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TAC Reviews...Star Trek Picard

Date Posted: 07/04/20

 

Star Trek Picard sees Patrick Stewart returning to perhaps his most iconic role of Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek The Next Generation. The series was commissioned by Amazon Prime and sees several faces from previous Star Trek shows appearing alongside him. The series has been commissioned for an additional two series at time of writing.

 

Star Trek Picard [season one]

 

There is a lot to get through so let’s just crack on immediately...so the series is set around 20 years after the events of Star Trek Nemesis and 14 years after the destruction of the Romulan home world that was seen in the 2009 film Star Trek which resulted in the alternate or the Kelvin-timeline. Picard was spearheading the operation to relocate the Romulan population but the shipyards where the rescue fleet was being built was attacked and destroyed by a group of rogue synthetics leading to a ban on artificial life forms.

 

Picard is still mourning the loss of Data, who sacrificed himself to save Picard at the end of Nemesis. In the wake of the attack on the rescue fleet Starfleet and the Federation opted to not help the Romulans any further, a decision that Picard disagreed with, so much so that he resigned his commission, returning to his wine grove in France.

 

A woman suddenly arrives on his doorstep named Dahj who was attacked by masked intruders who killed her boyfriend. She was able to beat them and escape with an image of Picard appearing in her head. She journeys to find him and we learn that she may be a synthetic life form, possibly created from a part of Data, in essence making her his daughter. Picard sees her as an opportunity to redeem himself and maybe save the spark of his friend within her. Unfortunately they are attacked and Dahj is killed. But soon afterwards Picard discovers that she was a twin and her sister is still out there somewhere, and the Romulan Secret Police will stop at nothing to find and kill her.

 

With Starfleet refusing to help Picard is forced to hire a small ship with an ex-Starfleet commander, a former officer of his who lost her career when she opposed not helping the Romulans, and a scientist of the Daystrom institute who has spent her life studying artificial life and synthetics.

 

The Romulan Tal Shiar (secret police) are not the only ones trying to find the twin, and Picard must contend with a conspiracy within Starfleet itself. A much larger threat may loom on the horizon as darker forces exist that could see the destruction of all organic life in the galaxy...

 

Right so I think that about sums it up...

 

Okay, a few pointers that you need to bear in mind. This series relies heavily on fairly intimate and detailed knowledge of The Next Generation and to a lesser extent Star Trek Voyager. In The Next Generation episode The Measure of a Man, an officer named Bruce Maddox wanted to dismantle Data to figure out how he worked in order to create more like him. Bruce Maddox is a key character here because it seemed he continued his work when he lost his case to have Data dismantled. The synthetics that attacked Mars were basically a race of slave workers that were used as beasts of burden. Why they went rogue was never established following the attack and instead they were simply banned. In The Measure of a Man it was implied that if Maddox had won his case then androids like Data might be the ones that crew starships, that fight wars, that go into dangerous situations to save human lives all effectively making them a slave race. Maddox was not seen again in The Next Generation yet he continued his work, and even continued to do it in secret after the ban. The original actor who portrayed Maddox in The Measure of a Man does not reprise the role here but the character is the same.

 

In addition there was a Borg named Hugh who featured in I, Borg and later Descent Park I and Part II. Jonathan Del Arco reprises the role in this series and in the years since we last saw him has had the majority of his Borg implants removed and is the Head of the Borg Reclamation Project on board the Artefact, which is in fact a captured and non-functioning Borg Cube. Hugh is seeking to undo the assimilation process and return Borg drones to their former states as individuals. He is working on the Cube which is under the control of the Romulans but works in some capacity in conjunction with the Federation. Various scientists of different races also work on the Cube including the twin android named Soji.  

 

It is not a spoiler to say that both Brent Spiner and Jeri Ryan also appear as Data and Seven of Nine respectively as they were seen in the trailer. Data appears in flashbacks, and they do a decent enough making Brent Spiner look as he did when he played the far physically younger Data. Knowledge of who Seven of Nine is also important as she plays a more crucial role in the series as it goes on.

 

The will be spoilers in a paragraph or two so let’s talk about what can be discussed without spoiling anything.

 

It was good to see familiar faces from previous Star Trek shows returning once again, and if I hadn’t known that Hugh was appearing it might have been more of a surprise when he is shown next to an image of himself in his Borg form. Patrick Stewart clearly still has a lot of love for the character of Picard, who was shaken to his very core by the news that Starfleet was not going to help any further in the relief effort to evacuate Romulus. The threat of his resignation was his final shot, and was destroyed when the institution he has spent his life serving decides to abandon a race to almost certain death.

 

Generally the new characters were fun to watch with Chris Rios (Santiago Cabrera) portraying not just the Captain of the La Sirena, but also a series of Emergency Holograms. The idea of holograms undertaking roles other than Medical was touched upon in Voyager when the Doctor an EMH (or Emergency Medical Hologram) postulated the possibility of having holograms for other emergency scenarios, such as the ECH (the Emergency Command Hologram) which could take charge if bridge officers were incapacitated or killed during a crisis. I liked the evolution of the ideas that were seen in The Next Generation, and Voyager, which the crews using 3D holographical controls rather than keypads. I don’t know if this is a reference to a DS9 episode when the crew are trying to rescue Sisko after some temporal high-jinx when Dax asks how they used to cope with 2D console instead of the now normal 3D. If it is a reference then it is a good and subtle one. If it is simply just showing how the technology of Starfleet has moved on then that is fair enough too.

 

I can’t say that I really disliked any of the cast and they are all entertaining to watch, and unlike more traditional Trek we aren’t watching Starfleet officers, we watching former officers, scientists and in some instances come across the criminal element that exist in the 24th century. Star Trek generally revolved around a Starfleet ship or Station, criminal organisations like the Orion Syndicate popped up occasionally in Deep Space 9, but we rarely saw anyone interacting with them or the consequences of what they do. In this series there seems to be something of a Black Market that deals with Borg parts, which are considered valuable, and those who harvest those parts are not concerned how they get them.

 

I also enjoyed seeing Picard and Hugh on screen together, especially when Picard travels to the Borg Cube, again whilst he has encountered Borg ships since his transformation into Locutus in Best of Both Worlds he hasn’t been on a ship since then. He comes close to having a panic attack when he finds himself standing onboard what is the primary means of attack and assimilation of the Collective.

 

Hugh’s work in the Borg Reclamation Project is basically just a fancy title for trying to restore a Borg drone to their state as an individual. Most of them cannot have their cybernetic parts completely removed but Hugh and those like him are beginning to form their own species of XBs (or Ex-Borg). It isn’t a snazzy title but it is informative. Picard is happy to see his friend and also that the individual Borg drones are as much a victim of the Collective as anyone else as they are forced to act against their will. Undoing the damage and the forced cybernetic augmentation is a noble goal and was certainly something that was good to see.

 

Now whilst Alison Pill seemed to spend most of her time as Agnes Jurati crying, we do begin to understand why she is doing what she is doing. Admiral Oh (the Head of Starfleet Security) shows her a vision of what will happen if the synthetics are allowed to continue to grow and evolve.

 

One of the highlights of the show was Payton List who oozes cold calculated malice and a single minded as Narrissa, a Romulan operative who initially is undercover working for Starfleet security, but later travels from Earth to the Artefact to reunite with her brother Narek (played by Harry Treadaway). Both are determination to see their mission through. Narek has seduced Soji and become her lover as he attempts to coerce her into revealing the truth of her origins. Whilst I liked the subtle way that Narek manipulates Soji, Narrissa is the hot bad girl that looks amazing in leather trousers and you know full well would slit a lover’s throat mid-sex if they revealed the information she needed in that moment.

 

Unfortunately whilst the characters are generally good, well rounded, have back stories and so on, there are a lot of issues and now this is where we enter spoiler territory, so...

 

 

Okay now the Tal Shair were established as being the Romulan Secret Police akin to the Gestapo who would take any threats to the state and make them disappear. In a DS9 episode the Tal Shair joined with the Cardassian Obsidian Order in order to travel to the Gamma Quadrant to destroy the leaders of the Dominion, the Founders. The fleet the Tal Shair and Obsidian Order had built was completely destroyed in the attack and both organisations were considerably weakened as a result.

 

In Picard we learn that there was an organisation within the Tal Shair called the Zhat Vash, and they are tasked with preventing an android Armageddon that will happen when a race of synthetic life-forms from beyond the edge of the Galaxy return to obliterate all organic life to protect the synthetic.

 

Okay...Picard...with you so far...

 

The attack on Mars was carried out by the Zhat Vash who hacked the androids there and caused them to go homicidal. So a Romulan secret society lead an attack on a facility that was building ships designed to come and rescue their own people from their sun going supernova??

 

Okay, er, why would they do that??

 

Why did they not wait until after the evacuation of Romulus to make the androids go haywire?? It seems pretty daft to destroy your chance of salvation just to get synthetics banned when you could take control of them at any time. Plus are there no laws of robotics built into these machines?? Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robots should surely still be in these androids in some form or another. Yes, I get they are not robots but why didn’t they have any fail safes built into them in the event they were hacked. Hell, there were several instances of Data’s programme being overwritten in TNG and him being controlled by someone/thing else. Data was built by someone else but if Starfleet were constructing their own synthetics then why not programme such safeguards into them?? Why not have them shut down if unauthorised programming was downloaded into them overriding their primary programme??

 

Plus following the wake of the attack there is nothing to suggest that a serious investigation was carried out by Starfleet security. Picard establishes that a half-Vulcan/half-Romulan operative of the Zhat Vash infiltrated Starfleet and managed to rise through the ranks to become Head of Starfleet security but even she has to answer to someone. What did she say to the Federation Council?? “Oh yeah Mars was attacked by rogue synthetics, no idea why, ban them and let’s forget all about it”. How can she get away with this?? Yes she is head of Starfleet Security but she cannot operate with impunity and surely there would have been officers under her command who investigated the attack. Starfleet encourages its officers to go with their gut instincts, so why was it only Picard and his friend Raffi who smelled a rat when Mars was destroyed??

 

If there was going to be someone that was behind stopping the Romulans, traditionally enemies of the Federation, being saved would it not have made more sense for it to be Section 31?? The Federation has its own covert organisation that will do anything to safeguard its existence so why didn’t they destroy Mars?? Why couldn’t the Head of Starfleet Security be working for them?? Wouldn’t that have made more sense??

 

Plus I don’t really get why the Romulans are a significant threat any longer. When Vulcan was destroyed in the Kelvin-timeline Spock said that his people were now an endangered species with only a few hundred thousand of them remaining. If the majority of the Romulan population perished when their sun blew up then why are they still a superpower?? Why weren’t they able to evacuate their own planet without needing any assistance from the Federation??

 

Apparently members of the Federation were threatening to withdraw if the Romulans were saved, and whilst the Romulans have traditionally been an enemy, they fought alongside the Federation during the Dominion War. A century before TNG the Klingons were enemies, now they aren’t. I’m pretty sure that if the Federation helped save the Romulan people they might start to look upon the Federation as an ally rather than an enemy.

 

I also do not understand why the Romulans are able to act with impunity. Hugh helps Picard and Narissa executes a number of XBs when Hugh refuses to give her information. How can she murder a dozen innocent and sentient beings without having to answer to anyone for doing so?? Apparently a treaty protects Hugh but not the others. I just don’t get how these Romulan operatives can run around doing whatever they want, killing whomever they want without fear of consequences?

 

Okay a MAJOR spoiler is coming up, so...

 

 

There is a moment in an episode when we see a Starfleet officer being tortured, and his eye is being ripped from his skull, it took me a moment to twig that this officer is non-other than Icheb from Voyager. A former drone that was rescued from the Collective and remained on the ship when it returned to the Alpha Quadrant. So a character that appeared in Voyager cameos only to be butchered onscreen by having his Borg implants removed and is then mercy killed by Seven of Nine. We learn later that Icheb was lured into a trap, and kidnapped by where the hell was Starfleet when one of their own officers was kidnapped. It is stated more than once in TNG that if one of their own is taken then Starfleet will never stop looking for them, and will track the culprits down wherever they go in order to bring them to justice, so again how can the Romulans get away with butchering a Starfleet Officer without consequence?? Plus why bring back a character that fans like only to have him murdered for basically no reason?? This isn’t the only time that Picard does this as Hugh is also murdered for basically no reason and I honestly hated both moments. Why bring back these characters only to kill them??

 

Some of the episodes of Picard are incredibly bleak and when she does appear Seven of Nine is some kind of mercenary that has joined a group called the Fenris Rangers who help those in need. Who are these Rangers you ask, who the hell knows, as they weren’t a group already established and we learn almost nothing about them.

 

Seven also has become the Judge Dredd of the Star Trek universe as she ruthlessly hunts down the person who murdered Icheb and executes them, plus murders the person that killed Hugh.

 

I’m also not sure what people on the Black market do with Borg parts. They aren’t seen to use them to develop artificial technologies so what is the point in buying and selling them when they don’t seem to serve a purpose??

 

When we finally reach the android home world we discover a group living there in peace and one of them, an earlier model of Soji, performs a mind meld with Jurati, and sees the vision of the synthetics wiping out all organic life. Aside from the fact of how an android can perform a mindmeld without the telepathic abilities of a Vulcan or Romulan, she then decides that all organic life must be wiped out and sets about murdering one of her fellow androids in order to convince the others to summon “The Destroyers”. By this point Narek has been captured and she tell the android guarding him to take a break so she can speak to him...again, why would an android need a break??? Data could operate without rest so what is this other android going to do, have a smoke and a sit down?? It is yet another thing that just makes no sense.

 

One final point is that there is swearing in Picard. Swearing had no place in the Star Trek universe and an admiral telling Picard to (and I quote) “Shut the fuck up” just falls flat and serves to demonstrate that the writers don’t seem to know how Starfleet operates.

 

The truth is that Star Trek Picard felt more like Star Wars than any Star Trek that I have ever seen and whilst it did have some really good moments so much of its was so slow paced or straight up just bleak and depressing. There is a Romulan teenager that Picard new as a boy who is now a ninja and joins him so we get some sword fighting and various displays of gymnastic prowess but since when were such things in Star Trek??

 

I get that they are trying to evolve the series and take it into unfamiliar territory but you can do that without needing to resort to harsh language, ninja Romulans, and slaughtering fan favourite characters for basically no reason other than to raise the stakes.

 

The series does give the fans a touching final farewell to Data, but considering how many other characters return just to be unceremoniously killed leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I will admit that I did like the series but it is probably going to be one of those things that I declare as non-canon in my head-canon if you follow me. If you are a fan of Patrick Stewart, and let’s be honest, who isn’t then it is nice to see him returning to the role of Picard. Unfortunately the series has gone for a much darker tone which just doesn’t sit very well with me. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy the series but as the above show there are so many inconsistencies and over hanging plot threads which just don’t make sense to me.

 

I am going to give the show a Thumbs Up only because it is Patrick Stewart and some of the original TNG faces do appear don’t get murdered in a shameless attempt to demonstrate that “shit is getting real”. I will naturally watch the next two seasons when they come out but I would say that I am more apprehensive about where they will go than I was when I sat down to watch this first season.

 

 

7/10 – I enjoyed the series when I wasn’t getting fixed on the rather glaring inconsistencies and when they were killing off characters I liked. Personally I am going to think of this as soft canon, which basically means it was fun enough to watch but it is a side story and like the sequels to Highlander can just be ignored if you don’t like what you see.

 

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© Chris Sharman