Star Trek: Insurrection
Special Collector's Edition

Starring: Patrick Stewart and F Murray Abraham
RRP: 24.99
Certificate: PG
Available 01 August 2005

Starfleet's Prime Directive has always been clear about avoiding interference with the development of other civilisations. So Captain Jean-Luc Picard feels compelled to challenge his superiors when he discovers that Starfleet Command is a party to the forcible removal of a race called the Ba'ku from their paradisaic planet...

The superb Star Trek: First Contact was always going to be a tough act to follow, so it is not surprising that Insurrection is a little disappointing by comparison. Even the director, Jonathan Frakes, admits - in the special feature Director's Notebook - that the script wasn't as strong as that for First Contact.

An unevenness of tone also makes the movie seem rather schizophrenic. On one hand, we have the serious topic of Picard (Patrick Stewart) challenging Starfleet authority, the gruesome stretched faces of the artificially prolonged Son'a, and dramatic action in space and within the Son'a collector. On the other hand, we have all the silliness. There's Data (Brent Spiner) singing an excerpt from Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore, Worf (Michael Dorn) getting a zit, and Troi (Marina Sirtis) and Crusher (Gates McFadden) remarking upon how their boobs have firmed up. It's not that I don't appreciate the humour, particularly Worf's "Definitely feeling aggressive tendencies, sir!" and Data's response to Riker's "Smooth as an android's bottom, eh?" but it seems to me that the film hasn't decided whether it wants to be a light-hearted Voyage Home-type escapade or another intense First Contact-style mission.

What are undeniable, though, are the movie's slick production values and spectacular visual appeal. Production designer Herman Zimmerman's realisation of the Ba'ku settlement, the creation of which is explored in the featurette It Takes A Village, is magnificent, as are the alien makeup designs by Michael Westmore and the battles in the Briar Patch nebula and on board the collector.

Also counting in the film's favour is the moral ambiguity injected into it by scriptwriter Michael Pillar. There are no easy right or wrong answers to the moral dilemma that faces Picard here. Even the villains of the piece, the hideous Son'a, are motivated by an understandable desperation to survive.

Pillar's script - which, as told in the special feature The Story, underwent an almost complete revision, by Pillar, after his original idea - is only slightly marred by its rather muddled anti-plastic-surgery ethic. So, it's wrong to artificially prolong your life or appearance of youth, is it? But isn't that exactly what the Ba'ku are doing?

The extras include more than three hours of documentary featurettes and copious deleted scenes. For the most part, the excised scenes comprise comic excesses that Frakes was wise to omit: such edifying spectacles as Riker and Troi chucking bits of paper at each other like kids in a school library, and Picard spilling his lunch over his lap. On the other hand we see a spectacular stunt that, for some inexplicable reason, never made it into the movie. Shame. It's also a shame that the deleted scenes are on a different disc to the movie and cannot be "branched" into the main feature.

And is it really necessary to have an entire minute of generic credits for all the documentary featurettes at the end of every single one of them? I saw the same credits more than a dozen times!

There are also trailers, storyboards, galleries and, as usual, an informative text commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda. Surprisingly, however, there is no audio commentary. Was the director too busy to record one?

Despite its flaws, Star Trek: Insurrection is a very enjoyable film. It goes some way towards overturning the popular generalisation about the even-numbered Trek movies being the best ones. The next (and, to date, final) film, Star Trek: Nemesis, would further challenge that crude assumption by being a much weaker movie than this one.

Richard McGinlay

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