Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) (part 5 of 9)

Happily enough, the next scene is what I imagine was the main reason Jonathan Frakes signed onto the film: Troi and Riker are sharing a bubble bath in a dimly lit room filled with candles. I’m guessing that Frakes called for a ton of coverage on this scene. It’s always good to get as much footage as you can, because you never know how shots of you naked with Marina Sirtis are going to cut together.

Troi is in the process of shaving Riker’s beard, which, sadly enough, is the culmination of all the character development Riker gets between the middle of the series and the end of the films. Essentially, in the early days of the show, the beard made him likable, and now, he’s matured enough that he can be likeable without the beard. That’s really pretty much it. That’s his character arc.

Caption contributed by Ed

“It’s good to be the director!”

Worf’s voice on the communicator breaks the mood, with a report that Admiral Dougherty wants to speak with Riker. Admirably, Riker is able to put on his “serious guy” voice long enough to let Dougherty know that Picard is still on the planet. Once that’s over, Troi goes and gets the razor again, and we cut away. I’m kind of glad I didn’t see where that was headed, frankly.

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And if you expect this little plot thread to go any further, I have some bad news for you. From here on out, it’s pretty much the Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner Show, with the rest of the cast turning up for a cameo every once in a while just so you’re not always looking at someone who’s either bald or gold. In other words, the same as all of the other movies with the TNG cast.

We go back to the Head-Stapler ship as Gallatin, the alien from the Observation Deck (remember him? No? lucky you), sticks a device into Ru’afo’s neck. In a thoroughly revolting visual, the device sucks bright green liquid out of Ru’afo’s neck, and he’s told that his body is producing too many toxins. Dougherty looks on, visibly grossed out. The basic premise is that the plastic surgery kick isn’t working for these dudes anymore, which prompts Ru’afo to complain that he wouldn’t need plastic surgery if he were allowed to complete his mission. Bonus points for noticing that this is essentially the same scene we’ve gotten twice before, complete with a revolting image just to make sure that we really get these are the bad guys we’re looking at.

Caption contributed by Ed

Botox treatments… of the future!

From this pointless scene, we return to the planet. Picard, Data, and all the rest finally reach the dam. Data throws some Treknobabble around in regards to his tricorder not quite working as well as it should. Eventually, he gets some odd readings from the lake.

He proceeds to simply walk into the lake, to the amazement of the Idyllic Villagers. Haystack Boy is especially fascinated, so Picard tells him Data doesn’t breathe, and won’t rust in the water. Data also has the amazing ability to bring every conversation to a grinding halt by forcing people to explain simple concepts to him, but I imagine Haystack Boy would be less than thrilled to hear about that.

The special effects team gets to show off a bit, with underwater footage of Data walking around and wasting time tickling a fish. After this, we cut to Data walking out of the lake, showing a bit more emotion around the eyes than one would expect. I guess Brent’s makeup was running a bit; Add contact lenses to that, and a certain amount of squinting is certainly excusable.

Caption contributed by Ed

I’m really, really hoping that’s a trained attack rainbow trout.

Data reveals that he’s found the source of the odd readings mentioned earlier. What, did he talk to the fish, like Aquaman or something? A little tip for future writers: If you’re going to have a character make a major discovery, but you want to hold off on the reveal for a few beats, write in a reaction shot of some sort. Don’t write in that the guy tickles a fish. Trust me. Your script will be much better off because of it.

Cut to Data turning a random wheel, which is attached to a winch that looks fairly high-tech, considering it’s in a colony of neo-Luddites. It also looks like something that was built just to look impressive, because there’s no way in hell any normal human could work it for any amount of time without needing an EMT unit on standby.

Caption contributed by Ed

Big wheel keep on turning, sinking script keep on burning!

So, I’m guessing this action is draining the lake, since we get a shot of rushing water that pans over to said lake. Then there’s a cut to a vaguely cloaked structure. I wish I could explain this sequence better, but the film isn’t giving me much to work with. Either Data just emptied the lake, or he just flooded the crap out of it. Either way, I’m sure the Idyllic Villagers are just wishing he’d get the hell off their planet already. First, the guy spies on them, then he goes berserk and takes hostages, and then he starts messing with the water supply. I’m sure they can’t wait to see which chapter of How to Win Friends and Influence People he’ll act out next.

Cut to the villagers and Picard, all amazed. Picard, in particular, has the exact look on his face that Steven Seagal gets when he finds his best friend with an axe in his head and a note attached that says, “He had to split”. Data exposits that the structure is a cloaked Federation vessel, to which Picard disgustedly repeats Dougherty’s line: “Just a few loose ends to tie up!”

Caption contributed by Ed

“I’m going to take you to the bank, Senator Trent. To the blood bank.”

Data and Picard walk forward, but Haystack Boy’s Dad keeps Haystack Boy from following, saying, “We’re not interested in such things.” Really? You find something that could indicate a threat to your entire way of life, and no one is supposed to be interested in it?

Anij passes him, stating she is interested, proving that there’s at least one person in this village with common sense. Granted, she also has the personality of a rock, and the energy level of a slug, but at least she knows how to take the occasional break from complete, soul-crushing apathy. The trio takes a raft and paddles towards the cloaked vessel.

Caption contributed by Albert

“Okay, Data, I’ll whack her on the back of the head, you get the cement shoes ready.”

Data somehow uses his tricorder to open the vessel, revealing there’s an exact replica of the village inside. Let me backtrack a bit here, in order to ask a question. Is there anything a tricorder can’t do? Can we put a stick of chewing gum inside of it, along with a hairpin and a piece of string, and see if it becomes a rocket launcher? I think from now on I should refer to this tricorder as the Deus ex MacGyver.

Data says the replica of the village is actually a holographic projection, and notes how part of a building is flickering like a fluorescent light nearing the end of its life. Picard begins to explain to Anij what a hologram is, but she reminds him that, hello, they’re technologically advanced, remember? What was Picard thinking? He knows they have warp capability, right? So why did he feel compelled to explain holograms? But I guess it wouldn’t be TNG without Picard getting patronizing in some way, now would it?

Anij wonders why somebody would want to make a copy of the village. Well, she’s not really wondering. You can only call it “wondering” when the actress uses a tone of voice that doesn’t suggest an accidental NyQuil overdose prior to shooting. Good lord, woman, perk it up a bit! Drink some coffee or something!

Picard and Data reason that the hologram was created to secretly relocate the Idyllic Villagers without their knowledge. Also, they reason that Data discovered the holoship, and he was shot to keep it a secret. I should note that Frakes stages this exchange with all three performers facing each other, while the camera circles them. Now, I’ll grant you, this is a terrific way of avoiding costly setups for each actor’s close-up. But on the audience side of things, it gets dizzying and annoying real fast.

The circle of life continues as Data and Picard wonder why Starfleet and the Head-Staplers would want to move the Idyllic Villagers. The camera closes in on Anij, for little reason other than to have her be the one to react to the laser blast that hits one of the pillars. And thus we come to this movie’s second action sequence in the space of twenty minutes. Guess the screenwriters were getting tired of the plot, too.

Picard and Anij scramble, as another blast hits close to them. Suddenly, there’s a shot of Anij falling out of the holographic ship, into the lake. Um, alright. I guess somebody didn’t feel the need to establish anything like spatial relationships for this scene. I have no idea how she managed to be up that high, since they pretty clearly entered the ship close to water level. But as we’ll see, this is to set up not just one, but two bad jokes, coming right up!

Picard and Data have a quick shootout with the assailant, who turns out to be a Head-Stapler. He almost immediately goes down. Yes, it’s always good to send only your finest assassins after Starfleet officers.

But here’s the weirdest part. When Picard tells the computer to “end program” and decloak the vessel, the assailant vanishes right along with the hologram. Um, okay, then. Was he supposed to be real, or not? All evidence points to “not”, so apparently the holographic village had its own holographic assassin. And if the ship was meant to relocate the Idyllic Vilagers, that makes no sense at all. Unless they actually do have their own village assassin, and the hologram was meant to be as authentic as possible.

Either way, we know what’s really going on here: basically, they tossed in a needless action scene to avoid letting the characters work out the plot through actual dialogue. Bad storytelling at its worst, folks.

Our intrepid duo exits to see Anij flailing about. Yeah, you guessed it: she can’t swim. Hey, when you turn your back on technological advances like life preservers, you get what you deserve. Picard and Data dive into the water, and Picard swims to her and tells her not to panic.

Anij: I’ve been shot at, thrown into the lake out of a ship that’s come to abduct us, what’s there to panic about?

You know, generally this type of line works better when the person delivering it has an energy level above that of Sunny Von Bülow. It would also help if the same lines hadn’t been delivered by every out-of-her-element female lead in every adventure movie made since the 1930s.

And then things go from derivative and lame to a level of ungodly awfulness, the likes of which I never dreamed possible. Data resurfaces and utters this little gem.

Data: In the event of a water landing, I have been designed to serve as a flotation device.

Upon finishing this line, an inflating sound is heard and Data rises up a bit out of the water.

Give me a minute here. Well, maybe two. Jesus H. tap dancing Christ!

Seriously, who the hell thought this was funny? First off, it’s just an out of the blue moment that serves no purpose other than to (supposedly) get a cheap laugh. Secondly, I don’t even want to think about what Data had to inflate to do that, because any possibility I can come up with is enough to make me smash my head through a window. Hey, given that he rises to where everything below the waist is underwater, don’t blame me for going into the gutter here. Blame the writers, who evidently wanted to top all their failed attempts at “comedy” with an inflatable crotch gag.

Caption contributed by Ed

I can’t think of anything to say here that’s not totally filthy and disgusting.

Moving on (don’t look back. For the sake of your own sanity, don’t look back), Picard and Data beam back to the Enterprise. They’re met by Worf, who has a rather large orange blemish on the side of his nose. Oh good, I sense more humor approaching!

Picard asks Worf if any of their Head-Stapler prisoners mentioned a cloaked ship. They didn’t, so Picard tells him to question them again. Our valiant captain notices the blemish and asks if Worf has been in a fight, to which Worf gets an exasperated, embarrassed look. He responds that it’s a “gorch” (and if you look very closely at the middle of the blemish, you can see the Mighty Favog). A gorch, as Data helpfully explains, is the Klingon equivalent of a pimple.

Caption contributed by Ed

“A blemish on my nose, right. I suppose next you’ll say I’ve got a funny looking forehead!”

So there you have it, our first blatant hint to the secret of the Idyllic Villagers. That secret? The planet is actually a fountain of youth, that turns the main characters in an otherwise respectable franchise into rejects from an ’80s teen sex comedy. And so, the writers descend to the level of humor one would generally expect to find in a film made with Canadian tax shelter money. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with that particular kind of movie, but generally speaking, one expects more from a major studio release with a huge budget.

Well, back to the epi—Dammit, movie! Movie! Sorry.

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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