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The final missing 22 reviews: ‘Star Trek: The Animated Series’

So here we are at last: the missing final 22 pieces in the puzzle that is the Complete Jammer’s Reviews of the Entire Star Trek Franchise. This was a manageable but sizable project that took up a great deal of my free time over the past several weeks, in between all the things in life. And it may very well be the last mass-update project of its kind for this website, given that it’s the last piece of the franchise I still had outstanding.

Doubling back to review The Animated Series in the current age of third-generation Trek, with its narrative sprawl and lavish production values (even with TAS‘s 21st-century kid-friendly equivalent, Prodigy), was kinda strange. TAS is an almost-shock-to-the-system, back-to-basics affair, with single-plotted, 22-minute stories and a bargain-basement production (aside from the legitimacy expense of all the original actors, sans Walter Koenig, all voicing their characters — as well as most of the guest characters).

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One last hurrah for Picard and the crew

By golly, they stuck the landing. It wasn’t flawless or groundbreaking or deep or anything crazy like that, but they saw this final adventure through to a satisfactory and satisfying conclusion. The result is certainly the best season of Star Trek in the Alex Kurtzman era, and one that honors the legacy of these characters and sends them off right.

This season of Star Trek: Picard might best be thought of as the final TNG movie that never happened after Nemesis tanked at the box office. It’s structured like a movie and has the sensibilities and technical qualities of a movie (visual effects, production design, music, sound design) — and, yes, the mainstream dramatic concessions of a movie. It also has the length of several movies, which was perhaps the biggest problem with how the season was structured.

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Battle for Mandalore in the season-fitting finale

"The Return" confirms the third season of The Mandalorian as a rather unsatisfying sum of disjointed parts. It does lots of Star Wars things in very Star Wars ways. This worked in previous seasons where tension and interest could be sustained through action because of a compelling and simple underlying narrative. But as the ambitions and scope of the series grew, I expected the series to grow along with it. Instead, it’s content to keep things simplistic. Simple is fine; simplistic is not.

"The Return" is first and foremost a big action outing, but the action — while expansive and expensive — is interminable and lacks imagination. It’s exceptionally competent but inert. It’s a bunch of repetitive fighting without any tension, because we know Din Djarin and Bo-Katan aren’t going to lose a fight. Maybe I could enjoy the action more if there were a greater sense of purpose or danger, but you’ve got a bunch of people on both sides wearing indestructible armor and helmets, and it’s not even clear what can hurt anybody.

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Picard’s crew acquires some significant hardware in ‘Vox’

Resistance is futile.

That’s what I realized as Picard and the entire TNG crew stepped onto the bridge of the Enterprise-D in all its perfectly restored glory. The plot doesn’t really matter. The blatant manipulation in triggering the memories of my youth doesn’t really matter. Spreading the Vadic storyline out over eight episodes to get to this point doesn’t really matter. What matters is giving this crew an adventure to enable its proper sendoff, and doing it in the most nostalgic way possible. It’s all been building to this payoff, which you might call "Relics II." It works beautifully.

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‘Mandalorian’ offers up the season’s best so far

"The Spies" is easily the best episode so far of The Mandalorian‘s rocky third season. It tackles a meaty story and pursues it with focus and momentum, a decent amount of world building, some solid action, appropriately heightened stakes, reasonable comic relief, and a decent cliffhanger that sets up next week’s season finale. I don’t understand why they chose the title they did, seeing as the episode has no spies, but that goes for many of this series’ laconic and often vaguely puzzling titles.

The episode opens with Elia Kane contacting Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito makes his first appearance of the season, after some whispers in previous episodes) to inform him that the pirates who tried to seize Nevarro (which Gideoon was behind) were defeated by Mandalorians, who are now the biggest obstacle in his plans to undermine the New Republic. Gideon contacts the others in the Shadow Council and asks for reinforcements to crush the resurgent Mandalorians. The council also talks of their plans to quietly rebuild the Empire, without calling too much attention to themselves.

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‘Picard reaches a turning point in ‘Surrender’

"Surrender" is a bit of a mixed bag — one that gives me hope while at the same time trepidation for how this series will close things out. It has moments that are good enough to make me want to do fist pumps, and others that feel like they are scraping the bottom of the barrel of cinematic filler.

Let’s start with the filler, since that’s what the episode does. The first 20 minutes, where Vadic holds the crew hostage on the bridge, are tedious beyond words. "Hostage situation," as I’ve said many times over many years, is the hoariest old saw of action cinema crutches, and this episode does absolutely nothing to demonstrate otherwise. Any tension that might’ve been possible is dissipated by the wheel-spinning of the whole enterprise.

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‘Mandalorian’: Buddy cops in beskar

Hoo, boy. Was that ever a mess. I’m honestly not even sure where to start. I mean, what the actual F?

"Guns for Hire" takes what should be a majorly significant transfer of power on this series and turns it into the strangest shaggy-dog story you probably never would’ve imagined (or wanted to). The Mandalorian used to be known for its clean narratives and gritty western sensibilities. Now it’s a comic book patchwork that feels like a meaningless Andromeda action hour one minute, and Law & Order: Droid Investigation Unit the next. Meanwhile, the stunt casting (Jack Black! Lizzo! Christopher Lloyd!!!) trips all over itself on its way to offer up cipher characters that feel like they wandered in from the wardrobe department on the way to the actors’ Star Wars checkboxes on their bucket lists.

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Mando vs. pirates; New Republic vs. bureaucracy

When Pirate Swamp Thing (the worst pirate design in the history of pirates) and his band of lawless bandits open fire from the air upon Nevarro and then invade it, Greef Karga makes an urgent plea to the New Republic to send a patrol to restore order. The message is received by Captain Carson Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee), the X-wing officer who saved Mando from certain spider death back in "The Passenger." Teva returns to Coruscant to report the situation and ask the New Republic to intervene. Notable is how slowly this message seems to be relayed given how urgent the situation is on Nevarro. A city is being laid to waste, and this guy has to walk casually through office cubicles and file a report in person.

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Plot fissures are exposed in Picard’s ‘Dominion’

"Dominion" is a title, like "The Next Generation," which could be taken to mean something more thematically generic and specific to this episode, or refer to the larger element from Trek‘s history. For this episode, it’s definitely a case of the former rather than the latter. The Dominion isn’t actually the subject of this episode at all, although it raises the question of where exactly the Dominion is in all of this. If a rogue faction of the Founders had broken off and was now trying to wage war against the Federation, wouldn’t the actual Dominion at least have something to say about that? And might an episode titled "Dominion" examine that?

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The gang’s all here, and everyone’s pondering legacy

"The Bounty" is a jam-packed, kitchen-sink outing that piles on the nostalgia and references like there’s no tomorrow, possibly because, for this cast, there soon won’t be. We’re down to four episodes after this one, and the plot is going to start moving this all toward some sort of a conclusion soon. There’s the sense the writers are getting in all their wish-list items, even if some of those items are strange. That "The Bounty" holds together and still makes sense is admirable given how much it throws at us. And it even manages to find thematic connections and emotional resonance through it all, which is definitely a big plus.

The common theme is one of family and legacy as all these characters converge and reflect. (This is the first episode of the season where all the TNG characters/actors appear, and mostly all in one place.) With the Titan on the run from a compromised Starfleet and also from the Shrike, we start getting into the nuts and bolts of the investigation with the crew’s arrival at Daystrom Station, which is not so much a research facility as an (another dimly lit) abandoned warehouse of illicit technology and Section 31 experiments.

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