The Federation are conducting a survey on the planet of the Ba'ku, a peaceful community who as far as they know have never had contact with a race outside of their world. It is the Federation's so-called "Prime Directive" that they should not interfere with a species insufficiently advanced to understand a life outside of their own sphere, and the survey team have implemented cloaking devices to render the scientists and researchers invisible to the Ba'ku's eyes - that is until the android Lieutenant Commander Data (Brent Spiner) blunders into the village they're watching, tears off his costume, and starts fighting the security guards...
The most common observation about Star Trek: Insurrection at the time of its release was that it was essentially a feature length television episode, which after the blockbuster movie scope of the previous effort was something of a disappointment. But there was no harm in harkening back to what was indeed a television series that had found itself on the big screen, and in that way it was pandering to the fans, yet there were few of those who would count this instalment among their favourites. It could have been that the real problem was that Insurrection offered precious little that anybody who had caught an episode or two of Star Trek: The Next Generation had not seen before.
That plot is pretty much Lost Horizon with sci-fi violence, as the Federation are revealed to be in cahoots with a race called the So'na, led by F. Murray Abraham under a layer of latex as Ru'afo. These chaps have a unique selling point for Star Trek baddies in that they are so addicted to cosmetic surgery that their features have been stretched out of all recognition. You might think this is pretty rich for Hollywood to take satirical potshots at the practice of artificially preserving a youthful appearance, but ah, all will be revealed when it turns out the So'na have a stronger link to the Ba'ku than they would care to admit. Which doesn't exactly excuse the cheek, but does provide a finger-wagging lesson on those who would wage war for resources.
Those resources being a planet which restores health and prolongs life, even to the extent of making the residents look years younger than their centuries-old actual age. The Federation wish to ensure they have access to these properties for purely humanitarian reasons, but it will mean (pointlessly) displacing the natives (who have got used to the idea of aliens in their midst pretty damn quickly, incidentally). This also means they have gone against their own Prime Directive, though as they did that just about every week on TV, we shouldn't pay much attention to that. Still, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) of the Starship Enterprise won't stand for his bosses riding roughshod over the rules, and instigates the insurrection of the title, nothing to do with him fancying one of the Ba'ku, Anij (Donna Murphy), oh no.
The nineties paranoia over big government not having the best interests of the citizens at heart is well to the fore here as the previously (mostly) unimpeachable Federation turn baddies, and our rebellious Enterprise heroes are the goodies for standing up to them, an idea that more could have been done with as the actual baddies, the So'na, are wishy-washy in comparison to the better villains of the franchise, especially as there doesn't seem to be that many of them in the first place. The usual flaws of Star Trek are here, with oppressively chummy humour alternating with too much jargon, all of which would be forgiven if this had stayed where it was originally, but is uninspired as a movie. Yet again Data's humanity becomes a thematic point as he tries to make friends with one of the Ba'ku children, the upshot of which is that he should find time to play. Thanks for that. Insurrection isn't a total waste, but you can find better games to occupy your time. Music by Jerry Goldsmith.