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Stardate 2013 - Insurrection (1998)

The crew of the Enterprise choose to fight alongside the inhabitants of a planet being exploited by Starfleet.

Directed by: Jonathan Frakes
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Levar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, F. Murray Abraham, Donna Murphy, Gregg Henry

While taking part in an undercover mission away from the USS Enterprise, Data (Spiner) malfunctions, removing the invisibility cloak Starfleet are using to observe a race known as the Ba'ku. When the Enterprise is called to capture Data, Picard (Stewart) insists on investigating the planet, against Starfleet's will. He discovers the Baku are an immortal race, so long as they remain on their planet. Starfleet, however, are working alongside another race, the So'na, to harvest the planet's radiation for scientific purposes; an act that will result in the planet's destruction. Picard and members of his crew take a stand with the Ba'ku to protect their world.
If 'Generations' had made Trek fans doubt the future of the series without Shatner et al, 'First Contact' provided fresh hope. With Frakes returning as director, the buzz surrounding the release of 'Insurrection' was extremely positive, but ultimately misguided. While it's by no means a bad movie, it's a massive step back in quality from its immediate predecessor, and would mark the beginning of the end of big-screen Trek, at least in its classic form.
The largest criticism of 'Insurrection' is that it resembles a two-part episode of 'The Next Generation'. To a degree, this is certainly true. The concept of an idyllic utopia under threat had cropped up in many episodes of both the original series and 'TNG', and had become a cliche, something of a fallback theme for uninspired writers. Despite this, there are some interesting ideas introduced here. The most impressive scene involves the discovery of a secret holodeck, fitted to resemble the village home of the planet's natives, in which Starfleet plan to rehouse the Ba'ku after the destruction of their homeworld. There are several small yet impressive moments in the movie's first half. Picard's discovery of the planet's anti-aging powers is handled ingenuously, with the captain about to have a shave before discovering his facial hair has failed to grow during his stay on the planet.
If the film had carried on in this subtle manner, it would indeed resemble a double episode, and a pretty good one at that. Unfortunately, the producers' desire to reach as wide an audience as possible results in a second half full of tiresome space battles, a pattern we would see repeated in the next installment, three years later.
Again, Frakes does a fine job from the director's chair and it's a shame his career never kicked on. I'd take a Frakes directed blockbuster any day over one from the likes of Zack Snyder or McG.
As with 'First Contact', this is very much Picard's film, and Stewart really seems to be enjoying his new action-hero role. He even gets a love interest here and Stewart proves quite a charming presence. Again, you have to ask why he didn't get more roles after this?
Looking back now, 'Insurrection' is most interesting as a pre-911 curiosity piece. With the crew of the Enterprise taking up the cause of a group of insurgents who hide out in caves while fighting a super-power, it's hard to imagine this plot getting the green-light today.
6/10



Eric Hillis