Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)

Trek Wrecker Logo

Director: Jonathan Frakes

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Donna Murphy, F. Murray Abraham

This write-up will contain SPOILERS but there’s no need for anyone to watch the film anyway, unless you’re a Trekkie in which case you’ve already seen it…

So there you are, you’ve made First Contact, it’s been well received by critics and fans alike, you’ve banished all those wistful reminiscences of the original crew and got the franchise back on target after the frightful honk of Generations. All Frakes and his writers have to keep doing is that; instead they do this

StarTrek 9

While secretly observing a peaceful (near sleepwalking) race of bumpkins, the Ba’ku (bless you), on what may possibly be the most soul-sapping planet in the known Universe (if Kepler 22b is anything like this, nuke the site from orbit – it’s the only way to be sure), Commander Data malfunctions. Picard and crew arrive in this cranny of space called the ‘Briar Patch’ to accost the wayward android and discover a veritable Eden where, thanks to something known as metaphasic radiation within the planet’s ring system, everyone feels young again (whatever you do, don’t give Jimmy Savile the keys). Nevertheless, the Federation has teamed up with a melty-faced alien race, the Son’a, the aim being to re-planet the Ba’ku (gesundheit) without them knowing and siphon off the regenerative properties contained in the rings – for the greater good, naturally – a technique that will render the world uninhabitable. Naturally, Picard doesn’t like the sound of them parsnips and so begins a moral dilemma; help 600 Ba’ku (I’ll stop with the sneeze joke) remain on the planet, or help spread this life-giving radiation across the galaxy to the sick and the needy…

Picard, just accept it, mate... you're bald

Picard, just accept it, mate… you’re bald

The Son’a along with the Federation, represented by Dougherty (Anthony Zerbe) is secretly observing the Ba’ku, via a duck-blind. Okay. The Enterprise rocks up and Dougherty is, like, ‘get yer stupid android and piss off…’ – I guess he wants them out of there fast before they notice the regenerative effects. But after a bit of breakdancing in his quarters Picard gets suspicious and confronts the luscious, MILF-tastic villager Anij (Donna Murphy) and asks her how old she is. Anij is about 300, but doesn’t look a day under 35. But why is the crew amazed by the youth-giving radiation? Wouldn’t the Starfleet personnel already stationed there a week tell them about the effects? It’s a major mission and doesn’t appear to be secret. That is, at first a grander deception Starfleet don’t know about is implied but later, Dougherty taunts Picard about the Federation Council’s approval of the mission. Therefore Starfleet is fully aware of the repercussions. Of course, the Federation is usually mired in red tape when it comes to something called the ‘Prime Directive’ (non-interference with an alien species). Granted, the ‘Prime Directive’ is primarily used as an in-joke; they always break the rule within 5 minutes of every episode! But apart from the removal of 600 people I doubt very much the Federation would green light the destruction of a world in Federation Space, full of indigenous life, a paradise ripe for colonising, not without a detailed investigation of the Son’a – considering Doc Crusher (Gates McFadden) does little more than wave a tricorder around and announce, ‘hey, Son’a/ Ba’ku, same species, mate…’ The story falls on its arse right there.

Paul McCartney finds a cure for his sagging chops...

Paul McCartney finds a cure for his sagging chops…

It’s a morass of dubious moral string-pulling. On the face of it, the writers (Rick Berman, Michael Piller) are in message-mode about the displacement of indigenous peoples – bit like us ‘Euro’ settlers did to the indigenous people of America. Bastards, us, y’know. Anyway, the problem with the story is the Ba’ku aren’t indigenous to the planet. Get that? It’s not their feckin planet. So what’s the feckin fuss, right? Surely the radiation, having been harvested as intended, will still be available to the Ba’ku when they are re-homed on another planet; you would presume they will get first dibs as part of their forced relocation package (unless the intention is to keep the Ba’ku on a holo-deck forever, but I understood that was just a ruse to yoink ‘em off the planet). Furthermore, it is unclear why the Son’a developed the metaphasic radiation hoovering technique, whether they go around the galaxy hoovering radiation as a business or whether they’ve done it to specifically hack off the Ba’ku. In the event, only they can hoover radiation, the Federation’s finest minds can’t replicate the procedure – the same people who can perfect warp travel, beam folk up and down, design machines which can materialise specific food and objects out of thin air… I think it’s fair to assume, given time, they’d come up with a device to not only gather the radiation but do it in such a way as to leave the planet and its unique flora and fauna unmolested. Hell, they could turn the place into some kind of cosmic Lourdes.

"I believe I'm seeing the early stages of 'Lucas Neck Syndrome', sir..."

“I believe I’m seeing the early stages of ‘Lucas Neck Syndrome’, sir…”

The villains of the piece are the Son’a. For them, it’s not about the metaphasic radiation (well, it is…) or the planet; they’re hell bent on revenge. Perhaps ‘hell bent’ is a little strong; they want to take away the Ba’ku’s sweeties. The Son’a were expelled from their previous world by the rustic-minded Ba’ku for embracing ‘off-worlder’ ideals, technology and shit. Just expelled, they didn’t fight or anything. And this is puzzling me… I mean, what did they originally look like? Did the Ba’ku have melty faces and the radiation turned them ‘human’ or did the rebel Son’a fly too close to a sun? If the former, why did the radiation humanize them if the melty face is natural; if the latter (and they didn’t fly too close to a sun) why don’t the Son’a look like the Ba’ku? And what of this revenge? I don’t know about you but beaming isn’t terribly dramatic as a revenge device. Wholesale slaughter, yes; the sight of Picard and Co poncing around the countryside trying to stop the village idiots getting beamed up… No. It is only when Son’a commander Ru’afo (F. Murray Abraham) runs out of patience near the end of the film (he just wants to do the Shake ‘n’ Vac & put the freshness back) that murder arises. It’s not direct murder (Dougherty aside), he just gives the order to assemble the beamed up Ba’ku in the cargo hold where they won’t be protected from the radiation collecting process. No matter how hard they try to ‘Khan’ him up, Ru’afo isn’t a bloke hell bent on revenge, he’s just a little boy still angry at his elders and who loves having his melty face stretched by sexily-clad alien chicks.

The Son'a torture Dougherty with Coldplay on a loop...

The Son’a torture Dougherty with Coldplay on a loop…

The Starfleet crew are completely unremarkable. The only plus – and this is grasping at something, anything positive – Data’s ‘emotion chip’ gets binned from the off and he is therefore his watchable series character. Trouble is, we’ve seen this kind of arc before… Ba’ku kid befriends Data and teaches him to have fun. Yawn. I’m simply not going near the abominable ‘opera singing’ sequence near the beginning. The Klingon warrior – Klingon WARRIOR, are you hearing me, writers, WARRIOR – Worf (it’s not Woof, I checked the credits) is again reduced to comedy interludes, whether it be the aforementioned, movie destroying abomination, having a ginormous boil growing on his face, or Data commenting on his boobs firming up – a joke, I might add, blown by having an action scene land squarely on the punch line. The one well-timed joke is probably Riker’s ‘smooth as an android’s bottom’ line and Data’s eventual reaction, I smiled at that one. The only thing close to some depth is Geordi seeing a sunrise with his own eyes for the first time in his life, an emotional moment rudely snipped off just as it begins to build. Abraham hasn’t got anything except for some melty-faced snarling while Zerbe’s contribution involves snapping “Dougherty out!” at regular intervals and trying to make the Federation’s decision sound halfway plausible – a tough ask. Murphy merely smoulders at Stewart for the duration of the movie but there’s no pay-off snog for them. Picard goes for a v–e–r–y l–o–n–g w–a–l–k with Anij; every time you think the scene is about to end, it doesn’t and I kept hoping for Ben Affleck in a Spitfire to fly past and strafe the joint, or Brad Pitt to ride through on a dinosaur, or Hugh Jackman to winch in on a zip-wire and crash through the entire Styrofoam village…

Raaaax-anne - you doan have to puddon a red light...

Raaaax-anne – you doan have to puddon a red light…

I’m aware that in every Trek write-up I’m always whinging about the movie being ‘telly-size’ or some such. However, this time Frakes has gone all out to make Insurrection EXACTLY like a TV episode, the look and the story, the latter of which I’m sure can be told easily in 40 minutes. Y’know, I was doing some Xmas shopping at the Trafford Centre this weekend and I was walking along a faux Greco-Roman ‘avenue’ when I suddenly realised it looked like the Ba’ku village! When yer main set looks like a shopping mall you’ve got a problem. All the space shots are CGI, a first for Trek. Impressive at times, at others I think the ships lack detail – compare it to the model work in The Motion Picture. Everyone loves Khan so Frakes sticks his space battle in a nebula – to much lesser effect. Mind you, I’m always on about getting locations into Trek, this is possibly the first time I wanted the action to stay on the Enterprise. And I howled laughing when Riker says he’s gonna ram a torpedo or something down Son’a throats and the chick sat alongside him gives him a proper ‘and when this is over, if there’s anything you want to ram down my throat…’ Finally, the big showdown takes place on the hoover ship amongst an array of metal latticework; all it does is remind me of the bridge clambering in Generations. Picard and Ru’afo (Ooofavu… sounds like something Vic Reeves might say on Shooting Stars) don’t even fight; they shoot rubbishly at each other before Picard, down to his Die Hard vest again, displays a remarkable grasp of Son’a technology and wraps up this toss. But who’s bright idea was it to have a neon blue background? Consequently, the sequence looks like unfinished blue-screen work and you’re vaguely thinking ‘shouldn’t there be a star field out there…’ all the way through the scene.



Insurrection is short for a Star Trek film and so full of cracks I can only assume a lot of explanatory footage got cut. I wasn’t angry when I came out of the cinema. Sure, I was miffed at having been suckered by First Contact into thinking Trek had hit form but it was more exasperation I felt. I said to me mate, ‘That is unacceptable. As a Trekkie, you cannot accept that substandard wank…’ He said something about Paramount not being able to betray Roddenberry’s vision. ‘His vision is played out,’ I told him. ‘It needs somebody to take the franchise by the throat, somebody who’s not a fan, who’s never seen a single episode of any series and who isn’t afraid to ruffle nerd feathers by breaking a few of Roddenberry’s precious rules. Otherwise, they’re happy dishing this out to you coz they know you’ll suck it just to get yer Trek fix…’

It appeared, with Stuart Baird, Nemesis might be the movie to break out of Roddenberry’s brig. Oh, boy…


Star Trek Into Darkness trailer:


Cheers, folk.

ThereWolf, December 2012.

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About ThereWolf

I only come out at night... mostly...

15 responses to “Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)”

  1. MORBIUS says :

    Nicely done Woof,

  2. tombando says :

    This really needed Mikey Bay and Giant robots. Seriously it sucked and I don’t plan to see it again. Pointless.

  3. Jarv says :

    Funny stuff Wolf. Laughed at the Saville line, but you are aware you’re going to hell for it.

    I hate this film. It fecking honks, and the opera is unforgiveable.

    • ThereWolf says :

      Thanks, Jarv. Figure I’m already destined for hell anyway so I thought ‘in for a penny…’ and all that.

      I read, but didn’t put in the write-up, that ‘Insurrection’ was being marketed (kind of) as the first Star Trek ‘date movie’… If you took your girlfriend to see this, by the morning you won’t have a girlfriend anymore.

      I’m not talking about the opera bit, not with breakable objects currently within reach.

  4. kloipy says :

    Great stuff Wolf! This movie is utter shit on toast

    • ThereWolf says :

      Cheers, Kloipy.

      Took me 3 goes to get through this twat.

      Just tried to watch ‘Nemesis’ but only got as far as Data singing. I lost all my happy thoughts. I pressed ‘stop’ coz I’d rather like my TV screen to remain unshattered for the festive period…

  5. tombando says :

    Wolfies Quartermass reviews were tops, esp that one with the bug.

    • ThereWolf says :

      Love those films, really enjoyed writing about them.

      Whatever happened to the ‘Quatermass & The Pit’ “re-imagining” I read about a couple of years ago?

      Not that I’m in any rush to see one…

  6. DMFeet says :

    Donny Murphy is a mega-Milf! mMMMmmmm fap fap fap

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