And yet... over the recent Fourth of July weekend, we binged all ten episodes of “Picard” in less than three days. That's a big media bite for us. We don’t subscribe to CBS All Access, but our father-in-law does. So we had to avail ourselves of the show while we could. It was an intense experience, but not altogether unpleasant.
Here are our disjointed musings and comments.
* “Engage.” Be honest. How often have you said that in your car when you’re about to begin a trip? Or maybe when the light turns green? Just us then?
* There’s a pretty complicated backstory here about a failed species-wide Romulan evacuation linked somehow to a massive android sabotage of the Starfleet shipyards on Mars. It all feels unique and appropriately big, but the scope grows so vast that the story sometimes felt overwhelming. This may be an unpopular take, but not every science fiction story has to grapple with fate-of-the-universe stakes.
* “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (1987-1994) played a big part of our high school and college years (1986-1994), both the first-run episodes that ran on weekend evenings on KTXA 21 and the reruns that played every weekday evening in the 90s. We came of age right alongside the show, which – like us – started with some rather clumsy and awkward moments before soaring with some classic masterpieces later in its run.
* Honestly, we’d probably prefer to watch a domestic drama on CBS All Access about the Riker family living on a farm on Nepenthe raising their precocious daughter.
* Name-dropping sidebar – we once sat behind Jonathan Frakes at a Beverly Hills Sunday morning church service.
* We read somewhere a suggestion that the entire Borg subplot of “Picard” could have been completely removed without ever being missed. As crazy as that sounds given the huge amount of screen-time spent on the machinations inside the reclaimed Borg cube, that person is absolutely correct. It’s a cool idea that really doesn’t go anywhere.
* We never liked the “Next Generaton” Klingon or Romulan “culture episodes” where the Enterprise crew had to navigate ridiculously intricate customs and complicated alien political intrigue and subtitles and dark lighting and dozens of extras in latex face makeup. Worse, those episodes always seemed to be two-parters.
* As expected, the best part of this show was watching Picard assemble his ragtag crew of mercenary malcontents. (Echoes of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock in which Kirk asked Starfleet for help with a mission, was turned down, but Kirk went anyway.)
* The two Romulan heroes who work on Picard’s vineyard are charming and complicated, while the two Romulan villains are complete one-dimensional duds. Further demerits for the show by insisting that the scruffy-looking Romulan spy was somehow alluring. Having female characters call him “hot” as a way to somehow convince the audience this was so was particularly hilarious.
* The best episode of the season was the stand-alone Freecloud (how well will that name age?) episode in which our heroes had to pull off an underworld Mission: Impossible sort of con on what seemed to be a Las Vegas planet.
* That we enjoyed that episode so much perhaps points to our overall fatigue with serialized television, where a single story is dragged out, er, told over multiple episodes. That sort of thing certainly has its place for deep dives into complex characters and byzinatine plots. But sometimes don't you just want a self-contained story without a contrived cliffhanger? There's a reason "Law & Order: SVU" has been running 20 years. We hope season 2 is more episodic.
* Although Data is an ageless android, the 71-year-old actor Brent Spiner most decidedly is not.
* Name-dropping sidebar – Ms. Fry by chance ran into Brent Spiner one evening on the Paramount lot and engaged in a lengthy verbal joust with him regarding both what she was doing there and what he was doing there.
* Honestly, this thing probably should have been six episodes.
* The four-letter cursing feels completely out of place on a “Star Trek” show. It’s so glaring and strange, in fact, it totally took us out of the story and reminded us that this is a new, edgy, streaming-service version of “Star Trek.”
* Patrick Stewart is one of those actors that can probably find a way to make anything cool and interesting.
* Interesting stuff layered in here about the myth of Jean-Luc Picard, Starfleet hero, and how he must cope with all that baggage, whether it’s trying to not believe his own hype, subtly using it for leverage to get what he wants, or swallowing his disappointment when someone doesn’t show him the expected respect based on reputation. We wished the show had dug a little more into that mythbusting angle.
* We haven’t watched many episodes of “Deep Space Nine,” “Voyager,” or “Enterprise.” We’ve missed all of the “Discovery” series. Yet we call ourselves rabid “Star Trek” fans. Is that right or wrong? Discuss.
* Surprising parallels to the overrated The DaVinci Code, what with the secret society protecting a crazy conspiracy theory for thousands(!) of years. Dan Brown should get a "story by" credit.
* If you’re going to kill someone off and wring big emotion and catharsis out of that moment, then you really need to let that person stay dead. Otherwise, the moment is cheapened and the drama totally undermined. Better idea: just don’t kill them off.
* You can grumble about the plotting, but you certainly cannot criticize the strong work of the cast (especially Allison Pill).
* We did sometimes have hard time getting a handle on Picard. He didn’t always ring true. For example, no matter how pained and lost he may have felt after leaving Starfleet, it’s hard to believe in fourteen years Picard never once checked on the last executive officer he served with.
* This is the kind of show that inspires interweb commenters to point out after Seven of Nine and Picard share a warm reunion that the two characters never had a single previous onscreen scene together.
* The show ended pretty strong, but the middle was more mushy than we would have preferred.
* Top ten “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episodes:
1. "Yesterday's Enterprise" - the one where a time rift allows Tasha Yar to die a noble death
2. "Best of Both Worlds, Part 1" - the one with the gut-punch OMG cliffhanger where Picard is a Borg and Riker opens fire on him
3. "Lower Decks" - the one told from the point-of-view of the low-level Enterprise officers
4. "Starship Mine" - the one that's Die Hard on the Enterprise
5. "Tapestry" - the one were Q gives Picard a chance to make different choices as a young officer
6. "The Inner Light" - the one where Picard lives a whole other life via an alien probe
7. "Timescape" - the one where time is frozen just as the Enterprise is about to be destroyed
8. "Q Who?" - the one where we first meet the Borg
9. "All Good Things" - the series finale with Picard bouncing between three timelines
10. "The Measure of a Man" - the one with the trial to determine if Data is sentient