WARNING: Spoilers to follow.
Look, before you start tearing me a new one, I want you to know that I write these words with a heavy heart. I’m not one of those people—and you know who you are—that finds a perverse pleasure in dismantling and dismissing something that other people enjoy. They got a word for those types of people on the internet; that’s right, they call those people “Alex Kurtzman.”
For the most part, I write about stuff that I love and want other people to experience. In my own small way, I hope to make peoples’ lives better through my passion for genre media.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is: don’t call me a Negative Nancy; day-in and day-out, I try to focus on the positive. But sometimes enough is enough. Sometimes you’re just plain fed up. Sometimes you gotta stand back and yell into the infinite void, “What the hell were they thinkin’?”
Well, dear reader, I did that very thing last Thursday night after watching the season finale of Star Trek: Picard, but nothing happened. The infinite void didn’t return an answer, and Data didn’t meet me in another realm of existence to impart some words of wisdom. No, I wasn’t so lucky; all I heard was silence. I was just standin’ there, lookin’ like a crazy person, puffin’ frantically on a JUUL, while my boyfriend asked, “Honey, are you alright? Do you want to talk about it?”
But something else has been bugging me over the last few days. I’ve seen a lot of folks online praising Picard and I’m honestly baffled. Did we watch the same thing?
Now, in all fairness, the show had a few good moments, but it mostly relied on the success of previous series to pull them off. For example, the best episode of the season, “Nepenthe,” depended on our prior knowledge of the relationship between Troi and Riker to give the character of Picard and the overall story arc an emotional base; Riker swooping in at the last minute with an armada of Starfleet vessels is classic Trek; but the appearance of Seven of Nine in the series seems to be pure fan service as her character in Picard and Voyager couldn’t be more different. I get it; people evolve. Blah, blah, blah. But do you really think a scientist who is trying to reintegrate with humanity would turn into a blood thirsty maniac that’s hell-bent on revenge? Wasn’t she into stellar cartography or something?
I didn’t buy it either.
It was cool to see her on screen, I guess, but it didn’t feel right. I think they have a word for that kind of thing: exploitation.
Anyway, let’s get this turkey on the road.
Interspersed throughout this article are comments from fans who shared their feedback with us on Twitter—I’d love to hear your thoughts too! So, drop a comment below, or send us a message on social media.
It is nice having Star Trek back again. While I would have preferred it to have been handled differently such as by following the books post-Nemesis I’m just happy to have it. At least it’s not another prequel.— Mike Anderson (@admiralsequoia) March 27, 2020
I love #StarTrekPicard . Its better than I thought possible. I admit that Data dying again was not fun to watch but I am glad that he got a proper send off this time. I loved each moment of each episode of picard. This is the type of Trek I love.— Cydalia Acevedo (@CydSuperCutie) March 27, 2020
What do these people think Star Trek is, for Christ’s sake?
Do you remember a time when Star Trek played around with different genres? There were mystery, horror, and even western episodes; there were love, war, and family episodes; there were Nazis, time travelers, Bajorans, and Cardassians; and there were episodes dealing with disease, spatial anomalies, and time distortions. What happened? Where did all that stuff go? Could you imagine an episode of Picard where Q sends the crew to a Robin Hood planet? It just. Wouldn’t. Gel.
Ever since Star Trek (2009), the franchise has had a villain problem. Every series and movie has relied on a “bad guy” to deliver the plot. Is it a limit of the imagination? Or does every story line need to end with a big, bombastic battle these days? Does everything need to be about saving the entire galaxy from destruction time and time again?
If you’re anything like me, your favorite Star Trek episodes are “The City on the Edge of Forever” or “The Inner Light.” Is modern Trek anywhere close to that kind of storytelling?
Terrible. Bad writing, a complete shift from the vision that ST had always had, and it seems like that shift is merely to push a political agenda. Pointless violence and language that seems foreign to the ST universe that’s been established for the last fifty years.— Joel “been social distancing for decades” Morgan (@Xavier9281) March 27, 2020
A lot of fans lay the blame at the feet of Executive Producer Alex Kurtzman, but that’s an over-simplification of the issue. Do you know how many CBS Executives had to sign off on this puppy? And one of the co-creators is Michael Chabon; he’s written some damn fine books. Surely, he can be trusted to write a good story.
I’m guessing that these people didn’t understand the property or they were trying to make it something that it’s not. Probably, the latter. It’s not Marvel or Star Wars. It’s closer to Doctor Who in terms of tone. Quit pulling it away from that.
And I get that we’re trying to modernize Star Trek by making it a serialized, binge-worthy property, but it removes the one-and-done essence of Star Trek. You don’t get the simple morality tales that the property is known for. Furthermore, by blatantly injecting modern issues into Star Trek, it doesn’t allow us to objectively view them. It takes something that’s supposed to be set in the future and brings it to the present.
When TOS confronted racial tensions in an episode like “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” it allowed viewers to see the folly in these different modes of thinking by removing it from its modern terms. Picard doesn’t take that same tack.
To me, Star Trek was about a bunch of people who were working together to figure things out through ingenuity and logic, but now it seems like a bunch of people—with all these interpersonal issues—who fly by the seat of their pants from one moment to the next.
A boring series whose only appeal was Picard's return... but instead the character was berated, and disrespected constantly. A nonsensical plot full of bad continuity, unearned character moments, and motivations that made no sense. Star Trek's optimism replaced with dystopia.— Glen (@write_a_book) March 27, 2020
Modern Star Trek has transformed into space opera rather than staying true to its science fiction roots.
What’s with all this mysticism and pseudo-religious bullstuff?
Discovery had the Red Angel and a weird obsession with destiny, and Picard has a distorted message about the afterlife, synthetic life, and furthering the beliefs of a Romulan religious cult. I don’t need something akin to The Force to like a science fiction property, so please stop trying to inject one into Star Trek.
Garbage, garbage, garbage.— Jack Beers (@waytoomuchbeer) March 28, 2020
When the crew of the Enterprise encountered an alien life-form that held similar superstitious beliefs in previous iterations of Star Trek, they typically dismissed them and looked for the reasoning behind those beliefs through facts and evidence. I think this guy named Picard gave a speech about the truth once. Not so anymore. Now these characters embrace pseudo-religious notions without question. Did people get dumber in the future or something? Did Picard forget his own life?
Didn’t some guy name Kirk ask, “What does God need with a starship?”
Well, let me ask this, “What does God need with Star Trek? And what does Star Trek need with God?”
That character development was rough, MawMaw!
I could probably write an entire 1,000-page book about this topic alone, but I want to focus on a specific moment in the show that is indicative of the overall issue with character development in Picard.
Midway through the show, Raffi decides to visit her distant son, Russel Wilson (it honestly doesn’t matter what his real name is), to patch things up. Apparently, Raffi became obsessed with the subterfuge of the Tal Shiar and Zhat Vash after their plan to save the Romulan home world was thwarted by them. It destroyed her family, but she’s here now—unannounced—to make amends. And, wouldn’t you know it, Wilson isn’t having it. Essentially, he screams, “Get out of here, mom. I hate you!”
So, like any classic Star Trek character (that’s pure sarcasm), Raffi returns to the ship and takes up the bottle. The crew mostly ignores her alcoholism until they need Raffi to do something that enhances the plot.
And . . . we never come back to it. Like ever. The show doesn’t address it again. The alcoholism. Her son. Nothing. I mean, if you’re going to bring something that heavy up in the first place, can’t it have some sort of payoff? Shouldn’t it be tied to the outcome of the show or something?
Here’s some Screenwriting 101: it’s not character development if it doesn’t change the character. It’s just a thing that happened; especially, if it doesn’t advance the plot.
Unfortunately, I think the idea of good character development and logical decision making in Star Trek died in this one moment:
It’s been a systemic problem ever since.
How are we even supposed to like these people?
I think this meme sums this one up better than I could in words:
Star Trek is a Utopian, not a Dystopian Society
Okay, it’s not exactly a utopia, but that’s what the Federation is striving toward. In both Discovery and Picard, the Federation and these characters have embraced that they live in this dystopian society that’s chockful of lies, civil discord, and drama. They’re not trying to change it. They’re not trying to escape it. They’re just existing within it. I’m sorry, but I have to say it bluntly: that’s not Star Trek.
It is set in a tiny universe of limited space and resources, where space is boring, and the future is a dystopian hellhole.— Learn to catCode (@bcaton2) March 27, 2020
It is the anti-Star Trek, composed by people who hate the original, hate the fans, and loathed Roddenberry's vision. pic.twitter.com/mMZZWHYNvj
In an interview with Variety, Chabon had this to say about the story of Picard:
“You know, personally speaking, my own tastes and inclination, I always said when we were in the earliest versions of the room for this show, if we could have just done a whole show about Picard and the dog on the vineyard in France, with no starships, no phasers, the only Romulans would be those two Romulans who work for him on the vineyard, and no politics — just, like, there’s a funfair down in the village and they all go, and maybe Picard solves a very low stakes mystery in the village, like, someone has stolen the antique bell out of the bell tower, or something like that? I would have loved to write that show. I don’t think the world’s quite ready for a Star Trek show like that, and there’s probably maybe not that big of an audience for a Star Trek show like that.”
I think I can speak for most Star Trek fans when I say, “That’s exactly the kind of story we were ready for.”
Here are a few more replies that we received to our post on Twitter:
This was a brilliantly told story told over ten episodes. I believe Gene Roddenberry would be proud if he were still alive today. Although for some, if it's not a completely utopian future with all dilemmas wrapped up in a one or two-episode arc, they're not happy.— Annsabella (@Wirecat2619) March 28, 2020
I expected it to be terrible, but I didn't believe it would be this terrible. Its painfully obvious that everybody who worked on this show either has no idea what actual Star Trek is, or hates actual Star Trek. And that includes @SirPatStew himself. #FakeTrek #FireSecretHideout— Phillip Kilroy (@KilroyWasHere83) March 27, 2020
Picard, and Discovery, needlessly stay away from family viewing with strong language.— J.A. Arroyo (@SirKnightArroyo) March 28, 2020
Nice to see the old characters back not Star Trek though, more like Mass Effect.— Future Boy (@FutureB60408674) March 27, 2020
The writing is questionable at times. But it gives the fans the goodbye to Data we never got. And a return on screen unlike #williamshatner who had to write a book to bring Kirk back. I will watch S2 whenever it releases.— David Pick (@Pick_David) March 26, 2020
I thought it was great. That being said, I'm still not a huge fan of a single storyline thru the entire season. Makes a re-watch more difficult. Also felt 10 episodes was not enough. I miss the days of 20+ per season. Those were the good old days. But this is just my opinion. 🖖🏻— Ivor Qorxuul (@JuiceMyEyeball) March 27, 2020
Awful. Abysmal writing. Some good scenes of our favorites, but this show felt like they had no clear vision or idea what they were doing. Wasted opportunity and I don't think I'll watch Season 2.— James Wallace (@jrwallace24) March 26, 2020