By Dave B.
In Star Trek: Picard (CBS All-Access) the venerable Captain Jean-Luc Picard finds his forced retirement brutally interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious young woman who has a connection to one of Picard’s closest friends. She’s being hunted by a covert Romulan agency that has infiltrated the highest reaches of Starfleet. Picard takes it upon himself to fulfill a sense of obligation to his old friend and go a mission to protect the young woman’s sister, while uncovering the nature and scope of a genocidal conspiracy that could have dire consequences for all life in the galaxy.
I’d describe Picard as a redemption/mortality tale with large dollops of nostalgia for long-time fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s overarching story is fine. Picard’s journey to make up for past mistakes while nearing the end of his life is certainly relatable, and I find the scale of the threats that he and his makeshift crew face to be sufficiently dire to be interesting, without being so large as to be implausibly insurmountable. Visually, the show excels. It’s clear that a lot of time and effort went into making the show as optically appealing and technologically impressive as possible within the confines of Star Trek’s preexisting universe. And for the most part, the performances range from acceptable to quite good. I’ll give a special shoutout to Jeri Ryan as Seven. Her performance is inspired.
But Picard suffers from three problems, all related to writing. For starters, the show’s dark tone is somewhat off-putting, at least in the context of such and iconic and respected character as Jean-Luc Picard. While the tone is similar to that found in Star Trek Discovery: Season One and Season Two, it often feels less appropriate given that the direct roots of Picard are in a show that was based on the spirit of exploration and wonder. Exploration and wonder have very little place in Picard. Next, Picard’s writers frequently put people in situations (minor and major) that they wouldn’t reasonably be expected to be in. That’s a major pet peeve of mine. For example, our heroes sitting around a campfire in the finale with their mortal enemy clearly serves no purpose beyond an attempt to convey atmosphere to viewers. Things like that are amateurish and directly contribute to my third complaint, namely that the show struggles throughout the season to maintain a tight narrative and plot pacing. I understand that Picard is more of a contemplative show than an action one, and generally, I appreciate that. But it often gets bogged down in dialogue that, instead of compellingly furthering character development, often feels like philosophical navel-gazing. Picard needs to show more, directly say less, and have some confidence that it’s audience is intelligent enough to put various pieces together for itself.
Picard isn’t a bad show. But it’s burdened by its attempts to bring back a fan-favorite character, while introducing the world of Star Trek to a new audience. With the exception of the final episode, the show often feels like it isn’t exactly sure what it wants to be and doesn’t understand its target audience as well as it should. I definitely recommend Picard for those who have any interest in the Star Trek universe. But, I image that, while many fans will appreciate being reintroduced to that universe and seeing how it has developed, the show’s dark tone and its occasionally meandering plot may leave some viewers with a vague (but real and justified) sense of disappointment. Here’s hoping that the second season is an improvement. Live long and prosper, my friends.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.