“Star Trek: Picard” Season 1 – Good Characters That Needed a Further Developed World

STAR TREK: PICARD - REMEMBRANCE - PhantaNews

      Season 1 of “Star Trek: Picard” is flawed but has more that works than doesn’t in the end. This is a series that is willing to explore quite a few different factions that are at odds and still focus on the characters who drive the story. It doesn’t all work, I would not call this series great but it is good and has the potential to be great in future seasons. This is a review that will include SPOILERS so warning you now, I’m exploring what works and doesn’t work about this season for me so I will be in the details. Continue reading at your own risk. In the end, more worked for me than didn’t and I really hope we see characters and the world developed further in Season 2.

This is a season reflection so will contain SPOILERS as it covers what I liked and hated in the narrative.

The Pros:

Premise – The premise of the show is really strong. You have a Federation that has retreated from the world and outlawed the building of synthetics after synthetics destroy the shipyards on Mars. This in turn leads to a refugee crisis as Mars was building ships to help get Romulans out of the blastzone of the Hobas Supernova. Picard resigns in protest against Starfleet, which brings us to the present and Dahj, an android made from Data’s postaron seeking out Picard’s protection after an attempt is made to kindap her.

Soundtrack – Jeff Russo’s soundtrack is beautiful and reflective and has a hint of melancholy about it. This worked really well as what drives the show is Picard facing is own mortality and what he wants to make of the rest of his life as he comes out of retirement. The theme song reflects this well as well as the underlying mystery as Dahj and Soji discover they are androids slowly and the soundtrack captures that.

Cinematography – Picard is a good looking show. The cinematography is movie quality and the use of sets and green screens are blended together really well.

Star Trek: Picard's Best New Characters Are Laris and Zhaban

Laris and Zhaban – Laris and Zhaban are former Tal Shiar and Picard’s carekeepers at the winery. Laris is one of my favorite characters on the show and both of these characters bring a human face to the conflict. They believe in Picard and helping the refugees and are the ones who tell Picard about the Zhat Vash. I wish we had gotten more time with both of them as we saw they have given up their old ways but still use their training to protect.

Zhat Vash – The Zhat Vash are a secret order that seeks to destroy all synthetic lifeforms as due to a beacon left on a planet they saw that advanced synths will destroy all life. The members of the order we meet are Oh, Narissa and Narek. Oh is half-Vulcan while Narissa and Narek are adoptive siblings. All of them are damaged in different ways and see their desire to protect the universe from the synths above all else. I’m really curious to see if we will learn more about them in Season 2 as they do not succeed in destroying Soji’s people and the new Synths made from Data.

Seven of Nine – Seven of Nine has changed since the last time we saw her, and I appreciate the direction it took. She is part of the Rangers who are a group fighting criminals in the area that was once the Neutral Zone. Seven finds her story tied to Picard as she gets revenge against the woman who killed Icheb. After she is pulled back to Picard when Elnor uses Hugh’s emergency beacon and she and Elnor fight the Romulans with Seven even taking control of the Cube as a Queen at one point. After she and Elnor are taking care of the Ex-Borgs until they rejoin Picard. I’m curious to see her relationship with the Ex-Borgs explored further and her relationship to whatever form the Borg are now. Jeri Ryan did an amazing job.

Ex-Borg Hugh's Character Arc in 'Picard' Embodies the Best of ...

Hugh – Hugh was my favorite character besides Laris and Jonathan Del Arco returned to this character beautifully. He is the Director on “The Artifact” and is helping Ex-Borg also called xBs heal from the trauma of assimilation. The fact that the Romulans are good with him until he tries to get to the Queen’s room says a lot for Federation influence and the impression he left. He reminds Picard of how all xBs were victims of the Borg Collective and Picard doesn’t have to ask twice for him to help. He is only killed when is scene as breaking the treaty by helping Elnor and the Zhat Vash agent “Narissa” kills him. I hated this death initially and but on further reflection, him dying fighting to help another is fitting as that was his final act in “Descent” Part 2 which was his final appearance on “The Next Generation” and lead to him leading the free Borg who had been under Lore’s control. I do hope they bring him back in some capacity, flashbacks of how he knew Seven of Nine would be very fitting or if Seven gets a show have it be during the time when he was alive.

The Crew – I liked the crew though it is hard for me to really choose one who I like more than the characters mentioned above. Soji brings a curiosity and presence as Data’s daughter, Raffi brings empathy and cynicism, Caption Rios is broken with hidden idealism and Agnes, Elnor is the young innocent and ruthless bodyguard and Agnes is the torn over honest doctor. Each of them bring something reveals a part of Picard as his relationship to them also reveals aspects of them. It is a good crew and if I had to choose favorites it’d probably be Elnor and Captain Rios.

Riker and Troi – Riker and Troi offer relief for Soji and Picard from the Zhat Vash and Riker arrives with the Federation fleet to protect the Synths from the Zhat Vash. Seeing how much all of them had grown and their relationship to one another was powerful. Sirtis and Frakes truly inhabit their roles and they brought much needed wisdom that Picard needed. I hope this isn’t the last of them we see on the show.

Picard – This main story on the show is that of Picard and him facing his regrets, trauma and mortality. He faces his regrets in his going into retirement rather than seeking to change Starfleet, he faces his trauma in once more facing his history with the Borg and what was done to him and his mortality in his illness and death. In the end he is granted a chance to live without the illness, though it involves finally saying good-bye to Data and granting his last wish for death.

Data and his Legacy – Data’s legacy lives on the synthetics and the society they created when Maddox and Alton Soong used his positrons to make them. In the end it is one of his “children” Soji who saves his people and lives his idealism over the fear that is felt towards him and his people. We also see that he has been living in a holographic world since his psyche was saved out of B-4 after “Nemesis.” In the end he wants to die to complete his quest to become human and like a human his life lives on in the society made from him. It is beautifully done and Spiner finally gave Data the sendoff he deserved.

Brent Spiner And Patrick Stewart: Saying Goodbye To Data On 'Star ...

Confronting Fear and Persecution of “The Other” – Another theme of the series was fear of the other and facing it. Hugh had become the Director on “The Artifact” to protect and take of the xBs as he told Picard, they had no home and everyone feared them. Those same rules applied to synthetic from their outlaw by the Federation and the Zhat Vash quest to exterminate them. We see Soji’s people and herself fear and experience first hand. I hope this thread isn’t dropped as it as all the more important today.

The Cons:

Dropped Plot Threads – There are quite a few dropped plot threads that hurt the narrative. We have the xBs and them forming a civilization with Seven of Nine and Elnor and it is just forgotten as we see Seven and Elnor as member’s of Picard’s new crew in the final shot. We never learn why Maddox left the Synthetic homeworld, which given he would have been protected there made no sense why he’d leave. These are just a few of the dropped plot threads that could have easily been wrapped up with more dialogue at the very least.

Lack of Starfleet Perspective – Everyone in the crew and even Picard are all former Starfleet. This I think is a disservice as Starfleet comes to save the day at the end but no one within Starfleet is picked up as a part of Picard’s crew. This was a missed oppurtunity and would have been a great oppurtunity to have someone who contrasted with the rest of the crew. They wouldn’t even have to be “Next Generation” cast, just someone who still believed in Federation but also felt they had to help Picard and his mission.

Actual Political State of the Romulans – We learn about the Zhat Vash, meet a Romulan Refugee planet and that the Romulan Free State was in control of “The Artifact” which was the Borg Cube. Is the Romulan Star Empire gone? Is the Romulan Free State the only organized faction or are there others? The Romulan Star Empire was huge but I had no idea if they even had an Empire anymore as we only have the Free State who the Zhat Vash seem to control. This would have been such an easy fix and could have been solved in showing us a map of the region.

The Synthetic Threat – The Reaper like Synethic threat are a faction we get a glimpse of but are never taken on directly. We learn that they exterminate organic life and apparently come from another dimension and not much more than that. We even see one coming through the portal but that threat is never addressed. They are put away when at the very least I wish we could have learned more about this threat that caused the Zhat Vash to destroy the Romulan rescue fleet when they hacked the synths on Mars.

This was a flawed show but in the end it was good. I liked the moments the show slowed down and we got to know where Riker and Troi were. When we got to know the villains they became compelling and the characters who returned had lives that took fascinating directions. The show was flawed and as a whole I would consider it good but not reach great. It had a great ending and I loved how it explored the characters and themes, but too many unexplained plot and world elements held it back. Regardless, I can’t wait to see where the story is explored from here.

Final Score: 8.2 / 10

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Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 9 – “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1” – New Societies and Potential

Image result for Sutra and Soji

   “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1” is the weakest episode in “Picard thus far. We are introduced to some cool new characters and dilemmas, but not enough questions are answered. I still enjoyed the experience of this episode and the callbacks to classic Trek. If you have been watching thus far, you should watch this episode though. This episode is very much a “Part 1” of 2 and it needs the second part to complete the story.

The episode was Akiva Goldsman with teleplay by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman who wrote the story with Akiva Goldsman.

The story picks up with the crew arriving on Soji’s homeworld of Coppelius. From here they must make first contact as the Romulan fleet approaches.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Synth Society – The Synth society has designed giant plants that can defend their world, explores their different interests and is a planet of twins since that is how Soji and Dahj were created. The society feels like a culture out of “The Original Series” or “The Next Generation” and it works perfectly. They aren’t a big society and feel like an ancient Greek society in many ways. They are ruled by a council and because their culture is so young are easily influenced by others…which Sutra uses to her advantage.

Sutra – Sutra is are Lore type and Isa Briones does a fantastic job as her. She hates organics because of them killing her sister (Rios’s Captain specifically). The only thing I found strange is she learned how to mind meld? This was strange and struck me more as a plot reason to establish the overwordly big bad other dimensional synths. I hope she shows up more in the future as she is a great character and you can see the reasons she hates.

Altan Soong – Brent Spiner is playing Noonian Soong’s unknown son who has never been mentioned before. He is a fascinating character and was Maddox’s partner who created this Synthetic Civilization. He designed the bodies while Maddox designed the bodies. He is very much the mad scientist who goes along with whatever his children want to do, and it works as his father also cared far more about his creations than others.

Seven, Elnor and the Ex-Borg – Seven, Elnor and the xBs are the B-plot and honestly they really work for what time they have. We get more time with Elnor and Seven and their budding mother and son relationship and Picard drops by and we see them all connect, and Picard release Elnor given he knows he’s dying after the close call at the beginning of this episode.

Soji – Soji is conflicted in this episode and it works. She was nearly killed by Romulans, the humans she met don’t entirely trust her and if the episode delved deeper into it…Starfleet covered up the murder of her sister. All of this leads to someone Sutra can easily manipulate, much like the time Lore manipulated Data. This worked for me, Soji was easily one of the strongest parts of this episode.

The Cons:

The Romulans Were Right – I’m putting this as a con as Picard’s entire argument in this episode is that Starfleet will listen to him and protect them when we saw Starfleet kill their Ambassador they had sent years prior and no one in Starfleet is listening to Picard. For this reason the Synths are ready to bring about the end of the organics and it makes sense from their point of view, but it also proves the Romulans right. They bring back the “Reapers” from “Mass Effect” and the universe starts over. Also, given the experience with Synthetics in the “Trek” universe this is par for the course, which is why this is a con. I just hope there ends up being a good explanation why I’m wrong.

Pacing – This episode felt all over the place. We are introduced to many characters and not given much of an explanation as well as re-introduced to Picard dying, which hasn’t been touched upon for a long time. This episode needed more time to both develop the world and the new relationships. If they had done this it would have solved the pacing where at times it felt rushed or slow.

This episode was all over the board in pacing. We are re-introduced to the fact that Picard is dying, the xB’s are briefly touched upon and we are introduced to a new society and introduced to the ancient Synth threat that inspires the Zhat Vash to fight. This episode had to do a lot and I wish it had answered more questions. I wanted to know more about Altan Soong for one thing as he gave me immediate Lore vibes when he talked to Picard.

7 / 10. This episode is setup and needed to explain more. It should have been longer. I enjoyed it, but it is the weakest episode of this series.

Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 8 – “Broken Pieces” – When the Past Returns

Image result for Broken Pieces Picard

      “Broken Pieces” is one of the best episodes in “Picard” thus far. We get information on what inspires are baddies, the crew of the La Sirena gets development and we get some of the best character development for Seven of Nine. This episode is full of a lot of moving character pieces and has to give us a fair amount of lore and it manages to achieve it amazingly. If you’ve been watching the show up to this point, chances are you will at the very least, enjoy this episode.

The episode was directed by Maja Vrvilo and written by Michael Chabon.

The story follows Soji’s arrival on the La Sirena, triggering memories in Captain Rios, leading to an investigation by Raffi into his past. Seven also arrives on “The Artifact” searching for Hugh.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Elnor – Elnor gives us one of the purest perspectives on “Star Trek.” Due to being raised in a culture where emotion is always shown and expressed fully his hugging Seven when she saves him at the beginning was perfection. He is also there to bring her back too when he asks her if she’ll assimilate him when she’s connected to the Collective and controlling them. It is well done and I like the dynamic he has with her.

Raffi – Raffi’s arc involves investigating Rios’s backstory and discovering why he reacted so painfully to seeing Soji. It is done really well as we see her talk to all the Holograms, that each have Rios’s face and puts together what happened on his ship. Michelle Hurd does a fantastic job and I liked seeing her and Rios together, she’s clearly the First Officer in this mission and helping Rios put the pieces of himself back together was handled beautifully.

Zhat Vash Inspiration – In this episode we see what inspires the Zhat Vash as “Narissa” meets with her Aunt, the Ex-Borg Ramdha who Soji talked to. It is here we see that an ancient civilization left a warning that creating synthetic life will eventually lead to the end of all organics. This is why the Zhat Vash are so driven in their quest. It gave dimension to “Narissa” seeing her with her aunt and her wishing that her ship had been assimilated instead. This was development that was badly needed. It was also in the flashback we see Oh is the leader or one of the leaders of the Zhat Vash and that the Romulans are responsible for hacking the synths and the attack on Mars.

Captain Rios’s Backstory – Captain Rios’s backstory is powerful. We learn that Starfleet security ordered his Captain to kill the Synth diplomats. He does all this and kills himself too. Captain Vandermeer was like Rios’s father and what his Captain did to innocents was too much for him to take. He buried this trauma and it is only in Raffi’s investigation and learning the truth for herself that leads to him opening up. Santiago Cabrera really shows how amazing of an actor he is in this…from playing the different Holographic versions of himself, and in his opening up about the trauma from his past.

Soji and the Synths – This episode gives us the issue fear versus trust and Soji is at the center of it. We see it in Raffi questioning Picard’s trust of her and also in Soji’s taking over of the ship until Captain Rios stops her. In this we see the potential danger that is posed but also the potential for peace that is there as Soji gives us a unique perspective. She’s been betrayed by organics but has also found allies and friends too. She represents the same potential in her people.

Seven of Nine and the Borg – This episode sees Seven of Nine take control of the Borg cube in order to fight the Romulans. In this we see her questioning even doing this as she questions she might enjoy being part of the Collective too much and not want to give up those she’s assimilated. When she does become “Queen” of the Cube it is powerful and we see her speak with one voice. In the end she comes out of it as either her individuality was too strong or the Borg on that Collective see her having a future role but that can only be achieved later. “Annika still has more to do” are the Collective’s parting words to her. It is chilling and I think sets up that their next evolution might be through some role Seven is to play later.

The Cons:

Starfleet Resistance – When Picard reveals to Admiral Clancy all he has figured out she says she will be sending a fleet to Deep Space 12. This help is still offered with so much resistance to Picard that it felt ungenuine. My thoughts hearing it were that Oh was going to use this opportunity to use Starfleet against the Synths as they had been used against them before when Rios’s Captain killed the Synth diplomats on his old ship. More scenes with Clancy could have solved this and seeing things from the Starfleet perspective as we did before with the Oh reveal in the early episodes.

Agnes’s explanation – Agnes killed Maddox because she saw hell coming and Oh apparently put up a mind block? I felt this was a cop out so that she wouldn’t have to take full responsibility for what happened. I’m still rooting for her character having some sort of redemption but getting away from having her take responsibility via Oh’s actions is not the way to do it.

This is my favorite episode besides “Absolute Candor” and the Pilot in “Picard.” We get amazing character development, the lore gets deeper and the action doesn’t stop moving. This story stands strong on it’s own and I can’t wait to see how the different plot threads payoff in the end. The Romulans are one of my favorite races in “Star Trek” and I’m a huge fan of Borg stories when they are handled with respect. This episode gave both of these groups the exploration I’d been wanting from “Star Trek” for a long time. I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 6, Episode 26 – “Descent, Part 1” – Anger is the Path to the Dark Side

Image result for descent part 1 star trek

     “Descent” is our first time seeing the Borg since “I, Borg” and in this we see how they have changed. I wish this had been a bigger deal. This is a Data episode, as is “Part 2” of “Descent.” I’m doing that as separate episode reviews since one comes at the beginning of the season, while the other appears at the end of a season. Both episodes hold a lot of promise that could have been more fully realized, which I will get into further into the review.

“Descent Part 1” was directed by Alexander Singer with story by Jeri Taylor and Teleplay by Ronald Moore.

The story follows Data who feels anger after a Borg attack on an outpost. The Borg are acting out of character and the crew must face the consequence of this new threat, while Data begins exploring himself.

SPOILERS ahead

Pros:

The New Borg – We are introduced to new Borg in this who from all appearances are simply driven by the desire to kill. It is a strange twist given their desire to assimilate and gives us a good mystery to start everything off. We know how strong Borg technology is, so if they are simply a destructive force than how devastating could it get? This is a good idea, sadly the idea is not fully realized.

Consequences of “I, Borg” – Admiral Nechayev shows up and is not happy with Picard for letting Hugh go in “I, Borg” as these new Borg are a direct consequence of having individuality. I liked that Starfleet is not behind the Picard as it raises the stakes for the rest of the story going forward. We also see how unintended consequences play out in an interesting light.

Temptation of Data – The main arc of this episode is Data finally feeling something and not knowing what to think about it, given it clashes with his ethical programming. He felt anger and pleasure at killing a Borg and in the end when no one calls him out on this being bad fully goes down the path of “The Dark Side.” We have Data the Sith Lord by the end of this episode because no one told him feeling anger is wrong and tried to help him find other ways to explore his exploration to be human.

The Cons:

Purpose of the New Borg – They just kill and to no end. Crosis, who is the Borg who is captured is there to tempt Data, but we get nothing of his own motivations. What is the point of changing to Borg if you won’t explore what individuality even means? This idea is just sitting around the entire episode and is never delved deeper.

Not Enough Concern for Data – If anyone had told Data that killing in anger is wrong this whole episode would have been prevented. Sadly there isn’t enough concern for Data, even after he relieves himself of duty that a crazy Borg is able to corrupt him. This was the crew dropping the ball.

The fall of Data is interesting but not explored nearly as well as it could have been. Why does he want to be angry? He knows that to be human is to feel more than one emotion. Also, what motivates the Borg? We know who their leader by the end (Lore) but none of their motivations. All this is wasted in the episode given how much time we spend with Data and with one of the new Borg named Crosis. Crosis could have been a fully realized character too, but he has no agenda beyond tempting Data and has no will of his own as we discover in the end he is just a pawn of Lore. This episode was enjoyable but never rose to great. It was so many missed opportunities.

7 / 10 This episode was enjoyable but was largely unexplored potential of a few ideas.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Pilot – Encounter at Farpoint Part 1 and 2 – Show Don’t Tell

star-trek-farpoint

Today continues the second week of the Star Trek Pilot Series. This week we turn to “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and the return of Trek to television after 17 years since cancellation. Suffice to say it is a very mixed return in this episode “Encounter at Farpoint,” a two part episode that shows some of the best and worst of Gene Roddenberry at the head of his creation. This again would be for better and for worse…much of what was wrong about the “Original Series” carried over into early “Next Generation,” until it was able to find it’s own voice. To get into more of what I mean.

The premise of “Encounter at Farpoint” is it is the first time The Next Generation Crew is put into action and they are challenged by Q to prove they have evolved and are worthy of being out to investigate the stars and are not the bad they were in the past by solving the mystery of Farpoint Station. Here is the assessment:

The Pros: The crew – The crew is interesting and they are given things to do throughout the episode. Everyone has a role even if the actors don’t pull off that role well. We have Picard as the voice for humanity against Q and the one who reasons through situations, Riker as the investigator, Yar as the voice of the past (grew up on a post apocalyptic type planet), Worf as the alien perspective, Data as the critique of humanity and Crusher and Troi as the empaths (the healers of mind and body) to keep the crew functioning. The show starts out with a great dynamic, that they tell us about but don’t always show us…

Q: The introduction of Q in the guise of the judge is fantastic. Some of his other stuff is less subtle but John de Lancie does a good job elevating the terrible script to at least be an intriguing antagonist. He is what makes the plot interesting since the story around Farpoint is pretty weak.

Dr. McCoy guest appearance: DeForest Kelley makes a great guest appearance speaking about the love of a crew for it’s ship which also added more to it.

Okay: The actors – They just started and are a mixed bag. Frakes does alright as Riker and McFadden does alright as Dr. Crusher. Sirtas as Troi and Wheaton are just bad. Stewart is good as the Captain and Delancie is good as Q…there are no great performances though. The episode isn’t elevated by the actors the way “The Man Trap” was.

The Special effects – The Special Effects are alright, they aren’t as good as they would be later, but they are much better than the original series. It at least gives us some interesting things to look at when the script drags, which happens often.

The Ending – It isn’t amazing, but it isn’t terrible like some of the episodes in Trek, it just feels empty considering that this was the chance for the crew to shine but we don’t get to see it really. Nothing of consequence really happens that wouldn’t happen anyway (the Space Jellyfish meeting, the introduction of Q), in that way I would say the ending of “The Man Trap” and even “The Cage” are superior. They have more awareness of themselves and the actions that occurred in the episode.

The Cons: The script – The script is bad. It made me miss the writing in the original series. It tells us rather than shows us evolved humanity most of the time which makes the crew come off as no better than Q…which wasn’t the writers’ intent I’m guessing. It is far to busy preaching (especially in regards to the aliens that inhabit Farpoint) rather than presenting a dilemma.

The tone: It never felt like the crew was ever in danger because the script presents Q as such a huge joke. He never feels dangerous, though he does look cool in his Inquistion robes, but that doesn’t change the fact that he comes off as a clown not otherwordly threat because of the episode unable to fully realize what tone it wants to take. It wants to be the “Original Series,” (Otherwordly mysteries with a something discovered about how humanity has grown) but also be “The Next Generation,” (new crew, new time, new place).

The Romance: The romance between Riker and Troi feels tacked on in this episode. I had a hard time they’d loved each other being this was the first time we as the viewers see them meet. It is believable in later episodes, but not the first one.

The “Original Series” also suffered from a few bad scripts and being too preachy at times (showing not telling), one thing the pilots do well though is show us the message rather than tell us. They present us with the danger of travel and the possibility for wonder. Here the message is preached to us by Picard with a badly written foil through Q and the sense of wonder falls flat since the aliens are just concepts. The aliens in “The Man Trap” and the “Cage” were more than just ideas…they were living creatures and had complexity, the Space Jellyfish have no complexity at all, they just wanted to mate…and we have no idea how many of them there are or what they do in the larger scheme of the galaxy. It is for this reason I have to rate this episode as less than the other pilots.

I would rate this episode as 6 / 10. It had a lot of potential (both with the conflict among the crew) and outside threats (Q and Farpoint) that were never fully realized.