Star Trek Guide

Matchup of the Day: Star Trek: Insurrection vs. Star Trek Beyond

Today, the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of one of science fiction’s most enduring franchises. Star Trek Beyond, the big 50th-anniversary film, broke ground in a few ways, not the least of which was finally moving J.J. Abrams‘s “reboot” films away from Earth.

In fact, putting so much distance between the crew of the USS Enterprise and humanity’s homeworld was almost something unique among Star Trek films, as only one other film in the franchise features no scenes set on or anywhere near Earth: 1998’s Star Trek: Insurrection. Despite a few stark differences in direction and tone, these movies are not without their plot similarities, either.

With Insurrection, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the crew of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-E venture into the Briar Patch, an area where travel is limited due to quantities of hazardous material – the remains of supernovae, severe radiation, etc. – that hampers space travel. They are there to rescue android officer Data (Brent Spiner), who has apparently gone rogue. What they uncover is a plot to remove a settlement of people called the Ba’ku from their idyllic planet within the Briar Patch, so that the energy from the planet’s rings – which has a miraculous “Fountain of Youth” effect – can be harvested.

In Beyond, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew of the USS Enterprise venture into a dense nebula not far from Starbase Yorktown in an attempt to rescue a stranded alien crew, only to be ambushed by an invading swarm of aliens attacking from the planet Altamid. Kirk must then attempt to save captured members of his crew from the villainous Krall, and stop Krall’s planned invasion of Yorktown.

The films’ villains have a lot in common: Ahdar Ru’afo (F. Murray Abraham) and his Son’a crew want to use the radiation from the Ba’ku planet’s rings to regenerate themselves. Krall (Idris Elba) uses an ancient weapon called the Abronath to harvest energy from other beings to prolong his own life. Both are hideously disfigured by their life-extending methods, and both are not exactly what they appear to be: (SPOILERS) Ru’afo and the other Son’a are revealed to be members of the Ba’ku race, while Krall is a long-lost Starfleet captain from a bygone era.

The hostage-taking of several members of the USS Enterprise crew figures prominently in each villain’s MO, and each turns his crusade into a somewhat personal vendetta against the famed starship’s captain.

Big, bad villains and apocalyptic threats are nothing new in Star Trek, but Insurrection and Beyond feel a little different from other Trek films because the action takes place so far from Earth. Instead of trouble coming knocking on humanity’s doorstep, in these films, the crew of the Enterprise has to go find it, because they’re out exploring the galaxy. For a franchise that’s all about “boldly going where no one has gone before”, that seems like an important distinction.

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Star Trek Films, By the Numbers:

(Some spoilers.)