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The Data Game: Data (Brent Spiner) boldly goes where no android has gone before: into his feelings.

Clone Alone

'Star Trek: Nemesis' brings the series to a much-needed close

By Richard von Busack

ROMULAN POLITICS being what they are, it's perhaps no surprise when the senate gets freeze-dried and crumbled by a hidden bomb. The more hard-line Romulan element breaks with tradition and names a human being as warlord. They choose Vincent Price. Well, not the real Vincent Price, but Shinzon (Tom Hardy). He has Price's preposterously sensual mouth and the fearful bald head Price assumed when he was bedeviling Adam West's Batman in the guise of the villain Egghead.

Shinzon is an ex-miner from the dilithium crystal pits on Remus, Romulus' sister planet. From his bald noggin, his habit of lurking in the dark and his tendency to hang out exclusively with a scale-faced, serpent-toothed Remusian, we can gather that his nice-nice overtures to Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) are but a cunning plan. (Note to the Federation's enemies: Next time, send someone who looks like Heath Ledger.) Picard, bluff, generous soul that he is, really does mull over whether this could be some sort of a trap. But Shinzon's secret stays the captain's hand before the usual galactic peril can be initiated.

Star Trek: Nemesis seems especially weak up until the starship broadsides at the end, which may be the real draw at this point. Underplotted is bad, undersexed is worse. This installment offers no new young Vulcanette (such as pretty Robin Curtis from Star Trek III or the young Kirstie Alley). Thus there's no distraction from the moments of scanner watching, plot thickening and self-sacrifice. Despite an early flash of décolletage, even Marina Sirtis is chastely garbed throughout. (That always seemed like a troublesome combination, though: to be both psychic and given to low-cut uniforms. "Saints be praised, here comes that stacked-up Counselor Troi. Hell-o heaven! Oh, damn, I forgot she can read my thoughts.")

Strangely, co-writer Brent Spiner's Data steals what there is to steal here. As an android, he's the best underplayer on the Enterprise. Underplaying is a different skill from Stewart's redoubtable old British thespianning--that ability to make the cracking of your heart echo like a rifle shot. Data is the show's robot Gunga Din, a better man than they are. In the film, he has a moment cradling a cat that he affects as a pet; the moment leads--for a second or two--into the thought of Data's humanity and how the cat probably couldn't tell the difference. It's a very minor instant, but it's a break from some routine fist shaking and a tepid ending. The series' problem, apart from wild unevenness, was that it never knew when to really kill off a character. Kirk's foreshadowed death in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, protecting the president of the Federation, would have been good enough for D'Artagnan, but they chickened and had to kill Kirk with a pile of rocks in Star Trek Generations. Spock's demise in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan wrung the heart, but then they regrew him on Genesis Plant in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. So when they try to kill off a character here, you might squeeze a tear for old time's sake but aren't about to be made a chump. Only the dead have seen the end of wars, or for that matter the end of Star Trek.

STAR TREK: NEMESIS (PG-13; 116 min.), directed by Stuart Baird, written by John Logan, photographed by Jeffrey L. Kimball and starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner, plays at selected theaters valleywide.

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Web extra to the December 12-18, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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