Don’t watch ‘Star Trek: Picard’ season three, it’ll solely encourage them

The next article accommodates spoilers for earlier Star Trek properties however doesn’t reveal particular spoilers about Star Trek: Picard season three, not that you need to be watching it anyway.

It’s 2034 and Warner Bros. decides it must wring additional cash out of Pals, the last decade defining cultural juggernaut and sitcom behemoth. Think about what that present can be like; A heat and comfy three-decades-later check-in on characters you recognize intimately nicely. In any case, you most likely spent your childhood watching them mature from younger single New Yorkers to a sequence of households. Perhaps it’ll tickle these nostalgia glands, reminding you of once you watched the present with your personal household as a child.

Sadly, the hotshot creator of the age determined they need to go in a distinct course this time. This must be a darkish and gritty miserycore grief orgy that higher displays our extra rough-and-tumble occasions. In any case, TV today can’t be light or comforting, provide escapism or posit a greater world, not since Trump, Brexit, Bolonosaro, January sixth and Ukraine. The inventive staff have gotten that quote on a poster of their workplace, the one about the triumph of evil, and so they’re not going to sit down idly by, they’re taking a stand.

Within the sequel, Rachel’s well-known for her wellness TikTok that always makes allusions to “reclaiming” the US as a white ethnostate. Joey misplaced an arm whereas filming a film and is now in jail after a failed heist to repay his life-ruining medical debt. Monica’s acquired a crippling adderall habit and slips away most nights to homicide the neighborhood cats and canines. Every part’s shot in extremely gloomy imaginative and prescient, and there’s no chuckle monitor, jokes or a studio viewers, simply unrelenting distress.

This revival is dense with references to the Pals backstory in addition to the broader Pals universe. Keep in mind that Lisa Kudrow performed Phoebe’s twin sister Ursula on Mad About You, proper? If not, you higher get your self to Wikipedia to review up. I imply, it gained’t be related to the plot, but it surely’s one thing you bear in mind, so clap, go on, clap.

You is likely to be questioning why such a venture can be allowed to occur, on condition that it wouldn’t be enjoyable for followers of the unique sequence. Instances change, characters age, however you may’t flip a comfortable sitcom into Breaking Unhealthy in a single day and anticipate that to be satisfying. You’d hardly assume it’d be an enormous pull for amateur viewers both, who’d most likely steer clear in the event that they weren’t already accustomed to 236 episodes of intricate backstory. Nostalgia revivals don’t have to be slavish to their supply materials, but it surely’s laborious to see the attraction for one thing so grim and unsightly.

Apropos of nothing, let’s speak concerning the third and ultimate season of Star Trek: Picard.

Trae Patton / Paramount+

Season three was offered as one thing of a course correction for Picard after its first two deeply unpopular runs. It ditched all however Raffi from the roster of unique characters created for it, and as an alternative pulled within the stars from Star Trek: The Next Generation. In addition to the returning Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis and Brent Spiner, we’ll see LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden and Michael Dorn again in motion. And, within the six of ten episodes I’ve been permitted to observe beneath strict embargo, I’d say solely one among them feels just like the character we all know and love.

Sadly, whereas now we have the opposite TNG stars, the inventive staff of Government Producer Alex Kurtzman and showrunner Terry Matalas didn’t hassle to seize any of that present’s lightness of tone. Picard stays a grimdark slog, shot on perpetually underlit units and that includes a succession of increasingly-bleak setpieces. The plot is stretched so skinny that the primary 4 episodes change into little greater than an prolonged prologue for the remainder. A prologue that might, I ought to add, have been an environment friendly, and presumably extra satisfying, hour. The story is so apparent, too, that you just’ll be forward of the characters just about continuous as they stumble from one fool plot to the subsequent.

It’s maddening that we are able to see how a lot of the plot is obstructing itself to make sure issues can’t transfer ahead too rapidly. There’s a complete episode of gosh-isn’t-this-tense pressure that might have been eradicated if anybody in Starfleet pulled out a tricorder and used it as God meant. On this utopian future, the place science and know-how actually are superior sufficient to seem like magic, why does no one make use of the instruments hanging from their waistband? Principally as a result of Paramount ordered ten episodes, and ten episodes is what we’re going to present them. One other episode has a time-filling punch battle runaround as a result of it’s now one way or the other inconceivable for a serving officer to make use of a Federation ship’s intercom system to name the bridge and warn them of impending hazard.

Picard is a kind of sequence the place you usually end up shouting on the display as the subsequent silly second unfolds in entrance of you. Even worse is that the present’s inventive staff appear to assume that it’s us, the viewers, who’re poor within the pondering division. There’s scene after scene by which characters repeat the identical strains again to one another as a result of the crew assume we’re not paying consideration. Due to the bounds on spoilers, I’ve re-written a scene to match the sentiment, if not the phrases verbatim, so you may get a way of what to anticipate:

CREW 1: The ship is being pulled nearer to the black gap’s gravity nicely.

CREW 2: We would not have sufficient energy to drag ourselves away, sir.

RIKER: Are you saying that we’re useless within the water?

CREW 1: We might be passing the black gap’s occasion horizon in 17 minutes.

RIKER: We’re useless within the water and we’re sinking.

PICARD: We’re going to be useless in 17 minutes, Will, except we are able to discover a method to resolve this.

RIKER: We’re sinking into quicksand, and there’s no time to seize a serving to hand.

The irony is that this run is so thicket-dense with references that the present principally assumes that you just’ve already seen just about every little thing produced throughout Trek’s gold, silver and bronze ages. However, to ensure no one’s left behind, everybody has to talk in exposition so hamfisted that, now that that is over, I believe Michelle Hurd deserves private damage compensation. Raffi will get saddled with so many cringe-inducing strains the place she states, and restates and re-restates the plain that I began greedy fistfuls of my very own hair to alleviate a few of my discomfort.

And as for the storyline, what can I say? It’s clear that Alex Kurtzman is simply comfy writing in a single register. His go-to is normally a militaristic, testosterone-fuelled paranoid Reaganite fantasy by which the actual villain was our personal authorities all alongside. He did it in Into Darkness, Discovery season two and even the primary season of Picard – to the purpose the place Starfleet is now so awful with double brokers that every one of their schemes fail as a result of the saboteurs are all too busy sabotaging one another’s plans as an alternative of that of the broader Federation.

If Picard is nothing else, it’s almost pornographic in its use and misuse of franchise iconography. I at all times felt that Jeff Russo’s Picard theme sounded extra just like the library music for a company advert than the makes-your-heart-soar theme a Star Trek deserves. And right here, it’s been ditched in favor of Jerry Goldsmith’s luxurious, nectar-for-the-ears rating for First Contact. The primary title card is a direct pull from Wrath of Khan, and just about each factor therein is an elbow to the ribs, reminding you of older, higher Star Trek films and TV sequence.

An early scene has a personality “hijacking a starship” beneath false pretenses whereas it’s in spacedock. You realize, the mushroom-shaped megastation orbiting Earth from The Seek for Spock onwards. And since we’re already going beat-for-beat for a sequence xeroxed from 1984, mentioned starship even jumps to warp as quickly because it’s previous the exit doorways. Even though the form of hardcore Trek followers who would spot the reference would additionally observe that you just’re not meant to leap to warp whereas inside a photo voltaic system when there’s no pressing want to take action.

I’ll admit, that is postgraduate degree-level Star Trek nerdery, however you may’t have it each methods: If you happen to’re attempting to placate hostile viewers with the extreme fan service, you may’t then complain once they level out that you just’re doing all of it flawed.

The present’s teaser trailer already revealed we’re getting an overstuffed roster of villains to spherical out the run. Amanda Plummer’s captain of an enemy ship that shares a design with the Narada from Star Trek ‘09. Then there’s Daniel Davis’ holographic Professor Moriarty, in addition to Knowledge’s evil twin brother Lore. Each of those sorta make sense within the context, however there’s a hell of a number of narrative scaffolding to elucidate away the truth that Brent Spiner is now 74 years previous. (The dude seems to be good for it, but it surely’s laborious to play an ageless android when time marches on and the de-aging CGI funds is spent on smoothing out Patrick Stewart’s face for a single flashback and the pointless needle-drops that open each episode.)

Now, earlier than you scurry off to Reminiscence Alpha to substantiate that Moriarty was locked away in a holobox on the finish of “Ship in a Bottle,” and Lore was disassembled on the finish of “Descent Half 2,” sure, they had been. Attempt to keep in mind that showrunner Terry Matalas and government producer Alex Kurtzman deal with Star Trek’s continuity much less as one thing which informs storytelling and more as a series of shiny objects to keep us all amused when the plot sags or anybody has any time to consider what’s happening.

I’ll additionally add that the trailers and promotional materials have very deliberately stored a number of materials again. There are extra classic-era heroes and villains crowbarring their manner into the story in the best way that, if it had been fanfiction, would appear extreme. However, if I’m trustworthy, the second or third time somebody, or one thing, acquainted popped up, I wasn’t whooping and cheering, I used to be sighing. The Star Trek universe is huge and broad and deep, however Picard makes it really feel like a puddle the place everybody is aware of one another, and everybody beneath the age of 30 has grown up watching The Subsequent Era. If you happen to’re serving within the US Navy, as an example, how seemingly is it that you just’d know the ins and outs of each exploit of even essentially the most well-traveled fight vessel?

Now, I don’t have the language or expertise to debate this correctly, and I’m conscious of others who do feel differently. That is simply my opinion, however I believe the depiction of drug and alcohol use in Picard has at all times felt off. And since I can’t speak concerning the third season, I’ll speak concerning the first, the place one thing very related occurred and is simply as vexing right here because it was again then. Raffi offers along with her son’s rejection by relapsing, however then mere hours later, she’s again at her station and advancing the plot. I don’t recall a way that her use clouded her judgment and I don’t assume it was mentioned subsequently – so regardless of the portentiousness within the build-up, it was depicted nearly like somebody simply having a nasty day and knocking again some drinks. I’m not saying that’s a nasty factor, as a result of there are many individuals who use medication and it doesn’t influence their skilled lives in any respect. (Learn any Making-Of e-book about The Unique Sequence and you may discover how various references to the manufacturing staff’s drug use.) However in case you’re going to put in writing a plot the place scenes dangle on the will-she-or-won’t-she pressure of relapse, but it surely all seems to be hunky dory straight after, what was the purpose of depicting any of this within the first place?

Then there’s the violence, and the informal manner that it’s doled out, particularly within the present’s quite a few interrogation scenes. I’m not advocating for compelled confessions, however given Starfleet’s superior science, and the Federation has a planet of literal telepaths at its disposal, why are we at all times punching folks within the nostril with a butt of a phaser pistol? I imply, I do know why: It’s a nerdy sci-fi present play performing as a muscular basic-cable drama, however that doesn’t imply it really works. I’ve usually theorized that many modern-day Star Trek creators would a lot fairly be over the corridor making their very own Star Struggle as an alternative. Perhaps I’m flawed, and the Picard crew is absolutely nostalgic for the hamfisted Bush-era politics of 24.

Image of Amanda Plummer and some aliens in a dark corridor in an unnamed location during 'Star Trek: Picard's third season

Trae Patton / Paramount+

It was at all times going to be laborious to drag Picard out of its inventive hunch that began again when the present was greenlit. If there was ever a personality who we’d seen develop, change, mature and deal with his personal life with extra kindness, it was Jean-Luc Picard. A few of TNG’s greatest episodes compelled Picard to contemplate his personal life, his historical past, his mortality, his motives, together with the sequence’ grand finale. “All Good Issues” isn’t simply good Star Trek, it’s among the finest sequence finales ever made, encompassing all the breadth and depth of The Subsequent Era in a single wonderful sweep. And between seven years of TV and 4 much less important however nonetheless necessary films, he was carried out.

I wrote someplace, I overlook the place, {that a} smarter concept would have been to heart the motion on a less-well served member of the Enterprise D crew. I’d have been second in line to observe a Geordi LaForge spin-off (behind uber fan Rihanna, after all), and there’s lots to discover there. Or a Beverley Crusher spin-off, as she solves folks’s issues as a easy nation area physician again on Earth or on some far-flung planet. Perhaps a sci-fi model of In Remedy fronted by Marina Sirtis may have labored, and would have definitely value lower than this.

All of which might be preferable to what we acquired, which regardless of initially having a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist on the helm, was two years of go-nowhere, do-nothing bore-a-thons. Its temporary moments of cleverness drowned out by the baffling character choices, tin-eared dialog and ligneous performing. And each had plots which might have struggled to fill a film stretched out throughout a painfully gradual ten hour runtime.

And that’s earlier than we get to the moralizing, which had characters pointing at a nasty factor and saying “factor dangerous.” I don’t assume the second season’s 26 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes is as a result of the (inexplicably) conservative wing of Trek fandom was outraged {that a} present about joyful area communists fixing issues whereas remaining buddies all of the sudden “acquired woke.” Good, old school Star Trek no less than had the great grace to cloak its progressivism in allegory that might slide previous the in any other case closed minds of a few of its viewers. By comparability, Picard felt like the primary draft of a highschool theater manufacturing made the time period after the instructor had defined agitprop.

Perhaps that’s why I really feel so irritated by Picard, as a result of the entire issues which can be flawed with the present, and its kin, are examples of amateurishness. Amateurish plotting, amateurish dialogue, an absence of thoughtfulness concerning the materials, what it says, or what it’s doing. Simply an limitless parade of massive, dumb, brash, po-faced melodrama used instead of some form of maturity or integrity. I don’t anticipate Star Trek to be good all of the rattling time, however I do anticipate a minimal normal of one thing to be upheld. And this falls up to now under it, it’s laborious to name it Star Trek. Some folks will name that gatekeeping, however Star Trek may be something it rattling nicely needs to be, as long as it is competently made and midway entertaining. 

The fixed callbacks acquired me enthusiastic about the interval when Nicholas Meyer was, immediately or not directly, the foremost inventive pressure behind Star Trek. It’s been 32 years since his 1991 swansong, The Undiscovered Nation, and it stays a high-water mark of cinematic Trek. Drawing to a detailed the story of The Unique Sequence crew, Meyer didn’t go for nostalgia, however savaged his characters, exposing their flaws, their bigotries, their failings. There was redemption, and coronary heart, and it by no means wanted Meyer to stage limitless close-quarters phaser-fu fights in unlight rooms.

However that was a filmmaker with a transparent imaginative and prescient, and the great graces to essentially drag his characters within the grime earlier than washing them clear. Think about what would occur if Picard encountered any of the identical degree of subtext – they’d most likely spend an hour working from it earlier than beating it over the pinnacle with the butt of a phaser rifle after which spend the subsequent hour feeling glum about it. If nothing else, I’d say don’t even watch Picard for ironic kicks, lest Paramount assume it’s one way or the other a runaway hit and proceed to provide crap like this.

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