⭐⭐⭐½ based on 3 reviews.

tl;dr: Some fun ideas with rocky executions, held together by a stellar cast and some excellent VFX. Plus, Jean-Luc Picard. Always a pleasure.


Star Trek

Season One

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

The first episode really managed to hook me in and get me interested. I wanted to learn more about the Romulans and why Synthetics we're banned. I wanted a more sinister side of Starfleet and to watch Picard have to deal with it.

Unfortunately, that initial hook gave way to a slightly jumbled mess. Over several episodes, an annoying tendency to arbitrarily skip around timeframes to stumble through a slightly dull narrative, combined with a stream of fun but ultimately confusing cameos (and possibly also some new characters who were given the same treatment with even less context) made for a bit of a jumbled mess. Gone were the sinister undertones, replaced with a rather tempered clue-to-clue romp, where every clue was immediately solved without any difficulty.

More and more characters were added to the roster, all intertwining through yet more flashbacks, and none given much time to actually develop personalities or interests.

Luckily, a much more interesting plot around secret Synth number two, a Romulan secret agent lover, and a broken Borg cube, allowed the show some space to actually flex it's narrative muscles and dig into some of the more nuanced and interesting areas of Star Trek's lore. Throw in stellar performances from both of these characters and an evolving, interesting riddle around Romulan "prophecy", and Picard began to feel a little more interesting.

By the time Soji is activated, I was fairly hooked. I thought the way Picard reacted to the Borg Cube was really cleverly done; I loved his interventions with SevenOfNine; and the whole sequence with the Romulan meditation was eerie and tense in all the right ways. Plus, the whole subplot around Hugh and the EBs was just a very Trekkie concept.

That this built into a quite interesting (albeit far from original) twisting final act, where we learn the truth behind the prophecy, and allow the Synths the chance to break the cycle, made for an excellent second half. I even enjoyed the sudden Ryker and family intrusion(s), particularly because it let the show slow the pace for a moment, whilst also giving us an excellent character (and what a performance!) from Ryker's kid.

Throw in some great design moments (I loved the Orchid ships), incredible CGI and VFX for a TV show, and a decent, albeit overly telegraphed, ending, and I thought Picard wound up in a pretty solid spot.

Plus, of course, it's just great to see the titular character back on screen. This felt like a true homage to one of sci-fi's best creations. Everything from the Borg to the deeply personal relationship between Picard and Data was explored meaningfully and done justice, whilst his rougher edges were still fully on show. This was character interrogation, not just mere flattery, and whilst I think it could have done more in this area, what we got was good enough.

Season Two

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Far from the Firefly-esque adventures the ending of season one seemed to hint at, season two turned out to be a better-than-expected time travel romp with a touch too much navel-gazing and some slightly twisted/tortured storytelling devices. Was it a bad season? No, I quite liked it to be honest. It was a fun story with some nice moments and a neat ending. But it was also cliché throughout, utterly predictable, and had the subtlety of a rhinoceros in a china store.

Here are two Hollywood tropes that have run their course:

  1. The "technique" of showing us an "all hope is lost!" moment and then jumping back in time, with a nice end-card stating something along the lines of "3 days ago..." 🙄
  2. The need for every story to devolve into a romance.

The first of these is self-evident. The second season of Picard tries this trick multiple times, and whilst it vaguely works in the opening episode to set up the Borg, it also undermines the tension. We have a Borg ship behaving completely unexpectedly, asking to join the Federation, but being very Borg about it. The fact that we know all hell is about to break loose and our heroes will be attacked doesn't make for a more interesting story, it just robs us of the suspense. The later instances do much the same, but with even less exciting stakes to begin with.

What makes this even more annoying is that the only reason I can think as to why the first episode opens this way is that we then have to sit through relatively dull pacing re-establishing where our various characters are and what they've been up to. But all of that additional narrative purely acts as a foil to ultimately get them all into the same room, at the same time, something which feels like it could have been achieved faster if they were just, y'know, still all together. Oh, but then they couldn't have grown as individuals between seasons! Yes, grown, like Seven, who is once again a lone-ranger. Or Rios, who (le twist!) is now a Starfleet Captain, but then spends the whole season clearly being set up to abandon that as he "didn't fit in" well enough, a story that would make more sense if he was still the disillusioned smuggler/captain for hire from the first season. Raffi's family is all but forgotten, and Soji has been written out of the show so hard they had to recast her actress in a separate role that led nowhere and achieved nothing more than to be confusing (okay, so it turns out that Adam Soong is the direct ancestor of Dr. Soong and therefore Data, but that's all a bit weird, even if I do love me some Brent Spiner villain action).

Oh, and Seven and Raffi are now a thing; Picard and Laris are now a thing (her husband having died off-screen between seasons); Raffi and Elnor are somehow a mother/son relationship (which would have been more interesting had we acknowledged her estrangement from her actual son); and the only romance we had in season one is mysteriously over, just so that both characters can have unrelated plots happen that writes them both out of the show moving forward.

All of this makes it seem like season two has returned as a worse show, but it isn't. I actually think the core plot here is much more interesting: Q is back, playing shenanigans and also maybe dying; Guinan returns; the Borg are back, being very weird and then giving us our greatest insight into a Queen I think ever; we get a Dark Dimension-style alt-history with the Confederation of Humanity (and a fun dark Picard – always a good excuse, even if this one is never directly met); and then they stick the crew into 2024 for some more pertinent and current social commentary and critique. There's a lot of good Star Trek happening in all of this, and some nice closure on a few extra TNG threads. It's just that the way these stories are interwoven is amateur. It relies wholeheartedly on the cast to sell a lukewarm plotline which, to their credit, they do, but just because you have an exceptional set of talent, doesn't mean you get to play fast-and-loose with good storytelling. Why are Raffi and Elnor transported back in time when they were on a different ship? What was the point of the whole FBI arrest of Picard when he's able to just talk his way back out of it? How many times do we have to watch a "hacking only works about 10 seconds too late" sequence? What are the chances that these specific characters end up being the most important people in the Confederation? I mean, Picard as Grand Admiral seems fine, he's a strategic mastermind and ruthless at achieving his aims, we've explored this multiple times before (Locutus, anyone?), but Seven as President? She's smart, she's hella capable, but is that enough? And Raffi happens to be a Chief of Security in charge of the raid where Elnor is about to be killed? And Rios happens to be in charge of the genocide of Vulcan? The more you look at the plot, the more it just feels slapped together. It just about holds up, but this cast, these ideas, this show, it all deserves better.

That said, it keeps the pacing going, and the central mystery around Q and the central threat around the Borg Queen are both deeply interesting, entertaining concepts. They could have streamlined this plot and left more space for character arcs and, yes, even action, but what we got isn't awful, it just could have been better.

Season Three

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

The season of fan service – so much so that I ended up watching almost all of TNG between the last two episodes! Still, I do think the story suffered a little as a result.

I'm also a little annoyed that this was ultimately the Borg once again. I mean it was a novel idea to have Picard be the secret to some kind of genetic inheritance of assimilation, but I also feel like the last two seasons have both contained better dissections of the Borg, and once again we have a plot that slightly treads on the toes of the previous finale. After all, aren't the Borg in Starfleet now? I feel like the Changelings would have made a more interesting story. Also "the kids are coming to kill us, but the old people are alright" is a bit too on-the-nose as a story device for a show about old heroes and an older fandom, right? 😂

Still, as an excuse to get the whole gang back together it worked well enough. I like Jack quite a bit (even though I dislike how his existence seems to write Picard's wife out of the show 😒) and I enjoyed how they tied Raffi and Worf together, as well as 7 of 9's entire arc. Overall, a fun romp that suffered a little in the number of excuses needed just to create the finale the director wanted. I'd watch that spinoff though!

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