Star Trek: Picard S1E5 “Stardust City Rag” Review @SirPatStew @StarTrekPicard

This week, on Star Trek: Picard.

In “Stardust City Rag” (S1E5), our fellowship sets up a meeting on a dodgy planet to take part in an exchange: one life for another. This place, Freecloud, could have been lifted straight from Star Wars‘ cantina scene, where all sorts of criminals and smugglers and crimelords and aliens mingle in an anarchic power-vacuum region of the galaxy. Fascinating, but I’m not sure it totally sits within the Star Trek universe.

We find out why Raffi, who I’m now very fond of, wanted to leave Picard’s crew and go her own way when the team reached Freecloud. Just like Picard in the previous episode, she has a very weighty personal matter to resolve, a matter that has been hanging over her for years. Unfortunately, whilst Michelle Hurd’s (Raffi) acting more-or-less convinced, that of her counterpart in this scene distinctly did not (Gabe, Mason Gooding). Very disappointing. A big moment with a character I’ve come to care about, and yet I did not care much. Once again, Picard rushes and resolves an issue within the space of a scene or two. The writers do realise that this model, let’s call it the “Game of Thrones Season 8 Model”, is not a fan favourite, right?

This episode was full of zany comedy, including Rios dressed as a kind of intergalactic pimp, Jean Luc Picard putting on the most unbelievable French accent since Ewan McGregor in Beauty and the Beast, and Picard’s manservant-cum-bodyguard-cum-protégé establishing himself as the series’ light relief rather than broody angst merchant (as he appeared in the last episode) — and he seems to be acquiring an increasingly strong Antipodean accent as time goes on (think: the reverse of Deanna Troy in Star Trek: TNG). The writers and actors really pushed the boundaries of tone and good sense here, and they just stayed onside. The result? Back of the net! I loved it. I just hope they don’t camp it up too much; Picard has established itself as tonally distinct from some of the other, campier entries in the Star Trek canon, and it would be a shame to backslide from that or, worse, become tonally confused.

There’s a huge moment towards the end where one of our fellowship unexpectedly acts horrifically. Big drama to follow from this in future episodes, undoubtedly. I’m also starting to notice a pattern more generally: those who have served Star Fleet either get burnt out, go mad, or become numb in order to maintain their commission. The campy, intergalactic comedy romp belied this much darker core.

A lot happened. Great moments. Wonderful developments of some characters through their actions rather than through talking, as has sometimes characterised this show so far. The lightest and, paradoxically, also the darkest episode, this was an excellent outing and without a doubt the most entertaining so far.

4/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Star Trek: Picard S1E4 “Absolute Candor” Review @SirPatStew @StarTrekPicard

In Star Trek: Picard, “Absolute Candor” (S1E4), Jean-Luc Picard must face an unresolved personal issue from his past. It seems that Picard has apparently spent most of his life crashing around the cosmos, leaving his mark, and running away, leaving everyone else to pick up the pieces, like some kind of intergalactic lothario. Our other storyline, set on the Borg cube, is also becoming compelling, marked by increasingly nuanced character interactions between Soji and Narek. This was very much an episode delving into the past and how it shapes the future.

An exciting episode, better than the previous ones. I really felt absorbed in the world, like I’d known our merry band of explorers for ages — yet they only came together at the very end of the last episode. Our fellowship even has two new members, with the addition of a face from Star Trek‘s past, and the other from Picard’s past. I like how our crew feels like it has grown almost organically, giving us a chance to spend a little time with all of them first, instead of just dumping them all on us in the pilot. There was also some compelling racial tension on a de facto apartheid world which Picard refused to accept.

“Absolute Candor” wasn’t flawless, though. The meant-to-be emotional scenes with Picard facing his past seemed a little contrived and poorly acted, which is a shame as the characters involved all seem very interesting in themselves. Furthermore, this seems to be becoming a pattern in Star Trek: Picard; deep backstories, with years of emotional weight and angst behind them, are introduced, developed, played out, and resolved within the course of one episode, thereby robbing them of their full emotional impact. Why not settle these things over the course of several episodes?

Was this episode perfect? No. But there was a good balance of all parts — talk, action, characters being developed through their deeds.

This episode just nudges four out of five, by a nose.

4/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Star Trek: Picard S1E3 “The End Is The Beginning” Review @SirPatStew @StarTrekPicard

Star Trek: Picard Episode 3, “The End Is The Beginning”, ups the stakes with a Romulan prophecy, plenty of juicy action sequences, and the forming of a kind of Fellowship of the Ring led by our Frodo-cum-Gandalf lead, Jean Luc.

In general, we warm to our motley collection of newly assembled ring-bearers. However, there were some slightly forced moments, such as Raffi (Picard’s former first officer) constantly calling Picard “JL”; we got the point that they’re close the first fifteen times she cracks out this cutesy name. It seems we’re often supposed to care about the characters for no good reasons other than such quirks and hints at history; sometimes it works, sometimes not.

The introduction of Cristóbal Rios, a cynical old space dog who’s swallowed a fermented case of sour grapes, is a great moment. I’ve been waiting for a big character to emerge in this show, and it might be him. Plus, his ship has an EMH (Emergency Medical Hologram) and an ENH (Emergency Navigation Hologram) who are both, despite being identical in appearance to our Cris, completely different and hint at being great characters in themselves, recalling one of the few high points of Star Trek: Voyager: Robert Picardo’s great portrayal of the EMH.

A disturbing scene with an ex-Borg Romulan provides much suspense and tension going into the next episode. We really get the sense that things are now set up nicely and are about to kick off in episode 4.

“The End Is The Beginning” was solid, just like episodes one and two, and it was incrementally better than episode two, which itself was incrementally better than episode one. But despite much intrigue, Star Trek: Picard has yet to really explode. But the future looks bright; the fuse appears lit, the explosion imminent. I would like to give it three-and-a-half stars, but half-stars are for fence-sitting, “not sure” fudgists.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

Star Trek: Picard S1E2 “Maps and Legends” Review #100WordReview @SirPatStew @StarTrekPicard

A Romulan plot appears to be afoot within the Federation which, if confirmed, would constitute an act of war. Duty and principle compel Jean-Luc Picard to tackle it head-on — with or without the support of the Federation. Episode two, “Maps and Legends”, is compelling and involves much more show and far less tell than episode one, although it does kick off with a long Dan Brown-style expository scene. Such moments are missed opportunities to build suspense. None-the-less, “Maps and “Legends” was riveting.

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Star Trek: Picard S1E1 “Remembrance” Review #150WordReview @SirPatStew @StarTrekPicard

It’s been twenty years since Jean-Luc Picard retired from active duty. Haunted by dreams of his friend Data, who gave his life to safe Picard’s 20 years before, and the destruction of the planet Romulus, Jean-Luc has retired to the sanctuary of his idyllic vineyard to ponder the past. But his attempts at a peaceful existence are disrupted by the arrival of a mysterious guest.

There are a couple of very nice action sequences, and a lot of Patrick Stewart sitting around staring into space and smiling like an avuncular but semi-senile philosopher. And an old foe is hinted at. But nothing much happens. Episode One, “Remembrance”, felt like the first 15 minutes stretched to fill 46.

Is this your typical Trek? No. Does “Remembrance” hint at great things to come? Yes. Did it seem slightly pointless. Also, yes. A solid and entertaining, albeit uninspiring, opener.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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How I Became a Star Trek Fan @startrekcbs #startrekdiscovery

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In this post, I wanna share how I became a dedicated Star Trek fan.

Ever since I heard that a new Star Trek series (Star Trek: Discovery) was definitely for real actually happening, to be released this year, I’ve been super hyped and also a bit scared — what if it doesn’t live up to my hopes?

As you can tell, I’m a massive Trekkie… Or Trekker… whatever, I don’t care, but that’s for another post. In this post, wanna share how I became a dedicated Star Trek fan.

I was born in 1984. When I was a kid, back in the dark days when the UK only had four channels and we heard mythical stories about how in America they had FORTY, the replays of the original Trek were always on the telly at weekends. But I never paid attention. It was just another rubbishy show from the ’60s. It barely registered in my consciousness. I much preferred Land of the Giants(!)

Fast forward to age nine-ish. Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Trek reboot, had been running for several years and still I didn’t  notice. And then one day, a season five episode came on: Cause and Effect. It involves the Starship Enterprise being stuck in a timeloop; the same catastrophe-tainted day keeps repeating itself. Think sci-fi horror version of Groundhog Day, or the film Triangle, but in space, and with dodgier make-up and production values.

I won’t ruin the episode for you. Check it out on Netflix! But it marks the sort of intelligent, mind-bending stories that were par for the course in Trek. Every time a new mindbender or time-travel flick comes out, like Looper, I love it. But I always refer people to Trek.

If you’re new to Star Trek, here’s a few more episodes you might want to take a look at (all currently available on Netflix):

  • The Visitor (Deep Space Nine, series 4 episode 2): another great time-travel episode.
  • Hard Time (Deep Space Nine, series 4 episode 18): the psychology of guilt and suffering.
  • In The Pale Moonlight (Deep Space Nine, series 6 episode 19): the hardship of keeping your principles in war.
  • Trials and Tribble-ations (Deep Space Nine, series 5 episode 6): a good example of the lighter-hearted side of Trek, which pays homage to the original series with some neat special effects.

Sadly, no matter how I wax lyrical about the virtues of Trek, nobody’s buying it. The rubber ears, the dodgy acting, the huge number of episodes where, yes, nothing really happens. Sadly, TV has moved on. There is no Trek that fits modern conventions. For example,  series are now limited to around ten episodes a season, there are no “one-off” episodes, and it’s all about moving the plot forward. The closest Trek came to this, and arguably it was instrumental in pre-empting the current trend, was the Dominion War story arc from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (my favourite incarnation of Trek, for what it’s worth).

But now with Star Trek: Discovery, I hope a new Trek for a new televisual era will be born, a Trek that captures the imagination of the young as much as the new Star Wars films have, as much as that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation captured mine some twenty plus years ago.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

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