Star Trek Picard: Absolute Candor

"For the last time, I'm not from Del Monte." 
"You owe me a ship, Picard."

The Fellowship of Picard takes a detour on their trip to Freecloud so they can recruit a couple of new members.

Like so many serialised shows, Picard is starting to suffer from the fact that the writers are in no hurry to get anywhere or do anything. It is a little frustrating that we're nearly halfway through the season now and they're still doing "Get the team together" episodes. Hopefully now all the main characters have been introduced we can put the side-quests behind us and focus on the actual mission at hand.

I'm definitely looking forward to next week's episode, which looks like it will be an undercover hoot. I'm glad the show isn't shying away from the fact that a lot of Star Trek is silly. Even some of the things in this episode that were a little silly. Why were all the Romulans on Vashti carrying swords? Did Elnor share his copy of The Three Musketeers with all the other kids, sparking a fencing frenzy? If they return to this planet in a hundred years will everyone be wearing feathered hats and stylish goatees? It wouldn't be the first time a piece of Earth literature has messed up a planet.


While Picard still has some storytelling kinks to work out, it is succeeding in the one area that matters the most and for me, that is the characters. I'm often happy to overlook any scripting issues so long as there are still characters there for me to care about and spend time with. This is why I've struggled so much with the current era of Doctor Who. I just don't give a damn about any of the characters or their (barely defined) relationships with each other.

That is not the case with Picard.

This is our first proper episode with the entire crew together and they're already well on their way to becoming one of my favourite Trek crews. It goes without saying that Patrick Stewart continues to be fantastic as an older and remorseful Picard, but this isn't just the Picard show, even though it is literally The Picard Show. The entire ensemble is getting their moments to shine, whether it is Alison Pill being adorably awkward as Agnes, or Santiago Cabrera going full Tatiana Maslany by playing half a dozen different characters, all with different accents. Elnor seems like he'll be an interesting addition, even if he is something of a stoic warrior stereotype. And best of all, Jeri Ryan is finally here as Seven of Nine. I can't wait to see what her history is with Picard and find out what she's been up to for the last two decades.


Which brings me to the other thing I'm really loving about this show. After two prequel series and a movie reboot, we're finally getting to explore the 24th (soon to be 25th) century again. I just love all the little bits and pieces we're getting about the current state of affairs in the galaxy and seeing how different things are since we last visited this part of the Trek canon. And I really like that the focus this time is on the Romulans because I always felt we never really got to explore their culture much in any of the previous series, certainly not to the same extent as the Vulcans, Klingons or Cardassians.

Notes and Quotes

--This episodes was directed by Jonathan Frakes who has probably directed more Star Trek than anyone else by this point.

--It looks like Picard was able to save and relocate some Romulans before Romulus was destroyed, but once the entire rescue mission was scrapped these people were left to fend for themselves. By the sounds of it the entire Romulan Star Empire has fractured. We've already heard mention of the Romulan Free State in previous episodes (they're running things at the Artifact), but this episode introduced some other groups such as the Romulan Rebirth Movement and the Fenris Rangers. I'm curious to know more about the Rangers. They seem to have taken Starfleet's place as peacekeepers and protectors, but don't have the resources to protect the systems the refugees were relocated to, which has allowed criminals and petty warlords, like the one with that antique Bird of Prey, to step in and take over.

--The planet they visited, Vashti, was located in the Qiris sector of the Beta Quadrant. If you are new to Star Trek and are wondering what the hell a Beta Quadrant is I'll explain. In Trek, our galaxy is broken up into four quadrants: Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Gamma. The Alpha Quadrant is home to the Federation, while the Klingon Empire and what's left of Romulan Empire are located in the Beta Quadrant. The Delta Quadrant is mostly controlled by the Borg and the Gamma Quadrant by the Dominion, who were the main villains on DS9.

--How do the Romulans know so much about the sisters? They know more about Soji than she knows about herself. Where are they getting their information?

--The design of the Romulan ale bottle is the same as the one from Wrath of Khan.


--This is the first episode of Star Trek not to feature a single character in Starfleet uniform.

--I love that Rios has an Emergency Hologram for every occasion, including an Emergency Hospitality Hologram just in case they really need to throw a last minute party.

--Elnor must've been freaking out when he came aboard the La Sirena and saw Aramis sitting in the captain's chair.

--Soji and Narek sliding across the floor together was as cute as his scenes with his sister are icky. Also, when Narek was talking about Borg rituals, Soji tilted her head exactly like Data.

--Picard's study has been recreated exactly on the La Sirena, which is a good way for them to save money on sets.

--For homework, which is entirely optional, I recommend 'Balance of Terror,' the first episode to feature the Romulans, the DS9 two-parter 'The Maquis,' another tale of colonists abandoned by the Federation, and the Voyager episodes 'Scorpion,' 'The Gift' and 'The Raven,' which introduced Seven of Nine and explored her history.

Agnes: "Oh, uh, is this a secret meeting or am I technically part of the crew now?"

Raffi: “Man can’t even take a guilt trip without using a starship.”

Agnes: “So space turns out to be super boring.”

Agnes: "What's your book about?"
Rios: "The existential pain of living with the consciousness of death and how it defines us as human beings."
Agnes: "Well, that's not a conversation killer at all. I totally want to talk about the existential pain of living with the consciousness of death."

Three out of four Romulan warrior nuns.

Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig

9 comments:

Billie Doux said...

While I really enjoyed this episode with the new crew coming together -- and marveling that I like every single one of them -- I started having a Dune flashback to the Bene Gesserit. Only one male Romulan Warrior Nun, and that's the one we get?

CoramDeo said...

Frakes has directed 21 episodes of Star Trek, and two movies. David Livingston has directed 62 episodes of Star Trek. Cliff Bole has 42 episodes, and Les Landau has 46. So he's extremely influential now, but he's got a long way to go to catch Bole and Landau, let alone Livingston.

Also, I liked this one the most of any of them since the Pilot.

Mark Greig said...

Okay, Frakes hasn't directed as many episodes, but I do think he's the only one to have directed episodes of Next Gen, DS9, Voyager, Discovery and Picard, not to mention First Contact and Insurrection.

CoramDeo said...

That is true. He's got his hand in more shows than any of the other Trek directors.

milostanfield said...

Really liked this one. First one I’ve rewatched immediately after watching instead of waiting until before the next one. Hope they flesh out Rios more. If this were a "Culture" novel Rios would make a great "Eccentric Mind".

That said, I’m confused about Picard the character as written, not the show. He has always been the diplomat of Starfleet, who at least tried to find peaceful solutions to conflicts. So what was that second Romulan cafe scene all about? He not only came off as an arrogant jerk to those people, the editing purposely set him up to be seen as such. Tearing down the sign, then stepping on it as he entered a hornets nest, dusting off the table, and "Waiter!" "Waiter!!!" The kind of restaurant customer who ends up being served a bowl of spit-in soup.

And these weren’t some warriors spoiling for a fight. They were refugees, victims of both natural and political disasters. Although Picard wasn’t at fault for the political disaster, he was the face of it. Couldn’t he see what they were feeling, and as a diplomat acted appropriately?

And as the inevitable fight was about to start, he’s all "I grieve! I grieve!". Bit late for that. Then after Elnor does a nick of time and lops off the head of a Romulan ex-Senator, they are beamed up safely out of harm’s and consequence’s way. Then Picard rages at Elnor for killing the ex-Senator?! If Picard’s actions hadn’t set this up to begin with, that Ex-Senator would still be alive. But to quote that interviewer, it’s just "Romulan lives". So let’s beam up and move on. Hmm.

So, writers: what are you doing with Picard? Is he out of it after 14 years, an aging brain with his prefrontal cortex and amygdala starting to bicker? Is he the diplomat still? Is he succumbing to "the existential pain of living with the consciousness of death"? I just wanna know, writers.

Also, I’m wondering about Jurati. She seemed to have started out as a more serious character, then abruptly became "almost Tilly" comic relief. Yeah Rios is hot, so there’s that, but she seems abruptly different. Have to check earlier if they left clues. Still time to sort her out, though. Next week looks like fun!

Joseph Santini said...

I like that Picard is being forced to confront his privilege in this series. Time and time again we see him helping out individuals and even entire other races - but when things go wrong he's always able to retreat to his great villa. And when he comes out, he expects his 'cred' to still be there. Starting with going to Starfleet to demand a ship (after 15 years not working at all) and being surprised when his demands weren't met, we're seeing a Picard who's having his ultimate self-assurance questioned - and who may be better for it. So far, he hasn't really responded to being called out except with shame-filled silence.

TJ said...

Seven of Nine!!!

I would watch a show about Seven's whereabouts for the last 18 years.

Henrik Bennetter said...

milostanfield: I'm totally with you here. My take is that it was a bit too much, stepping on the sign and all, but that Picard was trying to be smart in a way he has been before - only to have it blow up in his face.

I think he tried his "old" way and that it got out of hand - so that we, the audience, get a glimpse of him not being able to control the situation(s) any more.
It's a new world, for him and us.

But, again, yes. Too arrogant of him, but still kind of gung-ho and cool.

Henrik Bennetter said...

One residual comment.

I hated the fact that Star Trek now has dropped the F-bomb.

I've always found it satisfying that the F-word, and profanity in general, has never had a place in Trek.

I found it...sad, that they went there.