Star Trek: Picard wraps season one in a retro doozy
I have to start this review of the season one finale by paraphrasing Spider Robinson’s famous review of Children of Dune: It’s got plot holes so big you could fly fleets of Borg Cubes through them, but you probably don’t care because it’s such a fun ride. And yes, I think season one as a whole, and the final episode, were fun rides. To quote a friend who is not nearly as hard core of a fan as I am (who binge-watched it at the end and thus didn’t have to wait for any episodes), “Holy shit, that was amazing!”
For all earlier episodes of the series I scheduled my review to publish on the following Monday, in part just so there was some predictability, but there really isn’t a reason to put this off until then.
While there were some groan-worthy moments and several disappointments in the plot, the finale had its amazing moments. And to be perfectly frank, the first season of Star Trek: the Next Generation didn’t hang together half as well as this show has. It’s easy to look back on the old series with rose-colored glasses and only remember the episodes and arcs that we liked and forget the many (or so many) missteps.
Anyway, the rest of this is going to be all spoilers, all the time, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read on.
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Let’s get the disappointment out of the way, first. The episodes leading up to the two-part finale raised a lot of really interesting questions which could have been answered in a way that would have made Michael Moorcock proud and taken Trek television into truly goundbreaking territory. Instead, we got an old school Trek ending that wrapped everything up in a slap-dash half hour, taking some of the least imaginative ways out, and leaving a bunch of plotholes.
Before anyone calls me to task that the episode was more than a half-hour, I’m referring to the part of the show that kind of tried to address the plot points. That was at most half of this episode.
That they gave us a fabulous space battle with some action and intrigue and old friends coming to the rescue isn’t anything to sneeze at, because there were a lot of really bad ways they could have gone but didn’t.
But to get to it: Jean-Luc is being held prisoner by the androids, while Raffi and Rios, unaware of what has transpired back at Synthville, work on making La Sirena space worthy. Hot Romulan, Narek, sneaks into the Borg cube, and somehow re-unites with his Eviler sister. I had noticed in the previous episode that Eviler Sister appeared to get beamed out of the pile of ex-Borgs trying to kill her, and had incorrectly assumed that she was on one of the Romulan Warbirds in the fleet commanded by Commodore Oh. So I was surprised that she was still on the Borg cube, and also a little confused as to why she was working to get the weapon systems back online.
I mean, that’s what Seven and the ex-Borgs were already doing, and surely they should have noticed that someone else was working on the same systems? And besides that, as far as Eviler Sister knew, the only ships coming to the system were her allies, and La Sirena, as one small ship, wasn’t really a threat to the Romulan fleet.
Anyway, Narek convinces his sister to let him take some grenades so he can try to sabotage the planetary defense system (the giant space orchids). They have a moment where a bit more of the unresolved family dysfunction is revealed, and then each go their separate ways.
Soji and Jean-Luc talk again, each one trying to get the other to see things their way. Meanwhile Dr. Jurati and Young Doctor Soong have a conversation about the “golum” as well as Soong attempts to salvage some of the murdered android’s memory.
Narek gets to La Sirena and tries to convince Raffi and Rios that he wants to destroy the beacon and try to save everyone. Elnor spotted Narek leaving the Cube and has been following him. He pulls his sword on Narek, but agrees to hear Narek out. Narek tells them more of the Romulan/Vulcan version of Armeggeddon and convinces them to help me try to destroy the beacon. They head toward Synthville using the old fake prisoner gambit.
Meanwhile, Jurati figures out how to get Jean-Luc out of jail and the two of them head toward La Sirena. Somehow the two parties don’t pass each other in the desert.
Jean-Luc and Jurati get to the ship, find it empty but functional, and Jean-Luc decides to try to fly it up into orbit to intercept the Romulan fleet.
Soong has extracted enough of the murdered android’s memory to realize the Sutra killed her, not the Hot Romulan. He encounters Rios, Raffi, Narek, and Elnor and offers to help.
Sofi and Sutra are busy programming the beacon while all the other androids stand around looking pretty. Even with Soong’s help taking out Sutra, the rest of the motley crew fail to destroy the beacon.
Jean-Luc and Jurati and the giant space orchids try to defend the planet from all 218 Romunlan Warbirds. Jurati mentions the Picard Maneuver, and then figures out how to use the android’s super tool to augment Jean-Luc’s old warp trick to make La Sirena appear to be a whole fleet. Jean-Luc’s plan, though, is to die in battle defending the androids, and thus convince Soji not to wipe out all organic life. It’s a very Jean-Luc gambit.
A massive Star Fleet fleet show up, improbably commanded by a re-instated Will Riker, there’s a bit of a stand-off. Soji is convinced to turn off the beacon before the synthetic Lovecraftian horror does anything more than wave it’s modular tentacles through a wormhole. The Romulans flee, Riker and the Star Fleet ships follow them to make sure they return to Romulan space. And Jean-Luc is finally dying because of his brain abnormality (that was first mentioned back in the series finale of The Next Generation and was brought up again in episode 2 of the new series.
Though Soji beam’s Jean-Luc and Jurati back to Synthville, it’s too late, and Jean-Luc dies. We get some interesting scenes of the various characters dealing with their grief. We see them in different pairings than has occurred in earlier episodes.
And then, of course, Jean-Luc wakes up in a simulation, where he finds the re-constructed memories of Data have been hanging about since Bruce Maddox reconstructed them from B-4.
So what we get after our big space battle are some discussions about death and the meaning of life. Data gets a second death. Jean-Luc gets another chance at life, in a version of Soong’s gollum which mimics the age of his original body and is mortal.
The character arcs all work, particularly Jean-Luc’s relationship with Data which was the subject of the very first scene of episode 1. It’s a good, fitting end to that conflict. But, as I’ve mentioned a few times, there are all sorts of plot point and questions that were raised during the series that are just ignored at the end. And it doesn’t feel as if the showrunners even realize how sloppy all that part was handled. Jean-Luc’s death would have worked much better if most of us hadn’t known in advance that the series had already been ordered for a second season (and that Patrick Stewart had made that very public ask to convince Whoopi Goldberg to reprise her role as Guinan in season two).
Some parts worked, and I suspect for non-pedantic nerds the seasons will seem more awesome than disappointing. For one thing, that sort of viewer probably had no idea that a second season staring Stewart had already been green lit. So Jean-Luc’s death probably hits a lot harder, and his resurrection (even though the method was teased in the previous episode) will probably be a bigger surprise.
Despite my disappointments, I have to admit that I enjoyed the ride and am looking forward to the next season.
- I think Elnor is one of the best of the new characters, and he was woefully underused for most of the season.
- I’m not at all clear on what happened to Narek in the end. The last time I remember seeing him was during the failed attempt to destroy the beacon. Unless or until we are told otherwise, I’m going to imagine that Elnor beheaded him off-screen.
- We’re also not told what’s happening with the rest of the ex-Borgs. Are they going to keep living on Coppelius?
- It’s more than a little galling that the Romulan’s double-secret police, the villains for most of the series, are proven right in the end. Not that they have anything to show for it, but still…
- I was at first irritated about getting no reveal or twist on the synthetic higher beings. Not to mention miffed that no one within the show seems to acknowledge that just because they didn’t show up now, they remain a constant danger for all organic life. Then I realized this just confirms my earlier assessment that this is all Lovecraftian. Because in Lovecraft stories the best any character can hope for is to escape death, enslavement, and/or madness long enough to die of natural causes before the eldritch horror show up and kill everyone else. So, Star Trek is now a Lovecraftian universe!
- In the nearly finale scene it seems to be implied that Raffi and Seven of Nine are in a relationship.
- Since Seven has joined the crew, does this mean that Jean-Luc and the others are going to be part of the Fenris Rangers, now? I still kind of want the Seven of Nine & Fenris Rangers spin-off that I lot of us predicted, but I also wouldn’t mind if she were a regular on this series if they give her enough to do.
Some reviews from other people:
My reviews of previous episodes: