and while it’s always nice to see a crew of an Enterprise having fun as the cast trade heavily on their familiarity, you’re constantly reminded that it’s a fine line between the genuine warmth of The Voyage Home and the rambling bilge of The Final Frontier. A times Frakes comes dangerously close for comfort; an early scene involving Patrick Stewart and Michael Dorn warbke the songs from Gilbert & Sullivan’s H.M.S Pinafore to distract a rogue Data may play to the actor’s impressive vocal strengths, but at times the movie just feels like the kind of production Adam Sandler puts on so he can just dick around with his friends.
Being the Trek version of Grown Ups 2 aside, it sometimes seems that the entire franchise has had one giant midlife crisis and the director is just throwing random shit in that will make his cast mates happy. Watching Picard flirt is one thing and “It’s been 300 years since I’ve seen a bald man.” is one of the more original pick up lines I’ve ever heard – but a brief scene of Troi and Crusher discussing how their boobs have gotten firmer plays uncomfortably like fan fiction scrawled, one-handed, by a sweaty basement dweller sitting in the audience.
While a fair amount of this is genuinely sweet, it often upsets any chance the actual plot has of getting any dramatic tension and having the underhanded moves of the Federation localised to just one Admiral (take a bow Anthony Zerbe), means the film conveniently dances around any major themes or changes in the Trek universe. As a result, there doesn’t seem to be that big a fuss when the good guys decide to commit treason which is admittedly strange for a film subtitled “Insurrection”.
On the plus side, there’s not a lot to hate here, it’s just unfortunate there isn’t a lot to remember either – F. Murray Abraham’s cosmetic surgery obsessed villain may give out weird Nip/Tuck vibes (and a genuine childhood traumatizing death by tight-face to one unlucky victim), but he’s hardly a Kahn, a Borg Queen or even that weird tube thing from Part IV and the action is merely serviceable, barely rating above the kind of set pieces you would have gotten on TV.

So not amazing and distinctly not awful, Star Trek: Insurrection is just, well… nice; which is a strange word to describe any movie, let alone the ninth entry in the Star Trek cinematic cannon.
Much like the aging Son’a, there’s a distinct sense that the franchise may already be in need of another face lift…



  1. At the start of the article, it’s the eighth entry in the franchise, but by the end it’s the ninth! 🙂

    Anyway, this has, over time, grown into one of my fave Trek movies. Seriously. I rate it a 10/10 now, right up there with The Motion Picture, The Voyage Home, First Contact and Star Trek 2009. Top 5! Insurrection has the distinction of being goddamn UTOPIAN, just like the Federation is supposed to be. We’ve never really seen enough of that, but here it is full blast! It’s gorgeous. Naturally, I completely disagree that it’s forgettable. I’ll tell you what’s forgettable: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock! I’ve watched that movie so many times, not because I like it, but because I can never remember what the hell goes on in it! Now I can, though: They spend the whole damn movie searching for Spock! Groan.

    VI: The Undiscovered Country seems to be revered by many as one of the best Trek movies; to me it is one of the worst, and the second-most forgettable.


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