A look back on the first season of Picard, the first Trek production since 2002 that wasn’t a prequel — the good, the bad, the ugly, the nifty, the not-so-nifty, the finished, and the unresolved. Also, I want more Kestra, please. My overview of the inaugural season of Sir Patrick Stewart’s return to the role that made him a household name is now up on Tor.com.
One of the things I particularly enjoyed about this season is that this is the first Star Trek season that feels like it takes place in a galaxy where people live. It’s partly a function of it being the only series not to take place on a military installation of some kind—aside from DS9 all the others take place completely on starships, and DS9 takes place on what used to be a Cardassian station. But the waning days of the 24th century look lived-in. A lot of the thanks likely goes to director Hanelle M. Culpepper, who directed the first three episodes of the season. The visual feel she established is a perfect mix of old and new, with Star Trek’s trademark nostalgia for old things mixed with high-tech accoutrements. It feels like a happy future that acknowledges the past while still willing to move forward.
Everything comes to a head on Coppelius — the super synths, the Zhat Vash, the Borg Cube, La Sirena, Soji, Soong, Narek, Data, Seven of Nine, and more than one big-ass fleet of ships. My take on the grand finale of Star Trek: Picard‘s first season, “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2.”
Rather famously, playwright Anton Chekhov believed that stories should not have extraneous details. On several occasions, Chekhov wrote about this in letters, variations on the theme that if you have a gun on the wall in your story, it should be fired by the end of the story, or it shouldn’t be on the wall in the first place.
This season of Star Trek: Picard has hung a good many guns on the wall, and while Part 2 of the season finale fires most of them, it doesn’t quite fire them all, and a few of them misfire badly. Having said that, it’s a most satisfying conclusion to the season.
The first part of the season finale is all setup and a lot rides on the payoff, but on the way we get some wonderful bits (the way Picard’s diagnosis was handled, Picard’s big speech being undermined by Altan Soong) and some head-scratchers (Jurati getting off way too easy for committing cold-blooded murder, the synths possibly being evil). My review of Star Trek: Picard‘s season finale opener, “Et in Arcadia Ego.”
In addition to Data, [Brent] Spiner has had four other roles in the franchise: Lore, Data’s evil twin, introduced in “Datalore” and deactivated in the “Descent” two-parter; B-4, Data and Lore’s prototype, introduced in Nemesis, and also seen disassembled in “Remembrance”; Noonian Soong, Data’s creator, in “Brothers” (alongside Lore), and seen again as a dream image and a holographic recording in “Birthright Part 1” and “Inheritance,” respectively; and Arik Soong, Noonian’s ancestor, in the Enterprise three-parter “Borderland”/”Cold Station 12″/”The Augments.”
This episode adds a fifth, and it’s in keeping with the others: Altan Inigo Soong, the son of Noonian. (Though it’s not mentioned, his mother is presumably Noonian’s wife Juliana O’Donnell, established in “Inheritance.” I’m also just assuming his middle name is a tribute to the swordsman from The Princess Bride, and if it isn’t, I don’t care, because in my head it is, so there, nyah nyah.)
We finally get some revelations! We find out how the Zhat Vash got started, who is behind the attack on Mars, why Rios is so messed up, and on top of that, Jurati is outed as a murderer, Seven of Nine kicks some ass, and someone tells Picard to shut the fuck up. My review of Star Trek: Picard‘s latest, “Broken Pieces.”
Cabrera plays all six roles he has in this episode beautifully, from the Scots silliness of the engineer to the hung over exhaustion of the pilot to nerdy enthusiasm of the navigator. But for the first time, Rios himself feels like a more complete character, his rakish behavior hiding tremendous pain and suffering.
It’s also his ship, through and through. He claims he chose the self-image option on the emergency holograms by accident, but he’s never changed it, either. But the best part is when Soji takes over the ship to take it to her homeworld, and Rios is able to take control back by singing his mother’s favorite lullaby, “Arroz con Leche,” which triggers a failsafe. I have to say that the moment when Rios starts singing and then takes down the force field Soji put up to be one of the most delightful moments in Star Trek history. (Says Rios of his mother: “She didn’t like other people playing with her things, either.”)
Picard and Soji take sanctuary in the home of Riker and Troi (and their amazing kid Kestra), and they’re just the ones to whup Picard upside the head and tell him he’s being a twit. It’s a nostalgia fest that also is an excellent episode, moving the story of Star Trek: Picard forward. My review of “Nepenthe.”
There’s a lot to like about “Nepenthe,” but the thing I like best as the seventh episode of the first season of Star Trek: Picard in particular is that finally we have people who will call Picard on his bullshit. Raffi Musiker is still his subordinate in many ways, Rios is just an employee who will do whatever the client needs, Elnor is pledged to help him and that’s it, and Jurati only just met him. His relationship with all of them is one of a superior officer or employer or mentor. However, Riker and Troi’s relationship goes back much farther, and there’s an ocean of water under a dozen bridges among the three of them. As a result, they are in a perfect position to tell Picard he’s being a complete jerk at different points in the episode. Riker’s is done in a friendly manner—the same way he’s done most things in his career—by gently pointing out that being an arrogant ass who must be in the thick of things is practically a requirement when you’re a starship captain, but is a bit more fraught when you’re dealing with, in essence, a teenager. Troi, meanwhile, goes into full counselor mode, whupping Picard upside the head for how he’s so focused on helping Soji in the abstract that he is completely not getting how much pain and suffering Soji is actually going through.
Picard sets foot on a Borg Cube voluntarily for the first time and it goes a lot better than he fears. Narek pokes Soji with a stick and it goes both better and worse than he fears. Musiker helps Picard, and it goes better for the mission but worse for her. My take on “The Impossible Box,” the latest episode of Star Trek: Picard.
Picard is only able to board the Cube thanks to the awesomeness of his erstwhile aide. Michelle Hurd turns in another brilliant performance, as Musiker is asked to convince Captain Emily Bosch, an old friend of hers, to grant Picard diplomatic access to the Artifact. The expert manner in which Musiker gets the access—even though it means burning the friendship with Bosch—is contrasted perfectly with how she falls apart as soon as she’s done, ignoring the applause of the rest of the gang. That applause is deserved, mind you, as Musiker’s manipulation of Bosch is brilliant, thanks in part to her easy charm, and also due to her use of Picard’s dual reputations as a great captain (Musiker jokes that his face is probably still on the brochures) and as a self-righteous pain in the ass.
Musiker is spectacularly broken, and Rios—her old friend, and Cabrera and Hurd play that friendship with nary a false note—is the only one who seems to even notice. We find out that her neglect of her son extends beyond her direct relationship with him: in all the years she’s known Rios, this is the first she’s told him that she even has a son, much less a daughter-in-law she’d never met before and an impending granddaughter she will likely never ever meet. Hurd absolutely nails the disconnect between Musiker’s completely together professionalism with her trash fire of a personal life. As Rios says, “Nobody gets it all right, Raff.” Truer words, man…
Picard plays dress-up — and puts on an outrageous accent — and we get some nasty reunions involving Seven of Nine, Raffi Musiker, and Dr. Jurati, plus some actual forward movement on the plot! It’s a Christmas miracle! I have a great deal to say about Star Trek: Picard‘s “Stardust City Rag.”
While “Stardust City Rag” is a fine title, it could just as easily be called “Seven of Nine is Back and She’s Pissed!” In the two decades since Voyager came home, Seven has joined the Fenris Rangers, helping keep law and order in a lawless and chaotic area of space. She has tremendous bitterness toward the Federation, and a particular animus toward Bjayzl, which is the real reason why she helps Picard.
We get the first hint of that in the opening flashback from fourteen years earlier, where we see Icheb—the former Borg drone who served on Voyager during its final two seasons—being tortured and killed, his Borg implants being violently removed. When Seven shoots him in the end, it’s a mercy killing to end his suffering.
There are two nice touches in this scene: Icheb was an officer on the U.S.S. Coleman, having completed the Starfleet training he began on Voyager, and the person removing his implants can’t find his cortical node, which Icheb donated to Seven in the Voyager episode “Imperfection.”
We get revelations about Picard’s resignation, about the Borg-Romulan connection, and about Romulan mythology, plus we meet Rios (meh) and are reunited with Hugh (yay). My review of Star Trek: Picard‘s third episode, “The End is the Beginning.”
I find “The End is the Beginning” to be a particularly apropos title, because truly, the end of this episode feels like it should’ve been the end of the first episode. The leisurely storytelling model of modern television instead has it at the end of the third, but it’s not like it’s a surprise that Picard’s going to wind up in charge of a ship, so why wait so long to get there?
Part of the reason is that there’s yet still more exposition to provide, and this time a lot of it relates to the Romulans and the Borg.
Jean-Luc asks for a ship and is hoist on his own Picard–by Ann Magnuson no less! Plus revelations about Romulans, revelations about that Borg Cube from the end of last episode, and bonus Vasquez Rocks footage! Oh, and also David Paymer and Tamlyn Tomita! Face front, true believe, this one has it all! My take on Star Trek: Picard‘s “Maps and Legends.”
It’s interesting, I haven’t seen anybody mention “All Good Things…,” The Next Generation‘s final episode, on any of the lists of TNG episodes to watch before starting Picard. (I may have just missed it.) Yet “Maps and Legends” makes two overt references to “AGT.”
The first comes when Picard talks to Dr. Benayoun, his former medical officer on the U.S.S. Stargazer (Picard’s first command). Picard wants to be medically certified to travel through space again, but Benayoun says there’s one catch: damage to his parietal lobe that is very likely to develop into one of several nasty brain-injury syndromes. Picard mentions that “a long time ago” he was warned of this possibility, and that’s a direct reference to “AGT,” where we saw a possible future in which Picard is retired from Starfleet, living on the family vineyard, and has Irumodic Syndrome (which is, basically, Space Alzheimer’s). It’s good to see this is being remembered, and also lends a sense of urgency to Picard’s actions, as he doesn’t know when his brain is going to start to betray him.
Indeed, it may have already. While he’s joking, Benayoun does mention irrational anger during live interviews as a symptom of this condition. It also casts a doubt on everything he’s doing, truthfully.
A new Trek series debuts! And there was much rejoicing! Our first long-form on-screen look at the world after Star Trek Nemesis, with a dream of Data, a retired Admiral Picard, artificial life forms, Romulans, and a whole bunch more. My take on “Remembrance.”
I have no doubts, though, about how joyous it is to see Sir Patrick Stewart back in the saddle. After being stuck with Action Figure Picard in all the TNG movies, I’m grateful to see a return to the cerebral Picard of TNG’s earliest days, but with the more complex personality and maturity of TNG’s later days. He’s also very obviously older and more tired. At one point, he’s called upon to run up to the roof of a building, and he’s winded pretty much after the first ten steps. One of the things I’m most looking forward to about this series is a look at heroes in their twilight years, something not seen nearly often enough (and when done right, e.g., Unforgiven, and another Stewart vehicle, Logan, can be fucking brilliant).