Star Trek Picard: Lost Me Quickly
Think of this as a review of Star Trek Picard Episode 1. Except, well, the review is only really about the first 5 minutes or so, bear with me while I explain it all to you.
You have to understand first that I have been looking forward to this series for a while. Jean Luc Picard is not only my favorite Star Trek captain, he’s also perhaps one of the better actors to ever hold that role in the Star Trek universe. Classically trained and with an amazing range, Sir Patrick Stewart was able to drag what was mostly a cast of total unknowns through a miserable first season of The Next Generation and on to what turned out to be perhaps the high water mark for Trek in it’s time. It was a show that alternately gave us deep things to think about and some very light hearted chuckles, plus plenty to consider when you look at the implications of modern technology. Our current digital universe is dealing today with many of the issues that passed in TNG episodes. Through it all, Sir Patrick kept raising the bar and challenging his cast mates to do the same, leading to what is truly classic television and classic future history.
As you can tell from that paragraph, I am a bit of a fan. Not to say that I don’t enjoy a little Janeway, Lorca, or Pike (Let’s not mention the original… Captain… of the… enterprise), but Picard absolutely stood for all that Star Trek was about. He combined peaceful and kind with a cunning sense of when to pull the trigger and when to stand up to others, all while trying to respect the rules that Star Fleet stood for. A perfect character played by exactly the right actor.
So I was looking forward to the new Star Trek Picard series. Let me say that there has been enough Star Trek and Star Wars stuff the last couple of years that I think much of the shine has gone off of the stuff, over exposure is not a good thing. Star Wars in particular has been totally sold down the river in the last couple of years (Thanks Disney!). Star Trek is right on the light, with two seasons of Discovery, Short Treks, and some other stuff thrown in the mix it’s been a bit more than most of us can handle, especially considering that it’s been all about gently re-writing the future history books while not destroying canon. I am sure the writers got very tired of it, thus the move to push Discovery well into the future beyond anything we have dealt with before.
The Picard series was kept well under wraps but a few things were clear: He’s retired. He’s old. He’s coming back in some manner we would find interesting. Sounds promising. Plenty of TNG and even some Voyager crew apparently involved. I was primed.
First episode is up (see a good review of it here), and well, the first few minutes really blow my mind. It’s amazing to see our old Captain and Mr Data playing poker. It’s a familiar setting, one that occurred many times during the run of TNG. Card games were something that Mr Data was fascinated with, the outcomes often based not on the cards themselves but the human guile of the players. It was something that always seemed to escape him. Seeing the two of them together initially is a heart warming moment for fans, curling up in front of the warm fire of our memories.
But alas, all is not well. Both of the players are much older than they were. The stakes seem a little more intense, When pushed towards an all in, the Captain, in a strained voice of an older man says “I don’t want the game to end”. It’s at this moment we know this isn’t the warm place we were looking for. The next couple of minutes do so much to destroy all that we loved in a way. The Captain does not understand why the ship is at it’s current location. Data Disappears. The planet is obliterated and the Captain along with it. He wakes up from this dream, revealing our old friend to be mostly a somewhat doddering old man with a pet dog called “number one” and a largely automated vineyard. In many ways, perhaps the most heart breaking opening a series could have.
Cut to an anonymous young couple celebrating something that has no connection for us. I stopped watching, done already.
I did this three times. Each time, within a couple of minutes of dialog of the young couple, I am done. The contrast between the kind Captain that I care for so much and these two anonymous players is such that my brain literally says “who cares?” and tunes out. It’s amazing. I can’t seem to get past it. I guess that, like many, I am sad to see our Captain as the seemingly impotent old man, the somewhat withered husk of a man who took on the Universe and spanked it’s butt. It’s a bit of an overwhelming image. It’s a painful reminder that we all get old.
I have all of the episodes cued up and ready to go. Perhaps I will skip the first part and try to enjoy the young people’s story without any other context. Perhaps I might not. I guess I don’t want the game to end too.