“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 10 – “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2” – The Legacy of Data

Star Trek: Picard': S01.E10. “Et in Arcadia Ego: Part 2”

     “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2” gives us satisfying end to the first season of “Picard.” This is an episode that is long and has to accomplish a lot, which it manages to do. We get the resolution to multiple plot lines and have some good use of fanservice near the end. This is an episode that sets up the future of the show and captures the inherit optimism about the future that is so intrinsic to “Star Trek.” Without getting into spoilers, it was great and flawed and a satisfying ending for the season.

The episode was directed by Akiva Goldsman with teleplay by Michael Chabon who co-wrote the story with Akiva Goldsman.

Part 2 picks up where we left off, with Picard trapped by the Soong Synthetics, Raffi and Rios repairing the ship and Seven and Elnor taking care of the Ex-Borg. The Romulan fleet is on the way as Sutra and Soji build the tower to summon in the ancient and powerful synthetics for protection.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Narek Teams Up with the Crew – After Sutra freed him last episode we see him team up with Rios, Elnor and Raffi giving us one of the best lines in the episode, “I choose to live.” It great and shows that even though he is an enemy he thinks the grew is the best bet from stopping the arrival of the powerful synths and stopping Sutra and Soji. The dynamic is wonderful and we see him recount the legend of the last time the Synths came and wiped out everything. It sets the stakes and you get why he chose to ally.

Seven of Nine – Seven of Nine is taking care of the xBs for most of the episode until “Narissa” arrives leading to them fighting and Seven getting the chance to avenge Hugh for his death. She has a great dynamic with Elnor where he mentions he would miss her if she died and how she is a mother figure to him. By the end of the episode she is part of the main crew and might have a romantic relationship with Raffi. During the time where Picard might be gone for good she mentions how Picard pulled her back into the past she thought she’d left behind and Rios says Picard caused that same change in him. It looks like she is main crew by the end of the episode and I hope we get more of her Season 2.

Captain Riker and Starfleet – Captain Riker arrives with a Starfleet armada to protect Picard’s first contact with the Synth civilization. It is an awesome moment as he calls out Commodore Oh for her betrayal and says he wants her to fight. Given his inspiration in Kirk, it was a very Kirk like taunt and I loved their face down. I was expecting one of Picard’s allies to arrive and it made sense that it was Riker given he was still a Reserve Captain in Starfleet.

Picard and Soji – What saves the day in the end is Picard’s relationship with Soji and a Picard speech. It is here that he stalls the Romulans until the fleet arrives and uses the last of his strength to stand up for Soji and her people. It is very well done as we see courage win out over fear and as Picard dies he knows he saved Soji and her people.

Peaceful Resolution – We have a standoff between the Romulan and Federation fleet and I was worried that we’d get a big battle “Discovery” Season 2 style…thankfully we didn’t. Diplomacy is what defined “The Next Generation” and the final episode captured this beautifully. This also leads things open as Oh was in charge of Starfleet Intelligence so she knows all their secrets and may have future plans because of it. This resolution leaves things open in all the best ways as this new society can now develop further under Federation protection.

Data’s Legacy – One of the last scenes is when Picard’s consciousness is downloaded into a realm where Data’s also is. They talk and Data asks Picard to die as he knows mortality is a huge part of what defines humanity. It is a powerful scene and I loved their last interactions together as Picard finally gets to say good-bye to his friend and to honor his final wish. In this Synth civilization we see Data’s legacy live on and with the choices made by one of his children, Soji…they have a future.

Tying Things Back to Episode 1 – The show began with Picard and Data playing cards as “Blue Skies” played and ended with them having the conversation and closure Picard always wanted as Data finally got to die as his life ends to Isa Briones, his daughter singing “Blue Skies.” It was poetic and one thing I liked as the theme of mortality was one of the consistent themes for Picard through the series.

The Cons:

What Happened to Narek? – Narek is captured by Synths and we have to learn in interviews that Starfleet pics him up as prisoner. It would have been good to see that given Picard was around to make first contact with this Synth Civilization.

Copy and Paste Starfleet Armada – The new ships from Starfleet look really cool…they also were clearly all copy pasted. This was a shame as a diverse fleet could have gave us a good idea of the Federation military in this era. Instead we got the lazy copy and paste of the new flagship a hundred times. Come on CBS, you have money and can do better than this.

The Synth Threat – The Synth threat is still out there. Soji may have destroyed the tower but any member of her species could rebuild it. We also know that the powerful synths know about the cry for help and could take the long way around or build something like the beacon potentially on their end. If we had a fight this episode I was hoping it would be with the new threat and with it us hopefully learning more about them…instead they are in the wings as a potential threat for later.

I thought this was a great final that really made up for how weak “Part 1” was. We finally see a noble Federation ready to defend new life and new civilizations. We have a problem that is solved by diplomacy rather than violence and we get some wonderful character moments and fanservice to end the season. Overall, I would recommend “Picard” to any fan of “Star Trek.” It is clearly it’s own thing and I appreciate what it has added to the lore. I look forward to any future seasons.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10

Final Score for “Part 1 and 2” together: 8.3 / 10

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: Voyager – Season 5, Episode 15 and 16 – “Dark Frontier, Part 1 and 2” – The Temptation of the Borg

   “Dark Frontier, Part 1 and 2” is one of the best stories to come out of “Voyager.” This is a story that explores Janeway, Seven of Nine, the Borg and gives us consequences of Voyager and their need to get home. I’m reviewing “Part 1 and 2” as a single episode since Netflix had it as one single watch and even Memory Alpha lists both episodes together rather than as a “Part 1” and “Part 2.” I think this worked for the narrative and really strengthens the story. This is easily one of the best episodes in “Voyager” and is one of my favorites.

The episodes were directed by Cliff Bole and Terry Windell and written by Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky.

When Janeway discovers an injured Borg Sphere she sees an opportunity to get them home faster with the Sphere’s transwarp coil. Things are not as they seem as when she puts her plan in motion Seven begins to hear the voices of the Collective as she investigates her parent’s research into the Borg.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Threat of the Borg – The Borg feel like a constant threat in this story. We see this first in how the crew who are supposed to hijack the transwarp coil from the Sphere keep failing. It is this failure of the Borg adapting too quickly that really raise the stakes and lead to Seven delving into the research into the Borg that her parents did into the Borg. These flashbacks presented with her parents also establish this threat as it is in them remaining off sensors that keep the Borg from assimilating them for a long time. We also see the threat in how Seven willingly gives herself up to the Borg in order to protect the crew and during her time on the Cube, an assimilation of a species. This story is really what I wish “First Contact” could have been. There are stakes in the Borg tempting Seven to come back and the stakes remain focused and high.

Janeway’s Plan – Janeway’s plan makes sense. Her ultimate goal is to get her crew home and a transwarp coil would cut down there time in Borg Space and in the Delta Quadrant immensely. This being a high stakes heist kept me engaged and I could see why Janeway came up with the plan in the first place. It was risky, but feasible and the pros would outweigh the cons.

The Temptation of Seven of Nine – Temptation has spent more of her life in the Borg Collective. We see this in that she was assimilated as a child and her parents were assimilated too…so in that way their voices were still always with her. This twisted connection is what the Queen uses to tempt Seven back to them and from here she offers Seven more of what she’s always strived for on Voyager, to be more and to grow. The Queen is lets her keep her free will but connects her to the Collective as she attempts to re-indoctrinate her and train her….it is never said outright, but I think to become a future Queen.

The Borg Queen – The Borg Queen feels like a threat in this. This is the first time watching her where she has felt like one. This is done through us seeing the crew fail in their holographic runs to take the transwarp coil, the fact that the Queen knows about their plan and her ability to use Seven’s empathy against her. I wish we could have seen her do this with Picard and Data in “First Contact.” She is Seven’s evil mentor in this, opposite of Janeway and she makes a good argument for the Borg by demonstrating their power and the Collective knowledge that they are. For this reason I can see why she has so many scenes with Seven. If only “Voyager” could have kept her this smart and cunning after this. I’m not a fan of the Queen and like the Borg as Collective Mind that is otherworldy and “We,” but I salute this episode for making the Queen compelling and a threat.

Captain Janeway – Captain Janeway is both mentor and mother figure for Seven in this. In this we see her deal with the conflict of the need to protect the crew as a whole versus her overall connection to any single one member…like Seven. In the end she of course chooses Seven as it was her decision to go forward with plan and let Seven be a part of it that lead to Seven going back to the Borg in the first place. I thought this was handled well and Janeway never felt overpowered or smarter than everyone else. She was flawed and human while also being courageous and cunning. This is a great Janeway episode.

Seven of Nine – Seven’s arc is what drives the story as we see her face the temptation of the world of the Collective she knew before versus her desire for freedom and individuality she’s been exploring on Voyager. Jeri Ryan is fantastic as we see her tackle her inner conflict as well as her complicated relationship to her parents, who were assimilated like her and where the reason she was assimilated because of how obsessed and reckless they were in relationship to the Borg. It is because of them most of her life was spent in the Collective and it is this temptation that the Queen uses to bring Seven back to them. From here we see the Queen seeking to mentor as Janeway did, except it is mentoring in how to become a Queen. It is the immoral act of assimilation and destroying species that lead to them clashing and why Seven returns back to the crew when they come to rescue her. I loved this arc. Seven and The Doctor are my favorite characters on “Voyager” and this story is a big reason why.

Okay:

The Ensemble Cast – The rest of the cast has things to do for Janeway’s heist and the later rescue of Seven, but we don’t really learn anything new about them. I’m not putting it as a con though as I appreciated everyone was given something to do over the course of this story. If some minor characters had been explored a bit more, whether pushing against Janeway’s plan or providing an alternative plan it would have been a perfect episode.

This is “Voyager” at it’s best. We have an amazing threat in the Borg, Seven and Janeway get developed and the stakes remain high through the entire 2 episodes. The only thing it needed was a little more exploration of some of the ensemble cast and it would have been the perfect 2 parter. It is a shame the Borg Queen will never feel this threatening or smart after this, as this is the only episode that I really saw the potential of what that character brought to the Borg Collective. If you are a “Voyager” or “Star Trek” fan this story is well worth your time.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10 A near perfect “Voyager” story.

 

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: Voyager – Season 6, Episode 16 – “Collective” – Finding Connection Beyond the Borg

Image result for Star trek voyager collective icheb

   “Collective” is a solidly good episode. The tension is real, we get some wonderful character development of the Voyager crew and the Borg we meet. Before I get into story details, if you are a fan of “Voyager” you should check this episode out. It brought back memories for me watching it as it was in Middle School I’d catch episodes on UPN when I got home from school. This is later in the show and is a great example of how “Voyager” could still put out quality episodes, even as they were winding down.

The episode was directed by Allison Liddi with teleplay by Michael Taylor and story by Andrew Shepard Price and Mark Gaberman.

The story follows Voyager as they seek to rescue Harry, Chakotay, Tom and Neelix when a Borg Cube run by assimilated children captures them.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Captain Janeway – This is a good Captain Janeway episode. In this we see that she cares about the Borg children but also is doing all she can to save her captured crewmembers. She’s stern and powerful and works masterfully when she confronts the First, the leader of the Borg children. Her point freaks him out so much that he refuses to speak to her again. This episode shows why she was Captain of Voyager.

Harry Kim – Harry Kim is the only member of the crew who the Borg children haven’t captured initially. Thanks to Janeway he puts a plan in motion to shut down the Cube so that his crewmembers can be rescued. Sadly he is captured and experimented on by the Borg. I enjoyed seeing him take charge though and wish he’d gotten a win. Harry usually always has bad stuff happen to him, which is a shame as there is so much potential in the character.

The Drones – The Drones are fascinating as what drives them is the desire to be back with the Collective. It is only Seven showing them there is another away and Second (Icheb) taking charge that shows them that they can have another life free, on Voyager. The one thing I’ll say against them is I wish First had been explored more. He’s threatened by anyone who questions him but we don’t know his backstory, just that he wants to rejoin the Collective more than anything. The drama between him, Voyager and the other drones is compelling though.

Icheb and Seven – The strongest part of this story is the relationship between Icheb and Seven. Seven repairs him, as the First says he is not fit to lead because of how his tech. is acting up. This leads to trust between them and we see him come to realize his individuality and potential future in what Seven shares. She is his mentor and friend in the episode and I like that we’d see more of this relationship in future episodes. She was the first to show him a life outside of the Collective.

Connection Beyond the Borg – The main fear of the drones is that they will be alone if they do not rejoin the Collective. It is that leads to the botched assimilations they were trying on captured aliens and why they tried to bargain with the hostages for Voyager technology to fix the Cube. Seven is the one who shows them that there are other ways to make connections and that they shouldn’t care about the Collective as it abandoned them. Over time this reality seeks in and the surviving Borg children join the Voyager crew after First fails in keeping control.

The Cons:

Neelix – Neelix was on the Delta Flyer and I don’t see any reason why he should have been. He’s the cook and they are far beyond his area of space so him even selling himself as a diplomat feel cheap. He’s not as annoying as he can often be in this episode but he is still a con.

I really liked this episode. We get to learn more about the Borg, Seven has some great character development, we are introduced to Icheb and Janeway is a great captain in this episode. This episode sets up major stories in the last of the season as Icheb will play a bigger role and we will learn more about how he got assimilated in the first place. Icheb and Seven is one of the more intriguing relationships on “Voyager” as they are both former drones and Seven comes to be an awesome adoptive mother as she embraces the best aspects of the Borg and humanity.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 5 – “Stardust City Rag” – Where is Hope?

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   This is an episode that has me completely conflicted, and my end score reflects as much. I appreciate that Seven is back, besides the Doctor she is the best part of “Star Trek: Voyager” but there is so much whiplash. This episode gives you emotional moments with so much ham that as much as the episode is still enjoyable, I would not call it good. There is a fine line between ham and drama and finding that balance can create great. Hell, I love so many comics and films based off comics that found that line. This film, doesn’t and it is the performances that elevate it to something worth watching.

“Stardust City Rag” was directed by Jonathan Franks and written by Kristen Breyer.

The story follows Seven’s joining of Picard and the quest for Maddox on Freecloud.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Freecloud – Freecloud is the first rouge planet that we have been a part of on Trek in a while. I like how it fully takes advantage of tech. to read the interests of the crew and that it isn’t safe in any way. This helps raise the stakes as Seven is used as bait against the crime lord of the planet to trade for Maddox.

Bjayzl – The villain of Freecloud is Byjazl. She disects Ex-Borg for their parts and sells those on the black market. She is the very much Marina Sirtis in looks from early “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” For all intents and purposes she is a a corrupt human who outsmarted Seven of Nine. This was brilliant and as a one of villain I greatly enjoyed the tension she added to this episode. If “Star Trek: Picard” is developed further, and we have more Seven cameos than her intro. in this episode could mean more.

Seven of Nine – Seven was often times the rogue batting against Captain Janeway in “Star Trek: Voyager.” Whether it was the Omega Particle or other issues she took a personal investment in, Seven was not starfleet. From this, her becoming a Frenris Ranger made sense to me. It has also been years since Voyager  returned home. Just as Picard has changed since “All Good Things” I could see it Seven too. They grew from the world they were given. In this her motivation for revenge against Bjayzl make sense as it was Bjayzl infiltrating the Rangers where she learned about Icheb and in turn created a trap for him, leading to his death. The rage Seven feels makes sense and fits given how much she cared for Icheb.

Picard – The greatest moment from Picard is his talk with Seven before she leaves at the end of the episode. They are both PTSD victims of the Borg and them both admitting the ongoing journey of finding their humanity is powerful. Patrick Stewart once again doing a fantastic job in the role.

Okay:

Raffi and Rios – Both of them are explored more. We see Raffi and her failed relationship with her son from her conspiracies and drugs and we also get Raffi as the one to pull everyone in. He’s grown on me the most for all the main crew. His scenes develop him and for a mercenary he’s very respectful.

Cons:

Tonal Whiplash – Icheb looses his eye before his adopted mother kills him and after we get fun playful infiltration of Freecloud Banter…How does that make any sense? Also after we get wondefrul ham from Patrick Stewart Maddox joins Icheb in the deadpool, so we get less people to root for.

Maddox’s End – Maddox being killed by his lover was sadly predictable. Her joining Picard opened too many questions (the gun she had, etc.) and she shared a lot with Picard when they first talked. I’m rooting for her getting a rewarding end, but her killing Maddox out of fear of Soji and the synths didn’t do it for me.

I think this episode could have been a great spy thriller and in turn matched up with Seven’s revenge or been a very good joke Freecloud episode where we see how well the cast can play off one another in an alien environment. They wanted both so the tonal whiplash hurt this episode a lot. Icheb’s death did not to be so graphic and I wanted more time to develop character. Frakes did a good job presenting it all, but this needed a better script. Enjoyed the outing but it was hardly good or great. The theme of the episode is the death of hope as Picard seems to be the only person we’ve met so far, still holding onto it.

Final Score: 7 / 10