Friday, March 3, 2023

Picard, Season 3: Seventeen Seconds

Picard, Season 3
"Seventeen Seconds"
Aired: March 2, 2023
22 of 30 produced
22 of 30 released


Still stuck in the same spot as last episode, Picard Season 3 decides that trashing its characters will pass the time instead of advancing the plot.

 Pictured: What Star Trek will look like after Stewart and Frakes sign away their likeness rights.


Editor's note: Kevin has tapped out of reviewing these episodes, because, in Marie Kondo fashion, pondering this show does not bring him joy. As such, Matthew will concoct a rating on Treknobabble's 10 point scale, instead of an individual 1 through 5 rating.

Matthew: I fully and completely understand Kevin's decision, because, as I remarked to him before this episode, I feel nothing towards this show, except maybe a grudging sense of obligation to wach it. The first two episodes were boring and stupid and violent in all the same ways as prior seasons of Kurtzman Trek, and the critical (astroturf?) consensus on the show is utterly baffling, except for a few rational outliers.

So what of this installment? We were given a big "revelation" last episode, in which (to the surprise of no one) Jack Crusher was revealed to be Picard's son with Beverly. Lucy has some 'splainin' to do, so to speak. And what was her explanation?

She got pregnant right after they broke up (because messy breakup sex is really on brand for TNG-era Jean-Luc Picard), and then decided to ghost him because his life is really dangerous and her son would grow up with a target on his back.

Can anyone see the problem here? Beverly Crusher is a career Starfleet officer, for one. She literally chose exactly the same life, served on exactly the same ship for over a decade, and is intimately familiar with the dangers and the rewards that such a life offers. So maybe motherhood has changed her priorities? Ummm, remember Wesley? The Mozart-level wunderkind who was the apple of her eye? She chose to bring him along, and then LEFT HIM ALONE ON THE SHIP FOR A YEAR with the selfsame Jean-Luc Picard. And then, even within the confines of this show, she has taken the same Jack Crusher she was so worried about on some sort of dangerous, galaxy-spanning "Doctors Without Borders" quest. 

Suffice it to say, this explanation is incoherent, and constitutes outright character assassination - of a main series character that I deeply cherish, to boot. This is not even to mention the gem of "lampshade" storytelling that comes next, in which Picard questions why Jack has a British accent. Beverly says he went to school in London and "just never shook it." Um, how long did he go to school there for - decades? And so his accent is an affectation? Then Beverly jokes that maybe it's genetic. Ha ha. So that means everyone else in the world, who knows that Picard is a Frenchman, has always wondered why Picard has a British accent - including Picard himself?

OK. Reel it in, Weflen.

Their plot continues the nebula space battle "Wrath of Khan" redux. And it's fine, for the most part. The ship looks really cool, the battle itself was fine enough, and a secret saboteur is revealed on the ship. Shaw still acts like a moron, gets injured and then puts Riker in command - a man he professed a profound lack of respect and nearly outright hatred for not two episodes ago - instead of any of the members of his own chain of command. Then Riker and Picard fight over strategy and by the end Riker puts Picard off the bridge for "killing us all."

The B plot has Worf and Raffi doing their thing again. Since Worf has murdered all of his informants last episode, they have to find a new guy, and do. This guy acts like a drug addict, but is in fact a changeling who really wants to regenerate. Uhhhh, why did he allow himself to get caught on Planet Drugs in the first place? He could literally change his appearance to look like anyone in the galaxy, and had ample opportunity to do so.

Anyway, Worf gets some good one liners in typical Worf style, and the next "twist" to the plot is revealed, that a "rogue terrorist faction" of Founders (how that works in a joined mind sea of goo is beyond me) is bent on the idea of destroying Starfleet. Of course there will be a minimum of 7 more twists that will likely undo this, but whatever. I'm OK with it. Would it be my choice for storytelling? No, since "shapeshifters infiltrate Starfleet" was already done perfectly in "Homefront/Paradise Lost" and in the Dominion War. But it's fine because plot is actually happening, and earlier than prior seasons.

Production values were fine. The ship looks great. Everything is still too dark. The camera still shakes around even during quiet dialogue scenes. The CGI de-aging during the flashback was not good, especially since they did not also de-age Patrick Stewart's very old sounding voice.

Acting was fine for what it was. Michael Dorn, as per usual, got the best lines and was the most entertaining.


The drama here feels manufactured. Paramount let its fruit rot on the vine for 20 years, and now they need to gin up a way to do the predictable Wrath of Khan redux that they think will please fans. So the writers needed to reverse engineer an explanation for an unknown son and graft it onto these characters. Well, they failed. A hokey conspiracy plot would have been better than what we've gotten. We are 1.5 movies into this story and still don't really know the plot or the stakes. The world doesn't feel like the Starfleet that I grew up wanting to join - everyone is mean and nasty to everyone else (what the hell was with the ship's doctor, anyway? Beverly Crusher was literally the head of Starfleet Medical, has been doing field medicine for the last 20 years, and you don't trust her to help treat some bumps and bruises?) for no apparent reason, and the world is grim, dark, and pointless.

On the plus side, this was less gratuitously violent than the last episode and felt like it was spinning its wheels less. Worf was amusing instead of psychopathically murderous.

I would have given this a 5 if it weren't for the Crusher character assassination. With that, which was a major and upsetting part of the episode, I think this is still a 4.

This feels like Star Trek Nemesis The TV Series. Characters who look like the ones we know but act just out of character enough to grate. Stupid violence and an overall supervillain plot that makes very little sense. Emotional beats that don't really work. A desperate attempt to recapitulate the success of Star Trek II because no one with fresh ideas is allowed to pitch them, at all.

 Click to embiggen!

Kevin: My swan song on reviewing this season is to point out that, if nothing else, this dialog is atrocious. Picard and Crusher sounded like college students dealing with a surprise pregnancy, not adults who literally have decades of real relationship under their belt. And for the last time, relationships are more interesting than twists. Watching these people navigate the complexity of possibly becoming parents and what that means for their friendship, let alone romantic relationship is just infinitely more fertile ground for a story. Worf was good this week and Raffi having someone to talk to was nice, since Michelle Hurd know...act, being a professional actor and all. I would have bought his Uncle Iroh tea routine if he hadn't decapitated a room full of people last week (which they showed in flashback for some reason). 

Lastly, the de-aging effects on Patrick Stewart were laughably bad. He looked like he was wearing drag make up. And don't get me wrong, I, unlike the state of Tennessee love drag makeup, I just think it was unintentional. So, yeah, maybe I'll binge the season later just to see what happens, or not. It's just we've spent 3 of the 10 hours we have left and we have barely named the villain let alone established their motivations in a coherent way. It's just going to twist on twist. It will turn out the Changelings are all working for Berlinghoff Rasmussen or something. because nothing matters.

And lastly, and I mean it: Why would body slamming a Changeling into a table incapacitate him?


  1. I agree with all of the above, but would just like to add that I watched it withEnglish subtitles, and they managed to spoil the Changeling reveal, because one of the crewmen was attributed by the subtitle as Changeling 1 early in the episode.

    The more you think of them being changelings, the less sense it makes.

  2. Jesus f-cking christ, what a sh!t show. This was like watching a soap opera with these octogenarians still having the "I had your baby"/"you are my father" crap. I completely agree with the messy break up sex being deeply, deeply out of character for Picard bordering at insulting to the character and the assessment that this did not feel like two 80 year olds with five decades of friendship behind them, but like two dumb teenagers bickering over how she got knocked up when the condom broke but couldnt tell him, this 82 year old, for 30 something years!!!!!

    What an insult to the legacy of Star Trek and its creators, the characters they painstakingly and carefully developed and the continuity of the Trek universe that was so brilliantly and cogently established across three tv shows.

    Speaking of off putting: why do the people who served on the Enterprise, which was just one ship among a fleet of ships, always have to be the most brilliant, the bestest, the most genius captain/engineer/doctor/what have you blah blah blah of all times? Really thought that line from La Forge's daughter (yeah right, Haha) about how her father was the most brilliant engineer Starfleet has ever seen, was off putting. Give me a break.

    This whole show - or more like all these revivals - feel like one of those episodes where the character falls into a coma and finds himself 30 years in the future where everyone has changed for the worse, nothing is like it used to be and everything is kinda shitty. As the audience, it is very unsettling to watch how bad things have gotten. But you know that at the end he will be back to his own time, that the nightmare will end.

    Only here, it never ends. This is it. The nightmare, the imperfect future, is reality.

    But it did not have to be this way. Sometimes it is good to let things go, no matter how iconic and classic, especially if you cannot do the original justice it is better to just leave it alone because it will not be the same.

    You really can never go home again. Which is pretty much what David Lynch's message was in the chilling ending of The Return, right? That after over a quarter century hiatus, you are not going to return to the same world you left behind. All you can do is move forward.

    This is the message I wish all these assholes who continue to endlessly revive these classic Trek shows would get, namely that reviving and then making these beloved and well established characters, that had their time, recite bad lines in equally badly conceived scripts like a bunch of dug out zombies, is never going to make them like the classics they were. It will never be the same. On the contrary, it will be sad and depressing to watch, which is exactly what Picard has been.

    1. I think that's a great comparison, to an episode like "Future Imperfect" or to the alternate scenarios in "Parallels." Everything feels "off." But it's not the point of the story or the writing choices. We're being asked to take this as the "real" continuation of the "real" time line.

      To me this is part and parcel of the inability of risk averse corporate entertainment entities to innovate. They want guaranteed return on investment, which means endlessly recycling and rebooting characters and story lines and imitating other franchises. You can almost see the executive meeting where they had a whiteboard of the most popular shows and movies (Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Marvel), and then said "make Star Trek like that."

      It's not just Star Trek that is suffering this, of course. But Star Trek used to stand out from the entertainment landscape. Now it's just another IP to be monetized.

      What utterly baffles me is that there seems to be a not-fictional critical response to this that is positive and gushing with happiness.

    2. PS, thank you so much for commenting. It makes it feel less like I'm screaming into the void about how the universe is wrong, a la "Remember Me."

    3. There's nothing wrong with you. I'm not so sure about the universe.

    4. You are not imagining this. This is legitimately bad story telling. And I agree, that the revival of these has been purely a business decision informed by profitability and banking on the Trek name (and classic characters like Picard) as a substitute for good, compelling story telling and a vision, really.

      I mean what is the vision for Star Trek these days? Other than this sad, nihilistic Game of Throne-esque/Walking Dead style darkness transplanted into space?

      When Roddenberry redid Trek in the 80s he had a vision. He did not just bring back Kirk and Spock rehashing their stories, he infused the series with new characters, new life and a vision that stood and succeeded based on its own merits. They had the occasional TOS cast members as a throw back but it was not the main driving force.

      Again I ask, what has been the vision of Star Trek these past few years? Other than a desire to revive a classic and bring back actors and characters who had their time in order for the studio execs to cash in? (And i am sure some of these actors like McFadden, Dorn, Ryan....appreciated the paycheck).

      I am afraid that in the world of today, a lot of the controversial issues that were touched upon in TNG, DS9 and even Voyager would not be able to be made, not unless you want to invite a shitstorm of criticism and the cancel culture that has been cultivated and that has sucked the joy out of film making and creativity these days.

      Can you imagine if they made an episode like "The Child" today without someone arguing that it glorifies rape culture and romanticizes a woman being violated? Or a dialogue from The Neutral Zone where they laugh about the Wallstreet financier and talk about having gotten rid of capitalism essentially, which is why humanity was able to progress as it did? That's a vision. Killing people, hate and endless war - those are not visions.

      The wonder, the joy, adventure, the journey and curiosity have just been sucked out of the franchise and so all you get is this empty shell devoid of substance, devoid of a true, original vision and compelling narratives. Instead all you get is conflict, war and darkness - both literally and figurately. Just something to keep people pissed, angry and paranoid - just like in real life really. The Zeitgeist of today is just not what it was some 36 years ago so no amount of bringing back old beloved characters continuously trying to recycle these original series is going to work. These shows appeal mostly to the shallow, deeply propagandized audience of today.

    5. @Ellen

      Hell, I would appreciate a debate over the rapeyness of The Child (I mentioned it myself in my review comments: because it would mean that these episodes were actually about something which could inspire a difference of opinion (other examples that spring to mind for me are "The High Ground" and "Ethics."

      These new shows aren't *about* anything. They're just a bunch of FX garbage spewing across the screen for 55 minutes, and then they're over.


      The universe is an oblong spheroid region that takes ten hours to get through and leaves you with no memory of what transpired.

    6. Exactly, only that we are at a point right now where having debates over any sensitive and/or controversial subject is not really allowed. There is only cancellation and censorship. You either agree or you are a sexist/racist/bigot/phobe etc etc. Because I agree with you, what made Trek of yesteryear so good was exactly that you could write such scripts in the first place that, in turn, would allow you to have these debates.

      As you say, that is not what Trek is about anymore, so on that ground alone TNG as we know it would never be made today. And so all they got then is the FX spewing, meaningless hollow garbage we see where Trek is not about anything anymore.