There’s an old saying that goes: a hero is as only as good as their villain. With that in mind, it’s probably fortuitous that the crew of the Next Generation had seven years to establish themselves before embarking on the final frontier of their film career, because for the most part, Picard and the gang didn’t have the most formidable bad guys. Oh sure, the Borg and their Queen from First Contact were great, but aside from that, all the Enterprise-E really had to deal with was Malcolm McDowell’s genocidal psycho in mourning and a stretchy faced F. Murray Abraham. However, for their final voyage, filmmakers hoped to give Picard his greatest challenge yet (hell, the entire advertising campaign positively hinged on it – it’s even called Nemesis for crying out loud) by having face the one foe he would have the most trouble overcoming – himself.
After celebrating the long overdue nuptials of Riker and Troi, the gang brace themselves for further celebrations on Troi’s home planet where tradition states that a lack of clothing is not optional. Weathering a rendition of Blue Skies by Irving Berlin from Data as a wedding gift, the crew has to cut celebrations short when they discover a certain type energy reading enimating from a planet that could only come from an android like Data. Salvaging the pieces like a scavenger hunt with body parts, they rebuild the robot to find that it’s called B-4 and is a less advanced version of Data equipped with the towering naivety of Butters from South Park, however, they keep the dopey droid around to run the usual diagnostics. Meanwhile, there’s some dodgy power moves going on on Romulus and the Empire has been taken over by the bat-faced Remans, a slave race that has risen to power under the command of the mysterious Shinzon; however, seems to want nothing but peace with the Federation and once again wedding celebrations are put on hold while the Enterprise goes to break bread with this new player.
Of course, it all turns out to be a bunch of intergalactic bullcrap – the other Data is a trojan horse and Shinzon isn’t actually Reman but is, in fact, a clone of Picard himself, originally meant for a sinister Romulan plot but discarded as a slave when the plan was abandoned. Pissed at the universe in general and cursed with a limited lifespan (does every clone in movie history have to be on a degenerating biological clock?), Shinzon has plans to heal his shitty DNA by harvesting Picard and get revenge on everyone by unleashing a horrific biological weapon upon the Earth that reduces any carbon based lifeforms into those dusty husks from Interview With The Vampire. Can Picard hope to defeat the worst parts of himself literally made flesh and once again save the galaxy?
On paper, Nemesis confidently ticks all the boxes for what should be a rollicking final outing for the Next Generation crew – there’s a Kahn-like villain who shares an intimate bond with our lead a-la Trek II, there’s a huge shift in status quo in the case of the Romulans which mirrors the Klingons in VI and there’s even a high profile sacrifice among the crew that’s so Spock it hurts, but in practice, nothing really seems to gel.
The different plot threads, while ultimately connected, all seem to be pulling in different directions and never is this more evident than the character of B-4, who seems to have been written in solely for the purpose to leave Brent Spiner a get out clause if he ever wanted to return to the role of Data. That’s right, delving into spoiler territory, we find that Spiner (who tellingly also has a story credit) bows out of Trek by committing the ultimate sacrifice – a moment so rushed it has almost little to no impact. Data’s subplots in the Next Generation movies (usually involving his emotion chip) had been steadily growing in size and by Insurrection were actually beginning to be somewhat of a hindrance, but here it starts to stink a little of ego – a death scene, a dual role and he’s all over the poster?
Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t feel so inorganic – tactical genius Shinzon utilises a droid who looks exactly like Picard’s most trusted crew menber and he doesn’t expect a Texas switch happening in the near future? – but compared to the death of Spock, it feels cheap, pointless and is massively offset somewhat by the fact they have a spare (even if he’s an idiot) wandering around somewhere like a lost child in a supermarket.
On the flipside, you have to feel for a alarmingly fresh faced Tom Hardy who gives it his all as Picard’s clone, Shinzon, to the point that you begin to worry that the blue veins all over his bald head may not actually be makeup. Sneering through his lines while wearing something that Janet Jackson would have worn in the 90’s if she could have cut a boob window in it, he makes quite the effort and his scenes with Patrick Stewart are a delight to watch, but it’s tough to hold him as a credible foe when the script works overtime to thwart the character at every turn. Why would you have a tricked out, unbeatable starship when it just sits there like a sitting duck while it takes forever to charge up its doomsday weapon, why would you hinge so much of your plan on a droid with the IQ of a defrosted sausage and if you need to kill a guy to use his DNA to stop you from becoming all veiny and shit, maybe don’t have so many civil dinners with him?
As usual, the rest of the cast save Stewart are spread thin, although a side-plot involving Ron Pearlman’s vampire-toothed henchman mentally sexually assaulting Troi in a dream only for her newly minted husband, Riker, to royaly beat the shit out of him at the end seems weirdly regressive for Star Trek.
Finishing the whole enterprise off (pun intended) is the leaden direction of Stuart Baird – which is surprising considering he’s better know for his work for editing – and some iffy CGI that steals some of the bigger moments of some much needed epicness. The failure of the film managed to stall the entire franchise dead in it’s tracks, scupper and chances of Deep Space Nine or Voyager getting into the movie biz and halted any major projects until JJ Abrams’ reboot surfaced in 2009. No wonder Tom Hardy had an alleged stress related meltdown in the wake of the film flopping – which is a shame because he’s the best bloody thing in it.
I guess, in a way, Shinzon weirdly was successful in his task as the Next Generation crew never had another mission on the big screen, but salvation was finally at hand for those needing closure thanks to Star Trek: Picard finally tying up some loose ends in 2020. However, this is a sad end for a classic sci-fi institution and Nemesis, ironically enough, ends up being it’s own worst enemy.