Is it really any wonder that Star Trek films seldom live up to expectations, given that they have to serve two masters at once? On the one hand, they have to continue the Trek tradition, which emphasizes character development and thought-provoking premises. On the other, they also have to fulfill the requirements of cinematic science fiction, a tradition heavy on laser beams and explosions (and sure to get heavier on both, post-Solaris). The new Star Trek: Nemesis combines both brilliantly, for half an hour or so. Cutting from a wedding presided over by a playful Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) to a chase featuring futuristic dune buggies, Nemesis initially seems well on its way to a balance that only a few previous Trek films found. Then, once it reaches the meat of the story, it seems to lose its confidence. Stewart, his just-married First Officer (Jonathan Frakes) and counselor (Marina Sirtis), Data (Brent Spiner), and assorted crew members given significantly less screen time all travel to the planet Romulus, where a coup d'etat has resulted in a takeover by a faction from its twin planet, Remus. In this year's second clone attack, Tom Hardy, a young genetic duplicate of Stewart originally created for the purposes of espionage, reveals himself as the coup's mastermind, and offers Stewart and the Federation an olive branch that may conceal a viper. Meanwhile, Spiner deals with a doppelgänger of his own, a childlike prototype android found in pieces on a desert planet. There's no shortage of interesting notions at work in Nemesis, particularly once Hardy's staff starts to look like a distorted image of the Enterprise crew, but few of them are developed as far as they might, in spite of the film's reams of exposition, and all of them get thrown out the window once the explosions begin in earnest. Director Stuart Baird brings a workman's touch to a John Logan (Gladiator) script taken from a story by Logan, Spiner, and Trek overlord Rick Berman. They seem to have used Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan as their template (shocking finale and all), but Khan's intensity and command of Trek's characters eludes them. For those fond of the show, it's good simply to see the characters again, and Nemesis offers no shortage of fodder for discussion and complaint until the next sequel, if there is one. Nemesis' marketing campaign has suggested that this may be the final film to feature the Next Generation crew. In the literal sense, this would end the series with a bang, but in every other sense, it would go out too quietly.