Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Third Opinion: Picard, Season 1 - Stardust City Rag

Picard, Season 1
"Stardust City Rag"
Airdate: February 20, 2020
5 of 10 produced
5 of 10 aired

Introduction


Picard, Season 1: Stardust City Rag – A turning point for my opinion of this season. An additional opinion from Beth Calderon (Matthew's sister).


We're with you, Seven. Make it a double.



Introduction

I need to begin by stating, for the record, that I’d been cautiously optimistic for this series. I debated with my brother (Matthew of Treknobabble) for four weeks about his negativity toward the show. I told him he was being too pessimistic. I stated that he needed to give the show a chance, that we needed to see where these plotlines were going, and that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

I lost all of my optimism in the first 60 seconds of this episode.

What was done to Icheb was… gratuitous, graphic, offensive, and wholly unnecessary. This is not Star Trek. This is the Walking Dead masquerading as Star Trek.

I’d watched this episode before Matthew had. My exact words to him were, “…you’re going to be mad as hell. But you’re that way anyway, so…” After he’d seen it, midway through our conversation, I said, “…the literal death of [all] good things.”

Writing

I agree with my brother on this portion of his review. I also miss Star Trek.

Vanity Fair published an article titled “Why Picard Is Exactly the Star Trek We Need Right Now.” The gist of their article is in its final sentence, “For those of us feeling rudderless in the era of Trump, here is the calm, soothing return of Picard, navigating the corrupt and bigoted waters of a universe that has lost its way.”

I can not disagree with this statement any more than I already do. The Star Trek I need is the hopeful Star Trek, the Star Trek that tells me that humanity is able to set aside its petty differences, and work towards the betterment of the human race (to paraphrase Picard in Star Trek: First Contact). The Star Trek I need is the Star Trek that depicts a utopian society where humans are universally kind to each other, where society takes care of its members, not for money, but simply because it’s the right thing to do.

I do not need a Star Trek that graphically depicts the torture and killing of a beloved character. Seven doesn’t need the torture of her surrogate son to motivate her. All the motivation Seven needs is the pursuit of order and perfection. This was torture and murder for the sake of shock value, not for the sake of story.

Also, Icheb was a Starfleet officer. Shouldn’t Starfleet be at all interested in the murder of an officer? Why are the Rangers/Seven getting involved, and not Starfleet itself?

The ideas that are being presented in this series don’t even make any sense. Synthetic lifeforms are banned because of the attack on Mars. Okay, sure… but then why are Emergency Medical Holograms allowed? An entire series of Star Trek shows how an EMH can gain sentience. The character of Professor Moriarty gained sentience in TNG.

The entire scene on Freecloud, with Patrick Stewart hamming it up in cheesy costumes and cheesy French accents is jarringly out of place with the tone of the rest of the episode. There is a time and place for this story-telling device (think Dixon Hill in “Clues”), but this is not it. The dark narrative that runs through the rest of the episode - Icheb’s graphic torture, Raffi’s alienation from her son, Maddox’s torture by Vajayay smuggler lady, Dr. Jurati’s heartbreaking act of murder – makes it impossible to embrace this silliness as any bit of fun.

Also – Seven’s backstory. If the writing was a little clearer, maybe I could understand why she trusted Vajayjay enough for her to reveal information about Icheb. It’s been suggested elsewhere on the internet that perhaps Seven had a romantic relationship with Vajayjay. If she did, that’s fine, but that sure didn’t come across to me in the episode.

My brother is under the impression that the Rangers were a squad of heroes looking to help liberated Borg, and that was the ruse that Vajayjay was operating under. But what I took away from the episode is that the Rangers were a team of vigilantes looking to restore order to forgotten and abandoned sectors of space. Maybe if the writing was a little better this would all make sense. [ed. note: I believe what I expressed was the Vajazzle was claiming she was part of a group of ex-Borg... liberators? Helpers? Health Care Workers? And that Seven therefore joined her and revealed Icheb's info. Either way, it was totally unclear.]

The lazy storytelling of the twist ending with Dr. Jurati. This whole notion of not sharing with the viewer just what it is she was told (by a potentially unreliable source) that could possibly­ lead her to murder her former co-worker/lover, is just frustrating and insulting. Hiding information from the viewer doesn’t make it more suspenseful, it makes it more annoying. Also – the leading expert in synthetic life is terrified to use a transporter… whaaaaaat? How does that even make the smallest shred of sense?

Acting

For all my complaining, I do need to praise Jeri Ryan and Alison Pill.

Jeri Ryan really brought it for this episode. She knocked it out of the park. She was the best thing about this entire shitshow (Matthew, am I allowed to say shitshow on this blog?).

Alison Pill did the best with what she was given.

Michelle Hurd is phenomenal, and I wish there’d been more of her in this episode.
Why was Bruce Maddox’s role recast? Why was Icheb’s role recast?

Patrick Stewart’s scenes on Freecloud were a bit too hammy for my tastes, and I’m someone that could sing the praises of Patrick Stewart until the cows come home.

Production Values

This show, with this episode included, has produced some truly beautiful and intricate sets. I have less trouble with the hologram ads than my brother. I found it amusing, and considering the state of pop-up ads on the internet these days, very on the nose.

The costuming of Seven. PERFECT. Thank you for the sweater. Thank you for dressing her in functional and rational clothing. Thank you for not turning her into a sexpot. Back in Voyager, Seven’s costuming was always too distracting and really took a lot away from the truly wonderful performances that Jeri Ryan gave. This is about all I have to thank these 100 producers for on this show.

Conclusion

I agree with my brother’s grade of a 1 on this episode. There isn’t enough in this episode to redeem it to even a 2. This show is the exact reason why I can’t watch this with my seven-year-old son, and that makes me sad in a way that almost defies explanation.

My brother points out that we watched TNG together as a family, which debuted in 1987, when I was the same age as my son. I am truly sad that I can not offer my son the same familial experience of watching a new Star Trek show together, being able to discuss and debate the issues presented in those 45 minutes, and just generally have a great time together.

All that being said – I will not give Matthew the satisfaction of saying he was right all along. [ed. note: that's what I'm hearing, though!] [Writer's note: It may be what you're hearing, but it's not what I am saying!] But I will admit that I’m completely disillusioned at this point. I’m grieving the loss of what is truly Star Trek – because this simply isn’t it.

2 comments:

  1. Though born in darkness, I would welcome any Third Opinions in future, including on any previously reviewed episodes. :)

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    Replies
    1. Aw, thanks! I'm more impressed that I was able to write 1200 words about this, instead of just summing it all up as, "What the actual fuck?"

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