Read & Recommended February 2020

star trek picard; not now not ever

Star Trek Picard 2.0: Not Now, Not Ever

At age 79, Patrick Stewart reprises the role of captain Jean Luc Picard, former captain of the USS Enterprise. Big [viewing] mistake.

Now or never? The answer is never, now that I’ve seen episode one. And no, Patrick Stewart is not to blame, nor is the rest of the cast. Run of the mill script meets lousy visual effect for profit.

Keep on watching, everybody says. Somewhere down the line the unfolding horror that is Star Trek Discovery [1] will disappear. After Enterprise? Perhaps one day, when commerce realizes the fundamental truth about the Star Trek franchise. That the show is about hope and looking forward towards a better future for all, true or false. In essence Star Trek has been dealing with good, honest people, rather than delusional ones who remain political correct no matter the circumstances. Not very PC, but highly necessary, also Wonderful Michelle Yeoh, what where you thinking? [2]

So what does the fact mean that I’m excited about the upcoming Picard mini series? Hindsight is definitely not 20/20 and the answer is zero. All that my anticipation tells you is that, once upon a long ago, before Star Trek was designated a franchise, the show had core values that stand the test of time. Like the one where Picard was an awesome captain in space for seven seasons. His second in command, Number One, however remains a bit of a lap dog, fittingly frozen in time. Understandable, every Rick needs a Morty.

Imagine my surprise when Patrick Stewart at age 79 decides to slip in his cat-tian’s suite and play Picard again. I honestly didn’t know what to expect.

Just finished the first episode of Jean Luc, wine maker par excellence and former Star Fleet Captain (also pretty good) goes on a holiday in space. It’s a mixed bag at best. After the events of The Next Generation, Picard retires, holding the rank of admiral. Despite the fact that he owns a winery, he still drinks mostly tea, decaf this time. So you’re a defender of the galaxy, putting your life on the line for other people to live their lives the way they want and once your tour of duty is over, you turn down not only wine but also a decent cup of tea? Explain to me, why is this Picard character still alive?

Good question, probably because commerce cannot let him die. There is one more mission to be extracted from his bruised and battered, spandex-wrapped body, cashing in on the nostalgia that haunts Trekkies when they reminisce about the good old days of “The One (who single-handedly resurrected the franchise).” Of we go to a place where no septuagenarian has gone before in the history of Star Travel.

Jean Luc is basically waiting for death to come and swoosh him. Drones or whatever manage his vineyard together with his personal serfs, a bunch of free Romulans who manage to survive some sad massacre in which the Federation betrayed its principles, are devoted to him for the rest of his life. Not exactly the prime directive, but it shows how much the [Star Trek] universe has changed since 1987 – incidentally also the year Rick Astley sang “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Clearly.

Boredom strikes again when you discover the way the writers have set up for the back story to unfold. Picard gives an interview to the Federation News Network (FNN). He doesn’t know why he agreed to it, despite the fact that he is one of Star Fleets most distinguised admirals (now retired) and the best strategic mind inside and out of any multiverse you can imagine. The interviewer is a dark skinned female, all very politically correct on the surface. Not really, once again Star Trek betrays it’s core principles when the interviewer doesn’t respect the agreement regarding topics that are off limits. Rather, she grills him about the Romulan home planet gone supernova due to rogue AI’s and Starfleet’s subsequent refusal to save the Romulans. Put it another way, the Federation betrays it’s principles resulting in Romulan genocide. Text book classic on how to make mortal enemies 101. It’s why Picard quits Star Fleet. And now he walksfrom the interview and out of the room. White male Picard is the good guy, black woman a traitor, all very subtly and a long way from that famous kiss between lieutenant Uhura, who has a dark skin and captain Kirk, who has a light skin, in the original Star Trek series in 1968. There goes the franchise.

The good thing about a vineyard circa a few centuries into the future is that grapes are still grapes, whether they’re round or square. The big city poses more of a problem for the set designers. Air ships hover in the sky, despite the fact that most spacecrafts have transporter technology, AKA how to e-mail yourself anywhere. San Francisco still has its iconic Golden Gate bridge, its tarmac covered in photo-electric cells or something but other than that it’s business as usual.

Somewhere in the city, protagonist girl Dahj crawls up to boyfriend with weird-looking face, signaling he’s an extra who can die at any moment. After all, she’s cute and he is ugly. And of course his skin is darker than hers. When masked assassins drop by seconds later – killing him – they inadvertently awaken her inner force prematurely or whatever. As Dahj becomes the woke Kill Bill of the 23rd century and sings, cold as Ice, Slash, Slash Baby, she kills the baddies effortlessly. During the 15 second slaughter fest, the vision of Picard haunts her. Who else can it be, the show is called Star Picar, NexGen. Of course she finds the good, old captain, only to disappear the next day. Apparently she is Data’s [a machine life form Star Fleet officer from before they were outlawed] robot daughter, new and improved, now even more fake human with real tears and more cpu.

Did I mention Data has an evil twin brother, Lore. Unlike Data, Lore is programmed with emotions, but becomes emotionally unstable and develops megalomaniac tendencies. Oops, spoiler alert circa 1988.

Picard does what he does best, welcoming her to the estate. In France. And yes, I’m as surprised as you are, France still exists in the medium term. Personally I give it a decade or two at most before the country strikes itself out of existence. Even if the French manage to survive somehow, earth won’t. Within a hundred years, our planet will turn into a single big, bad toxic dump. Heard it through the grapevine.

Even if I’m wrong, how does the man who has visited space near and far, end up as the ultimate walking dead on his native Gaia? Surely there are better places out there to retire and grow wine. Unless the universe is much less safe than The Next Generation wants us to believe, of course.

Back to inviting a mysterious young women to spend the night at one’s estate. That’s probably an unwise trait Picard picked up from traveling the universe when it was still safe to do so, circa 1987 to 1994, AKA a major criticism of The Next Generation. Back then life was less gritty. Still she runs, ungrateful brat, urged by someone with whom Dahj shares a slight resemblance. Later Dahj magically reconnects with the captain, uhm retired admiral. More space ninja’s appear out of thin air but good girl protects captain. Why? She knows she can trust him – and dies. Good riddens. It all feels a lot like Terminator dating Blade Runner but where are the bad guys?

In the end the truth is revealed. Data is sort of dead. Probably not dead enough for him to take over, in case lead actor Patrick Stewart passes away. And yes Picard is renewed for a second season. The franchise will outlast humanity. Data also has some kind of offspring. Not that it’s technically feasible according to your local 24th century AI professor, but still. Even worse, AI’s come in pairs for mysterious reasons. And no it’s not a boy-girl pair, in essence they lack a gender designation, except for? This one of course. The Play-Doh of the future will be very different indeed.

Her – most likely – duplicate looks like a humanoid Romulan, read aliens for beginners. Instead of living on something round, think big blue marble, semi-sister resides inside a colossal mechanical cube. Enter the Borg – as usual – who else? The Borg are yet another alien race, but a bit smarter than the Romulans. And yes, during his years commanding the Enterprise, captain Jean Luc Picard briefly becomes part of the Borg collective, meaning the aliens strap some bits and bolts to his human flesh and turn the commander into a creature that is half man, half machine – stripping his free will in the process. Of course Picard escapes, have faith in the supremacy of humanity and [non-Ferengi] commerce. On second thought, forget free will. I’ll bet you Seven-of-Nine – human baby, turned Borg baddie in her teens, but rescued by female starship captain Janeway, call sign Mother Goose – is gonna make her appearance in the next episode. Yawn, yawn.

Originally the character of 7-9 was introduced because male fans were unimpressed with the available interstellar eye candy on Star Trek Voyager. Silly name, don’t ask. Kess, another alien in human form and female, is not sexy enough, so 1997 C.E., Earth calendar, they replace her by a woman the producers believe Trekkies will find more appealing. If not, 7-9 should be at least sufficiently attractive to sell more commercials. All of that, the producers learn from reading the interviews in Playboy Magazine. Same reason why, boys who live in their mother’s basement, read the magazine and watch Star Trek. Young adult men crave epic [story] outlines. Whether or not that’s true, their patience was tested in the late 1990s.

Introduced at the start of season four of Voyager, Seven – a fully assimilated Borg, increases rating by 60% and looks uglier than Arnold Schwarzenegger reprising his role as Terminator at the age of 70. If Patrick Stewart would’ve looked anything like that even a decade ago, I would not be writing this right now. But hold on, basement boys. Remember there’s no better mother goose than a female starship captain far from home and over the next few episodes, Seven loses a lot of weight, I mean Borg plating and her spandex outfit becomes increasingly more functional and appropriate, from a living underground point of view, that is.

Don’t know if those fans ever made it out of Mommy’s basement, don’t care either, but if they do, they’re in for a big, Star Fleet approved, logical surprise. The fans are lot older and with or without an average of 2.4 kids per troglodyte, the Seven of their dreams no longer exists. Actress Jeri Ryan is 51. When it comes to being a fatborg, it’s not her but them aged cave dwellers. Not that it matters nor does the fact matter that Mrs. Ryan has a smile to die for. And no, she’ll never “assimilate” you, dear fanboy. Good grief.

And yes Mums of this world, you paid for his living expenses all those years he hid in your basement, now it’s payback time. It’s also time to make serious money. All I say is hidden camera + Youtube + America’s funniest home videos equals Mamma needs a pair of new shoes baby (and no, I haven’t learned anything). Plus enough change for a new home. And a much younger boyfriend, if you so desire. And, and, and. Don’t be surprised if one day you love Star Trek even more than he does. Doesn’t mean you have to watch the show even for a second.

Back to my couch in the year 2020. Watching Picard doesn’t qualify as a visual highlight. It’s not even a moderate pleasure. Most of the acting, by necessity, takes place in front of a blue screen and it shows. The future looks like an out of focus image shot by a toddler. It’s worse than fake news. Looking at the aliens, I wonder, were they alway this unrealistic and ugly? What’s with the V-shaped eyebrows anyway?

Still, future episodes may hold a few, long overdue nuggets. Number One is reincarnated as dog, same as it ever was but also very annoying and crap writing on top of that. The character of William T. Riker is unworthy of existence in the Star Trek universe. Make my day and explain how in the end he is a coward, one who betrays the Federation and is gone forever in any quadrant, pyramid or dimension. So dead that in fact, even the Q, a god-like alien race, cannot ever bring him back. Down with Riker. Death wish anyone? [3] Promise me that and I’ll keep on watching.

And yes that teaser slash preview with Data exists for a single reason only. The producers desperately needed footage to up the hype for the upcoming episodes. Waste of time, space and Trekkie devotion. After all, it’s not even nominally relevant, but tilts the storyline the wrong way. All of that for a sneak, misleading preview.

Forget the whole charade. To summarize: Star Trek Picard, love it, hate it or whatever. Just prepare to be bored. And be annoyed. Final question: why are some of Picard’s vine ranks shaped like V’s? So disappointing.

Mast head image by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash  and Casey Horner on Unsplash. Images are combined and edited. And yes, I know it’s the wrong Enterprise. In the end it’s all about copyright, don’t you agree?

[1] I’m not talking about “The Lady”. You’ll always be awesome playing Aung Sung Si or participating in “Hidden Tiger II”. How about reading the script for Discovery and not turning it down? Come on Ma’am, you are one of Jackie Chan’s very few personal superheroes. And we all know superheroes protect us from evil. Franchise after franchise.

[2] Even mediocre is a step up from Discovery.

[3] Feel free to look up that particular episode.

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