Star Trek: Insurrection is the ninth film in the movie series and the third to focus on the cast of The Next Generation. Although Insurrection didn’t do as well at the box office as First Contact and Generations, it did the most of any movie opening the same weekend in December 1998.
Even though everyone involved worked hard to keep the next feature-length version of Star Trek relevant and action-packed, many reviewers found Insurrection to be a simplified incarnation of a TNG episode. There was praise for the directing and visual effects, but most people had issues with the main storyline and sub-plots.
Insurrection was nominated for awards, like the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction and the Young Artist Awards for Best Family Feature in Drama. But the the number of awards this Star Trek movie managed to take home was three. The Silver Bogey Award (2 million theater-goers saw the film in 20 days); an International Film Music Critics Award for Best Original Score for a Fantasy/Science Fiction Film; and Michael Welch won the Young Artist Award for Best Performance in a Feature Film - Supporting Young Actor.
Clearly, the reception was mixed. But like other Star Trek movies and series, it was behind-the-scenes that made Insurrection interesting. Some shocking revelations emerged, many during the development and pre-production stage, that might make you watch this movie with renewed interest.
Here’s 16 Things You Didn’t Know About Star Trek: Insurrection.
16 Canceled Anti-Grav Scooter Chase Scene Like in Star Wars
Movies large in scope like Star Trek tend to have scenes written that never get shot. One such planned scene for Insurrection involved an action sequence between Picard and a Son’a.
During planet Ba’ku’s evacuation, Picard brought anti-grav scooters to assist in the transport of people to the proper locations for extraction. At one point, a chase scene would be filmed between Picard and Ru’afo on those scooters. However, observant members of the production team left notes expressing their concern about the similarities to Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
The team felt their chase scene would be extremely close or an absolute rip-off of the Endor speeder bike battles and chase sequences in Lucas’s film. Notes stated if they were going to go ahead, then it needed something innovative enough to make it different.
15 Patrick Stewart insisted on a script rewrite
Patrick Stewart was given the title of associate producer for Insurrection. This was his second producer title, the first being a TV movie called The Canterville Ghost.
Given the second draft of the script, Stewart wasn’t keen on it. He felt this draft was just a longer television episode. It didn’t quite have the scope and feel of a movie. It might surprise you to learn that Paramount agreed with Stewart. So, Michael Piller completely rewrote the script.
Very little of the second draft made it to the third draft. A number of sub-plots were created, but Piller still found the story lacking. It was a request of one of the main cast members that gave Piller an idea for a storyline that would have nearly everything he, Stewart, and Paramount wanted.
14 Data Died, Then Didn't
The character of Data seemed to travel on a merry-go-around of either staying alive or being killed in the movie. No one from the producers to the writers could definitively make up their mind.
Producers had thought of killing Data and recasting him at the end of First Contact. Brent Spiner himself thought he was too old for Data and figured the best way to move on was to have the character killed. For Insurrection, this idea was first written into the script, but Paramount didn’t want a popular character/actor killed off.
Pillar rewrote the plot to include Data dying early in the movie, but resurrected to help Picard at the end. It was to ensure that if Spiner continued the role, writers could work around the death by moving the consciousness to another body.
13 Director Jonathan Frakes Gets No Help
As most Star Trek fans know, Jonathan Frakes has helmed the director chair on various episodes of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Discovery. He also directed First Contact and even the video game called Star Trek: Klingon.
Frakes was picked early on to direct Insurrection, but during the initial development process, received no help on story.
One of the ideas Frakes was hoping would come to fruition was to have John De Lancie reprise his role as Q. Except nothing ever happened with that, which greatly disappointed Frakes.
It’s interesting to note that Frakes didn’t direct another Star Trek episode or movie for twenty years until the Discovery episode “Despite Yourself”. It’s possible Insurrection gave him a bad feeling about directing anything further for Star Trek until the new series.
12 Paramount Wanted To Copy The Voyage Home
Star Trek: First Contact was a big success for Paramount, so much so that the studio quickly greenlit an additional movie with the TNG cast.
Producer Rick Berman conceived a number storylines. He suggested an action Star Trek, like the previous movie where Picard undertakes a rescue mission. Another idea had a movie focused on Data and Lore’s return in a Wrath of Kahn-style plot. And a final thought was to have Picard kidnapped and switched with a modified imposter, which eventually became the film Star Trek: Nemesis.
But Paramount had other ideas. Since Star Trek: The Voyage Home proved their most financially successful movie to date, Paramount wanted something similar in tone. Instead of a emotionally-heavy story like First Contact, something lighter along the lines of The Voyage Home was the goal.
11 Canceled Romulan Protagonists
Assigned to write the script for what would become Insurrection, Michael Piller envisioned the theme of “family” for the movie. The basic atmosphere would follow a Fountain of Youth-type story that has been the focus of many episodes of Star Trek.
Man’s greatest fear and attention is on his own mortality.
Originally, Piller called the movie Heart of Lightness, a polar opposite of the themes of Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness. As he finished the first draft of the script, he changed the title to Star Trek: Stardust. The later title was influenced by a song on the radio by Nat King Cole.
One major development of Piller’s was the idea to have Romulans as protagonists since they had never received notable attention in Star Trek films.
10 The many titles besides Insurrection
Paramount and the writers had no shortage of titles, and naming the movie proved a large challenge during the development phase. Michael Piller’s first titles of Heart of Lightness and Stardust never made the cut.
Potential titles included Where Time Stands Still, Forever, Beyond Paradise, Pathfinder, Millennium, Past and Future, Transcendence, and Rebellion. Also on the slate: Prime Directive, The Directive, The Resignation, The Enemy Within, Breach of Promise, Dereliction of Duty, and Apostasy. In a later interview, Pillar said his favorite had been Star Trek: Sacred Honor. But Paramount said no to that title: they felt it was too religious.
When the script was finalized and approved, no title had been conceived or picked, so the script was called Star Trek IX. And even when it came time to shoot the movie, still no title was chosen, and the tentative title continued as Star Trek IX.
9 F. Murray Abraham's Make-up Process
Make-up for science fiction movies, since many of them have aliens, are typically elaborate. Star Trek is no stranger to creating exotic- and unique-looking aliens that are almost instantly memorable. F. Murray Abraham (who played Ru’afo) spoke about the make-up process in the book The Fifty-Year MIssion: The Next 25 Years: From The Next Generation to J.J. Abrams.
For Abrahams, the make-up process took four-and-a-half hours. Smiling caused major hiccups in applying the Ru’afo mask. “[Smiling] affects the eyes,” Abrahams said. “If you’re going to make a proper mask…you have to get little tiny thin pieces of latex and lay them in to follow all the muscles so that when you smile, it smiles.”
His day for Ru’afo started at 4:30 a.m. Make-up for four-and-a-half hours, shoot scenes, then one hour to remove the make-up!
8 It Tested Badly With Audiences
Paramount screened the movie to test audiences, much like it did for most of its Star Trek movies. And audiences weren’t kind: the movie didn’t test well at all.
A major issue viewers had were the final scenes: the ending was very disappointing.
Audiences also found the scope of Insurrection lacking. Many wanted larger-scale space battles. Paramount felt the same way about both issues. A revised ending was filmed involving a last-minute rescue. The studio also tasked the production team to add in a big space conflict. But the team needed more time to complete Paramount’s desired modifications, and requested the movie release be delayed from Christmas 1998 to February 1999. Paramount didn’t want that to happen, so they made no other changes to the movie.
7 On the Cutting Room Floor
Insurrection, like many expansive science fiction movies, over-filmed and the post-production team worried about what to include in the final edit. With Insurrection, many scenes were dropped. According to some stars of the movie, a lot of those scenes were great.
Rom and Quark from Deep Space Nine made appearances in the movie. Rom, played by Max Grodenchik, had a scene where he emerged as a Trill in the library sequence. Quark also has a scene where he was being his usual self, setting up timeshares on planet Ba’ku.
One cut scene that disappointed Patrick Stewart was his kiss with Anji. “It was a studio decision,” he said, “but still somewhat inexplicable… as I feel the audience were waiting for some kind of romantic culmination to the relationship, which did happen and was extremely pleasant.”
6 Captain Picard Had Serious Woes
Many versions of the initial drafts of scripts focused on Picard in and getting out of sticky situations. The treatment for the first idea had Picard tracking down an old friend - Hugh Duffy - from Starfleet Academy who becomes a renegade. Duffy tried to cause a war between the Federation and Romulans. Picard would have to bring Duffy back from the Neutral Zone. The Romulans wanted to take over a location called the Fountain of Youth, and Picard helps Duffy stop that.
Picard is arrested, and his rank is stripped away. A revised version had Picard resigning from Starfleet because he felt he couldn’t follow the Prime Directive anymore. Eventually, the Son’a/Ba’ku storyline won over the Romulan plot, but the idea of the Fountain of Youth stayed in the script.
5 Marina Sirtis Fell Asleep While Watching It
When a movie bores you, but you feel obligated to watch it because you’re with a fan of the movie, you may fall asleep. You try to stay awake, but the movie is either terrible or simply doesn’t interest you.
For Insurrection, Marina Sirtis never saw the completed movie before it was released. She has stated before that Insurrection isn’t her favorite Star Trek film. In fact, she feels Star Trek: Nemesis is infinitely better when the two movies are compared.
Perhaps the fact that she's never been fond of Insurrection was the reason she fell asleep halfway through the movie’s premiere. This was her first viewing of the movie since it was finished. And she couldn’t have fallen asleep at a worse time: at the movie’s gala premiere event!
4 Teaser Trailer Reused Previous Movie Scenes
Long before a movie is released, assorted types of trailers come out. For example, there could be a theatrical trailer, two or three regular trailers, and a “red band” trailer. To start building hype even before those are issued, studios often release a teaser trailer. These are typically short sequences around one minute or so showing a general storyline with a couple shots that’s been completed.
Insurrection put out a teaser trailer, but used some quick shots from two other Star Trek movies. The scene where the Enterprise-D is being attacked in Generations was used. Also, you’ll find shots of the crew getting phaser rifles, the Enterprise-E turning to fight an enemy and releasing quantum torpedoes, and other starships creating formations, which were from First Contact.
3 Anthony Zerbe (Admiral Dougherty) Recites Dante's Inferno
A number of actors auditioned for the role of Admiral Dougherty. No actor was outright offered the part like some of the other characters. But one actor was unanimously cast after he did something unique that impressed the producers and Frakes.
Anthony Zerbe came to casting to audition for the part of Ru’afo. At first, everyone thought he was the best choice. During the audition, Zerbe initially avoided reading the lines given to him from the script. Instead, he recited verses from Dante’s Inferno.
Then, without skipping a beat, he smoothly transitioned to reading the part he originally came in to audition for. It didn’t take long for Jonathan Frakes, the producers, and Paramount to decide that Zerbe would be perfect as Vice Admiral Dougherty.
2 Riker With No Beard
It's strange to see Riker without his beard, especially after the first season. Out of the blue, the beard emerges in season two on The Next Generation. Frakes has admitted that he basically hates shaving, so he grew a beard during the filming hiatus between season one and two of TNG.
For over ten years, Riker’s beard was a mainstay on Star Trek. But in Insurrection, he got rid of the beard, hearkening back to the days when he looked much younger. The movie was also the first time the character was seen with and without the beard.
While many fans loved Riker with his beard in the The Next Generation TV show, Frakes has stated he shaved the beard because female fan letters requested he go without it.
1 Different Casting Choices
A number of other actors were considered for roles in Insurrection. Arnold Schwarzenegger was offered the role of Ru’afo, but he declined the part. Of course, the role went to F. Murray Abraham.
Patrick Stewart really wanted his life-long friend Brian Blessed to play the role of Admiral Dougherty. Blessed is an experience spaceman, and would have been a great Easter egg for the movie. Blessed has over 800 hours of astronaut training from Russia. He’s also the top civilian on a wait-list to travel to the International Space Station. Also considered for Dougherty were Wilford Brimley and Gene Hackman.
When the part of the main female guest lead Anij was being cast, Sally Field was first offered the role. She didn’t accept, and Donna Murphy was chosen.
How did you feel about Star Trek: Insurrection? Let us know in the comments!
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