A recent Time magazine story said that our culture’s fascination with science fiction is being replaced by an interest in “fantasy, a nostalgic, sentimental, magical vision of a medieval age.” In other words: space travel out, Tolkien in. Paramount hopes there’s at least enough interest left in laser blasts and warp speed star-hopping to sustain Star Trek: Nemesis, which is billed as the final theatrical adventure for Captain Picard (Stewart) and his Next Generation crew.
In Nemesis, Riker and Troi’s honeymoon is interrupted by a political crisis. The Enterprise must intervene when Shinzon, an embittered clone Picard never knew he had, threatens to destroy earth. Caveats are minor for a PG-13, while the sci-fi subtext speaks volumes about our world today.
The action violence is typical of Star Trek films (a lot of shootouts, explosions and hand-to-hand combat), though one villain gets run through with a steel rod. A scene of the married couple kissing in bed is short of explicit, but is unsettling when Mrs. Riker suddenly sees Shinzon in her husband’s place. Just four mild profanities beam into the dialogue.
Nemesis raises questions about destiny and free moral will, while valuing our desire for self-improvement. As always, friendship, loyalty and duty rule—leading one beloved character to make the ultimate sacrifice. When Picard urges a galactic terrorist to set aside hate and realize his potential, it sounds like the civilized world appealing to the humanity of Saddam. As science fiction uses that cultural mirror effectively, the genre will live long and prosper.