Final Thoughts on “Picard”

So, carrying on from the first half, here are my comments on the last half of the first season of “Star Trek: Picard”. There will be spoilers, so if you haven’t watched it yet and thing you might want to, you should probably stop reading now:

The last five episodes are more entertaining than the first five. Part of it, oddly enough, is that the show finally took advantage of the fact that it was primarily on streaming services to extend the runtime of the episodes. What this did was allow them to develop things a bit more before they had to try to pay it off, which was my biggest problem with the first five episodes. However, it did run into the problem that shows tend to run into with the extended runtime, which is that they use that time to do things that they think are cool but that don’t really add anything to the show. The biggest example of this is the scene where Rafaella is trying to work out the issues with the Captain’s past. While I think that the EHs were the best part of the show, the scene where they all gather in the Holodeck to work things out is a prime example of wasted time. None of the characters there had any real idea what was going on, and so the outcome was ultimately nothing more than Rafaella deciding that she had to go and talk to him to find out what was going on. The worst part about that was that they had already started down a path that would have wasted less time and made Rafaella look competent, by having her go around and talk to the various EHs to piece together the issue. This would have shown her investigative skills, necessary to establish that she didn’t just get lucky with her conspiracy theory but that she had pieced it together. Instead, she’s mostly guiding a meeting, and most of the information and even a lot of the speculation comes from the EHs … and ultimately, at the end, they don’t figure anything out anyway.

Thus, what ends up happening with the show is that sometimes it drags and sometimes things seem rushed, as the show didn’t develop things enough in the first half to pay them off later and still often doesn’t develop things. Hugh is a huge example of this, as since his appearance and personality is so changed from TNG we don’t have that visceral attachment to him, but his character and especially death is given such weight that they really should have established the character more earlier. So it seems like that part was rushed, while other parts, like the meeting, were taking up time that could have been used better.

Interestingly, I found that the best episodes were the ones that Riker was in. I’m not saying that the show would have been better with Riker as the main character. In fact, as Riker was always a more pragmatic character it wouldn’t have worked with this one as Picard’s principled approach was needed here. But for some reason he seemed to have an … energy that most of the other characters lacked. I would have liked to see a series with him headlining it … although they’d need a better plot than this one.

One of the most annoying things about the cameos is that when they bring back people from the previous series it turns out that their lives … well, their lives sucked. The main point of the Riker/Troi episode seems to be to highlight how devastating the loss of their son was, which is linked to the main plot (more on that later). Seven had the crushing loss of Icheb. Picard had to quit Starfleet due to the main plot. I can’t think of any character from the previous series who had a good life. Hugh is about the best, and his life is bland at best. It’s quite depressing to think about how badly their lives turned out. So much for the optimistic Star Trek future.

But the death of Riker and Troi’s son only highlights how unrealistic the synthetic ban is, considering that we already have an example of how Starfleet handles such cases with the ban on genetic engineering. Their son contradicted a rare disease that can only be cured with something developed in a positronic matrix. But the ban on synthetics banned such things, and so they couldn’t get the cure, and so instead moved to an undeveloped planet that had some special properties that helped with healing. It didn’t work long term and their son died. The problem, however, is that in banning genetic engineering Starfleet never banned genetic therapy. And that was in reaction to people who basically took over the world, and threatened to do it when they returned. So that they would have banned the strictly therapeutic use of positronix matrices strains credulity. They certainly would have had to re-examine that stand when someone as prominent and influential as Riker would have asked them to, and he’s smart enough to use the genetic engineering precedent against them. And if you claim that he wasn’t the influential, he’s influential enough to be able to make a few calls and get assigned as the head of the fleet that comes to rescue the synthetics in the end, and it is even implied that he was at least partly responsible for getting that fleet moving. Do you really think that he wouldn’t have burned every favour he had to get treatment for his son? If they had at least hinted that they were considering allowing the treatment but that it wouldn’t have happened in time, then they could have had their tragedy without it being ridiculous.

Also, the degree of fear and distrust of synthetics works against the ending. Why would Starfleet be willing to send that many ships to defend the synthetics given how strictly they regulated them? Early in the series, Picard has almost no influence, and does little throughout the series to build it, and Starfleet is going to be willing to go to war on his account, without any thought of simply wiping out the synthetics themselves? Remember, they didn’t know about the potential huge threat that the synthetics could summon. The attitudes should not have shifted that quickly, and the series never actually addressed that.

The series also has things that align pretty much with ideas in Mass Effect. Unfortunately, they are ideas from Mass Effect 3. Even more unfortunately, they are bad ideas from Mass Effect 3.

The first one they imported is … Kai Leng. The female Romulan agent is a prime example of the antagonist that the creators are in love with and so gets far more development than their role requires. She gets a lot of the cool lines. She gets her backstory delved into. We get a personal scene between her and her aunt. Heck, her death scene even includes an equivalent of the “For Thane!” line, with the “This is for Hugh!” line from Seven. To be fair, she isn’t as annoying and pointless as Kai Leng, but it is clear that she’s given far more of a role than her character should have, which makes her mildly annoying.

The second one is, essentially, the Reapers and their mission. The big secret of the synthetics is an ability to summon some sort of extra-dimensional creatures that react to how organics always fight with and potentially oppress synthetics by wiping all the organics out. While this at least makes more sense than ME3’s version, it comes out of nowhere and doesn’t fit at all with Star Trek.

The summoning of these things reveals another problem, as the synthetic model that we’ve been following around has a pseudo-sister that stayed on the planet of the synthetics, and is ultimately responsible for trying to summon it. The issue is that we are supposed to be surprised that she’s shady enough to try it, but from the beginning the performance is such that she’s pretty much a classic villain that they never subvert. So it’s not a surprise that she would try to summon them and try to convince Dahj to do it. But we also aren’t really given a motivation for her to do so other than losing a twin (to the Captain’s secret). So not only does she come across as a pure villain, she doesn’t really have a motivation for her villainy because the series didn’t establish that motivation. This is another casualty of how things weren’t given the time to develop properly before they were supposed to be paid off.

I found the death of Data and putting Picard into an android body to be pointless. Data wanting to experience the anticipation of death could easily have happened without him actually dying, and seems pretty short-sighted for an intelligent android. And since it didn’t give him new abilities or an extended lifespan, the android body part was just there to give Stewart a death scene for Picard while still allowing him to come back for later episodes. And the worst thing about it is that, again, this doesn’t get paid off because we have strong reasons both outside and inside the universe to think that Picard wasn’t really dead. Outside, it is unlikely that they would have gotten Patrick Stewart on-board with it for a mere ten episodes. Inside, the android body was made so prominent that it had to be used at some point, and to bring Picard back, at that point, was the obvious solution. So it didn’t have the impact that they would have intended.

At the end, they establish some relationships and display them somewhat prominently, with the Captain and Agnes kissing openly on the bridge. I, uh, didn’t expect them to be that open, but okay. But they also tease Seven and Rafaella which … makes no sense. First, there is no indication in the series that either of them swung that way. Second, there was also no indication that either of them were in any way interested in the other, especially since they spend almost no time together. It really comes across as an attempt to signal that such relationships actually do exist in Star Trek without having to actually do one instead of as something that organically arose from the series.

After the first five episodes, and even right up to the conclusion, I was committed to not watching a second season of this show. And after the conclusion … I can’t say. The reason is that the series ends up essentially being a ten episode pilot, establishing the backstories of the characters and how they all came to be together on the same ship. As such, I have no idea what a second season would actually be like. Is it going to return to a simple exploration-type show, more in common with the Star Trek of old? Then that season will clash in tone with the first season. Is it going to try to build season-long conspiracies for them to chase? Then it’s going to have a hard time finding a conspiracy that can overshadow the one from the first season, making the second season a bit of a let-down. Or maybe they’ll do something else. Without knowing what they are going to do in the second season, it’s difficult to say that I won’t watch it.

Ultimately, I didn’t really enjoy “Picard”. I liked the second half better than the first half, but there are still much better shows that I could be watching. It’s not really a Star Trek show and in trying to stuff the universe into the plot they wanted to tell it bends far too much to work as an actual Star Trek show. I’m still waiting for an actual Star Trek show from these attempts.

One Response to “Final Thoughts on “Picard””

  1. What is my favourite Star Trek show? | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] one season long and so it isn’t fair to compare it to longer and more complete series. Plus, I didn’t care for it. And “Discovery” is pretty much the same. So those two are out. And since I commented […]

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