Friday, April 14, 2023

Picard, Season 3: "Võx"

Picard, Season 3
Aired: April 13, 2023
29 of 30 produced
29 of 30 released


We finally learn the Big Dark Secret behind Jack Crusher's superpowers. Saddle up, lock and load -- it's really, really dumb.

 Dun dah daaah, dah dun dun dah DAAAAHHHH!!!!!



Matthew: So look. Everyone on social media is all gushing about the Enterprise D. Did I like it? Sure. Did I feel emotions? Of course. It is fan service of an extraordinarily high order. I will get to it. But I want to talk first about the other 38 minutes of the episode, all of which were profoundly, unbelievably dumb.

Counselor Troi, who apparently went to "How to be a Full Betazoid" school at some point in the past 35 years, is completely telepathically inhabiting Jack Crusher's visions. She opens the Red Door and behind it is.... wait for it.... (because we've waited 9 episodes for it...) the Borg. Again. Yep, the changeling crap was just 8 episodes of misdirection. Are you not SURPRISED and ENTERTAINED???!?!? The big baddie for this season is the Borg. As it was for Season 2. As it was at least in part for Season 1.  

But it gets dumber. Jack Crusher has telepathic powers, you see because the Borg, when they assimilated Picard decades ago, altered his DNA. They altered it in order to... program any offspring he had in order to become a biological transmitter of Borg information? 

I mean, look. Telepathy is magic, to some degree. But good science fiction creates rules for fantastical things. And these are not good rules. And, much like the Romulan master plan in Nemesis, this Borg plan has so many failure points that it beggars belief. What if Picard just doesn't have kids? Jack Crusher was concieved in a last wild pre-breakup bone session, recall. What if the kid dies in a traffic accident at age 9? Can the Borg communicate instantly with a biological transceiver across galactic distances? What is their endgame here? It's hard to imagine one.

The other... half? of the Borg plan is to assimilate Starfleet. No, not the people, but the literal "star fleet." Somehow, and this is only explained in the briefest sketch of too quick dialogue, every ship in the fleet has been equipped with "Fleet Mode." This mode allows the fleet to be coordinated via linked computers as one attacking or defending body, in case their crews are "incapacitated."

I just... for one thing, why would enough of the fleet be anywhere in one place to be coordinated in such a way? It's Abrams level dumb for that much of the fleet to be anywhere, for any reason (an insult I reserve for special occasions, of which this is one). But for another, does no one see the obvious risks involved in such an approach? Heck, even Riker and the rest of our bridge crew immediately aver that this feels a bit "Borgy." Starfleet has literally been put at extremely similar risk a good half dozen times throughout the franchise ("Control" in Discovery, a similar takeover by the Diviner in "Prodigy," "The Ultimate Computer" in TOS, the command codes in Star Trek II...). How stupid is Starfleet Command, anyway? Very, it seems.

So Jack's human transceiver abilities start "assimilating" all of the people (non humans included) under the age of 25 around him, because their brains haven't finished developing (another failure point in the Borg "plan"). And Picard and crew need to get off the Titan, which has been taken over by these assimilated Millennials and Zoomers. They escape in a shuttle, are not shot down by the assembled HUNDREDS of ships surrounding them, and escape back to the fleet museum, where Geordi has a surprise he's been saving.

Yes, it's the Enterprise D - original refurbished saucer, repurposed Galaxy-class stardrive, and automated systems so that a crew of 7 can run it (something I roll my eyes at, but it was done in Star Trek III so I'll let it pass). Why didn't Geordi volunteer this ship for service several episodes ago when it might have come in handy against Frau Farbissina and her Shrike? Because, that's why.

The feels really start flowing, and we get the biggest burst of fan service in, basically ever, in any franchise. This is Episode 7 Millennium Falcon level fan service, and it's fine. It's what we wanted. They even turn the damned lights on (one could make an argument for the whole series' fucking outlandish dark "lighting" scheme being an emotional buildup to this moment, but I reject such arguments, because it wasn't necessary to suffer through 9 hours for such a "payoff"). Everybody says the lines we expect, and the Enterprise we all know and love warps into action at the close of the episode. Yay!

But it's all so stupid. This plot is so, so dumb. And it doesn't really have any science fiction to it. It's the same old recycled zombie plot, with a dash of magic thrown in to make it work. The villains' plan has so many failure points, and it requires the victims to be profoundly ignorant and stupid for it to work. And it involved eight solid hours of misdirection, during which none of these obvious problems were solved in dialogue or story development.

So yeah. I guess I'm at a 5. Most of the episode is a very stupid 3, but the fan service is a 6 or 7.

Click to embiggen.

I have seen reactions on social media that say things like "Is this the best ever episode of Star Trek?"

No. No it isn't. It's reminding you of the best ever episodes of Star Trek. But it's a pale, lackluster imitation, almost wholly lacking the idea content and ethos that made Star Trek great, and that only lands an emotional punch owing to how long it's been withheld from you by Alex Kurtzman and the other show runners at Paramount Plus. I'm sorry to rain on parades (truly, I am). But it just isn't very good.

As with the entire series, characterizations (Worf's decapitation spree and the Riker/Troi retcon notwithstanding) generally work quite well. The actors are a joy to see working again, and their characters feel basically "right." And that's not nothing. But they're wedded to a Nemesis-level plot which has been stretched from two dumb hours into ten. So it's hard to feel or think anything after it's done and off the screen besides "I like those characters. I should watch some actual Star Trek with them in it."


  1. "All Good Things" put the band back together in about half an hour of screen time. It also told a much more compelling story in less than two hours.

    I think I would probably love seeing these characters back on the Enterprise-D again, but there has to be more than fan service to have a quality episode or miniseries.

    Picard is competing directly with The Mandalorian, which is showing how to do fan service the right way. The Mandalorian is including fan favorite characters, species, ships, and places, but it is also telling new stories with new characters in a satisfying way each week.

    Thanks for reviewing these episodes and providing perspective beyond "OMG! It's great to see Geordi again!" and the like. I wish this season had turned out a bit better, but we'll always have Paris (and Sarek, and The Inner Light, etc.).

    1. The "All Good Things" comparison is very, very telling. It's a far better story, with MORE character moments, greater emotional depth, and more world building, despite being only 20% of the run time. Where does all that extra time go?

      Oh yeah: pew pew pew slice decapitate pew pew!

    2. And thank you for suffering along with me :-)