Movies & TV / Columns

Scene Anatomy 101 9.25.07: Star Trek – Nemesis

September 25, 2007 | Posted by George H. Sirois

The year was 2002. Star Trek was beginning the slow fade into obscurity. “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” had ended three years ago and “Star Trek: Voyager” had wrapped up as well with the crew of the Voyager finally reaching home. In their place was a new series – “Star Trek: Enterprise” – a prequel show that followed the very first crew of the famous starship.

Since Star Trek: Insurrection was shown in theaters, different science-fiction and fantasy films grabbed hold of the spotlight like the Harry Potter stories, the Star Wars prequels, various comic book adaptations and, of course, The Lord of the Rings. Needless to say, there wasn’t much of a demand for another trip around the galaxy on the big screen with Captain Picard and Co. However, considering how much time fans had invested in these characters and their stories, another story was deserved, if anything to give everyone a fitting send-off.

But of course, the film had to be good enough to get audiences in the theaters, so Rick Berman, Brent Spiner and John Logan, an accomplished screenwriter outside of the Next Generation writing staff, concocted a storyline that dealt with both Captain Picard and Data coming face-to-face with counterparts that neither knew existed until now. It dealt with eventual loss of family members, moving on in life, and the ultimate disappointment that comes when these counterparts fail to live up to expectations.

It became a much darker film than audiences expected, and it became the second film in the franchise to be rated PG-13. It was also the first TNG film that would be directed by an outsider from the television show, Stuart Baird. The scene we will be covering this week is from the 2002 film…

While the first scene in the film deals with the destruction of the Romulan Senate, for a long period of time, the focus is on the crew of the Enterprise and the sense of both looking back and looking forward. Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) have gotten married and Riker has been given a promotion to captain and command over his own ship. It’s a happy occasion, but it’s also one that Picard regrets since members of his beloved crew are moving on.

After the festivities in the Holodeck, a signal is detected from a nearby planet that matches the same kind of frequency as Data. A lost prototype version of Data is discovered on the planet, a simpler android known as B-4. The more Data learns of his long-lost predecessor, the more he becomes disappointed in how he does not share the same urge to be better than what his programming allows him.

As time passes, Picard encounters a similar problem when he is sent by the Federation to meet the new Praetor of the Romulan government. Interestingly enough, the new Praetor is Reman – part of the Romulan race that is despised by their own people – and when Picard goes to meet him, he learns something that is even more shocking; Praetor Shinzon (Tom Hardy) is a clone of Picard!

How is this possible? Well, the Romulans were able to extract some DNA from Picard and create this man as a plot to replace Picard with him. When that plan was discarded, so was he, cast away to the dilithium mines on Remus where he met his followers and began to hatch a plan of his own.

When the captain and his counterpart first meet each other, Picard feels immediately violated since part of him was taken and turned into this man. But true to his character, Picard attempts to reach out to Shinzon and offers to extend his hand in friendship when his trust is eventually earned. Unfortunately for Picard, Shinzon’s attempts at peace were a mere smokescreen since his real objective is to kidnap the captain and use him to maintain his own unstable lifeforce. He even used B-4 as the bait for the Enterprise to land on that particular planet, since he knew Picard’s curiosity about the signal would be too much to overcome.

What we are seeing throughout the film is both Data and Picard’s eventual disappointment in their lesser counterparts, despite their attempts to better them both. While Data tries to link up with B-4 and feed him some of his memories, Picard continuously tries using reason to mentally get to Shinzon and hopefully persuade him to cancel his attack on the Federation.

The scene we are covering this week is the proper culmination of everything we have learned, not only of Shinzon and his capabilities, but of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his Roddenberry-like beliefs that all races can live in harmony and violence should be the last option. As we go into it, you’ll see why the introduction to this week’s scene was pretty long.

By the time this scene opens, it’s become very clear what Shinzon intends to do. He has in his possession a weapon that emits a radiation that destroys all organic life in its path. He’s headed towards Earth to use the last bit of his weakening life to destroy the heart of the Federation, and the Enterprise is in hot pursuit. Unfortunately for them, Shinzon’s ship fires at them, disabling their shields and weapon systems. He has given his crew explicit instructions not to destroy the ship. He still wants one more chance to have a dialogue with Picard.

Shinzon hails the Enterprise and asks Picard to join him in his ready room. When Picard walks in, a holographic image of Shinzon is sitting at the captain’s desk. He stands and faces Picard, his eyes staring straight ahead in a cold glare.

SHINZON: You can’t trace my holographic emitters, Captain, so don’t bother. And you can’t contact Starfleet. It’s just the two of us now, Jean-Luc. As it should be.

This moment shows Shinzon in a very interesting light. He could have easily destroyed the ship with his sneak attack, but even though he feels resentment towards Picard because of the painful life he led, Shinzon still can’t bring himself to kill him. At least not yet.

PICARD: Why are you here?

SHINZON: To accept your surrender.

That “s” word – surrender – makes Picard smile and he breaks the stare with Shinzon, looking back towards the bridge. We the audience know that surrender is never an option with Picard. He’s spent the better part of fifteen years coming up with something a bit more creative.

However, this is the first time we are seeing Shinzon and when he speaks, there’s no real anger in his voice, just a simple and straightforward confidence in himself and in his plans. It’s that monotonous voice that speaks in a matter-of-fact tone that has Picard turning back towards Shinzon, his smirk dropping from his face.

PICARD: I can clearly destroy you at any time. Lower your shields and allow me to transport you to my ship.

PICARD: And the Enterprise?

This time, it’s Shinzon’s turn to walk away from his counterpart. It’s almost like he doesn’t wish to give the Enterprise any credit, and so he refers to it in the most smug way possible.

SHINZON: I have little interest in your quaint vessel, Captain.

Now, it’s Picard’s turn to state his case to Shinzon. In this period of time since he first discovered that there is a clone of him, Picard has shared a brief but nonetheless deep conversation with his trusted Lt. Commander. It is there that Data relates how similar his tribulations with B-4 have been with Picard’s struggle with Shinzon. Data tells Picard, “I aspire to be better than I am. B-4 does not, nor does Shinzon.”

Despite the truth that Data tells him, Picard is still willing to reach out to Shinzon one last time, hoping to turn him away from the path he is heading down.

PICARD: Look at me, Shinzon.

Shinzon turns to face Picard. The two men lock eyes once more. Picard walks closer to him.

PICARD: Your heart, your hands, your eyes… are the same as mine. The blood pumping within you, the raw material is the same. We have the same potential.

But Shinzon is not pretending to be the peaceful man that he was before. He never believed in anything that he was saying before.

SHINZON: That’s the past, Captain.

Picard’s still not willing to give up. He goes in for the best possible emotional blow, something that – of all people – his android Lt. Commander told him earlier. How fitting that it takes an android to remind him what it is to be a human.

PICARD: It can be the future. Buried deep within you, beneath all the years of pain and anger, there is something that has never been nurtured. The potential to make yourself a better man. And that is what it is to be human. To make yourself more than you are.

Surprisingly, Shinzon doesn’t have a reply to that. We can see it in his eyes that he is actually starting to digest what is being told. Picard sees that there’s a chance that Shinzon could accept this, so he uses the same words that Shinzon told him during their first meeting on Romulus.

PICARD: Oh, yes. I know you. There was a time you looked at the stars and dreamed of what might be.

After a moment’s hesitation, Shinzon regains the swagger he had when he first entered Picard’s ready room. He has an answer to everything that Picard’s been saying to him.

SHINZON: Childish dreams, Captain, lost in the dilithium mines of Remus. I am what you see now.

Picard steps closer. Shinzon doesn’t step away.

PICARD: I see more than that. I see what you could be. The man who is Shinzon of Remus and Jean-Luc Picard could never exterminate the population of an entire planet. He’s better than that!

But again, Shinzon has another answer, and it’s something that Picard was pondering before. If Picard had lived Shinzon’s life, would he have rejected his own humanity? Shinzon believes this very much, and he’s not willing to change his mind for anyone, not even his human counterpart.

SHINZON: He is what his life has made him.

PICARD: Then, what will you do with that life? Waste it in a blaze of hatred? There is a better way.

Shinzon shakes his head. His voice has lowered to a whisper. He’s starting to understand what Picard is saying, but for him, he’s gone too far to quit now.

SHINZON: It’s too late.

PICARD: Never. Never. You still have a choice. Make the right one now.

SHINZON: I can’t fight… what I am.

PICARD: Yes, you can!

And that’s the crucial moment that makes Shinzon step away from Picard. This man who has never lived a second of his cruel existence on Remus, this man who never knew of the pain and torture that Shinzon had to deal with every day of his young life, is trying to convince Shinzon to change for him! He’ll never allow that to happen. He’s perfectly willing to embrace the more violent side of them that Picard has spent so many years burying.

SHINZON: I’ll show you my true nature. OUR nature. And as Earth dies, remember, I will always be Shinzon of Remus. And my voice shall echo through time long after yours has faded… to a dim memory.

And with that, Shinzon fades away. The conversation is over, and Picard is left with the unfortunate task of having to destroy a man who had such potential for bringing about peace between the Federation and the Romulan Empire. Just like B-4 did to Data, Picard has been disappointed by his counterpart.

A story like this is the perfect way for a saga like “Star Trek: The Next Generation” to come to a close. While epic in scale, this crew dealt with so many wonderful personal stories, and one like this could not get any more personal. To put Picard in a situation where he not only has to discover that a clone of him has been made without his knowledge, but that the clone seeks to destroy all life on Earth, that gives you a story that is both epic and character-based.

Through it all is Picard in the center, not only discovering the darker side of himself but also learning through his android Lt. Commander what it means to be a human. And painfully, Picard will see just how much Data’s love for his captain and fellow crew members will lead him to make an ultimate sacrifice.

Next week, there will be another four-parter as we take an interesting look at the evolution of a character known simply as Pinhead. Just don’t call him that to his face.

Until then, Class Dismissed!

— George H. Sirois


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George H. Sirois
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