One Impossible Thing at a Time: Star Trek: Picard
It’s not the way I would have done it.
But it is pretty close!
Star Trek: Picard (ST:P), now available for free at CBS All Access, is the antidote to Star Trek: Discovery. As opposed to the heedless headlong rush of Discovery, Picard takes its time, building a story slowly and meticulously.
Others have said it before and likely better, but I’m going to say it myself — ST:P is made to appeal to people of, well, a certain age. Maybe age is not the right word, maybe it is made to appeal to people of a certain mileage. A mileage that includes some success, some failure, some pain, some loss, and some punishment for good deeds. ST:P has, as some of the best Star Trek has, a kind of multi-level relevance that is hard to beat.
Speaking of which, some people object to the overt political message of this series. I am not one of those people. If you are one of those people, hey guess what, we’re not gonna agree.
And, of course, it has Patrick Stewart, an iconic actor, reprising his iconic role as Jean Luc Picard.
One thing that I respect about the show is that the writers did a good job of working with all the stuff they inherited. Stuff from the Next Generation series, stuff from the Next Generation movies, stuff from the new Kelvin Timeline movies. A lot of plates spinning, and balls in the air! And a lot of those plates are, honestly, kind of dumb.
Still, they worked with what they had and managed to pull it off pretty well. That’s saying a lot since Star Trek Nemesis was not a very good movie — in fact, back in the day at Revolution SF I used Nemesis as an example of having to get too many pieces into play before things really start.
Also, let it be known that I firmly believe that Star Trek: Insurrection was a far better movie.
Back to ST:P. Personally, I liked the slower pace, and the fact that it was concentrated on Earth for the first three or so episodes. We hear a lot about “The Federation,” but it was good to finally see some of it from inside. Earth especially, the core, the hub, this tiny world that has been directly threatened like… six times (except, you know, in ST: Insurrection)?
I really liked the way they set up the Borg Reclamation Project. That it was refugees (somewhat) taking care of refugees. Also, at least at first, I thought it was cool that, from Picard’s POV, things were kind of low-stakes — he’s trying to find and rescue a single person. To do that he has to find another person. After that? Maybe reconstruct Data. One impossible thing at a time.
Make sure you update your TPS cover-sheet safety video
I thought it was very clever the way that Picard knows what must be done, but he isn’t commanding a starship, he doesn’t have any real power, he can’t just make it so. He must convince other people that he’s right and get their buy in. Even when he assembles his crew, he is not actually in charge.
It took me a while to warm to the rest of the crew, but I eventually did. Elnor was a bit shaky at first, but I liked him overall.
The gang’s all here
Writers are often told that their bad guys need to not believe they are bad guys, bad guys should believe they are good guys. ST:P really did pretty well on this issue. The Romulan villains don’t really think they are villains; they have very good reasons for doing what they are doing. Of course, other villains, borg-body-part-trading-mafiasas are knowingly bad.
There were weak spots, of course. I think that the final showdown with the Romulans was a bit much… less would have been more. More of a rag-tag Starfleet fleet, with maybe a few Feringi and Klingon ships thrown in, maybe even some really rag-tag Romulans, too.
I’m also wondering why, after all that work the writers put into the Borg reclamation project they seemed to drop it all toward the end. Are there any XBs left alive on the cube? What about the multi-species team working on the cube, are they still on it? More would have been more!
I like the way that Picard now has to walk the walk on synthetic rights; that was a pretty bold move.
The scenes with Data were excellent, and a good (although painful) way to wrap all that up.
Data, our man on the inside
Looking to the next season, I’m kind of hoping they will stick to the story threads they’ve already opened. The Borg Reclamation project continues, and now Picard and the Federation have to set this planet up — are there synthetic colonies (or prisons) from the ban days that will be relocated there? Will there be hidden bands of synthetics that show up? Space-mobsters showing up? More Romulan refugees? I’d like to see them stick around this planet for a while, walking the walk.
If you don’t’ want spoilers, ctl+f “how I would have done it” and engage those nacells.
Like I said, I enjoyed the slow build and the time spent on earth. I would have liked to see a bit more of it. I think that there should have been more suspicion against Picard because of his close relationship to the Romulans — he even goes as far as having ex-Tal-Shiar goons working at his vineyard!
Getting the crew together was a bit of a sticking point for me. Everybody seemed to have a remarkably complex backstory, Picard even jokes about the drama surrounding his new crew. I would have probably invested more into Raffi, as she was the last Star Fleet officer Picard mentored. She also paid a pretty heavy price for getting involved with him. That would have made the part where she met up with her son have much more impact.
I would probably go the opposite way with Elnor. I like the character of Elnor quite a bit, but I would like his absolute candor to become prickly when it comes to his past. As in, “how many people have you beheaded, Elnor?” “I’m not going to tell you.” I also think that Elnor needed a bit more of an ‘edge’. The sneaking around has only so much credit with me… so maybe he needed some kind of personal cloaking device or has a 2-shot phaser built into the handle of his sword, or some such.
Evan Evagora as Elnor
I conditionally liked Seven-of-Nine. With the caveat that the only episodes of Star Trek Voyager I’ve watched were the ones recommended as required viewing before watching ST:P. That out of the way, I find it hard to believe she’d be part of a self-appointed bunch of security enforcers nosing around the new Romulan resettlement zone. If you turn your head and squint, you can convince yourself that her role in the Fenris Rangers was mostly about tracking the space-mobsters exploiting the Ex-Borgs.
I had no real problems with Rios or Dr. Jurati. In fact, Dr. Jurati had the least backstory drama, which I found nice. In exchange she got ongoing-story-murder-drama. Damn!
I wanted a bit more from Dr. Maddox. He’s a throwback to the first season of Next Generation for crying out loud! Give him some story! Give him some time!
The writers put a lot of effort and backstory into the Borg Cube and the Ex B’s and the different factions of the Romulans, but then they seemed to drop it about ¾ of the way through, which bugged me. Like I said, hopefully they will get back to it in future episodes.
What else… I liked the way that Soji managed to save herself in the Borg Cube, for the most part. I kind of liked Soji altogether. A bit more screen time would have been better… I was unsure if, when they get to the synth planet, she suddenly remember her pre-insertion-into-Federation time. Like, was she suddenly aware that she volunteered for this bizarre mission?
I really liked the part with Data, although I would have dropped a bit of a hint that Data has always assumed he would self-shut-down someday.
So how would I have done it different? Eh, not much. Less would have been more in the final showdown. A handful of Romulan Zhat Vash ships, a handful of Federation Ships.
Like I said, I think they’ve set up a lot of things worth exploring in future episodes. I want them to stick close to the android planet. Doing a kind of deep-dive into what happens with a new federation planet. There are a lot of things to do and explore in that area; working with the androids, the XBs, and unravelling the various Romulan and Federation factions, with the occasional side-venture. And V’ger! I want V’ger to show up — in fact I thought it was going to show up. It is, after all it is a super AI/human hybrid in another dimension. For a while I was thinking the whole thing was set up by V’ger as some kind of test for both synthetic and bio life. That’s how I would have done it.
This guy’s got a story, dammit!
I think it might be cool if they do periodic re-visits of some of the planets and situations that we’ve seen in Next Generation and other Star Trek shows, sequel episodes, so to speak.
Also, I want Riker’s pizza to become a ‘thing.’ Like Picard and Soji are constantly trying to recreate it. Every planet/ship they go to they ask for it. They are constantly messing with the calibration of the food replicator on the La Sirena to try to get it right, causing a schism between them and the rest of the crew. It isn’t bio vs synth, it’s the proper caramelization of the bunnycorn fat dammit! Go big or go home!
Adrian Simmons is an editor for Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. Check out their Best-of Volume 3 Anthology, or support them on Patreon!
It was…ok..I guess.
I forget which streaming service I subscribed to so I could watch it and I guess I enjoyed it in the moment. Soon after binge watching it and the two seasons of Killjoys (it went south after that) I asked myself if I would watch it again. Much like the Disney channel’s Lone Wolf and Cub ….oops, I mean the Mandalorian, I decided not and cancelled my subscription.
dmont7- ‘ok’ is good enough! Enjoying it in the moment is a big part of what makes a good TV show good.
I think you miss the point. I re-watch Star Trek TOS, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. Picard just doesn’t inspire me to do so.
I watched the first two seasons of Discovery over the past month, and I think it’s terrific. Probably has become my favorite Star Trek. During that same time, I’ve managed to watch the first three episodes of Picard – only managing the third one in one sitting. I fell asleep during episode two.
A Next Generation fan, I’m heeding friends who tell me it picks up, and I’m sticking with it.
But so far, there’s no comparison between the two. I had a completely opposite reaction to yours. I’ve also watched Star Trek Continues, The Original Series, Lower Decks, and The Animated Series, during this time. All are much better than Picard, for me.
I hope it appeals more as I get to the end of season one. But the ‘slow burn’ as a friend called it, is just dull.