Monday, March 27, 2023

Picard, Season 3: The Bounty

Picard, Season 3
"The Bounty"
Aired: March 23, 2023
26 of 30 produced
26 of 30 released


At long last every major TNG cast member who is not dead or Traveling the limitless dimensions of the cosmos receives screen time in the same episode. And we are left to question: why did it take six episodes?

 Star Trek Picard: A floating museum of references to things you actually like.


Matthew: It's taken me a while to collect my thoughts on this episode. I didn't hate it. In fact, I even liked significant chunks of it. But I'm still just sort of "meh" about the whole thing.

Now, it should be noted that "meh" is a huge step up from my feelings on the last two seasons of this series, and indeed every season of every Kurtzman live-action show thus far (including Strange New Worlds, which I view as pretty and dumb whilst not being offensive).

So what do I think works here? I think they handled the reintroduction of Data about as well as they could have. I was going to be really honked off if my pained endurance of Nemesis and Picard Season 1 (both of which were varying degrees of awful) was going to be negated. And they weren't. This story threaded the needle of "undoing" those stories without undoing them.  Is it kind of dumb? Sure. Did we need Masks Part Deux, in which multiple consciousnesses inhabit the Data body at once? God no. But they acknowledged Lal, ignored Sochi of whatever the hell her name was, and just sort of got it over with. It's clear that these particular writers understand what a train wreck Kurtzman Trek has been so far, and the way they have acknowledged but sidestepped the dumber decisions (Picard's android body, Data's retcon daughters and brother) has been welcomed by me. 

Worf still gets the majority of laugh lines, which is of course consistent with TNG's portrayal of him as the ultimate straight man/fish out of water. Of course, this sets aside his horrific and counterproductive murder of the "bad guys" several episodes prior, but I guess this creative staff is working out its "let's move on" muscles in earnest. 

There is an undeniable thrill and pang of nostalgia in seeing the main cast of TNG back together, basically acting in character, with a blessed minimum of dumb new characters getting in the way. Commodore LaForge is pretty good, and he has a mini arc in this episode - not wanting to help out of protectiveness for his children; being reminded of what truly matters by his children; wanting to help again. Would this arc have worked better if it had been given more than two scenes to breathe? Yep. Would his daughters mean more to us if they had been given more lines? Yep. But LeVar Burton can still act, and he sells his character's journey. 

But now we get into things that didn't really work. When I feel things in episode 6 of a show, my inevitable question is thus: Why couldn't I have felt these things more consistently over the past FIVE HOURS of television? Why did they drag it out so long? Was it to save money? Sorry Burton, Sirtis, and Spiner, Peak Streaming is over, and we just don't have the money to give you all more screen time. For that matter, Gates McFadden is still woefully underutilized. Her function in this script is to deliver information about a new character we don't really care about, and to arouse the emotions of a character we still (barely) do. Anyone ever heard of a Bechdel Test? Star Trek used to pass them with flying colors in DS9 and Voyager...

The story overall is still underbaked and clearly is being stretched to fill run time. Gotta fill those thumbnails on the Paramount+ streaming interface! This story is being tortured into a format that it does not have the depth to sustain. How can we have gone for 6 hours and still not really know what the Big Dumb Threat is? And when we do find out, what good will the prior 6 hours of show have been? It will be clear they were just arbitrarily withholding information, and that leaves a bad taste in the mouth of this paying viewer.

I am also annoyed that Moriarty is used as a red herring in this episode. Here's what a Trek fan would do with the story: make the Moriarty program the actual security system of this station, and make the "key" that they had to get from the.... Vulcan gangster.... be the Countess Regina Bartholemew. This way, you both acknowledge and resolve a dangling thread from TNG's "Ship in a Bottle" while also giving two wonderful actors a chance to shine. Nope. Daniel Davis makes an appearance in order to just.... sort of reference that without actually developing the story, because he's all in "Data's" mind.

So in a lot of ways this feels like a game of "remember this reference?" designed to optimize social media mentions, as opposed to a story that makes sense and creates the scenes necessary to justify the musical swells and tear jerks that the writers are clearly straining for. Yes, I remember the USS Voyager. And the HMS Bounty. And Moriarty. And the Data Head. How about this: TELL A STORY WITH THEM.

I'm sorry if I am unenthusiastic. I know there are a lot of people who love Captain Shaw and are consistently amused by his gratuitous swearing (he is relegated to a meek side character inhabiting a conference chair in this episode). But the dialogue is still reeeeally dumb, and characters belabor and repeat plot point after plot point, as if the writers believe I am too dense to follow even a rudimentary turn of events or plan. The villain still hasn't been explained, which negates my ability to evaluate her justifications, her character, and her efficacy within a larger set of goals.

So I'm at a 5, still. I think this is mediocre, and leans a little bit to the left of the bell curve. It's flabby, it's dumb, and while it contains some nice nostalgic feelings, it does not develop stories in the way that TNG episodes, or even the better TNG movies, did. It feels like the writers are playing a game of "keepaway" with me, which frankly kind of pisses me off, since I am paying for this crap.

It makes me glad I'm sharing my password three ways.

Click to embiggen.

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