Patrick Stewart …. Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes …. Commander William T. Riker
Brent Spiner …. Lt. Commander Data
LeVar Burton …. Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge
Michael Dorn …. Lt. Cmdr. Worf
Gates McFadden …. Dr. Beverly Crusher
Marina Sirtis …. Counselor Deanna Troi
F. Murray Abraham …. Ru’afo
Donna Murphy …. Anij
Anthony Zerbe …. Vice-Adm. Dougherty
In the realm of cinematic series, there are four that above reproach with the fanboy sect. Those series are Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, The James Bond Series, and The Indiana Jones Trilogy. That is to say, whenever one of these series has an installment that comes to theatres, it at least does moderately well because of its loyal base of fans. In years past, another series would have been included to make a “Geek Pentaverate”. In fact, its fans were so loyal that it might have been one of the strongest of the series. That series is the Star Trek franchise. Unfortunately in recent years, numbers have dwindled at the box office for its films and ratings have slumped to the point where the current series Enterprise was cancelled.
But there was time when Star Trek was a thriving series with a series on TV and entertaining films in the theater. In 1998, Star Trek was coming off of one of its most successful outings, First Contact, which feature the crew of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The film was high on action and suspense and featured the best villain from the TNG series, The Borg.
For their next outing, Star Trek: Insurrection, film makers and cast wanted to have a little more fun. Their next film would be a leisurely experience closer in tone to the original crew’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Also helping at the time was the fever of film goers to see Star Wars: Episode I -The Phantom Menace, which had just released its first trailer. Hopefully film goers would want to see another Space Opera while waiting for an epic tale of good and evil from George Lucas.
Insurrection begins with the introduction of the Ba’ku, a peaceful civilization of 600 residents, living on the land and seemingly enjoying a perfectly serene life. This peace is broken when a battle breaks out between invisible combatants. As the Ba’ku try to avoid laser blasts and unseen violence, one of the combatants is revealed as ST:TNG regular Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner). Before they can stop him, Data reveals a hidden promenade, where many Starfleet Officers and representatives of the Son’a race have been observing the village.
On the other side of Federation Space, The USS Enterprise, Captained by Captain Jean-Luc Picard is welcoming a new planet into the United Federation of Planets. The new race is a bit primitive for induction into the organization, but the number of allies for the once mighty Federation has dwindled and desperate times call for desperate measures.
While at the reception, Captain Picard gets word of Data’s incident on the Ba’ku planet. Although the Enterprise is merely supposed to send schematics for their android crew member, the ship sets a course for the system. Picard believes the situation to be too peculiar as Data would not openly fire on unarmed civilians without provocation.
Upon reaching the planet, Picard and his crew learn that Data was attacked by members of the Son’a, which caused him to malfunction. Picard also finds out why the Federation and Son’a are observing the planet to begin with. The rings of the planet that Ba’ku inhabit contain a radiation that replenishes them on a cellular level. In essence that Ba’ku have discovered the fountain of youth. What Picard does not understand is why the Federation would ally themselves with the Son’a, a race of thugs noted for using outlawed weapons technology, against the Ba’ku?
Picard’s disgust grows even further when he learns of plot by the conspirators to relocate the Ba’ku to another planet; a plan that goes directly against the Federation’s Prime Directive of non interference. It seems the Son’a have developed a technology to harness the radiation of the planet’s rings, but will kill anything inhabiting the planet. Does Picard directly disobey commands from his superiors or does he spit in the face of his beliefs?
Picard of course decides to help the Ba’ku and stop the destruction of the planet before it takes places. The last third of the film is filled with action as Picard rallies an away team of members from his crew to help the Ba’ku on the planet surface against the Son’a while Picard’s second in command Commander William Ryker (Jonathan Frakes) leads the Enterprise back to Federation Space to blow the conspiracy wide open.
In a series that has hit really great highs (Star Trek II) and some of the lowest of the lows (Star Trek V), Insurrection can firmly be placed somewhere in the middle. The film doesn’t have the emotional highs of predecessors like The Wrath of Khan or The Undiscovered Country nor does it have the taut action of First Contact. What the film does have is comedy. The first two thirds of the film are a leisurely enjoyable film for fans of the series that is highly entertaining.
Explained as a side effect of the radiation, members of the Enterprise’s crew all feel the rejuvenating effects of the planet’s rings. ST:TNG on again, off again lovers Cmdr. Ryker and Ship’s Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) rekindle their romance with great chemistry. Michael Dorn seems to be having lots of fun playing the crew resident Klingon, Lt. Cmdr. Worf, as he goes through the trials of puberty. Most heart warming is the LeVar Burton’s turn as Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge. On the regular series, Burton’s character has always been visually impaired and had to wear a visor giving him partial vision. In a truly emotional scene, Geordi gains full vision for the first time and sees his first sunrise.
What Actor/Direct Jonathan Frakes did was craft a picture that Trek fans would enjoy and also brings up some good social commentary, which is very much in the Trek tradition. The film compares the Ba’ku to any forced relocation throughout history quite nicely. IsAny problems in the film arise from the riding style as that movie is basically a two hour episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. For fans of the series, this is about what you’re looking for, for those not accustomed to spending some time with Capt. Picard and his crew probably would find the proceedings boring.
The DVD :
The film is presented in a nice Anamorphic 2:35 Widescreen. The colors are bright and the transfer is as good as the original version of the film’s DVD.
The audio track on the disc is a beautiful Dolby Digital 5.1. The sound mix is fantastic and stands up great in either the dialogue sequences or the huge battles between the Enterprise and the Son’a Battle Cruisers.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc 1
Text Commentary by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda
Production: 7 Featurettes (It Takes a Village- Location, Location, Location- The Art of “Insurrection” -Anatomy of a Stunt -The Story of “Insurrection” -Making “Insurrection” – Director’s Notebook
The Star Trek Universe: 2 Featurettes (Westmore’s Aliens- Star Trek’s Beautiful Alien Women)
Creating the Illusion : 3 Featurettes (Shuttle Chase -The Drones – The Duck Blind)
Deleted Scenes : Ru’afo’s Facelift, Working Lunch, Flirting, The Kiss, Status: Precarious, Disabling the Injector, Alternate Ending
Archives : Storyboards, Photo Gallery
Advertising :Teaser Trailer, Theatrical Trailer, Original Promotional Featurette, Borg Invasion 4-D Trailer
I am happy to report that the film is chocked full of special features that while aren’t as good as the forerunners of DVD Extras (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars), are still pretty entertaining.
Text Commentary by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda while pretty informative, text commentaries aren’t usually very exciting. They’re actually kind of distracting sometimes as they can go pretty fast to get on to the next detail. A commentary from Director Jonathan Frakes would have been nice, but he’s highlighted pretty well already in the rest of the extras.
Production : These seven featurettes are pretty decent, the best of which are Making “Insurrection” and Director’s Notebook . The first gets a nice look at how the cast is very much a family and is having a grand old time making the picture. It makes me wish actually that the cast from TNG was a bit more successful with their films because the chemistry with the cast is so good. Director’s Notebook is pretty interesting as Jonathan Frakes discusses the difficulties of balancing Directing and being one of the cast of the film. While some of the difficulties of the production seem to be dwelled on a bit too much, as when he discusses that the production had over 280 effects shots (Revenge of the Sith had over 2100), it is interesting when he discussing how much more confident he was this time around after First Contact. It’s also refreshing that he admits that the story this time around was not as strong.
The Star Trek Universe: The first of these featurettes starts out interestingly enough as the series’ makeup supervisor, Michael Westmore discusses the difficulties of staying sharp with his designs for the many different aliens for the whole Trek universe on TV and in the theatres. He does start to get a bit repetitive after about the ten minute mark of discussing the minute details different pieces that go into certain makeup designs. Much more fun is the second mini documentary Star Trek’s Beautiful Alien Women. Series veterans from TNG, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise all discuss their favorite alien women from the all the Trek incarnations. Of course, Captain Kirk’s womanizing comes up early and often in the featurette.
Creating the Illusion : Insurrection was the first of the Trek films to replace traditional models with CGI. The different featurettes discuss the difficulty of this transition and the new wealth of techniques that became open to the film makers.
Deleted Scenes : The best of the deleted scenes features an alternate ending of the film where the leader of the Son’a, Ru’afo (F. Murray Abraham), meets his end in a more ironic, but less exciting way.
The rest of the disc is traditional “bells and whistles” with trailers and production photos. What would really be great is if the DVD had some trailers for some of the other pictures. It’d be a really great way to tie the whole series together and get a look at the evolution of the films.