If one gets the overwhelming feeling of déjà vu while watching Star Trek Nemesis it’s understandable, as the 10th installment in the long running television series-cum-film franchise liberally steals story elements from previous entries but then doesn’t replicate them as well as the first time they were done.
Nemesis opens in the Senate chambers of the Romulan Empire, with the mass assassination of the ruling body of the Romulans. Meanwhile, the crew of the Enterprise discovers the remains of what appears to be an early proto-type of android Commander Data (Brent Spiner) named B-4. Before they can continue to investigate, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and company are ordered to open negotiations with the new head of the Romulan Empire, Praetor Shinzon.
Upon arriving at the heart of the Romulan Empire, the crew of the Enterprise discovers that Shinzon is actually a young clone of Picard who had been created as part of a plan to infiltrate Starfleet. When the program had been abandoned years ago, Shinzon was left to fend for himself among the Romulan Empire’s underclass, the Remans, where he rose to be a powerful military leader. At first, Shinzon expresses an interest in learning more about his “mirror” Picard, but soon his plans dissolve into a hazy motivation to destroy Earth and its up to the crew of the Enterprise to stop him.
Nemesis’ story owes much to 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, mostly notably in the climax where Data sacrifices himself to save the ship. Unfortunately, any drama and emotional impact of the sacrifice is undercut in a scene between Picard and B-4 in the film’s coda. But the internal plagiarism doesn’t stop there. The film’s opening scene with the crew echoes Commander Worf’s (Michael Dorn) promotion ceremony that introduced the cast in Star Trek: Generations and Commander Riker’s (Jonathan Frakes) dispatching of a Reman in hand to hand combat is suspiciously similar to the resolution of a fight in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock.
Since their first appearance on the original Star Trek series back in 1966, the Romulans have always been portrayed as being based on the Roman Empire and many fans were excited when it was announced Gladiator scripter John Logan had been brought on as screenwriter. Unfortunately, rather than flesh out the Romulans as villains, he relegates them to secondary status in place of the newly introduced Remans. Even here though, Logan stumbles. If the Remans were supposed to be a slave race for the Romulans, the entire slave revolt/coup d’etat that thrust Shinzon to power happened in one scene in the beginning and some lines of exposition in a later scene. Everyone seems to forget that this is supposed to be a big budget movie but instead we end up with another Star Trek film that feels like a marginally ambitious two-hour television episode.
With entire franchise now in its 35th year, maybe it’s time for a rest. The Star Trek: Voyager series was uninspired in the least and the new series Enterprise is not showing much of an improvement. There was a ten-year gap between the last original series episode and the first Trek film’s release. Perhaps everyone involved needs to take a similar break and then come back to tell some stories of new life and new civilizations that will boldly take us where no audience has gone before.