The main thing that kept bothering me about Picard S3E1 was thematically it is showing everything wrong with modern Kurtzman Star Trek, which, when I put it like that, seems obvious in retrospect. This entire episode maintains the conceit of the previous season, where Picard and everyone around him just pretends he’s not a robot. Laris kisses him in the first ten minutes. What’s it like dating a Replika chatbot, Laris?
No spoilers, but this entire episode reads like Terry Matalas is a Star Trek writing robot that is pretending nobody notices he is not including any humanity in his Star Trek. Just like, you know, not to put too fine a point on it, everybody else is pretending this Jean-Luc running around isn’t an old robot boy, and it’s a little empty-calories for me.
Look, I’m all for getting the band back together and going off on One! Last! Mission! but is this really the way to do it? I mean, after all the hype and promises of a return to the glory days, but also having to read Matalas shitting on Trekkies on Twitter for six months? I mean, how much Mary Sue (under the real definition of writer insertion and not whatever the kids are using it to mean nowadays) are we expected to take from this guy? I mean, forget setting something on “M’Talas Prime” (which is a planetary name I will never type again because I can’t believe adult writers did that in the first place), it’s not that big a leap for even the most unaware audience member that Captain Shaw is a writer stand-in for Matalas where he can openly cry in-story about not liking having to genuflect to old Star Trek even though that’s what everybody is paying to see. Anyway, to the bullet points:
• After a couple years of waiting, we sit down to the rousing spectacle promised and what are we treated to? Some 500 year old song. I really, really, really wish these numbnuts would recognize that we are four hunded years in the future. Are we listening to a lot of Bach on mix tapes from old boyfriends in 2023? Is everyone queuing up some Eccles opera on the tavern jukebox? Of course not; that’s some nonsense. Of course the argument is “it’s a TV show, and it has to read correctly to modern audiences” and no kidding. If only there was a storytelling conceit on TV that has already solved this issue. Oh, yeah! You know who did? Star Trek. “Earthmen like Ramses, Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler, Lee Kuan.” All you need is to throw some future in there. Show Riker’s bartender shitting on the Eaglemoss product placement with some future music going and have him say, hey, I love the frog strings slapping a beat in the canyons on Gamma Hydra like anybody else, but I’m really feeling some Miles Davis” and all problems go away. It’s like these guys need to be reminded what science fiction is.
My point, though, is you don’t start a triumphant return with shitty atonal music. I mean, drop the audience in it, or don’t. Half-assing it, trying to have it both ways, just muddies up the dress and annoys the pig. Nice job on all that borrowed interest with the TWOK title card opening and the inexplicable return of TOS, TNG, and VOY music. I’m sure that will help me forget Picard is actually dead and his chatbot is the star of the show.
• “I’m not a man who needs a legacy; I want a new adventure.” It seems like they could have done that for the first two seasons but, whatever.
• “Why would anyone send a coded message to a more than twenty year old Enterprise-D communicator?” Right? That’s where the episode starts; if that other nonsense is important, that’s third or fourth scene stuff. And I spent the whole episode waiting for the Picardbot to say, “Shut up, Wesley’s half-brother!”
• “As a former intelligence officer, here’s what I’m seeing…” JESUS CHRIST. Long-time readers will know I think this sort of sentence construction is ass but in dialogue between two intimate friends who have known each other for years? How many times do you think I’m cuddled up with my honey on the couch in front of a fire, talking about issues of the day and I start out with “As a long-time consumer and contextualizer of pop culture for entertainment and instruction….” I couldn’t even. The person you are talking to knows your context.
• Remember when Harlan Ellison got ran out of town for his original “City on the Edge of Forever” script whose inciting incident was an Enterprise crewmember dealing drugs to the rest of the ship? Roddenberry and the network freaked out, because there’s nothing like using drugs for escapism in the future because it’s all been dealt with medically, mentally, societally. Oh, yeah, except there’s an addict on the crew doing deep druggie undercover for Starfleet Intelligence. Um. That’s not how The Force works. Like, at all.
• …and if it’s a storypoint Captain Shaw is a Captain Styles-esque martinet and makes visiting officers stay in enlisted quarters, how in God’s name are you working on modern Star Trek and not building a short Lower Decks bunkbed hallway for them for the scene? McMahon already showed you how to shoot a conversation in that space.
But here’s my biggest Option Eight: I mean, forget the beauty pass on the new Titan, which is some kind of shitty redesign of Riker’s old ship that they couldn’t even be bothered to name other than “a Neo-Constitution class refit.” Are they allergic to being creative? I mean, I guess, because John Eaves clunked up a perfectly good design silhouette by doubling the mass of the nacelles, shortening the dorsal, and kludging on giant crap on the back of the primary saucer; no creativity needed. But, yeah, forget that he’s sleeked out the side elevation while somehow making it fatter from above for any of that LOOK AT THE NEW SHIP FROM AN APPROACHING SHUTTLE nonsense to work for nostalgia purposes even with those nods to the Goldsmith music tracks. But, worse than that, when First Officer Sex Bomb leaves the bridge to collect Picard and Rider, telling them that Shaw is too busy to greet them, she takes them back to the bridge where, yes, admittedly they are in space dock and in a relaxed duty posture, sure… but there is no one in the center seat. No one has the con. No one is relieved of duty when the XO returns? Klingon, please.
At least the dumb idea of Geordie’s daughter flying the ship is redeemed by the actress being LeVar Burton’s actual daughter, Mica. That was cool. I mean, if you have to do it, do it like that.