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Non-Review Review: Star Trek – Insurrection

“I think I’m having a mid-life crisis,” Riker tells Troi at one point in Star Trek: Insurrection, and it might be the most telling line in the film.

Insurrection is many things, perhaps too many things. However, it primarily feels like a meditation on what it means to grow old, focusing on the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. That first live-action Star Trek spin-off had revived the franchise as an on-going cultural concern, even launching a feature film franchise including Star Trek: Generations and Star Trek: First Contact, and spawning its own spin-offs including Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

A fist full of Data.

However, by the time that Insurrection arrived, The Next Generation was looking quite old. The Next Generation had launched more than a decade earlier, and had been off the air for almost five years. Although it had been a pop cultural behemoth, even its children (or its younger siblings) were starting to look a little long in the tooth. Deep Space Nine was in its final season, and Voyager was closer to its end than to its beginning. There was a creeping sense of fatigue and exhaustion.

In theory, this positions Insurrection quite well. After all, the original feature film franchise really came into its own when the characters found themselves forced to confront their own mortality. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan breathed new life into the franchise as it forced Kirk to come to terms with his old age, while Star Trek III: The Search for Spock indulged the sense of grown-ups behaving badly in a story that forced Kirk to throw aside his ship and his career in service of an old friend.

Picard’s hairpiece was fooling nobody.

Stories about age and mortality resonate, and so Insurrection has a fairly solid foundation from which to build. There is just one sizable problem. The cast and crew of The Next Generation have no intention of growing old, of wrestling with mortality, of confronting their age. Insurrection is fundamentally a story about rejecting this maturity and this sense of age, of refusing to accept that time takes its toll and denying that old age is best faced with solemn dignity and reflection.

Insurrection is a story about mamboing against the dying of the light.

A familiar dance.

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The X-Files – Sanguinarium (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

Appropriately enough, Sanguinarium is a bloody mess of an episode.

To be fair, it’s not a total write-off. There are some interesting ideas here, and the episode’s willingness to indulge in trashy horror is almost endearing… to a point. However, Sanguinarium often serves to illustrate just how much care and consideration is necessary to make an episode of The X-Files work. It is a very effective counter-example, an episode that demonstrates it takes more than just pulpy horror to make an episode work. Sanguinarium is almost as revolting and as graphic as Home, but it lack all the little elements that made the earlier episode work.

The doctor will see you now...

The doctor will see you now…

It’s cheesy instead of wry. It’s gratuitous instead of simply hyperactive. It’s blunt instead of subversive. Sanguinarium is not a misfire to the same extent as – say – Teso Dos Bichos or Excelsis Dei. It has a few ill-judged elements, but it’s more clumsy than offensive. It might be a bit much to suggest that there’s a classic episode buried just beneath the surface of Sanguinarium, but it seems fair to say that there is a much better episode somewhere in here. One suspects that pressure behind the scenes simply made it tougher to bring that episode to the fore.

Nevertheless, Sanguinarium is an interesting failure, if not quite a satisfying episode.

Blood work...

Blood work…

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