Friday, March 10, 2023

Picard, Season 3: No Win Scenario

Picard, Season 3
"No Win Scenario"
Aired: March 9, 2023
24 of 30 produced
24 of 30 released


After four hours of "s#$% or get off the pot" storytelling, Picard Season 3 decides in favor of the former and pinches off this loaf.

Pictured: the best lit scene in the season thus far.

I am going to subdivide this review into two segments - one about character stories, and one about the overall plot. I think this is the most fruitful way to discuss what works and what doesn't about this episode.

Emotional Story Lines

I found the Jack Crusher/Picard scenes to largely work, with one exception right at the end. The actors had really nice chemistry, some fun jokes re: baldness and twenty-something horniness, and some nicely subtle dialogue that didn't involve swelling music and treacly, writerly protestations about the beauties of filial love that can span the galaxy. Riker again got "I'm a dad, listen to me" advice to give Picard, and it largely worked as well. The one flaw to sour the mix was the reveal that Crusher actually had gone to surveil his father (wearing a baseball cap to remain inconspicuous) and was hurt by Picard's statement (frankly inexplicable given his prior statements) that "Starfleet provided him the only family he needed." Uh, really? What about his tearful rapprochement with Robert? What about his nephew Rene and the real tears he shed over his death? What about "the family line will continue?" What about his interest in his lineage, expressed to Anthwara in TNG "Journey's End?" Nope. Starfleet is all he needs. Anyway, 9 out of 10 points on this set of scenes.

Less successful was Riker/Troi. Not for the acting, which Frakes absolutely nailed, but for the logic. You mean to tell me that I sat through all of Picard Season 1, in which the only redeeming facet was Riker making wood-fired pizza with his wife and daughter, only to have it undone? When did they go from making pizzas together on Nepenthe to being separated, and why? Riker says something about not accepting his son's death and "feeling nothing" about it. When? Before "Nepenthe" or afterward? It didn't seem evident at all in those scenes. And what about his daughter Kestra? So while Frakes' scenes dictating a letter to Troi, and then talking with her directly, were very well acted, not enough groundwork was laid to have them make sense.

Captain Shaw got his Big Moment(tm) with Jean-Luc Picard in this episode. And it was.... basically Ben Sisko in DS9 with more swear words, and 40 years later. I guess we can assume that they believe no one watching this show actually watched Trek in the 90s, because this is a straight re-use of the plot line. Sure, instead of losing his wife, Shaw lost 150 of his closest friends - literally, he claimed that his 150 person Engineering crew were "all like Jack Crusher to me" as Crusher was to Picard. Really? He had 150 best friends? That's a lot of namesakes for kids right there.

When it comes down to it, blaming someone for what they did under the control of another being is petty and stupid, which means by the transitive property that Shaw is petty and stupid. And while that is not a good look for a Starfleet captain, it does work to explain how and why he is such a bad manager who presides over such a dysfunctional crew. For someone who has had 40 years to process his trauma and come to such an obvious realization (that Picard does not share culpability and is a victim himself) explains how he can be so petty to his subordinates, disregarding and minimizing the information they bring to him, fundamentally disrespecting and "deadnaming" seven of Nine, holding staff meetings in the dark like a f#$%ing weirdo, and clearly doing something to make the Doctor such a hosebag to everyone around her. Shaw needs to be in therapy and tending a garden somewhere, not in a captain's chair managing sentient beings with emotional lives and needs.

I suppose this dovetails into Seven of Nine's mini-arc, in which Shaw is a giant weenie towards her, but then her insistence on keeping her name comes back to help her identify the changeling imposter. Whee.

Big Dumb Plot Maintenance

A big part of the progression of this plot is the escape from the nebula. In many ways, this plays out just like a TNG episode - a member of the crew comes up with a cockamamie hot take on their situation, and they technobabble their way into a solution for escape. The way it happens here follows that form but come off feeling a fair bit dumber. Dr. Crusher is the person who tips things off, which is fine, but it is only based on counting the time between "contractions." Is that really enough information to surmise that they are trapped within a life form? Then they have an interminable dialogue scene in which Picard, Riker, Crusher, and Crusher hash out their strategy - I say it is interminable because everyone repeats the plan to each other, over and over and over, as if we're not paying attention. And then when Riker agrees to the plan, he again recapitulates it in an announcement to the crew. Why is this happening? Do the writers think that modern audiences cannot follow a tight TNG-style exposition of the plan? Or do they feel pressure from Paramount to turn three episodes' worth of story into ten?

Anyway, my point in bringing this up is not solely to criticize. I want to acknowledge that they aren't murdering their way out of a predicament, which is a step up from recent Kurtzman Trek. It's almost there. It's just bogged down by dumb dialogue and plot stretching.

I think we are to take it that the creatures born in this faux nebula are the space jellyfish from Encounter at Farpoint. Which, OK, fine. It's fan service, but it doesn't take half an hour and the jellyfish don't murder anyone, so I'm cool with it. The CGI was pretty.

Then we have the Changeling Hunt, which was dumb, dumb, dumb, and again is a re-do of a better told story in DS9. You mean to tell me that, in less than 4 hours, Seven of Nine can search a ship of 500 people for a Changeling Bucket(tm), and that the bucket looks exactly like Odo's for some reason? Didn't Odo receive a Bajoran flower pot as a gift or something? That's akin to dressing every Jedi in post-1977 Star Wars like Obi Wan's desert gear. You're doing it because the fans recognize it (Yaay clap clap clap), not because it makes sense in the story. Which characterizes an awful lot of this season of Picard.

This episode hopefully has wrapped up the Frau Farbissina I mean Vadic plot for a good long while. I just never bought her as a credible villain. Her scene with the talking fat blob also left me cold. Why is every universe threatening baddie blessed with a dark, booming, low voice? Salome Jens was scarier than this.

There was no Worf/Raffi in this episode at all. Which, to be honest, was a nice break, since that was by far the Kurtzmaniest crap in this season.

Minor production notes: this episode is still darker than the Long Night in Game of Thrones, and the shakycam makes me want to f$%^ing barf.


Ultimately, this felt like the conclusion of a story, which is oddly satisfying, after Star Trek having had narrative blue balls for the past six years. The story was frequently quite dumb, but no one decapitated anyone, the good guys were finally nice to one another, and a few of the emotional scenes worked. It's amazing how much letting actors we love portray characters we love without murder and strife getting in the way can paper over storytelling deficiencies (which are legion).

So I'm at a 6 on this.
It's solidly average. Why did we have to waste 4 hours to get here? And will this run of mediocre (in the true sense of the word) quality continue?


Click to embiggen!


  1. Um. Your chart doesn't make any sense. Or... is that the point?

    1. The chart is like a cone of possibility. I could see it being as good as Generations, or as bad as ST2009. But most likely it will land at Star Trek Beyond.

  2. I agree with this review almost 100%
    but about this part: "You mean to tell me that, in less than 4 hours, Seven of Nine can search a ship of 500 people for a Changeling Bucket(tm)"

    I'm pretty sure it was clear, that Seven was just searching the quarters of the crewman, that the changeling impersonated.

    1. But a changeling could be literally anyone - not to mention any thing, such as a bulkhead.

      There is just no way to find a single bucket on a starship that big within the time allotted, at least not via manual search, which is what was portrayed (probably to remind people of Star Trek VI).

  3. "Starfleet provided him the only family he needed."

    I read it as not necessarily his honest feeling but judging what his audience wanted to hear. He hesitated for a moment on who to talk to and then chose the cadets with something inspirational that would not have them worry about choosing between career and family. and now he realized he made a big mistake. For me, that actually landed really well for once.

    1. I get where you're coming from, but I don't buy it. When has Picard ever been anything but direct and truthful with people, even if it might be something they didn't want to hear?

      The Picard answer should be "We make sacrifices for this life, to be sure, and those sacrifices are of important parts of the human experience. But for people like us, the rewards outweigh them."