Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) (part 4 of 9)

Unfortunately, we go from there to Worf’s quarters. He’s woken up by Picard’s voice, saying he’s late for his shift. This causes Worf to sit up too quickly and smash his head on the ceiling. Oh, funny! You know it’s bad when they’re reworking gags from the universally reviled Star Trek V which were even stupid in that film.

Up on the bridge, Picard suddenly appears to have the hearing capabilities of a bat. He detects that some random sensors are out of alignment. LaForge confirms they’re out of alignment by 12 microns, a rather small amount (I guess?), and asks how Picard could hear that.

Picard: When I was an ensign, I could detect a three micron misalignment.

Well, hello, Mr. Fancy Pants. I assume the screenwriters thought this would be a clue to the (soon to be established) regenerative effects of the Briar Patch, but the first bits of information on the Patch are so vague that this only serves to make Picard look like an insufferable dickhead. I’d consider the possibility that the insufferable dickhead part might be one of the effects of the Patch, but… actually, no. He’s always been an insufferable dickhead. The Briar Patch just gives him a convenient excuse in case anybody calls him on it.

Also, generally speaking, plot points shouldn’t be revealed via obscure technobabble that only the biggest nerds would try to understand.

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And another thing, why the hell is LaForge driving the ship all of a sudden? What, does he just hang out on the bridge when there’s nothing else to do? Was there nothing on TV? No good books? Holodeck on the fritz? I’m pretty sure they have enough people on that ship to get a random Redshirt driving the damn thing instead of their chief engineer.

Anyway, back to the episode… uh, movie. Yeah, movie! Stupid me.

Ru’afo’s ship approaches. He appears on the viewscreen with Admiral Dougherty. Dougherty voices surprise at the Enterprise’s appearance, but honestly, when has this crew ever followed Starfleet orders? It’s like Q (and I mean the exasperated, technopath Bond-movie Q, not the smirky, omnipotent Trek Q) being surprised when 007 returns the remains of his latest gadget in a gazillion pieces in a small plastic bag.

Anyhow, Picard replies that the situation is too important for them to sit back and watch. Hey, come to think of it, my situation is too important to sit back and watch this movie. My situation, as you know, being the need to sculpt realistic dioramas of key historical events entirely out of canned chocolate fudge frosting.

Dougherty reports that he’s sending an assault team after Data’s ship to destroy him. Picard starts to talk about a plan Worf has been developing (so I guess “I modified a tricorder” now constitutes a plan). He says that if he can’t get Data back in one piece, he’ll destroy him personally. Dougherty agrees, giving them twelve hours to find Data, after which they must leave the Briar Patch.

Tense music starts up as a shuttlecraft leaves the Enterprise, carrying Picard and Worf. Some Treknobabble is thrown around; basically, the plan is to get Data to come after them in his ship, and to follow them while staying away from the planet’s rings. As they cruise around, Picard softly says, “Come out, come out, wherever you are.” To which Worf gives him a What the hell is wrong with you? look. Michael Dorn gets to do that a lot in this movie.

Picard’s little acid flashback is interrupted by the appearance of Data’s ship, firing at the shuttle. They attempt to hail him (no good) and to transport him off his ship (ditto). And so, Picard debuts one of the dumber strategies I’ve come across in my years of watching movies.

The stupidity begins when Picard asks Worf if he’s ever heard of Gilbert and Sullivan. Worf replies that he hasn’t had the chance to meet the new crew members. Buh doom boom!

Picard gives him a withering look and tells him they’re composers, and that Data was rehearsing a production of their play H.M.S. Pinafore before he left. Apparently, his big plan is to distract Data… with a sing-along.

Just let that sink in for a minute. They’re going to distract what’s basically an ambulatory, talking computer (which you’d think would be a pretty damn good multitasker, at the very least) with a sing-along. Is it any wonder the franchise died a slow death?

Caption contributed by Ed

“Pardon me!! But do you have any Grey Poupon?!?”

Incidentally, it becomes painfully clear why they had to resolve the Data crisis in this preposterous way, once you know that Michael Piller was given a mandate to make this film “lighter” than the generally excellent First Contact. Hey, why have drama and conflict, when instead you can have Picard sing Data into submission?

And by the way, how is it that Data, the guy who’s basically third in command, has this much free time on his hands? Every damn episode he’s rehearsing a play, performing a recital, learning about humor, or raising a cat. You name a mundane everyday activity, and he’s probably off doing it somewhere on the ship. Does he do anything in between his brief shifts driving the ship, besides annoying people in his never-ending quest to become more human?

Picard begins to sing Gilbert and Sullivan, and implores Worf to join in, because… hey, why should the captain be the only one to look like a barking mad fool? Making it even unfunnier is that Picard calls up the lyrics on his control panel (yeah, didn’t need those navigation controls for anything, thanks) and they even have an animated bouncing ball over the lyrics.

Caption contributed by Albert

It sure is a relief to see that karaoke technology survives to the 24th Century.

Idiotically enough, this works, because Data pauses and begins singing along, while still maintaining a low-grade Terminator scowl. Well, at least we know Brent Spiner can bring some range to playing a robot.

Caption contributed by Albert

“Good lord! We’ve activated his Arsenio subroutine!”

It turns into a three way sing-along, with Stewart delivering a decent job, Brent Spiner over-enunciating like Richard Burton on muscle relaxants, and Michael Dorn grumbling out the lines with his eyes closed.

At this point, they’ve entered the planet’s atmosphere, and Picard is maneuvering his shuttle beneath Data’s shuttle. He tells Worf to prepare the docking clamps, a command that Data can’t hear for some reason. I guess his super sensitive android ears can’t detect stage whispers.

The shuttle clamps onto Data’s ship, and so he breaks off the singing and proceeds to take both shuttles for a joyride. He banks left and right, until finally going into a spinning dive towards the surface.

Good plan, Slaphead. Now you’re the personal fishing lure of an out of control robot. Honestly, if this is the guy they picked to be captain, who the hell did they turn down? The runner-up must have had a nasty drooling problem. Or it must have been that guy from the Enterprise-B in Generations whose nads were arriving on Tuesday.

Caption contributed by Ed

“You know, this looked a lot nicer in that commercial with Erik Estrada.”

Picard gains control of both shuttles through the healing power of Treknobabble. Just as they’re about to smash into the ground, he manages to get the two ships level. Control regained, he sends Worf up to get Data. Worf somehow gets aboard Data’s shuttle and blows open a hatch at the rear (which looks way too small to be really practical), and fumbles with the magical Data-stopping tricorder.

This gives Data a chance to lunge dramatically at Worf, but Worf gets the trimagicorder working just in time. You know, if you really want to fix your problems via scientific methods, don’t hand tools to the guy whose job it is to solve crises by beating the crap out of people. That’s what I always say, anyway.

Caption contributed by Ed

“Good thing we have doggie doors on these shuttles!”

The Data problem solved—so much for Plot A—Picard must now deal with the crisis on the planet. It appears the Idyllic Villagers (come visit anytime!) have taken the Federation observers hostage. Picard beams down to the Idyllic Village (we’re right off Route 3, bring the family!) with Troi, Crusher, and a few nameless crew members. In a rather amazing feat of ignorance, Picard seems to find nothing odd about the peacefully serene sight of the hostages having lunch with the villagers.

The dialogue here tries to establish the nature of the planetside crisis, which is that Anij (the Donna Murphy character) and the other Idyllic Villagers (barn-raisings every Sunday!) are pissed off that the Federation was spying on them secretly, hidden behind cloaking technology. Now wrap your brain around this: Picard’s defense, essentially, is that they couldn’t spy on them openly, because that would have violated the Prime Directive. *facepalm*

And now, more background on the Idyllic Villagers. (Sometimes it seems there’s more backstory in this movie than frontstory.) They have technological knowledge, warp drive capability, and they even tried to repair Data. But they choose not to use their technology, as they feel that when you let a machine do a man’s job, you take something away from the man. As the movie goes on, this will start seeming less and less noble, and more and more pretentious (otherwise known as the NextGen Effect).

Caption contributed by Albert

“You know, it’s fine if you want to spill the beans about our technological advancement, but did you have to tell them about my hair transplant?”

Picard looks around for a moment, overwhelmed that he’s found yet another woman in the galaxy as pompous as he is. (Hey, Shatner got the sex crazed, scantily clad bimbos, Stewart got the moderately attractive intellectuals. I think we know who won that contest.) He apologizes for the intrusion and returns to the ship, where he reports to Dougherty on their situation.

Picard suggests that the Idyllic Villagers’ familiarity with technology will simplify matters. So I guess he means further interference won’t violate the Prime Directive, but it’s really not clear—and if that is what he means, he’s totally ignoring the Idyllic Villagers’ violent aversion to technology. But no doubt Picard feels their philosophy is simply wrongheaded of them, like someone insisting to Kirk that the Klingons are really nice people, after all.

Dougherty thanks Picard, and vaguely alludes to tying up some loose ends before leaving. Insert ominous music here.

After a shot of Picard looking at the planet, we go back to the soothing oasis of the Riker/Troi subplot. Troi is in her office and Riker enters, saying he needs some “counseling”, if you know what I mean. This leads to more flirting of a pretty basic sort, the likes of which you’d normally see in romantic comedies. It’s not exactly great cinema, but compared to the rest of the film, it’s pure gold. And it moves quickly enough that you really don’t care about the quality of the dialogue.

Elsewhere, Picard walks with LaForge towards Engineering (Yay, I knew you could make it there, Geordi!) and it turns out that after reassembling Data’s brain from scratch, he’s figured out that the malfunction was caused by a Head-Stapler weapon. (What, the huge gash across his neck wasn’t a clue?) Picard notes that the Head-Staplers say that Data went berserk before they fired on him, but Geordi replies that this doesn’t seem to be the case.

The real reason behind Data’s rampage comes out as a big mess of Treknobabble which doesn’t make sense, so I won’t bore you with it. Picard abruptly, and irrelevantly, asks if Geordi’s ocular implants are bothering him, even though all he did was rub his temples while Picard wasn’t even looking. Geordi says that he’s just tired.

They open up a closet to reveal Data, standing motionless in restraints. After he’s turned back on, Picard asks what’s the last thing he remembers. This sets up a lame gag where Data starts to sing Gilbert and Sullivan again, but the best part is that Geordi doesn’t even bat an eye at this. Believe me, he’s hung out with Data enough to know not to even bother asking.

So, it turns out that the last thing Data remembers was following some children into the hills. This sets us up for Picard going down to find those kids, and see what they were up to.

Cut to the planet, where Haystack Boy and another kid are playing with what looks like a cross between a small dog and a walking turd. It’s meant to be cute, but it looks like crap, both figuratively and literally. Wow, I honestly never thought I’d long for the disturbing cartoon monkey thing from Lost in Space. Well, I still don’t, but that was just annoying, as opposed to this creature, which is repulsive. It’s really a six of one kind of thing, actually.

Caption contributed by Ed

Hey kid, you’re supposed to flush that thing, not give it a name and make friends with it!

Picard, Data, Anij, Haystack Boy’s Dad, and some random villagers come up to the two kids, and Haystack Boy’s Dad graces us with this gem of a line.

Haystack Boy’s Dad: [Haystack Boy], do you remember where you were on the day of lightning when the artificial life form appeared to us?

Yeah, Dad, I was with Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra! So I guess in the future, questions will become long, drawn out, and overly metaphorical? I’ll also mention this is the only time any of the villagers talk like this. Haystack Boy replies he was in the hills by the dam, which naturally leads to him taking them all there.

The entire group walks along through the woods. We get yet another Terminator 2 rip-off as Haystack Boy makes a none-too-subtle effort to keep his distance from Data, in spite of reassurances that he’s been fixed. “Fixed” as in repaired. I don’t mean that Data’s been neutered. Though perhaps the latter would ease the kid’s mind a lot more.

Picard clues Data into the fact that he, being a machine and everything, is essentially the embodiment of everything the Idyllic Villagers have rejected. Ah, always the sensitive type, eh, Slappy?

Ed Harris

A fan of less than great cinema since childhood, Ed divides his time between writing scripts, working an actual paying job and subjecting himself willingly to some of the worst films society has produced.

Multi-Part Article: Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)

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