CBS All Access’ latest entry in the ever-expanding Star Trek universe, Picard is another disappointment in the “new generation” of Star Trek series, next to Discovery. The 10-episode debut season of Picard gives audiences little reason to remain engaged or even entertained in its writing and acting. That is not to say that this season is a complete failure. It is saved at least in part by its special effects and the packaging of its home release. Other than those aesthetic elements, there is really no other reason for viewers to even try out this attempt to resurrect the TNG era of Star Trek.
The debut season of CBS All Access’ Star Trek: Picard is a rough first outing for the show. It is not a complete failure, though. It does have at least a couple of positives, one of which is its special effects. Technology has come a long way in terms of the use of special effects, and they were used quite well throughout the course of Picard’s debut season. Audiences will marvel at the upgrades made to the Borg cube that was so badly damaged in an epic battle with the Enterprise back in the days of TNG. In a similar vein, the effects that were used to create the home world of the “synths” and the Federation headquarters is just as impressive. The space battles that took place were just as enjoyable to watch, even though they looked more like something out of Battlestar Galactica and Babylon 5. The effects that were used to create the early destruction of the Mars shipyards is worth acknowledging, too. Those sequences are pretty brutal, even though again, one can’t help but think of BSG in this case, too. Simply put, the special effects that were presented throughout the course of Picard’s debut (and hopefully only) season give viewers at least something to appreciate here. Going back again to the mention of the BSG comparison, that item is just one of many that brings about the season’s one major detractor, its writing.
The writing that is featured in the first season of Picard is problematic to say the very least. The whole thing starts off as essentially a “sequel” of sorts to Star Trek: Nemesis, the finale to The Next Generation’s cinematic universe. That 2002 movie was the lowest point for the TNG franchise at the time, but Jean Luc’s desire to find Data’s consciousness here is just cheesy to say the very least. The real Jean Luc-Picard did mourn for Data in Nemesis, but he ultimately would have accepted Data’s passing. So to have this story open like this makes suspension of disbelief difficult to say the least. From there, audiences are presented with the all too familiar topic of whether artificial intelligence can become fully sentient. It is a topic that became central to TNG, but was addressed far before Star Trek was a thing, thus the reference to Isaac Asimov throughout this season. It has been used and used again so many times throughout the sci-fi world that it has become little more than a trope. The over-the-top preachiness that ensues in regards to the Romulans’ blind hatred of synths is yet another echo of something that has been addressed so many times in other movies and television shows that preceeded Picard. To that end, it makes the topic that much more unengaging.
Of course for all of the negative in the show’s writing, it does have some positives. One positive element of the writing comes in Jean Luc’s revelation about the Borg being “victims, not monsters” as he visits the Borg cube in which he himself became a Borg in TNG. He realizes that the Borg were in fact real, living beings who were transformed by the sentience. That is a direct connection to the bigger discussion on the synths’ place in the universe, but is still far less preachy than the other noted talk. Considering that the story line in Star Trek Discovery states the Federation essentially made the Borg when it created “Control,” Picard’s statement holds even more water so to speak.
Staying on the topic of Jean Luc’s revelations, his comment early on that the Federation does not decide which society survives is powerful in itself. It echoes back to Luke Skywalker’s disillusionment with the Jedi order in the Star Wars universe. The Federation’s Prime Directive was to not get involved directly in any society, so for his fellow Admiral to declare the Federation does hold that power makes Jean Luc a more sympathetic character. It shows that there is at least a little bit of positive to the writing. Sadly though, other than these revelations, most of the writing still poses its share of problems. There is so much exposition and waxing philosophical throughout the season that the show’s pacing starts to suffer many times. It isn’t the lighter but direct writing that audiences enjoyed in the “old days” of Star Trek. Audiences are even made to endure an extensive discussion on mortality in the season finale (not to give away too much) that is way heavy.
As if everything noted was not enough, the blatant foul language and often gory content written into the scripts detracts from the writing even more. TOS, TNG, DSN, Voyager, and Enterprise did not need violence and foul language in order to work. To that end, why did the show’s creative heads think these elements were so necessary in this case? It leaves one shaking one’s head in disbelief that much more.
Simply put, the writing detracts from the presentation of Picard: Season One noticeably. That is even with its rare positives. While the writing does considerable damage to this season’s presentation, there is at least one more positive for audiences. It is the packaging of the season’s home release.
Audiences will note that Season One’s packaging actually is its own positive. The set’s three discs sit on their own “plate” inside the box. This protects them from being damaged in any form. Brief but concise episode summaries are also printed on the inside of the set’s cover art. This is where things get a little bit problematic. Due to being printed on the inside of the case’s art, some of the summaries are partially covered by the package’s “bones.” This leads to the need to shift the box so that they can be better read. Even doing that is problematic because even in doing that, there is still some difficulty in reading said summaries. Thankfully it doesn’t happen with all of the summaries. To that end, the inclusion of the summaries is still mostly positive in its own fashion. When all of this noted packaging presentation is considered along with the show’s special effects, the show’s presentation proves to have at least something to appreciate
The debut season of CBS All Access’ Star Trek: Picard is a rough start for this series. It does not give audiences much to appreciate. Rather, it comes across more as a cash grab attempt by someone to get fans of The Next Generation to welcome the “new age” of Star Trek. That is evidenced in large part through the season’s central story and writing. The writing comes across as some kind of attempt by the show’s creative heads to see if they could make up for the failure that was Nemesis while also rehashing the far too familiar topic of artificial intelligence and the potential results of said intelligence becoming sentient. It all feels so forced. To the show’s defense, there are at least a couple of positives to the writing, but they are just not enough to make this season memorable. The only real positives to this season are its special effects and the packaging of its home release. Even as much as they do to help the season’s presentation, they just are not enough to save Season One. Ultimately, one can only hope that considering all of the problems posed throughout the season, the now confirmed second season will be anything but the failure that is Season One.
More information on Star Trek: Picard is available along with all of CBS All Access’ latest news at:
To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.