Heresy of the Week – Star Trek: Nemesis isn’t as bad as you think

nemesis picard and shinzon

Heresy of the Week is a (mostly) weekly spot in which I entertain some of the unthinkable notions of geek-culture. The arguments I put forward are not always things I personally agree with, but often rhetorical devices designed to force myself (and maybe readers) out of the boxes which fan discussions can get caught in. But that aside, feel free to get yourselves worked up and your knickers in a twist if you really want to.

This week’s heresy:

Star Trek: Nemesis, when it was released, received an unfairly harsh press. It has an undeserved reputation for having killed the franchise, but as a bookend to the story of the Next Generation crew, it is a lot better a film than it gets credit for.

Stop sniggering at the back!

Now, I know that Nemesis is hardly universally loved. In some circles it is blamed for killing off the Star Trek franchise until J. J. Abrams’ revival. Which is a little unfair, in my opinion, given that by that point a serious case of Trek-fatigue was working against it.

But if you look at it objectively, it actually sits quite well within the pantheon of Star Trek films.

Which isn’t to say that it’s perfect. The action sequence on the desert planet — along with blatant disregard of the prime directive — spoke of a confusion, if not a complete lack of understanding of, how Star Trek works. I’m also still undecided whether the addition of a “Data-clone” never before hinted at in the canon was a poignant symbol, or a cheapening cheat.

However, Nemesis was intended to close the chapter on the crew of The Next Generation, and move the crew along. And the Riker-Troi wedding, along with Riker’s ascension at last to captaincy, was a good mechanism for that. The emotional journeys of the crew coming to a head here is well executed, and each of them gets some closure on their development.

But that isn’t what I love about it. Look at its place within the franchise. This is a TNG film, but in a post-DS9 world. There is the same darkness here that I loved in DS9, through not only the main plotline, but some dark and somewhat graphic scenes with Troi which were, in my opinion, way beyond anything in the mainstream at the time.

It also, within the Trek world, answers a question first posed in DS9: what comes after the Dominion war? The speculation there was conflict with the Romulans, and here we get that along with an insight into the barbaric side of Romulan culture. And that we get that through the fantastically talented Tom Hardy playing a clone of Picard just makes it better.

So Nemesis isn’t perfect, but it has its place within the cannon — unlike, say Abrams’ offerings. It has an emotional tone which builds on what has come before, and gives us some pretty cool space battles in the process. There was room for improvement, and probably someone like Jonathan Frakes should have directed. But it was far from the worst film the franchise has produced, and I leave you with the words of Marina Sirtis (Troi):

It didn’t suck as much as Insurrection!

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