It is jarring for long-time fans to watch the movie and see the Enterprise crew acting out-of-character, but it makes sense in retrospect; they're being affected by the planet's magic radiation, which is making them emotionally younger.
No wonder Picard sided with the Bak'u: he was thinking like a teenager, i.e. with his other head.
Might also explain the stupidity of the Bak'u, they're stuck in the teenage mindset where their beliefs are more important than anything and you can't change their minds or make them do anything they don't want to do and if you believe differently then you're wrong!
I'm struggling to see how it's out-of-character for these people to not be in support of their superiors kidnapping six hundred innocent people to steal territory and resources from them.
Much ado has been made of Picard in the shuttle only hitting two buttons to bring up the table of contents for H.M.S. Pinafore; considering how many of the operations in Star Trek involve hitting several buttons, it would seem that something requiring only two button hits would have to be pretty high priority. But... what if it ispretty high priority for Picard?
It was easy for Picard and Worf to create a holographic replica of the Son'a bridge to fool Ru'afo. They have seen Worf's brother, Nikolai, do it in the TNG episode "Homeward".
Detractors of the film make a big deal about it seemingly forgetting that, "The Needs of the Many outweigh the needs of the few." But consider: From what we see of the radiation's effects, if the Federation were to leave the planet intact and set up their own colonies, they have the potential to save billions of terminally ill people over an indefinite period of time. Instead, Dougherty opts for a plan that will leave them with a finite supply of the particles, which, even it does manage to save a few billion war-wounded, still isn't likely to turn the tide of the war (leaving tens or hundreds of billions to die in destroyed spaceships and on captured planets). So essentially Dougherty ruled out a plan that could have saved many over a period of hundreds of years, because he feels the need to save a few hundred Son'a (if even that many) right now.
"In the event of a water landing, I have been designed to serve as a flotation device." A funny line, maybe, but also a subtle Call Back to the time Data tried to go swimming and sank like a rock. No doubt he decided that the ability to float might come in handy.
Dougherty justified his plan with a highly questionable reinterpretation of the Prime Directive, which seems to imply that it's entirely at the Federation's discretion whether non-Federation races are permitted to maintain colonies within Federation space, regardless of whether the Federation has even encounted said race or visited said planet before. If Dougherty's plan had gone ahead and been condoned by the Federation as he claimed it was, it would have set a horrifying precedent regarding how Starfleet can and can't interact with colony planets in their territory.
So the Baku are immortal and have been living on the planet for three hundred years. We know that they are able to reproduce because we have seen their children; they are largely devoted to pursuing the greatest amount of pleasure in life and yet...somehow there are only six hundred of them? Just how many of their citizens did they kick out to start the Son'a?
The Federation has done, what? A full year of research on metaphasic radiation? What if metaphasic radiation radically lowers fertility? The Bak'u wouldn't care, as it would just mean that they could enjoy themselves as much as they like with minimal consequences without worrying about going extinct - there are children, just a small number of them. Even if the Son'a know about that, all they care about is staying young while not having to stay in the Briar Patch. It would have been karmic if Section 31 had successfully harvested the planet only to end up sterilizing a significant part of the Federation.
Relatedly...why don't the Son'a just, you know, expand the population the usual way?
Given all the toxins that get sucked out of Ruafo along with some other scenes, it's somewhat implied that, well, that might not be quite as much of an option for 'em anymore.
The idea is meant to be that trying to use lower amounts of the magic radiation would eventually result in physiological twisting like the Son'a have, even if actual age was extended, never mind the possible moral implications of struggles within the Fed for controlling the technology (keeping in mind that this movie was filmed and takes place during the Darker and Edgier Trek period of Deep Space Nine's final few seasons). It's so briefly and vaguely alluded to, however, that it's possible to nibble on some popcorn and miss it.
And later, we definitely learn of something hinted at earlier: the Son'a are the Ba'ku and it's as much a revenge motivation for the Son'a as it is anything else, and the Fed has been snookered into helping. Again, though, the foreshadowing is of the "blink-and-miss" variety, and the big reveal is really made in the last twenty minutes of the film, making it feel tacked-on.
Couldn't the Ba'ku open a hospital or health spa someplace on the planet that they're not using?
No, because (blink-and-you'll-miss) it'll take ten years for the radiation to reverse the effects on the Son'a, and "some of them might not survive that long."
Sucks for the Son'a, ok. But for the Federation, it'd essentially be like opening up another Risa paradise planet with a nifty "Fountain of Youth" feature. They could even offer residency there in exchange for service in Star Fleet. 30 years serving on a ship gets you 10 years on Bak'u. That'd solve their manpower shortages in a hurry. It would be an immortality serum that they could maintain absolute control over because it's a friggin planet. And furthermore, they could do it entirely without the Bak'u even knowing it. Just keep all people and air traffic 100 miles away from their settlement and they'd never know a thing. A planet is a big place.
The radiation grows Geordi a new pair of eyes, firms up Troi's boobs and make Worf go through puberty again all within the span of what, a week? And the Son'a won't experience the restorative effects for years? Now maybe the Ba'ku/Son'a are just different enough from humans, Klingons and half-Betazoids that the radiation takes years instead of days to have an effect, but that seems like a rather large plot hole to me.
I don't know, if the So'na are really well over a hundred years old they could be kind of dead. Did you see the toxins that were extracted from Ruafo. The Enterprise crew were all perfectly healthy mature adults. And quite alive. The So'na? A little past the expiration date.
I'm pretty sure they could if they wanted to. Or if the Federation wanted to, it's not like the Ba'ku could really stop them, and I doubt they'd care enough anyway as long as visitors are either friendly toward them or leave them alone. In fact, Picard said he had planned to take some shore leave on the planet near the end of the film. The problem is not that they were hogging the planet. The problem is that they objected to people trying to kidnap them and destroy their planet without bothering to try a third option, which the other people tried to hide with a "we can help billions with this stuff" argument. The Ba'ku would probably coutner-argue "you could help billions without having to destroy our planet!"
On a related note, how did a few hundred, or at most, thousand, Son'a manage subjugate two entire species?
If they have starships and their potential slaves don't, they come in, bomb a few cities, and tell the rest "either work for us, or we keep bombing cities." Think Hopper's speech from A Bug's Life, about "keeping those ants in line".
For a somewhat more classic flavor of Fridge Logic, though... wait, how the hell do they get home after ejecting the warp core? Hell, shouldn't the impulse engines stop working without main power from the warp core?
For those of you who haven't either read the tech manuals or played with the Starship Creator program, the answer to the above is a)They were towed, and b)the impulse engines are powered by multiple fusion reactors, not the warp core.
Also, I'd wager there were enough spare parts in the cargo bays to rebuild the core. Or at least let Geordi cobble something together.
The Master System Display for the USS Voyager shows that it has a spare warp core (though of course they forgot this in the episode where the alien-of-the-week stole the primary core). As it is of an even more advanced - and much larger - class than the Voyager it's entirely possible that the Enterprise-E has at least one spare core that the crew didn't forget about.
Except that Geordi specifically says that "There's nothing stopping them from doing it again (the subspace tear weapon) and we're fresh out of warp cores!".
Quite simply, the Enterprise didn't have to go all the way home, just clear of the Briar Patch where they could get a clear transmission to the Federation Council. Back to Earth and then back again to the Briar Patch would likely have taken weeks, if not months, even at warp.
Much simpler solution, really. Everyone always forgets the shuttles. Just send one out to warp out for help, and problem solved.
The Fountain of Youth effect on the planet enables Geordi to see. But reducing the age of his eyes to before the point where they ceased to function wouldn't work, because he was born blind. In addition, Geordi never wanted to have 'normal' vision, because he found the features of the visor (and in First Contact, the contacts he replaced it with) to be far too useful.
Not really, as Admiral what's-his-face states that the medical applications for the unique radiation haven't even begun to be explored. Not so much Fountain of Youth as much as 'Fountain of make-everything-work-properly-and-at-what-is-considered-to-be-the-peak-for-insert-your-species-here'. Which is hard to say more than once in a conversation.
Geordi has mentioned wanting to have normal vision; in fact he said so in the third episode of the series, "The Naked Now", mentioning it to both Yar and Doctor Crusher. Granted he was under the influence of the Tsiolkovsky virus at the time, but he certainly seemed sincere. (The fact that he declined Riker's gift of normal vision when Riker had the powers of the Q was explained when Geordi said, "The price is a little too high for me, and... I don't like who I'd have to thank.")
When Son'a got kicked out, why didn't they just set up a new colony on the other side of the planet? It's not like the Bak'u had any way of enforcing the banishment.
Their main priority was revenge.
Can't have been that high a priority, since they spent decades attacking other planets.
It's like in Final Fantasy: they spent time going around leveling up before having a go at the dungeon.
The no-technology aspect. Irrigation is a form of technology. Even if you were willing to allow things like hammers and plows, irrigation systems are almost always referred to as a form of technology in textbooks, especially ones as well built as the Baku's.
And the dam. Dam's are always technology, even when built by beavers.
And, as Linkara pointed out, the clothes are surprising well made for not being manufactured. As someone's who's seen home woven cloth, I'm inclined to agree.
Linkara pointed out that some claim that the Ba'ku accept a certain level of technology, i.e. anything without a transistor circuit. However, they do not specify this in the movie, and after all, an irrigation system would take away a man's ability to carry buckets of water several miles.
They Specifically state they avoid tools that "take something away from a man". they don't say anything about rejecting tools that allow them to SURVIVE: A Dam prevents flooding and provides a water source, preventing thirst, an irrigation system allows for mass growth of food, preventing starvation, and a Loom provides clothes for sanitation and protection from the elements. all of these tools require manual work by hand, not something that does the work for them.
So how were they able to repair Data? Also their clothes look much better woven (and cleanednote as does their entire village considering they supposedly live at agrarian level tech) than what they realistically should be capable of.
The Ba'ku are Actual Pacifist to the point of refusing to act in their own defense when attacked and refuse to use technology more advanced than a certain arbitrary level; when the Son'a reclaimed the tech from their space-faring past and started their rebellion how did the Ba'ku beat them so solidly they actually fled the planet?
Likewise, how did they kick them off-world? Did they just keep the Starship they arrived in lying around? Why?! And didn't that ship have weapons? Why didn't the Son'a use them to shoot the Ba'ku? All these makes it look like the Ba'ku secretly have a big old warehouse of technology lying around that they drag out whenever their inane philosophy fails them.
Would explain how attempted to fix Data, despite none of their supposed tools being suitable for this task.
Here's something I thought was really odd. How does the radiation cause Geordi's eyes to not only regrow but become functional...yet not cure Picard's baldness? And we see that it can cause extreme hair growth in Worf later?
If Nemesis is to be taken into account, Picard was bald since he was a youth. Alternatively, Picard likes the bald look and shaved it down.
Why is everyone in the main crew so in favor of helping the Ba'ku? Worf is friends with Julien Bashir, who ran the math and said that if they lose the Dominion War (which the Alpha Quadrant was at the time), over eight hundred billion people would die. At the very least, Worf, the Security Officer, who has fought on the front lines of the war, should have suggested that the bad guys might have a point, that developing this medical technology into something helpful to the war effort. But no, Worf instead sides with his captain to allow a planet of six hundred hypocritical luddites to stay in the same mudhole they've always lived in while Dominion Warships are lining up to blow the hell out of Earth and the other homeworlds of the Federation.
Wouldn't Worf side with Picard because the Son'a are known allies of the Dominion? That their plan to destroy the Ba'ku planet would come across to him as playing on the Federation's desperation and being more likely be a Dominion plot to sabotage this very resource?
The real problem isn't that they agree, it's that they do so without question as though there was no moral grey area at all.