I’m sure most of you already know from my recent batch of posts that I haven’t been particularly excited about the new Star Trek series, Picard. Sitting down to watch it felt very much like a job, not unlike going to see the final Star Wars film, The Rise of Skywalker. And in some ways the two have things in common, the biggest among them being an over abundance of plot based on old story lines.
Picard comes off less like a show than a collage of old plots and cannon pieced together with elements of Ronald Moore’s Battlestar Galactica. The first episode rushes us through a bunch of exposition disguised as a news interview where we learn the events of Nemesis and the 2009 Abrahams movie have interwoven together with a robot uprising to give us the gloomy Federation we have today. From there on we get a ton of name and concept drops, like Bruce Maddox, Lal, rogue “synths”, skinjobs, and dum, dum, dum, the Borg. We know in up coming episodes we’ll get Seven of Nine and Hugh. It’s all just a sort of Star Trek word jumble.
It also bothers me a lot that Picard is continuing the introversion of Star Trek. Nearly all the Star Trek films are guilty of this obsession with staying within the Federation’s orbit and keeping all politics local, but the series have been largely immune. However, Discovery’s first season was about a war between Klingons and the Federation. Its second season was more exploratory, but was ultimately about a rogue AI created by agents of the Federation that wants to destroy the Federation. Season three may well be about putting back together a future broken Federation. Picard, again, is a very local show, set in known space with known players dealing with very local Federation politics. In fact, the Federation itself, not just the plot, has turned in on itself.
It’s interesting to compare Star Trek: Picard to what we expected when the character first arrived in The Next Generation. Picard’s opening lines in “Encounter at Farpoint” promised us the “great unexplored mass of the galaxy”. When episode two rolled around fans were furious that it was a direct sequel to the Original Series episode, “The Naked Time”, instead of a new premise as we were promised. Taking a look at The Next Generation’s original first season story outlines (many of which you can read in this thread) we’re lucky that’s as bad as it got. Roddenberry had to be quite vigilant and insistent about making sure the new series stood on its own, because nearly every single episode referenced Kirk and his Enterprise in some way or another.
Yet today we’re perfectly ok with getting what is essentially an exercise in nostalgia. When I heard Fred Steiner’s Romulan theme I couldn’t help but smile, but I knew I was being played like a fiddle. Especially because it was tracked over Romulans building a Borg cube with Data’s daughter. I don’t think that sentence could be any fan-wankier. I feel like when Picard chastises the Federation for no longer having the curiosity to look outside itself that he’s really talking about the franchise.
Also, it’s the 21st century and we’re still killing the black guy first? Sigh…