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  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
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  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
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  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
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Star Trek: Insurrection

Paramount/Paramount . R4 . COLOR . 99 mins . PG . PAL


While George Lucas procrastinated and pondered whether his Star Wars saga would be a trilogy, two trilogies or the full set of nine movies, Paramount and the Star Trek team had no problem at all when it came to churning out the movies. After a shaky introduction to the big screen with 1979’s overlong, over-talkative first effort (directed by Sound Of Music helmsman Robert Wise!), the Trek movies have met with a good amount of success, though only the Leonard Nimoy-directed Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home managed to properly connect with the wider public. Along the way there was one truly embarrassing film (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, which saw Captain Kirk leading the crew in a campfire round of Row Row Row Your Boat!) and shortly after that a complete changing of the guard, as TV’s Next Generation crew took over the command of the movie series from an ageing original cast. That was 1994’s solid Generations, and First Contact in 1996 was even better - under the command of Jean-Luc Picard the Star Trek film franchise was revitalised, and looks set to live on for some time to come (indeed, a tenth film is set for a 2002 release).

This most recent of the Trek films to reach cinemas, 1998’s Insurrection - filmed as Star Trek IX and at one stage titled Prime Directive - continues the recent movies’ trend towards stories that are both socially relevant and generally serious, but this time there’s a lot more humour woven into the script than we’re used to - in fact, the affectionately sarcastic humour in Insurrection brings The Voyage Home frequently to mind, possibly also because, like that film, Insurrection deals with a story of nirvana and innocence being destroyed by greed and good old-fashioned evil.

The challenge facing the crew of the Enterprise this time around results from robotic crewmember Data’s observations on an idyllic planet of a people called the Ba’ku, who have lived for centuries in happiness under unique conditions - the planet they inhabit quite literally gives its inhabitants eternal youth and health thanks to some unusual scientific phenomena. While at first it appears that Data’s internal operating system has gone awry and turned him bad, it soon becomes apparent that he was sabotaged, with a race called the Son’a - led by the vindictive Ru’afo - desperate to relocate the Ba’ku and take the rejuvenating planet for themselves. Meanwhile, the eternally single Picard picks up a three hundred year-old woman (played by Donna Murphy, seen recently in Center Stage) and contemplates whether the age difference really does matter between those who care. Data joins with the good Captain in a round of Gilbert And Sullivan’s A British Tar (!). And Riker finally listens to the years-long pleas of TV viewers around the globe and gets around to shaving his beard off.

Of course, the first thing that’s immediately apparent from all this is that the current trend for cheesy pop bands to give themselves names with ridiculously-placed apostrophes has nothing on the imaginations of the Star Trek writers, who seem to take every opportunity to shove some unneeded punctuation in the middle of a name just to make it sound more alien. Indeed, we suggest that in future films, the Enter’prise should be crewed by a hardy bunch of folks including Pic’ard, Cr’usher, Dat’a and First Offi’cer R’i’k’e’r. We’re sure the fans - and the world of production-line pop - would approve enthusiastically.

Apostrophes aside, Insurrection is actually a cracker of a Trek movie, one of the best of the series and easily the best of the Next Generation films so far. The second in a row directed by Jonathan Frakes, who of course also plays Riker in the film itself, Insurrection manages to strike a perfect balance between affectionate self-parody and genuine drama. The latter is greatly helped by a deliciously overwrought performance by F Murray Abraham as the evil Ru’afo - he’s essentially reprising his Salieri role from Amadeus, makeup and all, but he’s such great fun that it doesn’t matter.

The plot is really a near-direct lift from 20th Century history, with much being made of the evils of trying to relocate an entire race of people. But the writers thoughtfully go for an unexpected twist or two, and anyway, we’re here for the characters, the effects and the action, not a literary or historical dissertation. Insurrection is enormous fun - and it’s filmed and directed with consummate skill, Matthew Leonetti’s gorgeously moody and subtle Panavision cinematography being a big factor in the artistic success of the movie.

In fact, the biggest disappointment here is the sparse supply of catchphrases. A Star Trek film where Picard only delivers a single “make it so” (and a forced one, at that) as well as a solitary deeply intoned “come”... well, it just ain’t giving the fans value for their catchphrase dollar.

Silliness aside, though, Insurrection is an episode in the unstoppable Star Trek canon that will not only please the die-hard fans, but will also offer plenty to those that, like this reviewer, just love a good story but don’t go to fan conventions and couldn’t give a toss about the mythology. It’s the rampant optimism in Star Trek that makes it so entertaining and rewarding, and that’s here in spades, along with copious amounts of big, loud computer-generated effects and some of the silliest dialogue you’ll hear this side of Coppola’s Dracula. And of course, it’s got Patrick Stewart in full Shakespearean mode in it, which is recommendation enough in itself.


If Paramount were going to impress customers at all after taking so long to get some DVDs out in Australia, they’d really want to be offering some impressive video quality. And fortunately, they’ve done exactly that. The video transfer for Insurrection is unreservedly stunning, capturing every nuance of the superb cinematography in pristine detail and offering incredible shadow detail during the many dimly lit scenes in this film. There’s no video noise to be seen anywhere, no colour bleed, no temptation to wind up the luminance or crank up colour saturation to unnatural levels and make it all look more “TV” - in fact, this extremely cinema-like transfer of Matthew Leonetti’s 2.35:1 anamorphic Panavision photography is of such high quality it rivals the best work of Sony’s HD Center and can easily be described as “reference standard”. The only undesirable side effect of this gloriously high-res transfer is fairly frequent - if minor - aliasing on sharp detailed objects, a problem that seems inherent in good transfers viewed on interlaced screens.

The MPEG compression is similarly flawless, with not an artefact in sight throughout. An exceptionally high encoding bitrate has been used for this 99-minute film, even taking into account the four full-bitrate audio tracks.

In a nutshell, the video quality here can only be described as a feast for the eyes.


The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is provided in English, French, Italian and Spanish (selectable at disc start-up or from the main menu, but not during playback), all at a 448kbit/sec bitrate. Like most large-budget modern sci-fi films, it makes ample use of the Dolby Digital sound field, firing effects in all directions while ensuring that the dialogue, largely confined to the centre channel, is crisp and clean. A marvellous modern soundtrack, it comes with impressive dynamic range and is enhanced greatly by Jerry Goldsmith’s bravura score, which itself is beautifully recorded.

This is one, needless to say, to be played as loud as possible.


Like most US Paramount discs, there’s not much here in the way of extras - disappointing, undoubtedly, for die-hard Trek fans, who deserve better.

It’s worth noting that this disc - as well as Saving Private Ryan, the other local Paramount disc this reviewer’s seen so far - follow Universal’s excellent practise of dropping the viewer directly to the Special Features menu after the film’s finished. Less desirable, though, is the fact that there are time-outs built in to not only the main menu but the other menus as well - the main menu drops the unsuspecting viewer into “stop” mode after a short delay, while the other menus jump back to the main menu after a mere 20 seconds - and then send the disc into “stop” mode anyway! While defaulting to playback is possibly handy for retailers who like to leave a disc in demo mode all day, menu time-outs are never anything but frustrating for the consumer, and these are just plain silly. If we want to press “stop”, we can handle the decision ourselves, ta very much. These menus, by the way, are all in 4:3 format (unlike those on the Dreamworks-authored Saving Private Ryan), which will annoy some.

Teaser Trailer: A surprisingly effective trailer obviously produced well before all the effects shots were finished, this teaser also makes the wise move of starting off as though it’s advertising a brand new movie concept, painting Insurrection as a big-budget general-purpose thriller before finally revealing the Star Trek crew. Certainly it would be far more likely to get the attention of non-Trekkies. A terrific extrapolation of the Paramount logo opens this trailer, something unused in the final film. Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1, while video is letterboxed to about 1.66:1 and presented non-anamorphically.

Theatrical Trailer: Produced much closer to release and therefore able to showcase the special effects to the fullest extent, this trailer is far more targeted at fans of the series and doesn’t do quite as good a job as the teaser at representing the plot and mood of the film. Once again, audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 with 1.66:1 letterboxed non-anamorphic video.

Behind The Scenes Featurette: You know those EPK-style featurettes that are the bete noir of the Columbia Tristar DVD customer? Well, here’s another contender. Running for a scant five minutes, this was obviously produced for cable TV use and while it does offer a few choice fragments of b-roll videotape, there’s little here of substance, much of the time being spent laying down the basics of the story. The video, presented full-frame, is of broadcast quality, while audio is, as expected, straightforward stereo.


One of the best of the nine Star Trek feature films released to date, Insurrection is a wonderfully atmospheric, expertly made and gloriously photographed instalment that has plenty to offer to the uninitiated as well as loads of in-jokes for regular customers. Paramount continue to set high standards for their first, long-overdue batch of releases with this disc, with the superb video and audio quality of the feature making up for a disappointing lack of extra material. Despite the high retail price, those who feel the urge to join Picard and his crew on yet another mission are well served by this exceptional transfer.

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      And I quote...
    "...those who feel the urge to join Picard and his crew on yet another mission are well served by this exceptional transfer."
    - Anthony Horan
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Rom:
          Pioneer 103(s)
    • MPEG Card:
          Creative Encore DXR2
    • TV:
          Panasonic - The One
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-AV1020
    • Speakers:
          Klipsch Tangent 500
    • Surrounds:
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Monster s-video
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