TV review: Star Trek Picard

Since we’re in Stay-at-Home lockdown, we picked up a subscription to CBS All Access for a couple months to catch up on some shows that we have been wanting to see. In particular, Star Trek Picard. We finished watching it last week and so I thought I’d share a few thoughts. I’ll be getting in to spoilers later on, but this first little bit will be generic.

First off, I’ve been a huge Trek fan since I was a kid. I was right there, glued to the TV, when Next Generation came out, and loved the original movies. When I heard that they were bringing Picard back for another show, I was obviously intrigued, as he was one of the best characters of any of the series. I was excited to see what they wanted to do to expand his story.

Unfortunately, mentioning “story” means that I need to start with one of my bigger dislikes of the series. I felt like the overall arc of the story was the weakest part of the series, and in many ways distracted from what I was hoping to get out of Picard. The story for this season felt so incredibly rushed that I kept shaking my head at how random plot points just jumped out of nowhere. There was SO much more than could have been explored in this season, and the fact that it was just breezed right on through was a huge disappointment.

I’ll dive into that more in a moment, but let’s divert to some things that I liked. The nostalgia factor was huge in the show, and for the most part I felt like it wasn’t just playing fan service. There were nods here and there, but they were handled really well. Seeing old favorites getting to interact together was amazing, and so heartwarming. In fact the chemistry when members of the original cast were together was beautiful.

The visuals were also incredibly well done, and I felt like they upped their game when it came to Star Trek. I loved the introduction of new technology, and new interfaces to it. This isn’t a huge spoiler, but at one point Picard has to interact with a VR, holographic, control and can’t figure it out. It just shows that technology continues to march onwards. Star Trek has always leaned in to its role as a visionary of what the future could look like, and this series is no different.

Despite what I’m about to get in to, I didn’t hate the show, and I encourage other Trek fans to watch it. However, I do need to take a moment to express where I feel that everything fell apart.

***** SPOILERS ****** SPOILERS ****** SPOILERS

My two biggest issues with the story were the pacing, and some of the narrative choices that were made. The first one is a technical, the second is opinion.

When it came to pacing, I wanted everything to stop and slow down a bit so I could actually get to know the people and the world that they were trying to build. We’re introduced to a whole slew of new characters that seem interesting and powerful. But I never got to really know them because the entire series had to move along at breakneck speed to get to the climax it wanted to achieve. Things that should have taken multiple episodes to unfold were rushed though, with a few lines of dialogue, before you really knew what hit you.

What I wanted most out of the series was a more episodic style of storytelling. That’s always been Star Trek’s strength. This felt like one long 10 hour movie, which is exhausting. I needed more breaks in the main arc to get to know the characters, and understand the new world that we’re finding ourselves in. This is a Star Trek world that we need to be re-introduced to because it’s beyond any of the other timelines we’ve experienced. Instead, everything around world building was sacrificed for the purpose of getting Picard to the android home world so that he could perform is needed sacrifice and resurrection.

Instead of taking time to unfold the mystery, and gather pieces of the larger arc, we ended up with a lot of episodes that served no other purpose but to get the characters from point A to point B. This was a huge disappointment for me, as I wanted to experience discovery and wonder, but instead, I was just fed the story that needed to be told, because if we stoped to look around we’d never get to where we needed at the end.

Finally, I really had issues with the narrative choices that were made at the end. A few things REALLY bugged me. First, the obvious “WTH?” moment when Commander Riker shows up to save the day, but then just buggers off with a casual, “ok, well I heard your dying, but see ya later” moment. Are you telling me that with the discovery of an android home world that at least ONE FREAKING SHIP wouldn’t stay behind to see what the hell was going on?

The other issue I had was with how Picard was resurrected in a “golem” body, and now everything is just fine and he’s free to continue exploring the galaxy. What I really was hoping for is that he would be put into the “golem” body but that he’d need to remain on the android home world. They hinted that the androids needed someone to help teach them how to be human. Who better than one of the best examples of humanity in the universe? Instead we get a mcguffin that does little more than to erase the frailty of Picard so that we can milk the character for as much as we can.

In my ideal world, Picard would have been a one season show and it would have served to re-introduce us to the current timeline of Trek. The next show wouldn’t focus on Picard or the old TNG crew, but would have opened the door to explore a new world where the Federation wasn’t the primary focus. If they wanted to make this a three season series, then why not tell this story over the course of all of those seasons, at a much better pace? We could have still ended up at the same spot, but it would have been a much more enjoyable ride.

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