“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: Picard – Season 1, Episode 7 – “Nepenthe” – Exploring Home and a Mistake

Image result for nepenthe Picard

     “Nepenthe” is an episode that feels organic. This could have easily turned into fanservice with the reunion between Picard, Riker and Troi and I felt like it didn’t. The characters have all changed and grown from the people they were before, while still remaining true to their core selves. In lesser hands they could have easily been caricatures of the people they were before. This isn’t a favorite episode though due to two things that happen, that I’ll get into below.

The episode was directed by Douglas Aarniokoski and written by Michael Chabon and Samantha Humphrey.

The story picks up with Picard and Soji meeting up with Kestra, daughter of Riker and Troi. As they go to them for safety Elnor attempts to escape with Hugh from the Cube and Agnes Jurati begins to face what she did to Bruce Maddox.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Soji and Kestra – One of the relationships that shows us more of who Soji is, is her relationship with Kestra, the daughter of Riker and Troi. Kestra invents langauges and hunts and is very open. This openness and honesty puts Soji at ease and helps her sort through all she’s been through. Kestra is also Soji’s ally. Soji ends up being an older sister of sorts and I really enjoyed how their friendship grew.

Riker and Troi – Riker and Troi are awesome in this. They are supportive of Picard, while still holding him accountable. When Picard mocks Soji’s doubting of all she knows to be true Troi reminds Picard that as Captain he was better, while Riker said he just could have invited her to dinner. We see more of the people who they are as Troi is the glue of the family, we learn they lost a child and because of it she can’t go back into Starfleet again, while Riker is still on reserve within Starfleet. They are a contrast to Picard and help him only to grow. It was wonderful seeing them again.

Events on the La Sirena – On the ship Agnes is having mental breakdown as she accepts she killed Bruce Maddox and as the Narek tracks them with the tracking device Commodore Oh had given to her. It is very well done as her being treated as innocent is too much to take and she attempts to kill herself to get Narek off their trail. The episode handles this arc really well.

The Theme of Home – Home is a major theme of the episode. Soji realizes that was what the Romulans were using her for, and we see how home is safety for Riker, Troi and Kestra and in that adopted home is also a safe haven for Soji and Picard. This theme was beautifully handled.

The Cons:

Attribute Marina Sirtis as Guest Star – I don’t know why she wasn’t given guest credit, but it annoyed me. She is just as central to the episode as Jonathan Frakes and the producers should have known better.

Death of Hugh – Hugh is killed when he decides he is going to help Elnor get to the Queen’s Chamber. I wish he’d been leading the xB’s in revolt against the romulans who were controlling them at least. There is always the chance he could be brought back, Seven has resurrected the dead with nano-probes in the past and she is set to show up next episode. We’ll see what happens. Hugh is my favorite character on the show besides Laris and deserved a better death at the very least.

This was a good episode. Things finally come to a head with Dr. Jurati and what she did, we get some more time with Hugh and the reunion with Picard, Riker and Trio was beautifully written. This episode has a lot happen but doesn’t feel rushed and it is this pacing that helped it remain as strong as it did. I’m curious to see what will happen and if Riker will come to Picard’s rescue in the end.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10 My issues with the episode where elevated by the solid writing going on everywhere else but “The Artifact.”

Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 6 – “The Impossible Box” – Of Facing Trauma and Self-Discovery

Image result for The Impossible Box Star Trek Picard

  “The Impossible Box” is a fantastic episode. We get wonderful character development from nearly everyone on screen and only one con really stood out for me. This episode gives a reunion I’ve been wanting to see and much of the episode gives room to breathe before it really increases the stakes and tension. Before I say anymore, if you’ve been liking the show so far, you’ll probably enjoy this one a lot.

The episode was written by Nick Zayas and directed by Maja Vrvilo.

The story involves Picard getting onto “The Artifact” and reuniting with an old friend as Narek get’s closer to his goals as Soji starts putting the pieces together about who she is.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

“The Artifact” – This episode we learn just how prestigious this Cube is, as Picard ends up needing diplomatic papers to enter the Cube and can only talk to the Director, Hugh. This episode we feel the threat of it all as Narek and Narissa cause problems for our heroes and the claustrophobia of the clear and what it is capable of is revealed. We get to see the Queen’s room, which has a gate that allows for far escape and see how former drones xB’s who aren’t Romulan are used for labor. It is a sad state of affairs and Hugh mentioning that their Borg Queen has been replaced by a Romulan shows that much darker purpose that might be in store for the xB’s and the Cube.

Soji’s Self-Discovery – Soji’s self-discovery involves her analyzing all she brought with her, and finding it is only 3 years old. This ends with her trusting Narek as he shows her a Romulan meditation ritual where she discovers the Synth homeworld in pushing past her re-occuring Nightmares, and fully realizes she was created. At this point Narek tries to kill her and she goes into fight or flight, escaping with Hugh and Picard.

Hugh and Picard – Hugh is the first person since Laris and Zhaban who has greeted Picard with kindness. He hugs him and the xB’s help steady him when he is having a panic attack in the Cube. He backs up Picard all the way and puts together that he is there to save Soji. After this he sticks around with Elnor to defend against the oncoming Tal Shiar. I wish he could have shared more with Picard as it he who reminds Picard that the xB’s are victims of the Borg, just as they were. This reminder is profound and it changes how Picard interacts with them after that.

Picard’s PTSD – Picard’s PTSD is first represented when he is going through files on the Borg and pulls up a picture of his time as Locutus. The picture blends together and he holds the area where an implant once was. This trauma carries over when he arrives on the Cube as he feels trapped and blames the xB’s until Hugh reminds him he is safe and that they are there to look after him, and victims, just like him. We haven’t seen this explored since “First Contact” and I thought this episode handled it really well.

The Cons:

Narissa Rizzo – Narissa is just an evil Romulan at this point. We don’t know her motivations beyond destroying all Synths. This needs to change if she is to be the main antagonist. Narek I can at least see as interesting because he cares for Soji even though his loyalty to the mission matters more to him. Both antagonists deserve that level of writing and depth.

I really liked this episode. Hugh is one of my favorite character and Del Arco is just fantastic in the role. He is my favorite character on “Picard” besides Laris. Both of them are complex characters who are at their core good. I hope we can see more characters like this in “Picard.” Right now the show is over halfway through, so there is potential for the overall arc to not work out. I’m curious about what will happen with “The Artifact” and when Picard will get some allies in Starfleet, as he will need them in the final I think.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10 If Narissa were given any depth this would have been a perfect episode of “Picard.”

Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 4 – “Absolute Candor” – Of Truth, Honor and Promises

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     “Absolute Candor” is my favorite episode of “Star Trek: Picard” so far. There is a complete story, a great exploration of Romulan lore and it focuses in on the core relationships that make up the plot. Outside of the pilot episode of the series this is the most focused story so far. I’m glad that even though this is a long form story that within that there can still be solid individual character stories to strengthen it overall.

The episode was directed by Jonathan Frakes and written by Michael Chabon.

Picard takes the ship to Vashti, a planet of Romulan Refugees seeking help in his quest against the Tal Shiar.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Cost of the Supernova – Vashti is a planet of Romulan Refugees that has quite a few different groups of Romulans we meet. We meet xenophobic ones who hate outsiders because of how they were left behind and also the religious side of the Romulans in the Qowat Milat, a religious order of warrior nuns. This exploration of people and culture is one of the things I love most about “Star Trek” and this episode is a shining example of doing it well.

The Qowat Milat – Picard is friends with the Qowat Milat leaders on Vashti as he was working with them to resettle the refugees before his resignation. They are really cool and I liked their leader Zani. The belief of the order is to speak truthfully and clearly in all emotions and thoughts. They are enemies of the Tal Shiar and part of their beliefs involve taking up a cause they believe to be a lost cause. Elnor, a boy so he cannot be one of them carries their philosophy and it is his story that drives this story besides Picard.

Elnor – Elnor is an orphan raised by the Qowat Milat. He had curiosity about the outside world but anger at Picard for leaving them. What leads to him changing his mind is seeing Picard in danger and realizing Picard does need him. He ends up killing a Romulan Senator who was dueling Picard after he the senator ignores his warning. I’m curious to see how he’s developed further as he seems to have forgiven Picard and since he was a kid he wanted to see what was beyond Vashti. The vibe I get from is Odo or Data as he gives us the outsider perspective on a crew full of humans.

Picard – Picard comes to Vashti as he is driven by his guilt and he does need help from the Qowat Milat in his quest against the Tal Shiar. The episode is him atoning to Qowat Milat, Elnor and the people of the planet for Starfleet leaving them behind. It is powerfully done and it is hear we see the humanitarian Picard is as he berates Elnor for killing the senator, as he believed it did not have to happen. I loved seeing this Picard again as so often in the films he was first to violence, not alternatives.

Okay:

The Mystery of Soji – Soji’s story is still the weakest part of the narrative as it is still one giant mystery. In this episode we learn about Romulan myths about a Destroyer and one of the former Romulan drones believes Soji is that Destroyer from Romulan mythology. Her reaction causes the other former Romulan drones to react the same way. This could go many ways and is still incomplete, which is why I have as okay. It could be a pro or con depending on how it plays out in the end.

It is great seeing Jonathan Frakes in the director’s chair again. He’s directed countless “Star Trek” episodes from many series and in this he took the time for us to get to know Elnor and the Romulans on Vashti. I look forward to seeing him appear as Riker as he is an awesome person and actor and the fact that he’s directing means he must have seen this project as worth taking on. I hope we get more episodes like this as it is in getting to know characters and the world where “Trek” really soars.

Final Score: 8.7 / 10 The Soji story is the weakest part and what keeps it from being rated higher.

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

 

Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 1 – “Remembrance” – A Promising Return

Patrick Stewart and Isa Briones in Star Trek: Picard (2020)

   “Remembrance” is a promising start to “Star Trek: Picard.” This is an episode that gives us the major themes, introduces the characters and factions and is a wonderful character analysis of Jean-Luc Picard and who he is. Suffice to say, this is a show I’d highly recommend thus far. As part of what I’ll be doing with the episodic reviews is reviewing past “Star Trek” episodes that the “Picard” episode reminds me of. It has been wonderful going back and watching the shows I grew up with. I can’t wait to see how the things set up in this episode payoff overall. This is definitely a show that is going for the long arc where every episode is a part versus the “Star Trek” of the past that had many stand alone episodes or two-parters. We really didn’t see season long arcs until “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and until more recently, in “Discovery.” So I’ll be taking that into account in my scores for the episodes of this show.

The story follows Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) who went into retirement after Synthetics attacked Mars and the Federation pulled away from helping the Romulans evacuate from the Supernova that would be destroying their home system. Picard has been reclusive during this time, only appearing publicly for an interview. His retirement changes though when the mysterious Dahj (Isa Briones) comes to him for help.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

A Sense of Time – This episode is great at capturing how much time has passed. Part of this is due to it beginning with an epilogue and dream sequence where Picard and Data are on the Enterprise-D playing cards, that ends with the destruction of Mars. Picard is old and he is dealing with that.

Standing Against Fear for Life – The first big event for Picard in the present is his interview. It was originally supposed to be a chance for him to talk about the fallout of the Romulan Supernova. The interiewer doesn’t stand for it though and talks about how the Romulans are the Federations oldest enemy and that the Federation had to look inward after the Synthetics attacked Mars. She uses that incident to question his loyalty to Data. Picard stands up for his friend and for the Romulans, creating waves and showing the person he has always been. It was very much “The Measure of a Man” where he defends Data’s right to life and I loved it. Romulans are just as worthy of life as any human. It was beautifully expressed and was true to one of the core ethical values in “Star Trek.”

The Romulans – In this episode we learn how many of the Romulans became refugees after the Supernova destroyed their homeworld and the system it inhabited. 2 of them (Laris and Zhaban) live with Picard and we see their respect and admiration for him. I hear their backstory is explored in the comic so I might pick it out. They are two of my favorite characters on the show and I can’t wait to see more of them. We also have an enemy faction who destroys Dahj and arrives on a dead Borg Cube called the artifact, hunting her sister Soji. Romulans are my favorite species in “Star Trek” and I can’t wait to see more of them.

Jean-Luc Picard – Picard is a man full of regrets living in retirement who is once again given a reason to live. It is a powerful premise and the first episode handles this really well. We see his regrets in Starfleet refusing to help the Romulan Refugees and that he is still the moral man of old. It is in Dahj we see him care for others too, as her reminding him of Data and being connected to Data gives him purpose and reason to fight on. This is handled beautifully and Patrick Stewart truly owns this role. It is nice he isn’t action hero Picard either (from the films) as that was never realistic and how he feels once more like the ethical intellect and diplomat that made “The Next Generation” so good. I can’t wait to see where the story takes him next and to learn more about what happened to leave him the broken man we meet at the beginning of the show.

The Cons:

At Times Action Over Details – At one point Romulans in black attack Dahj. This happens twice. The first time they kill her boyfriend and she discovers she has abilities. The second time they take her out even though she is right in Starfleet Academy. All that is covered up as is her existence is covered up as well as the attack. It is simply called an explosion on a building. This is a great example of action over detail as we never learn the details of what the story was. What caused the explosion? What was the story on the news given Picard’s recent interview? All of that is left up to the imagination to push the story forward and that is the greatest weakness of the story so far.

This was a strong start to the series and I can’t wait to see where it goes. It is slower than “Discovery” even though the action sequences in this are longer than I would have liked. Give me more time with Picard, Laris and Zhaban. I love his relationship with those Romulans who work for him and are his only friends we really see. It is in the moments of history and Picard facing himself where the episode soars and if the showrunners can keep up this theme and storytelling than this series can be great.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10