- Created by Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, Kirsten Beyer, and Alex Kurtzman
- Based on Star Trek: The Next Generation by Gene Roddenberry
- CBS All Access (later rebranded as Paramount+)
- January 23, 2020 to present
- Jean-Luc Picard-Patrick Stewart
- Agnes Jurati-Alison Pill
- Dahj, Soji Asha, Sutra-Isa Briones
- Narek-Harry Treadaway
- Raffi Musiker-Michelle Hurd
- Chris Rios-Santiago Cabrera
- Elnor-Evan Evagora
Picard, deeply affected by the death of Data, must aid a woman with a mysterious connection to his friend.
Star Trek: Picard reintroduces Picard (Patrick Stewart), now retired on his estate back into the Star Trek universe. It relies heavily on the nostalgia and good feelings generated by the beloved Picard character to keep you invested. There is so much wrong here. Let us start with the characters.
While Patrick Stewart knows how to play Jean-Luc Picard that does not appear to make him infallible on the character. One important thing was that Picard was never really good with children. That was a consistent character trait in the series. He did not hate them but rather they made him uncomfortable because he could not relate.
Now suddenly he’s like the adopted grandpa or a fun uncle with all these Romulan kids. Did the producers even pay attention to TNG? That is a huge change offered with no explanation. Was it tied in to at points previously Picard regretting choosing career over family? Or was it something else? Much like how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know.
One thing that gets me about Picard’s portrayal here is when Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) finally gets to participate in a full episode of the show. Why is Picard doing that comically bad French accent? He’s French and from episode one of TNG all the way through the movies he has never put on a French accent of any type. He’s always been a very British Frenchman. It makes absolutely no sense why a Frenchman puts on a fake French accent.
And what became of the character that commanded a starship? Often in this series Picard just sits there and takes the disrespect from his supposed friends that have joined him in this adventure. He does not demonstrate any of the spine needed to effectively command a crew. Every insult or disrespect is taken with an apology or virtually no pushback.
Rather than gather together his Enterprise crew Picard collects a group of people that barely like him. They all have a bone or three to pick with him and are unafraid to do so to his face. The entire cast of characters of the show treat him as a nuisance or an unwanted guest and not as a friend. In doing so Patrick Stewart gets pushed into the background of his own show more often than not. Picard is probably the least important character in this whole story and his name is in the title!
Isa Briones stars as the androids Dahj, Soji Asha, and Sutra. Her emotional range in the roles certainly fits with that of a machine. The character of Soji comes off as being a much more significant character in the series than Picard does even though his name is in the title. But the actress and her character carry no real credit in Trek culture so of course they had to slap ‘Picard’ on the series.
Alison Pill is in the show as leading cyberneticist Dr. Agnes Jurati. Calling her a character is a bit excessive. Calling her a plot device is perhaps a bit more accurate. If this were an episodic series a lack of development might be understandable, but this is a multi-episode single storyline and nothing changing for a character is not. Worse she is a murderer (and everybody knows it by the end), and they all trust her implicitly after that revelation. Nobody thinks about keeping an eye on her.
Harry Treadaway plays Romulan agent Narek who is sent to learn all of Soji’s secrets as she works on a Borg cube in Romulan space referred to as The Artifact. He is supposed to develop some feelings in the show but their chemistry has all the electricity and passion of a Star Wars love story or Discovery romance. (BTW I adore Star Wars, but romantic storylines are not its strongpoint.) He learns very little during his investigation other than this android Soji is so well done that she can boink.
Michelle Hurd is former Starfleet Officer Raffi Musiker who was fired after Picard retired. She, like the rest of the cast of characters, is resentful towards him. The character of Raffi waffles between being a mom to the group to being a Starfleet officer who is also a junkie that abandoned her own child. The thing is in neither aspect does she get a character arc. And at no point is anybody worried she might screw up as she is still using space drugs apparently.
Santiago Cabrera is former Starfleet officer Chris Rios who currently pilots the vessel La Sirena which is a ship that looks like it belongs in Star Wars and is not nearly as important to things as Enterprise was. Speaking of Star Wars, Rios here is essentially Han Solo. To say more about the character is impossible. He is just a charming space rogue that coincidentally has a connection to Dahj that he is not initially aware of. A great deal in this story relies on coincidence and not the actions of the characters,
Evan Evagora is Romulan warrior Elnor whom Picard met as a child and formed a fatherly bond with because Picard was all about the kids. Not in a Dr. Smith way though. Elnor is just there to do the action sequences that Patrick Stewart is obviously incapable of doing it at his age. He is 82 after all. I am having trouble thinking of a single moment where Picard engages in the action rather than cower in the background. In this age of face swapping and digital effects dump the Elnor character and digitally put Stewart’s face on another body.
Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) here has no resemblance to how she was portrayed in Voyager. There’s nothing wrong with character evolution between shows but she is an emotional wreck and not even close to the calm, cool, collected, and nearly emotionless character portrayed in Voyager. And she has a relationship with Picard because…? They never met canonically yet much like every other character in the show she doesn’t like him on a personal level.
And what was the point of introducing her? In the scheme of things, Seven did nothing for the story. She shows up to insult and deride Picard before shooting stuff and then lingers around the outskirts of the narrative for the rest of the show. The whole Borg element in general did nothing for the plot other than remind viewers that this was a Star Trek show.
The android Sutra conducts a Vulcan mind meld. How does an android conduct a mind meld? The Vulcan nerve pinch has been alluded to being a feat of strength so any sufficiently strong being with the appropriate dexterity could perform one, but a mind meld is a specifically Vulcan ability. It’s even been one alluded to that the Romulans, the Vulcan cousin species, lost it yet we have an android here in the show that has just simply learned how to do. A mind meld is not something you can learn from a YouTube video.
This is an issue with dropping a great many things and characters into a series that is not episodic but rather a story long season. You need to give them all something to do or a reason to be there in the story. Certain characters and elements should have been cut to tighten the narrative.
They drop in the occasional TNG character for nostalgia purposes. But it tends to slow things down. Speaking of Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes), why didn’t he and Troi (Marina Sirtis) just take their son to the planet from Insurrection? I am willing to bet he generated some goodwill by being part of the crew that helped save them from the darker elements of the Federation in that film. You got a dying child so why not taken them to a planet bathed in regenerative radiation? Makes no sense.
I get the feeling that Kurtzman and pals Googled elements of TNG but never really watched the show. One major plot point of this series is how Romulans don’t like artificial intelligence or synthetic life yet there were several times during TNG where it’s mentioned the Romulans wanted to get a hold of Data to study him.
The one episode that comes to mind is “The Defector” where a Romulan warning of impending invasion has an extended conversation with Data on how much Romulan scientists would love to study him. It certainly comes off as if they want to duplicate him. There is certainly no mention of a Romulan distrust of synthetic life which appears to be common knowledge in Picard.
When Picard goes to ask the admiral for a ship, Picard says that the Federation doesn’t get to decide which species lives or dies but during the TNG era they did that at several points because of the Prime Directive. That was something that always bothered me about TNG. The Federation in TOS in at least one instance worked to secretly save a primitive species. Still though that philosophy has switched back with Picard now endorsing the TOS philosophy having previously endorsed the TNG philosophy and no explanation as to why the change.
Gone is the hopeful future where humanity with a sense of shared purpose and a spirit of unity explores the great unknown. In its place is a dystopian world ruled by the near authoritarian Federation. It is a dark organization with petty individuals who have competing and selfish agendas. This is a show written by small people who do not believe that humanity can be better.
And we return to the use of profanity as I mentioned in past discussions of Discovery. One thing Gene Roddenberry did to show that man had evolved was to not have the characters swear. Swearing was an extreme rarity originally in Star Trek. The idea was to demonstrate we had evolved. It was an easy way to show to the audience that the people in Star Trek were not only in the future but ahead of all of us as a society. Here they swear like a sailor on shore leave. It was to be a sign of the maturing of humanity, but they drop F bombs left and right in Picard. This was a trend started in Discovery of everyone in the Star Trek future swearing.
I get the feeling that the people in charge of the show didn’t do too much research on Star Trek or Star Trek: The Next Generation. This story involves the Borg cube and one thing they do to try and kill all the Borg that haven’t been revived yet on the Borg cube being studied by the Romulans who hate synthetic life and find the Borg an abomination because of their cybernetic parts is vent them into space. That has been demonstrated not only in Star Trek: First Contact but I believe the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Scorpion Parts 1 & 2” which introduced Seven of Nine that the Borg can survive for a period in the vacuum of space.
Kurtzman and pals just reached back into Star Trek history in general and TNG history in particular and grab multiple random things people recalled fondly and threw them together riding fan goodwill and assuming all the random elements would gel into something relatively cohesive and sensible.
And why do the Romulans need any kind of assistance on anything? It seems that they are functioning quite well despite it all. Given what we see here, the loss of their homeworld had no noticeable ill effect on the political or governmental structure of their star empire. Alternately they are portrayed as stable and fully functional or barely hanging on. The situation is dictated by the needs of the script of the episode.
There are many other logical inconsistencies in the show and apparent ignorance at points of the source material. I’m talking about preestablished facts of the fictional universe. It’s almost as if the people behind us didn’t really pay attention.
There is a secret Romulan society that fears androids and is working to stop them. They have gone so far as to infiltrate Starfleet and the Federation and engineer an attack on Mars by an android slave force built by the Federation (this despite Data-an android-being declared alive) in order to make the UFP anti android.
After finding the android planet, the androids there send a signal to this super android species that was the source of the Romulan fears and I laughed when the threat can through the portal. The advanced synthetic everybody is so afraid of looked a lot like the tentacles of Dr. Octopus in the MCU. That is all we get. Metal tentacles trying to climb out of a sinister red portal in space and then when it gets turned off the galaxy is safe. Nobody is concerned these organic life destroying beings (the Romulans were right to be afraid it seems) will come to investigate why the portal opened by their brethren was shut abruptly. Not like they had a signal or anything to work with or anything.
Oh, and Picard gets copied to a new body because of his brain anomaly. Conveniently this new body is in the same condition as the original Picard minus the vague anomaly. That is pretty damn convenient for the new body to be no overall improvement over the original.
Star Trek: Picard ends the series with Picard flying off into space with his ragtag group to destinations unknown. Picard goes zipping off with a group that does not like him. One is a junkie and the other a murderer but it’s all cool.
Picard is not completely terrible, but it is not great either. It’s somewhat okay but Picard misses some of the things that make or made Star Trek special. Star Trek is not about epic battles or cool visuals or weird things happening as it is here. Star Trek is about characters and about stories about present day things told in a science-fiction setting.
Problems are not necessarily solved in Star Trek by an epic space battle but by wits and intelligence. Space battles can happen but violence to end the problem is not the go to solution as it is here.
Picard functions largely on nostalgia. That will get you through from episode one to the season finale. You like TNG and you’re hoping to get a little bit of it in this. Cameos or maybe even an episode reminds you of something from TNG. But it is not that series.
Star Trek: Picard has good special effects and lots of nostalgia but it is what amounts to a mediocre product on its best day. The nostalgia will get you through to the end but it’s not something that has the wonder or the deep stories that made Star Trek so great.