Picard, my rambling review

If you’re a fan of Star Trek, then you definitely should watch this if there’s nothing better on

Dave Gutteridge
My Rambling Reviews

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Patrick Stewart as Jean Luc Picard looking confused and concerned.
Picard wonders why the plot isn’t as simple as it should be. (Image copyright Paramount I think. Used without permission. Please don’t sue me.)

(Mild spoilers. There’s nothing written here that should detract from your enjoyment of the show. The show itself takes care of that.)

One of the first things that happens in the first episode of Picard, is that a young woman is attacked in her apartment by some space spies who want to kidnap her. Unfortunately for them, their attack triggers something inside her that unleashes latent super powered fighting skills, and she kills them all.

Which makes for a cool action scene, and I’m always up for a female action hero. But, it leaves you wondering, why didn’t they just transport her directly into a jail cell on their ship and contain her in a force field?

Turns out that this is foreshadowing for how the writers can’t seem to wrap their heads around the the possibilities of this universe.

For a more nuanced example, later on, Picard, the titular character, meets up with an old colleague that got fired from Starfleet because of some convoluted thing Picard did fourteen years ago. This colleague complains that Picard is living large in a French château with fancy oak furniture, while she is living in some kind of camper trailer thing. It’s supposed to be a futuristic corollary to modern day class differences.

That there would be class differences in the far future is believable, but would they be drawn on the same lines of wealth? Star Trek is a post monetary society, or at least it has been heavily implied as such when written by people who can imagine alternatives to capitalism.

At the very least, you have to wonder, in a universe where anything can be made by a replicator, energy is in near infinite supply, and there’s a galaxy full of habitable and accessible planets, why and how would anyone be financially underprivileged or lacking for resources? I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but I need some kind of explanation of how that works if you expect me to sympathize with people who seem to be suffering in a world where they shouldn’t have to.

It takes some real vision to write for a world that is significantly different than the societies we know of today. When it happens, you get some amazing science fiction, and over the course of many series and movies spanning decades, Star Trek got there now and again.

When it falls short of that vision, all you get is a pointless exercise in replacing the things we have in our world with high tech equivalents. Instead of dollars you have “credits”, instead of gasoline it’s “dilithium crystals”, and instead of miles per hour it’s “warp factors.” When people who don’t like science fiction talk about how silly it is, I feel like it’s this kind of arbitrary dress up that they have in mind.

In one episode, there’s a scene involving some kind of parallel to the kind of pop up ads you see on websites. In Picard world, these ads take the form of holograms that appear on the dashboard of a spaceship as they approach a planet. It’s not like pop up ads in our current reality show up on the dashboard of your car when you approach the parking lot of a mall, nor is it clear that they ever would. It feels forced.

Also, again, why does anyone need to advertise in a world where there’s holodecks and replicators and access to anything and everything you could ever need? Is gambling still exciting if you have unlimited money? Is there even money? If so, why? I don’t know. Nobody even seems to want to answer the question.

Probably the most awkward moment of the show is when someone suggests Picard get the old TNG gang back together. Data, we are told from the start, has been disassembled because of new laws regarding artificial people. But what about getting Worf, Riker, LaForge, Crusher… Maybe Deanna Troy if anyone needed danger sensed.

They would be perfect to help Picard on the quest he’s about to go on because they are by far the most capable crew in the galaxy, unquestionably loyal to Picard, and would not hesitate for a second to help him. So, yeah, unless they’re dead, there is not a single reason in the universe to not at least give them a call and check if they’re free.

The only problem is that, regardless of whether or not the relevant actors are available, the vision for this show is not for it to be a continuation of The Next Generation. They want to focus on Picard, the character, and do something different. So, Patrick Stewart has the unenviable task of delivering the dumbest in-universe justification for why they don’t do the most obviously sensible thing to do. He explains it’s precisely because they are so totally ride-or-die loyal that he just can’t ask them to come along. It would be unfair to them.

What? Shut up. That doesn’t even make sense.

It’s especially egregious because of how many perfectly plausible explanations are right there for the taking. Maybe they got lost in the Wherever Nebula on a secret mission. Or on an individual basis, they have things going on, like maybe one has a spouse that is dying and they can’t leave them. There is literally a whole universe full of potential reasons why the OG team are uncompromisingly unavailable.

But, No. Apparently they’re just hanging out together having barbecues or whatever. One day, assuming Picard survives this series, they’re going to all get together and Picard will talk about this crazy adventure he went on, and all his old TNG buddies will all ask with complete bafflement, “dude, why didn’t you come to us first? We could have sorted that shit in an hour like we used to do, not take a whole season or whatever like it did with that team of mouth breathers you assembled.”

Of course, maybe helping Picard solve everything in just one episode might be tough even for the TNG gang, because I’m not totally sure what they need to solve. Picard needs to find a guy because he recreated AI technology that’s been lost, and he put that technology into two twins, one of whom is on an old Borg ship owned by Romulans. She’s there because… I don’t know… reasons? Meanwhile everyone seems to be mad at Picard for saving some Romulans, and I feel like that was the premise of a movie I think I saw, but given all the different time travel and timeline plots that have existed, I don’t know what’s canon. Anyway, synthetic people like Data are illegal now because a few years back a bunch of them blew Mars up, and that matters to the plot too, I guess. While all this is going on, Starfleet has been infiltrated by a Romulan secret service that’s so secret it’s even secret to the Romulan secret service that we already knew about… or something like that?

Picard, by the way, has retired from Starfleet, though maybe he got fired because everyone treats him somewhere between being a minor annoyance and a vague celebrity, in spite of the fact that he has saved the entire universe on multiple occasions. On one occasion that comes to mind, in an episodes of TNG, in a situation that involved time travel, he stopped a cataclysmic event from wiping out all life on Earth before it even began evolving. So, yeah, he has literally saved the lives of every single living thing on earth and every human that has ever lived or ever will live.

I get that it plays against expectations to make it so not everyone is in awe of him all the time, but… I’m having a hard time reconciling the hero he objectively is in this universe with the way the writers want to be at play with tropes about old men and their relevance.

Anyway, I’m sure there’s a through line to the plot that connects it all together, but it’s not that I couldn’t figure it out if I wanted to, it’s that it’s all way more than I need. Data has a daughter out there somewhere and Picard needs to find her before other people get to her to abuse the technology that she represents. Boom, done. That’s the storyline I care about. Unfortunately, all the other stuff is given equal weight so it’s unclear which conflict the writers want me to focus on, so I get confused and my attention wanders.

There’s moments where things work, but it’s more a result of serendipity than a natural outcome from good foundations. Patrick Stewart commits body and soul to everything he does and that helps a lot. There’s a Romulan woman who lives with Picard as some kind of room mate or helper or some other unclear reason, and she’s got some spark to her.

Otherwise, the rest of the cast is as flat as day old cola. The Captain of the ship Picard has hired is trying to be some kind of cool and confident type of deal, but he just doesn’t have the edge he needs to sell it. There’s a quirky doctor, but, those two words of description are literally the full extent of her character. There’s a woman whose only character trait seems to be that she’s permanently frustrated with Picard and only grudgingly accepted to come on the mission.

Oh, I guess the Romulan samurai is actually kind of fun, in spite of the blunt cultural tropes that Star Trek likes to use for portraying alien races.

In one episode, Seven of Nine, from the Star Trek: Voyager series, stops by, and she’s sexy and cool and kick ass, and all that’s fine. At the same time, there’s an awkwardness about it, because she and Picard talk like they’re old friends, even though I’m near certain they have never shared screen time ever before. Do they share a connection because they’ve both been Borg before? Maybe they said something about it, but, off hand like it wasn’t important to make clear? Like everything with this show, it’s kind of okay, but also slightly off somehow.

Like how they’ve upped the adult content. There’s slightly more direct depiction of violence, like when see some poor guy get his eyeball pulled out. I don’t know if the sexual content is upped. One woman wears a bodysuit that is effective nudity, but Star Trek had a tendency toward women in skimpy clothing in the original series, so maybe this isn’t that much more different.

The main thing though is that people swear in this show, and that, more than anything else, really stands out.

Does it all add more reality or authenticity? Or does it deviate from the style that Star Trek has cultivated over the years? On the one hand you could say that they only ever avoided more harsh language and certain levels of violence and sexuality because they were constrained by overly conservative standards and practices imposed by large television networks. On the other hand, you could say that regardless of the origins, they had a page less blank to start from that gave rise to a house style that is distinctive.

All I know is that every time someone swears, it’s jarring, and that’s not because they couldn’t theoretically make it fit into the show, it’s just that in spite of their efforts, they didn’t. That’s kind of the whole show in a nutshell. It could be, but it isn’t. At least, not quite.

Discovery, the other Star Trek series running right now, is bad in ways that tears apart the universe that has developed over the years. Picard is trying its hardest to balance traditions with innovations, and that effort is what keeps it just barely within the realm of “worth watching.” I gave up on Discovery a few episodes into the second season. Hopefully Picard will do better.

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Dave Gutteridge
My Rambling Reviews

I don't post often because I think about what I write. Topics include ethics, relationships, and philosophy.