Apr 16 2013 3:00pm

Maybe Star Trek Isn’t Supposed to Be Cool? On Star Trek: Insurrection

Star Trek: Insurrection

If I were to re-title the third Next Generation film—Star Trek: Insurrection—I’d call it Insurrection: The Search For Star Trek. And that’s because this movie is the embodiment of Trek’s ongoing identity crisis. Is this Star Trek thing all about thoughtful ethical dilemmas in a science fiction setting? Or does there need to be a bunch of shooting and explosions to get everyone else to care? In the case of Insurrection, Star Trek tried to split the difference, but this time with a little bit more philosophy, and a little bit less killing.

In almost every way that matters, I unabashedly love Star Trek: Insurrection. Instead of space murders, revenge, and a bevy of bad guys, this movie mostly concerns people sitting around and talking about the ethics of messing with other cultures, the attainability of near immortality, and the dangers of technology moving our lives so quickly that it destroys aspects that really matter. Insurrection is a sci-fi pondering of the slow food movement, an attack on plastic surgery, and a good old-fashioned “live and let live” message which permeates the optimism of both the classic series and The Next Generation.

And yet, this movie won’t work for a viewer without that person already being into this weird touchy-feely Star Trek crap. Indeed, if you’re not down with the humanist themes of what fans like me would call “real Star Trek,” you’ll hate this movie. And the opening scenes won’t help a non-believer one bit. Am I really going to watch a movie about a bunch of outer space Amish people getting screwed with by Star Trek people? Is this really what this movie is about? Yes, poor Trek lay person, this is what this movie is about. Because it’s basically just a mashup of two previous episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

In “Who Watches the Watchers,” we’re presented with a situation where future anthropologists study primitive cultures from inside a fake mountain with a cloaking device. In that episode, accidental exposure to the Federation team ends up causing the culture to believe that Captain Picard is a god. In another episode called “Homeward,” Worf and his wayward brother figure out a way of transporting a bunch of similarly less-advanced homesteaders from one planet to another similar planet by using the holodeck to make them think they were always in the same place. Both of these premises collide in Insurrection with a little bit higher stakes.

This time, corrupt aspects of the Federation/Starfleet are observing a primitive culture called the Ba’ku who live on a special planet with conditions that allow the residents to essentially live forever. The Federation/Starfleet has teamed up with some bad guys called the Sona, who are trying to steal away the people so they can harness the material that allows for immortality. When the scheme to relocate the Ba’ku using holograms is deduced by Data, he goes crazy and tries to stop the bad guys from messing with the nice village filled with the 600 peace-loving immortal people.

Having Data revert to his almost Asimov-like robot code of ethics is a great touch, and a nice way to open up a Star Trek story. The idea that Data has gone on a crazy rampage turns the notion of robots-running-amok on its head by having Data be the guy with the moral high ground. This is just one small example of what makes Star Trek “real Star Trek.” Robots only run amok when they’re trying to fulfill their Isaac Asimov humanist programming. Data is a great character in the annals of science fiction not because of his foibles, but because he’s basically a better person than any of us and attempting to imitate us is how he became that way.

But Data can’t carry a Star Trek story alone, which is why TNG has Captain Picard, a character who is awesome at giving speeches about why future humans do things the right way and how he will never be down with turning a blind eye to random immoral shit just because it’s convenient for some space politicians. Here, he gets one of his best (and one of my favorites) when he lectures his superior—Admiral Dougherty—on the relative morality relating to the forced relocation of the planet’s population. “How many people does it take before it becomes wrong?” Picard chastises with the Patrick Stewart I’m-a-good-person-and-you’re-not bravado that truly defined his version of Star Trek.

Star Trek: Insurrection

Also, its notable here that the bad guys are initially plotting to relocate 600 people, not kill them. When Picard and company decide to go rogue and defend the planet’s population, they’re mostly shooting at remote-control robots which are designed to capture the Ba’ku, not murder them. In fact, other than Riker blowing up some of the Sona spaceships, and Picard letting Ru’afo die horribly in a fire, there are very few deaths in Star Trek: Insurrection, making the conflicts in the movie about its themes and subject matter, and not about a body count.

And yet, because this was the follow up to First Contact, the film tries to recreate some of the action scenes of that film in a way that comes across as well, un-cool. In short, the kind of violent shoot-em’-up stuff that worked in First Contact was an isolated incident. Star Trek temporarily Hulked-out in that movie, and here, reverted to its regular “phasers-on-stun” mode. Star Trek is usually out to get you talking and thinking, not put you on the edge of your seat. When it’s managed to do that in the past, it’s honestly a weird day for Star Trek. As a film and as a long-form episode of the TV show, Insurrection is actually more representative of what Star Trek is like most of the time, pimples and all.

Full of awkwardness seemingly designed to scare “normal” moviegoers, Star Trek: Insurrection represents a time when Star Trek seemed halfway unconcerned with what everyone thought of it. Picard, Data and Worf sing a selection from H.M.S Pinafore (Raider of the Lost Ark reference?) and later Picard dances around to Latin music in his quarters. And let’s not get into how totally corny the slowing-down-time-let’s-look-at-the-hummingbird stuff is. How is this in the same movie as Picard shooting at a guy on a raised platform while attempting to stop a James Bond-style super weapon?

With perhaps the exception of The Motion Picture, and aspects of The Final Frontier, Insurrection is the most representative of what an episode of TV Star Trek would be like if translated to the big screen. But because of its confused attempt to also be an action movie at times, it comes across a bit messy. However, if you truly love Star Trek, some of that messiness is sort of sweet. The “action” in Insurrection feels like Star Trek got a little drunk and tried to dance to a cool song, with cringe-worthy Napoleon Dynamite results.

I seriously doubt a hardcore Star Trek fan would ever claim Insurrection as the Trek movie they hate the most, and that’s because despite it being weirdly slow, awkward, and kind of low-stakes, there’s very little that is offensive about this movie. This time out, Star Trek showed its true colors: it’s an awkward and often-preachy mode of storytelling with an occasionally less-than-confident voice.

But maybe that’s okay. Because love is all about liking something because of it’s flaws. And in most ways, Insurrection is one big mess that makes me think awwww that’s the Star Trek I know and love. Because it’s not cool. It’s not focused. And some of it doesn’t make sense.

But that’s why we love it, right?

Ryan Britt is a staff writer for Tor.com.

1. sypher
I loved this movie. It's not the best, but it's having fun without trying to hard, which I appreciate. There are so many funny moments. It's in bright warmth. Almost the polar opposite of First Contect. Good stuff. Great points.
Aaron Moss
2. bruceiv
I always think of this one as "canon fanfic" - I mean, seriously, inflatable Data? (and the musical number while plummeting through the atmosphere)
Jeff Wight
3. jdubb
This movie is always part of a weird paradox for me. It's one of my favorites for sure, but I think that's partially because it always seems to be the one that I haven't watched in the longest time. I love it every time I watch it, and then for some reason never choose to watch it when I pick up a ST movie. Weird!
Mordicai Knode
4. mordicai
Insurrection suffers the same problem as Generations, ultimately, for me: it just seems like an episode that runs too long.
5. Another Sarah
Is this the Star Trek movie where the opening credits go on FOREVER??

I do love this movie, and find so many of its akward moments endearing as a long-time TNG fan.
Rob Rater
6. Quasarmodo
I've never understood why nobody seems to like this movie. Granted, the last time I watched it, I thought the jokes with Data went a little overboard. This one guy I know complained about the joystick Riker used to pilot the Enterprise. After watching it again, I informed him the joystick was only on screen for about 8 seconds. (Still, I do have to agree it is a little dumb!)
7. MS
Nope, sorry Ryan, couldn't disagree more. Insurrection is atrocious from stem to stern. The singing. The dancing. The ancient colony of 600 people that looks like it was constructed a week ago. Riker controlling a spaceship the size of a city with a joystick. The hidden holodeck spaceship that makes no sense whatsoever (why is it underwater in the first place?). The utterly awful action sequences...

And as for the ethnical dilemma, wasn't Picard all for moving colonists for the sake of the greater good back in Journeys End? Maybe if he actually made a coherent argument for why the home world of the Ba'ku is more important than the fate of EVERYONE ELSE IN THE GALAXY (needs of the many, anyone?), then we'd actually have a thoughtful ethnical dilemma reminiscent of the best of the series. But he doesn't. It's just assumed that the audience will automatically agree with him because he's Picard, and we're left to assume that his rebellion is simply because Anji the space Milf will help him get beyond warp 10.

This was the first Trek movie I took my future wife to; it look 15 years and a lot of apologising before I convinced her to watch the series proper. I'm looking forward to introducing her to S3 via the Blu-rays in a couple of weeks.
8. Hammerlock
Data didn't just "go crazy"--he was shot by the guys guarding the holoship, which threw off his higher mental functions.

I kinda liked Insurrection...except sometimes the cheese crossed the line from sharp cheddar to processed whiz: floatation device, joystick, perky boobs, etc. That said, it was a lighthearted romp, except when things are exploding.

"The Schizoid Episode" might be a better title.
Jeremy Clegg
10. Cleggster
I have to admit....I loved this one. When I left the theater, there was a big smile on my face. One of my frinds raised his arms saying "the curse is broken". Later viewings showed the glaring flaws. The Sona were a pathetic foe. Nothing threataning about them at all. Damn shame since F. Murry Abraham can do no wrong in my eyes. Some of the preachier stuff got on my nerves. And the action REALLY didn't work in this one. It was like they were shooting in slow motion while rolling between rocks for no reason. (Worf had a cool bit)

But for me, it was the story. Maybe not the finest, but it had meat on it. There was no simple right vs. wrong. The Baku were going to be displaced from their home, but they are not native. The Federation saw a greater good, but what cost is acceptible. And I dug Pikards relationship with the zen woman there.

And the cast clearly were enjoying themselves. Data had some comedy gold to work with. (You seriously didn't get a chuckle at the "flotation device" joke? My theater did.) Everyone gets a cool moment for their character. Even the director, who got a joystick.
Chris Hawks
11. SaltManZ
I agree with pretty much everything Cleggster just said. First Contact was a better Big Dumb Action Movie, but Insurrection is a much better Star Trek Movie.
Alan Courchene
12. Majicou
Quite. The villains in Insurrection are made of straw, and they have to be, because Our Heroes couldn't have knocked down anyone with good motives or arguments.

Starfleet is partnering with a race that's openly allied with the Dominion? In the middle of the Dominion War? Really? The novels posit that Daugherty was working with Section 31, but that's just a band-aid. Then we have the plan itself--insane from the get-go, and they don't even have the excuse of its being thought up on the spur of the moment by an unethical anthroplogist. So, they deem it necessary because they don't think they can reveal the truth to the Space Amish. Once the Space Amish are revealed as ex-spacefarers, though, NOBODY suggests switching gears and maybe asking them if they couldn't maybe see their way to helping billions or trillions of beings be free of disease and death. It's implicit that it's all for the Ba'ku for all time, because they're so pure and holy and Space Amishy, and the baddies are still trying to relocate them forcibly because GRRRR VILLAINS. Even dialogue that would have given the Son'a more than a millimeter of depth to their motives (they're dying because they can't even reproduce anymore) was cut. And in the end, there isn't even the suggestion that maybe others could use the part of the planet NOT occupied by 600 people as a sort of galactic clinic. Nope! Don't want to disrupt the purity of their quaint community by having a bunch of sickies within thousands of kilometers.

And the Space Amish... oy. They come off as utterly smug and selfish. Immortality isn't for those who pollute themselves with devilish high technology, oh no. You can become Space Amish like them or you can fuck off, apparently. How well that squares with the "let's see what's out there" spirit of Starfleet and Star Trek. The Ba'ku are a bunch of Lotus Eaters who don't care if the galaxy goes to hell. And they can make hummingbirds look slow, I guess, which ability fails to withstand more than a millisecond of scrutiny.

Speaking of time manipulation, Data apparently came forward from the early part of the TV series for this movie. I can understand hating how the emotion chip was handled in the previous two films, but Piller was Armed with Canon and he was going to sweep it under the rug by hook or by crook. Thanks to that, we get Data paired with a charmless, annoying kid and his eminently marketable fuzzy pet. Data's low point probably comes when he mindlessly parrots Deanna's and Beverly's dialogue about boobs (which itself is definitely a local minimum in the script.) The Data who couldn't grasp idioms should have been 11 years gone, and here he doesn't even appear to know WHAT WORDS MEAN.

On top of that, the movie is at war with itself. It wants to be like a TNG episode, but here comes Picard the Action Hero in the end. Remind me why they couldn't beam Ru'afo into custody and then destroy the collector ship. Even guys like Kruge and Nero got an offer of help, though their attitude problems put the kibosh on that option.

Insurrection is a Frankenstein's monster stitched out of substandard parts--the would-be comedy, the ethical dilemma, and the ass-kicking action film. It's not impossible to combine those things in principle, but the execution shoots itself in the face with a phaser set to maximum.

Oh, and not just a joystick, but a cheap, off-the-shelf PC joystick. Yeesh.
13. Lsana
I don't think anyone will claim this as their least favorite Star Trek movie, but that's only because Star Trek V exists. I'd put it as a very close second, though.

Insurrection does remind me very much of an episode of Next Gen--one of those preachy, obnoxious episodes that pats itself on the back for "exploring the ethical issues" when in reality, it doesn't explore anything but just has Picard tell the audience how they should feel. As MS@7 pointed out, there is never really any debate about whether or not it's worth it to forcibly remove 600 people from their home if you could save billions of lives by doing so: Picard and co. think it's wrong, so obviously it is. Everything is presented for us in clear steps so that we don't miss anything. Baku = saints, world without technology = paradise, Sona = evil, Star Fleet = criminally stupid. The very last thing this movie wants you to do is stop to think about anything.

There were elements with possibilities. I kind of liked the idea of a "primitive" society that wasn't really: it could have been kind of amusing if the Baku saw through the hologram early on and were just humoring the observers the whole time. I was also intrigued by the Baku ability to slow down time--in the movie it just came across as a WTF moment, but if it were developed a bit more, it might have worked in the "exploring the possibilities of existence" thread that Q left them with in "All Good Things..." A conflict between the crew and Star Fleet--or better yet, within the crew--could have had potential.

Overall, though, this movie was terrible. I'd probably choose to watch "Shades of Grey" twice, back to back, before I'd watch it again.
Christopher Bennett
14. ChristopherLBennett
I pretty much agree with Ryan's assessment. This is one of the few Trek films that tries to tell the kind of idea-driven story the series did, and I commend the attempt, but it suffers by being forced into the shoot-em-up action-movie mold, with tacked-on battles that just get in the way of the story and with overdone attempts at comedy that often fall flat.

But I also agree with some of Majicou's criticisms. The ending was definitely a problem, a gratuitously violent imposition on a story where it didn't fit (although the original ending, where Ru'afo was de-aged into an infant, would've been much stupider). And I've been complaining for two rewatches now about how the movies following Generations progressively undid Data's character growth in that movie. The emotion chip that was permanently fused to his neural net two movies ago is now easily removable and ignored after a single "He didn't take it with him" reference. It isn't even clear whether the chip was put back in after they recovered Data (though the novels assume it was).

@7: No, Picard was ordered in "Journey's End" to relocate a colony for "the greater good," but after talking with the colonists, he came to realize it was a bad idea and found a different solution. There's a direct and consistent character throughline from there to here.
Rob Rater
15. Quasarmodo

In regards to the "space amish" not willing to share the planet, I don't recall any dialogue from the movie supporting that. But here's some dialogue explaining why sharing the planet was not an option the baddies would consider:

Jean-Luc Picard: Then the Son'a can establish a seperate colony on the planet until we do.
Admiral Matthew Dougherty: It would take ten years of normal exposure to begin to reverse their condition. Some of them won't survive that long. Besides, they don't want to live in the middle of the Briar Patch. Who would?
Mike S2
16. MikeS2

@7. MS. Agree entirely.

"Can anyone remember when we used to be explorers?" is 10/10, but when the best line is about how you've lost your way.... The question being asked is broader than what the crew is doing at that reception.

Speaking of that reception: The dress uniforms? How has anyone not mentioned them yet? Inarguably the worst costumes in the history of Star Trek.
17. RobinM
I refer to this movie as the Joystick one. I hate that joystick flys the ship thing. The curse is not broken. This movie is a mess. The plot makes no sense. The big conflict would have been solved months ago if Starfleet would have talked to the people who live on the planet instead of being sneaky and trying to move them because they have something we want. If Starfleet is going to break its own rules by moving these people for no good reason wouldn't talking to them be more logical. No it's a secret no one is supposed to know about but they send the Enterprise to get it done. I enjoy the funny bits everyone is relaxed and having a good time. It may have gone on to long but I liked the Data learns how to play stuff.
treebee72 _
18. treebee72
I know I have to have seen this movie, but I don't remember it - at all!
Alan Brown
19. AlanBrown
I think I waited until this one appeared on TV to watch it, and after it was over, I decided that was a good call. It was two hours of enjoyable TV, but I would have felt cheated to have paid to see it in the theater.
Dante Hopkins
20. DanteHopkins
I loved Star Trek: Insurrection. For me its second after Star Trek: First Contact, and a great follow-up. As stated its goofy Star Trek fun with a serious and thought-provoking story. And thought-provoking stories has always been the draw to Star Trek to me. The Ba'ku relocation and its horrible implications makes me stop and think every time I watch. That alone is enough to forgive any "flaws" in the film, which I really found none. The movie was funny and fun, and Geordi finally seeing that sunrise was a moving scene. Loved loved Picard, Data, and Worf singing. Just fun stuff. Again rare moments of lightness among the TNG crew, which were still rare even in the TNG movies. As Ryan has said, its really for us Star Trek geeks, which is probably why I love it.
Christopher Bennett
21. ChristopherLBennett
@20: I agree about the "horrible implications." Sure, it's only a small population, and sure, the plan isn't to kill them -- but that's the whole point of the film, that if you can justify violating people's rights because it's "only" a small violation, that opens the door to doing worse -- or else a lot of small atrocities add up to an enduring pattern of subjugation, as has so often been the case in history.
Mike Kelmachter
22. MikeKelm
Just going to throw this out here, but a control stick would be a far better and more intuitive way of controlling a Starship when operating in combat situations. While most of the time I imagine the Enterprise sort of navigates on autopilot- and I mean this in the modern autopilot sense, not as in automatic control- which means the helmsman would tell the ship to go to such and such galactic coordinates (x,y,z) and at such and such a velocity and let the ship do the steering. However in a combat situation where you are "flying" the ship having some other form of control besides "hit button fire thrusters" would make sense. That being said, the whole thing just looked stupid in the movie since it comes up in the middle of the room for no apparent reason and looks like something I used to use to fly Falcon 3.0 back in the 90's.

I'm with a lot of other people- the writers weren't sure if this was a Next Generation TV Show or Movie- the difference between ideals and discussion and smarts versus action/adventure/shoot em up. IMO, for a movie to be successful, you need a clear cut bad guy, and the key to a bad guy is he has to feel justified in his actions for being bad. The Borg are bad because they want to achieve their idea of perfection, the Romulans are bad because they want to control everything like chessmasters and feel superior to all other race, etc. The Sona'a don't seem to have a really good reason for being bad. We are told that they h ate the Baku and want to bottle up the fountain of youth so they look good, but it just doesn't come across as a good justification. So we essentially end up with the latest "crazy starfleet admiral" who creates tension by being a jerkwad to Picard. In the TV series that works, but for 103 minutes of investment, take an extra 15 to include a scene or two that explains what makes the Sona so a)pissed off and b) why Doughtery is catering to them. If we find out they have really, really awesomely powerful ships and we need them against the Dominion, or they have some vital resource, or know of the best weed in the Gamma Quadrant or whatever... but we don't get that- we get Sonaa bad, Doughtery Jerkwad, Picard good.

There are a lot of individual scenes that hit or miss. Data acting like a complete juvenille makes no sense- the overhearing of Crusher/Troi talking about their boobs and him about to ask Worf the same thing- the later season Data/Generations Data would get that this is not a thing to ask Worf because they're both guys- instead he comes across as a 8 year old. The Data as a life raft is a stupid line, because we learned in Descent that he doesn't float and it took weeks for him to get the water out of his servos. I get that Data is supposed to be our fun character, but he just comes across as lame.

The opposite of that though is the scene where LaForge and Picard watch the sunrise. What LaForge says closely mirrors what he wished for (with Yar) back in the Naked Now of Season 1- to see with his own eyes. He and Picard standing there on the hillside is a relatively unimportant one as far as the movie goes, but it shows the realization of a dream for Geordi and the relationship beyond Commander/crew of the characters. Could the movie have done without this scene- yes, but it is stronger for having it.

The romance between Picard and Anij is sweet, as is the message to enjoy the perfect moments of life. For Picard it is an important character development that actually continues from All Good Things and Generations of allowing him to seek out emotional attachments and a possible future beyond just being a starship captain.

Oh, and in a continuing theme, the most powerful starship in the Federation gets its butt kicked by the random cruiser of the week. You'd think that any ship named Enterprise would occaisionally win a fight...

I can't say that I didn't like the movie, but I can't say that I loved it either. It just seemed to be trying to do to much and not quite pulling it off.
23. Charles B.
I love Star Trek and this movie. It is not the best of the Star Trek movies but it is enjoyable and truthfully all the movies are subpar compared with the serieses.

Also your choice of title is very insulting to those of us who consider ourselves Nerds and Star Trek fans and I am not sure if your review overcomes that initial violent reaction I had to your title.
24. James Parr
This is a tricky one. It's not really a good movie. There are far too many dumb things about it like the cheap village and the subpar CGI and the joystick. Plus there are story problems all over the place. But it does try to be Star Trek on the big screen. It really is the closest to the TNG philosophy as a movie. Only this film proves why Trek doesn't work as cinema. Stuff like the reboot may be slickly produced, but this movie is more "Star Trek" than most of them.
25. Michael E. Rubin
THE GOOD: I still tear up during the scene on the bridge where LaForge and Picard watch the sunset. It's beautiful, thanks in large part to a sweet musical score by Mr. Goldsmith and understated acting by Misters Stewart and Burton.

THE BAD: Admiral Dougherty's death scene. It was needlessly gruesome and utterly horrifying. After seeing it in the theater, I have never been able to watch that scene again. It feels gratuitous and not very Star Trek.
Christopher Bennett
26. ChristopherLBennett
@22: The "vital resource" was the fountain-of-youth rings. The Son'a knew they were there and came to Dougherty, offering to work with him to obtain their rejuvenating power, and he took the bait.

Also, while references to the Dominion War were kept implicit so as not to confuse non-DS9 viewers, this movie takes place at a point where the war was going fairly badly for the Federation and they desperately needed all the allies they could get (which is why they streamlined the admissions process to get the Evora in as seen at the beginning). Obtaining the rejuvenating power of the rings would, in Dougherty's thinking, have helped treat war injuries and shore up Starfleet's strength, and maybe provided leverage for winning more allies.
27. Alright Then
Insurrection is an okay enough Trek movie, I guess, but I can't help but think what a missed opportunity it was.

As DS9 was in the thick of the epic war against the Dominion, for some odd reason the producers decided a smaller story about a family feud of people from Connecticut versus Lord Stretchy Face and his mod squad was a better idea. And though it was a gutsy decision, I admit, and even admire to a point, I still would've preferred something involving the Founders and Jem Hadar. They were simply the more interesting aliens.
28. Gilbetron
Insurrection is one of my favourites, and I hate that it is so frequently maligned by fans. The stakes are always enormous in the movies, but I liked here that the story was about something small and philosophically important. Ryan Britt really gets it right.

Over and over, I hear the complaint that this just felt like an oversized episode from the TV series. Frankly, I think that can be viewed as a compliment. When I want to watch one of the TNG movies, this is usually the first one I go to because it feels most like the show -- and I *love* the show.

So yes, there are plot holes (every movie has plot holes, and if you don't believe me look up the Red Letter Media reviews). Yes, some things don't work. Yes, the comedy is sometimes too broad (the closing line about Data making time to play every day makes me cringe every time), and yes, the action doesn't always ring true. But it's really fun, and it SAYS something. And to me, as a longtime Star Trek fan, I think saying something is more important than big action, big stakes, and big budget.

It's interesting to note that this was the only film written by Michael Piller, the same guy who came into the writer's room at the beginning of Season 3 and forced all the writers to get to the bottom of what each and every Trek story was about before the writing started. You have a pitch about a giant space anomaly that eats starships for breakfast? Great, but what's the story about? Michael Piller was all about character and substance, and this is the TNG movie that most speaks to character and substance.

Yup, I'll take Insurrection any day over the others.
29. Ashcom
As others have said this felt like a TV episode that was stretched out too long. And it would have made an OK TV episode. Not a great one, but an OK one. The problem is, they've done plenty of similar episodes before, and that's fine on a TV series, but when it's a movie, when you know it's going to be at least a couple of years before the next one, I personally was wanting something a bit special, not just an OK TV episode.

Two things bug me about this film though that haven't been brought up so far. Firstly, presumably the Son'a already knew that the Bak'u had once been a technologically advanced race, seeing as they were the same race, and presumably they would have told Admiral Dougherty so it was no surprise to him. But did nobody on the Enterprise crew express even the slightest surprise that a relatively advanced pre-industrial society could have evolved on a planet and produced a population of just 600?

The other thing, I will admit is just nitpicking, but it bugs me. The Bak'u have been on this planet 300 years and had no contact with the outside universe. Therefore they have almost certainly never been in contact with humans before. And yet we see Anij mock/joke with Jean-Luc by saying his name with a highly pronounced French accent. How did she have any clue what that would sound like?

The movie had it's good points as well though, and considering what's to come next, I don't think it pays to complain about this one too much!
30. Erik Dercf
When actor's on a TV series upgrade to a movie screen this movie makes me wish they could have downgraded to a miniseries. The miniseries is something I've mentioned before and I really wish the powers that be would develop more miniseries before committing to a series. This movies was a good try at more thought less action but I was disappointed by it as a movie because it did feel like a two part episode. Two part episodes belong on a TV and not on a movie screen. Cheers all.
31. Theo16
I always felt the movie was seriously hurt by the lackluster idea of "paradise" put forward by the film. It's paradise as imagined by an executive living in L.A. No traffic, mo pollution, plenty of handsome actors with eternal youth. What happened to imagination?
32. Colin R
The premises are frankly pretty lazy and wrongheaded, and I think even some of the actors involved thought it was dumb. I mean if you come right down to it, is it right to preserve the extremely comfortable lifestyle of 600 people when this planet could be saving millions or billions of lives or whatever? Does it matter that Rua'fo is a slimeball?

I get what they were going for, but this is a half-baked plot. It resembles an episode of Star Trek yeah, but not a GOOD episode.
Christopher Bennett
33. ChristopherLBennett
@32: But there's the crux of the slippery-slope argument. If you can justify violating the rights of 600 for the sake of a larger number of people, what's to stop you from doing the same for any minority group of any size -- even a whole race, like the Jews or the Roma or the Native Americans? How many historical injustices have been inflicted on the basis of "my group is bigger than your group so we win"? As Picard said, how many people do you have to oppress before it becomes wrong?
34. Lsana

Call it the galactic version of eminant domain. The Baku family farm is in the way of the interstellar interstate, and they've got to move. Starfleet is trying to make sure the violation of their rights is as small as possible: they aren't being asked to give up their lives or their culture, just replace on particular piece of land with another.

Is it right to relocate 600 people to save the lives of billions? I don't know; eminant domain is controversial, and it should be. But I do know that the issue is far too murky to dismiss with one sanctimonious Picard speech to a a stawman opponent.
35. TribblesandBits
Though it was no fault of the movie, I kept wanting Sojef to break out the Coyote X. I had the theme to Hardcastle & McCormick stuck in my head for days after.

For the film itself it was pretty middle of the road in my mind...I enjoy it for what it is. The title never really seemed to fit for me though...it never seemed like an Insurrection. More like 'Star Trek: Whistle Blower', 'Star Trek: Crappy Thursday', or 'Stark Trek: Bad Admiral MMCLXXVIII'.
Christopher Bennett
36. ChristopherLBennett
@34: Sorry, the eminent domain analogy doesn't work at all, because it requires that the government in question have domain over the land in the first place. What the term literally means is that the government's domain (rule) over its own territory outweighs its citizens' domain over a privately owned piece of that territory if there is sufficient cause for the government to take control of that piece.

Here, the Ba'ku planet was not part of Federation territory and the Ba'ku themselves were not Federation citizens. So the Federation had no rightful domain, eminent or otherwise, over that territory and no authority over its inhabitants. So they were invading a land that belonged to someone else and forcibly removing its people, something they had no legal or moral right to do. It was an act of conquest, pure and simple.
37. TribblesandBits
@34 It seems to me that there would be harm done to the Ba'Ku by moving them. They aren't being asked to give up their lives, but they would be asked to shorten them. They also weren't being 'asked' anything...they were just going to be moved.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
38. Lisamarie
I have really fond memories of this movie actually. Although to be honest, I remember very little about it aside from the general plot and the part where they are talking about their boobs getting firmer.

But, the reason it holds a special place in my heart is because I remember when it came out - a few days after my 16th birthday. This is before I had ever watched an episode of Star Trek. I remember my Mom watching TNG at home, but I had never really watched it myself. Besides, I was a Star Wars fan and so that's where my geek allegieance lie!

I was very active in Science Olympiad in high school and one of my good friends was a HUGE Star Trek fan. The day the movie came out he came to school in his uniform, haha. He even had a lifesize Picard cutout he dragged around, it was great. Digressing! So, for a birthday present, he and some of my other SO friends took me to see the movie (despite me not being the Trek fan, hahaha, I think they partially wanted to bring me to 'their side'). And I do remember quite enjoying it, despite having only basic exposure to Star Trek, and also having no preconcieved notions as to what Star Trek was 'supposed' to be, aside from a kind of brainy, geeky sci-fi show.
Christopher Bennett
39. ChristopherLBennett
@37: Exactly. Beneath all the other arguments is the fundamental issue of consent. Something that's harmless or benevolent when done with another's consent becomes an assault without it. Visiting becomes trespassing, borrowing becomes theft, sex becomes rape. One can argue the benefit of relocating the Ba'ku all one wants, but as long as it's happening without their consent, it's a crime against humanity (or the equivalent).
40. tortillarat
You forgot the warp factor rating again!
Rob Rater
41. Quasarmodo
@40: Each reviewer has their own format. Keith uses the warp factor rating in his review, but he only reviewed one of the three TNG movies, and it wasn't this one.
42. LunacyStreet
So in the end, why couldn't the Baku share their planet? Was it a very tiny Little-Prince-class planet or did we only see one village of the entire planet and have it implied that there are billions more people living on it?
43. johnnyl13
@39: "If you can justify violating the rights of 600 for the sake of a larger number of people, what's to stop you from doing the same for any minority group of any size"

Well, I'm okay with progessive taxation. Reframe the Ba'ku as one percenters being protected by military elites. It's not the story the script was selling, but I submit it's not a huge leap.

Sure, the rejoinder is that one's home is different from money, that it has an intrinsic value that doesn't translate. Perhaps ... but to say the principle of "I-got-here-first" property rights always wins over the alleviation of suffering of billions strikes me as doctrinaire. Instead, I'd offer it depends on the "right" we're talking about. In this case, it's land.

Frankly, if the Ba'ku were the good guys they were portrayed to be, they might have voluntarily given up their homes in sacrifice for the greater good. But were they ever asked? I really don't recall if that was addressed in the movie.
Sara H
44. LadyBelaine
The only interesting bit in this movie, for me, was that the Sona, this evidently powerful, star-faring polity has several constituent species. I always thought it rather annoying that say, the Romulan
(do the Remans count?) or the Klingon Empires have no other sentient races among their empires - I mean, are all the worlds of the Klingon Empire daughter-colonies? Did they never conquer anyone else and assimilate (sorry) them into their culture? I mean, even the Shi'ar, the tall, disco-themed bird people from Marvel Comics had numerous other sapients in their imperial forces.

Oh, and yes, the dress uniforms are dreadful.
Christopher Bennett
45. ChristopherLBennett
@42: The procedure to harness the rings' healing energies would've been fatal to anyone remaining on the planet. Conversely, just moving back to the planet, as mentioned above, wouldn't have healed the Son'a quickly enough for them to avoid death, nor would it have allowed "bottling the elixir," as it were, as Dougherty wanted. So the only way the Son'a and Dougherty could fulfill their objectives was by either relocating or killing the Ba'ku.

@43: The taxation analogy doesn't work for the same reason the eminent domain analogy doesn't work: because the Ba'ku are not members of the Federation and not subject to the authority of its government. I agree with your position that the US government has the right, if not the obligation, to increase taxes on American billionaires. But would you argue that, say, the Chinese goverment had the right to impose taxes on American billionaires, or vice-versa?

Again, it's about consent. A democratic government rules with the consent of the governed. We aren't consulted about every decision, but we elect representatives that we entrust with the responsibility to make decisions on our behalf, even if that sometimes places some limits on individual liberties for the sake of the community as a whole. But if an entirely different government barges in and starts seizing our land or our property, that's a completely different situation. We're not talking taxation, we're talking invasion.

@44: I share your dismay at the portrayal of single-species "empires" in Trek. One of the reasons I like Nemesis is because it gives the Romulans a subject race at last. As for the Klingons, we have seen a couple of isolated instances of them conquering and ruling other worlds. They briefly did so (or thought they had) with Organia in "Errand of Mercy." In TNG: "The Mind's Eye," we saw that they ruled over the planet Krios Prime. And in ENT: "Judgment," we saw that they had annexed a colony belonging to the Arin'Sen.

The novels have gone farther in establishing subject races for the Klingons, particularly in books by Keith DeCandido (and, in an earlier version of the continuity, in John M. Ford's classic The Final Reflection). Some Romulan subject races have been established in the books as well. And there was a comic book that gave the Tholians a subject species of "shock troops" called the Chakuun, though no other tie-ins have followed suit.
Joseph Newton
46. crzydroid
I remember liking this one when it came out. On reviewings, it maybe has lost some of the excitement for me, but so it is true for all the Trek films, and even to some extent the series. But I enjoyed this one and I even recall that a friend of mine came over in college and she wanted to watch this one.

And I have to say again that I like the dress uniforms.

One of the things that's strange about this movie is that the Ba'ku are human. Even on the tv show, the aliens maybe had tiny bumps on their eyebrows or something (except maybe in the original series). Here...human. Maybe it's to make the transformation of the Sona more startling.

Another point to the fact that they can't live on a separate colony on the planet: I think it's an interesting view on the differences between the Sona (and the Federation) and the Ba'ku: The Sona need the cure NOW! 10 years? That's too long! Whereas the Ba'ku are like...we don't need a machine to do the work, let's take hours and hours...and let's actually slow time down even more and just sit here. I think it's an interesting painting of the two viewpoints.

@CLB: While I agree with you that violating the rights of the 600 for the sake of the many is wrong, I actually take it a step further. It's not just wrong because it's a stepping stone to something larger, or because it's part of a larger pattern of wrongdoing. It's wrong in and of itself. Picard's line about the number of the people can be taken that way too. The ends don't justify the means.

I'm sure I had more to say but there are so many discussions going on here that I forgot. I do agree that they seem to be taking Data a couple of steps backwards though. As for the Enterprise getting its but kicked, in this movie the excuse was that the Sona ships were specially fitted for the briar patch while the Enterprise wasn't.
Lee VanDyke
47. Cloric
@16 MikeS2,

Really? You rate these dress uniforms worse than the utilitarian jumpsuits from The Motion Picture?

Christopher Bennett
48. ChristopherLBennett
@46: There have been other alien species in the 24th-century shows that looked entirely human -- particularly in TNG's first season, where we had the Bandi in "Encounter at Farpoint," the Ligonians in "Code of Honor," the Havenites and Tarellians in "Haven," the Edo in "Justice," the natives of "Angel One," the Mordanites in "Too Short a Season," the Aldeans in "When the Bough Breaks," and the salesman in "The Arsenal of Freedom." There were others later, such as in Voyager's "Time and Again" (where the story required them to look human so that Janeway and Paris could pass for native even though they arrived accidentally).

Generally, the larger the group of aliens that appears in an episode or movie, the less elaborate their makeup will be, due to the time and labor involved in applying makeup to large numbers of people. So I always figured the Ba'ku looked so human because there had to be a whole village of them featured in multiple scenes. It was cheaper just to give them basic makeup than to put elaborate prosthetics on them all.

And yes, displacing a sovereign population by force is simply wrong in its own right. I agree with that. The point is that some people argue that it ceases being wrong when the number of people being forced is small enough, or the number who will benefit is large enough, and I'm trying to point out how invalid that argument is, just as Picard did in the movie. It's not about size or numbers. Ten people beating and robbing one person is not more ethical than one person doing it.

And I like the dress uniforms too. But then, I also like the TMP jumpsuits.
49. Eric Saveau
Chiming in awfully late to this discussion, but I want to echo one of the running themes in this thread; for the all the things that are deeply, genuinely, egregiously wrong with the execution of this film, I love the fact that it built a story out of an ethical issue and stood unyieldingly on the moral high ground. And made it clear that being a member of Starfleet mandated exactly that clear and uncompromising decision. Though the execution was arguably an example of Star Trek at its worst the intent was unquestionably Star Trek at its best, and I have to give the film points for that.
50. dirtsheep
I have to say that this is one of my two favorite Star Trek movies, this and First Contact. And I think it's entirely because Frakes directed them. I agree with all the scenes you mention as being embarrassing. Wholeheartedly. But when I watch Star Trek, it's those little tiny details that count...those little touches that ALL of the other directors got wrong, simply because they didn't know (and I suspect didn't particularly like) Star Trek. Frakes knew the Star Trek universe intimately, and so those little glaring details didn't poke out as being wrong. Those things immediately drag me out of the Star Trek universe and remind me that I'm just watching a movie...and in fact not a terribly good movie.
Christopher Bennett
51. ChristopherLBennett
@50: "All of the other directors" didn't know Trek? I think you're forgetting that ST III & IV were directed by Leonard Nimoy, ST V was directed by William Shatner, and Generations was directed by David Carson, who had previously directed four episodes each of TNG and DS9 (including the DS9 pilot). The only Trek movie directors with no prior Trek experience have been Robert Wise, Nicholas Meyer, Stuart Baird, and J.J. Abrams.

And it's a fallacy that not having prior experience with a franchise makes it impossible to handle it well, because it ignores the existence of a thing called research. If you get hired to make a movie or write a book about a subject you don't have prior familiarity with, then you research it and learn what you need to know. So someone who wasn't previously a fan of a series can be intimately familiar with it by the time they begin making the movie. Heck, that's where The Wrath of Khan came from. Neither Harve Bennett nor Meyer was all that familiar with Trek beforehand, but they watched the entire series on videotape early in the development process, looking for ideas they could use in the movie, and when they saw "Space Seed" they decided that Khan would be a cool character to bring back.

And of course, the corollary, that being a fan of the series makes you a better director, is equally nonsensical. I'm sure there are plenty of awful fan films out there, stories that are slavishly faithful to the continuity but made without any talent or creativity.
Rowan Blaze
52. rowanblaze
I don't have much to add to the ethical argument, but I did want to say ST:Insurrection is among my favorite Star Trek movies. I loved the time-slowing, stop-and-smell-the-roses message, and Data's extreme ethicism and the beginning.

My nit, the joystick was silly. Not because of the cheapness of the prop, but because not a single time has one ever been used to pilot any starship onscreen. Even Sulu piloted by button punching, before touchscreens.
Christopher Bennett
53. ChristopherLBennett
@52: Well, in ST:TMP, Sulu did have a lever that he could move forward and back to change the ship's speed. And the NX-01 helm console in Enterprise had a couple of similar levers and an aircraft-style control yoke. The Delta Flyer II in Voyager had tandem joysticks for manual maneuvering, one for each hand, and both DFs had a series of retro-styled levers and knobs off to the side.
54. Edgar Governo
@48: I assume, then, that you felt the Bajoran Provisional Government was morally wrong to displace Mullibok in DS9's "Progress," since it oppressed his group for the benefit of all Bajorans?
Christopher Bennett
55. ChristopherLBennett
@54: I fail to understand why everyone is ignoring the absolutely vital distinction between the question of a state's authority over its own citizens and the question of its authority over non-citizens. The Mullibok analogy doesn't work. The eminent domain analogy doesn't work. The taxation analogy doesn't work. All of those are about a government exerting authority over its own citizens, so they're complete non sequiturs when applied to Insurrection, a story about a government forcibly relocating members of an entirely different sovereign nation. Sure, you can dispute how much power a government should be able to exert over its own people, but that's a separate topic from what's going on here, because the Ba'ku are not Federation citizens.
Kat Werner
56. Sakaea
I loved this movie, and I've seen every Star Trek episode ever made, with the exception of Enterprise w/ Bakula, and all the movies. I found it quite good.
57. Edgar Governo
@55: Everyone "is ignoring the absolutely vital distinction" because your core statement doesn't depend on that distinction. When you say:

The point is that some people argue that it ceases being wrong when the number of people being forced is small enough, or the number who will benefit is large enough, and I'm trying to point out how invalid that argument is, just as Picard did in the movie. It's not about size or numbers. Ten people beating and robbing one person is not more ethical than one person doing it.

...that isn't a statement about "how much power a government should be able to exert," unless you feel the ten-people-beating-one-person analogy only counts when a state's authority is involved.
58. Mane
@55 So, if the Federation had first chosen to invade the planet first, conquer it and turn it into a colony, and then booted the 600 or so people off, it would be okay?

I’ve always said I disliked this movie, and I’ll say so again; I don’t like this movie. Much of the problem is this ethical issue, both in terms of how they chose to depict it, and what sort of ethical dilemma they chose to use as the premise behind the film.

In terms of depicting the ethical dilemma, it feels incredibly artificial—like the classic example of a person standing in front of a railroad switcher. In that particular though experiment, there are two groups of people standing on two separate tracks—one group with (say) twelve people, and one with only a single person. The track is currently set so the larger group is going to be hit by the oncoming train, but you could, conceivably, change the track setting, saving the group of twelve people, but condemning the single person to death.

The problem with how the dilemma is depicted is, in so many ways the script stacks the deck in favour of the Son’a’s position—and that of Star Fleets. They’re not going to kill the 600 people, only relocate them. Not only that, they’re putting serious effort into trying to preserve the Ba’ku’s way of life—and not only that, but the junk they’re going to be harvesting is a miracle drug. A literal miracle drug; keep in mind that Le Forge regenerates his eyes… despite being born blind. On top of this, the 600 people aren’t 600 innocent people—they’re not native, and indeed, they’re fully aware of the effects that the rings are having on their bodies and lifespans. These aren’t some ignorant individuals who’ve evolved on a planet of immortality, and they’ve never realized that everyone else in the universe experiences limited lifespans. Now, if it might have worked as an ethical argument, if, for example, Star Fleet was trying to build a space port, or mine some sort of material that exists elsewhere, or if the benefits weren’t so great and so on.

Ultimately, most people come down to being utilitarians in these sorts of situations; given the choice of killing one person (or relocating 600 people) to save twelve people (or help billions and billions) most people are going to chose to kill the one person. This is because, for the most part, very few people are truly deontologists—at least not modern people. So what happens is that the viewer ends up finding themselves in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with the supposed villains of the plot, rather that with the heroes. In essence, Picard is right by virtue of being the hero of the story, where as the Son’a are wrong by virtue of being designated as ‘villains’; rather than because of the strength of Picard’s ethical argument or the ethical ambiguity of the situation.

I would go so far as to argue that part of the reason the Son’a are allies of the Dominion, or that Ru'afo kills Dougherty in such a absurd and grotesque way was because at some point the writers realized they had made the villains far too sympathic. The allies-of-the-Dominion and such were added in the hope that people would be less likely to agree with them.

The other issue I have with the premise is that historically—although not always—Star Trek has been a rather utilitarian universe in terms of its ethical point of view. In this movie, this is ignored in order to manufacture an ethical dilemma that arguably simply would not exist in the Star Trek universe. An amusing end to the film might have been Riker transmitting the information to the Federation as a whole—and the Federation as a whole agreed with the Son’a and the Ba’ku end up booted off anyway.

Never mind that at no point was the ethical issue actually explored in any meaningful fashion. It’s not as if Riker found himself agreeing with the Son’a, or what have you. It’s just dealt with in an awful, awful fashion. When people describe this movie as feeling like a too-long episode, it’s this stuff that people are referring to. In an hour long episode, it’s fine that everyone generally agrees with the designated good guys, or that Picard delivers a speech with no actual exploration of the issue. But a feature length film ought to invite more discussion and thoughtfulness, not less or the same amount as one would find on TV.

Tl;dr summary; the ethical dilemma was poorly depicted, the script ultimately conflicts with what most people believe ethically, it conflicts with some of the core ethical beliefs driving the Star Trek franchise, and ultimately never really discusses the issue it supposedly explores.

To Christopher, I say this; under utilitarian ethics, displacing those people is the ethical thing to do, the right thing to do. Saying it’s wrong because it’s wrong isn’t really an argument, and you haven’t (as far as I know) presented any ethical reasoning or reference to such that would back up your argument.
Christopher Bennett
59. ChristopherLBennett
@57: Again, I'm not saying you can't question how much power a government can exert over its own people. I'm saying that's a different conversation from one about the events of Insurrection. People keep trying to justify what Dougherty did by claiming it's the same as taxation or eminent domain, and those are completely invalid defenses because of the consent issue I raised above. The citizens of a democratic state consent to be governed by its laws. But they do not consent to the actions of a different government's laws. Since the Ba'ku were not Federation citizens, since they had never consented to join the Federation or be subject to its authority, what Dougherty did to them was fundamentally nonconsensual. It was not taxation. It was not eminent domain. It was invasion, pure and simple.

@58: I fail to understand the question in your first paragraph. I've already said several times that what Dougherty did was wrong because it was an invasion. So of course I would object if Starfleet invaded and conquered the planet -- that's what they actually were doing in the damn movie, and I've already said it was wrong!

I've already stated that the key question here is one of consent. I'm bewildered that this isn't self-evident. The Ba'ku never agreed to join the Federation or be subject to its authority. They never gave their consent. Thus the Federation had no right to do what it did. If the Ba'ku had been approached, if they had been invited to join the Federation, and if they had then agreed to join and be subject to its authority, then the Federation might have the right to relocate them under something akin to eminent domain -- though of course they would have the right to pursue legal measures to resist displacement if they were unwilling to leave. But any act of coercion, anything done to dispossess the Ba'ku of their territorial rights without their consent, is equally wrong whether it happened before or during their physical removal from their homes.

And I find your "utilitarian" argument that the needs of the many justify violating the rights of the one to be hideous in the extreme. The same argument has been used as an excuse for persecuting, oppressing, and slaughtering minority groups throughout history, and is responsible for many of the greatest evils in the world. No group of people, no matter how numerous, has the right to force its will on the unconsenting.

As Picard said in "Justice," "I refuse to let arithmetic decide questions like that!" He has always understood how corrupt it is to argue that the many have more rights than the few. "I'm bigger than you are" is not, can never be, an ethical basis for violating another's rights.
60. Freelancer
It was fun to watch the first time, sort of. After that, there were simply too many cringe-inducing anomalies to ignore. Too much smugness, from every angle.

Mane @58

Utilitarian ethics is just about the most evil thing conceived by the mind of man. It is an open-ended justification for every inhuman treatment of a sovereign individual at the hands of a community.

"Too many babies" ~ Forced abortions and birth restrictions
"Too many old people" ~ Forced euthanasia and withholding of medical care

etc., etc., etc.
Joseph Newton
61. crzydroid
@58: I somewhat agree with your conclusion that the movie didn't explore the dillemma as fully as it could have. However, I find your criticism of Christopher's arguments "as saying something is wrong because it's wrong" to be somewhat self-accusatory. Your argument seems to hinge on the premise that something is morally right because most people think it is morally right. To echo what others have been saying, this kind of thinking is the basis for a destructive moral relativism which has pervaded our society. As a critique of a film, however--postulating that this is likely to make the film accepted by many who have a different moral viewpoint, you perhaps make a point.

Although I don't think you can say that the writers added scenes making the Sona more aggressive because they thought they would be too sympathetic otherwise. First of all, you're assigning motives to people, which can be dubious. Second, it seems highly unlikely. The writers probably had it in their heads that they were the villains from the get-go (I'm speaking in generalities now, to avoid my own criticism of assigning motives) and wrote them as villains with those aggressive things. Besides, the point of the movie was to reveal that the Sona did not, in fact, have benign motives. The "twist" was to set up that they were part of the Ba'ku people, and they were in part after a kind of revenge, or taking back what was theirs by right (even though they lost it as a consquence of their own actions). This twist supports Picard's viewpoint, in that it turns out they actually had sinister motives, so we shouldn't have just blindly relocated this people.

Again, I think a question here has been raised that the Ba'ku could've been asked if they were willing to help the Sona, but this was being done without their consent. The Sona were set up as being impatient, not wanting to wait 10 years somewhere else on the planet, even though presumably they would be working for another solution (and the script said some of them wouldn't last that long, not all of them...but the reveal that this is the consquence of their own actions is also important to this).

This leads a little bit into your train tracks analogy. First of all, I find such hypothetical situations to have little use outside of general philosophical theorizing, because they are usually very contrived and unlikely situations. They may not even work as analogy, which I think is the case here. In any case, it is fair to say that if such a situation as you described were to ever arise, the person with the switch would probably bear limited moral culpability; rather the one who set up the situation would bear the brunt of it. Alternatives exist; trying to reason with the madperson who set it up, presenting the choice to those people about to be killed (perhaps the one would be willing to sacrifice his or her own life, or perhaps the 12 old people who were about to die anyway would choose to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the young mother of three children). I digress a little. My point is, in the case of this movie, the train track thing doesn't really work--it has some added complications. The "12" here don't have a train hurtling towards them--the billions of the Federation that the rings might help have not encountered some rare cataclysm that has suddenly appeared, threatening to destroy them all fairly soon. The ramifications of what will befall them should the rings not be harvested is the same as a what would happen if the rings were not discovered. So it's more like 12 people standing near the switch track enduring normal lives, and staring at the magic medicine that the one person happens to have. They are attempting to trick that one person into leaving his or her home permanently and even leaving the medicine behind without their knowledge, and then running the train through their home after they take the medicine anyway (since the ring thing would destroy the ability to live on the planet). The ultimatum is presented that if the person does not leave, the 12 people suffering the consequences of ordinary life will destroy the home with the person in it. It is of course revealed in the movie, as I have said, that the people setting up this situation have revenge as a motive, and their condition of dying is because of their own actions.

I would also say that the proposal to move the Ba'ku would destroy their way of life, not preserve it, as their way of life has evolved to include their long lifespans. For example, the apprentices learning their craft under a master for a very long time, thus enabling them to produce extremely fine arts and crafts.

As for the Federation as a whole agreeing to move the Ba'ku? I guess it depends on who's writing it. Sticking to Roddenberry's vision of a future where all or most of humanity is hopeful and inclusive, one would argue that they would NEVER agree to that. I certainly feel like Kirk would never agree to such a thing. Spock's statement in TWOK in context seems to be one of humility and self-sacrifice. The needs of the many outweigh MY needs, so I will give something up of my own free will. I don't know that you could argue that Spock would be in favor of destroying one life for the sake of the many if that person had no choice. In fact, Spock--and the entire original Enterprise bridge crew--showed that they were willing to let someone die rather than doe something wrong and give into a madman's ultimatum. None of them agreed to join Khan even though he was killing Kirk, and said he would kill each one of them in turn.
Christopher Bennett
62. ChristopherLBennett
@61: Very well-argued. And as a side point, you're quite right that if person A set up a situation that forced person B to kill someone, then in legal terms it would be person A who was guilty of murder, because they instigated the situation. If you commit a crime and someone dies as a result of your commission of that crime, then that's felony murder, regardless of the circumstances of the death -- whether you kill them yourself or they're run over by the police cars chasing you or they have a heart attack from shock or whatever. The scenario proposed above, a madman forcing people into an elaborate deathtrap, is certainly felonious -- there's kidnapping, assault, attempted murder, probably other charges as well. So the madman would be the one held responsible for any deaths that result. The person forced to work the switch would not be held responsible any more than the train's engineer.
63. Mane

I agree, I didn’t do a terribly good job of making my point clear, probably because I didn’t intend to write something so long. For the purposes of my post on the film, I’m less interested in the right and wrong aspect of the ethical dilemma presented within the film, and more interested in whether or not it’s a problematic dilemma to present in a film, given the nature of the audience.

Many people act as consequencialists, in most cases, most of time. Even when those people aren’t aware that they are doing so. There are, after all, many Christians who are also police officers or soldiers—in spite of the whole ‘thou shall not kill’ thing. More to the point, if, for example, someone is stealing because they’re starving, I do not believe that it should be unexpected that people will take that point of view that the thief is not wrong, or at least, less wrong, because of the circumstances of his or her life.

The problem with this film is that it ignores this particular fact in favour of adopting a point of view that differs from how many people might otherwise act, without properly building up good enough reasons (or at least presenting a muddy enough moral situation. For example, suggesting that the radiation wouldn’t be that helpful, or making the rings less valuable) that the audience can be bought over to Picard’s point of view.

I also agree with your comment about my comment on the negatives assigned to the Son’a, and it wasn’t my intent to put assign motives to the writers. I suppose my point is that I didn’t quite find them all that convincing of villains—things like being dominion allies or slavery just feels, I don’t know, a bit much. It’s like introducing a villain and including in their background that they “worked at a concentration camp” or something. Trying too hard to convince us. If anything, the film could have worked a lot better without the Son’a at all, and made the whole thing a strictly Star Fleet vs Star Fleet thing.

My point with the railroad analogy is that the dilemma we’re presented with in the film is, in many ways, just as contrived as the railroad dilemma. It’s not as if, for example, there’s any question whether or not the radiation would help people, clearly it does, given it effects humans, Ba’ku, Klingons, betazoids, etc. I do think you analysis of the situation is good, it’s just a rather shame it’s never done in the movie.

Moving the Ba’ku would probably, destroy their way of life, but on the other hand, they’re only one colony* of the species and presumably the culture, and that culture they’re experiencing now is, arguably, at odds with their stated goals of living a simple life. They’re essentially living with a Starbase level of medical technology, rather than dying of simple injuries or illnesses.

The reason I bring up the ‘needs of many’ quote is merely to point out that it’s fairly well established within the Star Trek canon that were are at least utilitarian leanings in the ethics of the Federation. My comment on that wasn’t intended as seriously describing what should happen, but rather the fact that Picard’s sudden decision to become a rule-based ethicist is somewhat odd and out of place given the history of the Star Trek universe. And keep in mind this is the same Federation, who, when presented with a very similar scenario in “Journey’s End”, decide to go with the whole ‘needs of the many’ thing and making the treaty work over the objections of the native American colonists.
Joseph Newton
64. crzydroid
@62: As for the problem resonating with "most" of the audience--who can say? I always got the impression that this one was likened to "Journey's End" (and perhaps is even in some ways a reference to it in terms of Picard's personal history) in that it is supposed to remind the viewer of the displacement of Native Americans or other Native peoples. That was just my impression. Furthermore, it is my impression that it's intended that that analogy is one which most viewers would feel sympathetic toward, as there certainly is a lot of sentiment towards those events in history.

Again, since you mentioned "Journey's End", I think that shows why Picard would take the stance he does and why the writers might think Trek fans in particular would side with him. Starfleet ultimately decided to go with that plan (as they did in Insurrection, which is consistent) despite some in the Federation (Admiral Nechayev, Picard, possible the implication of others) arguing that it was a bad idea. Picard ultimately follows orders (though Wesley resigns and disrupts that) and throughout the course of the episode is brought to the decision to work out an arrangement where the colonists can stay. Even the Cardassians favored that arrangement! So I feel like it is within his character arc to see something similar here and stick to his guns rather than deciding to follow orders.

Another thing with this movie, as I mentioned before, there is more going on here than merely the Sona wanting to relocate them for the medical technology. They have more sinister motives. All is not as it seems at first, and the movie goes to lengths to set this up. The whole movie is about Picard investigating why Data malfunctioned, and the "loose ends" leading up to the discovery of something else. In "Journey's End" there had been a great deal of debate with the Cardassians in order to come up with the treated that redefined the borders. In Insurrection, it doesn't seem as though there had been any debate at all, given that the whole holoship mission was a secret from people like Picard. So that is perhaps another problem here. As Christopher Bennett has been mentioning, in "Journey's End" the colonists were Federation citizens (to begin with), whereas the Ba'ku are not. Thus those colonists should've been under the jurisdiction of the Federation Treaty, and eminent domain and all of that. This does not apply to the Ba'ku.

Oh--I almost forgot. I am certainly not dismissing your feelings that the moral point did not resonate with you. That is certainly a valid feeling that you have. And there are perhaps many who feel as you do. But I don't know that we can say most people feel that way and it makes the film weaker in that sense. There certainly are many who agree with the premise of the film and enjoy it.
65. Flights of Fancy2
I loved it, mostly because of the "makes you think about big questions" aspect. Since I'm not a hardcore fan (just a moderate one), I probably respond to different elements in movies and books than a dedicated SFF person would.
Heather Dunham
66. tankgirl73
The ethical discussions are fascinating. I've just rewatched the movie, and I think I enjoyed it more that First Contact (which I also rewatched a few days ago). I have a few more practical questions, though.

Who the heck are the Sona anyway? Supposedly they're Baku who abandoned their way of life many years ago, children of the Baku still there. So, who are the blade-skull-headed guys and other aliens with them? Are they supposed to also be Sona, or just allies? Is "The Sona" an empire, or just a group of a few dozen guys? It can't be thousands of them, if they're an offshoot of the Baku. If they are an empire, how did a few dozen guys become an empire anyway?

Why are the Sona so sick? Just because they left the Baku planet? It's never actually explained what's wrong with them.

Did the Feds actually know that the Baku were formerly technologically advanced? I don't think so. They certainly didn't know that the Sona were the Baku, so I don't think the Sona told them anything. They also wouldn't have bothered with the duck blinds, which are intended for observing pre-industrial societies.

Speaking of which, why was there a pretense of observing their culture anyway? If the plan was to relocate them, why not just go in with their cloaking suits and cloaked holoship and just take them all straight from the get-go?

And why was Data involved with the observation in the first place? He obviously was only aware of the cultural observation aspect and not the relocation. Why risk bringing in a super-intelligent being? Especially when the only reason he's there is for a cover story and not real research at all? He had to have been invited for a specific purpose, right? Why bother?

Did the other scientists - the leaders anyway - know the real plan, or was it only the Sona and the admiral? If they didn't know, wasn't that pretty risky having ALL of these intelligent officers prowling around your secret ship and your secret guards guarding the secret ship? Which again comes back to the question of why they were bothering with the pretense in the first place.

Assuming that the scientists did not know what the real plan was, did Starfleet not think there would be a backlash after the fact? Presuming the plan went off successfully and the Baku were relocated to another planet, the fountain of youth was harvested and would obviously have become known about, wouldn't the scientists have said "hey, wait a minute, you mean my work was a part of that? I never agreed to have my work used for that purpose!" (assuming that there was some purpose to the observation, related to the relocation, after all)

And the relocation plan itself... we know that they were going to be put on the holoship, misled to believe they were still in their village, and then... then what? Relocated on a new planet? Wouldn't they figure out THEN that they'd been moved? Even if they somehow completely recreated the village inch for inch (including the exact growth of every plant in their gardens), wouldn't the movement of the sun be different in their sky?

Maybe if the Feds believed they were pre-industrial, they'd assue that the Baku would come up with some sort of mythic explanation for how their sun changed. But the Sona knew the truth, they'd have to know that the Baku would figure out they weren't in Kansas anymore. I guess they thought that whatever the backlash after the fact, it would't matter, they'd have their healing goo anyway.

Did the Baku have 'magic' powers? With the time slowing thing? I seem to recall then when I first saw this movie in the theatre, my impression was that it was only HER, that she was special somehow. But there's actually nothing in the movie that says she was special. But there's also nothing that shows the others have this ability either. Do the Sona have this ability? Is it related to the stuff in the atmosphere, or is it an ability they had before they came to this planet?

Anyway, the whole ethical question becomes moot when you recognize that part of the reason the Sona wanted to do it this way was for vengeance. If the Feds had known that, it would have been (should have been) a no-brainer.
Christopher Bennett
67. ChristopherLBennett
@66: It was explained in the film that the Son'a had conquered the other two species, the Tarlac and Ellora, to serve as indentured labor and soldiers.

As for how a small group can become an empire, the Spanish conquistadors numbered in the hundreds, but were able to overthrow the Aztec and Inca civilizations by allying with rival local groups and piggybacking on their existing power struggles -- although it was the introduction of smallpox to the continent that played the far more decisive role.

The Son'a are sick because they're old. They left a long time ago, and they look the way they do because of all the facelifts and spa treatments they undergo in a desperate effort to hold off the aging process. They're kind of a satire of cosmetic-surgery junkies.

The pretense of observing their culture was probably to provide a legitimate excuse for diverting Starfleet resources to the system, a cover for the illicit act they planned to commit with those resources. Also, they probably needed to observe the Baku village for a while so they'd be able to replicate it precisely in the holoship.

It's not clear why Data was there, but there's no indication that he was requested. He may have asked to visit for some reason, and they couldn't refuse without it looking suspicious.

It's a good point about the Baku noticing the changes in the sun and stars after the move. At least in the execrable "Homeward" they disguised the relocation as a migration to a different region on the planet. I don't know what Dougherty's thinking on that was, but the Son'a didn't care. They advocated just moving in and removing the Baku by force, if not simply killing them. The relo was Dougherty's plan.

I don't think there was any real slowing of time -- what Anij did was just a meditative technique that altered her and Picard's perception of time. There's some real precedent for this -- sometimes in moments of crisis, or for a trained athlete or fighter in action, it can seem like time slows down around you and things take longer to happen. It's really just that you're processing them faster, noticing more details in the same amount of time.
Joseph Newton
68. crzydroid
@66, 67: About the time-slowing thing: Also, if this was something all of the Ba'ku could do, it seems that it would be contrary to the way of life that the Sona adopted, and they wouldn't do it.
69. Nobody
Hi I love Innsurrection it was the first star trek movie or ep I ever saw and I loved that the crew would choose to do right rather then what would clearly benifit them. One thing no one has pointed out, there may have been only 600 people on the planet but there was billions of animals and other life all of which had evolved there and were about to have their home burned. The BaKu lived with them . Starfleet is about seeking out new life forms not destroying them when its convenient, and they had made no plans to move these beings at all, in TWOK starfleet was making a fuss about finding a planet the right size and shape with NO life WHATSOEVER. And here they are just going to blow up the planet so that that generation would live longer, the radiation would not go to far among billions, so who gets it ?
71. TJPC
As many have already said, this is a bad movie, and clearly why Frakes was not asked to direct again...

The moral issue of the relocation of the Ba'ku:
Citing historical atrocities does not support Picard's sanctimonious opinion which the audience is expected to agree with *just because he's Picard*. If someone cannot understand the necessary evil of RELOCATING the Ba'ku (who were NOT NATIVE) to the planet, so the metaphasic radiation could help EVERY PERSON IN THE FEDERATION, other than bleating "It's immoral!" then they're nothing more than an intellectually constipated contrarian... There was never a plan to kill any of the Ba'ku. It was Picard's intervention which made the Son'a up the stakes in terms of distressing the Ba'ku, but even then, none were killed... That's ALL thanks to Picard, the supposedly moral hero of the piece. To debate the ethics in support of Picard's stance is nothing more than childishness and a misguided belief that the universe is fair, and that people's 'rights' actually matter to the state. While 'might makes right' might not be morally right, it IS how the world works, so just get over it and accept that the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few, or the one!

My other issue with this film is Data's unhealthy interest in befriending a boy who clearly wanted nothing to do with him. This is not the first time Data has struck up a friendship with a child, so this is a disturbing pattern of behaviour. To say that Data's motives are pure, and to think Data harmless, is to forget the circumstances of Data's 'encounter' with Tasha Yar. People seem to remember fondly this 'relationship', but let's just look at it logically: Tasha was under the influence of the alien virus. Data was not. Data, (who is supposed to be programmed to know right from wrong) still took this as an opportunity to Get Some. That's right, Data is no different to the kind of low-life who takes advantage of a drunk female friend. Compare this to the behaviour of Tom Paris when B'Elanna was affected by Vorik's pon'farr... He pointed out that he was her friend, and never took advantage of the situation... Data, on the other hand, DID... Is that *really* the kind of person you would want to hang out with? Is that REALLY the kind of person who should be allowed near children? In the Real World, Data would be getting busted on To Catch a Predator, and don't you ever forget it!

Finally, I'd like to say something in the defence of Admiral Dougherty:
He refused Ru'afo's clearly repeated offers of treatments and 'other hospitalities', saying that he wanted everyone in the Federation to benefit. He had no personal agenda or goal beyond doing his job in improving lives in the Federation. When Ru'afo started to get carried away, Dougherty called a halt to the operation and got murdered for it. He was probably the ONLY UNSELFISH person in the entire film.

Admiral, I salute you, Sir.
Christopher Bennett
72. ChristopherLBennett
@71: "If someone cannot understand the necessary evil of RELOCATING the Ba'ku (who were NOT NATIVE) to the planet, so the metaphasic radiation could help EVERY PERSON IN THE FEDERATION, other than bleating "It's immoral!" then they're nothing more than an intellectually constipated contrarian..."

As I've said repeatedly, this is missing the point (as well as needlessly ad hominem). The point is the slippery slope: if you decide that violating people's rights is excusable if the number of people being violated is small enough, then it's easy to justify a larger violation the next time, and the time after that -- or just to keep violating small groups' rights over and over until it adds up to violating most people's rights. Democracy is not about the tyranny of the majority, the strong always getting their way at the expense of the weak; that's just bullying. Democracy is the exact opposite: ensuring the maximum possible power and freedom for every individual, regardless of the size of the group they belong to. You don't truly have democracy or justice unless a member of a minority racial/religious/political/other affiliation has just as much chance of getting one's way as a member of a larger one does.

"There was never a plan to kill any of the Ba'ku. It was Picard's intervention which made the Son'a up the stakes in terms of distressing the Ba'ku, but even then, none were killed..."

I'm sorry, but that's rather naive. The Son'a may have fooled Dougherty into believing that they shared the same agenda, but the truth was that this was always about getting revenge on the Ba'ku. Ru'afo always wanted to wipe them out, but he was settling for a less violent option -- for the moment -- in order to secure Starfleet's cooperation. He probably would've killed them anyway as soon as that cooperation was no longer necessary.

"While 'might makes right' might not be morally right, it IS how the world works, so just get over it and accept that the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few, or the one!"

That's bull. We can't use "the world" as an excuse for our choices of how to treat each other. "The world" doesn't make people bully, dominate, and abuse each other. They choose to act that way -- or they act that way because they don't bother to look for a better way. Blaming injustice on "the world" is an excuse to abrogate our responsibility for our own behavior and its consequences. The very fact that we live in a (relative) democracy with rule of law and certain basic standards of living, as opposed to an absolute monarchy where most of the people are slaves or serfs at the mercy of the ruling class, is proof that human beings can choose to change how they treat one another, that our actions are not at the mercy of inchoate external forces but are the result of our own choices.
73. TJPC
Christopher, I do not care about slippery slopes, thin end of wedges, or Big Pictures on issues like this, because they must be judged and viewed in isolation to get to the heart of the matter. Historical precedent is irrelevant, as are hypothetical future abuses which may or may not occur. Democracy and choice are nothing but illusions. You may get to choose if you drink pepsi or coke, but you still have to drink one of them. Victory of the strong over the weak is EXACTLY how the world works. It is how it has ALWAYS worked, and how it will CONTINUE to work. Incase conditions in the UK and the US are not clear to you, that state of absolute monarchy is PRECISELY how people ARE living. Oh sure, it's dressed up as democracy, but in reality, everyone is slave to the Dollar, and the choices available are all only the best of a bad lot. Republican or Democrat, Conservatives or Labour, they are ALL part of a corrupt political elite, where even a free vote is meaningless to policies enacted. So to the topic at hand, once again:
The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.

The Son'a operation, which had FULL BACKING from the Federation Council, WOULD have not only saved the lives of the Son'a (maybe undeservedly, admittedly) but it WOULD have benefited the lives of EVERY PERSON IN THE FEDERATION.

Had Picard not gotten involved with the mission (for the sole reason that he wanted to Get Some (and then tried to take the moral highground to cover himself)) there would have been no need for the Son'a to 'take revenge' on the Ba'ku. As Admiral Dougherty said, it was restoring them to their natural evolution. As for Picard's retort, NATURE chose what was their natural evolution, they were never meant to be immortal, and they were selfish in keeping the secret to themselves, so they deserved to have that fountain of youth taken from them. The same rationale applies for Geordi's claim about 'what it would cost these people'. The Son'a plan was not to kill anyone, none of the drones were set to kill, so there is no reason to assume that Ru'afo would have suddenly decided to kill. He only did so, in response to Picard's intervention.
Joseph Newton
74. crzydroid
@73: Actually, it wouldn't have benefited everyone in the Federation. Only those with some medical problem that wasn't already treatable by their highly advanced (and continually advancing) medical technology. So, probably a relatively small amount. Also, Nature didn't choose anything for them. Nature has neither conciousness nor will. You can't use an argument that they were never intended to be immortal. They weren't intended to be anything (from a non-theist perspective). The same is true of everybody. Their choices as a people ARE part of their evolution...you might say the choices of others are also part of their evolution, but they certainly wouldn't be "restored to their natural state"...it's all a part of the same natural lineage now. So it boils down to whether you think they have a right to choose where they want to live and have it taken away from them.

And if you DON'T think they have any rights or those rights don't matter, what makes you think the Federation has a right to the rings? You make the argument that the rights of the Baku don't matter to the government of the Federation, but likewise the rights of Federation members don't matter to say, the Borg.

P.S. I can choose to drink neither Pepsi nor Coke. Or I can make my own soft drink.
75. TJPC
crzydroid, if the technology could have been used to extend lifespans, everyone would benefit from it. If it was just used to treat illnesses, again, everyone would benefit. I do not know a single person who has NEVER been ill in SOME way in their entire life. The Federation does not have a class system or any elite, so there is no logical reason to assume that the results of the technology would not be shared either everyone.

Creationism, Evolution, whatever, that is irrelevant to the point. The Ba'ku are not naturally a near-immortal species like the El-Aurians. They only *gained* longevity when the arrived at the planet, and as the Son'a faction proved, they would lose that longevity once they left, returning to the natural life-cycle of their species. They had no right to keep that to themselves, when it was possible to use the radiation to benefit EVERYONE IN THE FEDERATION, as per Federation policies of collective betterment. The example of the Borg is nullified by my following point: Why does the Federation have a right to the rings? According to Admiral Dougherty, "We have the planet, they have the technology." One can reasonably infer that the planet is in Federation space, so the Federation IS indeed entitled to the use of it's resources... The Borg have no claim to Federation space and are merely a hostile invading force (who actually tend to keep to themselves most of the time) This was a planet in Federation space, which merely contained colonists who were going to be re-homed, not an indiginous population being up-rooted, and that is a VERY important distinction to make.

Picard might have made some sanctimonious rants, that is the nature of plot necessity. In reality, he had no legal basis for refusing the legitimate orders of his superior officer (Admiral Dougherty) or the wishes of his 'employers' (Starfleet, and by extension, the Federation Council) Given the Son'a plan would have humanely relocated the Ba'ku, he realistically had no moral grounds on which to object to the orders either, so by rights, Admiral Dougherty should have had Picard relieved of command for refusing to obey a legitimate order.
Joseph Newton
76. crzydroid
There are just a few points of mine that I wish to clarify a little: We're not talking about the rings being used to cure people of mundane illnesses. My point was the Federation already HAS technology that can take care of that--it's even stated in one episode that headaches are a thing of the past. For some of these mundane illnesses that everyone has, would the rings work faster? Maybe. Is that a legitimate excuse? No. So again, it only really would benefit the people with some medical need beyond the current Federation technology. If we're talking about the rings being merely used as a "fountain of youth" and to extend the expected lifespans of otherwise healthy individuals, that is almost certainly not a legitimate excuse. People in the Star Trek universe already live to be around 130. Go ahead and lump the rings in with teeth whitening and face lifts if this is the case. If that is your use for this, then it is a vanity and does not justify the crime.

You are right that ideas of evolution or creationism are beside that point. That's what I'm saying. Whether their state is "natural" is beside the point. Maybe you can't make an evolutionary argument for them to stay there, but neither can you use evolution or their "natural state" as an excuse to move them. That line in the movie was brought up in response to this idea of skirting the Prime Directive--in other words, getting bogged down in legalese. The only thing that is relevant is the fact that they live there now. That's where they live.

What do the Baku care about the Federation's "policies of collective betterment"? As you point out, they are not Federation members. As for the planet being in Federation space, I guess you are making an argument that since the Federation has a flag, they own the planet. The Baku moved there 400 years ago--before there was a Federation, a Starfleet, or warp-capable humans. So the drawing of the Federation borders was definitely after the Baku were already there. It seems likely that that area of space (the Briar Patch) had remained unscouted until relatively recently. Going back to the Borg since you brought it up again, perhaps the Borg think they DO have a claim on Federation space. Maybe they claimed that space 1,000 years ago and ignored it since then (though the Borg thought process doesn't seem to be that imperialistic; this is an example and you can substitute any species). From the Baku point of view, the Federation (which came into being after they had settled there) is an organization of hostile invaders.

As for Admiral Dougherty, he does have some redemptive qualities, and I like that about the movie. But why is he keeping the real mission quiet from Picard? Why the pretense surrounding the duck blind mission? You could say it's classified--but why is it classified, if this is a great new benefit to the Federation? It's probably because deep down he knows that moving this people just to get this thing is wrong. Why else would Data move against them when he was reduced to his moral and ethical subroutines? Why is he working with the Sona, who used outlawed weapons and manufacture ketracel-white, a drug with only one known purpose? He sees this prize as that attainable that he's willing to sacrifice everything else, does he? Then why does he change his mind when he finds out the whole purpose of the Sona is a blood feud revenge plot? You yourself point out that this is one of his redeeming qualities, and rightly so. Once he's slapped in the face with that reality, he drops all of his other excuses and justifications and resolves to do the right thing and end the mission. The prize is no longer so valuable to him that he is willing to sacrifice his other principles for the sake of this blood feud.
Christopher Bennett
77. ChristopherLBennett
Heck, by all rights, the Federation should've had the ability to cure any disease and achieve virtual immortality long, long before this. We've seen in "The Lorelei Signal" and "Unnatural Selection" that transporters can restore aged individuals to a more youthful state if the pattern is preserved. It follows that transporters could also be used to cure any disease or injury just by editing the subject's pattern.

Not to mention, as we've been discussing over in the DS9 review threads, all the amazing alien tech they've come across, like the quick-cloning in "A Man Alone" (which is treated as something already familiar, but never mentioned again), the technology for transferring a mind into a new host in "The Passenger" (combine that with quick-clones and anyone could be immortal), and the nanites in "Battle Lines" that could cure any injury and make people immortal (if they could be programmed to shut down on leaving that particular moon, they could certainly be reprogrammed to work everywhere).

Unfortunately, the needs of drama require ignoring or glossing over the potentials of these technologies, since it's necessary to be able to place the characters in jeopardy of death -- and since it's necessary to be able to cast older actors (though sometimes it seems some Hollywood casting agents think otherwise).
78. TJPC
@ crzydroid: By that logic, 'current' Federation medical advances, leading to those lifespans are also 'just vanity'... The point was that the advances would be available to all who needed it, not just a privileged few... It was selfish for the Ba'ku to keep the secret of the planet to themselves.

On the contrary, while there is no excuse for the Ba'ku to remain on the planet and continue to benefit from the rejuvenating properties, there is a justification for them to be moved: Benefiting all members of the Federation: As the admiral pointed out, they were not native to the planet, and the Prime Directive did not apply.

When borders are redrawn, people have to accept that. The Ba'ku removed themselves from Galactic society to keep their fountain of youth to themselves. They had more than 'had their turn'... Yes indeed, it may be 'where they live', but that will always be outweighed by the needs of the many argument, as it would not be overtly or unnaturally harmful to the Ba'ku, but would greatly benefit countless others.

Why was he keeping it from Picard? Well, that's good old fashioned narrative tension... In universe, it could be compared to present day issues on animal welfare on cosmetics, food, and pharmaceuticals: People need/want the products, but that doesn't mean they want to see a Japanese whaling ship in action, or walk round a battery farm of chickens... The Council clearly understood that, but they still gave the mission full backing. Equally, the thing to remember about Admiral Dougherty, was that he did not see the end result as a prize FOR HIMSELF, but as something to be shared with ALL members of the Federation... He explained that he was working with the Son'a, as they were the only ones with the technology to make he collection process possible, refused any personal benefits during the mission, and called an end to the mission when the Son'a 'took the gloves off' and started abducting people in a traumatic way, only to get murdered for his trouble... Had Picard never intervened and forced Ru'afo's hand, the admiral would no doubt have ensured the Ba'ku were relocated humanely. As for Data's involvement, again, a plot device (and a worrying pattern of behaviour from Data) Equally, who better (other than the EMH) to act as an observer for the holographic recreation of the village... All Admiral Dougherty would have had to do at the end of the mission, would be to order Data to keep the events of the mission classified -even from Picard- and he would have done so.

@ Christopher: Those points are very true... Perhaps there is Federation legislation against cloning people, after all, there is certainly legislation preventing individuals who are genetically engineered from serving in Starfleet or practicing medicine...
79. Gianjos
I loved this post. Insurrection has always been my favorite star trek movie. And yeah, I'm probably un-cool :P
80. WideAndNerdy
Its always bugged me when Trek presents a farming community without even basic power tools as the idyllic way of life.

Trek claims to have cured crime, poverty, war, headaches. Etc. And yet there is no genetic engineering and there hasn't been enough time for any true evolution to happen, humans are just "enlightened."

I think they cured these problems by developing technologies that promoted abundance (Frankly, I think thats how we'll ultimately cure these problems in real life). Its the only way it makes sense. We don't fight wars anymore because everyone on earth can live a comfortable life and there's no point in stealing when you have abundant access to replicators, transporters and holodecks (plus I'm sure psychiatric medicine has gotten better at handling chemical imbalances). Anything you want you can have. Put us in a farming community and in time, when our population gets big enough we'll be back to our old primitive savage ways.

Plus, working the land by hand means supporting far fewer people. I know some of you probably think there are too many people, well ok, but who do we get rid of when we stop using the technology that allows us to feed our billions? You want to talk about white privilege, the Baku are the epitome of it.
81. whatever
"This time out, Star Trek showed its true colors: it’s an awkward and often-preachy mode of storytelling with an occasionally less-than-confident voice."
I disagree lol, the good episodes that dealt with this kind of stuff (like, I dunno, Who Watches the Watchers), weren't in any way awkward.
TOS and the early TNG definitely had a strong "camp factor", but that's something else :)

This sort of sentimental lovey-dovey stuff we see in Insurrection isn't really representative of Trek, as far as I can think,
Leonard McCoy MD
82. bonesmccoy
I've enjoyed reading the synopsis and critique of STTNG:Insurrection.
The criticism of Frakes work by some in the comment thread is particularly ironic when one considers when this movie was produced (fifteen years ago and yet we are still arguing about this film!).

Given that the discussion thread is particularly involved, deep, and philosophic, I would argue that Frakes' direction was masterful in depicting the moral dilemma and raising the ethical questions. Indeed the discussion provokes much thought and discussion over fifteen years after production.

This film is probably one of the most thought provoking and argument inducing films of the entire Star Trek movie series. Such is the intent of the director and producer, isn't it?

The prior comments posted on this thread do not even mention the most logical example of this particular issue. In watching Insurrection, I could not help but see a direct and obvious comparison to the War Relocation Authority camps of 1942-1946 which housed over 120,000 ethnic Japanese in the United States during World War 2.

Let me list a few similarities between the story in Insurrection and the Japanese American internment camps.
1. Japanese Americans on the west coast were peaceful people who were primarily farmers. This is similar to the film's Ba'ku town.
2. Japanese Americans were in many small villages or townships of several hundred people throughout the West Coast during the 1930's. This is similar to the depiction of the Ba'ku in the movie.
3. Japanese Americans in the US in 1942 were descendants or cousins but separated from their families in Japan by way of US and state policies and law. Since immigration to the US from Japan was halted around 1920, by 1942 most people of Japanese descent living in the United States were not Japanese citizens. Similarly, the Son'a and Ba'ku were separated family members by war and government policies.
4. Family relations were broken among the Japanese American community during the WRA camps. Similarly, the Son'a suffer family breakups due to the schism on politics.
5. Family relations were broken between Japanese in Japan and Japanese in America due to the passage of several laws and policies in the 1920's which prevented full participation in American citizenship by people born in Japan. Similarly, Frakes raises questions on such policies and politics when the film notes the schism between the people in the village and the cousins outside.
6. Okinawa is long known as having some of the longest lived people on Earth. A few Okinawan women have lived over 110 years of age. Okinawa experienced several episodes of immigration to the US between 1880 and 1920. Okinawa was also involved in land disputes during the 1930-1945 time period when China, Japan, and the United States had different interests in the region. The similarity to the Ba'ku home world being caught between major galactic empires is analogous.

One can make similar analogies for other cultures caught in similar circumstances. Other logical analogies would be dislocated Jewish families in Europe, dislocated villages and people groups in Africa, dislocated groups in Asia, and similar groups in the Middle East.

These themes are unfortunately common in recent human history when war dislocates and splits families.

The fact Frakes successfully made this film is laudable. Those who are critical of this film should think carefully about why they feel this way.

And, to the individual above (TJPC) who wrote with a distinctively Machiavellian view, I believe you have missed the entire point of Star Trek. Machiavellian views are not uncommon in TV or film. In fact, they predominate. The point of Roddenberry's Trek was that such views were not the totality of the vision for humanity. If there is anything that I appreciate about Frakes is that he appears to comprehend Roddenberry's philosophical view more than any other Trek director (including JJ Abrams). Frakes understands that the art and the film will outlive his own life.

The insight Frakes provides in this film is an important window on 20th Century politics and sets a remarkably prescient stage for the on-going conflicts in the 21st Century.

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