Review: Star Trek: Insurrection (Don HARLOW)

Insurrection (Star Trek 9)

Movie from Paramount

reviewed by Don HARLOW

   I would say that the odd-number curse is definitely broken.

   Long-time Star Trek viewers (I saw the very first episode one evening in late 1966 in a little cinder-block house in Big Spring, Texas) will remember rumors that movies in the series, those that began in 1978, were under a curse of some kind if they had an odd number. The very first film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, was a three hour retelling of one of the old (and not one of the better) one-hour episodes. Get it on tape or DVD if you have insomnia and need something non-pharmaceutical to put you to sleep. Number three was so-so. Number five, in which God has a minor role, was awful, and I don't use the word in its original sense here.

   But seven, Generations, in which the torch was passed by an aging original crew to the next generation, looked to actually be enjoyable. And now we have nine, Star Trek: Insurrection, which not only has a plot, but also some really bad guys, and a few enjoyable special effects.

   The story starts out looking like a reprise of "Duck Blind," the Next Generation episode in which the Enterprise crew is hidden away in a cloaked building on a hillside watching a bunch of post-neolithic Vulcanoids do their thing. But these watchers aren't the crew of the Enterprise; they're a mixed expedition of Starfleet uniforms and representatives of an extra-Federation race called the "son'a" (the name is a nice touch, given the climactic revelations), and there's only one representative of the Enterprise crew among them, the android Data, on detached duty. And about the time the credits finish rolling across nice pastoral scenes of these terranoid (1) beings at work, Data runs amok and succeeds in revealing the expedition to the locals, who calmly take these extra-planetary invaders "prisoner". The Enterprise is then called to the scene to find out what happened to Data and to rescue the "hostages".

   It soon becomes evident to Enterprise Captain Jean-Luc Picard that somebody -- possibly putative expedition leader Admiral Doherty (Anthony Zerbe), possibly the Federation Council -- has sold the "Prime Directive" down the river. The planet has an important natural resource that everybody, particularly the rubber-faced son'a, wants, and the local population (the bak'u, numbering, globally, some 600) are just in the way. Where have I heard this before? (Can anybody out there say "Trail of Tears"?) Picard, of course, whose own attitude to the Prime Directive has in the past been somewhat less than consistent, and whose traditional attitude towards orders from superiors is that they are for the guidance of the wise and the obedience of the foolish, sets out to do the Right Thing, which is exemplified by Data's widely-advertised statement "Lock and load!" Nor does it help that Picard has fallen for one of the locals, the delectable (?) Anij (Donna Murphy), who, though she has a few years on the Captain, is not bothered by this, since while she can't generate earthquakes at moments of sublime bliss she can make time stand still.

   It really is a lot of fun. F. Murray Abraham does a good job of reprising his role as Salieri, here referred to as Ru'afo. (2) We get to hear all the traditional Trek technobabble (metrionic particles, iso-linear tagging). Geordi LaForge grows real eyes, at least for this episode. Will Riker shaves his beard and gets to take over the Enterprise and its bubble-bath facilities for a while, and blunder around in a really well-done gaseous nebula (much more realistic, at least in appearance, than the cloud layers in The Wrath of Khan), shooting up son'a ships. There's a fair amount of delectable High Sierra scenery. Picard and Data sing a duet, one that might be more appropriate for a role played by John Rhys-Davies. And, remarkably, the story makes a bit more sense than that of the average odd-numbered episode.

   See it.


(1) "Terranoid" refers to any species which, though customarily clothed in St. Vincent de Paul spring fashions, does not require the affixing of points to ears ("Vulcanoid") or ridges to forehead ("Everything-else-oid") by the make-up department.
(2) The apostrophes do not appear to represent glottal stops or, for that matter, any other obvious phoneme.

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