ATTACK OF THE SPOILERS!
Man, I really wanted to like this latest episode of STAR TREK: PICARD. I remember how, in season one, I was generally enjoying things until the final two episodes when things got…well, “messy” is a good word. Those last two episodes left a bad taste in my mouth.
Up until now, season two has intrigued and entertained me. With the exception of episode 7, “Monsters,” which left me thoroughly unimpressed, I’ve actually had some really positive things to say about this season. So I was really hoping the trend would continue and that episode nine, “Hide and Seek,” would break the curse of season one.
Sadly, the curse remains firmly in place.
This was essentially an action episode with sprinkles of character “development” added in an almost checking-the-boxes kind of way. The action kinda worked, but mostly in a sloppy mess sort of way. I’ll go into that aspect shortly, but let’s start with something I usually reserve for my reviews of DISCOVERY: criticizing the writing.
MAYBE NOT THE BEST TIME TO HAND THE KEYBOARD OVER TO THE ROOKIES?
If you look at IMDb, MATTHEW OKUMURA doesn’t have many writing credits. In fact, he has one (in addition to this episode of Picard), and that was a story for the TV series Smallville back in 2003. What he’s done in the meantime is serve as story editor for a TV series in 2021 and then story editor and executive story editor for Picard during season two. In other words, he typically pitches stories, edits scripts, and hangs out on the writers room with the team. But he doesn’t write scripts; he edits them.
The other credited writer CHRISTOPHER B. DERRICK, is a staff writer on season two of Picard. What does a staff writer do? According to this website, “Staff writers are the idea generators of the writers room. They constantly collaborate with other staff writers to come up with story ideas, workshop scripts, or supply various plot lines for a single episode. They are often under-credited until they work their way up to becoming a story editor. While staff writers might come up with the foundation of a script, they rarely write the final draft of the episode.” And as it happens, this was Christopher’s first-ever script for television! Hooray for Chris…not hooray for viewers.
But wait, it gets worse.
Not only were both of the writers rookies at scriptwriting, but director MICHAEL WEAVER was tackling his first-ever Star Trek episode. In fairness to Michael, he is only a Star Trek rookie. He’s actually been a director for ten years and was a cinematographer for the decade before that. But was it really wise to put the penultimate episode of Picard into the hands of three relative newcomers?
Now granted, Michael is an experienced director (only not for Star Trek), and both Matthew and Chris have been a part of the writing team for this entire season. They obviously know the show, the characters, and the storylines. And they aren’t necessarily “bad” writers. They just aren’t experienced writers.
Sometimes in Hollywood, the team will “reward” a staff writer or story editor by giving them a script of their own to write ad be credited for. Usually, it’ll be an “easy” episode where all they really have to do is just connect the dots that are already drawn on the paper. These are stories that are almost impossible to screw up because they almost write themselves. Almost.
And action is pretty easy to write—not much dialog, and when there is, it’s usually short and either intense or a comedic relief from the intensity. But of course, this episode of Picard was ALSO the “payoff” to the long-developing storylines involving Agnes and the Borg Queen as well as Picard’s childhood trauma. And for that reason, I don’t think I would have assigned TWO rookie writers to this script. Maybe one rookie and one veteran as a guide…or maybe assign JONATHAN FRAKES as a director to “fix” anything the rookie writers didn’t quite get right.
And let’s look at what they didn’t get right…
(DON’T!) TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR MOTHER…
I love Jean-Luc Picard as a character and have since his introduction in 1987. SIR PATRICK STEWART has imbued Picard with such passion, power, commanding presence, complexity, wisdom, and confidence that I was truly interested in exploring his emotional vulnerability—something we haven’t seen before outside of the alternate blue-uniform Picard from the TNG episode “Tapestry.” Even the tortured Picard from “Chain of Command, Part II” managed to hold onto his strength until the very end when he thought he saw five lights.
So, yes, let’s explore this newly-discovered side of Picard, this repressed memory of his mother’s death that’s held him back for nearly a century. I was feeling excited about getting to know Jean-Luc Picard even better!
But now, after seeing the way it’s all played out, I feel…well…nothing.
Perhaps it was the unconvincing performance of the actor who played young Jean-Luc (although the performances of MADELINE WISE and JAMES CALLIS as Maurice and Yvette Picard were both excellent). Maybe it was the unbelievability that a woman who so loved her son would refuse to get help…especially in the future where such treatments were likely much less debilitating than they are today (remember Garth of Izar, that treatment worked like a charm!). Maybe it was the idiocy of locking someone having a bipolar episode in their room, as the transition from manic back to depressive is the most dangerous time for a bipolar. As the “high” fades and hopelessness returns, they often feel like they want to kill themselves, and in this short window before they completely crash, they still have enough energy left to attempt suicide. Or maybe it was the lack of any mention of Picard’s brother Robert, who likely ended up blaming his younger brother for the death of their maman.
I really hate that I feel nothing. After all, the loss of a parent, especially by suicide, is something no child should ever have to see or go through. But it seemed to me like this woulda/coulda/shoulda been something that Picard might have faced and dealt with decades earlier. After all, Counselor Troi would have read his file and might have wanted to help her captain and friend through his pain. Or maybe someone else did. After all, with the exception of his failure to emotionally connect on an ongoing intimate level with a lover, Jean-Liuc Picard turned out pretty well…all things considered.
Anyway, we all pretty much knew from “Monsters” that Picard’s maman somehow ended up dead and that Picard blamed himself. So this episode was more of a required follow-up, and those flashback scenes were pretty much inserted to bring that plot to a tidy close.
And speaking of those scenes…
WE INTERRUPT THIS EPISODE FOR A MENTAL FLASHBACK…
Now that we’ve established that this episode must, by edict, include flashbacks to Picard’s childhood, let’s take a look at WHEN Picard’s mind wanders to these buried memories…
- In the middle of an intense firefight with the Borg while bullets are flying everywhere.
- After rejecting a parlay with Adam Soong…while Soong is still talking!
- As he and Tallinn are trying to escape from Soong (although in fairness, Picard is attempting to remember where the entrance to the tunnels is located).
- During a long, calm, slow discussion with Taillinn while they SHOULD be heading for the exit near the ship as fast as they can. While I’m all for emotional exposition, was this REALLY the right time for it?
- And again while they should have been hurrying for the exit and instead pause to talk more about Picard’s mother. No wonder Soong was able to catch up and find them! And even if they didn’t know that Soong had found the hidden door, they still needed to get to the La Sirena to stop the Queen.
- After the nick-of-time rescue, Rios heads off for the ship to stop the Queen while Picard and Taillinn have one final therapy session and a nice, long hug. It’s a good thing Seven and Raffi and Holnor (Holo-Elnor) handled things on the ship! Of course, neither Picard, Taillinn, nor Rios knows this. So as Rios left, Picard and Taillinn should have said: “Have fun storming the spaceship!”
Seriously, these six flashbacks, while important in revealing the origins of Picard’s childhood trauma, all but stopped the action dead in its tracks. And what’s worse, those quiet contemplative moments came WHILE the clock was urgently ticking. Picard might not be the spring chicken he used to be, but he’s not so old as to become distracted and reminisce when there’s an urgent, planet-saving mission to accomplish!
PRESS ONE TO ACTIVATE EMERGENCY COMBAT HOLNOR
Finally, after five and a half Elnor-less episodes, we get to see the ship’s ninja warrior back in action…only this time, he’s a hologram. And honestly—because these reviews are based on absolute candor—I enjoyed watching him do that voodoo that he do so well.
Of course, one might have assumed that the Emergency Combat Hologram would also have a default setting, and why it needed to specifically become Elnor was lost on me. Couldn’t it have created just as deadly a combat hologram of Picard? Granted, I doubt that Patrick Stewart, the 81-year-old actor, could have pulled off all of those moves. But a hologram’s a hologram, I always say. (Oh, and why did Holnor need the mobile holo-emitter? He never left the ship.)
Actually, we all know the reason the hologram was Elnor: so Raffi could make her peace with him. But this created more problems than it solved. First of all, how exactly does the holo-Elnor know what the real Elnor was thinking with his final breath? Does the ship record all thoughts as the crew thinks them? I didn’t know 1) that computers could read minds, and 2) they had the storage capacity for all of those continuous streams of consciousness. In other words, folks, while it’s nice that the scene brought Raffi some closure , the line was pretty problematic if you stop to think about it.
The second issue was that the brief scene reduced Raffi’s “healing” to a couple of sentences from a hologram. Considering the massive build-up of Raffi’s angst over Elnor’s death, I felt very unsatisfied by the ticking off of the box marked “Make Raffi better.”
Oh, and when Elnor is first activated and Agnes says, “Hiya, Elnor. Let’s play keepaway…” and Elnor says, “With pleasure…”—how does Elnor hear Agnes’s words? She’s inside the Queen’s mind! Sloppy!!!
SUDDENLY SOONG IS SINISTER!
Had there been better or more experienced writers handling this script assignment, perhaps Adam Soong wouldn’t have so quickly, completely, and incomprehensibly shifted into a one-dimensional, mustache-twirling, monologue-spouting bad guy.
What exactly is his motivation to suddenly become a cold-blooded killer after freaking out from just one botched attempt at first degree vehicular manslaughter a few episodes ago? Was it that Kore stormed off? Maybe Soong should be more worried about her safety instead of jutting off to France. Or was it simply the cute blonde stranger from the future with the black eyes telling him his choice of destinies? Because, if that’s the case, the not-so-cute, kindly old bald guy seems just as believable and isn’t proposing murder. Who are YOU gonna believe?
Anyway, Soong has quickly devolved into a one-note “evil” villain. Yawn. At least BRENT SPINER is playing that one note really well. But seriously, is this really the best these writers can do with just two episodes left? I guess so.
A KINDER, GENTLER BORG?
Okay, someone please explain what happened with Agnes and the Borg Queen. Agnes talked her into starting a more communal collective? Go forth and save random lost souls, bringing them willingly into the collective? That sounds…lovely. Of course, random lost souls aren’t exactly as prolific as countless races on countless planets throughout the galaxy. The original Borg Collective had hundreds of billions of drones assimilated from tens of thousands of worlds across the Delta Quadrant and beyond. With Queen Agnes leading the Salvation Borg Army and letting dying beings decide whether they want to live life as hideous half-machines tethered to a group mind or just die, my guess is that, in 400-or-so years, she’ll have maybe a few thousand followers…if that.
Of course, that’s probably the number of Borg there were hailing the U.S.S. Stargazer in the first episode. And that hooded Borg Queen was now almost certainly Agnes Jurati hiding her identity for some reason. Fans figured that one out over a month ago.
Anyway, Queen Agnes is flying off into the sunrise. Does anyone here know why Raffi and Seven just let her go taking their only way home with her? I mean, Queenie said it was in exchange for saving Seven’s life. But my feeling is that Seven would have willingly sacrificed herself to stop the Borg Queen and keep the ship as their escape route (and possibly help protect the Europa spacecraft once it leaves Earth).
And hey, here’s a thought! Maybe the new helpful Honda Queen could begin her new and improved hybrid existence by NOT rushing off but rather assisting her former teammates first. You know, like Agnes suggested they do going forward…actually HELPING?? Assistance isn’t futile! Then she could take them all forward in time, then go back a few hundred years to start the Space Cyber-Kibbutz. What’s the hurry?
Not a lot about the final resolution of the previously-intriguing Queen Agnes story made much sense to me. In the end, the Borg Queen wasn’t defeated or outsmarted. She was simply talked into changing her mind. How, um, charming…
SOME DAYS YOU JUST CAN’T GET RID OF A BOMB!
And speaking of not making much sense, Dr. Evil Soong is holding the equivalent of a grenade that’s about to explode. He is standing right in front of three people he needs to kill…8 feet away! So he throws the about-to-explode ray-gun high up into the air instead of—oh, I don’t know—directly at his enemies? Apparently, ELON MUSK isn’t the only clueless idiot genius with gobs of money.
SO MANY DEAD BORGIFIED BUTTTERFLIES
Also on the not-making-much-sense list, add the dozens of deceased members of Drone Team Six…or whatever those assimilated mercenaries should be called. Back in episode three, the Picard writers established some “rules” for this trip back in time. And among the most important—their temporal prime directive, if you will—keep a low profile! Don’t let yourselves be discovered, and don’t do anything that might change the past.
Episode after episode, they’ve shared their secrets with people in the past, beamed onto open streets in broad daylight, left comm badges lying around, removed spleens from rural French police officers, and just generally stopped being careful.
With this episode, any semblance of taking those rules seriously is now completely out the window, as there are now dozens and dozens of dead, partially-assimilated mercenaries scattered across an abandoned vineyard in La Barre, France. Some of these men could have family or friends who might miss them. Heck, some of them might one day have important sons, daughters, or posterity who will now no longer exist. Geez, what if one of these guys is the father of Zefram Cochrane???
Anyway, once their bodies are found (and the ones that Elnor killed on the La Sirena will never be found) and autopsies conducted, how will all the extra tech inside them be explained? And don’t even get me started on the ones who were beamed into a stone wall! Oh, heck, DO get me started on the Borgified rock quartet. I mean, of all the places for Seven to have beamed them, she picks a wall right next to where Picard and Taillinn are at that precise moment? What a coincidence! And of course, try explaining men merged with solid rock when your goal is to prevent making butterfly waves that could change the future.
In the writers seminar that exists inside my head, we call this SLOPPY!
PRESS SEVEN TO RESET
Oh, and another coincidence I need to mention! Seven is pierced through the gut and somehow winds up with the exact SAME vestigial Borg implants as she had all through Voyager and season one of Picard. How…convenient. Now no one will need to update their Seven-of-Nine action figures!
Of course, I noticed that the make-up people made certain to give Annika two deep cuts around her left eyebrow and another on her right cheek. But in the future, such cuts are healed through the use of a dermal regenerator, not two unsightly pieces of metal. At worst, she can probably have them both removed later on after the cuts heal. And strangely, her left hand is back to its old modified self even though that appendage didn’t take any damage because…um…reasons?
Frankly, I don’t think fans were watching this season waiting for Seven-of-Nine to be “reset” back to factory default mode. In fact, it was interesting seeing Annika being given this gift and reacting to the restoration of her humanity. Taking that gift away at the last minute seems cruel in many ways. I realize the writers wanted to give Seven a character arc for the season—in this case: “it’s what’s on the inside that counts” (i.e. residual nanoprobes keeping your spleen from falling out). But in the end, Seven’s “journey” through this season felt very unsatisfying to me…especially since her implants hadn’t really seemed to be bothering her much during those four years on Voyager. Heck, Kayla Detmer on Discovery looks worse!
KISS THE CAST GOODBYE?
Fans were ecstatic to hear that Picard‘s third and final season will feature the entire regular cast of The Next Generation (sans Data, of course, but one would guess Brent Spiner will be reprising his role as Altan Inigo Soong from season one). Of course, that’s a LOT of expensive actors, and that also means a LOT of money. Even if they only use one or two TNG cast members per episode, that still blows up the budget, especially if they return to space-based adventure with lots of VFX and slick sets. And if most or all of the TNG players appear in each episode next season, well, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for the existing regular cast members from seasons one and two, does it?
We seem to have permanently said good-bye to Agnes Jurati…as now she appears to be the new Queen Agnes of Borg, and that doesn’t really lend itself to teaming up with Picard again. And already, Rios looks like he’s going to choose to stay in the past with Dr. Teresa (granted, without a way back to the future, they’re all stuck in 2024). Elnor may or may not be permanently dead, and one wonders if synth Soji will be a part of next season.
So that leaves Picard, who will absolutely be in the final season, Raffi, and Seven. Both of the latter two’s character arcs seem to be wrapping. Seven might join Starfleet after all (I don’t understand why they wouldn’t let her in when Voyager returned—after all, they let the former Borg Icheb join!), and Raffi’s got her own career in front of her.
It’s possible that one or both of them will end up with cameos in a few episodes next season, but I doubt we’ll see much of them. And that’s fine if we’re going to have Riker, Deanna, Geordi, Worf, Beverly, and maybe Wesley back. But I do feel a little cheated having invested myself in these characters over the past two seasons only to see them dropped off on the side of the road so we can take on the next generation of passengers.
SO WHAT’S NEXT?
Well, with no Q, no Kore, and no Renée this episode (wait, there’s TWO Renée’s now?), we pretty much know what’s coming in the finale. Most of the character arcs are wrapped up (albeit kinda rushed this episode into pseudo “happy endings”).
Of course, without a way home, one would imagine a good cliffhanger ending would be for Picard and the team to accept their futures are now in the past, and just when all hope is lost, Riker and the former Enterprise-D/E crew show up after “The Search for Picard” to give their former captain and his allies a ride home. But whatever happens, don’t expect to see much of the 25th century until next season, folks.
Meanwhile, the 23rd century awaits us next week, as I’ll be wring TWO reviews…one for the Picard season finale and one for the eagerly-anticipated DR. STRANGE NEW WORLDS. (See what I did there?)