STAR TREK: PICARD wraps up season with a nice, tidy bow…but was it worth untying? (editorial review)

AND FOR MY FINAL TRICK: SPOILERS!

As I mentioned in last week’s blog review, the final two episodes of STAR TREK: PICARD‘s first season left me feeling quite disappointed and ended things on a distinctly bad note for me (and many others).

As season two drew to a close, a strong series of early episodes stumbled as the show approached the finish line, with episodes 7 and 9 (as opposed to 7 of 9) significantly missing the mark for me. So going into the final, 10th episode, “Farewell,” I was ready for either a second-in-a-row disappointment or else a triumphant salvation. What I got was…

…a little bit of each.

On the good side, there were several powerfully emotional moments, elegantly acted with touching music, that left me tearing up. There were also some fun easter eggs thrown in for the hard-core Trekkers to cheer (or complain) about. And of course, everyone got their happy ending…except Adam Soong, who got a more ominous ending (but perhaps happy for him).

The scene with Taillinn finally talking face-to-face with Renée was beautiful. The exciting sequence trying to stop Soong’s drones and get Renée safely onto the rocket was textbook action and suspense (even if it was super-obvious that the Renée who came out of the ready room was really Taillinn in disguise). And the scene with Picard and Q was masterful, even though it left way more questions frustratingly unanswered (more on that later). But seeing these two accomplished thespians (SIR PATRICK STEWART and JOHN DE LANCIE) playing off each other as Q prepares for his final farewell was simply a treasure and pleasure to watch…campy though it was, I didn’t care.

On the bad side, the episode was a bit of a hurried mess. Having let every storyline slowly percolate for most of the season, the final episode needed to…

  1. Wrap up the Renée Picard storyline in some exciting way;
  2. Include the sacrifice of at least one character (more on that shortly);
  3. Get Raffi and Seven back together;
  4. Resolve the Rios/Teresa romance plotline;
  5. Give Kore a final confrontation with her “dad”;
  6. Leave Soong defeated;
  7. Wrap up the storyline with Q and answer any lingering questions;
  8. Get the team back to the future to finally pay off the scene at the end of episode one that got them there;
  9. Reveal the masked Borg Queen as Agnes Jurati;
  10. Establish that Elnor is alive;
  11. Include a scene with Whoopi Goldberg to explain why she didn’t clue-in Picard way back in episode one about what was to come ;
  12. Get Picard and Laris together;
  13. Leave an opening for a plot element that could continue into next season.
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The penultimate episode of STAR TREK: PICARD season two was…well…um…NOT very good… (editorial review)

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?

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We now know the TWO THEMES of STAR TREK: PICARD’s second season… (editorial review)

SOME HUMANS ARE STUCK IN THE SPOILERS!

Sometimes when a Star Trek episode begins, you just know in the first few seconds (maybe minutes) that it’s either going to be really good or not. Last week, I kinda felt a disturbance in the force as soon as we were halfway through the interminably long 5-minute scene of Picard taking to the Starfleet shrink (whom we later discover is really his father). Despite watching two brilliant British thespians (SIR PATRICK STEWART and JAMES CALLIS) linguistically duel in trying to psychoanalyze Jean-Luc Picard, as the scene dragged on, I found myself not buying what they were selling…even though I should have. And things didn’t get much better for me from there.

Now, I understand that many people actually enjoyed last week’s episode—and man, did they let me know how “wrong” I was on Facebook! Next to global warming, war, overpopulation, pollution, the pandemic, and reality television, I think the greatest threat to our species is vanishing civility! But I digress…

Whether last week’s episode of STAR TREK: PICARD was truly bad or good, the fact remains that this week’s eighth episode, “Mercy,” was unquestionably amazingly wonderful from the very first moment. (And with that, I am sure a whole bunch of Facebook warriors will again let me know in as nasty a way they can how wrong I am!)

Actually, I always read through a number of reviews before writing mine—as I don’t like to just repeat what everyone else is saying—and while most reviewers agreed with my critical response to last week’s episode, this week a large number of reviewers weren’t nearly as impressed as I was. (Although one was totally on the same page.)

Many of them felt this episode was mainly filler, moving the subplots along toward the inevitable final two episodes and the “big finish.” Some felt like this whole season was caught between wanting to tell a cohesive story while simultaneously throwing in so much extraneous stuff that many scenes dragged or felt like time that could have been spent on other things.

I might talk about this more in my final review of the season, but I suspect people are—sadly, because of the reality Paramount+’s schedule—watching season two in the wrong way: one episode at a time. What I’ve noticed about season two (even more so than season one) is that this appears to be an 8-hour “movie.” There’s a lot of those on streaming TV these days, but the problem is that watching an 8-hour movie over ten weeks is a completely different experience than binging it…and I think Picard was written to binge-watch.

That said, as a self-contained 47-minute viewing experience, “Mercy” was a very well-done episode. It also provided us with the overarching theme of this season, which I’ll get to shortly. But first…

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STAR TREK: PICARD’s latest episode, “Monsters,” swings for the fences…and MISSES! (editorial review)

MR. SPOILER RISING!

I’ve spent six episodes in a row applauding season two of STAR TREK: PICARD. To me, with the exception of a few minor stumbles, it seemed the latest season of this series could do no wrong. But the seventh episode, “Monsters,” didn’t only stumble, it fell flat on its face…at least in my opinion. There was some good scattered among the bad—including the usual stellar performances (especially guest star JAMES CALLIS, of Battlestar Galactica fame, as Picard’s therapist/father).

But for the most part, “Monsters” was a bit of a train wreck in many different ways. Let me count them…

IT STARTED IN THE WRONG PLACE…

A cliffhanger ending makes a “deal” with the viewer: you come back next episode, and we’ll show you how your heroes will get out of this mess. It doesn’t always have to be the very first scene of the next episode, but it’s usually pretty close. Think about the cliffhangers we’ve seen already this season—all but one, episode four, started moments after the end of the previous cliffhanger. (Episode three ended with Rios getting arrested by I.C.E. agents. Episode four began with Picard and Jurati, but twenty second later, we see Seven and Raffi entering the clinic where Rios was taken into custody.)

Episode six ends with Queen/Agnes walking the night streets of Los Angeles, up to…well…something. But what? But then episode seven begins with Picard in his tuxedo talking to some Starfleet counselor. Of course, since episode six also left us with Picard in a coma and Tallinn about to do a techno-mind-meld, that scene is kind of okay to start off with. But it’s a 5-minute scene, which is kinda long to wait for a follow-up to the main Queen/Agnes cliffhanger.

But then we have a second non-Agnes scene—this one 3 minutes—of young Jean-Luc Picard as a little prince and his maman as a queen painting windows. Okay, so we’ll have to wait until after the opening credits to see where Queen/Agnes went. But no again! In fact, it isn’t until 35 minutes into the episode that we see what Queen/Agnes did after the cliffhanger. And that was WAY too long.

This was, in my opinion, a poor editing choice by director JOE MENENDEZ, who has a long 30-year directing career, but this is his first time directing any kind of Star Trek episode. And indeed, the Queen/Agnes storyline kinda went nowhere in this episode. But the scene where a partially-assimilated cyberneticist walks into a bar could and should have either appeared first (before Picard and the shrink) or, at latest, after the opening credits.

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STAR TREK: PICARD gives us a “quiet” episode for a change…but did it work? (editorial review)

WE’RE RUNNING WITH THE SPOILERS OF THE NIGHT…

The sixth episode of STAR TREK: PICARD‘s second season, “Two of One,” had the shortest runtime of the entire series so far. Not counting the recap and closing credits, there were only 35.5 minutes of actual episode (most episodes run in the high 40- to low 50-minute range).

On the other hand, this episode also the longest “Previously on…” recap (2 minutes and 15 seconds). Even DISCOVERY‘s recaps usually time out at 90 seconds—and by the end of their seasons, there’s typically a LOT to remind viewers of.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with a long recap, but it does hint that the show might be juggling a few two many plates at the same time. And it’s true that Picard has quite a bit going on right now…

  • Q has sent then to an alternate authoritarian future, and they have traveled back in time to 2024 trying to prevent it.
  • The watcher/supervisor Tallinn is tasked with protecting Picard’s ancestor, a famous astronaut.
  • Agnes has killed the Borg Queen (their only way back to the future) in order to save a French cop.
  • Dr. Adam Soong is a noted geneticist whose daughter has an incurable genetic disease and who has just lost his license and funding for running forbidden experiments.
  • Q is offering to help Soong…but Q requires a favor in return.
  • Renée Picard will launch with the Europa Mission in three days, but she’s having doubts about herself. If she doesn’t go, the future will be irrevocably changed for the xenophobic worst.
  • The team needs to keep her from quitting the Europa program for the next 15 hours until pre-launch quarantine, but Renée will be at a gala that evening with very tight security.
  • Agnes will sneak inside, get detained by security, and then hack into their systems to get the rest of the team inside.
  • But Agnes has been compromised; the Borg Queen injected her with nanoprobes before dying.

Whew, that IS a lot to keep track of! And that doesn’t even touch on the Guinan encounter two episodes ago, Rios’ injury and infatuation with Dr. Teresa, his capture by I.C.E. agents, subsequent rescue, or the death of Elnor.

So the episode’s all a big mess, right? It’s cluttered with way too many story elements and characters and storylines?

Not at all!

Instead, this was a relatively “quiet” episode, simple, and quite elegant. In fact, many of the ongoing plot elements were barely touched upon—like Seven-of-Nine (almost none of her in this episode), Raffi’s being haunted by Elnor’s death (just a teensy bit of that), Q (almost nothing of him in the episode for the first time this season), and Tallinn’s uncanny resemblance to Laris (only a quick mention of that).

So with all that they DIDN’T do, what DID they do? Well, let me tellya…

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PICARD just did something that NO Star Trek TIME TRAVEL story has EVER done before! (editorial review)

SPOILERS, SPOILERS EVERYWHERE!

I really LOVE this show…or more specifically, the current season of this show. STAR TREK: PICARD is now halfway done with its second season, and I thought that episode 5, “Fly Me To The Moon” was one of its best offerings yet…although they all have been excellent, in my opinion.

Why was it so good? Several reasons. And if you’re wondering when I’m going to pay off that blog title above, you can either skip down to the bottom of this blog or else just enjoy the journey of getting there. I’m going to enjoy the journey.

MEET THE NEWCOMERS…

The first reason I thought this episode was so strong is because of the main challenge it had to overcome, and which I believe it did very effectively: introduce four completely new characters AND make us care about them…

Supervisor Tallinn – This Laris-look-a-like (technically introduced in the previous episode) was actually the least developed new character of the four, but she’s still intriguing. She is now officially from the same organization as Gary Seven from the TOS episode “Assignment: Earth,” and that was just fun from a fanboy standpoint, as it’s nice to see CBS Studios do a tie-in with TOS continuity that doesn’t mess around with canon and, in fact, actually honors it. Tallinn wasn’t developed much as a character this episode on purpose, methinks, in order to 1) let us get to know and care about the other new characters first, and 2) give Tallinn her own episode or episodes to develop a little bit more later.

Adam Soong – BRENT SPINER returns to play yet another Soong ancestor! This is the 7th character Spiner has played in that “family,” the others being Data, Lore, B-4, Noonian, Arik, and Altan Inigo. My suspicion is that we will discover that this earliest Soong, a geneticist, will inject his daughter Kore with something that will make future Soong offspring all resemble him, but we’ll see. Either way, Brent has given us a new character, similar to other Soongs but different enough to be fresh and intriguing. While Adam is arrogant (a Soong staple!), he also deeply and truly loves his daughter…and we feel that love.

Kore Soong – This explains why ISA BRIONES has been missing for the first half of this season—they’ve been saving her to play Adam Soong’s daughter. And this “girl-in-a-bubble” is so pure and filled with hope and light that she’s almost impossible not to care about and root for.

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I just called the Q CONTINUUM…and so can YOU!

Say what you want about STAR TREK: PICARD (and goodness knows, most of you do!), but you have to admit that, this season, having JOHN de LANCIE reprise his iconic role of Q from Next Gen is just outright FUN! His almost annual appearances confounding Picard and crew during TNG‘s seven seasons made for some wonderfully light-hearted and comedic episodes—along with some terrifying ones like “Q Who” when the Enterprise-D is whisked to the Delta Quadrant for the show’s first encounter with the Borg…and some surprisingly touching ones like “Tapestry,” where Picard gets to glimpse the road not traveled and the life not lived.

Q never really worked as a character on Deep Space Nine, and fortunately, that series’ showrunners quickly realized they didn’t need Q on a darker, grittier show like that. If they wanted comedy relief, just toss in a Ferengi episode. As for Voyager, de Lancie’s three appearances on that series were kinda hit and miss and mostly miss…although I loved his brief cameo on LOWER DECKS!

Anyway, back to Picard, and the fifth episode of season 2, “Fly Me to the Moon.” Without providing any major spoilers, there is a scene where the letter “Q” appears with a phone number listed: (323) 634-5667. The area code (323) is for central Los Angeles, specifically Hollywood. Indeed, if you wanted to call Paramount Studios on Melrose Avenue, the number listed begins with (323).

But usually in movies and on television, the next three numbers are 555. This is a “safe” exchange, reserved exclusively for filmmakers and never assigned in any area code to actual phone customers. Otherwise, people watching a show or film might try to dial a number they see on screen and bother somebody with incessant calls. (Heaven help anyone with the number 867-5309…whether or not their name is Jenny!)

So when I saw the number on the still frame at the top of this blog was NOT a 555 number, well, I just had to pause playback and call it. I just had to! And this is what I heard…

Go ahead. Try it yourself. Hopefully, Paramount will leave it up for a while and not simply make it into an April Fool’s prank.

I’ll be writing my regular Picard editorial review later on this week, but I wanted to share this with you folks asap, just in case the phone recording doesn’t stay up for long.

Star Trek fan SOLVES the PICARD / GUINAN / PUNK ROCKER mystery…

Not since Khan recognized Chekov in Star Trek II, have Trekkers been so up-in-arms about an apparent Star Trek inconsistency! Back in 1982, fans demanded to know how Khan Noonien Singh knew who Chekov was because “Space Seed” aired during the first season of TOS and Chekov didn’t join the crew until the second season! It got so bad that WALTER KOENIG created a story that has been told to fans at conventions millions (thousands!) THOUSANDS of times…okay, maybe hundreds of times.

Anyway, that was 1982. It’s now 40(!!!) years later, and fans have a new controversy to passionately argue about—and it goes all the way back to 1893! Yes, I’m talking about the fourth episode of STAR TREK: PICARD‘s second season, “The Watcher.” In my editorial review from last week—where I identified all the easter eggs I could find—I mentioned the little “oopsie” where Guinan of 2024 doesn’t recognize Picard, even though she had a pretty significant interaction with him in San Francisco 131 years earlier in the TNG episode “Time’s Arrow, Part II.” I decided to forgive the little “oopsie” because the rest of the episode was so darned awesome and consistent with tons of Trek canon!

However, on Facebook, many fans chose not to forgive me! In comment after comment—some nice, some not so nice—I was informed about this article in which co-showrunner for Picard, TERRY MATALAS, explained that the “oopsie” wasn’t a mistake at all but done quite on purpose…

This Guinan wouldn’t remember Picard because in this alternate timeline, the TNG episode “Time’s Arrow” never happened. Because there was no Federation, those events did not play out the same. No previous relationship exists. However, she still was likely traveling to Earth and, as we know, she hung around a bit. So this Guinan is different. But she, of course, can sense something is off. She’s going through a kind of time-sickness thanks to Q’s meddling with the timeline.

Of course, Facebook is nothing if not immediate. No sooner had I been “schooled” by multiple Facebook fans than other fans began defending me (or simply attacking the original “schoolers” or the show itself) by pointing to the scene on the bus with the punk rocker. Explain that!

Explain what? Well, KIRK THATCHER reprised his brief role from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home with the following “sequel” scene…

At the end, the rocker humbly apologizes and turns down the music, rubbing his spiked collar as if remembering the last time this happened on a bus up north in San Francisco when he was given a Vulcan nerve pinch by Spock.

Of course, if the Picard of the Confederation never went back in time to 1893 to meet young Guinan, then it stands to reason that Kirk and Spock never went back to 1986 to find two whales to bring back to the future. And even if Kirk did go back, the xenophobic Federation would certainly not have allowed a Vulcan to accompany the team. Heck, Spock probably wouldn’t even exist in the altered timeline (a human mating with a non-human would be abhorrent!).

So why was the punk rocker rubbing his neck with worry, hmmm…?

Continue reading “Star Trek fan SOLVES the PICARD / GUINAN / PUNK ROCKER mystery…”

I think I found ALL of the EASTER EGGS in the latest episode of STAR TREK: PICARD! (editorial review)

SERIOUSLY, EPISODE-RUINING SPOILERS AHEAD! JUST FRICKIN’ WATCH IT FIRST!!!

Perfection! The fourth episode of PICARD‘s second season, “Watcher,” was sheer, brilliant, fun, edge-of-your-seat Star Trek perfection! The Borg Queen would be envious!!!

Actually, there was one teensy oopsie. Picard visits 10 Forward Street, the address of Guinan’s bar in Los Angeles, and younger Guinan does NOT recognize him! I mean, it has been 128 years since their first meeting in San Francisco with Samuel Clemens (“Mark Twain”) and Data getting his head blown off. But Jean-Luc Picard is pretty unforgettable…as are time travelers who know your future. On the other hand, Guinan’s whole apathetic attitude did a U-turn when Picard finally revealed his name. So maybe she did remember him…just not by appearance (and he is MUCH older now).

(Oh, and I read the theory that Guinan didn’t remember meeting Picard a century ago because, in the altered timeline, Starfleet never existed, and Picard never went back in time to the 19th century. If so, then how does the punk rocker remember Spock’s Vulcan neck pinch? Hmmmm…)

But I’m willing to overlook the oopsie because there were so many things about this episode that I loved! The scenes between Agnes and the Borg Queen continue to be an unexpected highlight thanks to the amazing performances of both ALISON PILL and ANNE WERSCHING. The two characters couldn’t be more different, and yet they’ve begun to mirror aspects of each other, like their loneliness, as the attempted assimilation might be affecting both of them. It was also intriguing at the end when Agnes breaks her promise to the Borg Queen (to stay and “chat”), proving that she (Agnes) might not be completely trustworthy either.

The car chase was also amazing, punctuated by some of the best “old married couple” bickering I’ve seen on any TV show (Trek or otherwise). The writers are trying a “do-over” with Seven and Raffi, helping us to not only accept their relationship but to actually root for it to happen. The on-screen chemistry between JERI RYAN and MICHELLE HURD is simply magic. I don’t think any other Star Trek couple has clicked to comfortably.

(And for anyone asking, “Hey, how is it that a person born in the 24th century, raised by the Borg, and currently a Fenris Ranger can drive a 21st century SUV like she’s in a Fast and Furious movie?” I’ve got an answer. Seven was on Voyager for four years with Tom Paris. Voyager has a holodeck. Tom Paris loved hot-rods from the 20th century. Just because we didn’t see him teaching Seven to drive and to race doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Granted, it’s not official canon, but I’m placing it firmly in my personal “head canon.”)

And speaking of chemistry, the sparks between Captain Rios and Dr. Teresa Rodriguez are flying as fast and furious as Seven’s driving. Two more actors giving very engaging performances.

But let me tell you what I loved the most. Let’s talk easter eggs…!

Continue reading “I think I found ALL of the EASTER EGGS in the latest episode of STAR TREK: PICARD! (editorial review)”