Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Star Trek: Insurrection

By Marc Savlov

DECEMBER 14, 1998: 

D: Jonathan Frakes; with Patrick Stewart, Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, F. Murray Abraham, Donna Murphy, Anthony Zerbe. (PG, 99 min.)

The so-called Star Trek Curse continues unabated; that is, even-numbered Trek's are good, while their odd-numbered cohorts stink like a dead Horta in a pop bottle on a hot July day. This being the ninth outing of the series, all is not well in Federation space. As directed by Jonathan "Testosterone" Frakes (who, it should be noted, also directed the above-average First Contact last time out), Insurrection is a muddled, gimpy mess, filled with the worst sort of Trek clichés and ill-timed humorous outbursts. On top of that, the film might as well have been edited by Mr. Scott in the midst of a Romulan ale bender: Plot points appear out of nowhere and voluminous backstory seems to have been dropped in favor of bigger, better explosions and forehead-slappingly bad double entendres. Is this Star Trek or Friends in space? Briefly, the plot centers around a vague plot by Federation Admiral Dougherty (Zerbe) and his alien ally Ru'afo (Abraham, playing what appears to be some sort of deep-space Salieri) to participate in the forced relocation of an indigenous people to another world in order to secure mining rights to a planet firmly resembling paradise. Captain Picard (Stewart) is rightfully shocked that the Federation would condone this blatant slap in the face to their sacred Prime Directive of non-interference in alien cultures, and decides -- on a whim, it seems -- to commit high treason and rescue the natives from their usurpers. That's about it, plot-wise, though The Next Generation series creator Rick Berman does toss a bone to Picard in the form of a lovely alien sage who acts as a sort of love interest. Meanwhile Riker (Frakes) shaves his beard and goes hot-tubbing with ex-flame Counselor Troi (Sirtis), Data (Spiner) runs amok, and Worf (Dorn) finally hits puberty (I kid you not). Longtime fans of the series (I number myself among them) will be aghast at the flimsily constructed plotting and subpar set design; didn't we get enough otherworldly Styrofoam passageways back when J. Tiberius Kirk was the Federation's chief gallavanteer? And why the sudden need to have poor android Data spout such witless Schwarzeneggerisms as "Saddle up! Lock 'n' load!" It's enough to make a Trekker miss the glory days of Ensign Yeoman's cleavage, I tell you. Trek has fared far better with comic underpinnings before (Nimoy's Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home succeeded nicely, as did STTNG television episodes like "The Naked Now," in which the entire Enterprise crew was goofily sidelined by some intergalactic Ecstasy). Frakes, I fear, directs with an iron goatee, and his notion of humor is on a par with Buddy Hackett's. Let's hope installment number 10 -- an anniversary of sorts -- will put the crew back on sci-fi terra firma where they belong.
2.0 stars

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