Star Trek : Insurrection (Special Edition) (1998)
8th August 2005
When Data goes berserk during a mission on a planet away from the crew of the Enterprise, Picard diverts from a particularly boring diplomatic function and heads to the planet in order to prevent him from being destroyed and rescue some Starfleet crew who are apparently being held against their will. However, Starfleet are not giving the complete story to Picard and when the Enterprise arrives they discover that they are neither welcome from Starfleet admiral Dougherty or the Son'a who are investigating the planet and its strange healing properties.
After rescuing Data from certain destruction Picard arrives on the planet surface only to discover a paradise populated by the peace loving Ba'ku who have forsaken their technology advances to live in harmony with the planet. But Starfleet's presence is far from friendly and they have the intention of relocating the 600 Ba'ku inhabitants to another planet so that they may harvest the strange rejuvenating radiation from the rings of the planet. With Starfleet clearly in defiance of the prime directive, Picard and the crew are forced to take sides with the Ba'ku and protect their home, culture and unique planets properties before being lost forever.
The picture is excellent and it really helps push the story along nicely. With such a bright, colourful and highly detailed picture, the many lush and mountainous areas of California where the Ba'ku village scenes were filmed looked stupendous with the specially built village looking so realistic you could have moved in. The CGI special effects are also impressive throughout with the gas clouds and colours of the planet rings being especially rich and vibrant. However, the picture is so clear that some of the CGI effects, especially the pet belonging to a young boy, are all too obvious. The transfer is also relatively clean with no real problems with either dust specks or other forms of picture damage.
With the region two edition containing multiple subtitle tracks the DTS soundtrack which is available on the region one edition of the film has rather unfortunately been lost. However, the 448 Kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is superb with plenty of ambient effects on both the Enterprise and the planet surface. The various space scenes are especially good with the various shuttle and other craft whizzing around the surround and front channels whilst the impressive musical score certainly adds to the tension. The dialogue is crisp and clear in the centre channel whilst there's some good use of the LFE channel during the more dramatic battle scenes. All in all, just what a Star Trek film demands.
The menu systems across both discs are scored and nicely animated with what appears to be the bridge and various schematics from Ru'afo's craft and the collector. Once a sub-menu is selected there's a nice transition effect with the bridge scrolling around to before bringing up another control panel and, although the menus on the extras discs can look a little cluttered at times, there should be no problem in navigating though the various options.
If there's one film, or series for that matter, which can hold its head up high and claim that Special Edition tag without feeling guilty then this continuing set of Special Editions can certainly be classed as one of them. But whilst I'll start by complaining that this should have been the DVD release in the first place, the whopping three hours of additional extras do at least warrant owners of the original release of the DVD upgrading to this far superior version.
With director Jonathan Frakes coming across so well in the various documentaries on the supplemental disc it's a great shame that he wasn't able to stretch to providing an audio commentary for the main film. Although the disc is packed with numerous subtitle tracks, it's hardly a long film and I'm sure one could have been easily accommodated. Never the less, it's not completely barren as trivia gurus Michael and Denise Okuda are on hand to provide an interesting textual commentary track for the entire film. Whilst the casual viewer will find very little of interest, Trekkies will love the many nuggets of information provided by the pair, such as the many of the sets used in the film were reused from many of the other Star Trek films and television series, and for a simple textual commentary it's surprisingly addictive.
But it's the second supplemental disc where the rest of extras are to be had, and boy, is there a massive collection to work your way through. The extras are split into six sections labelled as Production, The Star Trek Universe, Creating the Illusion, Deleted Scenes, Archives and Advertising. And, unlike many other DVD releases which attempt to con the consumer by bolstering the extras with a large number of short and inadequate featurettes, the many featurettes here run from anywhere between ten to twenty minutes and each feature is accompanied by multiple language subtitle tracks.
The Production section contains a comprehensive set of featurettes which look at the sets, the stunt work, the story and an interview with Frakes. Given this amount of detail there is slight repeat of information and cast interviews, but since it's literally only seconds it hardly matters. In the seventeen minute It Takes a Village featurette, and along with numerous clips from the film, production designer Herman Zimmerman and the cast members talk about the process of designing, building and using the extremely impressive Ba'ku, and largest ever Star Trek, set high up at Lake Sherwood in the mountains of California. Next up is the twenty minute Location, Location, Location featurette Jonathan Frakes (who gets all excited about the sets, stunt work and the location), Patrick Stewart, Donna Murphy and the other Trek clan talk about the wonders of being out on location rather than being cooped up on a studio lot. With plenty of behind-the-scenes footage and clips from the film it's all interesting stuff which is made all the better by the shear enthusiasm of Frakes.
In the fifteen minute Art of Insurrection featurette, Illustrator John Eaves looks at the impressive artwork and props needed for the many new CGI based ships. Together with the artwork you get to see the final CGI scenes from the film and for the design team involved it must have been very rewarding to see their efforts on the big screen. I do like these sort of featurettes and given that the information is all very interesting it makes it a worth while watch. The six minute Anatomy of a Stunt looks at a particular scene involving Data and the Son'a which was ultimately deleted from the film. Whilst the stunt work isn't that interesting, there's plenty of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the stunt coordinator and the blokes who are about to throw themselves off the side of a cliff.
The seventeen minute The Story featurette contains an interview with writer Michael Piller who discusses how he came up with the idea and the script for the film. Together with many production stills and clips from the film it's an interesting and insightful look at the film and the many questions and morale issues that the films raises. The twenty-five minute The Making of Star Trek Insurrection featurettes contains a number of studio interviews with the cast as well as on set interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. There's a bit of repeated information, and the on set interviews have been split up and spliced into the many featurettes, but on the whole it's a interesting peak at just how close the actors are. Finally, this mammoth section is rounded off with the nineteen minute Director's Notebook. Again, with oodles of behind-the-scenes footage and Frakes saying "Action!" a lot, Frakes quickly admits that the story wasn't as strong as First Contact, but also admits that the film looked much better. His comments did seem a little odd, but on the whole his attitude impressed me and his passion for the project was absolute.
The Star Trek Universe sections contains two featurettes, the seventeen minute Westmore's Aliens and the thirteen minute Star Trek's Beautiful Women. The first featurette contains an interview with Star Trek's prolific make-up designer and supervisor Micheal Westmore and includes plenty of clips of his creations from the many Star Trek family of programmes. The second featurette is a rather fun set of interviews and clips of the various female aliens and their men who have appeared throughout the Star Trek universe. Jonathan Frakes gets all hot and sweaty as he reminisces his "prosthetic head in every port" whilst Robert Picado, the holographic Doctor, is equally amusing as he recalls his female alient encounters and, especially, Seven of Nine. It's all tongue in cheek stuff, but it's also very funny to watch.
The Creating the Illusion section contains three individual scenes Shuttle Chase, The Drone and Duck Blind. Running for a total of fifteen minutes they are not as interesting as the other featurettes, possibly because of the narration by the particularly wooden co-producer/second unit director Peter Lauritson. Still, there's plenty of storyboards, clips of pre and post production CGI effects with a good level of technical detail. Next up are seven Deleted Scenes including an alternative ending. Fortunately, there is a "Play All" option and most of the cuts are simply slight extensions to existing scenes. However, rather than being left to work out the cuts for yourself, Peter Lauritson is again on hand to introduce a number of the deleted scenes.
The Archive section is made up of approximately sixty storyboard stills and an equal number of photographs in the Photograph Gallery. Finally, the Advertising Sections includes the Teaser Trailer, Theatrical Trailer, Original Promotional Featurette and a trailer for Borg Invasion which I have absolutely no idea what is it. All in all, this is one of the most comprehensive set of extras for a film you're ever going to get. It's just a pity that they weren't available, which they clearly were, at the time of the original DVD release.
It's a common trait of the Star Trek movie franchise that the odd numbered films tended to suffer in the story and action stakes. However, whilst it may not be as exciting as other Star Trek outings, Insurrection breaks this mould somewhat with a particularly good script, even if there isn't too much on screen action to be had in either space or on the surface of the planet. Still, First Contact takes some beating! The film also seems to give a subtle nod to both recent and distant history with the problems of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and Nazi Germany. But the film is not always so serious and the crew of the Enterprise still manage to find the time raise a few laughs as the radiation start to have an effect.
There are a few oddities in the film which made me ponder a few things, but I guess that's just me being cynical and a bit picky. But if the life giving properties of the planet can cause Geordi's sight to return, and the amazing technology which can propel man across the galaxy at amazing speed, why the hell hasn't it managed to find a cure for male baldness and why didn't the planet's radiation make Picard's hair start to grow back? And don't get me started on that Manual Steering Joystick and the "Riker Manover"! Ok, so it may be a bit of an in joke, but it certainly grated and had me slapping my forehead in despair.
Still, this Special Edition version of Insurrection really does add some extra spice to what is already a rather underrated Star Trek film. Science fiction fans, and especially the many Trekkies, will find this a very tempting purchase indeed. However, it's just a pity that Paramount continue to feel that they can justify charge so much for a two disc set. Fortunately, hunt around a bit and you'll find it much cheaper on the Internet.