Few, if any, slate-clearing series reboots have been as extreme (or contrived) as Discovery‘s jump forward in time 931 years to the year 3188 in order to (deep breath) hide a cache of indestructible, self-aware data from an evil artificial intelligence whose acquisition of that data would mean certain galactic Armageddon. I mean, that is something. The writers either wanted to get as far away from the show’s original pre-TOS setting as possible, or they had some new things they wanted to explore in the very-far-flung future of the Trekkian universe. They clearly weren’t interested in a mild or middle-ground shakeup.
The brand-spankin’ new thing they apparently want to do is an official Star Trek remake of Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda. (The premise of Andromeda’s post-Commonwealth fall was itself simply a way of telling a post-Federation story outside the actual Trek universe.) The news of the Federation’s fall is gradually revealed in "That Hope Is You, Part 1" an episode that arrives at the season’s new mission statement (let’s re-establish the Federation!) by the end of the episode but, on the whole, is a pretty unremarkable but okay hour. As slow-burn establishing material goes, this is average.
Star Trek: Lower Decks, the latest entry into the ever-expanding CBS All Access Star Trek Extended Universe™ (the trailer is embedded above, if you somehow haven’t already seen it), premieres on Aug. 6. I will not be reviewing it. I will not be watching it, either, because I don’t intend to re-up my CBS All Access subscription at this time (which I canceled immediately after Picard‘s first season concluded) just to consume yet another Star Trek product, in this case one I have no interest in.
So, now that I see the full picture, I realize what season one of Star Trek: Picard is actually about.
It’s not about the Romulan refugee crisis. It’s not about the reclamation project going on in the derelict Borg cube. It’s not about the Zhat Vash or the Tal Shiar or undercover Romulan commodores, or the attack on Mars or the synth ban. It’s not about catching up with Hugh or Riker or Troi or Seven, or about Soji learning her true identity, or Raffi drinking and vaping all the time, or Rios and his holograms, or everyone trying to track down Bruce Maddox only so that Agnes could kill him, or about the robot apocalypse.
Oh, sure, it was sometimes very much about all those things. But, ultimately, it wasn’t about them. Thematically, emotionally, spiritually — nah. I see now that all those things were basically very elaborate and prolonged MacGuffins. The means to an end. They don’t matter, except to fill 10 episodes of screen time, to distract us, to misdirect us, and hopefully entertain us along the way (with variable degrees of success).
No, what this season of Star Trek: Picard is actually about is Picard saying goodbye to Data.
It’s hard to render a proper verdict upon "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1" when "Part 2" is still waiting in the wings, but based on what I see here, my hopes are fading fast.
The thing about building out a single plot over 10 episodes is that you are really putting your eggs in one basket — all but demanding the audience to expect a well-thought-out, compelling through-line, as opposed to a half-baked movie plot that’s simply longer. (Many frequently cite Lost as the reason why we are where we are today with TV structures like this season of Picard. I disagree. Netflix, with its endless supply of made-to-binge shows, is why we are here. Lost was an episodic character anthology series just as much as it was a serialized arc show, and there were tons of plots on that show, not a single plot being told over 10 — or in its case, up to 24 — installments. I wish more shows had the varied structure of Lost.)
"Broken Pieces" is an effective if imperfect Answers Episode that finally puts pieces together and confirms suspicions that have been building across the previous seven shows, setting us up for the final two installments, which will presumably close out the season arc. This episode features a lot of dialogue and explaining, much of it in the TNG tradition of situational analysis, and I appreciated the way it had characters discussing in detail what they now understand, for their and our benefit.
After "Stardust City Rag" appeared at the time to be a potential season-killing episode, Picard has come back with three winners in a row and now heads into the home stretch with the ability to go out with a successful season, provided they can effectively end this thing.