`Insurrection': Placid Planet, Inert Enterprise

By Arnold, Gary | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 11, 1998 | Go to article overview

`Insurrection': Placid Planet, Inert Enterprise


Arnold, Gary, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


"Star Trek: Insurrection," the latest installment in the venerable science-fiction series, doesn't take long to persuade you that the previous feature, "Star Trek: First Contact," was a hard act to follow.

"Insurrection" is No. 9 in the descent of "Star Trek" features. The even-numbered episodes are considered superior, perhaps because the initial feature, released in the winter of 1979-80, misfired ponderously. It set up a back-and-forth pattern, which participants no doubt would consider an unjust comparison: The evens work hard to recoup, the odds tend to rest on laurels and goof off.

Director Jonathan Frakes - again doing double duty while re-creating his role as Cmdr. William Riker, second-in-command on the Starship Enterprise - tries in vain to tantalize us with the principal location, a distant, balmy planet called Ba'ku.

This planet appears to be such a snoozy, thinly populated cross of old Williamsburg with New Age Shangri-La that the prospect of anything urgent or dynamic being sustained remains dodgy at best.

Nothing of exceptional melodramatic novelty or consequence gets untracked under Ba'kusian skies, allegedly warmed by rings of "metaphasic radiation" that permit extended life spans.

There aren't many Ba'kusians - a remnant of 600, according to one Federation head count - but they can survive for centuries. The superbly sinister menaces of "First Contact," the bionic predators known as the Borg, would make an amusing quick snack of the poky, peaceable Ba'kusians, who seem to be courting extinction anyway.

Patrick Stewart's Capt. Jean-Luc Picard even becomes smitten with a wise woman of 309, a pensive pill called Anij, played by the rather unlucky Donna Murphy.

The plot is activated by an apparent malfunction by Brent Spiner's Lt. Cmdr. Data: He seems to go berserk while exposing the presence of a hidden surveillance team on Ba'ku.

His system has, in fact, responded to veiled treachery. The Ba'ku habitat is coveted by an aggressive zombie population called Son'a, bossed by F. Murray Abraham as a desiccated despot named Ru'afo. (Why not "Star Trek: Desiccation" in his honor?)

A Starfleet admiral, played by Anthony Zerbe, is abetting the Son'a scheme to infiltrate the planet and exile the harmlessly stodgy Ba'kusians (presumably to more Siberian climes, where their vegetable-growing culture would be put to the test but their rug weavers would be a godsend). …

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