For STAR TREK: PICARD, don’t allow the PERFECT to be the enemy of the REALLY REALLY GOOD! (editorial review)


I really don’t understand the folks out there who are trying so hard to convince others (or maybe just themselves) that STAR TREK: PICARD isn’t a good show. I mean, the critics certainly love it (and by those I mean the trusted sci-fi critics who provide reviews—rather than just recpas—at places like DenOfGeek, IndieWire, IGN,, TrekMovie, Escapist, and many others). And numerous fans on Facebook certainly love the show, too. Granted, not everyone is giving it perfect 10’s each time out, but the general consensus seems to be extremely positive as people are enjoying what they see.

And then there are the detractors. There always seem to be detractors.

I’ve personally written more than fifteen thousand words over the last month and a half very specifically explaining why the show is so good (minus the blog about the swearing). So that’s quite the wall to climb in trying to convince me that I, the critics, and an endless parade of fans on Facebook and elsewhere have been wrong all this time. But that doesn’t stop these negative nellies from making such keen and thought-provoking arguments as the following…

Deep thinkers, I know.

I also tried watching Nerdrotic’s latest video podcast bashing the show (as he always does). However, it’s hard for me to give a critic any real credence when he can’t even pronounce the name of the episode…despite living a few hours drive from a famous restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur with the same name. Nepenthe (neh-PEN-they) has been around since 1949 overlooking the cliffs of the majestic California coastline and serving the world’s best hamburger (the ambrosiaburger) along with other culinary delights. For a person who lives in San Francisco to not have heard of Nepenthe…well, that’s just wrong. Take a drive down the coast, dude; it’s lovely!

Anyway, as I watched Gary Buechler skewer the episode on his podcast, all I could think were 1) he’s using juvenile name-calling to make a lot of his points, and 2) he’s getting donations from people while doing the skewering. If people paid me money to bash a show each week, I’d probably find a way to do it. I’m just not sure I’d trust what I had to say as objective or fair-minded. But enough about that.

I’m really trying to understand the folks who don’t think this show is good. A teensy few have written thoughtful, reasonable comments that I’ve published on previous blogs. And while I don’t agree with them, I respect their efforts to convey their thoughts clearly and civilly. But by far, most people who criticize this show just seem to fall into the following five categories…

  • They went into this series looking for reasons to hate it, and so that’s what they do now—like pigs sniffing in the dirt for truffles.
  • They resent CBS for making them pay for Star Trek.
  • They want the “old” Star Trek and are pissed that only Seth MacFarlane is giving it to them (and now they have to pay for that, too!).
  • They don’t know how to watch a show like Picard where there isn’t a constant flow of action and drama and suspense to keep them awake.
  • In their mind, they picture a “perfect” Star Trek series (whatever that might be; it’s likely different for everyone), and this isn’t it.

I obviously can’t address the first four groups or their issues. If someone is determined not to like something no matter what, it’s hard to change that mindset with reason or logic. And if a person is a product of this fast-paced, thrill-a-second society we live in, then they’re not going to enjoy Picard any more than they’d enjoy other “slow” classics like Gone with the Wind, Citizen Kane, or Casablanca. Attention spans have just gotten too short.

But for the last group, I truly believe, there is hope yet!

Look, in a “perfect” world, none of us ever gets old, and SIR PATRICK STEWART can play Jean-Luc Picard with the same vim and vigor that he did three decades ago when he was in his 40s and 50s. In a “perfect” world, Star Trek would still be a viable franchise on network television (or one of the cable channels) and not fall victim to the same subscription-based black hole that has sucked in The Expanse, The Orville, Stranger Things, Lost in Space, The Mandalorian, Westworld, Game of Thones, all the Marvel TV stuff, Watchmen, The Boys…you get the idea. These days, decent quality sci-fi that is NOT on a subscription service is a true rarity…and Star Trek would likely suffer for it and wind up looking more like something reminiscent of The 100 on the CW.

As for episodes being slow or characters being flawed or the Federation suddenly being dystopian (not any more so than the DS9 episode where O’Brien went undercover in the Orion Syndicate, by the way) or any of a hundred different faults I’ve seen some fans decide to criticize, I think they are all making the same mistake that Jean-Luc Picard did…


It’s really that simple. Liking Picard is a choice you make…as is not liking it. What this show is presenting to us is a Star Trek unlike anything that has come before. It IS slower…on purpose. Discovery is the fast-paced, shoot-’em up Star Trek at the moment. Lower Decks will be the comedy. Section 31 will be James Bond-ish whatever thingie. Pike, if and when it happens, might (PLEASE!) be the “explore strange new worlds” Trek returned from the grave.

But Picard is the deep-thinker’s Trek, tailored for the audience that wants to (as I’ve said before) enjoy a meticulously-prepared, rich and sumptuous meal. The wine is uncorked and allowed to breathe. The meal is cooked slowly and carefully, enjoyed in a relaxed setting enhanced by friends and conversation. If you had been expecting McDonalds or microwaved mozzarella sticks, this wasn’t the dining room to walk into, folks.

Here’s your essay topic for extra credit: how does Riker’s pizza symbolize Soji? How does it symbolize Jean-Luc Picard? How does it symbolize the Riker family? Discuss.

I won’t lie and try to convince you that Picard is a perfect show, or even that it’s the best Star Trek series so far (that honor still belongs to Deep Space Nine, in my opinion). And even with an episode as good as “Nepenthe,” I still had my issues with it. I simply chose not to allow the perfect to be the enemy of the really incredibly good. Here’s how I did it…


Soon to be sausage…

Over the past two weeks, I predicted two things that have now come to pass (or soon will). The first was that we’d see Seven-of-Nine again—likely in the last episode or two. Turns out we won’t even have to wait that long, as it seems she’s back next week in episode 8. The other prediction, made in last week’s blog as I compared this 10-segment “super-long” episode to TNG‘s “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” I suspected that after the action at the end of episode 6 that episode 7 would be slow again before things picked up speed at the end.

But I find this slowdown in episode 7 to be more of a feature than a bug. Indeed, the word “Nepenthe” is from Homer’s Odyssey and is a drug “…to quiet all pain and strife, and bring forgetfulness of every ill.” That kinda implies a chance to slow down and relax, not speed things up.

Also, the episode allowed fans to catch up with William Riker and Deanna Troi…and their daughter Kestra (named after Deanna’s older sister who drowned—and Colonel Thaddius Riker, whom Thad was likely named after, was an ancestor of Will’s who fought in the civil war and was rescued by a Q named Quinn). There was a LOT to process in this episode, and rushing things would have ruined it all. I’d rather soak in every last special moment of the Troi-Riker family’s reunion with Jean-Luc Picard. Speed things up next time.


In addition to those two predictions I made above, I knew that a few other things were gonna happen. For example, I knew that we’d see a flashback to Agnes Jurati’s meeting with Commodore Oh on the cliffs beside the Daystrom Institute. After all, now that we know Agnes is a plant on board the La Sirena (which I also kinda saw coming—I’m just wondering at this point whether Agnes is or isn’t an android like Soji…although one would think a Vulcan mind-meld wouldn’t work on an android), we need to discover HOW it happened. And of course, that scene also clues us in on the fact that Agnes chewed and swallowed a Romulan tracker.

Other things I saw coming were this little girl being Riker and Troi’s daughter, Riker figuring out from clues that Soji was Data’s daughter (although still a well-delivered scene), Kestra contacting her captain friend to figure out the location of Soji’s “home” (hey, they had to find out somehow), and the fact that it wasn’t the entire pizza burning.

So yeah, a few predictable scenes. It happens…and it shows I’m interested and paying attention. Too much predictability, though, and why watch it at all? But Picard hasn’t crossed that threshold.

However, we’ve also got…


Sorry, but there were also a few places where my mind said, “nuh-uh.” There weren’t a lot of them, but they were there. The biggest was when Agnes was barfing up red velvet cake and the EMH doesn’t show up. I actually thought for a moment, “Ah! Agnes deactivated him so he couldn’t report having witnessed her killing Bruce Maddox!” But then, a couple of scenes later, Agnes injects herself with the uranium hydride, collapses, and we suddenly see the EMH appear saying, “What is the nature of your…oh, bloody hell!” (Great line, by the way…didn’t mind the swearing there!) So no, Agnes didn’t deactivate the EMH, and yet he didn’t appear when she puked. A little sloppy…the writing, I mean.

Another bit of sloppy writing—or perhaps directing—was Commodore Oh reaching to Agnes to create a mind-meld without first asking her consent. To me, and to most Vulcans, that’s the equivalent of attempted rape. Granted, Agnes does ultimately say, “Okay,” before the actual mind-meld happens. But even still, those Vulcan hands should have come forward AFTER Agnes agreed, not before. Again, a little thing…but it bothered me when I saw it.

I also felt it a bit manipulative that only a synth would have been able to have saved the Rikers’ son Thad. That was just a little too convenient and somewhat hokey. Granted, it’s not like Star Trek was never convenient or hokey before. Go back and rewatch Star Trek IV.

And finally, Picard introduces Soji to Riker by saying, “COMMANDER Riker and I served together on the USS Enterprise.” Yes, it’s true that Riker was a commander at the time, but he’s a CAPTAIN now. Riker was given command of the USS Titan at the end of Star Trek: Nemesis. I realize it would have been clunky to write the scene acknowledging that Riker WAS a commander and now he’s a captain, but I just felt a little twinge of “Oh, that’s not right” when I heard the rank. Obsessive Trekkies like me are like that. Most viewers probably didn’t even notice.


Okay, first let me acknowledge a giant step forward in that there were no scenes in this episode of Narissa trying yet again to seduce her brother. Of course, they spent most of the episode light-years away from each other. However, I just don’t think either Narek or Narissa are being handled properly as villains. Narissa was given a little more depth this episode in showing her fighting skills and immediate recognition of who Elnor was and his training. But she still seems to be evil for the sake of being evil. For whatever reason, she believes synths are bad and will destroy the universe. Okay, fine. But how does that justify killing all of those ex-Borg on a whim?

Some of Star Trek‘s strongest villains were ones who didn’t see themselves as villains. They were acting in service to what they believed were greater goods—or simply selfish goods—but what they did they did with reason (even the Romulans). I feel as though Narissa does sadistic stuff just because it turns her on. As for Narek, this episode all he did was fly a ship while looking arrogant and bored…until he suddenly lost the signal. Whatever. When it comes to the villains on Picard, I’m just not feeling it yet. Perhaps that’ll change in the last three episodes.


Okay, I just spent four sub-sections listing all of the things that kept this episode from being “perfect” for me. And there were even a few more, like Rios suspecting Raffi instead of Agnes (seriously?) and me wondering how a mind-meld can insert visions of the future and still be trusted. So yes, definitely a far-from-perfect episode.

Yet, for me, it was the best Picard yet!

And by that, I don’t mean that the other episodes set a really low bar. They haven’t. I love this show, and in general, each episode has been even better than the last.

So what made this episode so good if it had all these imperfections? In short, everything else. It was, of course, FANtastic seeing Riker and Troi again. And their daughter Kestra was perfectly cast. The actors on this show are all (with the exception of Narek) truly top-notch. Seeing them perform is a treat, week after week. Criticize whatever else you want to about Picard, but if you’re bashing the acting, you’re just full of it. Sorry, but you are.

What made the scenes that took place on Nepenthe work so well is how many character-defining and developing things that were happening simultaneously—despite the relaxed pacing. Let’s go through them…


The people who didn’t like the Soji scenes, I suspect, didn’t really feel empathy for this character. And who among us could? We’ve all been ourselves for our entire lives. But Soji just discovered that everything she thought she knew is a lie. She’s only existed for three and a half years, she’s not human, and the person she thought loved her just tried to kill her! (And you though YOU had problems???)

Her journey in this episode is the hardest to understand of everyone. She doesn’t know whom to trust, and Picard (while a nice old man) is a stranger who might well mean her harm. His friends could just be his confederates in exploiting her. She literally doesn’t have anyone in her life that doesn’t make her feel suspicious…not even herself! Watching her slowly and gently work though all of this is actually a beautiful thing—helped along by Kestra, who acts like a not-so-little sister to ground Soji as she adjusts to her new reality.


A lot happened with Picard this episode, and if you weren’t taking it all in and soaking it up for the magnificent character exploration that was provided to you, then you missed what might well be the most pivotal and rich episode of the season.

You see, Picard IS broken…or rather, he was. Q was right, in a way, in saying that Picard was too arrogant, too cocky. He was. The great captain of the Federation’s flagship always felt himself to have an air of infallibility. Even his greatest “failure”—giving in to becoming Locutus—wasn’t truly his fault. But his failure to help the Romulans, along with his meaningless resignation, those were, quite simply, a mistake…a mistake that echoed though the rest of his life until now. The fact that Picard acknowledges that mistake and sees this “mission” to help Soji as a redemption is amazingly intuitive, but Jean-Luc has always had that introspection.

However, whereas the great Captain/Admiral Picard always seemed to have all the answers, this time he doesn’t, and he freely admits that, too. He is older now, he doesn’t have the resources he used to, and he might be in over his head. As he shares all of these doubts with Riker and Troi, Sir Patrick and the writers show us a vulnerable, fallible side to Picard that has only been glimpsed a few times in the character’s Star Trek history. Some fans are uncomfortable with that (you can tell from their Facebook comments). But to me, it’s the most fascinating and compelling part of this series. What happens when the hero lives on into old age? Kirk died in a blaze of glory, but Picard was fading quietly into that good night…until now. How does a hero face the reality that he is no longer the man he was?


Actors JONATHAN FRAKES and MARINA SIRTIS (and the writers) had three “jobs” they needed to do with their characters. The first was to bring the viewers “up to date” with what we’ve all missed in the lives of Will Riker and Deanna Troi, just married the last time we saw them before this. Obviously, a lot has happened. The update was done through a combination of telling us and showing us. Will and Deanna went through the worst experience imaginable for a parent, and they were obviously still affected by it. But at the same time, they had found a way to move forward, get past the darkness and despair, and find their way back to a life of happiness and light.

For anyone paying attention, this is in sharp contrast to some of the other “damaged” people on the show like Raffi, Seven-of-Nine, and even (to an extent) Picard himself. Riker and Troi and Kestra are the beacon of light to shine for the rest of them…at least as far as we viewers are concerned.

And this brings us to the other two “jobs” that Riker and Troi have to do, and here there must be a bit of a balance. First, they have to reconnect with an old and dear friend, let him know he’s safe and supported, and once again ground him in the familiar. But this also dovetails with their final and most important task: putting their friend back onto the right path because Jean-Luc isn’t the man he once was, and yet, yes he still is. Riker and Troi are there to remind him of this, both gently and somewhat firmly.

Part of this task is done together simply by having Picard back among colleagues who know and trust him, and he them, to figure out a way forward. And part of the task is done separately, with Troi playing maternal counselor, intuiting things about Picard himself, and Riker intuiting things about Soji and the situation. They make an excellent team in helping their friend. But they also give Picard one final gift before saying good-bye (perhaps forever). They share a special insight on parenting, something they both know well but Picard doesn’t. Being a parent isn’t like commanding a starship at all. And if Picard wants to connect with Soji and gain her trust, he can’t simply be the confident and commanding Captain/Admiral Picard. He also needs to be the kind, gentle, understanding father that Soji never knew.

In the end, Riker and Troi and Kestra accomplish their “mission.” They repair both Soji and Picard and get them back into space to (we assume) complete their quest and save the universe or however this ends. But the path to that place, like Nepenthe itself, wasn’t fast-paced at all. It was slow and gentle…as it had to be.

If that relaxed pacing ruined it for some, if they prefer the heart-pounding action, suspenseful music, quick cuts, and loud explosions, Discovery will be back on the air in a few more months.

But for those willing to let the wine breathe a little, the tomatoes ripen, cheese be grated, and the non-venomous bunnycorn sausage to marinate, this meal has so much to offer.

28 thoughts on “For STAR TREK: PICARD, don’t allow the PERFECT to be the enemy of the REALLY REALLY GOOD! (editorial review)”

        1. If you’ve just finished reading all my blogs (that’s a LOT of blogs, Edward!), them I’m guessing you’ve confirmed that I have NEVER said anything even remotely close to “I hate Discovery.”

  1. When you reach the stage in life where your yesterdays far outnumber potential tomorrows, and your body has become a mere shadow of its former self, one undergoes a cosmic shift in values, perceptions, and responses to situations. “Picard” has given me the impetus to stop complaining about the loss of really good programming to the “pay per view” concept of streaming services and DO something I had sworn never to do…subscribe to such a service for the sole purpose of seeing Sir Patrick bring The Captain to life once again. Happy to say, it has been one of my best decisions of late! Thanks to Closed Captioning, I can enjoy the experience of some great writing (swear words be damned!)and character/story development. The presence of too many action scenes in a series is indicative of lazy writers who wish to cater to only one small segment of viewership. Finally, there is something worthwhile for those of us who are more than a little long in the tooth and still enjoy good science-fiction. Live long and prosper “Picard”; hopefully for at least as long as the rest of MY life!

    1. Maybe that’s what it is…Picard is written for older Trek fans who have some perspective on what Jean-Luc is experiencing. The younger millennials and those without the insight that aging brings can’t relate to the main character anymore or the aspects of the storyline that center around him.

      1. +1 to Patricia and Jonathan. I agree wholeheartedly.

        As an aging 56 y/o lifelong Trek fan, I can certainly relate a little to mature Picard’s current status and his ongoing quest to be useful. Seeing Riker and Troi was so delightful. And the actress that played Kestra was amazing.

        Marina Sirtis’ performance was outstanding and so heartfelt. My tears were difficult to hold back.

        I’m looking forward to at least 2 more years of “slow” Picard. I love Discovery for different reasons. But I sure am hoping for a Pike/Spock series and maybe even a Seven series.

  2. Let’s not forget the Kzinti, maybe a minor detail, but as a Larry Niven fan I found it incredible. So, Star Trek TAS is now canon?

    1. It would seem so…at least three of the decent episodes. Yesteryear” was mentioned in the Enterprise Vulcan arc, Robert April from “The Counter Clock Incident” in Discovery and now the Kzinti from “Slaver Weapon.”

  3. My non-Trekker wife who is watching the show with me thinking it’s better than the Simpsons at least (quote), really liked this episode. Her exposition about why was not at the wonderful level of detail as this blog posting, but was basically the same.

    And I did as well.

    I also remember some of the slower parts of LoTR with fondness. For example this which to me travels much the same ground as this Picard episode:

    “Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.

    Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are.

    It’s like in the great stories, Mr Frodo. The ones that really matter. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing. A shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come! And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those are the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. And I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.

    Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?

    Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”

  4. Jonathan

    I have read virtually every blog you have written and only now find myself in disagreement.

    Enjoyment is not a choice!

    You either do, or do not enjoy. Once one engages conscious decision into the emotional response, one is either justifying the imperfect or ignoring the flaws.

    I’ve enjoyed many flawed films and to shows, and not enjoyed many that were flawless bar their unenjoyability.

    I’m a die hard trek, sci fi fan who also enjoys anything that is good, flaws and all.

    Pace is largely irrelevant !

    Last night I took my 29 year old son to see (for his first time) Lawrence or Arabia, 3 hrs and 48 minutes of it.

    He loved every second, especially how much was said without a word being spoken.

    Now, I’m not comparing Picard with a seven Oscar , ten nomination motion picture BUT I can compare some vital factors which do underpin ANY good (not perfect) and thus ENJOYABLE viewing experience.

    1. Be true to your charchter when writing dialogue.
    If your writing deviates, establish why, when and where.
    Picard we are told loved data, when did this really happen?

    2. Characters need convincing motivation, even if the characters motivation is flawed, they must be convincing for the viewer to be convinced. I’m not convinced by anyone’s motivations to date.

    3. Be consistent with your universe, if you deviate, explain or your viewers suspension of disbelief will vanish. This killed The Matrix sequels, and is killing Picard.

    4. Stop using lazy fan service to provoke me into feeling this is Trek. It’s more offensive than F bombs and sticks out like a sore thumb.

    5. Accept this is not art; its business. If there is no vision underlying it, it will feel empty. With so many cooks, vision becomes obscured, business becomes dominant and the committee of creativity reigns thus diminishing any vision that may have got this going in the first place.

    Mix 1-5 together in various proportions and you have the recipie for frustrated viewers, clumsy story telling and misdirection by many involved in delivery.

    I desperately want to love this show, and there have been may moments indeed, but it just not enough. Let be honest about that much at lease!

    I frankly can ignore canon, consistency, and would gladly embrace a dystopian federation in crisis….what a brilliant avenue to pursue indeed….but this show lacks the courage to commit to even that.

    This show so far exceeds The running time of Lawrence twofold already and I have yet to be even convinced that the bald lead really is Jean luc Picard because his journey to where he was in ep 1 and is now just feels off….I can’t put my finger on it, but it just is. Lawrence’s journey in 4 hrs is utterly convincing, compellingly so and its not just the writing…in fact mos of it is from many scenes with no dialogue at all.

    And don’t throw “it’s a big movie” at it….that’s not a defence. These writers have grown up with a wealth of amazing tv and film to influence and inspire them. That’s why many end up being writers surely, but we cannot be apologists for hack plotting, contrived situations, convenient coincidences and plain clumsiness of execution in so many segments of this series to date.

    I WANT TO ENJOY THIS, BUT IM NOT REALLY….the first episode filled me with hope and I looked passed its flaws as I did with most of season 1 of Babylon 5 and was richly rewarded later. I will maintain that hope, but so far, as far as I can tell to date, CBS has managed twice to mangle Trek in two completely different ways with one common denominator. BAD WRITING.

    Westworld season 1 was utterly compelling, yet was slow like molasses in the winter.

    Neither speed nor a utopian future make trek….good writing does, and I’m afraid we have to accept that.

    I did like many moments on Nepenthe and it would have been a good place to go to in ep 2; I just hope it’s not too little too late and that the twist isn’t that the romulans created the Borg by going back in time……

    Live long and prosper

    1. Now THAT was a well-reasoned, clearly communicated, and respectful response, Fran. I thank you sincerely.

      So let me clarify something. I didn’t mean to suggest that enjoyment, in general, is a choice. I love chocolate. I don’t choose to love chocolate; I just do. I really don’t like beets at all. I’ve tried them on many occasions, and each time I felt like I was tasting dirt. That’s not a choice; it’s a visceral reaction.

      But then there’s eggplant. In general, I don’t like eggplant. But there’s a fellow on Lincoln Blvd. in Venice who makes THE best ratatouille ever…and it has eggplant in it. I can taste the eggplant. But I choose to overlook the unpleasant taste because the rest of the ingredients–fresh tomatoes, squash, zucchini, peppers, herbs, etc.–work so well together. The finished product, despite having an ingredient that I don’t like, still tastes exquisite to me. And so I choose to ignore the “reality” that this man’s ratatouille contains eggplant and simply enjoy it nevertheless.

      And so it is with Picard.

      While I’m sure some people do just immediately love or immediately hate the series for visceral reasons, I doubt that’s really true for most fans…for reasons I mentioned in the blog. The episodes and series itself are far from perfect but also far from painful. So my feeling is that, with Picard at least, liking or not liking it is a choice of whether to focus on those things that bug you versus letting them go and enjoying the rest, as I have chosen to do. It’s similar to what you said about the first season of Babylon 5–or even the first two seasons of TNG. There were certainly some clunker episodes during those years! And there was a lot that bothered certain fans (Wesley saving the ship again and again, Picard surrendering and calling another conference, Michael O’Hare’s stiff acting as Commander Sinclair). But we chose to ignore it all and enjoy the rest…and were rewarded for it.

      As for your 1 to 5 factors that underpin a good viewing experience, I agree with some and disagree with others. But I’d like to point out something important to keep in mind: this is a new way to write television. What we’re essentially seeing is what used to be known as a mini-series. But Netflix and Prime and HBO have taken this format to a new level, and writers are still trying to figure it out. It worked in Westworld’s first season but not in its second (and apparently not in its third). It didn’t work in The Expanse’s first season but worked very well in seasons two and three (and I still haven’t gotten to season four yet, but I’ve heard less-than-impressive things). It’s totally worked in all three seasons of Stranger things. The list goes on and on.

      But the one thing all of those series have in common that is different than Picard is that those are each brand new concepts (well, Westworld is based on a 1970s sci-fi movie and The Expanse on a series of novels…but on TV, they are new). Star Trek, on the other hand, has been around on television for five and a half decades and has never been done this way before. So there are bound to be imperfections, bugs in the system, and things that bother us. Maybe it’s the pace or the characters or the contrivances or whatever. The fact remains that the writers are finding their way (just like they did on TNG), and this series has NOT been perfect out of the starting gate…for most of us, at least. So as fans, we face the choice of whether to accept what’s wrong like we did for B5 and TNG at first–possibly finding our reward later on–or to harp on all of the missed targets. So I stand by my statement: liking Picard is a choice. Choose wisely. πŸ™‚

      1. ….hmmm

        Jonathan….a well reasoned counter and I pause for thought…..

        I 100% understand….but will say this…..

        I bailed on season 1 of B5….then 2 years in a close friend presganged me into watching it…so I tried again….and when I saw the B4 episode, smitten.

        I still do not enjoy those early episodes which have poor dialogue, hokey monsters and episodic weekly contrived resets…..just because genius followed does not mean I can now choose to enjoy them . You can’t polish a turd (though Kubrick once responded to that by saying “freeze it first”).

        A writer finding their feet will be about plot, character, situation, environment or dialogue. It will not be about the quality of those. Much of that will be in the series writer bible. Example; this week I write a crap line of dialogue for the lead, next week I write an awesome piece of dialogue for the lead. They are what they are. One is crap, the other is not. That’s not findin my feet, it’s I’m just not that good or consistent.

        Yes, JMS wrote a fair bit of lame stuff, but once the vision emerged….whoa! Now, I guess that is sort of what your saying, but when you are paying to watch this, and you have such a dense detailed universe to exploit, hire the best, demand the best, deliver the best. Battle star Galactica did, and I went into that determined to hate it. By ep 2 i was hooked, and it got better and better and then kinda …..meh, at the last ep (ditto LOST).

        Picard isn’t flooring me and many others, and I want to like it more than I do. I’ll stick to it, but let’s pray. I’ve yet to get that Short Trek Anson Mount buzz yet (bar Seven of Nines entrance….whoa!)….sigh…

        The Orville actually manages to annoy me more than Picard, but I am enjoying far more than Picard, and it’s not coz its Classic trek like; it’s coz it’s well written, consistent charcters, clear motivations, engaging and challenging situations and now and again some great dialogue too, plus……..BANTER…..

        Picard’s banter is off and rationed at best. You did make some very good points about banter re Discovery.

        So, I maintain, enjoyment is not a choice.

        We ignore the eggplant in Picard, sure, but eggplant there is, aplenty!

        Maybe we can figure this out?


        1. I’m working on my next blog reviewing what I thought was the best episode yet. I’m curious whether or not you agree, Fran.

          As for banter, it doesn’t take much. Discovery has almost none, but Picard definitely had it. “Nepenthe” was loaded with banter between old friends and also between new friends (Soji and Kestra). Picard had his banter with his Tal Shiar housekeepers and with the head Romulan nun. Raffi is 75% banter…as is Rios. His holograms are nearly 100% banter. I’d say this show is very much set when it comes to banter, thank you very much! πŸ™‚

          And look, when something truly sucks, you can’t simply decide to “like” it and feel those feelings. I watch “The Real Housewives” for even a minute when my wife has it on and I want to wretch. I couldn’t “decide” to like those shows if you paid me! But with a show like Picard, there’s enough there to like and also not to like. And in that way, I think the show provides fans with a choice.

          1. That’s so damn funny…..

            I try to hate the real housewives of Beverly Hills but I can’t help enjoying the complete car crash that is is on every level….

            Hilariously great example….I want to wretch but just keep lapping up its insanity of misery juxtaposing extreme privilege.

            At this point, I think we need a philosopher or a psychiatrist!

            Let’s see how it all plays out on Picard….
            Watching is the correct “choice”.
            Enjoyment hopefully accompanies that.


  5. I am rather surprised to read your remarks Jonathan. Not about Picard I still have not summoned the motivation to take another swing at it but your remarks about critics. Most especially what you term “Trusted Sci Fi” critics. These are the ones who rate shows and movies on Rotten Tomatoes and some have even admitted that they “Play Ball” with the studios on Podcasts when they were feeling relaxed.

    The thing is that on a LOT of Sci Fi shows you get a very wide disparity on the more “important to the studios” between the thousands of audience who have seen it and when you look on RT the critics. There is often a wide 40% up to 80% disparity between the two for shows beloved by the studios. Now you would expect Critics to line up with the audience score pretty closely if they are credible or good at their job.

    I have not checked the RT score on Picard but If as you say these Critics are recommending it to me that is a strike against it unless the audience score reflect their opinion which it so rarely does.

    1. Not all of the critics I cited were on RT, Glenn. Also, I’ve noticed something unusual on RT when the critics’ ratings are really disparate with the audience’s ratings. Let’s take a look at Picard’s RT rating. As of this evening (Thursday, May 12), the critics give Picard a solid 90% and the fans a moderate 63%. The critics have been holding consistent while the audience’s reactions have dropped from the high 80s in the first two weeks to 63% now. Has the show gotten worse? Have more people started watching it and not liking it, and if so, why? Do the first two weeks of audience reviews reflect only those fans who love the series?

      I wondered.

      Y’see, there’s a lot of rumors of the studios paying off the reviewers, and it’s certainly a possibility in some cases. But to bribe that many people consistently, week after week, just invites a whistle-blower…and I don’t just mean some stoned guy on a podcast. This is the sort of thing that would get some coverage somewhere in the news media because it’s quite the scandal. Not quite Russian hacker level, but kinda in a similar vein of manipulating social media. It would be a story worth covering. The fact that there haven’t been any major revelations leads me to be dubious of the rumors. Likewise, many of these reviewers make a living doing this sort of thing, and being caught taking bribes could destroy their careers. Is it really worth the risk?

      On the other hand, there’s another theory…

      If you look at the actual ratings by the audience for Picard, you’d expect (with a 63%) to see most reviewers giving it a score of 3/5 stars (or 60%), right? But that’s not the case at all! There’s a ton of 4’s and 5’s and 4 1/2’s. And then there’s a whole bunch of 1’s and half-stars and, at best, 2’s (not many)…almost as though some angry fans are trying to “sabotage” the score. And this would dovetail with the first couple of weeks’ scores being in the 80s. Hell hath no fury like sci-fi fans armed with keyboards and mice! So what I suspect is that, rather than manipulation by the studio through bribery of the critics, we might instead have some purposeful torpedoing of the audience rating by SJT’s (Social Justice Trekkies) looking to bring down the score by giving the series as few stars as possible. I mean, even if you don’t like Picard that much, it’s not a half-star program. It’s just not.

      1. Well as I understand it the system is not as crude as well write us a good review and we will put a grand in your bank. However the critics rely on early access to the shows they review otherwise well who wants to read a review of a show that has been out for a week and more importantly has already been reviewed by their colleagues. There is even a Podcast where this information came out in passing and critics admitted that the have to “Play Ball” with the studios.

        Though some shows do get downvoted a lot by fans this I feel is more because of the sense of betrayal by the fans even taking out the Hollywierd agenda they infuse some shows with the quality is just not there in a lot of areas. Yet you have just posted articles regarding 2 fan film productions I am a lot more eager to see. So if fans can produce a far superior product why cannot the so called professionals?

        I feel that critics have lost their integrity. I do not expect them to exactly mirror the audience reactions however you would expect them to be reasonably close after all is it not their job??

        1. The problem with conspiracy theories is that most people can’t keep a secret. My suspicion is that any critic who didn’t “play ball” and was blacklisted by the studio would keep the e-mail or record the phone call and quickly go public to stop the game. As I said, one podcast is unreliable. Indeed, that fact that it was ONLY one podcast and one whistleblower suggests that what he said is NOT true, as usually one whistleblower leads to many.

  6. I was anticipating this writeup more keenly than the others so far because I was curious about your take on this episode. For me, my first reaction was one of disappointment, particularly after last week’s episode that I thoroughly enjoyed. As you said, it all seemed a rather slow 56 minutes, nice as it was to see old characters reunited.

    I have to say you’ve swung my opinion a little. Your character insights are spot on and I should be a little more forgiving. My only suggestion with this whole series, if it could do over, is it seems to be lacking a little jeopardy. It feels to me that Picard’s progress is not really in doubt and he’s more in control than he should be. Comparing with Season 4 of the Expanse, different show admittedly but with the same one long story structure, you never reached the point where the characters were ‘safe'(ish) until the season finale. I don’t get the same vibe with this. At least, not quite.

    However, I’m a reasonable man, it’s definitely not ‘junk’ – opinions like that are , in fact, junk themselves. There’s clearly been thought put into this from story telling through to visuals. I’d rather have this series than not and would choose it over Discovery in a heartbeat.

    1. I really think Picard needs to be watched as a full story. That said–and I might blog this in two more weeks–one wonders if Picard was hurt by the weekly-release format. Would it have been better received were fans allowed to simply binge-watch it all in one sitting like Stranger Things?

  7. GREAT review and critique, Jonathan! This is probably the most in-depth and reflective take on “Nepenthe” I’ve read the last few days. I have to agree: this episode thus far is by far my favorite, mainly because of the reunion scenes. I’ve always had a soft spot for Will Riker (partially due to the experience I had meeting Jonathan Frakes as a kid at his very first convention, but that’s another story), and more so in recent years for Will and Deanna’s relationship. It’s rare when a TV show or movie genuinely gives me a long-lasting, uplifting feeling while watching it. More so when I start to realize I have tears in my eyes after a few minutes. I literally got chills every time the music was a slow replay of those one or two bars of the old “Next Gen” theme. And yes, Kestra (Lulu) was pure awesomeness. You could tell just how much fun the actors were having filming these scenes (and probably how emotional it was for Sir Patrick, Jonathan and Marina.) Personally I hope we see CAPTAIN Riker in action again (Active Reserve, hm?), whether it be a surprise appearance in the last 2 episodes or maybe season 2 if we get it? All in all, I’m very much in agreement with you, and thanks for this insightful writing.

  8. Ps
    At least Picard isn’t in a “Dr Who Season 12 disaster” scenario….

    Great production values could mean you just have a shiny turd, but it still smells.

    Picard is not a turd, but I can’t smell the roses yet ( but there are some rosebuds).

Comments are closed.