Friday, June 10, 2022

Where are Picard Season 2 and Discovery Season 4?

Hello gentle reader/s...

I am sure Kevin and I have opined on this before, but one or more of you may be wondering where our reviews for Picard Season 2 and Discovery Season 4 are. The answer is: the do not exist, nor are they ever likely to. There are a few reasons for this.

Pictured: Not Kevin or Matthew, but a very representative "mood" as the kids say these days.

Star Trek Glut

I have often risked eye sprain when hearing the term "a new golden age" applied to Kurtzman Trek. I think this is a lazy use of the term, mainly focused on quantity rather than quality. Superficially, yes, there are just more Star Trek shows than you can shake a stick at these days. Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks, Prodigy, and now Strange New Worlds! What a cornucopia of delights! Well.... nah. The first two of these shows have been straight up awful. Lower Decks pleases Kevin more than me. I love Prodigy while I don't know that Kevin has really watched it. And we are diligently reviewing SNW, to mixed results. 

In one sense, there is too much Star Trek. In another sense, there is not enough. There is too much in that, as per the dictates of streaming television, "content" must be ready to roll out on your service every month, lest subscribers get nervous and cancel. Many of the same baker's two dozen producers are working on all of them. They have not demonstrated the ability to create consistently compelling Star Trek by my standards even on one show, and here they are trying to produce five different stories nearly simultaneously. I think the reliance on shock-twist storytelling, characterization shortcuts, and drip-drip "mystery box" narrative is the result. But in the other sense, there is not enough Star Trek. All of these shows are being produced in truncated "streaming" seasons. Gone are the days of the 25 episode season, in which character stories had a chance to breathe, changes of pace were common, and experiments in storytelling could be undertaken (and abandoned if they failed). 

All of this adds up to too much Star Trek to keep track of, and not enough quality to inspire the desire to do so. For me, they're producing one show that I am legitimately excited to watch - and they have shitcanned it to "mid season hiatus" until god knows when. Then there are two other shows that I have trepidations towards but can psych myself up to watch (not a good state of affairs when you have to describe it that way). And then there are Discovery and Picard.

Hate Watching

I'm sure you've heard of this. Watching something in order to ridicule it, dispense hot takes about it on the internet, etc.  Well, it's not actually fun for me or for Kevin. We like Star Trek. We want it to be good. When it's terrible, it doesn't feel good. 

 Pictured: the glory days before hate watching.

Picard Season 2 is a case in point. After thoroughly despising Season 1 - all 10 hours of its grim, nonsensical, hyperviolent assault on sense and reason - I was willing to give Season 2 a chance. I watched 3 episodes. I tapped out. When it became clear that they were retconning Picard's Maman into a mentally ill suicide victim and traumatizing his childhood thereby, I just lost my appetite for any more hate watching. Season 3 of Discovery was also my swan song with that show - the solution to yet another dumb season long plot ("The Burn" in this case) permanently foreclosed any hope I had of that creative staff ever learning how to craft cohesive, compelling science fiction narratives. 

I may still be dragged into watching Picard Season 3. Yes, I know. This is Lucy (Paramount) and the football (My feelings for TNG and its characters) all over again. But it works, that's why they're doing it, and that's why I'm probably going to inflict it upon myself again. But I won't suffer the same for Raffi, Elnor and Rios, or Burnham... and whoever is left on that travesty.

Greener Pastures

The other feature of the Streaming Era Maximum is the surfeit of better options available to me. The Orville is back on Hulu! HBO has Succession, Our Flag Means Death, Made for Love.... Apple TV has Severance, Ted Lasso, For All Mankind.... Peacock has Mr. Mayor (which I demand everyone watch immediately) and Rutherford Falls.... and all of these are better than even the best Kurtzman Trek show. They have better writing, better acting, and they don't make me physically hurt when they crap all over something I loved.


So yeah. If you want to learn about Discovery or Picard, I highly recommend RedLetterMedia's YouTube reviews. They do a thoroughly adequate job of dissecting those shows from the perspective of someone who grew up on the real "golden age" of Star Trek, which was 1987-2005.

P.S. - Kevin's Thoughts

So, I agree with the broad strokes of Matt's points, but will add a few things. I very much enjoy Prodigy and Lower Decks and am practically the SNW booster around here. And I even have a softer view of Discovery, if not Picard by this point, than Matt. I think what nagged me about Discovery was the glimpses of something like every minute Saru was on the screen or flashes of letting Burnham and Book have chemistry before chucking the story back into the Threat to All Life in the Universe. I was even mildly encouraged by the start of season 2 of Picard before realizing they had spent four of ten hours without advancing the story beyond the summary you could infer from the trailer. But more than the stories not being good is that I realized something by Discovery Season 3, both in an out of the blog. They are not fun to talk about. Matt and I rehashing the same complaints just isn't fun for me. There has been bad Star Trek, even in the heyday of our favorites. Final Frontier, for all its ambition is a bad movie but there was enough there to talk about to be fun rag on. That's what missing for me. It's not that it's not fun to watch, it's that it's not fun to discuss, and I honestly can't imagine it would be fun to read. Even with my friends who genuinely like it, it just devolves to us stating our preferences at each other in a circle until we die. As one friend put it to me in one of those "a-ha" moments, "You aren't going to convince me not to like it." Our reviews of Discovery and Picard seem to be either just one contiguous complaint or trying to convince people it's bad, and after six collective seasons of that, that just isn't going to happen. Talking about Star Trek to explore it and think about it different ways is fun. Lecturing people on why we're right just isn't, even if I think I am. For as much as I love the franchise, it is in fact just a TV show and some movies, and plenty of people like plenty of media I don't and getting angry about that just seems like a waste of my precious, limited time on this planet.

For whatever its flaws, and they are definitely there, SNW is fun to watch and think and talk about. As long as it remains the case, I will continue to enjoy reviewing them. We we started this back in 2009, only the first Abrams movie had come out and the new shows were only a glint in Paramount's eye. Our goal was to cover then extant Star Trek, and eventually we should actually reach that goal. Even if every additional hour were great, that's still a ton of new stuff to review, and a lot at once. If one thing has changed as I've aged, it's that I definitely no longer feel any need to be a completionist about anything. I'm closer to a Star Trek epicurean now. I'm here to enjoy the things that are enjoyable in a way that benefits me and doesn't hurt others, and that's all. Either Matt and I are right, and Picard and Discovery represent a fundamental rejection of some core philosophical principles of the franchise (and TV-making in general if I'm being honest) or we're just curmudgeons who can't accept that our favorite toy is being enjoyed in a new way by new people. 

Pictured: Curmudgeonly Star Trek Gatekeepers

In either case, I don't think anyone cares. In either direction. And because there is literally nothing new to be gained by anyone writing or reading about them, it is not worth the energy. 

And yeah, I will probably come back to Picard Season 3 at least for a minute. I can even hope that the Hail Mary pass of getting the band back together, coupled with SNW means the writers have finally gotten the message, and it will be season 8.5 of TNG. But honestly, the minute it becomes clear it's not, I'm ghosting the show without a second thought. 

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