Gods' Glory

The latest entry, Star Trek: Insurrection, is no exception to that rule; for the in-crowd, it's got scads of digital effects and rapid-fire technobabble (though if all it takes to transport through a raised shield is a few tachyon bursts to scramble the shield harmonics, I don't know why they weren't doing that years ago), and there is a little romance and some dramatic scenery for the rest of you ... er, rest of us. This time Capt. Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the crew of the Next Generation's Enterprise must decide whether to intervene on behalf of the peaceful Ba'ku, whose bucolic planet's unusual resources are about to be exploited by the suspicious Son'a. (These bad guys are led by F. Murray Abraham, who has obviously modeled his performance on the over-the-top work of mad Klingon Christopher Plummer in sequel No. 5.) But the Son'a plan has the blessing of Starfleet Command; this places our hero Picard in a dilemma, though after he's used the phrase "forced relocation" a couple of times it's pretty clear what he and his ensemble cast are going to decide. Though this sounds a bit like a sci-fi revision of Dances with Wolves, viewers should remember one of the lessons of the Next Generation television series -- that the antagonism between alien races is never as simple as it first appears.

Indeed, Insurrection is the sequel that most insistently recalls its television avatar, perhaps because the producer of the series, Rick Berman, once again has story credit here. Regular viewers will find much that is familiar, from Picard's almost ritual resistance to direct orders, to the sentimentalization of the android Commander Data (Brent Spiner), to the tricky use of the holodeck, to the simple agrarian lifestyle of the Ba'ku, a hyperintelligent race who were technologically sophisticated until they decided en masse to return to the simpler life of the soil. (One of the persistent fantasies of Star Trek: The Next Generation was the notion that in the 24th century people are only ever peasants because they want to be.) Much of the unforced humor of the series' later seasons is present here, too. One concession to the big screen, though -- characteristic of almost all the sequels -- is the way in which the film beats up on the Starship Enterprise itself. Again, Insurrection doesn't stint on special effects.

Whatever its fate nationwide (and some of the numerological predictions on fan Internet sites have to be seen to be believed), Insurrection has the potential to live long and prosper in St. Louis; because we have been without a Paramount affiliate for almost two years, Star Trek: Voyager, the latest television series, has been unavailable locally. (I get taped episodes from a fellow traveler in Las Cruces, N.M. That's right -- Las Cruces, N.M., gets this show, and we don't. What's St. Louis 2004 doing about that?) If you've been affected by this drought, this film is for you. And you can bring a date.

-- Frank Grady

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