Star Trek: Insurrection is the first Star Trek film that I remember seeing in the cinema. Having grown up watching various incarnations of the franchise on BBC2 in the evenings, and having seen the previous films I was very excited to go see my first Star Trek movie. However, when I left the cinema I found myself feeling somewhat deflated about the experience; and nothing much has changed over the last 20 years.
To be fair, there isn’t really anything hugely wrong with the film. The story is fine, the character moments are on the whole very good, and there’s an interesting central moral struggle for the Enterprise crew to grapple with. What it doesn’t do, though, is feel like a movie.
Star Trek: Insurrection would be a perfectly reasonable two-part episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but having followed the massive success of Star Trek: First Contact it doesn’t even feel like it’s in the same league. Having researched a little into the making of the film I think there are a number of reasons for this.
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The biggest reason for the film not being as good as its predecessor is the fact that Paramount Pictures set out to make a film with a much lighter tone than the last. Considering how dark Star Trek: First Contact is both visually and tonally it’s not hard to be different, but it seemed like the studio set out on this path without any clear indication of the type of story they wanted to tell.
A number of writers were brought on board the project, including long time Star Trek alumni Michael Piller and Ira Steven Behr, to provide treatments. The story went through a number of changes, ranging from Romulan plots to Picard (Patrick Stewart) as a renegade who would have killed Data (Brent Spiner) at one point in the film. From what I have read it would appear that the finished film was something of a compromise, with several writers, producers, and cast members all bringing input to the final piece. Despite this, the story ended up being quite good, but lacked the ooph that a feature film needed.
The final plot sees the crew of the Enterprise being sent into a region of space known as the Briar Patch, to the idyllic home of the Ba’ku people – a race who possess the secret to eternal youth – to rescue a team of scientists that were secretly studying the Ba’ku, after Data appears to have gone berserk. When it transpires that Starfleet want to remove the Ba’ku from their planet in order to harness the secret of their youth, Picard and his crew must go against orders to save them.
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The moral questions raised by the film are fairly good – ‘Is it right to destroy 600 lives to save billions?’ – and the effects that the planet have on the crew are interesting and varied, and in some cases a lot of fun. The scene in which Geordi (LeVar Burton) gets to see a sunrise with real human eyes for the first time in his life is an incredibly touching moment, especially for long time fans of the character.
Despite this, there are still a few things that the film does wrong. The villains feel too one dimensional and ‘evil’. The comedic moments feel a little forced on occasion. There’s a huge lack of much needed action. And the pacing is just too slow. Personally, one of my biggest complaints is the fact that they cut out scenes that would have explored Worf (Michael Dorn) having recently had his wife murdered.
Star Trek: Insurrection is Star Trek spread too thin, a story that ticks all of the boxes but doesn’t try to excel in any particular way. The cast are great, as always, and the sets and visual effects are good, but never reach the levels of Star Trek: First Contact for emotional punch or visual flare. A competent Star Trek story, but not a good Star Trek film.