In the ninth Star Trek film, the crew of the Enterprise pursue a malfunctioning Data (Brent Spiner) to the planet of the Ba’ku, a racially homogeneous society that have shunned technology – think of them as Amish Aryans. They live on a planet whose radiation grants them eternal youth, which has caught the eye of some more unsavoury characters, notably Ry’afo (F. Murray Abraham) – a plastic surgery obsessed alien who’s trying to relocate the Baku and take their power for himself.
This is one of the more iffy Trek films. While the greatest of the franchise’s cinematic outings, like First Contact and Wrath of Kahn, bring the best of the TV show and give us something we haven’t seen before, Insurrection feels like a drawn out episode. The decision to focus it on a planet of dullards we don’t care about, the Ba’ku, is as poor here as it later proved to be in The Phantom Menace. The idea of a fertile, life-giving planet feels like it was done better with Project Genesis in Kahn, and the idea of having 300 year olds that look young is too experimental for a full movie. It could have been interesting for a single episode, but here anything interesting is over in the first 40 minutes, leaving the rest of the film to plod towards a resolution.
As with all the Next Generation films, this wisely pushes Data, one of the show’s strongest characters, to centre stage. His malfunctioning kicks off the plot, and his scenes with a young child are like a family-friendly Terminator 2. Lessons have obviously been learnt from Generations, but Worf (Michael Dorn) is still somewhat sidelined with an odd subplot about him going through Klingon puberty,
Gene Rodenberry was famously asked, in reference to Patrick Stewart, why there wasn’t a cure for baldness in the 23rd century. He responded that in the 23rd century people won’t care. Actually he could have gone further as, in the worst bit of sci-fi flirting till Attack of the Clones, Picard’s inappropriately young love interest utters the immortal line “It’s been 300 years since I’ve seen a bald man”. She’s as dull as the bland planet she inhabits and is certainly no substitute for the sassy Lilly (Alfre Woodard) in First Contact.
The effects also seem to be down on the last film, with the exception of some well-done prosthetics on the villains’ faces. It has some silly moments too, like Picard gyrating to Latin music, but it’s better rounded than the ludicrous Voyage Home and Final Frontier. As such it’s better than the franchise’s worst instalments, but it also fails to live up to the high bar set by its predecessor and, like the face of its villain, feels overly stretched.