Star Trek Nemesis

USA 2002

Film still for Star Trek Nemesis

Reviewed by Kim Newman


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

The Senate of the Romulan Empire is assassinated by the mysterious Shinzon (Tom Hardy), whose power base is the benighted planet Remus. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) serves as best man at the wedding on Earth of his first officer William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and the ship's counsellor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), then commands his ship the Enterprise on a voyage to Troi's home world Betazed for a second ceremony. En route, engineer La Forge detects a signal from the planet Kolarus III which leads Picard to discover a disassembled android who turns out to be B-4, a prototype for the ship's android, Data. The Enterprise is further diverted by an order to enter the Romulan Neutral Zone and negotiate a peace treaty with Shinzon, new Praetor of the Romulan Empire, who promises to end the long-standing enmity with the Federation.

Meeting Shinzon on his ship the Scimitar, Picard discovers he is neither Romulan nor Reman but a younger clone of himself, bred for an abandoned spy mission and raised in the prison-mines of Remus. Though Shinzon talks peace, Picard recognises that the Scimitar is an extremely powerful weapon and that B-4 has been programmed to spy on the Enterprise on his behalf. By substituting Data for B-4, Picard escapes from a trap, and realises that the unstable Shinzon needs a total DNA transplant from the original donor to survive. Shinzon attacks the Enterprise, assuming Picard will surrender himself to save his crew, but Picard instead rams the Scimitar, knowing that unless Shinzon is stopped he will destroy the Earth. Picard boards the Scimitar as Shinzon is powering up his planet-killing weapon, and Data follows by leaping between the two vessels. Picard bests Shinzon, but Data ensures Picard's escape and sacrifices himself to save the Earth. Later Picard explains to B-4 how Data began as a machine but bettered himself and is encouraged that B-4 seems to be developing in a similar manner.


With this tenth entry, the Star Trek movie franchise takes the characters from Star Trek: The Next Generation to the point that the 'classic' Kirk-led crew reached in Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country. That sign-off instalment ended the Cold War between the Federation (which, despite or even because of all the token aliens and ethnicities, represents not Earth but the US) and the Klingons, filling in a continuity gap between the original series and the revival, while this visits the less-known enmity between the Federation and the Romulan Empire. The noble-but-bad Vulcan lookalikes have been around as back-up villains since the original television series; like several galactic empires in film and television, the Romulans are an outer-space equivalent of the Roman Empire, which perhaps explains why series newcomer John Logan, screenwriter of Gladiator, was drawn to this quadrant of Gene Roddenberry's universe. This long-simmering subplot reaches resolution as the schemes of the (non-Romulan) Shinzon prompt an alliance between the Enterprise and the honourable Romulan Commander Donatra, played by Dina Meyer in make-up that perhaps should be read as a homage to the home-made look of the 1960s show.

In a minor key, we get closure for a soap-opera strand as Riker and Troi, both rather appealingly middle-aged as opposed to the embalmed look practised by William Shatner et al, finally get married, allowing for the expected mix of sentiment and low comedy as the android Data serenades the happy couple with 'Blue Skies' while the Klingon Worf laments with disgust "Irving Berlin!" In a gambit that has been tried with Spock (Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan) and Kirk (Star Trek Generations), a major character sacrifices himself to save the day but in such a way that he (or an identical replacement) can be brought back. Spock got a whole entry about his resurrection (Star Trek III The Search for Spock) and Kirk remains ambiguously dead in the movies, but mere screen seconds after Brent Spiner's Data has perished, his prototype B-4 is set on course to replicate his character arc. Kate Mulgrew, star of Star Trek: Voyager, has a videoed-in cameo in her role as Admiral Janeway, while bits of a backstory about a war with baddies called the Dominion are carried over from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, suggesting that other branches of the franchise - currently extended to a flagship prequel Enterprise - are jostling for their shot at big-screen glory before their leading actors get too old.

The best of Trek is when the interplay of the crews of the Enterprises is matched against a strong baddie - the movie series highlights to date have been Ricardo Montalban as Khan and Alice Krige as the Borg Queen in Star Trek First Contact. Here, Tom Hardy just misses that status as the petulant Shinzon, whose Reman sidekicks are Nosferatu-look creatures from a planet where life is possible only on the dark side turned away from a sun and who is fixated on stealing not only Picard's blood but his DNA. Shinzon and Picard have an interesting relationship, and Logan (who co-wrote with Spiner) shows savvy unusual in Trek by having Picard at one point think two steps ahead of the villain in realising that B-4 has been put in his way as part of a larger scheme and having Data impersonate his template. Hardy's pout and baldie glare are high-quality stage-trained British Hollywood fiendishness and, like the Borg Queen, he seems to have taken his fashion tips from Clive Barker's Cenobites - the nicest touch is the creak of leather from Shinzon's Mad Mandarin outfit whenever he moves.


Stuart Baird
Rick Berman
John Logan
John Logan
Rick Berman
Brent Spiner
Based on Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry
Director of Photography
Jeffrey L. Kimball
Dallas Puett
Production Designer
Herman Zimmerman
Music/Orchestra Conductor
Jerry Goldsmith
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011