Saturday, April 11, 2020

Top Ten WTF Moments in Star Trek: Picard Season 1

It should probably be apparent at this point that I did not like Star Trek: Picard. It manifestly disappointed me along just about every axis of Star Trek fandom that I possess. But in addition to being grotesquely violent and poorly written, it was also frequently just baffling. Here are my top ten (with some honorable mentions, because they just kept coming) WTF Moments from season one.

Honorable Mentions:

 Oh no! Acid Blood! Bet she didn't see that one coming!

12. Acid Blood

I don't know if anything better typifies the stupidity of Kurtzman-Trek than the Zhad Vash suicide method of choice: acid blood. Wait, what? Apparently, there is a super secret Romulan sect that has existed for 200,000 years, and they equip their operatives with acid blood inside their bodies, that they can spit out of their mouths when they want to 1. kill someone in a pinch, and 2. self-immolate. How is this acid blood implanted, in secret no less? How secure is it in one's body? Does tripping and falling activate it? Eating the wrong blend of Romulan soup? I just...

11. Characters feeling things.... but why?
Another seemingly typical feature of Kurtzman-Trek storytelling is characters feeling things that aren't supported by the script. Picard features some doozies. Raffi, for instance, hates Picard for abandoning her to her hovel and her addiction, while he enjoyed his "antique furniture" in his fancy chalet. But then, later in the show, she loves him? The reversal doesn't seem to be supported by actual filmed scenes, but then, neither does any of their past relationship. We get one flashback which really only fleshes out a line of dialogue. It's the problem of building character motivations out of mere mentions of things, and then forgetting them for nine episodes.

Pictured: Jean-Luc Picard, not giving a shit about anyone or anything.

Elnor is another prime example of this. We are told that Elnor and Picard have a deep meaningful relationship, and are shown Picard reading Three Musketeers to him as a kid. OK, fine. But then Picard leaves. For something like 15 years. How does he still care about Elnor, if he has done nothing to remain in contact with him? Why does Elnor have any positive feelings for Picard, after being abandoned?

Rios also gets a "feelings" infusion when we are told (but not shown) that he loved a tough as nails Starfleet Captain who was killed. Then we are told (but not shown) that he had similarly let Picard "into his heart," which he vowed (off camera) never to let happen again.

And don't get me started on Seven/Raffi.

And now, for the list proper:

10 . Narek's Childhood Heirloom-slash-DEATHTRAP

Narek, the mush-mouthed Romulan meat puppet who tries to seduce Soji, carries around special puzzle boxes he's had since childhood, much to the annoyance of his sister. They have a dumb gibberish name with z's and h's in it, just like everything else the writers think they're being creative about.

Worst... Murder Weapon... EVER!!!

Anyhow, that's not the WTF moment of it all. Later, Narek convinces Soji to do the retconned Zhal Mszhhh ritual with him, and when she reveals the location of her people's home planet (by merely revealing its number of satellites and the color of its sky, but whatever), he leaves one of these Zhhhn v'Zhhkkhh boxes in the room with her. IT WAS A POISON GAS DISPENSER. WTF? Has he been playing with a poison gas dispenser for his entire life? Or did he alter one of his mystery boxes in order to murder this chick in the most bizarre, ineffective way possible? I just...

9. The Zhazh Kosh V'Gosh

Speaking of Z's and H's, Narek, his sister, Commodore Oh, and apparently thousands of other Romulans are part of a society so secret that they are known only to Picard's Romulan housekeepers, the Warrior Death Nuns, and whoever built and crewed their fleet of 218 Romulan Warbird.

Pictured: A very easily kept secret.

Yes, folks, it's the Zhad Vash Bgosh! Alex Kurtzman has never met a secret police force he didn't like. This one is so secret that, like Section 31, they literally have their own fleet and uniforms. WTF?
But I can see that I'm not being charitable here. This is, after all, a universe in which the whole of the Federation kept the USS Mushroom Ship and every single member of its crew secret from everyone, including the families of the stranded crewmen, forever.

8. Seven of Nine's character assassination
Seven of Nine is a woman on a mission. Her beloved surrogate son, Icheb, has been brutally murdered (on screen, thank goodness) by Vajazzle, a horrible death merchant who preys upon wayward ex-Borg in order to steal their valuable implants. How horrid! Except, apparently, Vajazzle convinced Seven that she was in fact an ex-Borg Florence Nightingale who was helping said Borg. And I guess they were screwing?
And they cast her with a Sirtis lookalike because... SHUT UP, THAT'S WHY!

And somehow, Seven led her right to Icheb, who was such a wayward and desperate ex-Borg that he was a commissioned Lieutenant on a Starfleet vessel. WTF? Could Seven of Nine possibly be that dense, or was she hypnotized by Vajazzle's Sapphic feminine wiles? Why would Icheb need help from anyone at all? And couldn't they have just beamed away from the charnel house and gotten a replacement eyeball? I just...

7. Rios' Incredible Coincidence 

There are occasionally coincidences in life. You happen across someone you haven't seen in a long time because you go to the same concert. A new workmate happens to have married an old high school chum. These things happen.

 "Huh. Will you look at that. The woman I've been hired to ferry around looks identical to the one who induced my beloved friend and mentor to murder her and then kill himself. I think I'm going to NOT mention this."

You know what doesn't happen? The guy you hire to ferry you across the galaxy in an attempt to find the home world of an endangered newly discovered android woman just happened to have come across the only two other android compatriots of hers who ever ventured out into the galaxy. One of whom was identical to the android you're trying to find. And after his captain killed that android, he literally badgered his captain to commit suicide, and then lied to everyone in order to prevent the secret of those androids' deaths from coming out and have his whole ship be destroyed. And then he was fired from Starfleet as a result, ruining his life. And he DOESN'T MENTION THIS when you hire him to find an android who looks just like her. WTF?

6. Doctor Whatshisname and Picard's Not-Irumodic Syndrome

Hey, remember Doctor Moritz Benayoun? You know, the one with the deep emotional connection and long-standing friendship with Picard, who obviously would be the one he turns to before he embarks on what might be his last mission? Yeah, me neither. This WTF moment typifies this show's bizarre desire to ignore prior characters and replace them with poor stand-ins. Why in the name of all that's holy wouldn't this be Dr. Crusher? Is she dead? Living in perpetual ecstasy with a candle ghost? Is she stuck in a static warp shell somewhere?

 Pictured: Some effing guy you've never heard of and couldn't possible care about.

Remember the brain syndrome that Picard was diagnosed with in "All Good Things?"  Remember what it was called? Yeah, apparently neither does any of the writing staff on this season of television.

5. Data paints his Daughter. No, not THAT daughter...

Speaking of the writers seeming to go out of their way to ape the idea but not the content of prior Star Trek episodes and characters, I definitely let out a huge "WTF" when Picard went to the Starfleet Quantum Archive (or whatever) and pulled out the painting by Data of his "daughter."

 "Daughter," by Lt. Cmdr. Data. Date: Unknown (off camera)

I just... when did Data have time to paint these two masterpieces? When, off camera, in the moments before being incinerated, did Data gift them to Picard? Why, when painting his "daughter," did he imagine an entirely new android, and not have it be Lal, who was a deeply important part of his life? 

4. Androids performing mind melds

I was mildly annoyed with Commodore Oh performed a mind meld on Jurati.  As far as we knew, she was a Romulan, and no Romulan in canon had ever been indicated to possess such an ability. But hey, they're distantly related, and it was later revealed that she was half Vulcan. Why she was the leader of the most deeply held secret in the history of the Romulan people is another question, but whatever. I got over it.

But when an android performed a mind meld on Jurati? An act she is capable of because she has been an aficionado of Vulcan lore? WTF?

My expression was very similar to Rios' here. Except less ruggedly handsome.

Look. Mind melds are magic. So are katras and all of their associated rituals. But the magic we were given in prior Trek had rules. It had something to do with the biologically based telepathic capability within Vulcans, a lobe of the brain, or some such. Only Vulcans could do it. All indications are that androids would be singularly unqualified to do it, since legit telepaths (e.g. Betazoids) cannot sense them at all, indicating an incompatible physiognomy. And there's no app for learning how to do it while you wait for your coffee to be made.

When you open up "magic" elements of storytelling to utter randomness in the service of a creaky plot structure, it cheapens the whole deal.

3. Data being sentenced to hell for 20 years

The Data "arc" in this series was a prolonged sequence of WTFs. I guess you can "clone" and entire positronic consciousness AND ALL OF ITS MEMORIES from "one positron." WTF? Then, this set of memories is the one that Data implanted into B4 right before he died. OK. But then, if you could just get that "one positron" from B4, who is literally lying in a vault at the Daystrom Institute, what was the whole plot motivation for Picard finding Soji because he wanted to "find a piece of Data?" Why would Soji have anything from Data within her? Was she reconstituted from one of B4's positrons? WTF?

Not enjoying quarantine? Imagine being stuck in a gray, dark room filled with books that have no words for 20 years, wuss!

But here's the real kicker. Data's consciousness has been reconstituted from one positron of B4's (um, what if you choose the wrong positron? How can an entire consciousness be encoded on something the size of an electron, which is like one trillionth the size of an actual conscious agglomeration of atoms? And don't positrons decay basically immediately after they are created? SHUT UP, you irritating Science and Logic Person!). What do you do with him, then? I know! You design an "incredibly sophisticated quantum simulation" of the AFTERLIFE, and stick him there. Alone. For twenty years. With no contact with the outside world. In a one room house with no decorations or even complete walls. FOR TWENTY YEARS. I just...

2. Altan "Retcon" Soong showing up out of nowhere

When we finally reach the magic Planet of the Androids, guess who's there, leading them? Brent Spiner. So look, I get why the show runners and CBS they wanted him there. They can bank on people who treasure his performance on TNG being excited and staying subscribed. But did it have to be this way? He is playing a heretofore unknown character, Altan Soong. The natural child of Noonien Soong. Ummm.... how? Soong was married to Juliana O'Donnell, with whom he had no biological children, and whom Soong later transferred the consciousness of into an android body. Soong created several prototypes and then two android "sons," Data and Lore. Upon the event of his death, Soong sent out a homing signal that attracted all of his living sons. Do you know who showed up? Data and Lore. Did he not remember his human son (or his mother, about whom we know nothing)? Were they on the outs? Altan Soong didn't seem miffed at all by the snub. He seems to have been intimately acquainted with the process of creating positronic brains and such. I just...

Pictured: Altan Soon saying that sentient life can "Go F#$% itself."

Look, a certain amount of storytelling is by its nature "retcon" work. Riker's dad, for instance, was created to give him a story full of conflict and character development. But when you do so, you need to take care to not contradict literally everything about a character. It's easy to retcon when a character is relatively fresh (as in "The Icarus Factor"). It gets harder when previous creators have literally plumbed every depth of a character's history and relationships. Which is precisely the situation that Retcon Soong finds himself in.

It would have made way more sense (especially given Retcon Soong's completely blithe reaction to the prospect of murdering all sentient biological life in the Milky Way) if he had been Lore.

1. Romulans shrugging their shoulders and just leaving after 200,000 years
of preparation for battle

For scene after interminable scene, we are told again and again and again how goddamned apeshit the Romulans are about synthetic life. They are the DESTROYERS. They're going to lead to the death of ALL LIFE IN THE GALAXY if they're not stopped. Their entire subsequent 200,000 year history as a people has been dedicated to finding and destroying all androids. Except Data, with whom they had many contacts over his career. And all those "synths" working throughout the Federation as slaves. And all of the holographic sentient beings who are freaking everywhere. But I digress.

This mission is so integral to the Romulan psyche, and the stakes are so high, that people literally bash their own brains in when they discover the awful secret. Romulans have infiltrated Starfleet in order to accomplish their utterly imperative mission.

So what do they do when they reach the android homeworld, and it turns out that their fears WERE CORRECT and these jerk androids really ARE opening a portal to the alien snake AI's from beyond the galaxy, and said snakes REALLY WILL destroy all life?

"All ships. OPEN FI.... ah, F#$% it, let's go home."

They leave. Because one android (who they've been trying to kill for ten episodes) turns off the antenna and closes the door on the AI DEATHBOTS.

Really? WTF? How did they know the alien deathbots were really gone? How did they know that the androids wouldn't just invite them back? They're not going to risk a minor skirmish with Starfleet in order to RESCUE LITERALLY EVERYONE? They're not even going to argue about it with the humans? They're not going to come back and finish the job?

I just....

This show is stupid, folks. Dumb, dumb, dumbity-dumb.

Did I miss any major WTF moments in "Star Trek" Picard? Let me know in the comments!


  1. Wow. Well I guess I am not surprised. I did not watch this shitshow but remember my comment on here when you guys were discussing the first episode? I am not at all surprised it turned out to be exactly as horribly bad as I knew it would, which is precisely why I didnt watch it. There is a few things I cherish in these dark days and one of them is Star Trek. I am still trying to undo the stench from the first two movies by Star Wards fanboy JJ Abrams. And if I remember correctly, Kurtzman (and Orci) is the same guy who was involved in the screenplay of the 2009 garbage reboot and then also the second one, correct?

    Knowing that, there was just no way in bloody hell this or any other reboot touched by him was ever going to end up being anything else but the crap you just described.

    Anyway Mat, I recall you said you find Picard to be the best of the reboots. Do you still believe that?

    1. Yeah, believe it or not, this is still the best of them. It seems like there are at least a few people on the staff who know about Star Trek, and they try to get their ideas represented. Said ideas are just then drowned by all the crap.

    2. Well, I guess the other shows, not unlike Trump, set such a low bar that clearing isn't all that difficult. LOL

  2. 13. Apparently Starfleet has gotten supremely lazy in their ship building a design, because an entire armada of ships has been copy and pasted from each other. Oh, wait, maybe that was just the lazy effects from lazy designers and lazy storytellers.

  3. I almost felt a little desire to see "Picard", but after watching Red Letter Media's video reviews and reading your highly entertaining reviews, that weak little light has gone out.
    You're a brave soul to suffer through this show just to bring back these warnings to fans of the real thing.

    1. The honor is to serve.

      Anything to save people on CBS All Access fees.... and yes, Red Letter Media has a solid take on this show.