Star Trek: Insurrection review (with spoilers)
The film begins on the surface of a planet being observed by Federation scientists, including Commander Data, and inhabited by a human race called the Ba'Ku. Data experiences a malfunction and appears to be injured with circuity exposed around the neck area. He fires phasers upon a cloaked (holographic) station where the scientists and members of the Sona (a human race that appears mummified) are exposed to the Ba'Ku.
The Enterprise investigates and is ordered by an Admiral Doughtery (played by Anthony Zerbe) to retrieve Data and disable him. Captain Picard asks the admiral to retrieve Data and find out what caused his malfunction. The admiral reluctantly agrees but gives Picard only 12 hours until he must leave the area of space.
While investigating, the Enterprise crew discovers that the planet has rejuvenating properties caused by it's rings giving off a form a healing energy. It is this energy that the Sona hope to harness and conspire with the admiral to seize this power without the Ba'Ku's knowledge. They hatch a plan to beam up the planet's colonized inhabitants into a holographic replica of their homeworld on a ship and it was this ship that Data had originally discovered, which lead members of the Sona guards to fire upon Data which caused his malfunction.
Once the conspiracy is exposed, Captain Picard and his loyal crew work against the admiral and the leader of the Sona, Ruafo (played by Academy Award winner F. Murray Abraham) to ensure the Ba'Ku's continuous existence on their planet, hence the insurrection.
The Sona send energy markers to the planets surface, kidnapping individual Ba'Ku and beaming them aboard their ship when their plan to beam them aboard the holographic replica fails. Dr. Crusher discovers, while on a trek with the crew and the Ba'ku to find safe shelter from the invaders, that the Ba'ku and the Sona are the same race, but split off when disagreements about their way of life cause a small faction to leave--including Ruafo and his henchman Gallatin. The renegades have gradually lost their ability to rejuvenate and heal, causing them to find other means of surviving cellular decay which includes the constant overlapping of skin and giving them their less than appealing appearance.
Ruafo's plan to ignite a charge to explode and harness the rejuvenating power from the planet's orbit is thwarted when the crew, lead by Commander Riker, with the help of Gallatin, manage to beam Ruafo's gang into the holographic/cloaked ship, making them believe they are still on their ship. When Ruafo discovers the trick, he beams aboard the space station to launch the torpedo, but too late. Picard has beaten him to it. Picard self destructs the weapon and beams aboard the Enterprise and leaving Ruafo to his fate on the station. The rest of the Sona are welcomed back into the fold to live peacefully among their Ba'ku brethren on the planet.
Watching the Enterprise crew experience the rejuvenating properties of the planet is fun: Picard dancing a rumba; Worf getting a "gorch," and having a craving for a live beast, Geordi getting normal human eyes, and Troi and Crusher noticing their "boobs" looking firmer. Data asks Worf if he's noticed the same thing. "Have you noticed how your boobs have started to firm up?" Picard even falls in love with the matriarchal leader of the colony and promises to pay her a visit again in the future.
Data is introduced to the concept of play by a young male colonists. His relationship with Data develops over time, having been afraid of the android at first and then accepting him as a friend and tutor to the android who is still figuring out all the nuances of the human experience.
My favorite scene is when Picard and Worf hunt down and finally capture the runaway malfunctioning android during a shuttle chase scene. Picard manages to get Data involved in singing a production number to keep him occupied while Worf works on overriding Data's transporting lockout.
Commander Riker decides to shave off his beard after Troi tells him she doesn't like the feel of it after a kiss. "Yuck,!" He asks Data if his close shave looks as smooth as an android's bottom. Data confirms otherwise.
The Not So Good
The Sona's elastic skin with sometimes bleeding lesions is repulsive to look at. And instead of patching things up with their relatives to live in harmony on the planet and experience healing, they seek revenge and plot to steal the planet's healing properties for their own use. They could have avoided decades of unnecessary suffering by swallowing their pride and returning home.
Admiral Doughtery meets his fate in a rather grisly fashion---being thrown into a skin stretching machine by Ruafo.
This is the most lighthearted of the TNG films. It felt like watching a long episode which gave me a feeling of nostalgia, especially while watching it for the first time in the theater in 1998. It's a fun film, with the exception of a few dark moments involving the Sona.
The episode feeling is also its drawback. It's a 90 minute episode with more computer generated graphics. But it's great seeing the staff of the Enterprise come together for a principle and idea instead of just another threat to the Federation.
My score: 3 1/2 stars out of 5