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Josh reviews Episodes 7-9 of Star Trek: Picard!

We’re almost at the end of the first season of Star Trek: Picard.  I enjoyed the premiere, but then I felt episodes 2 and 3 were very mediocre.  The show has been better since then (click here for my reviews of episodes 4-6), and I am enjoying watching it.  At the same time, I continue to be disappointed by some baffling story choices that just don’t sit too well with me.  Let’s dig in.  (Beware some spoilers below.)

Episode 7: “Nepenthe”

* There’s a lot to enjoy in this episode.  Seeing Riker and Troi again is an absolute delight.  Both Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis are great, so comfortably reprising their beloved characters.  There were so many wonderful moments between them in the episode.  I loved hearing Riker yell “shields up!” just like old times when he realizes Picard might be in danger.  I love how Troi immediately senses Picard isn’t OK.  I love how quickly Riker puts everything together about Soji.  (I loved that the actress who played Soji mimicked the way Brent Spiner would tilt his head as Data — I recognized that immediately, and I was pleased that Riker did as well.)  I loved hearing Riker call Troi Imzadi.  I also quite enjoyed Lulu Wilson as Riker & Troi’s daughter, Kestra.  (I love the deep cut that their daughter is named Kestra, the name of Deanna’s dead sister as revealed in the TNG episode “Dark Page”.)  This precocious kid could have easily been very annoying, but I quite liked her and I enjoyed the way she and Soji developed a quick and easy bond.  (It’s reminiscent of the way Data connected so easily to children.)  I loved hearing Kestra question Soji about whether she could play the violin, if she liked Sherlock Holmes, etc. (all things Data loved).

* On the other hand, I’m speechless at the incredibly dumb plot point that Riker and Troi’s son Thaddeus died because, after the Federation’s ban on synthetic life forms, they couldn’t get what used to be an easily-acquired cure from something cultivated in a positronic matrix.  Whaaaa…???  How/why could a medicine be cultivated in an android’s brain?  Do the writers even know what a positronic matrix is??  This is ludicrous, a dumb way of trying to connect Riker-Troi to the series’ over-arching story about synthetics.  (If they HAD to make this sort of larger thematic connection, why not say the medicine that could have cured Thaddeus was from Romulus, and so unavailable after the Federation abandoned the Romulans when their sun went super-nova?  That would have made a lot more sense, right?)  (By the way, I’ve been saying all along that Picard’s leaving Starfleet in a huff made no sense for the character.  Maybe the death of the child of his two close friends WOULD have been a reason for Picard to act in this way.  But the show weirdly never goes there; it never makes that connection!!)

* I’m also very angered by the death of Hugh.  Another great Trek supporting character killed off (like Bruce Maddox and Icheb).  Look, I don’t mind the show killing off characters.  It makes sense that, in today’s TV storytelling world, the characters on this Trek show would and should be in more peril than on previous Trek incarnations.  What I object to is the callous, pointless way in which Hugh, a wonderful character, is dispatched with.  It is relatively meaningless within the context of the episode and this show; a second after he dies, the show has moved on to another fight scene.  Even worse is how, once again, the show has made Picard himself look so incompetent and callous.  Picard left Hugh behind on the Borg cube and he doesn’t seem to give one moment’s thought to the terrible spot he’s left Hugh in.  Hugh dies while Picard is smiling and eating pizza with Riker and Troi (and Raffi and Jurati are eating cake).  Ugh.  (Picard continues to look bad later in the episode, when he jokes with Riker about the “drama” on his ship ever since he left.  Oh, you mean drama like Jurati’s attempted suicide??  Picard is shockingly unconcerned!!)

* The opening scene gives us the second half of the Jurati-Oh scene from earlier in the season.  We learn that Oh mind-melded with Jurati without her permission.  You’d think that abhorrent violation would have clued Jurati in that Oh wasn’t really a Vulcan.  But I guess she hasn’t watched as much Star Trek as I have.

* It seemed to me that it should have been obvious to Rios and everyone else on his ship that the Romulans only let them escape so they could track their ship.  (Most people watching this have seen Star Wars, you know.)  And the idea that Rios could shake their pursuer by stopping and changing course doesn’t make sense to me — wouldn’t the Romulan ship’s sensors still be able to track them, even after a course change?

Episode 8: “Broken Pieces”

* I liked the opening scene on the “planet of grief,” in which we see the Romulan women driven mad by the “admonition”.  It’s nice to finally, finally get a tiny hint of depth to the evil Romulan Tal Shiar woman.  I liked seeing her connection to her “auntie,” the Romulan woman we’d previously seen as an assimilated Borg drone.  But while this scene was 1) intriguing and 2) provided some important background to the story, this is information we should have gotten long ago.  As was the case in both seasons of Star Trek: Discovery, this “mystery box” approach isn’t working.  The show undermines itself by waiting far too long to give us this basic information on who the characters are and what their motivation is.  All of the Romulan scenes this whole season would have been much stronger, in my opinion, if we’d known this backstory as to what they wanted and why they were doing the things they were doing.

* I wasn’t sure if Seven of Nine would be back on the show.  I’m glad to see more of her, and I liked seeing Elnor’s child-like happiness at her return, giving her a big hug.  I liked seeing Seven steal the Borg cube.  I liked the cool  visual effects shot of the Cube regenerating.  (We got a hint that Borg cubes could do this way back in “Q Who?”, but we hadn’t really seen this happen since then.

* I liked hearing about a “Viridium tracker” in Jurati’s blood.  Spock used a Veridium patch to track Kirk and McCoy in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  Nice piece of continuity there!

* I liked the revelation that Raffi’s “conclave of eight” wasn’t a group of people, but rather a place — an eight-star system.

* I loved the scene with Raffi and all the Rios holograms.  I’m intrigued by the idea that the holograms don’t just look like Rios, but that they actually contain aspects of his consciousness/memories.

* The backstory with Rios and his captain and their disastrous encounter with some androids is interesting.  (Unlike the Romulan stuff discussed above, this is backstory that it makes sense that the show took its time in revealing, as we got to know Rios better.)  It’s a hell of a coincidence, though, that the one ex-Starfleet officer Picard got to go on this mission happens to be someone with this personal connection to the Synthetics.

* This episode has a huge body-count as a huge number of Borg are killed, vented into space.  As I have commented before; I don’t mind death on Star Trek.  But I do mind when it seems so callous and our heroes (Picard & co.) don’t seem to notice of care about these losses.  At least here we get some interesting drama with a vengeful Seven.

* I like the idea that there is a “threshold” in the development of A.I. that is similar to what Trek has established about Zephram Cochrane and warp drive — once you cross that threshold, someone shows up.  (See: Star Trek: First Contact.)  That is a cool idea.

* But I’m still not quite understanding how this all fits together.  So Bruce Maddox found this secret planet of androids?  How?  Why would they welcome him, someone who was so disrespectful to android life back in “Measure of a Man”?  And why were the two android girls, Soji and Dajh, hidden within the Federation?

* I like that Soji uses a Borg trans warp conduit.  Nice use of established Trek tech (these are from Voyager).

* My eyebrows raised that Picard was an ensign on a starship named Reliant.  I like the nod to Star Trek II, but as with seeing signs for Quark and Mr. Mott on Freecloud, when you think about this for a second, these references don’t make much sense.  Why would another starship be named after the doomed Reliant…?

Episode 9: Et in Arcadia Ego part 1

* There were cool visuals in the opening action scene.  I loved the shot of the Borg Cube smashing through the barrier around the androids’ planet.  And I really loved those intriguing flowers/orchids, one of which surrounded Rios’ ship.  But what exactly was happening there?  Was the orchid protecting them or attacking them?  As was the case consistently on Discovery, the action happened way too fast for me to follow what the heck was going on, which weakens the sequence.

* I like that the red alert sound on Rios’ ship is the classic Star Trek red alert sound.  I also liked seeing the straps on everyone’s chairs when the battle began.  (There’s a long-running Trek joke about there not being seat-belts on any starships…)

* It’s very weird that in the lengthy first scene after the crash, no one in Picard’s crew mentions the Borg ship that had followed them.

* I liked the passing-of-the-torch scene between Picard and Seven.  (Seven: “Keep saving the galaxy, Picard.”  Picard: “That’s all on you now.”)

* It’s fun to see a more android-looking version of Soji/Dajh, though I wish she didn’t turn out to be such a one-dimensional villain.

* It’s also always great to see Brent Spiner back on screen, though I don’t buy that all along there’s been a son of Dr. Noonien Soong out there who we never heard of and who never interacted at all with Data.  That doesn’t make any sense to me.

* The suggestion that Alton Soong was working on a mind-transfer device worries me.  What plot-hole in the finale is this new magic tech going to be used for the show to get out of?

* I don’t buy that ANY non-Vulcan could learn how to mind-meld, and it’s even more absurd to me that an android could.  Remember, Deanna Troi could never empathically “read” Data.  That doesn’t mean that androids couldn’t be sentient!  But to me it does mean that I can’t believe one could have telepathic abilities.  (I will say that I was pleased that Isa Briones, the actress who plays Soji/Dajh and now this new android, Sutra, held her fingers exactly the way Leonard Nimoy used to, when she does the mind-meld.)

* That’s just the beginning of my many questions.  I enjoyed most of the individual scenes in this episode, but taken as a whole there is just so much that doesn’t make sense.  Why doesn’t the idyllic android paradise planet at all resemble the stormy vision Soji saw in her dream/memory?  Why don’t any of the androids react to the crash-landing of Picard’s ship and, also, a HUGE BORG CUBE???  It’s weird that the androids all stay in their little city and wait for Picard & co. to come to them.  How could a pin in the eye kill an android?  I’m not even sure that’d necessarily be fatal for a human being.  Why is there a “Spot Two” cat in this android city, if Data never lived here or even knew of it?  Most importantly, I’m still completely confused as to why the completely-human looking androids Soji/Dajh (who seem far more advanced than any other android seen in this episode) were sent away and placed within Federation society.  Why was this done?  What was their mission?  I really hope this is clarified in the finale.

Speaking of which, I’ll be back soon with my thoughts on the season finale of Star Trek: Picard…!  Here’s hoping they stick the landing.

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