The Star Trek franchise has resulted in some of the best TV shows of all time. It's also produced some great movies. Unfortunately, the series' track record at the box office is actually kind of spotty. For every great Star Trek film, there's at least one awful one. The worst of the worst, according to a lot of fans, is Star Trek: Insurrection (1998). After the Next Generation crew proved that they could hold their own at cinemas with First Contact (1996), it was incredibly disappointing to see the quality drop so far. The story features the crew of the Enterprise defending the peaceful Ba'ku from the Son'a. The villains want to steal the Ba'ku's home so they can take advantage of the planet's age reversing radiation.
The plot is silly, which unfortunately isn't the film's biggest problem. Insurrection is clearly trying to be more lighthearted than the previous film, but the results are cheesy and kind of annoying. The film has way too many cringeworthy attempts at humor. Still, it's Star Trek, so it's not completely terrible. In fact, for the film's 20th birthday, here are 20 things that were actually good in the movie. OK, some of these are kind of a stretch, but it is a pretty awful movie. It does deserve some credit, however, and even if these don't save the film, it's still worth pointing out.
The Star Trek TV shows have some of the best villains in all of pop culture. The Klingons and Romulans from the original series, the Borg from The Next Generation and the Dominion from Deep Space Nine all terrorized the Federation. The movies, on the other hand, tended to just recycle species from the TV shows.
This isn't necessarily a huge flaw, and it's always fun to see Kirk fight the Klingons. It's just that it's nice to see a new species or threat every once in a while. The Son'a might not go down as the most memorable threat to the Enterprise, but at least the filmmakers tried something different.
Speaking of the villains, the Son'a are actually an interesting concept. Essentially, they used to be a part of the peaceful Ba'ku, but were exiled after attempting to seize control. Unfortunately, after leaving their home planet, the Son'a stopped benefitting from the rejuvenating radiation. They started to age, and turned to technology to prolong their lifespan.
The result is an eerie "living mummy" look for Son'a. While Star Trek has definitely involved crazier looking aliens, the Son'a are definitely some of the creepiest. They're the best type of alien, because they're a reflection of humanity's own obsession with maintaining a youthful appearance through plastic surgery, even when the results are less than desirable.
The Star Trek film series has featured some truly great performances from their villains. Everyone recognizes Ricardo Montalban's amazing performance as Khan, but he's not alone. Christopher Lloyd played an obsessed Klingon commander in The Search for Spock (1984), Christopher Plummer made Shakespeare sound threatening in The Undiscovered Country (1991) and Alice Krige was chilling as the Borg Queen in First Contact.
Also, F. Murray Abraham's performance in Insurrection is often overlooked by fans. Sure, the writing may not be the best, but the actor still delivers a solid performance as the Son'a leader, Ahdar Ru'afo. Not every actor can go face to face with Patrick Stewart, but Abraham pulls it off.
So, this may come as a surprise, but Insurrection is actually the first Star Trek movie not to feature any scenes on Earth. In the TV shows, the crews of the different Enterprises barely ever came back to Earth. Their job was to explore the galaxy, and they spent most of their time on strange and exotic alien planets.
Once the franchise went to the movies, however, the crew was constantly hanging around Earth. It's cool to see the futuristic San Francisco every once in awhile, but Star Trek is supposed to be a galactic story. For all of its faults, Insurrection at least keeps the action away from humanity's home planet.
It's always been clear that Data can do some real damage when he needs to. As an android, he's stronger than a Klingon, and is faster and smarter than almost every opponent. The Next Generation wasn't really an action show, however, so viewers only got glimpses of his abilities. Data was given some brief action in First Contact, but he spent most of that movie strapped to a table.
Insurrection meanwhile, starts off with Data finally letting loose and kicking butt. After he discovers the Son'a's true plans, he malfunctions and decides he needs to save the Ba'ku from the Federation. This results in Data taking on a cloaked squad of Federation officers, and it's definitely worth the wait.
The Next Generation never really had a "will they/won't they" dynamic between Troi and Riker. They had a relationship before the events of the show, but it ended. The two were close friends, but there were always small moments that hinted at something deeper.
Troi had a brief relationship with Worf, but that ended when he transferred to Deep Space Nine. Troi and Riker's relationship was left somewhat vague. While it wasn't essential to the series, it was nice to at least see something happen between the two of them after so many years. Although, it was kind of silly for it to be inspired by "youth regenerating" radiation.
For the crew of The Next Generation, it always seemed like they struggled to escape the shadow of the original crew. In Generations (1994), not only did the two crews meet, but it copied a space fight between the Enterprise and a Klingon bird of prey from The Undiscovered Country. First Contact is great, but it uses time travel, a common trope in the series.
Say what you will about Insurrection, but at least it tried to do something completely brand new. It wasn't just a bigger, more expensive version of something that fans had already seen.
Worf was a fan favorite character, so it wasn't surprising when the character became a mainstay on Deep Space Nine. He moved to station to help advise Captain Benjamin Sisko on how to deal with a Klingon fleet that had amassed near the station. He stayed on, and eventually married Jadzia Dax.
While the show is popular among fans, it was also fairly dark for Star Trek. While Worf's appearance in Insurrection is a bit forced, it is nice to see him doing some lighter material again. Despite his gruff exterior, Worf was always one the show's funnier characters.
One of the silliest scenes in any Star Trek movie has to be when Picard encounters a malfunctioning Data and fixes him by singing opera at him. It's a shame, because up until this point, Data's behavior is actually frightening. He takes down a team of Starfleet officers, and appears ready to blow Picard out of the sky.
What makes this interesting is Data's relationship with the villagers. He's only behaving the way he is because he's trying to protect them. Even after he's "repaired," Data remains close with the villagers, and seems to build some genuine relationships.
It might seem silly, or even crazy, but it was nice to see Riker shave his beard. Riker didn't debut his famous beard until the show's second season. Since that point, it was a constant presence on the show and in the movies. Even as the uniforms changed, Riker kept his beard. Even Geordi LaForge traded in his visor for bionic eyes before Riker decided to shave.
There's nothing wrong with the beard, but it gave the film a nostalgic look. It felt like a nice call back to the inaugural season of the show. Once again, this isn't a major thing, and it's not enough to save the film, but it's still fun to see Jonathan Frakes fresh faced.
What made The Next Generation great is that it wasn't a simple show. The characters were put in situations that didn't always have easy or straightforward solutions. They're morals and beliefs were constantly being tested. Picard had to constantly remind the crew about what Starfleet was supposed to stand for, and that doing the right thing isn't always easy.
The movies, on the other hand, usually had fairly straightforward problems. Obviously, the Borg can't be allowed to assimilate Earth in the past. The plot of Insurrection is centered around whether the Son'a should be allowed to harvest a life saving radiation at the cost of destroying the Ba'ku's home.
Captain Kirk was a traditional leading man, in the sense that women were constantly falling in love with him. In The Next Generation, however, things had progressed and Picard wasn't constantly making out with aliens. It was a nice change, and it made the show feel less like a soap opera in space.
That being said, fans grew attached to Picard and wanted to see him happy. The movies weren't bringing him and Dr. Crusher any closer together, so it was starting to look like he'd be alone forever. While it seems a bit silly, it was nice to see Picard actually connect with someone on a romantic level again.
Once again, the films really seemed to simplify the Star Trek story. For the most part, they're based around a threat surfacing against Earth or the crew, and then everyone reacting. Starfleet was basically always on the defensive in the films. In the TV shows, things were different. Starfleet was exploring the galaxy, brokering peace and helping out planets in need.
Basically, the Enterprise was active. Insurrection may have its issues, but at least it shows Starfleet out there doing what it's supposed to do. Sure, they may have been tricked, but Picard uncovers that tricks and protects an alien species. That's his job, and he does it well.
On the show, there was a clear dynamic on the Enterprise. Picard was the captain, and he was in charge of ship. Riker led the away teams, and therefore, was the one who was often placed in danger. While this setup made sense (no ship is going to risk losing their captain on an away mission), it often left Picard standing on the bridge looking concerned.
The movies made him more active, and it was a lot of fun to see Patrick Stewart allowed to do some action. First Contact really upped the ante, and for all of its faults, Insurrection followed that trend.
Since he was always leading away missions, Riker rarely led the Enterprise into battle. During space fights, his role was usually to assist Picard. Riker finally got his chance to lead the Enterprise into battle in Generations, and things did not go well. In fact, the fight went so poorly it ended with the Enterprise destroyed and the saucer crashing onto a planet.
Basically, it wasn't a good look for Riker. He gets a second chance in Insurrection, and things go much better. In fact, he develops the "Riker maneuver," which involves him taking control of the Enterprise-E with a joystick. OK, it's silly, but at least he didn't crash into a planet this time.
One thing the Star Trek movies deserve credit for is their scope. Even the worst movies still feel like movies, as opposed to just long episodes of their respective show. The stakes are raised, the stories are bigger and the characters are given more to do.
That being said, The Next Generation is a great show. It's Star Trek at its finest. So, saying that Insurrection feels like "just a long episode" isn't really a problem. If this story had been told on the small screen first, fans would have been more accepting. Now that audiences can watch it at home, it's easier to see the enjoyment through the diminished scope.
Part of what makes Star Trek fun is all the different space ship designs. Obviously, the various Enterprises are all iconic, but there's also the aliens. The various Klingon birds of prey are all intimidating, and the Romulan warbirds are perfectly named. Even something like the Borg cube still has an inherent creepiness to it.
The villains of this movie, the Son'a, have a pretty cool looking ship as well. Their harvester has two giant sails that unfurl, and through vague future-science, collect the planet's radiation. It might not make the most sense, but it's visually striking. That's always more important than making sure the physics of the spaceship make sense.
While the movie is full of cheesy dialogue and awkward attempts at humor, it still pulls it together for the finale. The Enterprise has to pull away from the planet to call for back up, and caught in a space fight with several Son'a ships. Meanwhile, Picard and Data have to figure out a way to permanently disable the harvester.
The crew is outmanned and outgunned, and they're separated from their captain. Picard ends up trapped on the harvester with the villains, and has to find a way to destroy it, or he'll be killed along with the inhabitants of the planet. If only the rest of the movie was as good as the finale.
OK, so the effects in Insurrection aren't anything amazing. Still, it is the first Star Trek film to rely solely on CGI. Sure, for many fans, this isn't necessarily a good thing. For general audiences, however, it helped move the franchise into the modern age.
For the time period, the effects aren't terrible. Also, being the first time the series relied solely on CGI, there'd obviously be some issues. Luckily, later movies improved the effects, so this one can be seen as a bit of trial run. At the very least, it showed later filmmakers what to avoid.
Fans love Picard because he holds himself to the highest standards he can. He believes in always doing the right thing, even when it'd be easier to sit back and do nothing. Insurrection, for all of its faults, at least gets this right about Picard.
The Son'a's plan isn't to kill the Ba'ku, just to secretly move them and then steal the planet's radiation. Obviously, it's not OK to secretly remove people from their home. Picard isn't personally invested in this story, however, and he could just leave once Data is recovered. Instead, he risks his career and life to do the right thing, because that's just what he does.