Monday, February 17, 2020

Picard, Season 1: Absolute Candor, Season 1
"Absolute Candor"
Airdate: February 13, 2020
4 of 10 produced
4 of 10 aired


Picard postpones his desperate mission for yet another interlude, this time on a Romulan colony planet, where he tries to convince a male Romulan Warrior Nun to join his quest.

I never liked children, you know. Except for psychotically violent ones. So you're OK, kid.


Kevin: OK, people...are we done now? Are we ready? Can we go? We have a cleric, a bard, a barbarian, a paladin, a wizard, a rogue, and an elf. Are we ready to go? I honestly think that with fewer chefs in the kitchen, we could have distilled the first four episodes down to a two hour premier that assembled the squad and outlined the story a little more efficiently.

Matthew: Ye gods, yes. It's getting to the point that it is detracting from the sense of narrative drive. How imperative is this mission to (maybe) save the android who may be alive (or not) in a place they know not where? Picard keeps telling us how important it is to him, and yet here we are, 4 episodes later, not even having begun. Frankly, the whole structure of the A plot is kind of silly. But then, at least I have been told why I should give a rat's ass. Is the addition of Seven of Nine finally going to get them to Android Number Two and Gobs of Untold Story Excitement? Who knows. What I do know is that the show is nearly half done and it hasn't even started yet.

Kevin: That complaint aside, I enjoyed the Vashti side of it. We've been questioning why Picard withdrew so completely and in a way that felt slightly out of character, especially with Rafi. He's apparently done it again with the Romulans on Vashti, but at least they are acknowledging that Picard is doing it and he was wrong to do so. I do hope they will tie it up narratively and connect the person he was at the end of TNG films and now. But whatever my lingering questions about the story, at least the bulk of this story was characters talking to each other in complete sentences about their feelings.

Matthew: Speaking of "out of character," I found Picard's time in this place to be out of character, both in flashback and in the present day scenes. I cannot imagine him being so ingratiating and paternal to the Romulan kid, or any kid for that matter. I also cannot imagine him being so confrontational when it comes to the isolationism of the Romulans. Which made his flipping out when the Romulan got decapitated difficult to take. Now, to be sure, I was upset by the violence, because it's so out of keeping with the Star Trek I know and love. But Picard instigated the situation, with a group of people he knew to be (perhaps justifiably) hostile, adjacent to a sect of Warrior Death Nuns, immediately after supplicating one of them to "bind his sword to their cause." What did he think was going to happen? The Picard of TNG would have chilled the hell out and let people live out their racism and isolationism, and done his work on the margins with a minimum of confrontation.

Kevin: The Borg stuff has worn really, really thin. I'm hoping that Seven showing up means this story can finally go somewhere. Narek and Soji sliding around in their socks was just nowhere near as interesting as the music cues thinks it is, and they appear to have doubled (octupled, if we're counting) down on the weird incest angle.

Matthew: This is my limit. I am at my limit with this drip-drip bullcrap. I'm DONE. It should not take five episodes to deliver ten minutes worth of story. As Narek was going on and on with "what happened on the Shaenor" and why Blizzflitz did the Thing with the Vlimaplizzle, I could not help yelling at the screen: Why should I care? I just don't. I don't care about any of this, because they have not given us enough information to find the situation interesting in its own right, nor have they connected it to the A story that has received slightly more development and is peopled by characters we have heard of. As such, the sock sliding scene, which as you say simply did not work, was even more interminable because of my utter disconnection from the characters and the setting. Am I supposed to be rooting for their relationship? Am I supposed to be worried for Dajh, or whatever the hell her name is? They can't seem to decide on a tone. Is this a Meet Cute or a Fatal Attraction? DECIDE, THEN TELL US. So many of the interesting questions about her character are being ignored, and we are being saddled with such apparent irrelevancy. Look. It's clear from the music and the looming camera moves that the Borg cube is being built up as the Big Bad Thing That Will Destroy The Federation/Galaxy/Universe. It's basically the Death Star. Fine. But It's not clever to withhold every single piece of information that would establish this until one minute before it goes on a rampage. It's just bad storytelling. You can't build tension by arbitrarily withholding information. You can only build tension by providing it.


Kevin: The final final addition has now been made in Elnor. I liked the actor playing the child version quite a bit. As an adult, he's more of a cipher. Not as bad as Rios, but he hasn't gotten a lot to do beyond not articulate his feelings clearly, so I'm reserving judgment. I'm going to say that for only having one line, I did like Jeri Ryan's splash as Seven at the end. I may be packing a lot into a single line, but I got a strong sense of it being consciously the Seven we knew but with the passage of time. I may be reading a lot into it, but I got the sense that Ryan has a clear sense of where her character is right now and that makes me happy.

Matthew: Given how finely rendered Seven of Nine was in her four seasons of television, I completely trust Jeri Ryan to have a take on her character's inner life. Whether the writers do is entirely another matter.

Kevin: I spent the whole first scene with Zani trying to figure out where I knew her from, and Amirah Vann plays Teegan on "How to Get Away with Murder" and I love her in that show, and I really liked her here too. She definitely felt like she lived in the world and handled some of the more out there exposition pretty well. She kind of gave me a vibe that while not the same as, shares a common ancestor with T'Pau and Vulcan matriarchs and I was into it.

Matthew: Yeah, she almost made me forget what a pointless retcon this sect of Warrior Death Nuns is. If you give me actual scenes of good actors delivering dialogue within the confines of a coherent story, I can forgive a lot.

Production Values

Kevin: I'll say this, they aren't skimping on set design and location shoots. We are a long way from an oval of gravel and six rocks. The Vashti sets were big and varied, and sure everything leaned a little hard into "old west town on the edge of Rivendell," but I can't deny it was fully realized. I'm also going thank Frakes for directing without the need for every shot to be a Dutch angle.

Matthew: The episode certainly looked rich. The problem is that I don't care about the story, so all the pretty sets and beautiful locations in the world aren't going to entertain me despite myself. Lots of TV looks great these days.It doesn't impress me any more.

Kevin: I liked the old Bird of Prey. It slightly strains credulity but not too bad. Excelsior class ships were still in active service almost a century later, so I could see a TOS-era warbird making its way into the black market. And again, with Frakes lighter hand at the the till, the battle sequence was actually comprehensible, and it was neat to see that ship move in a way it never could in TOS.

Matthew: The Bird of Prey is cool, and it worked for me. Cutting the nacelle pylon off? Not as much for nit picky reasons, but it still was well done. All of the space effects were executed at a high level.


Kevin: I think this is solidly a 3, more solidly than last week. The character work in and of itself is good and about 60% of this episode was nice and engaging. Add to that the sense that we can finally start telling a story next week, I'm looking forward to next week.

Matthew: When I saw the story credit at the beginning of this episode, I was hopeful. Finally, just one writer, and a good one at that. By the end of the show I was disappointed. I don't think he can pretty up this pig. I cannot go with a 3 because a good 50% of this episode simply doesn't work, and leaves me bored or annoyed or both. Add to that the interlude of pointless, gratuitous violence in the "good" half, and I'm at a 2. That makes a total of 5.


  1. Is it possible that Picard's more fatherly attitude could be intentional character development? He did have a family in The Inner Light, and in Bloodlines he had to connect with a not-son (the delinquent, rock-climbing fellow).

    1. It's certainly possible, but then, why did he abandon the kid for nearly two decades?

      I don't think the ideas are coherent with each other. As such, I'm going to call it bad writing.

  2. One of my favorite parts of Umberto Eco's essay on "Ur-Fascism" was how he related childhood memories of the time immediately after the fall of Mussolini in Italy, where he was sent out by his mother to buy "the newspaper," but was suddenly faced with the fact that there were now several newspapers all put out by various, previously suppressed, political groups (e.g., socialists, communists, christian democrats, liberals, etc.). He reflects on how he came to the realization that these groups must have always existed, though it seemed to him at the time that they all suddenly sprang up out of nowhere. So I appreciated the introduction of the Qowat Milat as an example of another Romulan dissident group, and one that is culturally antithetical from the Vulcan-phile one from Unification. I also appreciated that they got a suitably syllable-soup name. If this was Discovery, they would just be referred to as "emotional honesty extremists" or something.

    I agree with the frustrations about how the serial storytelling handicaps the show. I've gone back to rewatch the episode, and I found myself really enjoying the shipboard and Vashti scenes and just skipping the Borg-cube ones. I guess I wasn't bothered with seeing a post-TNG-movies (particularly post-Generations) Picard acting warmly paternal to a young Elnor. I was bothered by the fact that he did instigate the confrontation at the cafe/bar. That part did smell of the lazy Kurtzman/Abrams style of writing, where they want to cheaply evoke memories of something like anti-segregation sit-in protests, without really thinking through the larger context of the narrative. Either they should have just had Picard be confronted by a mob while returning to the town (which I thought they were setting up when Raffi was discussing how Picard's return was sparking lots of hostile comms traffic on the planet), or used the incident for further relationship and world-building between Elnor/Picard. I could easily see a larger discussion, where Elnor could have retorted to Picard that Qowat Milat do not provoke fights, Picard saying he didn't intend to start a fight but simply was expressing "absolute candor" regarding the xenophobic policies of the cafe, Elnor replying that "absolute candor" applies only to words and not to actions such as trespassing, yadda yadda...

    1. At the end of the day, the scene was unnecessary for the story. We didn't learn anything that wasn't already exposited in dialogue. So it just made him look like a careless buffoon.

    2. I agree. It wasn't Picard's place to stage some sort of protest. They either needed to eliminate that or have spent the 10-15 minutes or so devoted to the Borg cube plotline to developing the situation on Vashti further.