A joyous occasion is being celebrated by the crew of the USS Enterprise-E, the marriage between Cmdr. William Riker and Cmdr. Deanna Troi. But before they can go on their honeymoon (which the Enterprise happens to be passing by), the crew is called on to an usual mission: investigate a signal which may be linked to the technology that created Data. Upon arrival at the planet, they find the pieces of an android similar to Data himself. The landing party, however, is besieged by the natives and they barely manage to escape capture.
As they reassemble the android, the Enterprise-E is ordered by Starfleet to head to Romulus. A coup has taken place and now the Remans, led by Shinzon, want to negotiate. The Enterprise arrives on Romulus, and is confronted by a ship that is easily more than a match for any small task force outside of a Borg Cube. Picard leads an away team to the ship, and they are met by Shinzon, who looks like a young Picard. He explains that he is a clone of the Captain, but was cast off when the new regime took power.
Back on the Enterprise, Deanna Troi has nightmares of being sexually assaulted by Shinzon. Also, the android B4 has been accessing the Enterprise’s computer systems and downloading information. Soon, Picard is kidnapped and B4 makes his way to Shinzon’s ship. Shinzon tells Picard that he needs Picard’s blood to live – and B4 was a plant to gain access to the Federation communications net. As Picard was being prepared for the operation, B4 reveals himself to be Data in disguise. They escape the Romulan ship by flying a Romulan fighter out of the ship. The Enterprise retrieves their crewmates and flies towards the Federation at maximum warp. As they prepare their ship for battle, Shinzon pursues them in his ship, which is cloaked AND is slightly faster than the Enterprise-E.
The Enterprise enters into a rift that disrupts communications, and Picard orders evasive maneuvers far too late, as Shinzon’s ship begins a vicious assault on the Enterprise. With Shinzon’s ship able to fire while cloaked, the Enterprise is firing blindly. The Romulans who were once working with Shinzon had entered the battle as well, but they came to assist Enterprise. But even with more modern Romulan warships, Shinzon’s warship dispatches the reinforcements easily. Deanna Troi uses her empathic powers to locate Shinzon’s ship and Worf disables the cloaking device. Picard and Shinzon exchange fire. The shields on the Enterprise collapse, and the Viceroy leads a strike force to retrieve Picard. Riker and Worf repel the invaders.
Unfortunately, Enterprise exhausts her phaser power and expended her torpedo compliment, without inflicting serious damage on Shinzon’s ship. Troi takes the helm and Picard orders a collision course with Shinzon. Both ships impact and take serious damage. Eventually, Shinzon’s ship repels off of Enterprise. Unable to continue fighting, and Shinzon’s condition now terminal, he orders the use of the Thalaron Weapon to kill all those aboard Enterprise. Picard beams aboard Shinzon’s ship to confront him, and Data follows shortly thereafter.
Picard and Shinzon fight, with Picard eventually emerging victorious. Data arrives just in time to rescue Picard and destroy the weapon, which also destroys Shinzon’s ship. The crew grieves for Data.
Back at Earth, Enterprise-E is in drydock, undergoing repairs. Riker is about to disembark and take over as Captain of another ship. They share a remembrance about when they first met. Picard then talks with B4, who seems to act more like Data than he used to. Picard leaves with a smile on his face as he heads back to the bridge, his outlook on life now looking brighter.
Review and Analysis:
This is more of the same old plot and structure that has come to mark the Next Generation movie franchise. Regardless of the main writer, the story begins the same way, follows the same type of plot structure and moods set, gives everyone the same kinds of roles to follow, along with the A/B/C story setup – as well as those who inhabit them.
In short, this movie sucks. It is the second worst film for the Next Generation cast and it shows all throughout the movie. All of the films, unfortunately can be distilled to a single film structure, and there are a number of pages that parody this condition.
What’s Wrong With This Movie?
In short, it’s this guy:
What should have been a movie about Picard having to face himself and wondering about the choices he made in life (which is very similar to the undercurrent he faced in Generations) is consistently sidetracked and virtually ignored in the end because of the nearly endless amount of screentime wasted in giving Brent Spiner almost the same story, with nearly the same setup.
Not helping Spiner’s case is that the story was developed in by Brent Spiner and Rick Berman. Also, it is clear that Brent Spiner has neither Leonard Nimoy’s acting talent nor charisma (although Nimoy’s role in the movies was somewhat overblown, as well). But Spiner’s attempt to monopolize screentime while lacking talent, charisma, and a compelling character can sink a movie.
This time, double trouble sinks the franchise for more than 7 years.
The Composer Was Put in Handcuffs:
As an exercise, play the soundtracks of Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection, and Star Trek: Nemesis as a single playlist in random order. What you will notice is that they sound so similar that you nearly replace any soundtrack from any movie and not miss much. Listening to Jerry Goldsmith’s previous works, including his work for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek: The Final Frontier, you can find more dynamic compositions than you would in the three movies for the Next Generation cast.
Much of the blame can be placed at the feet of Executive Showrunner Rick Berman, who has often expressed a disdain for music and compositions in television and movies, which is why the music for Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise is often thought of as being bland and uninspiring. This is especially true after composer Ron Jones was fired after the fourth season of The Next Generation and Dennis McCarthy became the lead composer for the Star Trek TV franchise. McCarthy can do dynamic and emotional work if allowed (his score from Deep Space 9‘s “The Visitor” and his soundtrack for Star Trek: Generations comes to mind), but his creativity was often hampered by Rick Berman’s inability to treat the music as part of the cast.
An Entire Movie with Cribbed Material:
Rick Berman and Stuart Baird talked gushingly about this scene with Picard, Worf, and Data gallivanting in the desert on a space jeep, and making allusions to this being similar to the 1960s TV show “Rat Patrol.” While TV and Movie people like to make allusions to other properties in the hopes of keeping audience interest, most of the time they fail, simply because the scene or the idea does not fit with the image of the franchise in question.
One of the other problems with this movie stems from the Next Generation’s own inadequacies about bringing a villain to the big screen. Since Generations, the producers have tried to make comparisons with Star Trek’s biggest villain Khan Noonien Singh, with little to no success.
This scene was supposed to hearken back to both The Wrath of Khan’s battle in the Mutara Nebula AND The Undiscovered Country’s battle between Kirk’s Enterprise and Chang’s invisible Bird-of-Prey.
The countdown of the Thalaron Device – and Data’s rescue attempt of Picard – was supposed to be a recall of Khan’s activation of the Genesis device and Spock’s self-sacrifice in The Wrath of Khan.
This was supposed to be an allusion to Kirk fighting Kruge in The Search for Spock. They even end the fight in the same way; Riker hanging on for dear life, with the Viceroy holding on to Riker’s leg, attempting to pull him down, and Riker kicks him in the head…three times.
Did I also mention that the bolted bridge Riker and Viceroy were fighting on was made from the same bridge manufacturer that Dr. Soran used in Generations? Unfortunately, the bridge did not give enough to provide for two casualties here.
Women in the Star Trek Franchise:
I hold a very low opinion of most so-called science fiction and fantasy because of the writers and producers who hold women and people of color in such low regard. The most obvious examples of this within this movie are the characters of Commander Donatra, who was portrayed as nothing more than an evil femme fatale wanna-be; and Commander Deanna Troi, who was portrayed as nothing but arm candy for Commander Riker. Dr. Beverly Crusher, who perhaps knows the young Picard better than anyone on board the ship, is simply dispatched to the side, just as she had been for the previous three movies.
In the case of Commander Donatra, this was usually an avenue that Star Trek usually avoided, the Romulan commander from “The Enterprise Incident” aside.
Attempts to Pander for a Flagging Series:
One of the other necessities that Rick Berman wanted in the film was a cameo by a member of the Star Trek: Voyager cast. It was rumored that the first choice was supposed to be Jeri Ryan (“Seven of Nine”), but she had other obligations that she had to fulfill. So Kate Mulgrew took the role and the check – but Berman knew that she had to be “promoted” to Admiral to be able to tell Picard what to do.
The only reason for the cameo was to leave a positive image of Star Trek: Voyager in the minds of the moviegoer should they ever catch the show in syndication. Like everything else done in the name of selective pandering by Berman and company, this backfired.
Nothing within the scene had a requirement for Admiral Janeway or Kate Mulgrew. In this case, you could have had any generic Admiral here and the scene is not diminished in any way.
Disempowerment in the Name of faux Feminism:
Commander Troi’s side story in the film is a stark example of what happens when you try to give a character something to do based on what you know of the character in general…and you miss the broadside of the battleship Bismarck in the process. Ultimately, the writers wanted someone to “find” the Scimitar through its “perfect cloak” and Nimoy had taken the scientific solution of developing a homing torpedo already. So the writers took the telepathic route. But it had to be established first.
So, the Viceroy uses his telepathic powers to allow Shinzon to invade Commander Troi’s mind. While she dreams about making love to her husband Riker, Shinzon becomes her lover, and she is unable to struggle successfully against the assault. The idea was that the Viceroy was going to “brainwash” Troi so that after Shinzon had taken Picard’s blood, and “killed” the rest of the crew, he was going to make Troi his woman.
Star Trek studiously avoided going down this road before this movie because it held such ideals in very low regard. This was a franchise that was never afraid of showing women working in the company of men, commanding starships, entire fleets, or even ruling planets. Star Trek’s bad missteps (like the Original Series’ episode “Turnabout Intruder”) aside, the franchise itself has usually tried to express some equity between the genders (example: Kathryn Janeway as Captain of the USS Voyager of the series Star Trek: Voyager), even if the attempts backfired on other levels.
Unfortunately, in this movie, Troi’s moment of “empowerment” – getting back at the Viceroy for his telepathic intrusion – is seriously undercut by the fact that he was intruding in her mind because she was being made into a trophy wife for his boss – especially after being made into nothing more than a happy bride for Commander William Riker for this movie.
Not even bothering to stop there, the Viceroy fights her husband in hand-to-hand combat because 2 big, sweaty man-types can only settle disputes by having a slap fight.
It also means that Troi does not confront her attacker (or abuser) directly. It is her husband that has to do that for her.
More Hollywood Female Empowerment, Right to Your Door.
The Rules of Hollywood Combat, Section 4 – Melee Weapons:
Both Shinzon and the Viceroy eschew the use guns for knives when they find themselves in combat with the rugged heroes of Picard and Riker. The Viceroy gets Kruge-dropped in the bottomless pit (??) of the Enterprise-E, while Shinzon dies when Picard suddenly gets super-strength and pulls a bulkhead bar and stabs Shinzon in the chest.
Ignored, as Always:
Gates McFadden gets very little screentime, as always. It’s as if they are never able for find anything for her to do once the plot of the movie reaches the second act.
Worf is reduced to bearing the brunt of adolescent humor that makes The Final Frontier look like Spaceballs in comparison.
LeVar Burton gets about the same kind of treatment in the movies as James Doohan does, except that Burton does not get a nephew to be redshirted, nor does he run into a bulkhead. But neither of them do much in their respective movie franchises.
Let’s Scratch Some Records, Shall We?
Whoopi Goldberg shows up in the very beginning for the wedding. Believing that they have met their Affirmative Action quota for women of color, the production staff fail to show any more of any significance throughout the rest of the film.
In many respects, Nemesis was a fitting end to both the Star Trek: The Next Generation franchise and Rick Berman’s run as Executive Showrunner for the Star Trek brand. This is a movie that lacks coherency and played the movie by the numbers. Rick Berman and the executive production crew often expressed their disdain for their core Star Trek audience, and every attempt to pander to non-existent demographics was met with ever diminishing ticket sales.
Star Trek: Nemesis also represented Star Trek’s last gasp on the big screen. What many TV producers fail to realize is that what works on the small screen does not translate well to the bigger one. There is no grand theme in this movie that is ever fleshed out. Jerry Goldsmith is hamstrung by Berman’s disdain for music. Stuart Baird makes William Shatner look like an Emmy-winner. The movie’s staunch attempts to make a “Big 3” out of Picard, Riker, and Data undermine the ensemble, and the film melts into a mess.
Nemesis was also Jerry Goldsmith’s last composition for Star Trek and it was his most bland thanks to executive meddling. The cast does their best with crappy material, and Tom Hardy’s Shinzon is simply a poorly-written villain, but his character overshadows Stewart’s Picard simply by the enthusiasm he has for his character. Stewart and the rest of the TNG stalwarts are simply going through the motions and turn this one last hurrah into a “Pfft, who cares” charade.
It is no wonder how Jennifer Lopez’s Maid in Manhattan, a movie about a Latina domestic worker romancing a charismatic New York Politician while raising her son, was able to sell more tickets than a dependable, reliable science fiction franchise.
Take note that unlike William Shatner, who apologized for the result that was Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Rick Berman and the executives blamed everyone but themselves for Star Trek: Nemesis. And, this action, more than anything, says it all.