Star Trek X: Nemesis
directed by Stuart Baird
(Paramount, 2002)

If one is good, two must be better.

That must be the philosophy driving the 10th installment in the big-screen Star Trek franchise. Nemesis doubles its pleasure by cloning two characters and borrowing heavily from earlier films in the series -- but that doesn't necessarily make the end product twice as good. The movie reunites all of the major characters from The Next Generation for a film Hollywood sources say will be the last in the series. I hope the rumors prove false, because Nemesis is unsuitable to be the final chapter in the Star Trek tradition.

The plot revolves around Shinzon (Tom Hardy), a young clone of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) who was created by the Romulan empire, then discarded in the dilithium mines of a planet inhabited by extras from a Nosferatu remake. (The clone bears no resemblance to the source of his DNA, by the way, and an effort to explain that away with a broken nose and jaw in Shinzon's youth is lame.)

Shinzon's coup on Romulus interrupts the Enterprise on its pleasure cruise celebrating the long-awaited marriage of Cmdr. William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis). Along the way, the crew stops on an uncharted planet long enough to joyride in a hopped-up dune buggy, violate the Prime Directive and discover the disassembled remains of an android identical to, but mentally simpler than, Lt. Cmdr. Data (film co-writer Brent Spiner).

After the requisite talk scenes, everyone gets down to business and things start exploding.

Nemesis features some excellent combat sequences, less of a dogfight than a massive sea battle. The action borrows heavily from The Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country, but there is still plenty of real drama as the Enterprise and its heavily armed opponent, Scimitar, are battered and torn, shrieking and groaning like living things. The much-hyped ramming scene is an awesome effect.

Nemesis overall is visually stunning, including a new look for the Enterprise, inside and out, that has it looking more like a luxury liner than previous versions.

This movie, too, is a little sexier than its predecessors, making the maximum use of Counselor Troi's ample cleavage in one opening scene, titillating with a promise (unrealized) of an all-nude ceremony to come and providing a sex scene between two characters, something until now unheard of in a Star Trek film. (For all of Kirk's many conquests, he was never actually shown in the act!) Still, in keeping with the franchise's wholesome image, Troi is modestly draped even from her new husband's eyes in the scene.

More unsettling than Riker's "boldly going" is the psychic rape to follow -- as well as Picard's order that Troi grin and bear it for the good of the crew.

Another out-of-character moment comes near the end when Picard uncharacteristically freezes in a crisis. Unthinkable! The well-publicized death of a major character is handled well -- its abruptness adding to the emotional impact. Again, however, filmmakers borrowed heavily from The Wrath of Khan, paralleling Spock's selfless death and providing a similar loophole for this character's return.

The movie has its share of plot holes, and I wouldn't be a true Trek fan if I didn't list a few. Why did the Romulans plot to clone and replace a mere starship captain instead of someone higher in the Federation or Star Fleet hierarchy? How did Shinzon and his companion slaves find the time and resources to build an ultra-modern ship and weapon, much less earn the support of the Romulan military and overthrow the government, from the bottom of a mine shaft? Where did the inexplicable Data prototype come from? What's with the blatant disregard for the Prime Directive, with an away mission (led by non-interference stickler Picard) that certainly contaminated a pre-warp culture? When did B-4 return to Enterprise? Do Federation shields and transporters ever work through a crisis? Why couldn't Data carry two emergency transporter beacons? And why is Worf, who was assigned to Deep Space 9 for the spin-off series, always aboard Enterprise when a movie is being made?

For all of Nemesis's failings, it also has its strengths. It's a fair bit better than some movies in the series, although it's certainly not among the top three, either. Star Trek fans will love it regardless -- and we'll all wait to see what Paramount's decision on the future of the franchise will be.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 21 December 2002

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