Star Trek: Nemesis Review
Even if it were to be praised for doing little else, Star Trek: Nemesis appeared to end the ridiculous numerology that fans of the series had built up around the films - even numbers good, odd numbers bad. That this was based rather more on hope than realism is unsurprising - the most devout fans of any series will fervently keep the faith despite the witnessing of a brutal truth that declares otherwise - but with Star Trek, such notes of hopefulness have increasingly desperate harmonics.
Except...well, Star Trek: Nemesis actually isn't at all bad and certainly not the disaster it's made out to be. Instead, it's simply one more example of the failings of this largely tired run of films, spun off from television series that offer less and less with each new season from producers that are no more than jobbing hacks. Nemesis is no Motion Picture but it's no The Final Frontier either.
Star Trek: Nemesis opens in the Romulan Senate, with the military requesting more involvement for a mysterious character called Shinzon. When the politicians refuse to accede to the military, there is an apparent slaughter in the senate, caused by a mysterious green spray, which signals the likelihood of an uprising by Shinzon, taking the Senate by force given the failure of diplomacy.
Meanwhile, in Federation space, the crew of the Enterprise is celebrating the marriage of William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) to Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), who are being toasted by Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). As the Enterprise leaves for Troi's home planet of Betazed, on which Riker and his wife will be spending their honeymoon, the Enterprise picks up a positronic emission identical to that transmitted by Data (Brent Spiner). On investigating the source of this signal, Picard, Data and Worf (Michael Dorn) find an android named B4, dispersed limb-by-limb across the surface of a dry, dusty planet and take it back to the Enterprise to be reassembled and given access to the memory of both Data and the ship's computer. Shortly after, Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) contacts Picard on behalf of the Federation and request that he takes the Enterprise to Romulus on a diplomatic mission to meet with a new leader, named, upon their arrival, as Shinzon (Tom Hardy).
During their initial meetings, Shinzon declares that he is a clone of Picard, long abandoned in the dilithium mines on Remus, the sister planet to Romulus but whose oppressed inhabitants survive under the whip-crack of Romulan masters. Having used B4 as bait to lure in Picard, it soon becomes clear that Shinzon has planned much more than a simply reunion...
In allowing Star Trek: Nemesis to be directed by Stuart Baird, whose involvement in the film industry goes back to 1968 as a director's assistant on If..., Paramount continue their tradition of using less-than-stellar names with which to helm entries in the Trek series of films. Despite there being but the one occasion in which this has proved fruitful - First Contact, directed by Jonathan Frakes - Paramount continue to treat Star Trek as little more than a testing ground with which to check the suitability of actors, editors, best boys, wardrobe assistants, etc for a shot at directing. What faults there are with Star Trek: Nemesis are largely those shared with the rest of the series in that, for far too long, it's been dragged onto television and cinema screens with such a lack of care and interest that the studio could only be more insulting if they simply showed a still image of the word, "LOSERS!" for 110 minutes.
So, Star Trek: Nemesis doesn't make that much sense? Enormous holes in the plot? Of course there are, as under Rick Berman's stewardship, there are so many failings within the show's logic that it's a wonder the Vulcans haven't downed tools to stand beside a brazier near the Neutral Zone shouting, "Scab!" at passing Klingons. Take for example, the Borg - baddest of them all in Next Generation but Voyager's excessive deployment of Borg cubes made them impotent. Whilst First Contact compounded the damage by having them travel back in time to invade Earth, Enterprise dealt a fatal blow to the Borg, as it has done for the entire brand since it premiered. Sadly, in keeping Star Trek: Nemesis within the terms of the entire series of films and television series, it continues the general feeling of disappointment, failing to expand upon what we already know about the crew and the world in which they live and being forced to maintain some kind of continuity with its predecessors. Therefore, there are nods to the history of the series by using the Romulans but, honestly, any alien species could be used with the entire Shinzon plot line being cobbled together out of odds and sods from elsewhere.
On the other hand, if it is possible to look at Star Trek: Nemesis away from the brand, the film isn't at all bad, being an acceptable mix of dialogue and action, if possibly a little too much of the latter, that will instantly appear familiar to fans of the Next Generation period of Star Trek. Yet, with the emphasis on action, Star Trek: Nemesis is also reminiscent of Voyager, a series that preferred the use of a big stick over speaking softly. Within such restrictive terms, Star Trek: Nemesis is fairly enjoyable, capably setting up a tense middle act that ties up the many strands during the opening forty minutes and ending the film with an entertaining space battle. Baird does actually mention this both in the Director's Commentary and in one of the extras, stating that it was not directed with only the fans in mind. If that is indeed true, then he has succeeded, with Star Trek: Nemesis having notably avoided many of the subplots that tend to linger throughout the Next Generation era.
Then again, in as much as Baird does an acceptable job from a script provided by John Logan, an Oscar-winning screenwriter for Gladiator and who is described as a fan of the series, he simply misses the sparkle that a major motion-picture ought to have. As much as it is often one of the most derided entries in the series, what The Motion Picture did have in its favour was that it was genuinely imbued with a sense of the epic, the unexpected and the wondrous. Scoff all you want but Star Trek I did feel like it belonged in the cinemas and not as little more than a spruced-up end-of-season two-parter, unlike many of the other entries. In watching First Contact recently, considered to be the best film starring the Next Generation crew, it really is striking how, well...ordinary it is and how easily it compares to an entry of a similar length from the series, such as The Best Of Both Worlds. Star Trek: Nemesis - better than Generations and Insurrection; on a par with First Contact - suffers from quite a similar fate, with it recalling that finale of the third season/opening episode of the fourth even down to the capture of Picard and the epic space battle against a more powerful opponent.
The cast do a good job, notably Patrick Stewart but you sense that, after seven seasons on television of playing Picard and with this fourth film, it's a role he could do without actually being conscious. Such a comment could, of course, be directed towards the rest of the cast with the possible exception of Marina Sirtis who emotes terribly throughout but most notably in the scene in which she establishes a telepathic connection with the Reman Viceroy (Ron Perlman).
Star Trek: Nemesis has been anamorphically transferred in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and has been provided with a wonderful transfer, being crisp, clean and richly detailed. The DVD supports the wide range of colours and deep contrast that is evident in the original prints and handles the blackness of Shinzon's ship without a hitch.
Star Trek: Nemesis has been transferred with a remarkably clean audio track with excellent use of the rear speakers and the subwoofer. Whilst those scenes with a great deal of dialogue have been clearly mixed to make little use of the surround channels, they truly come alive during the dune buggy chase within the opening ten minutes and again in the space battle at the end. It's a fine audio track, only let down by the rather pedestrian score.
This release of Star Trek: Nemesis, whilst not as feature-packed as the Special Editions that are still being issued, certainly gets a fair number of good extras, including the following:
Director's Commentary: Stuart Baird provides a decent, if slightly dull, commentary that covers the development of the original story, the direction and the interplay between the actors. With Baird's background as an action editor, he is much more animated during the film's closing act than during its opening but throughout the commentary, he has a tendency to allow periods of silence to creep in. This extra is subtitled in English.
A Star Trek Family's Final Journey(16m17s, 1.33:1 Non-Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): Opening with Patrick Stewart's astute observation that, "A Star Trek film has to be a Star Trek film!", this does get a lot better as each of the main actors gets their chance to discuss their own character, the rest of the cast and the themes in the script, including that of bonds between the surrogate family that is the crew.
New Frontiers (8m43s, 1.33:1 Non-Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): Following an opening in which Rick Berman, Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes discuss Stuart Baird's impact on the film, this cuts to an interview with the director who reveals a bumbling lack of desire and ambition for his film, like a bachelor uncle explaining the wedding video he's just taken, being summed up as, "Well...I set up the camera, ummm, the people move around a bit and that, as they say, is that."
A Bold Vision Of The Final Frontier (10m17s, 1.33:1 Non-Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): This is surely only the second half of the interview begun in New Frontiers and continues Baird's good intentions yet sedentary practices behind the making of Star Trek: Nemesis.
Red Alert! Shooting The Action On Nemesis(10m09s, 1.33:1 Non-Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): Beginning with the unlikely assertion by Jonathan Frakes that, "...the audience wants Star Trek to be an action movie", this feature concentrates on the
Deleted Scenes(2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic, 5.1 Surround): Beginning with an introduction by Rick Berman, this section includes the following seven deleted scenes:
- Chateau Picard 2267 (5m48s), introduced by Patrick Stewart
- The Time Of Conquest (4m23s), introduced by Stuart Baird
- Federation Protocols (53s)
- A Loss Of Self (49s)
- Turbolift Violation (2m27s), introduced by Stuart Baird
- Sickbay Prepares For Battle (1m00s)
- Advice For The New First Officer (3m47s)
Photo Gallery(1.33:1 Non-Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): This contains forty photographs from the design of interiors, costumes and spacecraft.
Despite the claim that Star Trek will boldly go where no one has gone before, the films suffer from such a lack of invention that such risks are so rare as to be nonexistent. Whilst Star Trek: The Motion Picture had the advantage of being the first film and the first Star Trek product since the demise of the original series with Wrath Of Khan showing an innovative use of a connection to the sixties' series, each film from Search For Spock to Nemesis has been little more than an extension of the television show, complete with the same problems. Whilst it is admirable that Stuart Baird wanted to try and make Nemesis capable of standing on its own, he doesn't wholly succeed, offering little more than a mix of Next Generation-styled worthiness with Voyager-era action.
If Paramount wanted to be daring with Star Trek, there would be little to stop them. How fascinating it would be to see them produce a one-off film within the franchise that worked independently from the series and not using any of the original, Next Generation, Voyager, DS9 or Enterprise cast to make the fans feel at home. Indeed, how much better Enterprise might have worked had it been a single film as opposed to a series that surely provides much justification for giving the series a rest.
There is no doubt that Paramount could be more experimental if they wished. Maybe now, with the exit of the Next Generation crew, Star Trek XI could be sufficiently different and of a high enough quality to bring both the fans and casual viewers back to the franchise. As it is, Star Trek: Nemesis, enjoyable though it is, simply isn't enough to indicate that the interest of either will be sustained should the series continue in this manner. It is, however, nowhere near the failure that many would have you believe - enjoyable but slight.