TV SERIES Review – Star Trek: Picard S1E5 – Stardust City Rag ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Season 1
Episode 5 – “Stardust City Rag”
February 20, 2020
Directed by: Jonathon Frakes

Starts 13 years ago with flashback on planet where a Starfleet officer is having his eye removed by a doctor of some sort. Quickly, we realize this is a Borg operation.

About to have a Borg implant in place of his left eyeball, ouch!

Seven of Nine bursts in and kills the medical personnel in the midst of a Borg transplant operation. She lifts the officer off the gurney, the man with the missing eye, and says dramatically, “My child!”

Cut to two weeks ago at Freecloud in a bar. An alien bodyguard that looks a bit like the Ben Grimm The Thing from Fantastic Four asking for “Bruce Maddox.”

Since when is Ben The Thing Grimm in Star Trek: Picard? Wait, no, that’s not him

Speaking of people who look like other people … a woman who looks strikingly like Deanna Troi (not her, though) is running the show at this bar.

She’s got the Troi bun hairdo

The Deanna Troi doppelganger says no but then takes the man to a backroom where we finally get to see a current day (ok, two weeks ago in the story) Bruce Maddox.

Bruce Maddox “2 weeks ago” at the beginning of S1:E5 “Stardust City Rag”

Maddox is burying his sorrows at the bottom of a drink, but … his drink has been spiked and he drops the glass and passes out.

Cut to the title montage.

Now, present day, we are aboard the ship with Captain Rios, Picard, Dr. Jurati, Raffi and Elnor and Seven of Nine. Jurati is recalling a memory (another flashback) of Maddox and her together, presumably they were once romantically involved.

Now the crew are discussing how they can get to Maddox on Freecloud. Raffi hatches some elaborate scheme with costumes for the team to go in disguise to free Maddox from her captors on Freecloud. I was a little confused how they just knew Maddox had been captured, but maybe missed it from Raffi who rattled off an info dump on Maddox’s predicament. It might also have been mined from her computer system as very clearly there is a black market of Borg transplant parts and somehow Maddox is a hot property to use in trade on this market, even though he has no Borg parts.

(or maybe we’ll find out he does later?)

Raffi then leaves the ship to visit her son, Gabriel, that she currently has an estranged relationship. Gabriel and daughter in law, a pregnant Romulan, pretty much whisk her out of their midst. So, we get a little more backstory on Raffi’s character, long enough to delay the plan to rescue Bruce Maddox. It’s like one obstacle after another in this series delaying us from the important happenings.

Picard as a pirate is one of the funniest disguises ever. He has an eye patch and — seriously, not kidding, as soon as the eye patch is removed he is “recognized “as Picard! Who is that stupid not to realize Picard is Picard with one pirate eye patch?!?! I laughed out loud when I saw this.

Also, just watching Picard say, “Maddox!” with the eye patch is the best part of the episode. Pure comedic gold! I know it was intended to be serious, however, which makes it sad, but hey, I still loved it. Watch for the pirate Picard meme. Just know it’s coming!

You’ll need to tune in to see if Maddox is rescued by the motley crue from Rios’ ship and check out the AR-wsome Picard disguise.

Summary

This episode has the most action of any in the series, so if that is your favorite type of Star Trek, you’ll feel good here.

A moment on guns. Why are they so freaking big in the future? We go from sleek, small phaser weapons to these gigantic, bulky lasers? Are we going backwards technology-wise?

We’re still in flashback mode, which remains a questionable way to unfold the story dramatically, but at least here we get some action with the flashbacks. This series should be called, Flashbacks: Picard. Or maybe Pirate Picard. Until this episode, it just hasn’t been very Star Trek.

This episode feels the most Star Trekish, but the writing is at times very cringey. Tons of obvious info dumps. The execution is more skilled, at the hands of director and seasoned trekkie Jonathan Frakes. There is some good Seven of Nine action, Picard actually takes a backseat to the story, except for his pirate shenanigans and a brief encounter with Bruce Maddox.

So much happens and fast that it almost felt like a different show than the first four episodes. Despite the flurry of activity, I found this episode more enjoyable than the last three. It’s about on par with the first episode and my rating will reflect that. Recommended? Yes. Hope they stay with the action, and it appears that’s where this is headed as the next mission could be finally at the Borg Artifact cube.

This might have been a better pilot episode than the pilot. We start out with some horrific Borg implant stuff then progress to a mission to free a captive Bruce Maddox and then there’s some vengeful backstory for Seven of Nine.

I think Trek fans will like this episode the most of any so far. As for those who aren’t diehard Trek fans watching Picard as a series? This series is still trying to establish what it is going to be and we’re half-way through the first season of 10 episodes.

I liked this episode, it certainly wasn’t boring, which was a problem with most of the last three episodes. It was like the story was stuck in mud until this episode. Now we’re off and running.

Not super stoked with the ending of this episode. I don’t want to spoil it, but was hoping with all this build-up to Bruce Maddox that it would go differently. It’s like we spend five episodes trying to get to this guy and when we finally do, his screen time is minimal. Will find out in future episodes if we get more of him. Likely through flashback, because that seems to be the way they want to tell the story here.

If you haven’t seen this series yet, this might actually be the best episode to start with. Then go back and watch episode 1. You really don’t need to watch episodes 2-4 to understand where we’re at in the story. Not sure what that says, but it doesn’t seem like a ringing endorsement.

On a positive note, I am looking forward to next week’s episode. This is a bit like slowing down to watch an accident scene.

Overall episode rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

SPOILER SECTION – The Ready Room

Wil Wheaton said at the end of last week’s episode of The Ready Room that this was a good episode.

Elnor is interviewed on The Ready Room

Worth mentioning again that The Ready Room is a nice compliment to the series. Good interviews, nice excitement by the host, Wil Wheaton.

TV SERIES Review – Star Trek: Picard S1E4 – Absolute Candor⭐️½

Season 1
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.

Summary

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.

Wil Wheaton interviews Captain Rios (Santiago Cabrera)

TV SERIES Review – Star Trek: Picard S1E3 – The End is the Beginning ⭐️⭐️

Season 1
Episode 3 – “The End is the Beginning”

As in episode 2, it’s a flashback to 14 years ago, this time the pivotal moment when Picard meets with Starfleet to try and receive support to evacuate the Romulans along with his friend and associate Raffi. Unfortunately, we already know how this situation ended — in episode one.

In a puzzling move, we don’t see the interesting heated exchange where Picard tells Starfleet senior officials, “it’s my way or the highway”, instead we get a softball scene outside the building with him telling Raffi what he told them (what?!). Of course, all the dramatic tension is already gone because we found out in the first episode that they accepted his resignation instead of going with his plan. The only thing new is we learn is the next shoe dropping is Raffi getting called afterwards to be fired.

Show, don’t tell. The opening scene largely comes off as preachy and not even about the plot or storyline, but to be making some social statement. Even if that’s not what it was about. Disappointing start to episode 3.

However, this does explain the end of episode 2 where Raffi is bitter with Picard. About the only thing of interest, is Raffi affectionately calling Picard “J.L”

And then it’s onto the title graphic. I guess we’re supposed to be believe this episode will be about the strained relationship between Raffi and Picard over what happened 14 years ago?

Nope, that’s only a footnote. A mcguffin to get us to her helping him get a pilot, which we learn in the next scene with present day Raffi. Bitter, broke, despondent Raffi who doesn’t have the luxury of Picard’s Chateau. J.L never contacted or checked in with Raffi over the last 14 years.

Cut to the Borg Cube Artifact with that long, sweeping pan inside the cube.

A repeat shot that we’ve seen before. What are the Romulans up to with Dahj twin sister, Dr. Soji who is questioned by the executive director of the research division.

(there sure are a lot of sequences involving subordinates and superiors in this series)

Some back and forth discussion and then back to Picard and Raffi and she tells him to leave, but not before saying an unnamed pilot from the underground will contact him. So more than 1/3rd of the episode in, she agrees to help Picard anyway, despite her anger, frustration and disappointment. Picard apologize and feel badly for his transgressions, I guess this shows, but wouldn’t this whole exchange have been a lot more fun and cool if it was a TNG member like Worf, Geordie, Beverly Crusher or Number One (Jonathan Frakes) instead of somebody new and unknown? Just saying.

From here, another Starfleet security character named O (Vulcan, she has the ears!) stops by to talk with the scientist Dr. Agnes Jurati who told Picard about the twin daughters of Data. Sounds like they are sniffing around already into what Picard is doing.

Cut to Borg Cube Artifact. Very brief scene with another character introduction. Will this be somebody important?

Cut back to Picard having brief Skype-like conversation with Raffi.

Now a new scene with Picard meeting Captain Rios, another new character, who commands an underground ship. He’s got a hunk of dagger in his shoulder and a holographic doctor is assessing the safe removal.

Picard and Captain Rios discuss a plan of when they are leaving on the ship. This is the second best scene in the episode (the other comes in the final act, which I won’t spoil here). Caption Rios has a very Han Solo like demeanor. He wants to know where they are going and Picard says he is “working on it.”

Will leave it here with the episode synopsis, but you’ve heard enough to assess what this episode is about: more character introductions, some limited drama with characters we’ve already seen and Picard trying to figure out what is going on.

Picard is a senior citizen and he is very much acting like a senior citizen in this story. Almost everything so far is plodding and painstaking. It’s like watching an elderly person cross the road and wondering when s/he will get to the other side. Throughout most of the first three episodes we’re worried it is going to take half of season one (5 episodes) to actually get in a spaceship and into space with the name “Star Trek” in the title.

Stay with it, though, everything is not completely what it seems. This is all character progression. At least some of these characters are more important than they seem.

Yes, there is some action before the 44 minutes fully elapses. You’ll need to watch the episode to see how it concludes, but some logic is behind the excessive build-up. I was losing interest fast until the final act.

Summary

Flashbacks are in storytelling are often boring and lack dramatic punch, because often we already know what happened. Somehow, two of three episodes start with flashbacks. Yikes, somebody send the screenwriters back to school. Start out with something exciting and/or fresh and inventive, not with a freaking flashback.

Am starting to grow tired — and a bit confused by — all these different Starfleet administrators as character obstacles to prevent us from getting to the exciting story (the story in space! Picard on a spaceship racing toward the Borg cube).

A lot of characters being introduced with similar relationships (to refute something from the subordinate character has done or is doing). Now, we’re getting some Starfleet security checking into Picard’s activity? I guess that’s logical, because clearly a very principled man going rogue is the story we should have gotten in episode #1.

This episode seemed largely unnecessary until the third act. It redeems some viewer faith in the final act and re-ignites the viewer’s interest.

Am not sure the split narratives which we can only presume as viewers will intersect at some point soon are working so far, but I feel like by the end of this episode we’re finally going to have a chance to see a Star Trek episode .. maybe, hopefully starting with episode 4. The previews make it seem that way.

Until the last 15 minutes, I was thinking this is a one star terrible episode, but then had an “aha!” moment when it unfolds in the final act. It’s still the worst episode of the three so far because, while it seems we’re getting to where we want to go, it’s taking too much time. They need to tighten it up moving forward and tell more complete stories in each episode. Hopefully, most of the pertinent setup is now over and next week and beyond will be more exciting.

Overall episode rating: ⭐️⭐️

SPOILER SECTION – The Ready Room

Episode 3 of The Ready Room goes all Motley Crue on us (seriously, there is a Vince Neil reference!) These after the episode shows feature major spoilers, so definitely want to watch the episode first before watching.

Wil Wheaton interviews Michelle Hurd, the actress who plays Raffi

Honestly, I’ve found The Ready Room behind the scenes interviews and information a little more interesting than the Picard TV series so far (good work, young Wesley Crusher!), but I have a suspicion that starting next week the TV series will improve.

TV SERIES Review – Star Trek: Picard S1E2 – Maps and Legends ⭐️⭐️½

Season 1
Episode 2 – “Maps and Legends”

14 years ago on a Mars construction outpost a bald synthetic is teased by his co-workers. A minute later we see him going all Data-like with super speedy hands on a computer screen.

The human workers try to stop him and he pulls out some sort of phaser-like device and kills all of them.

Onto the title screen.

We’re now 7+ minutes into 46 minute episode before we see Picard on screen. He’s already deep into the investigation of what happened to Dahj and it’s leading him to something called the Jaqblas (?spelling?), sort of a new world boogeyman with the help of his two caretakers discussing the background of the Jaqblas.

The investigation leads to a communication with Dahj but — insert dramatic beat — it is happening off world.

Cut to another scene with Dahj’s sister aboard a Borg cube known as The Artifact. Dahj’s sister has a co-worker and boyfriend, so they are in bed and it’s some kind of galactic pillow talk. Almost a complete throwaway scene.

Back to Picard who is getting a house call from his doctor. Picard wants to get approved for interstellar service, but the news isn’t good.

Picard finds out from his doctor that his time could be limited — he is in his 90s

This would be a good time for Picard to consult Number One his pitbul, but the dog is nowhere to be seen in episode 2. Picard’s medscreens came back good except for an abnormality in his brain. Does he have some form of dementia? The prognosis isn’t good. Whatever Picard has in his brain is terminal.

Picard wants to be certified as fit for interstellar service. An old Stargazer doctor friend, will he help Picard?

Picard visits Starfleet as a visitor and sees Admiral Clancy to ask for permission for temporary reinstatement — one mission – so that he can try and track down where Dahj twin sister is located.

Picard’s legendary deductive powers have him believing that Maddox was out there using some of Data’s positronic components to create sythetics. Picard also believes Maddox used Data’s painting of Dahj as a starting reference for the synths.

A heated exchange ensues.

Picard’s request is quickly denied with Clancy rudely barking at Picard: “Do what you’re good at: go home!”

And thus from this moment, Picard must decide if he goes rogue. Does he? You’ll have to watch the rest of the episode to see what happens.

My Review

This episode feels more like an episode of a soap opera than Star Trek. The structure is such that there is a large amount of exposition fed into very little dramatic tension. No action, save for the opening scene on Mars that is a flashback.

We’re treated to a little bit of Picard in Sherlock Holmes mode, some synth revolt 14 years ago on Mars, some more on Picard’s tense relationship with Starfleet, a teaser on what Dahj’s sister is up to on the Borg cube and then the absolute most interesting part of the episode (as was the case last week): a trailer of what’s coming in future episodes!

This episode just comes off feeling like a bunch of backstory being crammed into viewer’s brains. Sure, we’ll need some of it later in the story, but do we need it all right now? Some of it is repeating material we got in the first episode.

Picard visiting an old “friend” with a bottle of wine

We need to hurry up and get Picard on some kind of ship with a crew (teased in the trailer at the end of the first episode) and off earth. That is when maybe the “Star Trek” part of this show will become justified.

When Picard is on earth this show is, from a pacing perspective, going in reverse. It’s just … OK. Very slow moving, unfortunately. I liked the trailer at the end more than the episode. Felt too much like info dump, less about action, adventure and forward movement.

Overall episode rating: ⭐️⭐️½

Later this morning (7am PST), The Ready Room will be on YouTube with a behind the second season episode hosted by Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher!) and that might be as good or better than the actual episode. I’ll embed that below with additional thoughts on that.

SPOILER SECTION – The Ready Room

Episode #2 of The Ready Room is embedded below. Suggest you watch the episode first before streaming this episode.

Learn more about the Borg Cube Artifact in this in depth behind the scenes look at S1:E2 “Maps and Ladders”

Picard Weekly Recap Show The Ready Room Hosted by Wil Wheaton

With episode #2 being released at midnight PST on 1/30/2020, Picard fever is rising.

If you can’t get enough of Star Trek: Picard, then CBS has you covered with a weekly recap show freely available on YouTube and elsewhere that covers in depth details on each episode.

And who is hosting but another STNG cast member: Wesley Crusher!

As Wil Wheaton says in the opening, after affectionately calling us all “nerds!”, this is heavy SPOILER stuff, so best watch the episodes first before getting to the recap. In that vein, let me clarify that this post also contains SPOILERS for episode 1 “Remembrance” too, so might want to go watch it first before continuing.

The Ready Room drops at 7am PST (GMT-8) every Thursday, you can subscribe to the YouTube channel for free

I kept checking to see when The Ready Room would appear on CBS All Access through Amazon Prime and it still isn’t there three days later! Not sure why content is delayed being uploaded to Amazon Prime Video channels, but sometimes it is. Have noticed this happening with Shudder when I first (mistakenly) signed up through Amazon Prime.

You can sign up for CBS All Access directly through CBS, which might be a better way. At any rate, you can still get the recap show titled The Ready Room at 7am PST (GMT-8) on YouTube through the channel without any paid subscription.

What’s happening at the Daystrom Institute, you ask? Watch Picard S1:E1 to find out!

The actual new episode of Picard drops early in the morning. As I indicated in my review of episode #1, it was available at 3:30am PST. I heard from the Nerdrotic podcast that it was available before midnight. Maybe for episode #2 I’ll be able to be up at midnight to check it out.

The first episode of The Ready Room has some deep behind the scenes material for the show. It is 23 additional minutes and Wheaton does a good job hosting. He has the executive producer Michael Chabon & director Hanelle Culpepper for a brief interview. It’s good stuff, watch it.

I’m not going to formally review the recap show each week, but probably will be adding links to this show to the episode review posts for additional behind the scenes content that fans can check out. Was an easy YouTube subscription for me. I wish more shows would use social media with bonus content like this for their shows.

Maybe more will. Good move.

TV SERIES Review – Star Trek: Picard S1E1 – Remembrance⭐️⭐️⭐️½

Star Trek: Picard Season 1 Episode 1 – Remembrance is now available on CBS All Access

The waiting is over and Star Trek: Picard Season 1 Episode 1Remembrance is now available for streaming on CBS All Access. I woke up at 3:30am PST (GMT-8) and it was waiting. I dug right in not knowing what to expect and came away pleasantly surprised with the 46 minutes presented. The following is my (relatively) non-spoiler review.

(Sidenote disclaimer: For those new to my reviews, I usually setup the first part of the story and tease what happens afterwards and encourage readers to watch the episode to find out how everything resolves. I give away enough of the story to comment on whether or not I liked, but try to avoid spoilers. No endings or major plot points are revealed, unless they are spoiled within the first few minutes of the episode. Unfortunately, some episodes of some TV shows do that sometimes)

Season 1
Episode 1 – Remembrance

In the opening cinematic scene set in space there are stars and then … the Enterprise!

Star Trek: Picard S1E1 opens with a scene aboard the Enterprise

Zoom in a window inside the Enterprise and two very old and dear friends are playing poker. Or so it seems … as Star Trek movie fans will quickly remember and realize that Data sacrificed himself in Star Trek: Nemesis (2002), but before doing that he downloaded a copy of his positronic brain, his essence. So, there is already both wonder, surprise and perhaps suspicion about the origins of this opening scene. When is it happening?

Data in Starfleet uniform and Picard in plain clothes playing poker on the Enterprise

“I don’t want the game to end,” Picard tells Data.

This reminded me immediately how several episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation (STNG) begin with the crew playing poker. It’s a clever storytelling technique of weaving in elements of something that will appear later in the episode with one or more of the principal characters.

Picard goes “all in” on his final hand with his friend, Data.

In this scene, it is an older Picard, not in Starfleet uniform, while Data is in a uniform that is similar to the era of Nemesis. Picard notices Data has a tell in his hand. In poker parlance, this is a way of revealing the strength of the hand. It’s how competing players can determine if another player is bluffing or not. Data, despite his machine brilliance could not bluff his captain and lifelong friend. This sets up the story, foreshadowing that Data has something in his hand.

And then Picard realizes that this scene isn’t right, “Strange, I didn’t know we were on the course to Mars…” and he wakes up and viewers realize it is all a dream.

Present day at the Chateau Picard in France with his dog, Number One, a Pitbull Terrier. He seems perplexed to be returned to present day surroundings. Or maybe it’s just wishing he was young (younger!) again, back with his friends, his crew, his legacy aboard the Enterprise.

Cut to a scene involving new characters in the series: a young woman named Daj with her boyfriend. She’s telling him that she just got accepted into a prestigious institute for robotics. Enter an action scene with several men in black who attack, kill her boyfriend and seem horrified to learn that Daj is “activating!” Now she goes into Terminator mode and takes out the black-clad intruders.

Enter the Picard title sequence which is gorgeous, by the way. It shows pictures of a Borg cube, life in an embryonic state, space, a planet splitting and then we see the image of …

A very different Star Trek title sequence for Picard than other series

I liked the title sequence which seems to humanize Picard, rather than show just another bunch of spaceships in battle and aliens with humans.

That would be the traditional Star Trek title sequence and this one is less grandiose. Picard’s face morps into a pure white background and the burned in title.

The plain, yet effective title sequence for Star Trek: Picard

After the title sequence, we’re back to Chateau Picard (like that name). The retired Admiral Picard has a caretaker couple that lives with and watches over him. Picard has agreed to his very first interview in many years about the current state of times on Earth and the Supernova. There is an implicit agreement not to ask Picard why he quite Starfleet, which of course the interviewer almost immediately violates.

This is an information dump to bring us current to what happened with the Romulans and the ban on synthetic life forms. Picard believes it was a huge mistake. He doesn’t buy that the synthetics going rogue were the fault of the synthetics. He is also very angry about how the Federation behaved with stranding innocent people — despite them being Romulans — and angrily resigned in protest. There are some more details, in particular involving a supernova, but after watching the episode you’ll understand. It’s not that complex a setup, really.

That brings us current to understanding where Picard is at as he walks off from the interview. Good, old Picard, showing his discipline to his beliefs and human decency. If only there were more great human beings in leadership like him.

Daj, the terminator synthetic, now surprises Picard with a visit at his chateau and explains that she feels he can help her. She doesn’t know why she was attacked or what these surprising terminator-type powers she has are? Picard finds her ability to track him a surprise and believes she might, in fact, have a deeper secret to her true origins.

The episode then primarily becomes about Picard tracking down the origins of Daj and her secret and his own deductive logic on the past, which I won’t spoil.

This is all the story I’m going to get into. If you’re curiosity is piqued, you should watch the episode to learn what happens with Daj, with Picard and how the opening sequence is relevant to the remainder of the episode.

My Review

A very bold move going for the “it was all just a dream” opening. This is one of the oldest cliches in storytelling. And yet it teases that Picard’s dream really wasn’t a dream (or was it?). Maybe it’s a memory, not completely fantasy. We don’t really know at this point.

There is also the whole business with the painting. You have to watch the episode to learn more about what this means, because that would be spoiler territory, but I think this is one of the stronger parts of the episode. Yes, it was a plot device, but it worked.

Overall, I thought the episode was well done for a pilot and first episode, but has only a subtle Star Trek feel to it. I think that’s going to be the main criticism from others. That it is more like an investigation TV series with a retired Star Trek captain longing to solve a mystery.

I guess that’s what we signed up for. It is more mystery/suspense than action-oriented, based on the first episode. The only action was involving Daj and one scene where Picard and her are on the run, Picard gets heavily winded. He can’t be running and gunning at almost 80 years old.

The first episode sets up where everything appears to be going in future episodes. Picard is going to find out how and why the synthetics went rogue. It’s almost like a Sherlock Holmes mystery in the holodeck and we all know from Picard’s character that he loves a good mystery. Can this fairly basic premise — what happened to the synthetics? — sustain 19 more episodes? That remains to be seen.

Nothing says intrigue quite like a Romulan Reclamation Site

There is a teaser preview at the end of this episode which shows Picard as part of a newly assembled crew aboard a new spaceship saying, “Engage.” From this we can surmise that he is going to get out into the galaxy and mix it up with some aliens and other planets in his quest to solve the synthetics mystery. My guess is that his new crew — of which he’s more passenger and dignitary — with the younger actors/actresses providing the action sequences. Picard will be the one everybody is protecting from danger because he is the one who can unlock and solve the great mystery. Perhaps it’s a bit pretentious, but it does kind of fit the character and background.

I’m going to stick this one out for at least the first season. I think there might be enough to hold my interest based on this episode, but do have concerns.

What would I like to see happen from here?

Go on some freaking adventures. Find out what the Gorn are up to! Yeah, I know that might deviate from the whole “what happened to the synthetics” goal but perhaps other species, including the Borg, can help solve the mystery.

I’d like to see that is where the series goes and leaves earth for the most part. Leaves Picard’s happy, but boring Chateau with the caretakers and Number One dog at his side. I’m not sure we’ll be so lucky, but the adventure isn’t on earth, it’s out there in the great unknown. That is the Star Trek I look forward to watching. Will I get to see it on this series

My Rating

This is tricky. If I’m rating this as a Star Trek episode, it’s kinda thin and leaving me a bit hungry for more. It feels only loosely like the Star Trek I’m most familiar with. This isn’t like The Mandalorian where I was blown away by how it felt like what I loved about Star Wars.

This is a different, more pensive and investigative TV show. Do I like it? Yes, but it doesn’t feel very much like Star Trek. The only real spark of action involved Daj, and that was like two minutes of the 46 runtime. Could future episodes be more action-oriented? Yes. The preview promises that it will be at least a little less cerebral. I might be OK with a thinking/mystery show, if it is well written, directed and acted like this first episode, but it’s definitely a very different type of show than any other Star Trek seen to date.

Guess I’m saying after one episode, it’s still too early to tell if this will become a Star Trek series. It kind of fails to fully capture the Trek DNA in the opening episode, however the episode is interesting and has some good plot twists.

There are a couple Star Trek Next Generation episodes that are worth revisiting that do seem very related to this series:

  • S2:E9 – “The Measure of a Man” – Bruce Maddox is introduced. How he is interested in preserving Data’s technology, but questions Data’s rights as a sentient being.
  • S3:E16 – “The Offspring” – Data creates Lal, his daughter. Noteworthy because it was Jonathan Frake’s directorial debut and considered to be one of the best STNG episodes.

In closing, this is more like an STNG episode that seemed to spend a significant amount of time on Data than STOS where Kirk, Spock and McCoy were the primary dynamic. If you liked Data-centric Star Trek stories, you’ll be more likely to enjoy Picard. Again, I just wonder if there will be enough to explore here or if the first few episodes will be all this series has in the tank. We’ll find out every Thursday for the next two months or so.

Overall episode rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️½

To "engage" or not with Star Trek: Picard

As a more-than-cursory, but not dedicated, Star Trek fan, I’ve been debating whether or not to sign up for CBS All Access so I can view the newest Trek series: Star Trek: Picard which debuts on Thursday 1/23/2022. That’s tomorrow from this being posted.

ViacomCBS doesn’t have the same content arsenal of its bigger rivals—and isn’t churning out as many originals for its platform. But ViacomCBS Chief Digital Officer Marc DeBevoise said people are underestimating the company: All Access will have a new original every month, he said, and tentpole shows such as “Picard” every quarter.

CBS Bets Big on ‘Star Trek: Picard’ to Boost Streaming Business – WSJ

ViamcomCBS is betting on seducing us to join and stay engaged by their Trek content.

They will get at least a one month membership from me, and I’ll watch at least the pilot episode of Picard. Beyond that, it’s going to have to be more engaging than Discovery, their last Trek streaming series effort. I tried multiple times to get excited watching that show, but it didn’t really stick the landing for me.

Honestly, I haven’t been that excited watching any Trek TV series since STNG. I sort of enjoyed DS9 for awhile, never could get past an episode or three of Voyager or Enterprise. In fairness, I never gave either of those much of a chance. May try again, presumably if Picard draws me fully back into the ST universe, because I know there are many fans.

The graph in the linked Wall Street Journal article that shows audience interest in each series is an accurate graph for representing my own interest in the various series to date. STOS #1, STNG#2 … and then tapering off from there.

STNG? Oh yes, of course I’m a fan of that and of course STOS (William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, oh yes!).

So, what’s the story with Star Trek: Picard? My concern going in is that Patrick Stewart, playing the titular role is 79 years old. He looks very 80-ish, too, in Charlie’s Angels. He was already not that mobile in STNG and that was over 20 years ago, and now he’s going to be chilling with his dog named Number One?

Number One is a Pit Bull Terrier. I learned that from this interview.

Patrick Stewart was “intrigued” by concept for Star Trek: Picard.

There’s got to be more to this than an old guy — and I don’t mean that disparagingly, as I’m getting the 50+ discount at some restaurants — doing something other than looking back on what was with the occasional visit from a fellow STNG character.

“It’s different … and it’s not all good.” — Patrick Stewart on the new Picard TV show

Will a venerable Captain Picard be inspiring or bitter? “The dreams are lovely. It’s the waking up that I’m beginning to resent.”

The trailer is promising. Can we stay with Picard for 20 episodes x 40+ minutes (assuming that will be the average length) = 800 minutes = 13.33 hours. Almost a half day to see all 20 episodes. The original STNG ran for 7 seasons

My favorite part of Star Trek universe has been roaming the galaxy, encountering strange alien species (Gorn!) and how the crew deals with the encounter. Not sure much, if any, of that will be happening on this new Picard series. That is just one of several concerns.

Star Trek: Picard on CBS All Access starts streaming on Thursdays beginning 1/23/2020

The other is using the series as some sort of preach to the viewers about current events and politics in particular. Star Trek has always told some morality tales, so I’m not adverse to those, but it’s never been very political. I’ll likely tune out very quickly if this series goes too far down that path. Tell good stories first and foremost, is my rule, then you can have a secondary “message.” Do not preach to me.

I’m seeing news that Riker, Troi and Data will at least be making cameo appearances. Will Wheaton who played Wesley Crusher is going to be hosting an after show. Stewart has said that he hopes at least all of the main STNG crew will appear at least once before the series wraps.

The first season of 10 episodes starts tomorrow and season two has already been greenlit. I like that new episodes will be released every Thursday, at least at the start. Fridays are becoming increasingly crowded, so any other release day is appreciated.

To Engage or … Not?

Will I engage with this new series? Can’t say yet. Need to watch the first episode and gauge interest from there. If that goes beyond piquing my curiosity, I may commit to reviewing the first season as done with The Mandalorian and am currently doing with Harley Quinn (new episodes every Friday at 6am PST).

What about you? How eager are you about watching? Will you engage?