Friday, March 17, 2023

Picard, Season 3: Imposters

Picard, Season 3
Aired: March 16, 2023
25 of 30 produced
25 of 30 released


Starfleet sends an investigator to hash out who did what and who needs to be punished for the last four episodes. Meanwhile, Worf realizes that he murdered his only informant and needs to find another one, while Raffi does donuts in the parking lot with her aggressively spinning wheels.


They are really getting their money's worth out of this set.



Since this narrative is utterly (irreparably?) fractured, I will treat the A and B stories separately, in reverse order. The Worf/Raffi tale is clearly the afterthought, since it was entirely dispensed with last episode (much to that episode's benefit) and is mostly dispensed with in this one. It feels utterly pointless. Basically, Worf and Raffi fight, because cool, Worf and Raffi are fighting. Then Raffi (quite rightly) criticizes Worf for murdering their best source of information two episodes ago. So Worf is all like "OK, let's find another informant, then." 

When a story is repeating itself because of a narrative mistake, that's generally a bad sign. And that is absolutely what is going on here. Worf and Raffi are still on Planet Drugs, they still have to look tough and act cool to lure out the "Beat It" extras who will move the plot forward, and then they have to fight AGAIN because showing how funky and strong is your fight is the only way to excel on Planet Drugs, it doesn't matter who's wrong or right.

So they have their faux fight and extract the information from their still alive informant, and maybe next episode they can finally leave Planet Drugs. But we'll see, I guess.

OK, now that the B plot is out of the way, let's talk about the A plot. Suffice it to say, SPOILERS from here on out, but frankly, this plot is so drawn out that watching an episode kind of feels like watching a story having already been spoiled, because didn't that happen two hours ago? I remember that.

The investigator is Ro Laren. She's back in Starfleet, after having sold them out 30 years ago to the Maquis. Picard is still royally pissed off about that, which seems a bit out of character, given all of the various "insurrections" he has engaged in when Starfleet was Wrong About Ethics. She is very brusque and rude to Picard and Riker, because that's On Brand in Starfleet, The Worst Workplace In the Galaxy. But to be fair, it also serves the narrative, which plays out in a pretty good imitation of DS9's Homefront/Paradise Lost and TNG's Conspiracy.

When it comes down to it, revealing that Ro has been investigating the infiltration of Starfleet, and that her ship the Intrepid is riddled with changelings, is about one act's worth of plot (i.e. ten minutes of a TNG episode). Here it takes forty minutes. It is mildly diverting and inoffensive. We get a pretty nice scene in which Ro and Picard hash out their feelings. Was this scene already given to us in a more economical form in "Preemptive Strike?" Sure. But no one has watched that (the writers reason), so we can re-do it here to fill run time and keep people subscribed to Paramount Plus.

Ro's sacrifice feels relatively hollow. For one thing, it was only necessitated by a plot bomb the writers placed there in a quick little moment. For another, it forecloses all sorts of interesting and fun Ro scenes that could have transpired. What it amounts to is that Ro received about twenty minutes of screen time before being offed - which mathematically speaking is about twenty Ichebs and 2.5 Hughs. But it's extraordinarily wasteful nonetheless - Michelle Forbes absolutely nailed her (ultimately repetitive) emotional scenes. 

The rest of the run time is occupied by dumb Mystery Box BS with Jack Crusher having visions of killing people, killing people (who are changelings), and then having more quick cut visions of THE RED DOOR and THE RED LIGHT and THE RED CREEPING CRUD. To say that these things are uninteresting is to shortchange them - they are uninteresting and insultingly vague and dishearteningly time wasting and have been done before multiple times in Kurtzman Trek. We should already know what the RED MENACE is. Knowing is much more fraught with tension and expectation than Not Knowing. Instead, we just have to pretend we enjoy narrative wheel spinning, as if it is clever and enticing and not just a way to turn three hours of plot into ten.

But we know better. We've seen six prior seasons of Kurtzman Trek, three Abrams movies, and a whole host of other "prestige TV" bullcrap stories that overpromise, overstretch, and underdeliver.


So when it comes down to it, I'm a bit less enthusiastic about this episode than I was about the previous. It is bogged down by two go-nowhere story lines and the good stuff was needlessly foreclosed by yet another needless canon character death. Some very good acting and some basically effective "Conspiracy" redux storytelling put this at a 5 for me.

Click to embiggen!

To give you a sense of my head space, here is a lightly edited excerpt of my chat with Kevin after watching the episode (these are my contributions, not his):

Maybe I've turned off  my brain because I'm in "Nemesis" mode. It's like, whatever, man...the story's ending, so fine, do what you feel like. We're getting some pretty good acting out of it, the story just makes no sense.

I was watching Star Wars Episode 1 because my youngest son chose it. And I'm kind of like "I sort of enjoy Jar Jar now. And you know what, this is a coherent story. Like it doesn't make the best choices, and there is too much telling instead of showing, but it at least proceeds from point A to B to C without a bunch of mystery box bulls#$%."

Which made me realize that I can be detached from something. I used to love Star Wars, now I view it dispassionately.

And I still love old Star Trek, but this s$%# is entirely different.

And so however they wrap up the story, it won't matter, because I'll always have the stories in my head inspired by the good stuff. I won't ever watch this crap again.

And it's true, they won't make good Star Trek ever again.

But when it comes down to it, 700 hours is enough.

I guess I'm just feeling very sanguine today.

And nothing in this episode offended me out of that head space.

I do at least get the feeling that this show runner actually likes Star Trek, while still being incapable of creating a reasonable facsimile of it.

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