After 1998’s Star Trek: Insurrection, Paramount wasn’t really interested in making any more Star Trek movies. It wasn’t until a pitch by producer Rick Berman, actor Brent Spiner, and Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Logan that Paramount reluctantly green-lit a 10th film. With the darkest storyline since 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Rick Berman hired Stuart Baird, an Oscar-nominated film editor who also had experience directing action movies (1996’s Executive Decision and 1998’s U.S. Marshals). This would be the first Star Trek film I got to see on its opening weekend, and I would get to see it on the big screen again a little more than two years later at a free screening at the Loews theater on 34th St. in Manhattan.
2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis picks up four years after the events of the previous film. The crew of the Enterprise is on Earth celebrating the wedding of Commander William Riker and Counselor Deanna Troi. While en route to Troi’s home planet Betazed for the second half of the wedding, the Enterprise picks up a positronic electromagnetic signature from Kolarus III. Theorizing that there’s an android like Data there, the Enterprise diverts to Kolarus III, where Captain Picard, Data, and Worf discover an early prototype of Data called B-4. Picard later receives an order to go to Romulus to meet with the new Romulan Praetor, Shinzon (who’s rumored to be Reman). When Picard and his crew finally meet Shinzon, they are shocked to discover that not only is he human, but that he is also a much younger clone of Picard. Things get even more complicated when it’s discovered that Shinzon’s ship contains thalaron radiation, which can be used as an extremely lethal and deadly weapon.
The returning cast (Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, and Gates McFadden) was terrific once again. Stewart gives an excellent performance that rivals the one he gave in 1996’s Star Trek: First Contact, and Spiner is amazing in a dual performance as Data and B-4. Sirtis also gets a chance to shine in a sub-plot with Troi and the Reman Viceroy. The “guest stars” also turn in excellent performances: Tom Hardy (as Shinzon), Ron Perlman (as the Reman Viceroy), Dina Meyer (as Sub-Commander Donatra), Jude Ciccolella (as Sub-Commander Suran), Shannon Cochran (as Senator Tal’aura), and cameos from Kate Mulgrew (as Admiral Kathryn Janeway), Whoopi Goldberg (as Guinan), and Whil Wheaton (as Wesley Crusher). Hardy is terrific in one of his early films as the younger Picard clone, and Perlman is very menacing as the Viceroy (and still recognizable despite the heavy makeup).
Stuart Baird did a decent job with his direction; his unfamiliarity with Star Trek, however, was more of a crutch. John Logan’s screenplay was terrific and epic, and it was unfortunate that one-third of the film ended up being cut out. Berman wanted a two-hour running time, so a lot of the material that further fleshed out the story and involved character development for several characters got cut (including a lot of Worf scenes, more of the Shinzon/Troi sub-plot, additional Shinzon material, and the original ending!). To be fair, some of the cuts can be blamed on Baird, whose unfamiliarity with Star Trek was ultimately the reason for the cuts. Jeffrey Kimball’s cinematography was top-notch, matching the tone of the storyline while still maintaining the optimism that’s also contained in it (my favorite lit scene would be the one where Shinzon meets Picard and his crew for the first time while keeping himself in the shadows until he chooses to reveal himself). Dallas Puett’s editing showed some interesting (if not unusual) cuts (for a Star Trek film) but manages to keep the film moving at a good pace. Herman Zimmerman’s production design was excellent once again, creating news sets for the Romulan Senate, the various areas of the Scimitar (Shinzon’s Reman ship), and making some minor changes to the Enterprise sets.
Bob Ringwood’s costume designs were terrific, creating new costumes for the Remans and the Kolarans, the special outfits for the Riker/Troi wedding, as well as re-designing the Romulan uniforms. The special effects by Digital Domain were first-rate (this would mark the last time a Star Trek film featured miniature model ships). Harry Cohen’s sound design was intriguing; it freshened up the sound effects without straying away from the Star Trek norm. Michael Westmore’s makeup design was excellent once again. His new Nosferatu-inspired Reman designs were incredible, as were his Kolaran designs as well as the prosthetic pieces that were used to make Tom Hardy look more like Patrick Stewart. And finally, there’s Jerry Goldsmith’s terrific score. Goldsmith reprises his Enterprise and family motifs, and creates a new one for Shinzon. There are many variations of Shinzon’s theme throughout the score, appearing in its final form during the end credits suite (it’s a much better listen on the soundtrack album since the end credits music in the film was inexplicably re-edited). The music for the mysterious Remans was synthesizer-heavy, but the electronics do complement the orchestra quite nicely.
Star Trek: Nemesis deals with themes of duality, nature vs. nurture, and the loss of one self. This was the first post-9/11 Star Trek film, although the screenplay was written prior to that event. The theme of dealing with the loss of one self and trying to find your place in the world was likely influenced by the 2000 presidential election in which George W. Bush was “elected” President of the United States, leaving many disillusioned and questioning themselves in the aftermath. The themes of duality and nature vs. nurture are explored in the pairs of Picard and Shinzon and Data and B-4, and there are no easy answers as each continues along their journey. Perhaps releasing this film near Christmas (and much, much closer to The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers) was not a good decision on Paramount’s part (the Paramount executives at the time of the film’s release seemed to have wanted the film to fail, considering the bad release date and the little marketing that accompanied the film). Despite missing one-third of the film and Paramount executives who seemingly wanted to stop making new Star Trek TV shows and movies, there is much to enjoy and appreciate in this underrated gem and swan song for the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It shows that no matter how deep the conflict is within yourself, there is still hope for you to try to do what is right.