Shuttle Pod Podcast Episode 24 – A Deep Dive Into Star Trek: Insurrection

This week, the Shuttle Pod crew hop on the Captain’s yacht and head down to the planet of the Ba’ku. It’s a good thing Data is made to serve as a floatation device, because we’re taking a deep dive into Star Trek: Insurrection.

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Star Trek: Insurrection is a Star Trek movie with a number of problems but a number of really cool moments, too. The Shuttle Pod crew talk about the things they love and hate about the 1998 film, including how it makes our boobs start to firm up (not that we care about such things in this day and age).

Some links of note from this week’s podcast:
Some say the book about the making of the film is better than the actual film. Michael Piller’s “Fade In”, which was not published before Piller passed away, has just been made officially available for the first time. We definitely recommend that you check that one out.

There is also this deleted scene — an alternate ending to Insurrection that didn’t play well during initial test screenings:

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It’s got a good Goldsmith score:)

I would have preferred this sort of ending, in that what the main guy wanted was going to be the death of him, and that Picard didn’t engage in the typical action-y nonsense.

Actually the “action-y nonsense” was the result of a test audience and they had to have an alternate ending.

I would have preferred that ending as well, but —

It was the same with Generations where Kirk didn’t die from a collapsing bridge, but rather being shot in the back by Soren, Soren watching the Nexus fly off, and Picard in self defence having to shoot Soren.

Star Trek: Insurrection is the worst Star Trek film ever made.

I would say it’s the weakest TNG movie, even worse than Nemesis. To me, Generations is the most offensive, but less dull than Insurrection.

Generations is easily the second best TNG film. It captures the look of the TNG series perfectly and obviously the Enterprise D features in its grand fairwell. It’s full of dodgy science and the nexus is defiantly hockey. But it’s a fun journey with a nice payoff. I cannot understand why generations gets such vitriol as it does.

Generations is a tale of two films. The stuff with Shatner is tremendous. The stuff in the middle, not so much, save for the excellent E-D crash sequence.

Insurrection is awful. Some of it works better if you forget there is a long history with these characters and franchise. But the worst thing about TNG was them taking a TV ensemble and trying to shoe horn in enough interestings for all the cast to do. It didnt work very well.

Star Trek into darkness

Easily the worst, followed closely by Nemesis then Final Frontier. The reboots are Shakespearean masterpieces compared to some of the trash that came before it.

Gotta agree with Mr Plinkett on this one.

Masterpieces based on what? Amount of CGI and action? Number of lens flares? Shaky cam? Dumb storyline? Lame characterization and characters? Mediocre score and music? Crappy cinematography? Stupid jokes and lame humor?
Masterpieces, indeed. Well, there’s always a Razzy Award for such masterpieces.

Star Trek itself deserves a razzy for the last fifty years. Lets not confuse this with high art here. It’s a western serial in outer space with bad acting on cardboard sets and rubber puppet suits. In that sense, Trek 09 captured the corniness and ridiculousness of said property but actually made it believable and watchable. I’ll take that over bloated Shat scene chewing like he’s at amateur night at some high school play. Please dude, you’re embarrassing. Sit down before you fall down.

mj bs as usual.

Have you seen Star Trek into Dumbness? Or Star Trek in Name Only (2009)?

In Name Only is a brilliant title for the 09, which I rank as the worst of TREK features. I honestly felt insulted throughout, which in tandem with being bored and given eyestrain by the amateur-hour looking camerawork, is a godawful bad combination.

Far from it, Nemesis and Final Frontier are easily the worst. One lacked soul and heavily cliched, the other didn’t get passed the first draft and riddled with plot holes.

The JJ-verse films are the worst and least memorable. I have my fingers crossed one day Star Trek will have another television renaissance in the prime universe, that perhaps some low budget films featuring that cast will happen. As long as studios force Trek movies to conform to action movie banality, it’s no longer Trek.

Sure lets do another same old same old forgettable tv series, which is exactly what we will get and why it will fail.

@Ralph Daay


It’s weak, but Generations is still the worst. Fan service extravaganza built around the worst plot device to ever foul a Trek production…..

No. The absolute worst was ST V.

1,2 & 5 are the only films I really really like out of the bunch (not that they are without fault, but I don’t feel bad for enjoying them.)

Kayla, you yawn while recapping the film. What does that tell ya about this movie? Ha! I yawn when I think about it, too.

Maybe there wasn’t enough oxygen in the room, or she didn’t get enough sleep last night, who knows.

Ha! Do I? I woke up extra early to record this one, so maybe that’s why!

ST:Insurrection had better story than any of the reboot movies. A wonderful score by Jerry Goldsmith, too, and a really nice cinematography.

The Goldsmith score is another thing. It was serviceable. Not bad but not great either. It was easily the weakest of all his Trek scores as well.
Rosenman’s TVH score was by far the worst, btw.

I actually thought his Insurrection score was really nice. The Baku and Sona (I literally have no idea where the apostrophes go in these names and cannot be bothered to look it up) themes were really well developed. He got to expand the ‘A Busy Man’ leitmotif. It is definitely a solid offering from him.

I feel Nemesis was his weakest offering. His Shinzon theme is a thin as the character is based on, it lacks any kind of major beauty or wonder thematic that characterizes his Trek work (I actually see a lot of Goldsmith in the Yorktown theme from ‘Beyond’). It was a very sad end for his relationship with Trek.

(The First Contact score is also a bit sloppy, but it is to be expected since his son had to finish it for him, and the core themes of that movie are good enough to make up for it)

The score was the best thing about it, the cinematography was bland especially when comparing it to the spectacular cinematography of First Contact, the sfx were a big step down from ILM quality sfx, and the story wasn’t anything worth telling especially after TNG handled those themes in the episode Journey’s End better than they did with Insurrection. I understand the need for a lighter film after First Contact but it’s like they forgot they were making movies and decided to rest on the fact that “Hey, it’s Star Trek, folks will come out and watch it.” I think if they had really come up with a more compelling story that felt cinematic, the outcome would have been much different.

Funny, the Insurrection score reminds me of the Trek V score. Two very weak films but two of my highest rated Trek film scores.

Insurrection has no theme or themes. Having a revenge plot element doesn’t make the film ABOUT revenge. It is a messy collection of plot threads, nothing deep about it. The structure is all wrong for a meaningful feature. They were writing the features like they were long tv episodes, with A and B stories, which is detrimental to a strong narrative thrust. It’s really a mess, just a TNG TV episode writ large with a large budget.
The only thing i like about it is Goldsmith’s theme for the Bak’u.

On the other hand from my previous comment, a two-hour episode of TNG with a large budget i WOULD watch, if it were well-written. These movies that attempt to have “a Data story” and a “Picard Story” and “also Klingons because Klingons test well” but contained within a summer tentpole action structure just leads to a disjointed mess.
The movie should have been about EITHER Picard’s struggle with the Federation’s(represented by Admiral Dougherty) willingness to covertly and forcibly relocate a culture to further the Federation’s aims and how he would perceive that willingness as an erosion of the core precepts upon which the UFP stood and what he would do about it if so,
OR the original concept of Data as Colonel Kurtz/Heart of Darkness. Either of them could have been developed into a decent tale with a reason to exist beyond creating revenue for Paramount.
I’m also beginning to believe the only way to make a good Trek film is to use good filmmakers who aren’t overly familiar with the Trek universe. People with talent who can then sprinkle Trek elements into a script just so long as they serve the story. Start with a story that is dying to be told, then tell Trek’s version of it, rather than start with a movie with 120 minutes of blank film and nothing but ??? for what to expose onto it.

For sure the weakest TNG feature. Rather forgettable overall. I really didn’t like the fact that they left Ru’afo to just die. Doesn’t feel very Trek-ish or even Federation-ish. The could have EASILY transported both off the injector. Picard to the transporter pad and Ru-afo straight to the brig. (Still not as bad as Voyage Home, however)
This alternate ending, for me at least, with Picard extending his hand to help and being ignored, works WAY better for me and seems to be in line with the Picard character and the Trek ethics.

Now the Generations alternate ending… That one NEEDED to be changed. What they ended up with worked better. Kirk getting shot in the back just is not a fitting death for Treks greatest hero. And they got that great, “it was fun” line.

“Insurrection” was dull, flacid, pointless….pick a verb. The point was it was about as interesting as watching Spiner’s makeup dry. Easily the weakest entry in the TNG film series, if not all of the cinematic Trek. At least the JJ-verse films are interesting to look at. The script was so terrible even F. MURRAY ABRAHAM couldn’t make it work. The man is a master actor, but an actor is only as good as the material he’s given. This was total shlock.

I think Insurrection really fails in establishing stakes, it is a very low risk movie which makes it very bland. I have kind of developed a fascination for it because there is nothing I feel makes it empirically bad that I can properly identify (TMP’s lack of action, SFS’s pacing, TFF’s…everying, Generations’ too many cooks, Nemesis’ complete lack of originality and overabundance of action, and ID’s….everything, again). It just…isn’t good. I think it also serves alongside TFF’s dreadful special effects. The entire film is a visual mess and is a testament to the awkward teenage years of CGI that ran through the late 90s to early 2000s.

It is definitely a film worth discussing, if only because so many talented people made such a weak movie.

I thought the 1st 1/4 of “Insurrection” was as good as any of the Trek films, but it just ran out of interesting things to say and do about 20 minutes in. I hated the villain played by F Murray Abraham and I think Anthony Zerbe’s character of the Starfleet Admiral would have been more effective if he had been the true villain of the film.
‘ I saw this in the theatre in ’98 and have never had the heart to watch it again although
I did buy it on VHS for some strange reason when VHS machines were still around.

Sometimes I feel like I am the only one who really loves this movie. It has its dull moments and lacks a bit of dynamic at times and the end could have been better, but still it captures the spirit of Star Trek best of probably all the movies. Maybe it is because I grew up with this movie (was about 12 when it came out) but to me it is more than mere nostalgia.

Didnt they actually leave the SFX unfinished on this film at the end? That makes it the worst by virtue of that unforgivable act.

It sure looked that way with what appeared to be a blank blue screen on board the collector. But part of me is thinking that was an intentional background… Maybe?

This has been an argument for years. All I can tell you is that they used GREENSCREEN at the bottom of the set to put in the digital set extensions beneath the actors, so if they were intending to do the same with the sides, they’d’ve done those green as well, not blue. That suggests the blue is a deliberate — but stupid — choice, since it just LOOKS like a behind-the-scenes before you replace the bluescreen backing.

There was a lot of back&forth on the collector and how it would be done. One guy did a very elaborate proposal early for a huge miniature interior that articulated, but of course Berman&Lauritson shot him down saying they couldn’t amortize the cost of a miniature over so few shots … then of course when things got desperate in the last five weeks they let folks build all sorts of pyro miniatures for the interior and the exterior collector, which are the only model shots in the film (and some of the best-looking stuff, too.)

I wrote a 15,000 word article on INS VFX, so I know WAY too much about this stuff.

kmart Today 4:50 pm

Does it ever happen that blue-screen will be used for SFX in a movie, and green-screen for another SFX shot in the same movie? And, is there a difference between blue & green? Any advantage to one over the other?

If you had somebody dressed in a blue costume, you wouldn’t want to shoot it against bluescreen, especially in the pre-digital era (look at the scene with KSM in TMP in the officer’s lounge, where the blue-gray uniforms turn white-gray everytime they are shot against the bluescreen – and that’s a movie where Robert Wise, let alone the VFX people, should have known better than to even try.)

Greenscreen apparently allowed for better compositing in most circumstances, having to do with how the layers in color film react (not sure about why or when it is better when shooting digital.) Basically most productions seemed to switch to greenscreen around the time digital COMPOSITING came in, in mid 90s, starting with TRUE LIES and GOLDENEYE.

I didn’t love Insurrection, though I liked it a lot. It would have made an excellent 2-part TNG episode. It would have been nice to have Picard try to help Ru’afo at the end but other than that I thought it was a very enjoyable and watchable movie.

That’s what I thought about Insurrection. It would have been a decent TNG episode, however, not a full length cinematic event.

Stewart did enjoy himself in ‘Captain’s Holiday,’ so much so that he divorced his wife and got engaged to Jennifer Hettrick (Vash). I totally agree that the movies are NOT TNG, they’re action films. There’s little or no actual moralizing, just blastin’ at stuff!

I thought this was the worse Trek movie ever…until I saw Nemesis.

Star trek 09 and Into Darkness were better than Insurrection & Nemesis.

Agreed x 10

Agreed by 100.

I\’m all about that Space, No Tribble October 21, 2016 8:49 am

ST09 is the FIRST CONTACT of the Bad Robot Trek movies. It’s fun and plays well the first few times you watch it, but as soon as you start asking questions about the story, you quickly realize that it’s meaningless fluff. Actually, ST09 is more meaningless than FC. At least FC makes an attempt at a meaningful theme with its Picard/revenge trope. ST09 doesn’t bother trying to be anything more than an expository plot, and it doesn’t even do a good job at that. Some compelling individual scenes linked together by effective, if excessive, action sequences, carry ST09 through to the end.

As for comparing STID with INS and NEM, it’s really six-of-one vs. a half-dozen of the other. Which movies you rate as “better” turns on which types of flaws you regard as more egregious. For all its problems, at least INS is coherently about something as a story. You can easily explain what the story of INS is about in one sentence: The Federation finds a fountain-of-youth type of substance around an alien planet, and wants to appropriate it in spite of how doing so will adversely affect the planet’s inhabitants. There you have the moral conflict that is the overarching theme of the story of INS. You can’t do that with STID. In fact, the director of STID is on record stating his regret for the “fundamental story problems” of STID.

NEMESIS, apart from the whole Data/B4 sub-plot, and the various plot holes in the script generally, is also still a more coherent story than STID. You can likewise state the premise of NEMESIS in one sentence: A Romulan-made clone of Picard feels that he can’t have a meaningful life so long as the real Picard is alive. I personally think that this is a weak premise for a Trek movie—or, at least, that its treatment in the form of NEM is weak—but, it is a coherent premise with a clear moral conflict that serves as an overarching theme of the story. In other words, there’s a clear literary purpose to both INS and NEMESIS. Not so with ST09 nor with STID. Is NEM, in particular, a lousy movie? Yes.
But, so is STID.

while ppl are debating whether this is the worst TNG film or not, I would like to take a moment to point out that the illustrator who put together the title art for this article has done an EPIC FAIL by making Data (caucasian) flesh-colored.

Also the best thing about Insurrection is the Mr. Plinkett review ;)
Earth-tones, everyone! Beige and beige and beige…

Browns and beige and browns and beige !

Also when Picard is about to take the Capt’s Yacht out and the crew turn up to assist him and the ones who are going have already changed. XD

Thanks, I’m very proud of my Star Trek reviews

I would urge any trekkie who has not watched them to do so. They are so spot on, pointing out what does and doesn’t work and why. And obviously done from a place of loving the franchise.

Harry Plinkett October 22, 2016 5:00 am

Lest anyone get the wrong impression, this imposter’s commentary is nothing like that of the real Mr. Plinkett.

herbert October 21, 2016 4:06 pm

Also the best thing about Insurrection is the Mr. Plinkett review ;) Earth-tones, everyone! Beige and beige and beige…

Ha! Absolutely. The Plinkett reviews for all of the TNG movies are riotously entertaining, and I enjoy them more than the actual movies. And brown and beige… The way that he illustrates that visual plot hole, with the cloaked ship in the middle of the lake, is brilliant. It’s one of those problems that I always unconsciously knew was there when I watched the movie, but never articulated or became fully aware of, exactly why, in my own perception.

Please don’t make me watch this movie again… But I can’t remember whether they ever explained why they must move 3 dozen SAG bit players off the planet. Couldn’t F. Murray have built a new settlement… like thirty miles up the road so they’d never meet again? Also, F. Murray (F. to his friends) looks like poop, even though he is within the magic youngling field AND has a stupid big collector. Why is that? And why did F. Murray call the Federation if all he wanted to do was murder his cousins? Also, we’ve seen Enterprise experts duplicate thing like wierd radiation a bunch of times; why is this so different? Also… so Anje can bend time. Um, because it was in the script?! Also… crappy cg. Also… f*+kin’ Data as a boat! Why? What!!? Oh, I give up…

I agree with about half of the crew’s comments on this one. I agree with all of the criticisms of the movie. But, I found the attempts at humor insufferably cheesy and wit-less. The witty humor from the TNG TV show is nowhere to be found in the TNG movies. Neither is the smart, thoughtful writing of the TNG TV show anywhere to be found in the movies. I do agree that an attempt at thematic meaningfulness was made in INSURRECTION and also in NEMESIS. And that those two movies have different problems, writing-wise. INS, we now know, was originally meant to be driven by the overarching theme of Data-as-Kurtz in a HEART OF DARKNESS type of story. And the theme of Data unable to act in discordance with his internal moral programming had potential. But, obviously, they abandoned that theme after the first act. And what remains is a re-telling of the story from TNG “Journey’s End,” but with Picard taking the diametrically opposite position that he takes in the TV episode—which is unforgivably stupid.

The S’ona vis-a-vis the Ba’ku in INS are basically a re-do of the Gatherers vis-a-vis the Acamarians in the TNG episode, “The Vengeance Factor.” Ne’er-do-well faction of a culture leaves home planet out of resentment, but what they really want, in their heart of hearts, is to come home and rejoin the fold. The duck-blind trope was likewise recycled from TNG “Who Watches the Watchers,” a fantastic episode. INS is a mess writing-wise. I honestly don’t understand how people are even able to write such a disorganized script, let alone have it approved as the basis of a costly film production. I’ll be interested to hear Jared elaborate on his thesis that NEMESIS is a well-written script that was badly directed, as I have a hard time imagining how better direction could have made that story work all that much better. As with all Trek movies (save ST09), the seeds of a meaningful story are present in NEM. A good movie could perhaps have been made from NEM’s premise. But, it would have to have been massively overhauled, from where I sit. We’d need to really feel why Shinzon can’t have a life worth living as long as Picard is still alive. And the cheesiness of a story premised upon Picard being cloned would still be a barrier. Again, we’d already seen the crew-gets-cloned story in the TNG episode, “Up the Long Ladder.”

When Insurrection came out I saw it a few times in the theaters. Seeing a new trek movie was always a day I looked forward to. I enjoyed INS because the stakes were low. So often in films the earth, or the universe, or the federation hangs in the balance. In INS, it was some rights, and principles… and things happened. But it doesn’t hold up over time. I place it last in the ranking of movies… yes, behind Generations, Nemesis, even Final Frontier.

herbert October 23, 2016 1:28 pm

But it doesn’t hold up over time.

My initial reaction to INS was basically the same as yours. I enjoyed because it was pleasant and felt like along TNG episode. I agree with the crew here that the Academy-award-winning F. Murray Abraham plays a compelling villain in the movie. But, as you say, INS just doesn’t hold up. Another big set of problems with INS, which wasn’t even mentioned in this podcast, is the myriad and egregious plot holes in the story and also in the visual representations, as the Red Letter Media review so entertainingly points out. And, I feel the same way about FIRST CONTACT, which has even more numerous and worse plot holes than INS. I enjoyed FC in the theater (apart from Alfre Woodard’s ignorant yet self-righteous character, which I found insufferable from the get-go), but when I watch it today, I see it as the terribly written B-movie that it is—the epitome a stereotypical “Star Trek” joke—that many fans nonetheless hold onto as “the good one” out of the sub-standard offering of 4 TNG movies. But, if you start pulling at any thread in the FC story, the whole thing quickly unravels and is revealed to have been tailored entirely for the purposes of plot convenience and marketing concerns.

and the real problem is that it is not much of an insurrection.

picard disobeys the orders of a misguided admiral. been there, seen it before.

not the gamechanger of TSFS where kirk breaks from starfleet, steals and scuttles the enterprise and remains a renegade until near the end of TVH.

What app is this POD cast listed on? I have Sticher and I can’t find it.

Two comments:
1) Regarding themes: I don’t think anyone mentioned this, but I thought the core of the film was the quiet moments when Picard watches Anij slow down time and then does it himself.

“Nothing more complicated than perception. You explore the universe. We have discovered that a single moment in time can be a universe in itself … full of powerful forces. Most people aren’t aware enough of the now to even notice.” – Anij

Holding time still and living in the moment you have is what’s important — not using metaphasic particles or face-pulling medical procedures. Of course the irony is that it’s the years of living in unending youth due to the metaphasic particles that has allowed the Ba’ku (and their odd apostrophes) to realize this.

So, with all the talk of eternal youth and the battle for the secret of it, it’s the ability to make each moment a universe in itself that’s the message.

2) You three are doing a terrific job on these Shuttle Pods and making them as thoughtful and respectful that the best tradition of Star Trek deserves. But please, please, please can Jared Whitley please upgrade his voice input tech? His voice is so hard to hear and so much more muffled than Brian’s and Kyla’s?