Star Trek Picard (PIC) Season 1 Guest Reviews
Season 1Season 2
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main PIC listing
Oh boy. Where to begin? I guess I should start with what I liked. Nice to see Picard again and the dream sequences with Data was good. Beyond that I really didn't like the rest. Dahj was a borderline Mary Sue of a character who reminded me of River Tam from Firefly. What is up with hack writers stealing from other scifi shows?
Romulan assassins who bleed acid and wanted to kill her for god knows why. The absurd notion that you can clone Data's memories from a single positron from his brain. This is nonsensical garbage. But it moves the plot along well enough.
Also the Borg Cube being stripped down by Romulans will predictably end badly for them. I suspect much like the Enterprise episode "Regeneration" that the Romulans will make a grievous mistake and bring the Borg back as a major threat again.
My misgivings aside, I look forward to where this may lead.
- Remarkable retcon: Romulans have acidic blood now.
- Remarkable fact: Data had twin daughters cloned from his brain.
Rating: 5 (Richard Lewis)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main PIC listing
After watching the first episode of "Picard" I needed some time to let it sink in. Patrick Stewart was very vocal about what he wanted the show to be and I must say that I have a big problem with an actor using a show as vehicle to support his political views whether I agree with them or not. I think that the nihilistic worldview he sported in Variety should not be the sole motivation for a Star Trek show as it simply does not fit the spirit of the franchise and especially not of TNG. Given the circumstances my expectations were lowered accordingly. Still, I enjoyed some parts of the pilot.
First of all, it is good to see Patrick Stewart as Picard again. He is still a fine actor able to carry a show. I also think that, from the first impression, the acting on Picard is generally way better than on Disco. I also liked the calmer pace of the story especially in the beginning. Even though I think the directing was average at best this is still an advancement compared to Disco. I am glad that lens flares and shaky cameras were reduced to a minimum, too. The characters I liked best are the two Romulans who live with Picard on the vineyard and I hope that their backstory will be a part of the next episodes.
On the negative side, the overall design of the show is rather unconvincing to me as a successor of TNG. It's not only the many Disco visuals and the nonsensical transparent screens that made it into "Picard" as a reminder that it is supposed to take place in the same universe. My major grievance is with the overall not very futuristic look. Apparel and set design just look too much like the 21th century rather than the 24th. I kind of hoped for the more streamlined and more sterile design of TNG that would be more fitting here. Also, the new Starfleet uniforms presented here look more like cheaply made costumes made for a fan-film or whatever. It almost looks like the production ran out of budget at a certain point. In addition, I found much of the dialogue not very convincing. Especially the interview scene is quite annoying with its unwarranted aggressiveness towards Picard. No real journalist would behave like this so this part felt especially fabricated. Also, there is a continuing trend to produce hollow phrases and a lot of hot air that is supposed to sound like intelligent writing.
Concerning the story, you have to swallow a very shallow premise that begins with some major contrivances and that lacks basic logic. Romulus is destroyed by a supernova and all Romulans became refugees following the event. While Picard advocated a rescue mission many in the Federation opposed his plan. All of this led to apparently catastrophic events that changed the Federation into an isolationist organization that no longer has anything to do with the Federation we know. Many important questions are brushed aside or simply ignored here. This wacky storyline is something you have to accept without asking too many questions about plot logic and continuity.
The second major plot concerns Data and the ban on synthetic lifeforms and accordingly on all research on this subject matter. The reason seems to be that rouge "synths" attacked Mars and the Utopia Planitia shipyards. As the story continues, we learn that scientist were able to clone androids from one of Data's neurons. This, of course, is quite the nonsense and comes garnered with some of the most mindless technobabble of all of Star Trek so far.
The main problem for me is the way the Federation is depicted here which is well into the realms of Disco and that is derived of all the principles and ideals that it was supposed to represent during TNG. That is very sad as it is just another missed opportunity to do something positively unique. Instead we see what we see on TV all the time. This is a huge disappointment creatively as it is just another story about how bad the world (allegedly) is garnered with some with some brutally stupid clichés and some sledgehammer messages concerning real-world issues. We can clearly see Stewart's influence here and it is absolutely to the disadvantage of the show so far. Even worse is the fact that the intellectual heritage of old Star Trek seems to be officially gone now. Instead we are presented a variation on story elements that are abundantly present in other shows. It is a huge disappointment that Picard is following these long and thoroughly beaten paths.
The story about Dahj and her secret is also quite predictable for the most part. The only interesting twist here is the revelation that she has a twin sister who is working on an abandoned Borg cube. The rest of her storyline feels rather rushed and would have benefited from some exposition. Still, I liked how glimpses of the old Picard were present during their initial scenes. More interesting is the involvement of Bruce Maddox that might have the potential for an intriguing storyline.
All in all, this episode continues an unfortunate trend that started with "Discovery" and turned Star Trek into a nihilistic vision of the future filled with shady figures and an abundance of darkness. It still sports enough elements to keep me cautiously optimistic about future episodes. "Picard" has a better start than Disco had with its convoluted and nonsensical storylines full of esoteric crap and illogical plotlines. It also shows as a classic Star Trek trope of enemies becoming friends (in this case the Romulans who live with Picard) and it is overall brighter (not only visually). There is some nostalgia and Picard itself remains an interesting character. I just hope that the producers withstand the temptations to present us another dystopian show full of dysfunctional characters and a dysfunctional and criminal Federation. I firmly believe that there is an audience for positive messages and a bright vision of the future.
- The events surrounding the destruction of Romulus don't make much sense. Many things don't add up: Even if Romulus was doomed we are still talking about an empire that was in possession of a large fleet. Why did they need the Federation to evacuate 900 million Romulans? I also find it hard to believe that this would mean the end of the Romulan Empire as such. What happened to colonized planets, to their outposts and to their fleet. Too many questions are unanswered here just because there is no satisfying answer.
- I also don't get why the Federation should turn on the Romulans when they are in distress. That is the exact opposite of how the Federation behaved on similar occasions. What caused this massive change?
- The reasoning that the Federation was turned into a isolationistic and closeminded organisation doesn't make sense either. This is explained by the Romulan incident and the attack on Mars but similar things have happened before. The Federation society didn't change overnight just because of Wolf 359 or the Breen-attack on earth. This is just plot-convenience.
- For similar reasons the ban on research on synthetic life is quite a stretch. It just continues the trend started in Disco depicting the Federation as a more or less dictatorial organisation full of secretiveness and forbiddances.
- Remarkable plot convenience:
- Dahj doesn't mention her sister to Picard even despite the necklace being important for the scene. Soji on the other hand readily tells a stranger about her sister. Both is important for the plot but absolute nonsense.
- After the fight on the stairs Picard wakes up at home. Is there no formal investigation of any kind?
- Dahj is able to jump at least 20 meters which is way beyond the capabilities of a Soong-type-android, especially if we believe that Dahj is flesh and blood.
- It is very nice of the rogue Romulans to attack Picard and Dahj one by one instead of shooting them from the distance.
- The explanation that a single positronic neuron is enough to clone a whole new android is scientific crap. They don't work like biological cells (and even then this plotline wouldn't make sense).
- Also, why does the cloning necessarily produce twins?
- It is explained that synthetic lifeforms are banned in the Federation. It seems that this ban does not concern holograms as we see one in the archive.
- Since when is Romulan blood acid?
Rating: 5 (KilianT.)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main PIC listing
After watching the first episode I was still somehow optimistic about "Picard". Unfortunately, the second episode "Maps and Legends" is littered with clichés and the usual one-dimensional characters already sported on "Discovery"."
This episode starts out as a strange imitation of CSI in space when it is revealed that Laris and Zhaban are in fact former Tal Shiar operatives. They are also in the possession of some secret and (of course) illegal devices necessary to propel the plot. In an exposition-heavy scene we see these tools in work. Later during the episode, we see Picard asking for a ship at Starfleet Command just to get dressed down without even been heard out. Meanwhile on the Borg cube: Soji and Narek are a couple now and we learn something about what the Romulans do there. In the most tedious part of the episode we also learn about a conspiracy in Starfleet that involves Admiral Clancy, Commodore Oh and Lieutenant Rizzo and Narek as their minions as it appears. More details about what happened on Mars several years ago serve as a prologue.
I have to admit I was somehow shocked by how fast this episode declined into a badly written potpourri of clichés. Especially the scenes between Oh and Lieutenant Rizzo were more or less ripped off of every cheap gangster movie you can think of. Haven't we seen this plotline often enough by now? Once again, we are presented characters that act like walking stereotypes with dialogue so painfully stupid that I really wonder how this is even possible on a multi-million-dollar production like "Picard". It also just further corroborates how morally bankrupt the Federation apparently is, something we have seen over and over again on Disco. After the extensive overuse of Section 31 and the secret ops cliché I was really hoping for a break but it seems that "Picard" is going in the exact same direction. I was also hoping for at least some fresh ideas but that is what we get instead. We also learn that the Tal Shiar was in fact just a cover for an even more secret organization (that once again everyone knows about), namely the Zhat Vash. Sigh...
I know that I'm repeating myself, but I find it hard to bear what happened to the intellectual heritage of Star Trek. Those secret operations stories are a farce; badly written and full of contrivances and plotholes. I expect nothing less for the following episodes. Instead of intriguing mysteries and exploration of the human nature (and the universe) this is what the producers present us with.
Still, there are some glimpses of hope. There is still Jean-Luc Picard and his agenda is a positive one. He seems to be driven by moral and humanistic motifs which is just appropriate for his character. I do hope this spark of positiveness will lead to some brighter storylines. I also like the character of Dr. Jurati who seems to act out of genuine scientific curiosity, something that is also desperately missed on the new Star Trek. I don't, on the other hand, care much for Narek und Soji yet as their story is also full of stereotypes and seems to be right out of a daily soap.
A word about the scene between Picard and Dr. Benayoun as I find it quite exemplary for the quality of writing on the new Star Trek. It is full of insinuations about Picard's health but doesn't make any impact. It is almost certain that the Irumodic Syndrome will play a role later but this kind of foreshadowing is quite clumsy, the dialogue seems forced and fabricated while the reactions of the protagonists are simply illogical. It is exposition for the sake of exposition. Similar things can be said about the Borg Cube that cries for a catastrophe.
On a final note, I don't like the mix-up between the reboot visuals from Discovery and old Star Trek designs most blatantly exemplified by the Enterprise hologram at Starfleet Command. The message is, as usual, less than subtle and it feels like just another reminder that old Star Trek is dead.
- VOY: "Author, Author" is set in 2377. It seems that in this period much of the menial labor in the Federation is executed by holograms which makes sense. Still, it seems that only 8 years later synthetic lifeforms were built for that purpose. Why? Holograms are easier to create and can easily be altered to fulfill all kinds of tasks. It just doesn't make sense...
- 14 worlds threatened to leave the Federation during the rescue of Romulan survivors. That is quite a retcon concerning the Federation and doesn't agree with similar instances like ST:VI. It is simply not explained why the Federation got turned into a xenophobic and unethical entity so suddenly.
- Laris explains that there had never been AI on Romulus as well as a ban on cybernetics. While there is enough evidence in classic Star Trek that suggests otherwise there is explicit mentioning of Romulan cyberneticists in TNG: "The Defector".
- Picard uses a teabag and non-boiling water for his tea. He as an avid tea drinker would never do such a barbaric thing and he would most certainly never ever add milk to Earl Grey tea... pfff...
- Why should the Federation ban research on synthetic life but still fund theoretical groundwork and tempt scientists to break the rules?
- Remarkable dialogue: "I never cared for science fiction. I guess I just didn't get it." -Kurtzman breaking the fourth wall
Rating: 2 (KilianT.)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main PIC listing
So, I didn't bother with reviewing the first two episodes, since the series is serialised and thought I'd give it a couple of episodes. So as a quick summary, the first episode was ok, it was nothing special and the pacing odd, but it was fine.
The second episode started to get a little silly. The whole being able to reconstruct what happened in the room, (Who knew the Romulans had that kinda tech!) not from surveillance footage which would've been fine, but from some residual molecular trace of them being there or some S**t like that? Which by the way they just stole from Mass Effect: Andromeda and it was silly in that! And let's not forget the F-bombs or the fact that Starfleet security seems to be non-existent in the year 2399!
"The End is the Beginning" strikes me more as the Beginning of the End for Trek. It pains me to say that, but Picard has the same fundamental problems as Discovery.
It's a soap opera in a Trek setting and the third episode really highlights this.
Picard comes across as so false in this. Like he's doing what he's doing because the plot demands it rather than actually being driven by any meaningful reason. Part of the problem maybe the lack of context, the whole Romulan evac/Android attack on Mars is obviously supposed to be a big part of the story, but very little of this backstory has actually been filled in because you had to buy the Countdown comic I suppose. I haven't read it, but I'll bet that would've probably made a better series!
Some more of what will be the regular cast were introduced in this episode. The Character of Raffi, I'm surprised a lot of people have said they like the character, but I personally (as all reviews are, it is subjective) didn't like here at all. For a start, we of course needed more profanity and she was the first to drop it in this episode. She seemed very mentally unstable back then, before she was taking whatever crack she was on later. And why does her commission get terminated because Picard resigned? Just because she was his XO? And the whole "JL" nickname really grated!
Also, she just happens to think the Tal Shiar have infiltrated right to the top of Starfleet based on the Mars attack. I mean really? Clearly something along those lines is going on, but she's the only one who suspects?
You'd think Section 31 would know what was going on within Starfleet, although, after how badly 31 was received in Discovery, they're probably going to try and steer clear of them. Ironically, an infiltration of Starfleet is the sort of situation that would make sense for 31 to make an appearance!
On the Borg Cube we see the return of Hugh, not that he has much to do in this episode or has much bearing on the story. In fact he seems a little uneducated on Borg considering he was one! The strange liberated Romulan scientist seems to know Soji's true nature which also seems very odd.
The Romulan hit squads show up at Château Picard and are still lousy shots apparently. Well, Kurtzman has said many times he's a Star Wars fan...
They're taken out very easily by two somewhat older Romulans and Picard.
We are also introduced to another series regular, Rios. Basically Han Solo!
I think the whole macho thing with him is another middle finger to male fans who have been complaining, like yours truly about how male characters are generally treated like shit in current Trek.
Look at Picard, he's literally pushed around by everyone, and they're all women, because apparently Starfleet is run exclusively by women now! Pretty sure with the exception of Picard at the start of this episode, we haven't seen a single high ranking male officer. He was a starship captain for how many decades? I know he has no Starfleet authority, but he'd still have an authoritative air at least!
The episodes concludes with the ragtag crew setting off into the great black and the cheesiest "Engage" I've ever heard.
I'm not holding out a lot of hope for this series, it had a semi-promising start, but it's just got worse as it's gone on, and if it carries on like this, it's already dead. There will be people who like it of course, and good for them, but as with Discovery, it's lost my interest!
- Nitpicking: The amount of takes they must do and no one could straighten out the uniform badges and pips in some scenes?
Rating: 2 (Jamie H)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main PIC listing
In its third episode "Picard" is finally setting a course for space. I really hope that the show will gain some steam from now on because up until this point it has been quite unremarkable and at times even boring.
I don't think "The End is the Beginning" is a particularly bad episode, it is just not very exciting. It could be viewed as a nice change of pace compared to the convoluted "Discovery" were plots always feel rushed and are most of the time resolved too quickly. Still, I would have wished for something less repetitive. A good example is the scene in which Picard and his friends are (once again) attacked by Romulan operatives just to eliminate them with ease. The stupidity of the Romulans here is remarkable and unrealistic. One should think they would adjust their tactics after getting beaten up two times before. It's just quite foreseeable.
In the same fashion the scenes between Picard and Raffi are not very exciting, too, simply because we already know the outcome from the beginning. The dialogue here isn't very compelling and more along the lines of "I'm not helping you ... okay I'm going to help you". That's just empty screen time. The history Raffi and Picard have is not revealed in its entirety yet but I don't expect much of a surprise here, too. The social comments that were added to these scenes are corny at best and feel out of place. Star Trek has always been very subtle with such things (and clever enough not to elaborate too much on Federation economics) but subtlety seems to be a concept completely unknown to Kurtzman & co.. It generally feels like the producers try to make connections to the current world at every instance. They just seem to forget that Star Trek is supposed to be Sci-Fi. This, in combination with the strangely anachronistic design of almost everything, adds to the feeling of watching a very contemporary show. It just doesn't do Star Trek justice and feels forced.
The (re-)introduction of Hugh comes across as quite casual as well. I would have expected something more intriguing here. He is just kind of there doing his job without being especially noticeable. Maybe, that is something that will be fleshed out in future episodes. I sure hope so. The whole story aboard the Borg Cube has some interesting elements nonetheless. The introduction of a group of Romulans who were formerly Borg drones and are now traumatized is quite promising. I just hope that this part of the story will not decline into the usual esotericism. We've had enough of that on "Discovery".
I'm not sure about the introduction of Rios and his ship. It comes, once again, with an abundance of clichés. The guy himself is a rather uninteresting tough guy and a walking stereotype. It almost feels as if the producers are aware of how comic-like he is and are deliberately trying to make him even more ridicules. If that's the case it is something I can respect and am curious about. On a positive note, I have to admit that the holograms were quite funny and a good idea. The only part that is annoying here is the mentioning of Rios' former ship that has been declared non-existent by the Federation. I really start to hate that kind of storytelling because it is extremely insulting to the viewer's intelligence and in this case unnecessary for the plot.
The weakest part of the episode is by far the story surrounding the Federation conspiracy. The scenes are badly written and the acting is quite underwhelming, too. Everything about it is cheap and corny (including the Commodore's sunglasses. Is this a buildup for something including "inner eyelids"? I hope not...). Here is my guess for the next episodes: Oh will turn out to be a Romulan conspirator of some kind. I guess that is the main reason why the wacky concept of "Northern" Romulans was introduced at this point. In addition, the whole story concerning Narek and Rizzo goes in a similar direction and is also just an overly clichéd pack of bad writing. Surprisingly, the least interesting character so far is Soji even though she is supposed to play a vital role in the show.
All in all, I think "The End is the Beginning" fulfilled its purpose to pave the way for the actual story. Much of it could have been condensed to less screen time but the show still manages to keep me somehow optimistic for the rest of the season and that's something.
- Orum from VOY: "Unity" is a Romulan who was assimilated by the Borg. There is indication of many more. (see TNG: "The Neutral Zone" and VOY: "Infinite Regress").
- The concept of money is very present in this episode contradicting many episodes of classic Star Trek. One example of many is DS9: "In the Cards" were Jake especially mentions to Nog that as a human he has no money.
- Also, the concept of social envy expressed by Raffi concerning Picard goes into a similar direction.
- Just an observation: Starfleet apparently kept the 24th century tradition of issuing new uniforms every couple of years.
- Plot logic: I find it hard to believe that Picard was let go by Starfleet that easily. It also strikes me as quite a stretch that he became something of a persona non grata to Starfleet after these events. And why did this ruin Raffi's career as well? We have to keep in mind here that this takes places only ten years after the end of Voyager. What caused such a fundamental shift in the Federation's philosophy?
- It is established in classic Star Trek that smoking is a very alien concept to the people of the 24th century (e.g. DS9: "Little Green Men") but it is present in PIC in abundance. Similar things can be said about drinking and profanity... another reason why the show doesn't feel very futuristic.
- So, the existence of the USS ibn Majid was declared a secret. What about the crew, their families and all the others who knew about the ship before it was erased from history. Did the Federation silence them, too? There is no way such a thing could actually work
Rating: 3 (Kilian T.)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main PIC listing
As seems to be the way with Picard this episode starts with yet another flashback. But it doesn't really fill any back story in. All the flashbacks are a random occurrence with no real meaning other than to introduce yet another character Picard knew/met during the evacuation of Romulus.
I can't help thinking a series around the actual evacuation would've been more interesting.
So it starts off with Picard visiting some Nun/Ninja clan called the Qowat Milat on a planet called Vashti, a resettlement hub for evacuees. Let me guess this an allegory for Trump border camps? So he befriends a young boy called Elnor who the sisterhood are looking after, we later find out however, he can't become one of them despite being fully trained as he's a man!
After the attack on Mars, Picard leaves Vashti and of course never returns until now. And he's made many enemies apparently. In fact, I reckon 30% of STP so far has been people saying how much Picard has let them down!
At least we finally get off Earth and into space and to another planet. Again they're using the JJ-esque hyperspace effect rather than the good old flying stars however. We get a slightly better look at Rios' ship and I can't help thinking how like a video game map it is for an unimportant side quest. Where the developers create a quick small map which is basically just a room and fill it with a few things to make it look vaguely interesting.
I find it odd that a ship which appears to be something along the lines of a runabout needs a captain's chair. The "cockpit" is quite wide as well and the small panels on either side look so lost and far away from the captain and the helm/nav stations.
There's nothing really wrong with the outside of it, aside from being quite generic, but the interior is cavernous and dull. This brings us onto Picard's study which was holographically generated on the ship. One can only assume they had no money left to build anymore sets for other areas of the ship. Also explains why the set we have is just one big empty room.
Back to Picard's Château study on the holodeck, we get a massive info dump, too much information at once and you kinda get lost by the end as to why they've come here again. It boils down to Picard wanting to enlist the services of the Qowat Milat to help him on his search.
Diverting to Vashti certainly doesn't go down well with Raffi. I seriously want to bang my head on my desk every time this character opens her mouth. She's unstable, and clearly always thinks she's right. Remind of you a certain other Trek character of late? Really don't like this character and how she's somehow more important to Picard than any of his old crew. Her calling him JL is also really really starting to grate now.
On the Borg cube Soji seems to be trying to find out why the Romulan doctor called her the destroyer. Narek takes her to a ventilation area on the cube and they slide up and down it a few times. Bit of a weird scene, Narek tries to seduce Soji and then in the most blatant way possible!
Then came what appeared to be an incest scene. It was cringeworthy! Rizzo interrogating her brother to find out if he has the information she wants. She ends up nearly strangling him before giving him one more week. But seriously I thought we were about to get a Brother/sister Orgy and at this stage, I wouldn't past them! This scene at least filled in a little more plot wise, but the Borg segments have just seemed so pointless so far. They're really disconnected from the rest of the plot so far, it doesn't seem to go anywhere. I mean, how did the Romulans get hold of the Cube, what do they want it for? Get to the bloody point! I mean, we're nearly half way through the season already!
Back on Vashti Picard leaves the nuns after Elrond, sorry Elnor, refuses to join, yet another character that has to have a dig at Picard. It's getting boring now.
Picard then in a completely off the wall moment walks over to the tavern in the square, throws the "Romulans Only" sign on the floor walks in and sits down, tries to call the waiter over and everyone ignores him or looks at him with contempt. Again, getting really boring.
One Romulan decides to confront Picard, apparently a former Romulan senator. These Romulans are very one dimensional Forced into a duel with swords, Elnor appears out of nowhere to take out the mob against Picard, severing the former senator's head. Yes, this is apparently Star Trek everybody...
Earlier in the episode, the area of space around Vashti was said to be dangerous now, with warlord in quote "an antique Bird of Prey" prowls the sector. The episode ends with a space battle between La Sirena and the Bird of Prey, the one seen in the trailers. It's an ok space battle, it plays out ok, the BoP is not as manoeuvrable as the Sirena which makes sense. The battle concludes with a small ship flying in to help before being damaged and destroyed. They beam off the pilot who turns out to be Seven of Nine.
This was another slow plod with no real progression, just yet another setup.
One thing that really bugs me is they really are making Picard out to be a but of a dick in this show. To the point where I don't even like Picard in this. He's not the same man as in TNG, now they said as much pre-launch, but still. The way I see it, the main problem with Picard in this show is Patrick Stewart isn't really playing Picard, he's playing himself. This doesn't come as a surprise since he had so much input in this show and he stated in the pre-launch interview it was him responding to Trump and Brexit. So the show is basically just one elaborate opinion piece!
And I'm sorry, but we didn't need yet another series based around the one dimensional opinions and views of its creators!
- Remarkable error: Jurati says there are over 3 billion stars in our Galaxy? Yeah, just a bit, several hundred billion! How the hell did that line make it into the show?
- Remarkable ship: The 23rd century Romulan Bird of Prey. A nice model. Funny they can make a 23rd century ship right in a show set well over 100 years later!
Rating: 2 (Jamie H)
Stardate not given: Picard and his newly assembled crew make a detour to the planet Vashti, where the rule of absolute candor makes for some uncomfortable truths.
No sooner than our new crew are underway are they making a quick detour. After three weeks on a rather jaded Earth, it's a welcome change of scenery!
"Absolute Candor" begins with a flashback to the planet Vashti, where relocated Romulans have set up home, albeit possibly a temporary one. The opening scenes of Picard interacting with the Romulans living there are a subtle but effective way of reinforcing how respected he was by them before Starfleet pulled the plug on the rescue efforts. The flashback also introduces us to the Qowat Milat - a sort of Romulan ninja sisterhood - as well as a young warrior Elron, who is an adult in the series' present time period and joins the crew by the end of the episode.
One thing that this series has already achieved is fleshing out Romulan culture, and fortunately in this episode, it is done in a way that doesn't contradict what has come before. And let's be honest, this is no bad thing, as TNG era Romulans were often presented as a militaristic monoculture whose motives were rarely given much depth (The Defector and Face of the Enemy being notable exceptions to this).
Over on the Borg cube ("the artifact"), not much really happens. The scenes with Narek and Soji don't really add much momentum to the show, and the episode wouldn't really have missed much without them. To me, Narek's "sister" Rizzo feels a bit like a budget Diana from the original V series, and I think these character's interaction really stifles the sense of drama that the show is going. Here's hoping for fewer pantomime villain performances as the series goes on, but at least there was no duplicitous Vulcan Commodore in sunglasses to contend with this week.
The episode ends with a space battle as the La Sirena is attacked by an old Romulan Bird of Prey, which is being used by the unseen pirate Kar Kantar. I am struggling to get excited by the design of the La Sirena, both in terms of the rather boxy external appearance and the bridge set which feels like it's borrowing a lot from The Expanse's Rocinante. That said, it's great to see the ship in action before an unidentified ship comes to its rescue. Similarly, Vashti's planetary defence shield system felt like it would be more fitting in the Star Wars universe (something similar appeared in "Rogue One"), especially as there was no real purpose to it preventing the ship from landing when Picard could beam down unhindered. These are minor gripes, however, and all forgiven when the episode ends with the unidentified ship's pilot being beamed aboard; it's Seven of Nine!
All in all, "Absolute Candor" is a marked improvement on episode 3, and the strongest instalment of Picard so far. Here's hoping that the creative upstroke is sustained for the rest of season 1!
- Remarkable quote: "Jolan tru", the Romulan greeting first uttered in TNG: "Unification".
- Remarkable scene: The appearance of a certain ex-Borg at the very end of the episode led to an involuntary fist pump and exclamation of the word "yes!" on my first viewing! A superbly choreographed return for Seven and looking forward to hearing what she has to say in episode 5.
- Remarkable ship: A beautifully detailed Romulan Bird of Prey marking only the second on-screen canonical appearance of the ship (first seen in TOS: "Balance of Terror", before the original model was lost). It's an antique, but presumably upgraded since being in active service.
- Remarkable holograms: The Emergency Hospitality Hologram and Spanish-speaking Emmet (presumably the Emergency Tactical Hologram) make their debut. Like the Emergency Medical and Navigation Holograms we met last week, they too are versions of Rios. It's a fun concept and it's got me wondering whether Rios might be just another hologram, himself!
- Fan service: A TOS Romulan Bird of Prey, the Romulan ale bottle from "The Wrath of Khan", Data's cat Spot gets a mention, and Soji travelling on the Ellison is a nice nod to Harlan Ellison who wrote TOS: "The City on the Edge of Forever". Soji's head twitch about halfway through the episode probably doesn't fall under this category, but was a welcome touch!
- Number one director: Jonathan Frakes is in the big chair for this one and it shows! Easily the best episode of the series so far, with a much more polished blend of dialogue, pacing and presentation. I'm looking forward to seeing the next episode with him at the helm.
Rating: 8 (Luke Moore)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main PIC listing
I think this episode is not only an example for what is wrong with modern Star Trek but also for what the general problems of serialized shows are. We are in the second third of the season and are presented with yet another exposition-heavy story that is doing nothing for the progress of the narrative and that introduces way more information than necessary and desirable.
"Absolute Candor" starts out with an extremely weird flashback-scene that shows Picard on what appears to be a Romulan refugee-site. Everything about this sequence is kind of odd. We have Picard wearing his 19th century colonial outfit, some set-design right out of "Lord of the Rings" and a complete retcon of Romulan society. All underlined with a most unlikely score. I understand the urge to show more diversity in Romulan culture and it would be okay, but here it seems that everything we actually KNEW about the Romulans was erased from history. We are presented a completely different species here that indulges itself in mysticism. Also, the dialogues are very bad here. The best example is when Zani talks about Picard's alleged dislike for children as if she had just watched an according episode of TNG. It seems as if every time the writers remember some insignificant detail about Picard's character they get desperate to let the audience know. The result is that kind of unnatural sounding dialogue.
The rest of the episode is rather boring as well with the scenes on the Borg cube still being the least interesting part of the story. Narek and Soji are quite uninteresting and we get almost zero new information. Also, the whole spy-story concerning Narek and Rizzo is just cliqued crap filmed and written in B-movie style. In addition, the acting of all protagonists is on the level of a cheap soap-opera. Very disappointing.
Picard's return to Vashti is also quite unremarkable. We are introduced to a new character (adult Elnor) in the usual fashion with, again, extremely cringeworthy dialogue and the usual game: "I'm not helping you" - "Okay, I'm gonna help you." - Tiresome. The surrounding story about cults and nuns and whatever is just the usual nonsense we already know from Disco. Too many protagonists, too many unclear agendas and too little common sense is present here once again. This is episode 4 of only 10 and we still have no idea what the actual story might be. Instead, it is fair to anticipate that there will be no satisfying conclusion to most of the storylines. Also, it becomes apparent that the whole premise of the Romulan evacuation is too thin. The Romulans seem to blame Picard and the Federation for not saving them. But why? Even if the Federation promised to help and withdrew, we are talking about a vast Empire with thousands of ships, many colonies and resources. It almost seems as if the Romulans sat on their hands all the time which doesn't make sense to an extent that it hurts the entire premise of the show.
Picard also tries, again, very hard to convey a certain political message and once again does so by making use of less than subtle symbolism and lots of hollow phrases. Star Trek and especially TNG have always been more intellectual and clever than this. Everything about this show is so obvious and so on the nose, there is nothing the audience has to discover, no food for thought, just placative boredom.
Still, "Absolute Candor" has some redeeming qualities as well even though they seem to get fewer and fewer as the show progresses. We still have Patrick Stewart who is mostly convincing. I especially liked his portrayal of the caring and happy Picard in the beginning. I also thought the space battle was enjoyable simply because, as opposed to Disco, it was actually possible to comprehend it. Seven of Nines return is promising and I really hope that we get to see something thrilling next week.
Rating: 2 (Kilian T.)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main PIC listing
Here we are again. The next (un)thrilling instalment of Picard.
So this week really doubles down on the blood and gore! Opening scene is a flashback yet again and literally starts out with Icheb of Voyager (played by Casey King rather than Manu Intiraymi who did reprise the role in the fan film Renegades, but probably had the common sense not to get involved in this train wreak!) having his eye drilled out, yes, you read that correctly! HIS EYE DRILLED OUT!
7 of 9 comes in to save the day, but she's too little too late and ends up putting Icheb out of his misery. Seemed like an entirely unnecessary scene imo and an excuse to kill off a former Trek character!
Bruce Maddox also makes his first appearance, being drugged and put up for ransom to the Tal Shiar. (Also not played by the original actor. Someone else who obviously had some sense.)
Then we fast forward to "present day" to see seven enter Picard's Holo-study and it takes her all of 30 seconds(?) to start talking him down, after downing a large Bourbon! I assume we're not going actually find out how they even know each other... There's also a small scene that gives us exposition of the two characters, all be it brief and basically just says, seven is from the Delta Quadrant and they were both Borg once.
Upon beaming down, Rios is masquerading as a buyer for Maddox. There's a lot of failed attempts at humour here! Same with the lizard who "smells lies" and what you had for breakfast. Again, all falling flat.
Since not a lot happens with Elrond of whatever his name is, yanno, the ninja we spent an entire episode getting last week, does virtually nothing in this episode and also has failed attempts at humour, oh and he's thick as two short planks. Who'd have guessed. Safe to say at this point, the women run the entire show! Even Raffi had to get in there how "Stunning and Brave" what 7 of 9 was doing!
Back on the planet, Picard is talking with a "French accent", oh it's hilarious and not in a good way!
I would go into Raffi's very brief B plot, but it's just soap opera drama.
So they use Seven as a bargaining chip but it turns out she has her own agenda, to get revenge on Vajazzle or whatever her name is who was running the butchery in the opening scene. Apparently her and 7 were close. It's heavily implied they were romantically involved. Yep, Seven is a Lesbian now apparently!
Rios manages to talk her out of killing Bjayzle and they beam back to the ship with Maddocks. After beaming back to the ship with Maddocks, there's a short scene where 7 and Picard talking about reclaiming their humanity after being assimilated. This short 30 second scene felt like the only time I was watching Picard and Seven!
She then asks for two phasers... ok, what the hell did you think she was going to do Pal? She beams back down and basically goes full psycho, vaporising Bjayzle and going on a rampage through the bar on Freecloud. This is just another example of bastardisation of a beloved Trek character. I really hated her line about Picard, saying he thinks there's still peaceful solutions and that she didn't want to tell him otherwise. It's pathetic!
At the end, I think as everyone had guessed from episode two, Doctor Jurati is obviously working with the Romulans now, she kills Maddocks in cold blood at the end of the episode. Well, fair to say they've gone full dystopia.
RIP in Star Trek. It was good while it lasted, but you died 15 years ago with Enterprise!
Rating: 0 (Jamie H)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main PIC listing
When "Picard" was announced for the first time, it felt like a glimmer of hope to get at least some of the optimism and the quality we loved back. Something that is long gone in times of the Abrams-movies and the badly written "Disco". "Stardust City Rag" could in retrospect easily qualify as the final nail in the coffin of a franchise once known as Star Trek. It inherits all the trademarks of Kurtz-Trek: Violence, bad writing, complete absence of logic and coherence, bad acting, darkness, plagiarism and lack of suspense. We've seen all of this on Disco and some of it on PIC so far. The difference here is that everything that is bad about this episode is garnered with some insult to the fans and the conscious destruction of beloved characters and icons.
I admit, I'm the type of fan who would have preferred a show that gives us retired Admiral Picard on his château having another visitor from TNG's main cast every week, talking about good old times in nuanced and intelligent conversations. I, of course, knew that that was not very likely to happen. I tried to stay optimistic about "Picard" nonetheless. I knew from the start who was in charge, I recognized what Stewart told us in various interviews but I was still optimistic, because optimism is something Star Trek taught me. Sadly, I think I have reached a point where it is no longer bearable for me to watch what happened to the rich and sophisticated heritage of Star Trek. This is too much. I'm going to watch the rest of the season, but I now know what to expect and it is definitely not even close to the show I loved.
Where to begin with this mess? I start with the positive. We have one minute of conversation between Picard and Seven of Nine about what it means to regain one's humanity. That's it. One minute is not very much in a forty-five-minute long episode. The rest is just insult.
First of all, we have a lot of exposition. Again. It is usually a sign for how bad a script is when about one third of the screen time is dedicated to mere narration of backgrounds. It gets confusing very fast and, in this case, it doesn't add anything new to the story. Ironically, the storylines itself are vague at best. We have a flashback scene with poor Icheb whose character is butchered (literally and metaphorically) for his Borg-parts. Why? Because they are valuable. Why are they valuable? We will never know, because it is just a vehicle to show us one-dimensional villains who are evil just because they like to be evil. Is this "modern" storytelling? The flashback scene just serves as an example, I could have chosen many others from this episode alone, for how bad the writing on this show really is. I mean no offence to her personally, but I think Kirsten Beyer is simply overchallenged as a screen-writer. She has no credentials on the field of screen-writing prior to her involvement on Star Trek and it shows. But I was also disappointed in Chabon's script last week. Both may be good at writing novels (though I never read one of Beyer) but that is obviously a completely different field.
Another good example for how bad the writing is are the scenes with Raffi. Her story comes out of nothing, consists of a short exchange from "The Bold and the Beautiful" and some bad score choices by Jeff Russo (whose work on Picard is best described as cringeworthy so far), and does nothing for the story. It is just isolated filler material in which Michelle Hurd has to act next to an underwhelming guest actor. I'm not a fan of clichéd mother-son drama anyways but it could have been at least tolerable if it was somehow woven into the general plot. Instead we have a couple of one-liners so stereotypical that I almost felt ashamed for Beyer while watching.
In a similar fashion, the impression was raised that Bruce Maddox would play a key role for the show but after all the fuzz that was made about him in previous episodes his role is condensed to inform everyone where Soji is and die. What a waste!
The rest of the episode is just a crude mix of violence, stupidity, nonsense and the kind of fan service that makes me angry. The design of Freecloud is just lazily copied from Blade Runner and other films garnered with some name-dropping (Mot, Quark, Dabo...) that is meant to assure us that the producers know old Star Trek but that doesn't make the slightest bit of sense in its use and composition. I have no problem with fan-service but I have a huge problem with disrespect. This may be a minor issue but it shows an attitude of disdain towards the fans.
At least it seemed like Patrick Stewart had fun filming this episode which leads to him acting out of character all the time. This man has nothing to do with Jean-Luc Picard, it is just Stewart goofing around which also adds to the feeling of watching some strange cabaret show rather than a serious piece of science fiction and once again the strangely contemporary set design and wardrobe ruin a lot of the credibility of the show as well.
The character of Seven of Nine goes through the same kind of transformation the whole franchise underwent. She is dark, brutal and one-dimensional. Her lines are painful and lack any emotional impact. Her taking revenge on villain-stooge #1 without even explaining the backstory properly hurts on so many levels. Again, with a better developed story the viewer might have had a chance to understand her motivations. Same goes for Jurati who acts completely out of character here. Even if she was pressured by some sinister forces her actions go against her basic character. It also ruins another initially likeable character for even more unnecessary darkness.
A word about Jonathan Frakes here. His directing is very erratic. There are no smooth transitions and the annoying forth and back jumping is just another dumb trend he is following here to generate some screen time to make it somehow to the 45-minutes-mark. It also doesn't qualify as a clever gimmick when you show exactly what was told three seconds ago. Another huge disappointment here.
As I said before, "Stardust City Rag" is hard to endure for many reasons, including its graphic violence that disqualifies it as a family show. It shows disrespect for its characters and it is an offense to the viewer, but it is not a surprise. It's just seems like the logical consequence of a development that started with Disco, which makes it even sadder.
- Plot logic:
- Picard seems to get senile when he hands Seven the phasers. What did he think she would do? Why not wait until they'd left the system?
- The villains act with their usual stupidity here, but what really bothers me is how Rios could openly communicate with the ship and was not even a suspect.
- Jurati is able to murder Maddox without anyone noticing here. That is the same kind of nonsense we witnessed on Disco when Dr. Culber was murdered by Stamets.
- The scene raises another question: Why doesn't the EMH treat Maddox? Jurati is not even close to being a medical doctor. (The requirements of the script are, again, too obvious here)
- They remembered Icheb's cortical node (VOY: "Imperfection") but they don't remember humanity and benevolence.
- It is a nice coincidence that all the characters' stories lead them to Freecloud. Raffi's son is there, Bruce Maddox is there, Seven's nemesis is there... What are the odds?
- Rios trusts Jurati with the transporter who is visibly uncomfortable with that kind of responsibility. Isn't there an EMH for that.
- It strikes me as a stretch that in a future with advanced medical technology Seven of Nine had no choice but to euthanize Icheb.
- Remarkable quote: "After they brought you back from your time in the Collective... do you honestly feel that you regained your humanity?" - "Yes." - "All of it?" - "No. But we're both working on it... aren't we?" - "Every damn day of my life." (Picard and Seven). So much potential for a way better show here. A shame.
Rating: 0 (Kilian T.)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main PIC listing
"Nepenthe" is a rather decent episode which is quite a relief. Nonetheless, it comes with some of the usual problems and some odd choices.
First of all, it was good to see Will and Deanna. I'm glad that in this case the writers avoided to ruin their characters. I found the story surrounding them convincing for the most part and credible regarding where we left them in TNG/NEM. Surprisingly, most of the dialogue was rather enjoyable and the symbolism worked quite well this time. I am also glad that the producers avoided the temptation to fill the episode with more cheap and insulting fanservice and reduced "The Good Old Times"-part to a necessary minimum. In contrast to Seven of Nine or partially Picard himself they really acted like Will Riker and Deanna Troi, just in a different setting and a different time (and maybe a bit wiser, too). The scene between Deanna and Soji is a good example for meaningful, good writing.
Still, it is Lulu Wilson who almost steals the show. She is a very talented young actress and her chemistry with Soji is very beneficial for the latter character. Soji was quite underwhelming and Isa Briones' acting average at best. The writers made good use of the opportunity to fill her with some life. As much as liked the interaction between Kestra and Soji I still feel that much of their dialogue should have gone to Marina Sirtis who is a trained counselor. It almost feels as if the adults don't care much for Soji and her story after all. Another contrivance is how Kestra is able to casually find the planet Picard is looking for which was quite the nonsense and qualifies as just another Deus-Ex-Machina-moment to dissolve an obvious stalemate.
A larger issue is the death of Deanna's and Will's son who could have been saved if it weren't for the ban on synthetics. Not only is that subplot completely unnecessary, as it adds nothing new to the narrative, it is also annoying that all the characters we know from TNG have to suffer from a stroke of fate. Also, it is simply to custom-build for the story to be credible which undermines the otherwise good writing a little bit. It also doesn't accomplish anything as Deanna and Will would have helped Picard anyways. Maybe I'm overreacting here but it strikes me as the continuation of a sad trend. There can't be anything positive in new Star Trek, everything needs a shadow, a trauma or shade of darkness. The "good" people either have to pay for being good in some way (Deanna, Will, Hugh, Icheb...) or they become bitter and haggard (Picard, Seven). I understand that it is easier to create drama that way but it is also boring and foreseeable and thereby the opposite of clever writing. It is also the exact opposite of what made Star Trek the show it was...
All the abovementioned criticisms didn't ruin the Nepenthe-part for me and I look at them as rather minor issues that can be overlooked because the overall spirit and atmosphere felt right and, for maybe the first time, had a good TNG-vibe about it.
As for the rest of the episode, I have no positive words for it. There are so many problems that it is impossible to mention all of them in detail. The whole spy-story concerning Narek and Narissa didn't make sense from the beginning. Their characters are outrageously one-dimensional and clichéd. They do a lot of stupid things and they say a lot of stupid things. Combined with the rather bad acting (especially on Peyton List's part) this segment of the show is the least watchable. The stupidity of the writing almost hurts physically. I was also furious about the treatment Hugh received in this episode. He is just the latest example of a character who has no real function for the show despite the fact that he was in TNG. The producers didn't seem to have a plan for him and his part could have been played by anyone or simply left out and nothing would have changed. In this regard, PIC continues a sad trend that started with Disco.
Similar things can be said for Jurati. The producers couldn't resist the temptation to ruin an ultimately likable character with nonsensical writing. The try to explain her motivations with just another flashback scene fell completely flat. I don't believe anything she does and anything she says. Her plotline is just another example of how the writers try to develop a complex story but are completely overchallenged by it, even though they are just copying what they already did on DIS which makes the level of ineptitude even sadder.
All the other characters aboard the La Sirena remain unremarkable as well. Watching them is like reading a cheap comic-book full of walking clichés.
All in all, it clearly is the part on Nepenthe that makes this episode enjoyable. The rest of it is the usual crap we are used to by now, which is why I don't expect much for the rest of season 1. But, let's be grateful for small things...
- The device Jurati has to swallow does not only remain undiscovered but also allows Oh and the others to follow La Sirena despite its erratic flight-plan. I find that hard to believe.
- In an attempt to give him some screen-time, Elnor stays behind on the cube. Why? And more pressing: Why would Rios allow that to happen?
- It is quite convenient that Will's and Deanna's home has not only shields but the capability to scan for cloaked vessels (which, by the way, would make cloaking obsolete). It is almost as if they were waiting for Picard.
- The La Sirena seems to have very limited sensor range. Narek is at their tail but Rios still states that his ship is just outside of sensor range.
- Remarkable stupidity:
- The writers want us to believe that there is an actual treaty that doesn't allow the killing of a Federation citizen by a Romulan agent (who acts outside the realms of any jurisdiction) but only as long as no "insurrection" is suspected by said agent. Oh boy...
- It's better not to look to close at the ban of synthetic life and research. Deanna mentions that Thaddeus could have been saved with a positronic matrix but the technology was banned. Even for that purpose? Within only a couple of years? Even the strictest dictatorship would have trouble to implement such a ban. But the Federation?
- Also: Why didn't Will and Deanna try other sources? Synthetics are banned in the Federation but I'm sure that other affiliations or non-Federation scientists did some research on the subject, too. Someone should have helped them.
Rating: 5 (Kilian T.)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main PIC listing
It's been a while since I submitted a review. Frankly, I didn't make time for it and I felt conflicted about this show. I really wanted to like and praise it. But after the previous episode, I feel the need to express myself for the final three episodes at least. Some spoilers ahead if you haven't seen this yet. You've been warned.
I have to admit I was worried about this one after the death of Hugh and what that could mean for Riker's Family and Seven of Nine later on. However, I was delighted to have my fears put to rest for now. I always knew that messing around with Borg technology would bite the Romulans on their asses eventually. Seven in a sense became the new Borg Queen temporarily. Just long enough to drive those pointed eared devils off the Cube. It will be interesting to see where she ends up next with Elnor.
I really don't like the ancient cycle of synthetics rising up to threaten biological life in the galaxy and the survivors of that conflict providing a warning for the later generations. It's obvious the hack writers were "inspired" by Mass Effect for this idea. Stealing from video games seems to be a thing these days. But so far it isn't a complete ripoff just yet.
The rest was fairly boring for the most part.
- Nitpicking: Did I miss something, or does it seem too easy to beam aboard the "Artifact" and find your way in spite of the Borg Cube swarming with Romulans?
- Remarkable quote: "Shut the fuck up." (Admiral Clancy)
- Remarkable scene: Seven of Nine reactivating the Borg Cube, having it regenerate, and taking control. Very cool scenes.
Rating: 7 (Richard Lewis)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main PIC listing
In classic Star Trek most episodes worked in the same fashion. We had a very specific problem to overcome or a very specific goal to achieve. In order to do so, the crews combined their knowledge and their expertise, had thoughtful and balanced discussions, used logic and science to accomplish what ever had to be accomplished. That way, a future society that developed a more humanistic and open-minded way of life became palpable for the viewer. No matter what, the motivations and moral compasses of the characters had always been clear.
All of this changed with the new incarnations of Star Trek and especially with Disco and Picard. Instead of relatable characters, we have broken people all with their own agenda. Instead of a clear moral compass, we have a strange sense of ambiguity and very flexible ethics, to put it mildly. Instead of clear goals and firm convictions, we have vague motivations and unrelatable hunches and premonitions. The stories are driven by vague intentions and motifs, esotericism, and emotions rather than rationality.
As mentioned before, I understand that it is easier for the writers to create drama this way - especially considering how limited they are in their skills - because it is easier to form plots based on insinuations and vague emotions that can be adapted as needed. It just is very boring for the viewer and simply has nothing to do with Star Trek. Picard may be less convoluted than Disco, it may also be a little less adolescent and immature, but the very basic and most important structural problem stays the same. Picard also lacks the uniqueness of classic Star Trek in every way. It feels incredibly generic, the stories are shockingly interchangeable and there certainly is a tremendous lack of suspense and coherence.
"Broken Pieces" exemplifies the mentioned problems in various ways. First of all, it shows one of the basic problems of serialized television in general. The first seven episodes have been rather boring so far, full of exposition and a lot of unnecessary backstory that leads to unsatisfying or inexistent conclusions. Many things are confusing and after two thirds of the season it still is unclear what the show's GOAL is. "Broken Pieces" seems to be a try to correct that impression and is even partly successful with doing so, but I still don't see what it is that should be accomplished. Is it Picard's vague impression that Data could possibly be restored? Is it the try to lift the ban on synthetic life? Is it a personal vendetta against Starfleet? Is it just his bruised ego? I really have no idea... Instead some new plot twists appear out of the blue.
Rios is suddenly very involved in a very personal way which is just another unlikely coincidence that just happens because the writers seem to need a way to keep the story going somehow. I know that things like that happened before on Star Trek, but not all the time like it is the case in the self-declared modernly written reboots. It also comes with all the clichés we are used to by now and anticipate well in advance: The classified Starfleet vessel, the one single person in the Federation (Oh) with dictatorial powers (who can execute those powers unopposed and even undiscovered), and she is, of course, a spy with a fake identity.
Just to mention a few of the more obvious problems of that certain plotline: Why didn't Vandermeer contact any other Starfleet officials? Why did he trust a single, isolated order? How could all this be held a secret? Why was Rios allowed to continue his career in Starfleet instead of silencing him? There are many more questions to be asked but I think my point is clear.
In a similar fashion we get some "explanations" about the Zhat Vash. The ritual depicted doesn't explain anything and it doesn't make much sense. The admonition raises more questions than it answers. For example: How does Data find his way into it? It is apparently thousands of years old. How did the whole thing gain such importance for the Romulans who had dealings with cybernetic life before (including interactions with Data)? How could an organisation like the Zhat Vash gain such powers and stay in the shadows, even though they are more or less in everyone's face (just like the childish storyline surrounding Section 31 in Disco)? Not to mention continuity with TNG & Co... Also, the whole storyline is just another piece of fantasy-esotericism that undermines Star Trek's humanistic and science-based world view.
In addition, the scene itself was very underwhelming from a technical point of view. I would have expected something more elaborate here. As I said before, I can certainly understand the writers' urge to show the Romulans in a more diverse fashion, but all they did is adding more and more fantasy-stuff and clichés that contradict and negate vast parts of what we knew about them.
Even if we accept all the Zhat Vash-nonsense, the execution is still an example of lame writing. Narissa is such a one-dimensional character that it almost hurts. Once again, we have very vague motivations for her actions, complete absence of logic and lines that are so stereotypical that one has to wonder if anyone cross-reads the scripts at all. The revelation about Ramdha being her aunt seems quite unnecessary and doesn't do anything to clarify her agenda. Like all the others, her character is driven by feelings and a strange sense of threat that never becomes plausible for the viewer. It also doesn't help that her character looks like a 14-years old created her for a computer game.
Everything surrounding Elnor and Seven of Nine was quite unremarkable. Seven turns up to save the day but I still have no idea what her plan was and what her function for the show is, despite of being deemed popular with the fans. Even though the scenes in which the drones were reactivated were somehow visually impressive, it still felt like their sole purpose was to shoehorn some Borg-stuff in. Even Voyager's seventh season was more subtle in that regard. Elnor, on the other hand, might be the most unnecessary character in Star Trek-history. It is very clear by now that the writers have no real idea what to do with him. His screen time is limited and all his actions cause more trouble than they gain. He just seems to be there to add a few minutes to the episodes.
The most problematic part of the episode to me takes place aboard the La Sirena. I already mentioned the problems surrounding Rios's revelation, but I have an even bigger problem with the handling of Jurati's character. Suddenly, the crew asks questions about Bruce Maddox's death. I wonder what took them so long. Her arc is an almost exact copy of Ash Tyler's story from Disco's first season and, unfortunately, all the mistakes are repeated here. Basically, all Jurati has to do is say sorry, crack a tasteless joke about "being done with killing" and everything seems fine. I also have a huge problem with the fact that it seems enough to have a short conversation with Soji about body functions to break the admonition and to return for her to normal. It can't be that easy to manipulate her. The spell doesn't seem to be so powerful after all...
Raffi's character is shown as caring and thoughtful here which something I liked about the episode. It is only thanks to Michelle Hurd's great acting skills that most of her scenes worked, even though the character development isn't credible at all. She is just too erratic all the time, no matter what. I find it also problematic that her conspiracy theories turned out to be true, a message that fits new Star Trek very well but very much stands against the spirit of the classic shows.
Well, last but not least, there is only one character left I haven't talked about yet. It seems as if Jean-Luc Picard gets sidelinded more and more in his own show. His involvement is reduced to serve the writers as fig leaf. His scene with Admiral Clancy is just annoying because of its repetitiveness. It is almost a copy of the scene in "Maps and Legends" and the absence of civilized discussion and halfway nuanced argumentation is just sad here. Picard's speech he gave Rios at the end was supposedly planned as the episode's highlight but only corroborates all the shortcomings of new Star Trek, morally and intellectual. He talks about "openness, optimism, and the spirit of curiosity", which sounds nice, but is very problematic in the context of the show, because none of it is present. Not on Picard's own crew and not on the show generally. Lines like that just serve as a reminder what got lost with the reboots and leave me even more annoyed and disappointed. It is more than fitting in this regard that Picard is interrupted during his speech just to be sidelined once again.
All in all, "Broken Pieces" benefits from some story-progress. No matter how flawed it is; it is at least not as boring as the rest of the show so far. I also think that the episode is well paced which is a criteria as well.
The problems go deeper and touch the very core of Star Trek. "Broken Pieces" is just another example of Star Trek being reduced to adolescent fantasy-fuss with story-motifs and ideas shamelessly stolen and copied from other shows (and video games I'm told) and even directly from Disco. It lacks everything concrete. We have vague plots, vague motivations, thin plotlines and even thinner morals and ethics. Instead of the mentioned "openness, optimism, and curiosity" all we have is esoteric nonsense exemplified by crude visions, esoteric crap about destroyers, and one broken being after another. Everyone is acting on his own agenda, there is absolutely no sense of community on the show, no goal and no common ground of any fashion. I have given up on more nuanced and intellectual stories by now, I have also no hope for real exploration of space and the human mind anymore, but I would, at the very least, wish for some more mature writing and some genuine fresh ideas.
- Plot logic:
- The whole segment about Jana looking like Soji makes no sense. Who created her? It must have been Maddox from all we know and hence she must have looked human. Where did the impression come from that Jana was indeed an android?
- Where the hell is Jana's twin?
- Oh is really bad as a spy. We are supposed to believe that she had the power to force Vandermeer to kill his guests during a first contact situation and to declare the incident classified. She also had the power to declare the ibn Majid a secret, whatever that means. The story so far is as stupid as it sounds... But, why did she allow Rios to continue his service in Starfleet? Wouldn't that mean that the whole crew was allowed to stay in service, too? I'd like to quote James T. Kirk here: "First rule of assassination: kill the assassins."
- I asked myself once again: What is the difference between sentient holograms and androids? Why doesn't the ban on synthetic life include them?
- Is there a reason for Narissa's stooges to not immediately kill Elnor after they disabled him with a stun grenade (or, God forbid, just shoot him from safe distance).
- Why did Narissa kill all the Romulan xBs, even though they didn't pose a threat? I know that there is a certain zest for violence in the reboots, but they are her people after all.
- Raffi is determined to find some answers for Rios's behavior (for some reason) and talks to one of his holograms. How does she not immediately get that Enoch is not the real Rios?
- The Scottish talking engineer really isn't funny anymore...
- Like it was the case several times before, it seems again very easy to enter the artifact. Are there any security measures.
Rating: 2 (Kilian T.)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main PIC listing
There's so much wrong with this episode but I'll keep it brief. The Space Flowers was an incredibly stupid idea and not really explained that well. I can only assume somebody thought it would be a cool scene to get on film. Then you had the introduction of another Soong who is a major retcon. The Mass Effect "homage" moments. The beacon, the visions, an unstoppable super synthetic race that will purge the galaxy of organics. Yes. The writers have obviously played a far superior sci-fi series compared to this awful mess. Turns out that these synthetics aren't worth saving after all. Lots of shades of grey here making me feel that this whole journey was a huge waste of time.
- Remarkable scene: Space Flowers pulling starships down to the surface of the planet from orbit. Seriously. That happened.
- Remarkable fact: There's another Soong that we have never heard nor seen of before until now. Kinda wish it was Lore instead.
Rating: 0 (Richard Lewis)
Stardate not given: Synopsis in main PIC listing
This episode didn't end as badly as I had feared. That being said, it's still a stupid show make no mistake about it.
I did enjoy seeing Riker in command of the Federation Fleet in the tense stand off with the Romulans. And Seven of Nine's scenes were fun to watch. But I honestly hated the rest. I'm only left with more questions than answers after this dreadful season.
Who are the Super Synths? Are they still traveling to the Galaxy after being summoned in spite of the portal being closed on them?
Is Jurati going to face justice for her murder of Bruce Maddox?
Why is Soji part of the crew now? Does she really have nothing better to do?
The there's the Seven and Raffi romance that came out of nowhere fast probably since CBS wanted representation for lesbian couples. I'd much rather have a relationship build on screen first before just randomly smashing them together for a relationship.
Then there's Picard himself who cheats death in the end making the whole arc of him dying a complete waste. I really hope the writers do better in Season 2. This season was wretched as a whole.
Rating: 5 (Richard Lewis)