Monday 29 September 2014

Star Trek: Insurrection (IX)

An undercover surveillance mission on a quiet planet of peaceful people, the Baku, goes wrong when Lieutenant Commander Data malfunctions and starts attacking the people around him. Captain Picard is faced with a dilemma: this is a dangerous example of technology going horribly wrong, but though Data may be a machine, he is a good friend and a trusted crew member. How can the captain allow his destruction? This could have been a major cause of conflict throughout the film, but in actual fact, all it takes is an epic rendition of Gilbert and Sullivan's "An English Tar" from the Captain and a reluctant Worf, to jog Data's memory and restore him back to his old self (with a bit of help from Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge.)

When Picard and Data return to the planet to make amends, they uncover a suspicious plan masterminded by the Federation Council itself, to move the Baku off their home planet and onto another one without their noticing, thanks to my least-favourite addition to the Next Generation Trek-verse, the Holodeck technology. This discovery calls into question the Federation's very soul, a systematic violation of the Prime Directive of non-interference of a culture's natural development. Insurrection adjusts this law to refer only to those planets who have not yet discovered warp-speed travel. The Baku have invented this technology, although they shun it, so apparently they are fair game. It seems a somewhat arbitrary place to draw the line, although we discovered in First Contact that this was the point where everything changed for the human race, when the Vulcans decided it was okay to say hello and introduce them to the wider universe.

This planet has some interesting properties in its atmosphere, restoring youth and extending life - which is why the Federation wants it. After all, there is a case to be made for the fact that it has the potential to help millions and billions of people, instead of just the few hundred who live there. "The needs of the many," and all that. But Picard and the Enterprise crew determine to defend the Baku against forced relocation. Data befriends a little boy on the planet, and learns from him a little more about what it is to be human. Picard finds a girlfriend, and Deanna Troi and Will Riker rediscover the romance that has been hinted at right from the start of the first season - but lose Riker's beard. Riker's beard, has been popularly linked with The Next Generation getting good, and so to have him shave it off - and in an odd-numbered Star Trek movie - could be viewed as a very risky move. Insurrection is not a terrible Star Trek film. It hasn't got the cringe-factor of The Final Frontier (V) nor will I deny its place in Trek canon, as I do Generations, but neither is it ever going to reach classic status with The Wrath of Khan, the one with the whales, or First Contact. It is a solidly OK film, but overall just feels like an average episode on a grander scale.

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