Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 3 – “The End is the Beginning” – Damage and Stories

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    “The End is the Beginning” is a good episode that give us more development of the Romulans and more information about the Borg Cube “Artifact.” This is the first episode where I really liked Soji as a character and liked how we also got to know of the support characters, as well as the return of a character from old! This story covers a lot and I’d say succeeds in it. The two plots (Soji’s and Picard’s) are very well balanced and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

The episode was written by Michael Chabon and James Duff and directed by Hanelle Culpepper.

The story begins with the Executive Director of the “Artifact” taking an interest in Soji’s work as Picard continues his recruitment of his new crew.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Romulan Former Drones – An aspect of the episode I really liked is our time with the former drones. In this case we see how the former Romulan drones are barely being held together. It takes Soji delving deep to get an anthropologist to talk and that in turn leads to all the former Romulan drones panicking and calling her “The Destroyer.” The fact that this “Artifact” is to help former drones heal is compelling and I loved that we got to see and talk to at least one of them.

Laris and Zhaban – Laris and Zhaban show their Tal Shiar training when Zhat Vash agents attack their home. One of the attackers survives and we learn that we are fighting the Zhat Vash before the attacker kills himself. In this we see that Laris and Zhaban do everything to not kill and I loved that. They have left the Tal Shiar life behind and you can see they’d love to just spend the rest of their life here with Picard. With Picard leaving though, they accept it and support him on his adventure while they watch over the Chateau.

Raffi and Captain Rios – Raffi’s relationship to Picard is explored in this episode and we get introduced to Rios. In both we see how Starfleet has burned them. Raffi wanted to find anyway to help the Romulan Refugees while Picard thought his resignation would be enough and is resigned to present. She lost everything after that and is escaping into drugs on an isolated area on Earth. She does connect Picard with Rios though and in him we see a man whose entire record in Starfleet has been erased due to the mission but still keeps up the habits he learned from the organization. Picard, Rios and Raffi have all been hurt by Starfleet actions so seeing them in this “Firefly” like crew is an interesting dynamic to explore. There is much history still to explore.

Hugh – Hugh is the man in charge of the artifact. He is Soji’s mentor and notices when she speaks to a drone in a dead language. After this he takes her to the Romulan drones who have all gone mad and witnesses as they call her “The Destroyer.” He never stops defending the former drones or Soji and the emphatic man we met back in “I, Borg” is clearly still present. He is Soji’s mentor and it awesome to see how much he’s grown since “The Next Generation.” He’s firm but empathetic and you can see why he is the Executive Director of “The Artifact.” Jonathan Del Arco is wonderful in his return to his role.

Damage and Stories – The main theme of this episode is one of damage and the stories we tell to deal with that damage. We see this in the broken former drones and in Captain Rios and Raffi as well as Picard himself. All of these characters are broken and their stories are the one thing that motivates them and keeps them going. It was staying focused on this theme that really elevated the episode for me.

Okay:

“Rizzo” and Narek – These are the two Zhat Vash spies and their relationship is weird at this point. They refer to each other as siblings but there is a weird sexual undertone to their interactions. It is strange and their relationship really needs more development. I didn’t put it as a negative because they are both good actors, but it isn’t a plus either. Right now it is simply a strange element of the show.

The Cons:

The Soji Questions – The questions of how much Soji knows about who she is and her role in all of this is the biggest question and right now feels like a bit of a con. When I heard her called “The Destroyer” my first fear is that they’ll make her part Borg Queen. That strikes me as a trash idea in more ways than one given the Borg Queen ruined the threat of the Borg for me. A single ego is not as threatening as a collective mind that can adapt. This con might turn into a pro if the questions are handled well, but right now it is one of the biggest things that could hurt the series.

“The End is the Beginning” is another enjoyable outing in “Picard,” and gives us some amazing character development. I loved how Hugh has grown and more Laris and Zhaban made the episode for me. The other new characters have potential so it is hard to say if I like or dislike them yet. I’m hoping that their arcs are handled well and that the big ideas explored in “Star Trek” of old make more of an appearance as they did in the first episode.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

 

Gandahar (1988): Relationships and the Ego

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“In 1,000 years, Gandahar was destroyed and all of its people killed. 1,000 years ago it will be saved and the inevitable avoided.” -The Deformed

“Gandahar,” is a french animated film created in 1988 and animated and directed by René Laloux. The film is based off the french Novel Les Hommes-machines contre Gandahar (“The Machine Men versus Gandahar”) by Jean-Pierre Andrevon a story I very much want to find an English translation to after watching this film. I watched it in French with English Subtitles, though I heard the English dub. is good. I just like to watch things in as close to the original as possible.

The film takes place on the planet Gandahar as the natives deal with a new threat of metal men who are destroying them. The primary protagonist is Sylvain sent from the Capital of Jasper on a mission from the Council of Women. It is from here the conflict unfolds.

Here is my assessment:

The Pros: The animation – The animation is fantastic. It flows, and the style is unique. I have not seen any animation like it before this, which makes me want to check out more of Laloux’s work. His work is colorful and surreal, almost like you are watching a dream take place.

The Factions of Gandahar – One thing that this movie did really well was creating unique cultures and people. Each of them is different and distinct and though they are inspired by tropes, end up being well rounded for a story that is essentially a sci. fi./fantasy fairy tale.

The People of Jasper – The people of the capital are ruled by The Council of Women who are lead by Ambisextra (what an awesome name!) The women do not wear shirts and let their breasts hang loose verses the men who are robed and in skin tight suits. It is is done in a non-sexual way too showing the alienness of the people. Also, Women Council’s leading is something that doesn’t happen enough, even in sci. fi.

The Deformed – Are you a group of mutants who have powers that allow them to destroy things with their mind. They were experiments by the natives and afterwords were cast out. Their distrust of the Capital is understandable for this reason…though they even help stop the Metal Men and become the rebels against the Metal Men. They are the ones who have a prophecy because of their powers that allowed them to glimpse the future. The prophecy is the one at the start, “In 1,000 years, Gandahar was destroyed and all of its people killed. 1,000 years ago it will be saved and the inevitable avoided.” It is this foresight that allows them to be such a threat to Metamorphosis and his Metal Men. Besides Ambisextra and Metamorphosis these guys were what kept me most interested in the film.

The Metal Men – Are ruled by Metamorphosis, a living brain (think Overmind from Starcraft) who wishes to live and does so by taking others energy and power and making them a part of it. The Metal Men carry parts of within them and have no sense of self. They are a great enemy faction being both like the Cybermen and the Borg but ruled by the Overmind. They are attacking from the future and the Door of Time that was built by Metamorphosis so he would have an infinite source of life to feed off of.

The characters – The characters are surprisingly deep and outside of the main character, pretty enjoyable to watch. Ambisextra is a badass leader and the head scientist who is Sylvain’s mentor is pretty cool too. He is the one who figures out how to kill Metamorphosis. Metamorphisis is great too…we see that he wants to die knowing that he will go bad, but only after he goes bad. He sends Sylvain in the past to do so. I kind of wish the movie had focused more on him. He drives the plot and is the most interesting person besides the members of the Deformed and Ambisextra. His death is pretty cool and reminds me of Hal’s death in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but more reflective than crazy.

The Message – The Message is pretty great, at first it seems like is going to go cop out, “Avatar,” “Fern Gully,” approach and make it nature verses tech…but it doesn’t since those who were changed end up being liberators and writing the wrongs (the Deformed) and though nature is used to fight, so is technology. The cultures are unique and more than simply tropes.

The key message is relationships though, just like the natives have gotten to the point of a give and take with nature while still being able to invent and live so do they eventually become in relationship with their rejected children the Deformed. It is the one who dominates and destroys and loses the caring that lead him to sending Sylvain in the future to destroy him. It is once all relationships are dead and tyranny reigns that Gandahar is destroyed, it is in relationship that the world thrives.

Okay: Sylvain – The main protagonist just isn’t all that interesting. He achieves his purpose of being our stand-in though. We see the world and characters through his eyes…I just wish we knew more about him besides his acceptance of the Deformed (we never see his people reject them which would have made his acceptance mean something), and his love with Arielle is sweet, but rushed. She exists primarily as a love interest and not much else.

The music – It is a mixture of techno and sci. fi. making it very 80’s but not very memorable. I wouldn’t seek out the music in this film.

I would recommend this film for anyone who enjoys sci. fi. and animated films. The animation is beautiful and the sci. fi. cultures and concepts are really well explored. The world is the strongest part of this story and Sylvain doesn’t hurt the story, even if he doesn’t help it. The message of relationship is key throughout and really important. The film feels like a Miyazaki film that way, but done with high sci. fi. It is for all these reasons listed above that it is now a favorite that I recommend.

My final score for this film is 9.5 / 10.