I thought the first episode of Star Trek Picard was okay – not great, but not a disaster either. The second episode was slightly better.
The plot remains compelling – we have a number of obviously-connected mysteries that we are gradually learning more about – it’s the usual stuff. I’m eager to find out why the synthetic humans went crazy on Mars, and what the Zhat Vash are up to.
It’s worth noting that so far this series has nothing on its predecessor – The Next Generation. For several months now I have been rewatching all of The Next Generation – I’m currently somewhere in series six. Star Trek Picard has a single mystery that is solved (we expect) over the course of a whole series. In The Next Generation, each episode introduces a new mystery, which the characters then solve by the end of the episode (apart from the occasional two-parter). Many of the single-episode mysteries from TNG are more exciting to watch than the whole-series mystery of STP. That’s probably because so far in STP, we haven’t gotten the sense that Picard is under constant threat – even though we know that there are certain Zhat Vash members who want to kill him. The threats of this series aren’t threatening enough.
Similarly, even though this series has done somewhat of a narrative replacement of the Tal Shiar with the Zhat Vash, the Zhat Vash don’t seem nearly as threatening or as interesting as the Tal Shiar did. I recently rewatched TNG: Face of the Enemy, and even though, technically, in the entire episode, we don’t actually see a member of the Tal Shiar, the way that the other Romulans react to Deanna Troi posing as a member of the Tal Shiar makes the organisation seem tremendously threatening and imposing. The Zhat Vash don’t have this effect yet.
There were some great performances in this episode: Alex Diehl was delightfully creepy as a synthetic human, and Tamlyn Tomita was brilliantly stern as Commodore Oh.
The main thing about the episode that I didn’t like – and this was so bad that it almost ruined the whole episode – was a line they had Picard say at one point: ‘I never really cared for science fiction. I guess I just didn’t get it.’
I don’t know what the idea behind adding this line in was – it’s very out-of-place in the episode – it really didn’t need to be there. Maybe the writers thought it would be funny – the irony that we’re all here enjoying science fiction but the person we’re watching doesn’t. Maybe Patrick Stewart, who is an executive producer on the show, and so may have had some say in the story and dialogue of the series, wanted to put the line in there because he, famously, doesn’t watch any Star Trek.
But what this line comes across as is a massive fuck you to fans. This is a line that is often said by people who don’t like science fiction – they just ‘don’t get it’. It’s an odd thing for anyone to say – what exactly is there ‘to get’ about science fiction – it just portrays worlds with different technology or different laws of physics – it’s not difficult. It’s a line that’s usually accompanied by the attitude that science fiction and fantasy are only for weird people or young people – the snobbish attitude towards sci. fi. and fantasy in which it is considered to be not as good as other genres.
Having Picard say this line puts him firmly in the group of people who think that you have to be a bit odd to ‘get’ sci. fi., and this is a massive fuck you to fans, because guess what: all of us watching do get it.
It’s possible that this line was put into this episode because the writers of this series don’t consider themselves to be sci. fi. fans – don’t consider themselves to be the sort of people who like sci. fi. – and that this line was a slight jab at fans – a kind of ‘Haha, we’re doing it our way now!’ – but this is wild speculation.
This line is also wildly unrealistic. Jean-luc Picard has spent ages studying physics over the years. As someone who did a physics degree, I will tell you: people who study a scientific subject tend to like science fiction. It is vastly more probable that someone like Jean-luc Picard would like science fiction than dislike it.
This line was so fleeting that it didn’t ruin the whole episode. However, I don’t want to see any more of that in this series – if I do, then I will judge the whole series by it.