Jonathan Frakes takes the helm once again as he directs the next installment to the Star Trek the Next Generation film Franchise. This time they decide to take things mostly planet-side in a little story about the fountain of youth and how some people just want to watch it burn. Like the song says, ‘They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.’ Originally arriving in theaters on December 11,1998, this is Insurrection.
Stardate Undetermined (sometime between 52081.2 and 52861.3)
The Dominion War is in full swing and the Enterprise is sent to an alien planet to stop a rebellion started by their very own Commander Data. Soon Picard and the crew discover that the ones Starfleet are helping may soon be responsible for the annihilation of the entire Ba’ku race. Determined to prevent their deaths, Picard and the crew of the Enterprise break ranks and defend the people of this paradisaical planet.
(This is where we give a full description of the movie. It’s mostly here if you need a reminder of the events, you can skip it if you are familiar with the film or just don’t feel like reading the next 2000+ words. It’s okay.)
We open in the village of what seems to be a peaceful settlement on some alien planet. Kids are playing, people are farming and everything seems…well nice. Even the music give us a serene feeling of the calm and cooperative community we are observing. It isn’t long though when all hell breaks loose. We soon find that the Federation, along with some strange stretchy faced aliens are watching this peaceful settlement(…wait a second..didn’t they already do this?) Phaser fire erupts out of nowhere and it seems that Data has decided that whatever they are doing on this planet is not acceptable and he sets out to stop it. After revealing himself to the populous, Data then exposes the duck blind his compatriots have been hiding in. Whatever is happening, it is not good.
On the Enterprise, Picard and crew prepare for a formal dinner with a new member of the Federation. Picard laments the fact that they have been locked into diplomatic duties and soon runs into his former crewman, Worf, who is on leave from DS9. After his brief introduction to the new Federation member, Picard is contacted by Admiral Dougherty concerning Data’s actions. The Admiral is requesting Data’s schematics and asks that the Enterprise not visit the site of the incident due to some nonsense about environmental concerns. Picard ignores this request and, after requesting that Worf extend his leave to join them, he reroutes the ship to the Goren System.
Above the planet where the Federation had installed its duck blind, we find Admiral Dougherty and the Son’a Ahdar Ru’afo discussing the situation. Almost immediately a ship attacks the Son’a ship and fees the region of space. The pilot is none other than Data.
Picard and his crew begin their journey to rescue their crewman and begin preparations on how to disable and capture the rogue android. While on their way, they begin researching the species known as the So’na. It soon appears that the Son’a are not the kind of people that the Federation usually deal with as they seem…rather savage. They also are the producers of a product known as Ketracel-White, something that the Dominion is in great need of. Upon arriving in the Goren System they are contacted by Dougherty and Ru’afo who are determined to destroy Data. Reluctantly they agree to allow Picard to retrieve his officer but it is clear they want him annihilated. Picard and Worf launch a shuttle and begin their search. It isn’t long before they encounter Commander Data and, after chasing him through the planet’s atmosphere, and singing some Gilbert & Sullivan, they manage to retrieve the wayward android.
After retrieving Data, Picard and his away team beam into the Ba’ku village expecting to find a hostage situation but instead find…thanksgiving? The hostages are being treated more like guests and Picard’s team is soon greeted peacefully by the leaders of the Ba’ku, Anij and Sojef. While they seem rather primitive, it is soon revealed that they like to keep things simple and are in fact a warp capable species. Upon this revelation, it is clear that the Federation is in the wrong for spying on them. Picard reports his findings to the Admiral who immediately instructs Picard to leave the system. Something is certainly wrong with the situation and Picard wants to figure out what is going on.
After their visit to the Planet, Picard visits Geordi in engineering where the engineer explains that Data’s actions were the direct result of being attacked by the Son’a despite what the alien species claimed. Data indicates that his last memory is of visiting a specific place in the mountains and,after that, he remembers nothing. Picard decides to pay the planet one last visit where they discover a cloaked structure underneath a nearby lake after Data goes for a swim. Revealing the structure after draining the lake, it is soon clear that Admiral Dougherty and Ru’Afo are up to something insidious. Picard, Data and Anij visit the structure only to discover an exact holographic replica of the Ba’ku village inside. It soon becomes obvious what is going on when they are attacked by members of the Son’a, it is even more apparent that it is not something good.
Returning to the ship, Picard asks Worf to re-debrief the Son’a they rescued and notices that his Klingon Commander has what amounts to a pimple on his face. Putting it aside they encounter Riker, who has lost the power of the beard (he shaved it!), and soon they are contacted by Doctor Crusher who has some rather interesting news. It appears that, not only have the Son’a prisoners refused to be examined, the crew is extraordinarily healthy, some in fact seem more youthful. It is when Picard begins dancing in his room that he realizes that the Ba’ku have a secret of their own.
Back on the planet, Picard meets with Anij and Sojef who explain the situation. They were once a space-faring race who, upon the brink of destruction, fled their planet and settled on this one. They soon found that the planet they settled on had rejuvenating properties that has allowed them to live for over 300 years. It seems that the Son’a are there, with the backing of Admiral Dougherty, to claim the healing properties of the planet. After a lengthy discussion with Anij, Picard encounters Geordi who has discovered that his ocular implants were acting up because his eyes have been rejuvenated. Watching a sunset for the first time, what is at stake is reinforced.
Soon, after Picard’s return to the Enterprise, Admiral Dougherty and Ru’Afo visit the Enterprise and threaten his position. Picard asks how the Federation can support removing a people from this planet and the Admiral dismisses it. This has been sanctioned and nothing will stop them from their mission. The Son’a need the healing properties to clear their deteriorating condition and Admiral Dougherty wants to use this discovery for the benefit of mankind. It is clear that the Federation is in the wrong and Picard is determined to not allow this to happen. He sees this as a repetition of the history of forced relocation and can not stand by to allow this atrocity to happen.
Picard loads the Captain’s Yacht with weapons and gear and, just as he is about to depart his senior staff find him and volunteer to join the cause. Picard orders Riker and Geordi to return to the Federation Council and inform them as to what is happening, meanwhile he and his team will delay the operations long enough to allow the Federation to put an end to this atrocity. Returning to the village, the Enterprise crew begin preparations to protect the village from the Son’a. It is soon clear that the Son’a mean business when they send down shuttles to attack and capture the fleeing Ba’ku. During the attack, Ru’Afo challenges Admiral Dougherty in the Admiral’s stance to allow the Ba’ku to remain. Ru’Afo proposes that he be allowed to send his ships after the Enterprise to escort it back and prevent their communication with the Federation. Dougherty, seeing he is already too deep to go back, reluctantly agrees. Soon the Enterprise encounters the pursuing Son’a ships who immediately begin firing on the ship. It isn’t long before the ship is in danger and their only chance is to go into a dangerous nebula to hide from their foes however it appears that the Son’a are using subspace weapons and soon the ship is in danger. Their only solution, they must eject the warp core. You should have never shaved the beard, Will, it was the only thing protecting you. Beardless-Riker begins to collect volatile gasses from the nebula and, just as the Son’a attack them, they blast it out causing the destruction of the enemy ships. We now have, the Riker Maneuver.
Back on the planet, the Son’a begin launching tagging drones that fire isolinear tags allowing them to beam the fleeing Ba’ku from the planet. Determined to find cover, the Enterprise crew begin fighting back. It isn’t long before they reach the safety of the caves but soon the Son’a begin bombing the surface to drive them out. Following an underground river, they are soon able to locate an exit that will take the Ba’ku people to safety. As they flee Doctor Crusher finds a fallen Son’a soldier and discovers the dark secret as to why they are attacking the Ba’ku. Just as it looks like they are about to escape through the caves, a cave-in occurs causing Picard and Anij to become trapped. Anij is badly injured and Picard slows down time to save her life by giving Doctor Crusher time to reach them. (Yeah…I know.) Emerging from the caves, it is time for one last showdown but they soon find Picard and several of the others have been tagged and captured.
Aboard the Son’a ship, Picard confronts Dougherty where they learn that Ru’afo has attacked the Enterprise. Ru’afo informs them that he will attack the planet and activate the device which will end all life on the planet. It is then that Picard reveals the Son’a’s deep secret, they are in fact part of the same race as the Ba’ku. It appears that a group of children left the village centuries prior and have returned to destroy their own people as they believe the Ba’ku own them. In denial, Dougherty finds himself at odds with his new partner. When the Admiral challenges Ru’Afo, the Son’a commander murders the Admiral using the very device that has been keeping the Son’a people alive. Ru’Afo begins his endgame, however it seems that Ru’afo’s partner, Gal’na is having second thoughts.
Gal’na collects Picard to take him to his death. As Picard is escorted away, he tells Gal’na that it is not too late, the Son’a can go back to his people and would be welcomed back. It isn’t long before Gal’na listens to him and suddenly Picard has a plan. He contacts Data and asks for his assistance. Data flies up to the ship and begins firing tachyon bursts into the ships shield. Just as the shields shift, Worf beams the crew into the holographic structure that has been quietly launched into space without their knowledge. From Ru’Afo’s perspective, the Collector Assembly does what it is meant to do and soon realizes what has happened but it is too late.
Just as it looks like Picard has won, Ru’Afo beams aboard the Collector Assembly to complete his mission. Picard beams aboard the Collector for one last face-off with the wayward child of the Ba’ku. As Picard works his way through the Collector in pursuit of Ru’Afo, the Enterprise arrives to assist. Just as they arrive, Ru’Afo’s ship begins to attack and Riker commands the ship to prepare for ramming speed. Using this faint, the Enterprise disables the ship just as Picard begins the detonation of the Collector. In the last seconds of the destruction, Picard is beamed aboard safely
In the end, the the Son’a and the Ba’ku are reunited, but Picard must reluctantly leave this paradise behind. He gives his farewell to Anij promising to use his 318 days of shore leave with her once the Dominion War has come to an end.
Is this a ‘Good’ Story:
I went into this film remembering that it was not one that I really liked. It had been years since I watched it and, over that time, my memory of the film was slowly morphed into remembering it in a very unfavorable way. I thought it was a rather dull entry into the STNG narrative and, really only remembered the stretchy faced aliens and the campy humor. What I didn’t remember is just how much this movie embodies the feel and heart of the television series itself. Much of the series was about bettering ourselves as a species and would touch on important socio-political topics. It is rare for a film like this to avoid being mostly an action film and on that level it works well.
The Prime Directive is a key component in this story. In the film, we see that, thanks to the events of the Dominion War , The Federation has allowed themselves to take a blind eye to certain dealings. Due to this, Admiral Dougherty aligns himself with the unscrupulous race called the Son’a. When it is discovered that the Son’a are really there to destroy the very people they once rejected, things of course get complicated. Picard already saw how wrong the Federations stance on this matter was having clearly dealt with a similar situation in the episode Journey’s End. The thing about this is, Picard has had quite the history of violating the Prime Directive on numerous occasions. To his defense, it was never really for personal gain, but it seems more and more apparent as time goes on that The Prime Directive is really just a convenient tool for the Federation to use to justify their position. Is this planet in danger of exploding and killing everyone on it? Sure, but it is a pre-warp civilization so their lives don’t matter, we can’t interfere because they would die in our absence anyhow. Oh this species is being picked on by another species and we are aligning ourselves with one of them, that’s okay though because one is a warp capable civilization while the others only colonized the planet, they aren’t really from there, the prime directive does not apply. It astonishes me how many times this rule of law is used for their own gain yet it seems only the audience can see through the BS Starfleet is pulling. Corruption from within? yeah it sure seems likely. In Picard’s case, he is just doing what he feels is right and bully for him. Wrong or right, If it weren’t for his moral compass, this series wouldn’t have lasted a single season.
The real message in this film, however, is the feeling of misspent youth and how perception is a fluid thing. As we grow older, we begin to realize all of the missed opportunities we have had and all of the ‘what ifs’ that have been in our life. This was fully explored for Picard in Star Trek Generations but in this film, he finally gets a chance to have some of that youth back and the possibility of gaining more time in the future. (something we never see him do but hey who’s counting?) When we discover that the Son’a are really the children of the Ba’ku it really brings the whole concept of misspent youth into a new light. The Son’a rebelled at the idea of shunning technology as a replacement for physical labor. They wanted to be able to utilize their technological achievements to improve their lives, not understanding that the Ba’ku reject technology due to the past events on their home world. You see, the Ba’ku came from a world of unparalleled technological achievement and, by allowing themselves to fall into the addition of technology, they very nearly destroyed themselves. So, a small group of them fled and formed the colony we visit in this film.
Over the centuries they began to flourish and, of course, kids will rebel and some challenged the idea of denying themselves technology. Not understanding what they had, they struck out on their own only to find that the things they enjoyed, health, eternal life, you know the norm, were not part of the outside world. By this time, as far as they were concerned it was far to late to return and so they slowly became bitter. Using technology to extend their lives, the fact that they left became to them that they were kicked out. They longed to return to the people that they loved but were just too proud and too jaded to just admit that they were wrong. Over time they devise a way to get revenge on a people who really did them no wrong, because they had convinced themselves that they had been betrayed. The irony of it all is that this perception was all in their heads, they literally could have returned to their people at any time and would have been welcomed if they only admitted that they were mistaken. Sadly they were led by the now insane Ru’afo (played by the great F. Murray Abraham) so that wasn’t going to happen.
Another aspect of perception is that of Admiral Dougherty. Dougherty isn’t really a villain in this film, in fact he is doing what he is doing because he believes it is in the best interest of the Federation during a time of War. You see, the Dominion War was one of the first major conflicts that the Federation has had in nearly 100 years. But what about the Borg incursion at Wolf 359 and the Battle for Sector 001? Those were incursions, not all out war. When we get into the final seasons of DS9, I will explain everything but right now, trust me, this War changed people in the Federation in ways no one could imagine. Good, wholesome people did insidious things just to save lives and this kind of thing happens even today. From Admiral Dougherty’s position, he saw a chance to prevent the deaths of millions, give the benefit of new health technology to everyone and all it would cost was the relocation of 600 people. Sounds inexpensive huh? But is it right?
We know the moral implications here but as logic would dictate, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Ah, throwing some Spock at you, but really, when you think about it, from Dougherty’s perspective, although flawed, it seemed like the right course of action. Yes, he was motivated by the need for expediency as the Dominion War was claiming lives by the millions. Had it not been for that aspect, maybe he would have been more inclined to establish a second colony and take the time to study this phenomena. Who knows. Ultimately he tries to do the right thing but, by then it is far too late and he dies for his crimes. Of course, he couldn’t have known that he was being played all along by the Son’a but then again, we wouldn’t have had much of a story had he done the right thing from the start.
As for a production standpoint, this film was a nice change of pace from the insane action film that was First Contact. They knew they would never top themselves after that film so they didn’t try, they just made a solid STNG film that felt like it could have easily been part of the television series itself.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- We get a ton of character development in this one, from Geordi regaining the use of his eyes (temporarily) to the rekindled romance between Riker and Troi. It was fun to see this group just enjoy themselves and let go of anything holding them back. In a way, this film was the perfect end to the story of the Enterprise Crew under the command of Captain Jean Luc Picard. Sadly, they had to go and ruin that with the next film…
- Worf returns in this one albeit in a manner that really doesn’t make sense. The Dominion War is going on and the Strategic Operations Officer aboard a space Station on the front lines of the war is allowed to go on leave? How the heck does that make any sense? Okay maybe he needs a break after the death of a loved one. ( I would elaborate but that would spoil things to come) Bereavement leave would make sense as he really wouldn’t be able to deal with a war and feelings at the same time, right? (Seriously, this is a stretch, he’s a Klingon, of course he could deal with it). Let’s just say for this matter that this is why he is on leave. So…why didn’t any of his long time friends give him condolences for his loss? For that matter, why didn’t they attend his wedding to start with….huh. What jerks.
- The Old, I resign ploy. It seems Starfleet has some pretty lenient rules when it comes to resigning your commission. This is something that has always bothered me, whenever an officer in Starfleet wants to do something that being in Starfleet prevents them from doing all they have to do is simply resign their commission, do what they want, and then come back and un-resign their commission. It is literally that simple. So when Picard removed his rank to do what he knows is right, I felt it was a little bit of that age old ‘I resign’ BS. I know, it is a moment of symbolism in this film but really? Starfleet is a pretty chill organization to allow this to keep happening. To be honest, It is a miracle they even exist at this point.
- Picard clearly didn’t include in his logs from his mission to Mintaka a warning about spying on primitive people. Besides, if these people were actually so advanced, why didn’t they notice that the Federation was there to begin with? Were they just playing along the whole time? hmmmm
Overall, I have to say that this film continues to surprise me. While I remember it not being great, it is really the closest to the series we will ever get on the big screen. For that, I am thankful I gave it another viewing. I hope my memories of the next one are as wrong…I fear they are not.
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: Star Trek Nemesis
If you would like to read more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday and for more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here.
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Late To The Game 11/7/2020 (Originally published 2/20/2019)
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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