Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
Until Star Trek: Picard - or I could even say the third season of Star Trek: Discovery - this was as far forward as we had gone in the Star Trek universe. While there was the occasional dubious time traveler, this was officially it, coming after both Deep Space 9 and Voyager had wrapped up their story arcs. Despite the fact that the cast was getting older there was no out right intention to make this the last of the Next Generation films, but series fatigue was severely hurting the current show, Enterprise, and this movie didn't help.
On their way to Betazed to have the official wedding ceremony for Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) the Enterprise is ordered to go to Romulus. In an act of rebellion a Reman insurgent named Shinzon (Tom Hardy) has assassinated the entire Romulan senate and positioned himself as Praetor with the help of some key members of the Romulan military. He has invited Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) to open peace negotiations.
The thing about Shinzon is that he is actually a clone of Picard, originally meant to infiltrate the Federation and replace him. When the government changed and the idea was abandoned he was sent to spend the rest of his days working in a dilithium mine on Remus. Eventually, with the help of the man who would become his viceroy (Ron Pearlman), Shinzon formulated a plan to take over the Romulan government and, despite his overtures, his intentions toward the Federation are less than peaceful. However, before they can be carried out, there is something he needs from Picard.
The gang is all here one last time and, rather than provide comic relief, Commander Data (Brent Spiner) plays a major role. In fact, Spiner is included as one of the writers, along with past showrunner Rick Berman and newcomer John Logan. The story itself is in some ways reminiscent of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but plays out in a familiar way that most of the TNG movies did: as an expanded television episode, but with many of the other characters besides Picard and either Data or Riker having not much to do. This is even more pronounced than in Star Trek: Insurrection; Commander Worf (Michael Dorn) had little to do in that movie, and even less here. In fact, the only reason he seems to be there is because he came out of Deep Space 9 as one of the most popular characters. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) is given little to do as well, Riker's involvement is heavily diminished and, once again, Deanna Troi is getting mind raped - something I have had a major problem with in the series, and have no idea why they had to revisit again in this movie. There is a payoff for it but, unfortunately, most of it was left on the cutting room floor.
While I do not hate this movie as much as I did originally - I found it a frustrating, forgettable slog the first time through - after hearing more about the production I understand why I, and many fans, disliked it so much. The original cut of the movie was three hours long and, while there was no need for it to be so, there was still a lot of plot that should have remained that at least gave Shinzon's violation of Deanna's mind and her ultimate revenge more meaning as well as giving Crusher a small subplot and explaining why Wesley (Wil Wheaton) was at the wedding when supposedly he is out learning to be an interdimensional being. Instead he has a non-speaking part which, as insufferable as Wesley was, might be a blessing to some, but Wheaton had finally learned to act at that point. There was also a bit more closure, although not like in The Undiscovered Country as the original intention was to follow this up with a transition movie to a new series involving the casts of Deep Space 9 and Voyager. Due to the failure of Nemesis that never happened, and eventually the series was rebooted (and set on an alternate timeline) by J.J. Abrams.
A major reason for the failure is that director Stuart Baird had absolutely no idea what to do with a Star Trek movie. He had never watched the show or the other movies and, by all accounts, didn't know the names of the characters. Even worse, he didn't care enough to get the actors' names right. Nicholas Meyer had been approached to direct again but turned it down, and for some reason Jonathan Frakes was not asked to helm this one. LeVar Burton, who plays Geordie LaForge and had also directed quite a number of TNG episodes as well as the spinoffs, wanted to do it but was turned down. As a result the entire movie feels like a director earning a paycheck rather than a passion project. It's not badly directed, but it doesn't have a whole lot of feeling, and even the big emotional moment falls flat because of it. On the other hand Tom Hardy is giving all he has since he thought this was going to be his major breakthrough film and, if it was in a better-received film, Shinzon would be up there as one of the best villains in the series.
Someone believed in the movie and, even though a lot of things didn't happen because of budget issues, this still was the most expensive of the TNG films. That is one of the reasons its failure hit so hard, and as a result Baird went back to editing films instead of directing them and the TNG cast went their separate ways until Picard. Personally, I am glad that this series never continued, as the other spinoffs had completed their story arcs and there wasn't really anywhere else to go. Although Enterprise is an underrated show the whole franchise, at the time, felt played out. Nemesis, however, deserved Frakes or Burton directing as well as clear direction that this would be the last one so that audiences would get the closure they got with The Undiscovered Country. I may not hate it, but it is still the least of the TNG series, although it never reaches the depths of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
Time: 116 minutes
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, Tom Hardy
Director: Stuart Baird