Star Trek Picard – Four Episodes in and what is this?

I just watched episode four of Star Trek Picard and…If it wasn’t for the fact that my boyfriend and our room mate were watching this I probably wouldn’t watch another episode.

To be fair, I don’t think it’s awful, just not interesting enough to keep watching. There have been a number of scenes that make me uncomfortable (like the brother and sister that get way too physical) or annoyed (why is she calling him JP?), or just plain angry (ya, let’s reinvent the timeline again.) But while those scenes detracted from my enjoyment they were just a few scenes of the whole. The vast majority of it has been…. meh.

I’ve been watching Star Trek since I was little, right there with Captain Kirk flying off to various planets and defeating the problem of the week. There are so many of them that I love, from Spoke and the flowers that made him feel, to the disease that attacks anyone hitting puberty. Then there was The Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space 9,  Enterprise, and every single movie (even the new ones). I’ve watched them all. I enjoyed them all. From the convoluted plots of the Cardassians, to the tribbles, and the invisible monsters only Data could see.

(I do admit I skipped Discovery, I didn’t want to pay extra to watch it on yet another streaming service. I’m only watching Picard because I’m not paying for it, or room mate is.)

So when I come to Picard I am there as a fan of the franchise. Sure, there have been episodes of the old series that I didn’t like, or I felt could be better, but on the whole I loved them and I kept coming back for more.

I think the biggest problem I have with Picard isn’t even the story, or the pieces in the plot that take me out of the world. It’s the way they are choosing to film it.

Every season before (minus Discovery, since I didn’t watch it and I don’t know) was in an episodic mode. That is: each episode was a self contained story. There was a beginning, a middle and an end revolving around a specific monster or problem. Sometimes the episode would be cut into two or three pieces, and often there was a larger story that connected all of the episodes together, but on the whole when you got to the end of an episode you felt like it had a satisfying conclusion.

Now Picard is here, and it does not have a structure to it. The first episode may be the only one that had a whole story, but even that felt incomplete and unfinished. It was the opening dragging you into the series, but it wasn’t satisfying. There was no conclusions, just questions.

Then the second episode happened, and there were even more questions, and only a few small answers. It gave them a direction to head in, but again it wasn’t a self contained episode, just a piece of the whole.

Episode three happened and I hated the new character introduced the first time she called the admiral “JP”. Who does that? Even in the flash back while he is still an admiral she is calling him JP instead of Admiral, or Jean-Luc. It felt entirely disrespectful. And again…. no satisfying conclusion, just more questions (like how did the scientist get the disrupter from the trained secret assassins? Is she a double agent, or is it just bad writing? And how did an old man and two older Romulans take out a group of highly trained assassins? But lets just wave the wand and forget about that.)

Episode four attempted to have a base plot. They went to a planet to get help from an assassin nun, and go on their way. But again it wasn’t very satisfying. It didn’t feel fleshed out, and every persons motive on that planet just feels…off. Picard is a shadow of the man he used to be, unable to command a room. Unable to use words to fight for him like he once did. Instead he stumbles over himself, and his past, and ignores the pain that he caused others. A man who used to be good at reading a room, and figuring out what to say, who respected the customs of other species, now walks right over theirs. It isn’t until someone else takes charge and kills the “bad guy” that Picard finally admits he screwed up…sort of. It was such a half assed apology.

Next episode looks like a casino planet episode. All I can think of is the casino planet from Last Jedi, and how absolute trash that section was. I hope it isn’t as bad. Mostly I hope there is a satisfying episode with a beginning, middle and end. I don’t have hope.

I expect all episodes to be pieces of a the whole instead of self contained episodes. That makes me wonder why they bothered to release it as a weekly episodic series instead of just releasing it all at once. If they did release it all at once then at least we could watch it all and evaluate it as a whole. Instead we are getting episodes that feel disjointed and separated, that don’t really feel satisfying. (The answer is money, they wanted subscribers, and that’s why they released it this way, but I digress.)

If I were the only one watching this I would just wait until the full thing was out and watch it then if I got really bored and couldn’t find anything else to watch. Because I live with two guys who want to watch it… I’ll watch it with them. Also of note is they didn’t grow up on Star Trek like I did. I know our room mate saw Discovery (and liked it) but he hasn’t watched all of the other series. My boyfriend has only watched part of TNG. Neither of them knew who Seven of Nine was, and most of the lore is going right over their head. I find it interesting that they are enjoying it more than I am, but not surprised really.

It doesn’t feel like Star Trek. It almost feels more like Roswell, actually. Teen drama that just happens to happen in a star ship. But….we’ll see how next week goes.

Thoughts on Star Wars the Last Jedi

Is been a few weeks since I saw the new Star Wars movie, and I had to think about it because I wasn’t sure what I thought about it at first.

On the positive side, there were some cool new creatures. Crystaline wolves, fish people, and porgs (that were flavor to the set rather than integral to the story, which I liked.)

I loved the final battle scene. The beautiful reds and whites playing off each other, and marking every move made in the field.

I really liked the development of Rey and Kilo. Tense hatred, punctuated by bitter betrayal, and a risk finding answers for both of them. I almost felt their story line was a little rushed to add in bits for other people, which disappointed me.

I even liked the bomb run. It had a very ww2 vibe to it, risking everything to stop the enemy, which is what the original SW fight scenes were based off of.

So, there was a lot to like in the movie, and even love.

But let’s get into the things I didn’t like as much. Here there will be spoilers, so you’ve been warned.

The biggest problem I had with the movie is that while we were watching I would be really into what was happening, on the edge of my seat, and then something would happen that just pulled me out of the scene and ruined it for me. I thought about it too much, stayed analyzing and trying to figure out why it didn’t fit, and it took me a while to get back into it. There weren’t a lot of those moments, but they were sometimes big moments.

In writing one of the worst things you can do is throw a reader out of the story. It becomes less likely they will pick the book up and continue reading. There were other things that pointed at bad, or sloppy writing. No foreshadowing, missing continuity, sub-plots that lacked cohesion with the main plot (casino planet?). You probably want specifics, but it’s been a few weeks since I watched it so I can’t give you a very detailed list of anything. But I can tell you why I think the purple-haired-lady was such bad writing.

In a story you have to make people care about characters. Make them hate the character, or love the character, but make them FEEL something about them. Either you see them a lot and grow accustomed to them, or they save a puppy, or kill a puppy…SOMETHING happens to make them endearing or hated by you, and then when they die you care. Either you cheer, or you’re sad. It really impacts the audience. But you have to SHOW that they are worth caring about, not tell us.

If I said “hey, that dude over there killed a puppy,” you might look at him a little sideways, but you’re probably not going to believe me. If I show you a video on youtube of the guy tying up a helpless puppy, putting it in a sack, then throwing the sack into a deep, fast moving river…you’re calling the cops more than likely. Showing has far more impact than telling ever will.

In this case they introduced a character, told us she was some great commander that did some awesome thing, then she promptly told Poe (someone we really liked) to get lost. She keeps telling him to get lost, and has no meaningful interaction until the very end. Even then she tries to destroy the one chance we, the audience, can see of the rebels survival by trying to capture Poe. Then after she’s destroyed all chance of anything good happening (from what we see) someone finally speaks up and says “oh, she had a plan.”

We spent no time with purple-haired-lady. We knew nothing about her, other than Leah said she was a good general. We did not see her kiss a kids boo-boo, rescue a puppy, or teach some young trainee to shoot. She did NOTHING except stand there and tell Poe to sit down and shut up, over and over again.

I saw a video from I Hate Everything that said we also didn’t care about Admiral Akbar, so it wouldn’t have mattered if they would have switched it out. I disagree. The fact is Admiral Akbar has been a staple meme of Star Wars culture. “It’s a trap!” is imprinted on us. We quote it, time and time again. We see his face, hear his voice in countless videos, pictures, and jokes. We knew him. No, he didn’t save a puppy either, but he did try to save the fleet, on screen, while we watched, and that resonated with us. We watched as the ships were decimated, and we knew Admiral Akbar tried to save them, but it was too late. If he had been the one on that ship to sacrifice his life than it would have meant something. Instead we got a “and Admiral Akbar is dead too” from some lady we didn’t know, or care about. They didn’t even have the decency to show him die.

You know what it felt like? What a lot of the movie felt like? The director said “how many women can we cram into this movie” and he cut out as many men as he could, making their rolls insignificant if he couldn’t out right cut them. Unless they were the bad guy. Notice that most of the fighter pilots they showed were women? Or that all of the generals were women? Poe was cast as even more of a screw up maverick than the first movie, and Fin was painted as an idiot at times. Mostly due to sloppy writing. I try to imagine this is because most of the men already died in battle and all they have left is women, but it’s still awkward that they make the male’s in the rebel group look so damn incompetent. Even Luke had become a coward, though I was glad to see he learned from it.

Lastly, the way they destroyed the ship at the end was kind of bad ass, I’ll admit. It was beautiful imagery, and looked amazing…and it left a lot of questions. Like why didn’t they sacrifice any one of the other three ships that were being destroyed before that? Oh, I can see not sacrificing a ship unless you had to, but you’re already dead. Why aren’t you doing something heroic instead of letting yourself get blown up? And how did purple-haired-lady know it would work? Was she really the first person to even think of doing it? Even so, it was a beautiful scene, and I think with a little bit more story they could have made it fit in better.

And no, I’m not talking about the casino planet. Let’s just forget that ever happened, okay?

Overall I loved the imagery, and the battle on the salt planet was beautiful. I even liked the end of Luke, it was fitting. I thought the dice on the mirror were kind of dumb, but what can you do? There was sloppy writing, and inconsistencies, and it kind of didn’t fit entirely in the Star Wars universe, but it was a really good space adventure film.

Would I watch it again? Maybe, if it was on late night cable or netflix. I’d probably even like it more the second time. If you believe the film theorist watching something repeatedly makes us like it more. I will probably even go to the theater to see the next movie in the series…and hope it has a better writer next time. Or the director stops trying to make it so female-centric. Whichever.