A British Tar is a soaring soul / As free as a mountain bird / His energentic fist should
be ready to resist / A dictatorial word – sing, Worf!
Oh, come on!
How is this not absolutely goddamn delightful?
I don’t even like Gilbert and Sullivan!
I think some of y’all just need to lighten up, learn to enjoy yourselves a little.
Maybe then you’ll start to see
Why Star Trek: Insurrection Is Actually Not That Bad
I make no apologies.
I like this movie.
I’ve always liked this movie.
Am I saying it’s perfect?
Am I saying it’s great?
Am I saying it’s good?
. . . Mmm, yes.
Yes, I’m saying it’s good.
It’s not Wrath of Khan or Star Trek Beyond – fight me, Kelvin-haters – but Star Trek:
Insurrection is a good movie.
That’s not to say I don’t understand why a lot of you don’t care for it.
But we’ll get to that.
First, let’s talk about what happens in the movie.
So there’s this planet.
Seems like a nice place.
Some people live here in a small village.
They look like humans, but they’re not – they’re Ba’ku.
How many non-human species that look exactly like humans are there in Star Trek?
I’ve lost count.
Hey, you know who I bet would know?
These guys – Starfleet anthropologists (or whatever) who are secretly studying the Ba’ku
from behind a cloaked duck blind.
Because as we learned in my video about the Prime Directive, interfering in the internal
affairs of an alien society is bad, but spying on them from a few feet away without ever
telling them you’re there is just fine.
Until the people you’re spying on find out you’re there, that is.
Which is what always happens.
Anyway, Data’s here!
And he’s having a bad day.
Something caused him to malfunction and now he’s just running all over the place in
a cloaked isolation suit pulling a bunch of Invisible Man gags.
Eventually he makes it over to the base of the duck blind and disables the cloak, revealing
it to the entire village.
How do you do!”
Meanwhile on the Enterprise, they’re getting ready for some diplomatic function, and Riker
walks in and tells Picard that as soon as that’s done they have to go mediate a territorial
And Picard kinda sighs and says “Anyone remember when we used to be explorers?”
And all of us who used to watch the show are like, “No.
Anyway, Worf’s here!
He’s like “I know I’m on Deep Space Nine now, but the audience expects to see
me so here I am!
Does anyone care about the specific reason?
Does it matter?
Picard’s having a great time at the diplomacy party when Geordi comes up and he’s like
“Some admiral’s on the phone for you.”
So Picard answers the phone and it’s Admiral Dougherty, and he’s like “Send us the
specs for your android; he’s going apeshit over here.”
It turns out Admiral Dougherty is on a ship belonging to the Son’a, who have partnered
with Starfleet for a mission having something to do with the Ba’ku. Dougherty is hanging
out with the leader of the Son’a, Ru’afo, and he’s like “Boy, this whole Ba’ku
situation is all kindsa cocked up now, ain’t it?”
And Ru’afo is like “Why don’t we just kill them all?”
And Dougherty’s like “What?”
And Ru’afo’s like “Did I ever tell you how I killed Mozart?”
Data’s boosted a Starfleet scout ship and he’s flying around shooting at Ru’afo’s
The Enterprise shows up and Dougherty calls Picard and says “Hey, dude, all I needed
was Data’s blueprints so we could turn him off or something.
You didn’t need to come all the way out here.
I mean, it’s not a problem – I’m not afraid you’re going to discovery anything,
or whatever, but, you know, seriously, get the hell outta her.”
But Picard insists that he be allowed to try and apprehend Data, and Dougherty’s like
“You’ve got twelve hours.”
So Picard and Worf jump into a shuttlecraft and fly out to catch Data.
Picard tries to talk to him, but Data’s not answering.
So Picard thinks, “Well, if he doesn’t want to talk, maybe he’ll want to join me
for a Gilbert & Sullivan duet.”
And that sort of works.
While Data’s distracted by the sing-along, Picard attaches his ship to Data’s and,
after Data almost crashes both ships trying to shake him off, Worf manages to get aboard
Data’s ship and turn him off with a remote control.
Picard beams down to the Ba’ku village with an away team to pick up the Starfleet and
Son’a crew who were stranded when Data took off with their ship.
And he meets Anij and Sojef, who live in the Ba’ku village, and they’re like “Hey,
we tried to fix your android but his memory was all messed up or something.”
And Picard’s like “You rubes tried to repair Data?
He’s not a cotton gin!
Ya straw-chewin’ hicks!”
And Sojef tells Picard “Hey, we know all about technology and warp drive and shit,
we just choose not to use any of it because leading a simple, agrarian existence makes
us feel morally superior to other people.
Personally, I walked away from a really exciting life tracking down criminals for this gruff
Los Angeles judge.
I had an awesome car and a sweet perm . . . I heard after I left the judge moved to Bajor.”
Geordi gets Data functioning properly again, but Data can’t remember what happened to
make him go haywire.
So he and Picard go back down to the planet to retrace his steps.
And they find this cloaked ship in the middle of a lake.
And inside the ship is a gigantic holodeck with an exact recreation of the Ba’ku village.
And Picard’s like “I bet this isn’t for anything good.”
And then a Son’a shows up and starts shooting at them, and Picard’s like “Yeah, see
that settles it right there, something’s definitely not right.”
Meanwhile, ever since the Enterprise showed up at the Ba’ku planet, the crew has been
Riker and Troi have started flirting with each other again.
We even see them taking a bath together, where Troi – shaves Riker’s beard –
What the hell are you people playing at?
Getting rid of Riker’s beard?
In an odd-numbered Star Trek movie?
That’s like walking under a ladder on Friday the 13th!
Or talking about a no-hitter before the game’s over, while within the radius of Mars!
Or texting while driving while also eating a piece of fish that hasn’t been properly
Or – no, I think that’s enough.
Anyway, it’s not just that the crew is feeling frisky.
Worf’s got a humongous Klingon pimple.
People’s boobs are firming up.
Geordi’s eyes finally grow in.
Picard just up and busts out into a mambo.
And then he’s like “That was weird.”
So he goes back down to the planet and drops in on Anij and asks her what the hell is going
And she says “Oh, did we forget to mention that this is the eternal youth planet?
Yeah, it’s something to do with the radiation coming from the rings, regenerates our cells
We’re all like hundreds of years old.
Say, you don’t think this has anything to do with why there was an invisible holoship
with an exact copy of our village parked in the lake, do you?”
Later back on the Enterprise Dougherty and Ru’afo march into Picard’s ready room
like “Why were you messing with our secret holoship?”
And Picard’s like “I got a better question: Why were you gonna use the holoship to abduct
‘Cause that’s totally what you were planning to do, right?”
And Dougherty says “Dude, you’re making a big deal out of nothing, okay?
Yes, we were gonna secretly relocate the Ba’ku somewhere else, but – but!
– A) Who decided they should be immortal?
And B) the Son’a, my buddies, have a condition that only the anti-aging properties of the
planet can cure!
And once we figure out how to help them, we can use the same process to help people all
over the galaxy!
So actually, what we’re doing is a good thing.
Even though in order to collect the anti-aging radiation we will have to render the entire
planet uninhabitable, so there’s that, but small price to pay, right?”
And Picard gives Dougherty a classic Picard speech about how forcibly relocating populations
is bad no matter how good of a reason you think you have, and it doesn’t matter if
you’re talking about a few hundred people like the Ba’ku, or a thousand people, or
a million, you’re still a dick and I’m not gonna let you get away with it!”
And Dougherty’s like, “Well, the Federation Council is on my side, so I’d like to see
So Picard takes most of the other important cast members down to the planet and they evacuate
the village and march everybody into the mountains so the Son’a can’t get to them.
Meanwhile, Riker and Geordi leave on the Enterprise to go blow the whistle on what a shitshow
this whole Ba’ku/Son’a situation has turned into.
Picard and a bunch of the others end up getting captured by the Son’a anyway, Beverly figures
out that the Son’a and the Ba’ku are actually the same species, only the Son’a left the
eternal youth planet a long time ago and have been deteriorating ever since, which is why
they’re in such bad shape now.
By now even Admiral Dougherty is starting to have second thoughts about this, so Ru’afo
kills him with a face-stretching chair, which is a thing he has.
Then Ru’afo says “You know what?
I’m making this way more difficult than it has to be!
I have a new plan!
And my plan is so simple: first I must get the death mass, then I must achieve his death.”
Ru’afo’s second in command Gallatin is like “What the hell are you talking about?”
And Ru’afo says “I’m just gonna deploy the eternal youth radiation collector while
the rest of those people are on the planet.
That way I’ll get what I want, and they’ll all die, so I’ll get what I want!”
And Gallatin’s thinking, “Okay, if he’s gonna kill everybody, I can’t get behind
So Gallatin springs Picard from where he’s being held with the rest of the prisoners,
and together they hatch a plan to stop Ru’afo.
And that’s what they do!
With help from Worf and Data, who weren’t captured, they beam Ru’afo and the rest
of his crew onto a simulation of their bridge aboard the holoship.
But Ru’afo figures it out and manages to beam himself over to his eternal youth radiation
collector so he can just do what he needs to do manually.
Picard realizes what he’s trying to do, so he beams over to the collector, too, and
has a fight with Ru’afo, and he’s like “Why you gotta be like this, man?”
And Ru’afo’s like “Because you are unjust!
I will block you, I swear it.
I will hinder and harm your Creature as far as I am able!”
[Picard:] “Nnh, that one doesn’t really work, does it?
The bit about the Creature doesn’t make sense in this context.”
[Ru’afo:] “Okay, do you have any idea how hard it is to work quotes from goddamn
Amadeus into a summary of a Star Trek movie?”
[Picard:] “Good point.
I’m gonna activate the self-destruct now.”
And Picard activates the self-destruct, and right before it blows him up real good the
Enterprise swoops in and beams him out!
And Ru’afo dies engulfed in flames and screaming!
Just like Salieri.
And that’s pretty much it.
The Ba’ku return to their village.
The Son’a are welcomed home.
Picard and Anij have kinda become friends – wink-wink – and Picard promises to come
back and visit next time he takes shore leave.
Data is shown playing in a pile of hay with one of the kids from the village to tie up
a cutesy subplot they had going.
The crew beams back to the Enterprise, the ship sails away into the distance, and the
ol’ human adventure continues.
So what’s so great about this movie?
That’s not the issue!
I already told you, the video’s about why Insurrection is “not that bad,” not why
Don’t you try to move the goalposts on me, you lousy cheats!
Let’s look at some of the things this movie does, and doesn’t do.
First, it lightens things up.
I love First Contact, but it is kinda grim, and I don’t want Star Trek – particularly
The Next Generation, the most optimistic of all the Trek shows – to be a gritty action
That’s nice every once in awhile, but if I wanted to see that sorta thing all the time,
I’d watch, I dunno, the Battlestar Galactica reboot.
Which was excellent!
What I saw of it, anyway.
I don’t think I ever made it all the way through the first season.
It was good.
I just got distracted by something else that I found more interesting.
Can’t remember what – probably old episodes of Star Trek.
Second, it gives every character in the main cast a chance to do things other than fight
scenes or comic relief.
Like all the TNG movies, this is mostly the Picard and Data Show, but the other members
of the Enterprise crew each get at least a scene to shine.
Geordi has that scene on the planet after his eyes grow in where he’s watching a sunrise
for the first time, Riker and Troi have their romantic subplot, Worf gets a moment with
Riker near the end when Riker wonders if his rekindled relationship with Troi will last
and Worf is like “Your feelings for each other haven’t changed as long as I’ve
known you two,” which is a nice reminder that Riker and Worf are, you know, friends.
And, okay, a lot of that is well trodden terrain at this point, but it’s better than just
randomly distributing expository dialogue so everyone gets a line.
Would it really have been that difficult to give Dr. Crusher something meaningful to do?
In one of the TNG films?
Four movies and her most memorable contributions are getting shoved overboard by Data, and
turning on the holographic doctor and running away.
Third, it uses Picard as something other than an action hero.
Yes, he’s an action hero, too.
But, Picard as we see him in Insurrection is as close as he gets in the films to the
character he is on the TV series.
He cares about the plight of the Ba’ku – even before he starts crushing on Anij – like
he’s some kind of principled person, or something.
He angrily objects to Admiral Dougherty and Ru’afo’s relocation plan, calling it a
betrayal of the values of the Federation.
The values that the Federation is supposed to stand for mean something to Picard, and
we see that in this movie, and it’s a welcome reminder that he can do things besides shoot
bad guys and rant theatrically about revenge.
Fourth, the film has political content – and sadly evergreen political content at that.
One of the big complaints about the Star Trek movies, particularly the Next Gen and Kelvin-timeline
films, is that they’re primarily action movies lacking the social conscience that
sets Star Trek apart from other popular sci-fi franchises.
Not the case with Insurrection, which has obvious, painful parallels to, as Picard says
at one point, “some of the darkest chapters in the history of our world,” chapters which
“involved the forced relocation of a small group of people to satisfy the demands of
a large one.”
Fifth, there’s no threat to Earth.
I get why the writers of sci-fi and superhero movies feel like there has to be a threat
to Earth to hook the audience – I mean, it’s Earth, we’re all pretty attached
Okay, maybe not all of us.
But, you can tell a compelling story without the fate of Earth, or the fate of the galaxy,
or the fate of the universe hanging in the balance.
The stakes in Insurrection aren’t as epic as in First Contact or Nemesis – or Generations,
now that I think about it – there are 230,000,000 people living in the Veridian system, which
Soran intends to destroy in order to reach the Nexus.
In Insurrection, all that’s at stake are the lives of the 600 or so Ba’ku, and the
principles of the Federation.
But that’s plenty.
If our characters care about achieving a particular outcome, and we care about the characters,
that’s all we need.
Or it’s all I need, anyway.
I’m in the minority here.
When Star Trek: Insurrection opened in theaters in December 1998 it was met with mixed reviews
from fans and critics.
It had a good opening weekend but ultimately grossed about thirty million dollars less
than First Contact and wound up as one of the worst-performing Star Trek films at the
And I get it.
Not everybody’s as big of an F. Murray Abraham mark as I am.
Plus, Insurrection came out just two years after First Contact and it’s a very different
People who loved First Contact for being Die Hard on a starship probably didn’t turn
out to see Insurrection hoping for a morality play with jokes.
In fact, a lot of folks hate the jokes.
Not me – I think Insurrection has some of the funniest scenes in any Star Trek movie:
the H.M.S. Pinafore sing-along, Worf smashing the Son’a drone with his phaser rifle then
turning wild-eyed to Picard and shouting “Definitely feeling aggressive tendencies, sir!”
Riker bragging to Data that his freshly clean-shaven face was smoother than an android’s bottom,
then Data feels it for himself and is like “I don’t think so, brother.”
And yes, I like the flotation device gag, too, okay?
Everybody hates it.
I think it’s funny.
But it works in the situation, Spiner sells the line, and the visual of Data rising up
out of the water and bobbing gently back and forth makes me laugh.
The only joke that doesn’t work for me is the Enterprise’s manual steering column.
Feels like an attempt to connect with the kids in the audience thought up by the most
out-of-touch adult in the writer’s room.
Which is exactly what it is.
After Insurrection underperformed, the producers decided that, for the next film, the franchise
needed to be reinvigorated.
Even though Jonathan Frakes had done a fine job helming First Contact and Insurrection,
they pulled him from the director’s chair and hired Stuard Baird.
They also hired Academy Award nominee John Logan as the writer.
The movie they wound up making, the final movie to feature the cast of The Next Generation,
was Star Trek: Nemesis.
And what’s puzzled me about that movie ever since I saw it is why, after bothering to
bring in fresh blood like Baird and Logan, they decided to just remake Insurrection without
Both films introduce the Enterprise crew at a social function: in Insurrection it’s
the diplomatic reception, in Nemesis it’s the wedding of Riker and Troi.
In both films the first big action scene is the result of the crew investigating a mystery
relating to Data: in Insurrection it’s Data attacking the duckblind at the Ba’ku village,
in Nemesis it’s the discovery of the disassembled android who turns out to be Data’s long-lost
In both films the villains are driven by a desire to save or liberate their own people:
Ru’afo wants to cure the Son’a of the condition that is slowly killing them; Shinzon
wants to liberate and empower the Remans.
Both villains at first appear to have larger, more altruistic goals, only to have their
true selfish motives revealed: the initial justification for Ru’afo’s plan is not
only to cure the Son’a’s condition, but then, according to Admiral Dougherty, use
the same de-aging technology to help other people, but Ru’afo ultimately abandons that
to take revenge against the Ba’ku; Shinzon, a clone of Picard, claims he wants to befriend
Picard so that he can better understand himself and pursue an alliance between his new Romulan
government and the Federation, but it turns out he just needs Picard’s blood, and also
he has an ultimate weapon that he wants to use to destroy the Federation.
Both villains have degenerative conditions they are trying to cure at any cost.
Both villains have weapons capable of wiping out all life on an entire planet.
Both weapons take time to be deployed, resulting in ticking clock scenarios.
In both films the good guys win with help from a former bad guy: Gallatin in Insurrection,
Commander Donatra in Nemesis.
In both films the Enterprise battles hostile ships in a region of space with properties
that block subspace communications and make calling for reinforcements impossible: the
Briar Patch in Insurrection, the Bassen Rift in Nemesis.
In both films Picard beams over to an enemy ship to try and stop the weapon from being
deployed, leading to a climactic one-on-one fight with the main villain.
In both films Picard is beamed away to safety moments before the enemy ship is destroyed.
What does this have to do with Insurrection not being that bad of a movie?
Nothing, I guess.
It’s just always bugged me how Insurrection was regarded as a failure and proof that the
franchise needed freshening up, and then they up and make a movie that is structurally extremely
similar to Insurrection, only grim and boring and just generally a lot worse, and most people
don’t even seem to notice!
There is some small consolation, however.
Remember I said Insurrection was one of the worst performing Star Trek films at the box
Guess what the worst is?
Didn’t even gross enough domestically to cover its budget.
No wonder Paramount just said “Screw it, we’re going back to Captain Kirk!”
Anyway, I’m not expecting this video to change anyone’s mind who came in thinking
Insurrection was the shits.
Opinions vary, and one’s taste in movies is a very personal thing determined just as
much by the individual’s own experience and point of view as by the movie itself.
And as I’ve said a couple of times already, I get why a lot of you don’t like the movie.
The silly humor and relatively small stakes don’t appeal to everyone.
And the plot does often feel derivative of episodes of TNG – particularly “Who Watches
the Watchers,” the episode that introduces the concept of Starfleet using cloaked duckblinds
to secretly observe societies; “Homeward,” which features a plan to use the holodeck
to relocate a small native population without them knowing it and a migration across the
countryside; and “Journey’s End,” which shows us Picard grappling with the morality
of forcibly relocating a population.
All I can tell you is, those things don’t bother me.
I enjoy the humor for the most part, I kinda like the smaller stakes, and the derivative
plot and other flaws I’ve mentioned here and there don’t really occur to me when
I’m watching the movie.
I acknowledge their presence.
But I don’t really care.
When I watch Star Trek: Insurrection, I have a good time.
It’s not a life-changing cinematic experience, but it’s a solid, likable Star Trek movie.
It’s got some funny bits, some nicely observed character moments, a touch of political commentary,
and well executed if not terribly creative action sequences.
In fact, “well executed but not terribly creative” is a good way to describe the
movie in general.
It ain’t Wrath of Khan.
But it makes me happy.
As happy as Worf right after he smashes that drone?
But happy enough.