Friday, February 24, 2023

Picard, Season 3: Disengage

 Picard, Season 3
Aired: February 23, 2023
22 of 30 produced
22 of 30 released


The Final Frontier gets a lot dumber and far more graphically violent.

 Timepieces used to contain a metal spring that slowly unwound.... SCOTT!!!!!


Matthew: Welp, my expectations for this show are dashed. Let me tell you why (SPOILERS AHEAD). This episode is mercifully subdivided into two plots, as opposed to the eleven or twelve of last season. So let's get that praise out of the way. But what plots they are! Let's treat them individually. The first plot is "EEEEVIL bad guy spaceship threatens Dr. Crusher's tiny ship and the captain of the USS Titan decides whether to intervene." We are treated to a prologue of the adventures of Jack Crusher, Doctor without Borders. OK, fine, but the primary antagonists are the "Fenris Rangers," who are... inspecting his cargo? Under whose authority? By what criteria? Who the hell are these people, and why did Seven of Nine ever join them? They seem like officious bureaucrats, not freedom fighters or whatever. 

Then the plot kicks off, in which the bad guy tries to take Jack Crusher for some reason, but Picard magically produces "transport inhibitors" that keep him on the ship. So the bad guy starts firing torpedoes. Meanwhile, Captain Shaw, who REALLY HATES Picard and Riker for some reason, is all like "Nope, out of our jurisdiction" and "we aren't going to risk 500 lives to save two." Which, you know, minus the bizarre animus, is a solid position to take. He seems wholly unconcerned with the preservation of lives that he dislikes, which isn't a very Federation position to take, but whatever, needs of the many, right? And then Seven goads him into intervening anyway? To say that Shaw's characterization vacillates is an understatement. Last episode, he was angrily saying "F$%& You" to Picard and Riker because Picard had no authority and was retired and was a Borg that one time, and Riker was a sloppy mess who liked Jazz. But now, when Picard and company return to the Titan, he lets Picard onto the bridge instead of sending him to the Brig, and allows him to negotiate with the bad guy on the viewscreen and give orders on the bridge. Huh? 

Meanwhile, Jack Crusher, who everyone already knows is Picard's son, because he has a British accent, is in the brig, and takes advantage of Starfleet regulations that security guards must divulge the strength of force fields and not search prisoners for devices to escape. All the while, Doctor Crusher is in a medical pod, is treated by Sickbay, has RIKER barge in and wake her up with a hypospray, and says zero lines in the whole episode.

Matthew: But that's not really the dumb plot line in this episode. No, that is saved for Planet Drugs and the Adventures of Raffi, the World's Worst Secret Agent. Raffi is freighted with some of the worst expository dialogue ever, in which she has to monologue about the secret plot and how it makes no sense - bringing up issues that we could not possibly be aware of because they've never been mentioned, to a disembodied computer voice. 

Then, she goes on assignment to Planet Drugs to find a Ferengi who knows people and set up something with the patsy that Starfleet has in the frame for the terrorist attack. But on the way, she runs into.... her ex husband? Who lives on Planet Drugs and is a bartender there? Abrams-level coincidence, anyone? He reminds us that Raffi is a Deadbeat Mom and makes her choose between talking to their son or talking to the Ferengi, who he can introduce her to for some reason. She chooses the Ferengi, and he admonishes her for descending into her conspiracy theorizing again, which is a one way ticket to More Drugs (umm, OK?). 

So she makes it into the room with the Ferengi Sneed, who is Very Important and has Vital Information for the plot. Sneed wants to test her Starfleet-ness by having her use Space Drugs (whose main effects seem to be "tearing you apart and putting you back together again," which sounds like a rather undesirable effect for Space Drugs - do these writers know what Drugs are?). She does the Space Drugs, Sneed laughs and produces the severed head of the patsy, and then Worf bursts in with his new sword and proceeds to murder everyone in the room besides Raffi, decapitating Sneed despite his being a Very Important Source of Information, as well as not actually physically threatening everyone.

To which I say, thank goodness, it's just not Star Trek without decapitations - and more's the better, since we get two (two) TWO decapitations for the price of one!

No, actually I say the opposite. I view such gratuitous violence as tonally inappropriate and quite offensive really, since I want to watch Star Trek, not ISIS recruitment videos. But it's also just DUMB. If Worf is Raffi's handler (fine, whatever), why does he jerk her around by giving her so little information to go on, if he actually wishes to prevent the Space Terrorism? Why does he burst onto the scene at all, and why does he kill people who could actually materially aid the investigation? This isn't Duras, you know. When Worf killed Duras (far less graphically I might add) there were emotional reasons that had been built up over several episodes, and it was for the purpose of demonstrating that Worf had an alien morality. What is the point here, besides to look cool? And make no mistake, it looks cool, as does much of this show. But we are not asked to grapple with the ethics of Worf's actions, we are asked to cheer for them. And if you pause to reflect on any of it for more than thirty seconds, it collapses into a big pile of stupid, littered with the corpses of the needlessly dead.


Matthew: I'm not sold on Ed Speelers as Jack Crusher. I think I'm supposed to read him as a Han Solo type, but something is wrong with his face. Which is a petty thing to say, but here we are.  I loved Gates McFadden's performance here. The way she stayed in a pod, and was unconscious on a bed, and then delivered no lines was SO POWERFUL. A very good use of her time and acting talents. Probably her best role since Lily took all of her lines in First Contact.

Todd Stashwick was a bit better as Captain Shaw for me here. He wasn't being so aggressively douchey, which allowed me to see his character as someone with actual motivations. Those motivations changed by the second, but whatever, they were better than "I want to be a jerk." Amanda Plummer was given really bad dialogue to build her case for villainy with. She was also forced to sit in a chair the whole time, though she wasn't stroking a cat, unfortunately.

My level of sympathy for Michele Hurd is at its zenith. That poor, poor woman. The things this script is asking her to say, as monologue no less, should not be inflicted upon any actor.

Production Values

Matthew: The director of this episode chose to shoot every interior dialogue scene with an unstabilized handheld camera. This was done presumably for "Drama" because Camera Shaking equals Tense Excitement. What it resulted in was nausea. Luckily, television isn't made to be watched any more, but live tweeted. So the nausea likely affected very few people besides myself. On the plus side, things were ever so slightly better lit this time around.


Matthew: I was told by the breathless praise of those who saw these episodes at the Hollywood premiere, and by those who got the six episode preview pass, that this was a "return to the Star Trek we know and love." But this is not feeling any different than the first two seasons of Picard, or the whole of Discovery (or, frankly, Strange New Worlds). People say and do dumb things, motivations turn on a dime, expository dialogue is cringeworthy,  the story has had two hours to develop already and has gone almost nowhere in that time, violence and decapitated heads abound, and I'm having a really hard time understanding those who claim a vast improvement. I'm at a 2 on this, and trending downward.

Click to embiggen! 

Kevin: I'm taking the title "Disengage" in its imperative conjugation and disengaging from this story. I agree with most of Matt's critiques substantively. (Except to say that Strange New Worlds is largely a delight) but yeah, there is no story here. Because I was watching on Paramount+, I popped over to DS9 after and watched some season 6 and 7 while getting some other work done, and it was just nice to see writers who remember that relationships are more interesting than twists, and laying out the stakes rather than obscuring them heightens the drama rather than the other way around. Picard learning suddenly he has a previously unknown son (which BTW we did an okay enough riff already in Bloodlines), with Beverly in particular, is nowhere near as interesting as the storytelling possibilities of watching the pair navigate parenthood at this stage in their lives and careers. This isn't the long ago girlfriend of Carol Marcus or (thank you Memory Alpha) Miranda Vigo. This is a woman who has been one of his closest friends for decades. Can I imagine a world where Crusher feels justified in cutting off all contact with Picard right around the time they conceive? Sure. I just don't trust this show to articulate that journey in a way that will be interesting, and certainly not in a more interesting way than them having a relationship for the last twenty years would have been. This is just done for the sake of twists, reveals, and shocking meetings where emotional labor is done by staring and musical cues rather than a story.

And I know I'm picking a tiny thing to be the most annoyed about, but the line "Good afternoon...I believe it's afternoon in the Sol System," is simply the dumbest line ever written. It's always afternoon somewhere on a spherical world orbiting a star. Literally, at all times, some part of the planet is past the meridian but before sunset. This is a lazy line that sounds like it was written by a chatbot fed all the Marvel movies. I'm not saying every episode needs to be Shakespeare, but I would like my Star Trek to have more awareness of the motion of planetary bodies than the author of the aphorism, "It's five o'clock somewhere."

And yeah, I agree with the 2, for the beheading and the boredom. It's over a hundred minutes of story so far, and almost nothing has happened that could not be seen or reasonably inferred from the trailer. I know what Dukat and Weyoun wanted because they told me almost the moment they came on screen, and on that basis, I could form feelings about it. Here, it's just mediocre quips and violence. I'm probably going to keep watching out of a rubber necking fascination with what they will do next, but I'm certainly not enthralled. And since it is indeed five o'clock somewhere in the Sol System, I'm getting a drink.

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