Star Trek 287: Insurrection

287. Insurrection

FORMULA: The Pegasus + Homeward + The Naked Now + Ship in a Bottle

WHY WE LIKE IT: Picard's speeches. Riker's tactics (and not just to get back together with Troi). Data back as a naive android.

WHY WE DON'T: Gilbert & Sullivan save the day. The joystick. Anthony Zerbe. "Lock and load."

REVIEW: With that low tech opening and pastoral music, we're in for something different to be sure. But to call this a light-hearted "episode" doesn't really do it justice. There's some real drama here and certainly a scale and production value that places it well above the television norm. It's in no way as dark as First Contact, but about as light-hearted when it chooses to be.

The scenes on Earth in FC were rather humorous without ever going over the top, and it's the kind of humor that works well here. Data having left his emotion chip at home is free to be the Data we all grew to love in the tv series, and here he explores what being a child means (since emotions are now within his reach). Troi and Riker's rekindled romance is also quite fun, especially when she exclaims "yuck" after kissing him with a beard for the first time (so no behind-the-scenes hanky panky during the series). Picard's sweet romance is also light, but with more weight thanks to Partick Stewart's always superlative performance, here accompanied by Donna Murphy as Anij. I find her to be a delight, beautiful, graceful and wise. A good match for our "young" captain.

Where the humor does not work is when it gets too broad. The reception of the Fish People at the beginning of the film has some good moments (like Worf's non-explanation for being there), but devolves into sushi jokes and Picard wearing a silly hat. This is followed by a sequence where Picard and Worf have to befuddle a rogue Data by singing some Gilbert & Sullivan. Cheesy and stupid. I also don't like where they're taking Worf in the films. Used to be Worf's deadpan deliveries were a major source of comedy. Perhaps taking root in the previous film's space sickness moment, the Worf comedy now seems more about humiliating him. In Insurrection, he has to go through puberty again (I don't see anyone getting acne or a breaking voice, do you?) as other characters snicker around him.

These forced attempts at comedy are more jarring for the rather gross villains our heroes have to contend with. Madcap comedy and gore just don't mix well. The Son'a don't quite make it into the villain hall of fame here, being very much tied to this one story despite attempts to connect them to the Dominion War. F. Murray Abraham as their leader Ru'afo is a bit over the top at times and does little to carve himself a place in the same pantheon as Khan, Kruge, Chang or the Borg Queen. The "bad" Starfleet Admiral Dougherty, played by Anthony Zerbe, lacks luster in the much same way. Dealing with these guys makes for a somewhat dull climax and my attention tends to wander in the last 20 minutes.

Despite the Saturday matinée villains and comic moments, there's a real drama at the heart of Insurrection, and Picard, as usual, excels at making all the right points. He's got a great "how many people does it take" speech, and ably convinces Gallatin to betray his own people. Meanwhile in space (more or less flipping the roles of the characters in First Contact), Riker does what Riker does best: Win spaceship battles. The sequences are pretty to look at, and the maneuvers as desperate as they are innovative.

On the characters that don't get much play: Geordi works well as Riker's #1, and his sunrise moment manages to be touching. Note the return of the beard as well. Now that the VISOR's gone, it's not like he has too much stuff on his face. It's Beverly who comes out as the loser once again. Aside from a boobie joke, she gets even less to do than in the last film. The special effects are pretty and almost painterly, the location shooting is gorgeous, and the ship designs interesting (hey, the captain's yacht!). One might have an objection to the "slow time" scenes, clearly in the science fantasy mold I don't like very much, but they're at least thematic.

LESSON: Where to put the apostrophe in Son'a.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-High: Though some of the comedy is a bit grating, and the bad guys are less than memorable, Insurrection made a surprisingly strong showing. It's well made, well acted, and has some weight, both comic and dramatic. You could do a lot worse with two hours' leisure.


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Matthew Turnage said...

Depending on when you catch me, I sometimes rate Insurrection higher than First Contact. There are probably a few more flaws in Insurrection (the broad humor does grate on me too, although I do find myself singing along in the Gilbert & Sullivan scene). Nevertheless, Insurrection just feels more like TNG to me than First Contact does, and it is a very good looking film.

De said...

This film was fairly middling to me mainly because of the stupid humor and the incredibly forgettable villains. However, I did appreciate the little touches you mentioned, especially the scene with Geordi and the sunrise (something mentioned as a bit of a throwaway line way back in "The Naked Now").

I don't have the DVD of this film yet, but does it include the deleted scene with Quark?

Matthew Turnage said...

De, sadly the deleted scene with Quark is not included with the DVD. It also has no commentary, although I understand Jonathan Frakes did record one. Perhaps there was a technical problem with it? I'm not sure. I would have loved a commentary from Michael Piller as well, but judging from his appearance in some of the special features he was getting quite ill at the time.

Anonymous said...

How could you write the formula for this one and leave out the obvious: The Omega Glory?

This was the worst of the TNG movies, mainly thanks to the Gilbert and Sullivan scene. But it was still far ahead of THe Motion Picture and the Final Frontier.


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