Ba'ku to the Future

Ba'ku to the Future

For more than 15 years we have had a soft spot for the Ba’ku culture created by Michael Piller for Star Trek: Insurrection. Likely our fascination for the serene agriculturalists grew out of our real-world field studies that we conducted amongst the Amish peoples of North America around the same time as the premiere of the film. Indeed, the Ba’ku share a resemblance metaphorically to the Amish. In fact, one of the few screen-used props we own is a Ba’ku costume which symbolizes the peaceful existence inherent in this ancient, yet ironically young, society.

This column, we pause to explore a single moment in time, as Anij suggests in the film, and celebrate the Ba’ku themed collectibles of Star Trek: Insurrection. You could say, we are traveling “Ba’ku to the Future.”

Playmates Toys, Inc. held the license for Star Trek action figures and toys when Insurrection premiered December 11, 1998. The resulting 9” line featured both the heroine Anij and the villain Ru’afo, along with the magnificent six (no Beverly Crusher figure for some reason). Adding to the fun was that most of the Starfleet characters—with the exception of Riker and Geordi—are dressed in thei insurrectional civilian costumes. There were also four 12” action figures—Picard, Riker, Worf, and Data—released. Data’s friend Artim has a pet rhyl that features into the story of Insurrection. A cute plush toy version of the rhyl was created by The Ideal Company and sold at Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas.
Skybox had the license for Star Trek trading cards, and for Insurrection there was a cool widescreen set available (widescreen cards were popular during the 1990s—featuring longer cards than the traditional “baseball”-sized editions—that accommodated images of the film in letterbox format). There were 72 basic cards; Okudagram, Wardrobe, Relationship, and Schematic subsets of 9 cards each, 7 “gold” foil character cards, and 19 autograph cards.  What makes this set even more special is that it includes an autograph card and a regular card (#27) of the Librarian character played by Lee Arnone-Briggs, who was unfortunately edited from the theatrical version of the film (the scene has subsequently been included on the DVD releases) and also a promotional card and regular card (#24) that shows a deleted kiss scene between Anij and Picard that would have followed the sequence where Anij is teaching Picard about slowing time. The kiss survives on the Skybox trading card, though.
A video game sequel to the film was released by Activision in October 1999; it was called Star Trek: Hidden Evil. The gameplay introduces the character of Ensign Sovak, who tries to unravel the mystery of the Ba’ku planet. Adding to the authenticity was the inclusion of the voices of Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner.

Maria Jose and John Tenuto are both sociology professors at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois, specializing in popular culture and subculture studies. The Tenutos have conducted extensive research on the history of Star Trek, and have presented at venues such as Creation Conventions and the St. Louis Science Center. They have written for the official Star Trek Magazine and their extensive collection of Star Trek items has been featured in SFX Magazine. Their theory about the “20-Year Nostalgia Cycle” and research on Star Trek fans has been featured on WGN News, BBC Radio, and in the documentary The Force Among Us. They recently researched all known paperwork from the making of the classic episode "Space Seed" and are excited to be sharing some previously unreported information about Khan's first adventure with fellow fans. Contact the Tenutos at jtenuto@clcillinois.edu or mjtenuto@clcillinois.edu.


 

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