fans were decidedly mixed in their reactions to this, the ninth big-screen feature in Paramount's lucrative Trek
franchise. Die-hard loyalists will appreciate the way this Next Generation
adventure rekindles the spirit of the original Trek
TV series while combining a tolerable dose of New-Age philosophy with a light-hearted plot for the Next Gen cast. This time out, Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his executive crew must transport to a Shangri-la-like planet to see why their android crewmate Data (Brent Spiner) has run amok in a village full of peaceful Ba'ku artisans who--thanks to their planet's "metaphasic radiation"--haven't aged in 309 years.
It turns out there's a conspiracy afoot, masterminded by the devious, gruesomely aged Ru'afo (F. Murray Abraham, hamming it up under makeup resembling a cosmetic surgeon's worst nightmare), who's in cahoots with a renegade Starfleet admiral (Anthony Zerbe, in one of his final screen roles). They covet the fountain-of-youth power of the Ba'ku planet, but because their takeover plan violates Starfleet's Prime Directive of non-interference, it's up to Picard and crew to stop the scheme. Along the way, they all benefit from the metaphasic effect, which manifests itself as Worf's puberty (visible as a conspicuous case of Klingon acne), Picard's youthful romance with a Ba'ku woman (the lovely Donna Murphy), the touching though temporary return of Geordi's natural eyesight, and a moment when Troi asks Dr. Crusher if she's noticed that her "boobs are firming up".
Some fans scoffed at these humorous asides, but they're what make this Trek film as entertaining as it is slightly disappointing. Without the laughs (including Data's rousing excerpt from Gilbert & Sullivan's HMS Pinafore), this is a pretty routine entry in the franchise, with no real surprises, a number of plot holes, and the overall appearance of a big-budget TV episode. As costar and director, Jonathan Frakes proves a capable carrier of the Star Trekflame--and it's nice to see women in their 40s portrayed as smart and sexy--but while this is surely an adequate Trek adventure, it doesn't quite rank with the best in the series. --Jeff Shannon
A Federation team are unobtrusively observing life on the remarkable world of Ba'ku, where 600 peaceful inhabitants enjoy the planet's youth-preserving qualities. However, forces within the alliance want to repatriate the population so that the planet's resources can be exploited more intensively. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) leads his crew in an effort to protect Ba'ku's residents and thereby honour the Federation's Prime Directive: non-intervention in the development of other civilizations.