Director: Stuart Baird
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Tom Hardy, Ron Perlman, Dina Meyer
On the subject of film and television, I will always recognize “Star Trek” as my first love. Just as I’d managed to familiarize myself with the adventures of Kirk, Spock and their friends, a whole new generation of heroes was taking flight. As I grew from that small child, I followed gleefully along with each new adventure of the Enterprise-D (and, later, the Enterprise-E) to see what shenanigans that Picard and crew would get into next. No matter how good or how bland the movies were, for fifteen years I naively held onto the belief that I could always come away from a “Star Trek” movie with a positive experience. Then, “Star Trek: Nemesis” happened.
The movie takes place in the year 2379. The way that “Star Trek: Nemesis” starts off, there is zero indication that this is going to be the worst film in the franchise’s history. The admittedly spectacular opening sequence takes place on Romulus, where the entire Romulan Senate is killed in a mass assassination (apart from the rebels involved in the plot). Then, we’re told that after fifteen years we as loyal fans are finally getting something we’ve wished for from the very beginning: the marriage of Commander William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis). It’s all downhill from there.
Just after the wedding, the Enterprise detects an android on a nearby planet, one which looks exactly like Data (Brent Spiner). Disregarding the fact that things didn’t go so well the last time they found one of Data’s siblings and reassembled him, the crew makes the same mistake this time around. Unlike Lore, B-4 isn’t homicidal. He is… to put it delicately… slow. I think this is supposed to produce amusement from the audience, but it doesn’t. It’s not that it comes off as offensive. It’s just stupid. So is the perilous situation which Picard (Patrick Stewart), Data and Worf (Michael Dorn) find themselves in when they go in to retrieve B-4… in a dune buggy. All the technological advancements that the TV series and films have produced, and we have a scene where Picard drives an ATV.
Picard receives orders from the recently-promoted Admiral Janeway (Kate Mulgrew, from the “Stat Trek: Voyager” TV series) to take the Enterprise to Romulus to meet with the new Romulan leader. Shinzon (Tom Hardy), they are told, is a Reman who wants to negotiate a peace with the Federation and to liberate the Reman people from oppression. Seems he’s already taken care of the second half on his own, but whatever. When they meet, Shinzon reveals himself to be a clone of Picard, as he appeared in his youth. The trouble is that Patrick Stewart and Tom Hardy look nothing alike, and so Picard’s look of shock is a source of unintentional comedy.
Despite their cordial first meeting, something doesn’t smell right. Sure enough, Shinzon kidnaps Picard, and B-4 is revealed to be a plant meant to spy on the Enterprise and lure Picard to Romulus. It comes out that Shinzon is aging far too rapidly for his body to handle, and requires a blood transfusion from Picard in order to survive. However, before things can get underway, Data (posing as B-4) rescues Picard. The same weapon used to murder the Romulan Senate is discovered aboard Shinzon’s ship, only on a much larger scale. This lets Picard know that Shinzon is intent on leading an invasion of the Federation, starting with Earth.
Eventually, there’s a big space battle inside of a nebula. Communications and weapons lock are all for shit, and the Enterprise finds herself on the defensive until two Romulan vessels come to help. That doesn’t last, however, as one is destroyed and the other disabled. On her own once again, the Enterprise rams into Shinzon’s warship, disabling his primary weapons. The doomsday device, on the other hand, is still operational. Picard decides it’s his job to disable it, so he beams over there with no way back. Picard kills Shinzon in a fight, but it’s Data who comes to the rescue, securing Picard’s return to the Enterprise and sacrificing himself to destroy Shinzon’s warship.
As Riker accepts his promotion as the new captain of the starship Titan, the crew mourns for Data. In order to make the plagiarism of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” complete, Picard learns that, before he died, Data transferred some of his memory into B-4. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how we leave this beloved crew that we had followed since 1987. Story goes that it was intended as TNG’s next-to-last film, not its last. Not even a follow-up could have absolved “Nemesis” of its sins.
Aside from those two great moments at the beginning of the film, virtually nothing about “Star Trek: Nemesis” works. In fact, virtually nothing about it even makes sense! Worf shows up again despite not being an official crew member. He’s not even supposed to be with Starfleet anymore, having been reassigned as the Federation Ambassador to the Klingon homeworld. Guess that’s out the window.
Shinzon’s motives warrant close scrutiny. He’s well within his rights to want to kill Picard. Oh, wait, no… He needs Picard alive so that he can get the life-saving blood transfusion he needs! Could have asked nicely. But, certainly, he is justified in leading an invasion of Earth. After all, it was the humans who created him in a lab and left him on a desolate planet to die when he’d outlived his usefulness. Except… Nope! That was the Romulans, whom he’d already made to pay for their crimes. But the mind-rape of Troi, that makes sense, right? Because a man of Shinzon’s background probably hasn’t been with too many women in his life. Nope, no form of rape is ever excusable, and this one doesn’t even service the plot in any way, shape or form. It’s largely forgotten soon after it happens.
B-4 is a blatant plot device meant to give Brent Spiner (who felt he was getting too old for the part) a way out, and is otherwise a lame rip-off of Spock’s death from “Wrath of Khan.” If we really had to have another Data-like android, I’d have preferred the return of Lore, his evil older brother from the TV series. Wouldn’t have been any harder to explain who Lore is to the uninitiated than it was to explain the Borg in “First Contact.” You could even do a redemption angle with Lore, which might have been nice.
After the previous film had hung on the theme of youth, “Nemesis” is clearly all about death. Appropriately, Jerry Goldsmith’s somber, funereal-paced score projects the aura of being old and tired (just as the franchise itself was doing at this point). Sadly, Goldsmith himself was old and tired, and would be gone in less than two years’ time.
It took me a decade to forgive screenwriter John Logan for this mess. Director Stuart Baird hasn’t gotten off so easy. It’s inexcusable to go into a project as part of a long-running series and not make any attempts to familiarize yourself with the material. Nicholas Meyer (director of “Star Trek II” and “Star Trek VI”) knew enough to do that. Honestly, they should have just given Jonathan Frakes the director’s chair for the third time. Worse still, this debacle was supposed to be Tom Hardy’s breakout role. Instead, its total failure nearly destroyed him, and almost robbed us of great roles in films like “Inception,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “The Revenant,” to name a few.
The greatest offense committed by “Star Trek: Nemesis” was saved for the franchise itself, as this movie was almost the death knell of “Star Trek.” It’s the only one in the series for which I’ve never felt compelled to own a copy. To me, Hell would be defined as sitting through a double bill of “Alien 3” and this movie. I expect, after this review, that I will never feel the need to watch it ever again.