Review of Star Trek Nemesis
|The Echo Over the Voice
Star Trek Nemesis was superb, and well worthy of being ‘an even number’ in the Star Trek film franchise (No. 10 to be exact). The visual effects were stunning, the plot a little shaky sometimes but still it held the weight of a Starship and its crew. There were more than the usual familiar faces popping up to say hello in what some are calling the last Next Generation film, with even the presumed ‘death’ of a much loved character. This will not be a normal film review, but a nit-pickers debate over some of the scenes the film brought to the audiences attention, and how the story that was co-written with Brent Spiner was a funny, and sometimes ironic adventure that as the television episodes of Next Generation often did, primarily relied on the strength of its characters.
Just as we think, or even believe the Star Trek Universe is incorruptible and comprehensive, as we rely on our Star Trek Encyclopedias* and Star Trek Chronology’s*, Rick Berman, John Logan and Brent Spiner throw the spanner in the works with this new Next Gen Star Trek film. For example, in "Generations" (written by Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga and Rick Berman) when Picard hears of the heart breaking news of his nephew’s death, and seen crying over the photo album, we see a different actor playing Renee, who had also mysteriously ‘lost’ a few years and appeared much younger than the original actor in the episode "Family" (David Tristin Birkin). Now in Star Trek Nemesis, the follies continue. Not so much as to spoil the movie, but for the most avid (or obsessive) fan, it does make one scratch their head and wander (maybe the writers should have had the previously mentioned books by their side).
In the opening of the film we were given a glimpse inside of the Romulan Senate, which made this Aussie Trekkie (and also X-Phile) give a small jump of excitement to see Alan Dale playing the Praetorean Hiren, even if he did turn to dust within thirty seconds. To those in Australia, New Zealand and the UK would well know Alan Dale from the Australian Soap "Neighbours" in which for years Alan Dale was known as ‘Jim Robinson’. To those in the U.S.A you would recognise him in the final season of "The X-Files" as the Super Soldier who continually tried to dampen Agents’ Reyes, Doggett and Scully’s attempts to find the truth, and ultimately in the finale of the series at Mulder’s hearing, have the telepathic teenager Gibson point at, and announce he wasn’t human (does this mean the Super Soldiers were Romulans… LOL).
Then the next scene has us back on Earth, celebrating the wedding of Deanna Troi and Will Riker. As the camera pans out we are given the view of the main wedding party consisting of the Bride and Groom, Picard as Best Man, with Worf, Beverly Crusher, Geordie, Data and even Wesley Crusher present, at the end of the table. Everyone, but the Bride, are in their Dress Uniform, including Wesley Crusher. This is my first nit-picking point - why is he in Starfleet uniform when he has left Starfleet? In the seventh season of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" in the episode called "Journey’s End" Wesley Crusher resigned from his third year at Starfleet Academy to no longer follow in his late fathers footsteps but to rather make his own path under the tutelage of the being called the ‘Traveler’. I know that in real life there are some instances where a person who has completed a career in the Armed Forces and retire are permitted or requested to don their old uniform for special occasions. Perhaps this is a matter of personal opinion, but in his young age, I would not qualify a wedding to put the civilian in uniform when the former Cadet had never officially even completed the Academy.
Aside from Wesley Crusher’s (Wil Wheaton) appearance at the wedding, we are greeted with the sight of another familiar face from Star Trek Next Gen lore, Guinan (played by Whoopi Goldberg). On the IMDB web site for Star Trek Nemesis it states her role as uncredited. This is a shame, since she even got to have an amusing one-liner about being married 23 times, as poor Wesley/Wil who was credited, didn’t utter a single word, but to smile and laugh at Picard’s Best Man’s speech. Also on the IMDB site for the movie, it also has Ro Laren (Michelle Forbes) listed as in the movie, but also uncredited. Perhaps this was a blink-and-you’ll-miss cameo, and I happened to blink at the wrong time, but I could not see her. But if she were indeed in the movie (and whoever reads this did see her please email me to tell me what scene she is in) did she appear as a prisoner or a ghost? She, like Wesley, left Starfleet in the seventh season of the series to join the Maquis. If the Dominion didn’t kill her as they had most of the rebellion, she would have been arrested by Starfleet (remember Captain Sisko’s vendetta against the Maquis and in particular against Michael Eddington in Star Trek: Deep Space 9).
Leaving Earth now, the Enterprise begins to make its way to Betazed to continue the wedding festivities Betazoid style (much to the fan’s amusement of discussing some of the culture’s traditions) and much to Worf’s chagrin - that to marry on Betazed means no Dress Uniforms, or no dress at all, but rather guests and participants are in their ‘birthday suits’. But unfortunately, as the plot thickens, we the audience are not given the chance to see this as the ship changes course to a little Class-M planet (M means breathable atmosphere for humans and humanoids) with a people that are in late industrial stage but pre-warp evolution (which means they don’t have any space ships as fast ours). You would think that the Prime Directive would apply here, wouldn’t you fans? "To hell with it" as Kirk might say, and our Captain goes dune buggying over the surface that any Rev-head, Westie, Red-neck or even Presidents of the United States would be jealous of. ("Little Green Dune Buggy…in the sand…")
On the planet Picard seems to leave the Kirk-mode behind and picks up where Mel Gibson left off, Mad Max style of racing vehicles, guns and explosives as they along the way pick up broken pieces of a Soong-type android, who - wait for it - looks just like Data. The planet’s inhabitants, with dune buggies of their own, chase after these strange looking foreigners (a bald guy driving, an android navigating and a Klingon on the back seat). Picard puts the pedal to the metal as the local inhabitants object to the outsiders picking things up from their country side, so Worf, with a phaser rifle, shoots back (er, hello, Prime Directive?) before Picard elegantly nose dives off a cliff and parks the buggy back on the shuttle that Data had been remote-control flying. A remote control shuttle, I hear you repeat, with almost disbelief? Well it seems there had to be a trade-off. The new Q in the latest James Bond film played by John Cleese had illegally acquired the Romulan cloaking system to create the invisible Jaguar so in return Starfleet demanded the schematics to the remote control BMW.
Back on board the ship now, Buggy firmly parked where it belongs, we are introduced to B4, Data’s predecessor presumably created by but with out any knowledge of his maker, Dr Soong. Nothing to nit-pick here, as everything is legal and above board. You might remember another seventh season episode called "Inheritance" where Data met his mother, the ‘wife’ of the late Dr. Soong, Juliana O’Donnell Soong Tainer and she was discovered to be an Android herself (but not to her own knowledge). She told Data that there had been three other Androids that were created before Lore and himself, so hence, we have B4 (B1 and B2 were busy that day chasing the teddy bears). The Enterprise crew begin to trust the new kid on the block implicitly, also because our new friend seems to be one gunmen short of a posse, or as Data and Geordie call it, a less complex positronic neural network as Data’s. Simply spoken, he’s the Beverly Hillbilly one shy of a Clampett. Even when Data downloads his life’s experiences (I want you to remember this moment fans, he looks like a duck, he talks like a duck…) into B4’s bionic brain he still doesn’t catch on about humanity, liberation, personal betterment and achievement etc so much so he could shame Kunta Kinte and the Civil Rights Movement.
But before we can move on to seeing Worf naked at a Betazoid wedding, Picard gets a high priority message from another familiar face, Admiral Kathryn Janeway. Gone is the bob, but back is bun as the newly appointed Admiral in the first season style hair do of Star Trek: Voyager pops on our screens to say G’day, oh, and on your way home can you please stop and pick up some new information on the newly appointed Romulan Ruler? There having a special down aisle 7 where we might be able to officially sign a peace treaty with a dollar off the normal price of death and destruction. There has never been a male officer carrying the Starfleet Insignia that could say ‘no’ to our darling Katie (remember Chakotay tried but never succeeded) so Will and Deanna’s festivities are put on hold once more (poor Deanna waited fifteen years for this day, her mother Lwaxana even more so just to see Picard in his ‘birthday suit’).
Back in the Romulan Senate, our Away Team arrives to meet the mysterious Shinzon, Prelate of the Romulan Empire with a Viceroy so scary and ugly in appearance that we the audience can understand why the Romulans would hide away such ugly Remuns down a dangerous and dark mine shaft where there rebellion was borne. Here Picard meets his clone, with once a mission to replace him, now with an inferiority complex that he may not want to replace his original, but downright do away with him, or "The echo over the voice" as Shinzon (or Picard Two) calls it. As Picard ponders and looks down at his evil and younger twin, we also see a glimpse of a photograph of Picard in his younger days. Was this photo taken during his Academy days or when he was fresh out from Boot Camp? The younger Picard in the photo (or plainly the actor Tom Hardy playing Shinzon) is also bald, which brings us to another nit-picking point. Picard was supposed to have hair right up until his first Captain’s commission on board the USS Stargazer. In the fifth season episode "Violations" Beverly Crusher relives the memory of when her husband and Wesley’s father, Jack Crusher, died whilst serving as a Lieutenant under Picard on the Stargazer. In this episode we see a younger Beverly being escorted by a younger Picard to go see the body of her husband, and in this memory Picard does have hair on top. It may be receding hair, but it is hair nonetheless (maybe he was borrowing Kirk’s pet Tribble for the day?).
We will remain in this episode, for a paragraph longer, to bring us to our next discussion. After the wedding, and after meeting Shinzon and his Viceroy, the movie shows us the very first sex scene to have ever been showed in any Star Trek movie or even in any of the Star Trek episodes of The Original Series, Next Generation, Deep Space 9 and Voyager. Sex has been implicated, but a camera shot of the characters moving up and down in bed? Never. The lucky couple to have this honour are, of course, the newlyweds. But being in the Star Trek universe, something alien must come of it, and does. Before Deanna’s eyes, her mental picture of Riker turns into Shinzon, and then even his Viceroy. In telepathic language, what Deanna experiences is mental rape. But this is not the first time this has happened to our poor empath. In "Violations" in an intimate memory of Riker that Troi experiences, he was replaced by a character called Jev, a member of a telepathic race called the Ullians. In the movie Star Trek Nemesis, this was an unexpected twist, and I’m not sure whether it is another rule change for the Star Trek universe. Shinzon, being a cloned human, certainly could not have entered Deanna’s mind with out the help of his Remun Viceroy. In the Star Trek universe we know the Romulans are related to the Vulcans, who are a telepathic race. But they can only use their telepathy via touching the person whose mind they wish to read. The viceroy was touching Shinzon’s head to project him into Deanna’s mind, but his hands were no where near the bed of the couple. The Remuns, from the harsh dilithium mines on Remus not only physically look different from normal Romulans, but now their mental powers are different as well?
Don’t worry fans, Deanna gets hers back. Toward the end of the film when the final show down is approaching, when the Enterprise E is getting a whopping from Shinzon’s new and improved Romulan Warbird because the ship is cloaked, Deanna turns the tables on the Viceroy to sense him and know where to aim the phaser banks. With both ships nearly run out of weapons (lucky in the Federation they no longer use currency, can you imagine the repair bills on how many times the Enterprise E has already nearly been destroyed?) the continuity of the Star Trek universe is used in an ironic twist at how Picard stops Shinzon’s ship almost for good. He puts Deanna at the helm (only her second time) and has her ram the Enterprise into Shinzon’s Warbird. Since she did such a good job the first time she piloted at the helm and crashed the Enterprise D (in Star Trek: Generations), he would have surmised that she would be the best officer to crash the E as well.
Shinzon being the Baddie of the film, is naturally a sore loser (or worried about his own ships insurance premiums) so starts to activate the weapon that had turned the Romulan Senate to dust at the beginning of the film. This weapon would instantly dust the entire crew compliment of the Enterprise E, which Picard naturally can’t have. Picard beams himself over to the Warbird for what he expects will be a one way trip and has it out with Shinzon for good to stop the weapon. Picard technically commits suicide, by killing ‘himself’, Shinzon that is, and seems struck by the shock as the weapon continues to count down. Lucky Data is there to save the day. Data anticipated Picard’s heroic endeavour when he was left in charge of the Bridge, and since he shares the movie poster with Picard and Shinzon, feels obligated to save the day himself. He puts a homing device on Picard to immediately transport him back to the E and then he pulls out his hand held phaser to blow up the weapon, which in turn, blows up the Warbird and himself as well.
Data is presumed dead by the crew, and by the audience as well. The shock is felt by all and during a quiet moment the Officers even raise their glasses to his memory. Yes, this is all very sad, but in my mind I question, is he really dead? Sure, that model of Soong-type Android has ceased to be, but don’t forget the new spare on board that happens to look exactly like Data, and that now also has all of Data’s memories. Also do not forget that the Daystrom Institute have copies of Data’s schematics, and even Lal’s from the third season episode "The Offspring". B4 can always be upgraded to a Pentium 3. And maybe the writers hint at just that, because in the final scene of the film, just before the end credits begin to roll, Picard is in his Ready Room having a talk to B4. B4 still seems as thick as two bricks, but just as Picard is about to give up and walk out of the room, B4 starts to sing softly, a song Picard remembers that Data sang just a few days ago at the Wedding on Earth. Isn’t that a sign, Ladies and Gentlemen? Ole Yellow Eyes is Back.
*Star Trek Encyclopedia: A Reference Guide to the Future by Michael & Denise Okuda. Pocket Books. New York. 1999
*Star Trek Chronology: The History of the Future by Michael & Denise Okuda. Pocket Books. New York. 1996
*All Star Trek movies, TV shows and characters mentioned in the above are the property of Paramount Pictures.