10 movies in, Star Trek: Nemesis brings us to the very end of the Star Trek timeline. No, it’s not the final movie or TV show ever made, but with nothing but prequels following this entry, it is the tail-end of the space-faring adventures we’ve come to know. As someone who grew up when The Next Generation was on TV, there’s something bittersweet about knowing the timeline ends with something from my childhood. Although, keeping in mind that at this point this is a 36-year-old franchise, the feeling of “franchise fatigue” is very strong right from the get-go.
U.S.S. Enterprise Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) is ordered to the planet Romulus, by now-Vice Admiral Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) no less, where rumors of peace talks between the Federation and Romulans could finally end centuries of political tension. There he meets Shinzon (Tom Hardy), a youthful clone of Picard, who was created by the Romulans to one day take the real Picard’s place and use a brand new super-weapon to destroy all life on Earth. He’s also aging rapidly and requires the real Picard’s blood to survive. The Enterprise then hurries towards Earth, pursued by Shinzon’s much more powerful ship. And so begins the final voyage of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
There’s a strong sense of finality throughout this movie. William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) has been promoted to captain and will be given his own ship, the U.S.S. Titan. He and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) get married and are intending to leave the Enterprise together. And Data (Brent Spiner), well, no spoilers. All that plus a villain that is essentially Captain Picard’s younger self. However, the complexities of the Picards’ enmity are never properly fleshed out. It’s mostly old guy vs. young guy. Experienced hero vs. obnoxious villain. It could have been great, and quite a bit of the action is, but the drama needed ironing out. Picard facing himself should have made him more vulnerable at first and stronger later. Instead, he’s the same old Captain Picard who faces Shinzon the same way he faced countless other villains over the Enterprise’s 15-year mission. It’s still good, just not the definitive Captain Picard story it could have been.
While this movie definitely has its enjoyable parts, something about the whole package just feels off. I can’t tell if it’s the writing, the pacing, or the fact that the color scheme is outrageously black and green throughout, but it’s obvious that this movie was not directed by a fan of the material. Captain Picard gets the most focus, and carries the movie like the seasoned pro that he is. Data gets the second most focus, partly due to his sharing screen time with his “brother”, B-4 (also Brent Spiner). Shinzon is really just a bratty kid who wants to play war. The whole “what might have been” hypothesis he poses to Picard is discussed but lacks a lasting impact on the overall story. Deanna Troi gets a couple of memorable scenes, so at least her talents are treated with respect. Riker should have been given more of a subplot considering what one of the villains does to his wife. Worf (Michael Dorn), in his first Enterprise mission since Deep Space Nine, pretty much stays in the background for his final outing. As the only cast member to star in not one but two Star Trek TV shows, that felt like a cruel insult to the most enduring character of the entire crew. Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) provides her usual medical analyses, but considering how “close” she and Picard were on The Next Generation, it seems like they wasted a potential happily-ever-after ending for the two of them. As for Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton), he too provides his usual technical know-how when things get complicated, but when Data’s fate is revealed (no spoilers), the impact it has on his best friend should have been appropriately painful. At the very least, their 15-year friendship should have been brought into the fold, but it wasn’t even glossed over. And it’s a lot of these little injustices that keep dragging a potentially great movie down.
Star Trek: Nemesis isn’t as bad as the reputation that precedes it, but it’s also nowhere near the appropriate send-off these characters deserve. It has an average story, some truly great action scenes, and an as-to-be-expected powerhouse performance by Patrick Stewart. Had there been another Next Generation film after this one, many of those little injustices would have been forgivable and forgettable. But to end a 15-year tenure in a 36-year-old franchise on a good-but-not-great story where only a handful of the characters are treated with respect, it just feels like they were either out of ideas or out of patience. “Franchise fatigue” weakens this entry considerably, not with big glaring issues but with dozens of tiny little ones. It’s still good, but for a final outing, you expect a little more.
3 out of 5