Tuesday, February 14, 2023

The Picard Season 2 Bitch Session

Against the advice and best efforts of those who care for me, I have finished Picard Season 2 in advance of the new incoming insult season in the next few weeks. I had previously been able to slog my way, over the course of several months, up to the beginning of episode 7. So I was already reasonably aware of the season's deficiencies as a story. On the one hand, it started faster than Season 1, in that the first two episodes introduced a fascist alternate universe that was actually reasonably interesting. Then, when they reached 2024, things bogged down and got both boring and infuriating very quickly.

The show is even more incomprehensible than the poster!

Whose Plot is it, Anyway?

While the first two episodes made it seem as though this was going to be a fairly derivative ten hour redo of something akin to "All Good Things"  meets "Mirror Mirror," with Q playing the role of principal antagonist, that is not the story we eventually got over the subsequent 8 hours. Let me just share the notes I jotted down while finishing this nightmare of a season:

What the hell does the Soong/Kore story have to do
with the stopping fascism story
with the Picard childhood/Maman's suicide story
with the Seven and Raffi becoming happy lesbians story
with the immigration/clinic story
with the scared astronaut story
with the Q losing his powers story
with the Talinn/Watcher/Gary 7 story
with the Guinan hating modern America story
with the Borg queen/Jurati story
with the Elnor is a hologram story?
It's gibberish. By the time we reach the last few episodes, it's like a montage of random bullshit

No, this isn't the world's worst free form poetry slam, it is literally a list of 11 plot threads that are "treated" within the ten episode run of this season. Which is the primary thread? Who knows! To say that none of the stories received enough attention to make a lick of sense is being charitable. The last several episodes were torturous nonsense. 

Take Renee Picard, Picard's ancestor, who is a foreign national launching with a manned Europa mission in 2024 (1 year from a today in which we can't even get an astronaut to the space station without help) from Southern California. This space project is so tightly controlled and secure that no one involved has any idea that Renee suffers from crippling.... depression? Anxiety? Psychological TV Show Problems? Then, still unaware of their star astronaut's problems, the space agency (whatever it is... private? military? multi-national? This is never explained) hosts a gala party, which seems like a great way to prepare your astronauts for their journey tomorrow. Our "heroes" break in, Jurati sings what seems like a Karaoke number, except it's completely unamplified and no one kows where the music is coming from, she becomes the Borg Queen also, and Picard gets hit by a car, driven by Soong, because he's been told by Q that Picard is a threat, but Q is also trying to give Picard a present or lesson or "penance," and then we forget all about Renee until the finale because it's time to dive into Picard's mind and relive his mother's suicide for 3 episodes.

Am I conveying how fractured this story is? I don't mean fractured in a "my, this is avant garde story structure, whose juxtapositions expose fresh truths by their very unexpectedness" sort of way. I mean fractured in a "this is nonsense, and it's difficult to believe that people have been paid to write this drivel" sort of way.

How can a story that lasts ten hours so unsatisfactorily fail to develop and pay off every single one of its plot lines? Movies do far more with much less. 

Could it have worked if done differently?

Looking at my list of story threads above, it strikes me that there are almost as many of them as there are episodes. Could a better set of writers and a competent show runner have cobbled them into a satisfying season of episodic television? Kevin and I are in the midst of reviewing Enterprise Season 4, which is, albeit a last gasp, a frequently wondrous evocation of Star Trek's history, told in engaging stories that have beginnings, middles, and endings. 

So could Fixing Fascism have been a two-parter? Probably. Yesterday's Enterprise took 45 minutes, and Star Trek IV 122 minutes. You could probably even fold in the Renee Picard stuff, since it seems like the thing that is going to be changed to ill effect. If they had just cut all of the fist fights, phaser fights, secret agents storming into the La Sirena,and so on, I can imagine a story in which the bad future is shown (20 minutes), the problem is identified (10 minutes), time travel occurs (10 minutes), the person in the past is found and confronted (20 minutes), a tense chase/standoff/whatever makes its way to the Europa launch pad (15 minutes) and a suitable denouement/return to the present occurs (5 minutes).

Aha, but you see, this tight, reasonably effective plot was interrupted by no fewer than 7 more story lines
(by my count: the Soong/Kore story; Picard childhood/Maman's suicide story; Seven and Raffi becoming happy lesbians story; Immigration/clinic story; Talinn/Watcher/Gary 7 story; Guinan hating modern America story; Borg queen/Jurati story). 

But of course, they could have treated each of those stories in turn. Frankly, Maman's suicide (setting aside that it does not fit with continuity and should not be even approached by this writing staff of poo-flinging howler monkeys) does not require more than 1 episode of focus - 45 minutes is more than enough to lay the groundwork for her psychological problems, the effect this had on a young Picard, the mystery of why Daddy Picard didn't seek 24th century medical help and instead locked his wife in a room at Chateau Picard, and the emotional effect this had on Picard as he became an adult.

The same really goes for each of the other story threads. Why not give them sustained focus and tell them in an emotionally and narratively coherent manner?

The Dialogue

Oh, I know why. Because these bozos can't write their way out a wet paper bag.

This gem was uttered by Maman as she was telling her son that she was about to kill herself:

"When you remember me, promise me you will ignore the coldness of a dying star and remember instead her light and the infinite love she so very much had for you."

What humans talk like this? What parent would broadcast their intentions in this manner to a child?

Here is Jurati confronting the Borg Queen in her mind:

"A lone borgslayer, a united federation, they come for you - for your top-shelf, overreaching, Icarus-worthy arrogance."

Does she know what the story of Icarus is, and how it is a wholly inapt analogy to a species subjugating billions? Again, does anyone ever talk like this? Which "shelf" is arrogance typically stored on?

Here's a classic exchange between Q and Picard:

Q: "You want me to cut to the chase?"
Picard: "Yes!"
Q: "Well, the chase is cut, Picard. The chase is bleeding, the chase is dying in your arms, and I am but a suture in the wound!"

I... look. Q is an omnipotent being. A second for us may as well be an eternity to him. He has the time and the ability to come up with better things to say than this. And I am not cherry-picking here. The whole show reads like this. If people aren't saying "Shit" and "Goddamn" for no real reason, they are saying this crap.

Who Are These People?

As Seven and Raffi murder past human after past human, the thought occurred to me: who are these people? They don't resemble the people I watched in two shows I loved and enjoyed. Seven should not be murdering people. She abhors her violent past, the killing and enslaving she was made to do in the Borg's name. But as she jabs a knife into a human being who is being held down, incapacitated, I just don't think enough has been done to convince us that the person in Season 7 of Voyager has become this person on screen, now.

Picard, of course, is the most out of character member of all of this cast. The overall message of the series seems to be that Picard is obsessed with controlling the decisions and fates of others because he feels responsible for his mother's death. But this contradicts 7 seasons of TNG, in which he says things like "that sort of control is an illusion" and "death is a part of life" and "the boy needs to experience his mother's death" and so on. When did he stop being stoic and accepting of life's vicissitudes, and instead become a tortured trauma victim who is at the whims of his own neuroses?

Oh yeah - when Kurtzman took over.


I could go on, but I don't want to. The aforesaid are the ideas that stick most in my mind, after watching the last two and a half episodes (after a layoff of nearly eight months).  

I finished this up in advance of Season 3, which various preview-watching people are Really, Honest, Pinkie-Swearing that it's Going To Be Like Star Trek This Time, For Realsies!

But having watched the trailers, it looks like more of the same. There's still a big villain bent on revenge, the sets are still dark, now Dr. Crusher looks like the rebel who is out Space Fighting for some reason... and it's hard not to be downcast about the prospects of the new (God willing final) season of this mess.

What a waste. What a colossal, stupid, franchise destroying waste. What a waste of the last years of several actor's careers. What a waste of the fans' time. What a waste of the good will and sci-fi morality tales built up over 40 years of story telling. What a mess of television that we can't watch with our kids, and that is instantly forgotten once the screen shuts off.


  1. Okay, you've convinced me. I'll watch.

    But seriously, I only made it a little bit into season one, and I don't foresee going back. I'm not holding out for the miracle that it changes drastically in the future, though it would be welcome if that were to happen. As you point out, ENT doesn't actually hit its proper stride until season four. And then it got cancelled.

    1. You are more rational and protective of your time and emotional wellbeing than I am! Congratulations on bailing when you did :-)

  2. Yeah, I have seen the same positives from people whose Trek opinion I respect such as Bill Hunt. It baffles me that the seasons could be so vastly different in quality. But I guess I have to give S3 a try.

  3. I feel like your notes might be a great poem about the demise of modern Star Trek?