Episode 4 – “Absolute Candor”
February 13, 2020
Here we go again starting 14 years ago in flashback mode. This time a Romulan refugee camp titled as a Romulan Relocation Hub — that Picard stopped off at to let the refugees know the Federations would be helping them with relocation.
Picard, a company man, promises the great Federation will not disappoint. Of course, we know this is a promise the Federation doesn’t keep. And then — unsurprisingly — Picard receives notification that the synths have attacked Mars. Yep, it’s that same synths going rogue moment again.
Save for meeting a young Romulan boy named Elnor, nothing really new happens here … cut to title scene.
After the title screen, we’re aboard the ship finally traveling among the stars. Captain Rios and synth expert Dr. Jurati chatting it up. Raffi busts in all fired up that the nav logs show a detour requested by Picard.
Picard is with the Hospitality Hologram checking out his crib aboard the ship when Raffi complains why aren’t they traveling directly to Free Cloud (all viewers thinking the same thing) where that scoundrel Bruce Maddox is at, they are detouring to the planet Vashdi.
He tells Jurati and Raffi not to worry, they are going to learn about Absolute Candor, a way that is absolutely counter to all the Romulans do. They must detour because he may never get this way again. They are skeptical, but reluctantly agree. After all, this final great mission of the retired Admiral Picard, it’s really him in the lead.
Picard beams onto Vashdi and we see a sign that says “Romulans Only” a reminder that Romulans prefer to chill only with Romulans.
Picard is predictably met with suspicion. We’ve also seen this in the series so far. Picard is here to ask for help from an older Elnar, who is a fierce warrior. Elnar scoffs at the request and Picard calls for a beam out.
But there is a 10 minute delay. Apparently, beam outs aboard this new ship require delays. This gives us time to see a scene where Picard pulls down the “ROMULANS ONLY” sign, and steps on it. You can only imagine where this is going.
You’ll have to watch the episode to see what follows, but I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that it is extremely predictable.
Here we are more than halfway into episode four before we see the first scintilla of action and true dramatic tension. There is one cool fight scene that is over in literally a blink of an eye and a slash of a sword. Sigh.
So far four episodes, four episodes that begin with a flashback. Three of them are exactly 14 years ago dealing in/around the synths revolting on Mars. My goodness, how many more times do viewers need this drilled into our heads?!? We get it, the synths went rogue.
There is a tiny amount of forgettable progression of story around the Borg Cube Artifact and the new crew aboard Captain Rios ship? Almost zero screen time. They might as well be control panel props.
We did — finally — get something happening on another planet off earth. This is about the closest to an actual Star Trek that we’ve come so far, points deserved there. One star is awarded for this alone.
This episode is the first directed by STNG alumni Jonathon Frakes (Ryker!). We don’t actually get to see Ryker in this episode, but he’s pretty much completely hampered by a slow, terrible, ineffective script written by Michael Chabon (he’s responsible for the writing of 3 of the first 4 episodes). I mean, this is easily the worst written episode of the four so far. The writing is just miserable. Even some of Picard’s lines — one of the great actors, Patrick Stewart — are just cringe-worthy at times. Let Picard start ad libbing. Or maybe he is and that’s the problem(?).
Yay, we’re going to pick up another crew member (who may or may not get any sort of real action), we’re going to see one briefly cool fighting scene and finally, yes, finally something happening in space — it is Star Trek, after all — just above the atmosphere on the planet and the new ship. There is another surprise at the end of the episode, but it’s like 40 minutes of yawn and 5 minutes of interesting, semi-dramatic material.
If this series is to start being good, we need to invert the numbers and add more dramatic tension, stop the character building (no more new “regular” characters, please!), lose the 14 years ago flashbacks (or at least place them somewhere besides the beginning of the episodes), do more with this new crew as an ensemble acting team and make what happens aboard the Borg Artifact more than a few fleeting cutaway scenes (I liked Dahj better than her sister, so far). Maybe with a male fighter being added to the crew that means we’re going to see … more conflict?
I get that the series is called Picard, so why are we spending so much time character building crew members, unless they are going to be proxies like red shirts in STOS that die somewhere down the line. We never really got to know the red shirts, so that might be the setup here. Let’s get to know people so they can be killed off later in the episode?
I’m glad we’re off Earth and aboard a ship traveling the stars to new planets — this is the most Star Trek that Picard has offered us so far — but the first planet detour was boring and relatively pointless, except to bring yet another crew member onto the team, this one a Romulan fighter.
Is the first season mostly/primarily about adding new crew members to the ship? Viewers can only tolerate so much character building. The story didn’t really move at all in this episode. They could have stitched together episodes 1-4 into a tight, two-part debut episode and bam, we’ve got the crew, we’ve got the synths went rogue, and we’re headed to Free Cloud with Bruce Maddox.
At least two full episodes of the four have been wasted on story we’ve essentially already been told.
Can this get better? I’m not completely losing faith yet, but it’s beginning to fade. Just start running into some conflicts — not crew building (unless it’s prior STNG as crew) — along the way to Free Cloud — or, hey, how about we just hit hyperspace and get to Free Cloud and confront Bruce Maddox already!
New aliens, old aliens, a Borg cube, something, anything … let’s mix this badboy up. No more 14 years ago flashbacks and Picard telling somebody that Data made twins and he must figure out what Bruce Maddox is up to on Free Cloud. We got it, yes we do. Give us NEW DRAMATIC TENSION AND STORY.
The ending reveals one familiar character from past Star Trek, but that is hardly worth the 45 other minutes endured. We should have gotten that in the opening five minutes instead of another 14 years ago flashback opening. Worst openings in a TV series I’ve seen now multiple times and we’re only 4 episodes in so far.
It’s official, I strongly disliked this episode. Sorry Frakes, I actually like several episodes he has directed of Star Trek in the past. Not this one. As for the way of “Absolute Candor”? I wouldn’t be using that if I rated this episode as anything except “bad” and not recommended.
Overall episode rating: ⭐️½
SPOILER SECTION – The Ready Room
“What’s up, nerds?!” – Wil Wheaton’s introduction on The Ready Room.