Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) (part 7 of 9)

Later, we cut to the captain’s yacht, which is essentially a glorified shuttle. It previously existed only on the technical plans of the Enterprise, and therefore, it exists here solely to give technogeek fanboys a hard-on. Picard is in Action Hero mode here, decked out in a short sleeved shirt and leather jacket, and he’s preparing a crate of rifles. Okay, Rambo, have fun. And don’t come back until you’ve retroactively won the war for us!

The rest of our main cast walks in on him. He orders them to return to their quarters, to which Riker replies, “No uniform, no orders.” I’m not sure that’s how it really works. I suspect an order from a superior officer has just the same weight whether he’s in a nicely tailored suit or in a pair of pajamas.

The crew argues their case for helping Picard, with Geordi saying he could never look at another sunrise, now that he knows the cost. How about rainbows, Geordi? No on them, too? What about unicorns and posies? No? What a killjoy.

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Data pitches in with another bit that’s in here just so it can be included in the trailer:

Data: I feel obliged to point out that the environmental anomalies may have stimulated certain rebellious instincts common to youth, which could affect everyone’s judgment. Except mine, of course.
Crusher: Okay, Data. What do you think we should do?
Data: Saddle up, lock and load.

As Data delivers that last line, he raises a rifle and calls more attention to how his entire role in this film is a low-rent Terminator 2 rip-off. I honestly don’t know if there’s any character I could take seriously delivering a line like “Saddle up, lock and load,” but if there is, it sure as hell isn’t Data.

Caption contributed by Ed

“I swear, I will not kill anyone… Damn, again!”

Picard smiles with pride, and tells Riker and LaForge to stay on the ship and get a message to Starfleet regarding the situation. The others are assigned to accompany Picard to the planet, where he’ll make sure the Idyllic Villagers don’t accidentally get relocated when no one’s looking. According to Picard, the Head-Staplers won’t begin harvesting the rings while there are people down there. And I’d really love to know why the hell he thinks this.

Heroic music starts up as the captain’s yacht heads off for the planet. Don’t get too excited thinking the big action climax is coming up, though, because we still have almost… an hour left? Really? Geez.

On Ru’afo’s ship, Gallatin reports the departure of Picard’s yacht. Ru’afo gleefully reports that all their simulations of the ring-harvesting have worked perfectly. Okay, then, that’s good information to have at this moment. He tells Gallatin to eliminate any Enterprise crew members who interfere, and then we go back to the village, which is now being evacuated.

Hang on a sec, let me check that again. Yep, Picard’s big plan to prevent a forced relocation is by staging… a forced relocation. Well, I did warn you in the intro that his strategic skills go to crap here. Guess his sense of irony took a hit, too.

We get tons of “moving out” footage as Data sets up a “transport inhibitor”. As he does this, Haystack Boy stares at him while avoiding anything resembling conversation. You know, I’d give good money if this version of the movie could be erased, and I could see the original concept; From what I’ve heard, it was supposed to be much darker, and Data was supposed to be killed off, by Picard himself. Granted, that would have made it an even bigger T2 ripoff, but at least we’d be spared the pain that is soon to come.

Picard confers with Anij and Haystack Boy’s Dad, explaining his plan to use the hills and transport inhibitors to evade the Head-Staplers. Just about then, a pair of Head-Stapler ships are seen in the sky. They begin firing at the inhibitors, while the Enterprise crew hurriedly moves the villagers out. There’s lots of running and explosions, and several villagers are evilly transported away, thanks to the destroyed inhibitors. Haystack Boy’s Dad is transported away, so Data grabs Haystack Boy and runs. I knew Data was just biding his time, waiting for a chance to snatch the kid.

Back on Ru’afo’s ship, Gallatin reports how Picard and Company are interfering. Dougherty requests to be sent down so he can talk to Picard, but Ru’afo wants to send in an assault team instead. Dougherty objects, but Ru’afo reminds him of the tough times the Federation has been through lately, what with the Borg, and Cardassians, and the Dominion. Of course, if you’re not a fan of the series, you would have no clue what he’s talking about.

Ru’afo manages to talk Dougherty into letting him send ships after the Enterprise, to prevent Riker from getting in touch with Starfleet. And here’s another example of the screenwriters setting it up so that Ru’afo is the only true villain. It would be a lot more effective if the order to send ships after the Enterprise came from Dougherty. Not only that, but the title of the movie would actually make sense, too.

Back on the planet, it’s daytime and Picard is leading the villagers in a long clumped line. Not exactly the best way to avoid attack, but as we’ve seen, Captain Slappy isn’t pitching his best game today.

Elsewhere in the trail of easy targets, the Data T2 rip-off continues as he and Haystack Boy talk. They quickly cover the usual “I aspire to be more” stuff that comes up in every single conversation with Data, and then things take a rather odd turn: Data says he’s often thought of what it’s like to be a child. Um, how often, exactly? You know, I’m generally not given to reading creepy vibes into stuff, but when the film practically begs you to, it’s really the only natural course to take.

Caption contributed by Ed

“It is in your nature you destroy yourselves… D’oh! I did it again!”

A particularly creepy bit comes when Data says he’d gladly exchange being a robot for having a set bedtime. What an amazing coincidence! I’d gladly exchange this little subplot for fifteen minutes of a blank screen right now! Okay, I guess that’s not really the same thing, but it’s still true. The conversation opens itself up for another cheap shot when Haystack Boy tells Data that in order to know how to be a child, he has to know how to play.

Good lord, this is disturbing. In fact, the urge to make a Michael Jackson joke is so strong it almost hurts. I’ll hold off though, for now at least.

[Note from the future: The film seems to pretty much say to hell with this little subplot, since it disappears after this, save for a bit at the end. I guess they decided the thread wasn’t going anywhere, so they just abandoned it by the road like a box of unwanted puppies. Stupid, sloppy script. Not to mention Data already did the child-bonding thing back in the series. So why is this here at all?]

Thankfully, we go from creepy undertones to more crappy humor. Yeah, I said “thankfully”. Hey, I’d rather roll my eyes than cringe.

Worf comes up to Picard and Anij. Picard notes that his hair has grown, to which Worf grumpily replies that accelerated hair growth is common during [insert Klingon Word of the Day here]. Picard roughly defines this to Anij as puberty. Soooo… Picard knows the exact term for Klingon puberty, but not the term for a Klingon pimple? They would seem to go hand in hand, no? Granted, I can see how he’d be eager to forget that sort of info, but since he’s been portrayed in the past as somebody with pretty good knowledge of Klingon culture, this seems a bit weird. (Well, not quite as weird as a middle-aged actor with a turtle shell glued to his forehead pretending to go through some screwed up form of his teenage years. But hey, apples and oranges.)

So, anyway, you can easily see what I meant about the level of comedy we’re getting here. I’m just waiting for the appearance of scantily clad co-eds from a Swedish all-girls school, with an overly stern dean played by a revered-but-desperate-for-cash actor.

Back to sane ramblings. Picard tells Worf to inform him of any mood swings, or any aggressive tendencies. As opposed to the cheerful rainbows he usually shoots from his fingertips? Picard then calls for an hour rest break. For the villagers, that is. We have to stay and watch the rest of the film. Sorry.

The film then goes on a little bit of an acid trip for a while, where amidst all the gutless storytelling, creepy android stuff, and lousy humor, the screenwriters try to shoehorn in a romance between Picard and Anij. It begins with the duo looking through binoculars, and scouting out a cave to hide in. Anij suddenly runs her hand over Picard’s bald dome (his head! Get out of the gutter, you pervs!), which leads to some less than stellar romantic banter.

Anij: It’s been three hundred years since I’ve seen a bald man.
Picard: How is it you never married? And don’t tell me it’s just because you haven’t got around to it yet.
Anij: What’s the rush?
Picard: I should warn you, I’ve always been attracted to older women.

Yeah, what’s a couple hundred years or so between lovers? This also seems to confirm the theory going around some Trek circles, that Picard was boning Guinan at one point in time. (Hey, I didn’t make that one up, I swear.) Thanks, movie! I needed some new nightmare material.

Caption contributed by Ed

“Mmm… brains…”

This scene would be fine if there were any chemistry between the two actors. But seriously, there may be two of them on screen, but only one of them is earning the paycheck. Donna Murphy is so stolid and low key, it’s a wonder they didn’t create a running gag where she’s constantly nearly buried alive by folks who think she died.

Anij puts an end to this by taking Picard’s hand. We pull back to see a waterfall slow down to where it’s barely moving. Evidently, this is the “time slowing down” trick, and judging by the next shot, which is that of a hummingbird flapping its wings in ultra slow motion, my joke about this being an acid trip was more on the mark than I thought. It’s really the sort of thing you’d expect to find in a psychedelic ’60s experimental film, only here it’s less colorful. Also, you can watch it without having your eyeballs implode. Alas, it’s still crap.

Caption contributed by Ed

“Whoa, far out!”

By the way, we never get an explanation of how this is done. All Picard gets in response to his questions is a heavily sedated, “No more questions.” And then we cut to the next scene. So, I shouldn’t ask why, if they can slow down time, they can’t slow it down long enough to escape from the Head-Staplers? No? Okay, just checking.

Back in space, the Enterprise moves through the Briar Patch. The fairly attractive Trill chick driving the ship reports there are two Head-Stapler ships in pursuit, and LaForge (apparently still moonlighting on the bridge) says they won’t be able to contact Starfleet for another hour. The weapons officer reports the Head-Staplers are hailing them. Riker tries to bluff them, which naturally is met with torpedo fire.

Some Treknobabble is exchanged as the ship goes to red alert. And then, of course, we cut away from this potentially interesting thing happening, so the filmmakers can score more comic relief points from Data on the planet.

By the way, sorry if I seem to be giving the Riker portions of the film short shrift, but the film does pretty much the exact same thing. The stuff on the ship is a prime example of just needing something to cut away to between plot points. Mind you, I’m being pretty generous in calling the random events on the planet “plot points”.

And so, Troi and Crusher are relaxing together, and this wonderful, historical exchange passes between them:

Troi: And have you noticed how your boobs have started to firm up?
Crusher: Not that we care about such things in this day and age.

Oh, good lord. It’s like I slept with the screenwriter’s wife and this is his way of getting back at me. Setting aside the truly baffling notion that a sagging rack will somehow be in style in the future, I can list about a hundred women I’d rather hear having a conversation about their boobs. Not that Marina Sirtis and Gates McFadden are ugly, but let’s just say replacing them with Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz would make this whole conversation a whole lot less cringe inducing. Not by much, granted, but some.

Caption contributed by Ed

“Hmph, they’re not that much firmer, sister.”

I mean, have you ever walked in on a conversation that immediately made you exit the room, praying you simply misheard something? Well, this little exchange perfectly encapsulates that experience. And the worst is yet to come, folks, because our friend Data has overheard the whole thing. And it wouldn’t be a TNG movie without a Data scene that made you wonder why the hell you ever got into Star Trek in the first place.

While we’re on the subject, let me just pose a quick question: Is there a good reason they’re writing Data the way most sitcom writers write the obligatory annoying younger sibling character? Really, I need to know, because whenever Data is on screen, I feel like I’m watching a really screwed-up episode of Small Wonder. Yes, the most seriously freaked out, horrible, bafflingly dumb sitcom ever made, and this movie comes off even more like a product of mind-altering drugs. Think about that and try to sleep tonight.

After an awkward pause, Data goes up to Worf. You see where this is going, don’t you? I assume you’ve all seen at least one crappy family sitcom, yes?

Worf remarks that he’s craving the blood of some sort of animal, and the planet’s magic rings must be affecting him again. (And once again, I have to ask, how is Worf’s current behavior any different from his usual routine?) Data then repeats Troi’s question about having firmer boobs to Worf, and even includes a bit of Crusher’s response.

Sadly, this isn’t followed by Worf smiling, and then calmly tearing Data’s head off. Instead, Data is interrupted by a musical sting announcing the appearance of Head-Stapler ships on the horizon. Everyone takes cover as we go from painful comedy to dull action. And I’m not sure whether to be grateful or not.

Just as an aside, the thing that pisses me off the most about this film is that it’s so damn compressed. It’s like I can’t even joke about every awful thing that happens without dragging this recap out to the length of an average Stephen King novel.

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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