Saturday, April 1, 2023

Picard, Season 3: Dominion

Picard, Season 3
Aired: March 30, 2023
27 of 30 produced
27 of 30 released


The bad guys board the USS Titan, and people pretend to have ethical debates. We learn a few drips of information about the antagonists. Somehow, despite the Big Event being mere hours away, it still find a way not to happen within the run time of this episode.

 Maybe no one has complete, coherent conversations because they simply can't see one another, or their scripts?


Matthew: I am one of apparently a vanishingly small number of viewers of this show that has issues with it. Maybe they've weeded out all of the other viewers with their prior two seasons of this show (and four of Discovery)? It kind of hurts, actually, to have people extol this is "finally a return to Classic Star Trek" when it really is anything but.

Let me use two examples from this episode to indicate how it fails to pass muster for at least this cranky gatekeeper.

The first is the "debate" that Picard and Crusher have with respect to whether they should execute the captured changeling Vadic. Now, I can see how a viewer who isn't particularly demanding might see this as spiritually in keeping with the TNG (or DS9/VOY/TOS/ENT for that matter) of yore. Whether or not to employ violence and or capital punishment has been at the heart of many a story. But it is important to understand the difference between mentioning something and actually exploring it. 

Picard and Crusher talk for about about one minute of screen time about whether they should kill Vadic. At no point does anyone offer anything close to an ethical principle in support of their plan of action, whether it be a utilitarian argument in favor of saving lives at the expense of one, or a deontological argument about the inadmissibility of taking sentient life under any circumstances - both of which have been expressed clearly in prior episodes of Star Trek. In fact, Picard and Crusher simply agree with one another, so the "discussion" is superfluous. And then they blow it anyway, because their phasers can only go "pew pew" now instead of firing continuous beams.

So then we have Vadic's stated motivation for her behavior. This story comes much closer to success, but it is missing some key features. She is the product of a "Starfleet" program to weaponize changelings as super-spy-soldier-whatevers. OK, fine. But what part of Starfleet? Section 31? This isn't stated. Was this program approved at the highest levels, e.g. the Federation Council, or was it an off the books operation done secretly? I'm perfectly fine with the Dr. Mengele story being told. But you need to situate it within a political context for it to read like a part of the "real world" created by the Trek franchise, as opposed to just being cartoon villainy. In Insurrection, for instance, Admiral Dougherty indicates that his operation with the Baku has been authorized by the Federation itself. But then, when his operation fails, he is hung out to dry. That's the level of political nuance that makes a story satisfying, and it's not an argument that "well that's a movie." Noooo, they've had seven hours of story time already, and this is the first we're hearing about Vadic's awful experience at the hands of Starfleet. 

So ultimately, it's kind of like eating a Pop Tart instead of eating a fruit-filled puff pastry. It kind of looks similar, and it even has some of the same ingredients, but they're not utilized in the same ways and not cooked for nearly as long. They're designed to be quick and easy to produce, instead of taking lots of effort.

Picard Season 3 is the Pop Tarts of Star Trek. It has sprinkles that look like our characters, flour and sugar and icing that look like the starships and planets and galaxy that we know and love, but the end result, while very sugary, ends up feeling mealy and bland and unsatisfying.

I could belabor this review by listing any number of silly plot points (their plan was really to let a bunch of shape shifters board the vessel, and meet them with only two armed personnel?), but the two above are enough. This just isn't very good. It's sort of barely adequate if you squint, or you're tired, or if you're surfing your smartphone while you watch it. The Data stuff was fine enough for what it was, and Geordi got one good emotional scene. But 7 episodes are now in the can, and we're only at what would have been act 2 of an episode like "Conspiracy" (which clocked in at a grand total of 45 minutes).

I'm still at a 5 on this. It's mediocre. Being better than the execrable seasons 1 and 2 of this show is not enough to earn my praise.

Click to embiggen. As you can see, I think this long, horribly paced movie is going to end up around "Star Trek Beyond" levels of quality, which feels about right to me. That also was a passable imitation of a Trek story, loaded with fan service, that flubbed the execution of its idea content while leaning too heavily on action and emotional treacle.

1 comment:

  1. You're not alone, I also fail to see any greatness in this. The engadget reviewer also agrees.