Second Union

Second Union

STAR TREK REWIND: “Absolute Candor”

“One impossible thing at a time.”

Let’s recap, shall we? Android (sorry … synthetic life-form) Dahj has visions of Picard, visits him, and gets killed by renegade Romulans who may or not be working with a corrupted form of Starfleet Command. Picard charters a ship to find Bruce Maddox whom he suspects of having created a race of sentient androids (sorry … synthetic life-forms) using Data’s remains as the blueprint. The end. That’s it. That’s three 40-plus minute episodes.

Back in the old days when you had to produce a television series (with a 22 episode season-long commitment), these developments would’ve filled only half of an episode (about 22 minutes) which means we, the viewers, have wasted over a hundred minutes (or two-and-a-half episodes of running time) watching a lot of nonsensical, unnecessary padding. Oh! Forgive me. I seem to be padding my review.

I had speculated in a comment thread somewhere that Picard has probably mellowed as a result of his advanced years because the “J.L.” we’re seeing here is not the Jean-Luc of shows and movies past. He’s not the “I will make them pay!” Picard of First Contact. He’s Tom Wolfe in Cuba reporting against the grain of the official narrative. Fourteen years ago, Picard visited a Romulan Relocation Hub and got chummy with the locals and their children. Peace always makes sense, which is what makes Starfleet’s reversal all the more puzzling.

Haven’t we learned by this point that real power flows from peaceful control over an empire’s subjects, and that devastation, search-and-destroy missions, and fascism fail? Fast-forward jump to the future and we’re on Captain Chunk Ironchest’s ship. Picard sets course for Cuba, I mean Vashti, the home of the “Romulan Rebirth Movement,” whatever that is. It appears, four episodes in, we’re still building our world and creating chess pieces.

The Romulan supernova happened before the synth revolt, so where Picard was invested in rescuing and relocating Romulans, Starfleet had other plans and decided to fight the androids (sorry … synthetic life-forms). I get that Picard wants to set things right, but what happened wasn’t his fault unless he’s trying to prove a point, but why is he going about it in such a half-assed slow-paced way. Again, this is not the Picard of the show who could wrap up a mystery or solve a problem in 44-45 minutes of running time.

When your story is this slow-moving, the end resolution will never justify the journey. It might even make the whole mad affair worse. Picard goes to Vashti to pick up a Romulan warrior nun; apparently the most skilled fighters in the cosmos. He reunites with the people we saw in flashback: a nun and a young man who looks like Hugo Weaving from the Lord of the Rings cycle.

Meanwhile, we get little bits of the Destroyer, Sori, and her playful courtship with the creepy Romulan boyfriend, who is so not obviously some kind of evil double agent. If she’s an android, why is she so deliberately dense? Of course, she doesn’t know, but that doesn’t answer the question. If you have become Death, the destroyer of worlds, but you don’t know, then it doesn’t matter, does it? It’s like the tree falling in the forest. Add to this the Romulan mythology of a “day of annihilation.” If there is a pre-ordained time of mutually-assured destruction, how (or why) could you possibly fight it? I mean we have days of thanks and days of gift-giving, but Romulans have a Day of Annihilation? Really?

Picard is involved in a plastic-hassle with an angry Romulan (there is a definite racial component to all of this) who wants to re-pay him for failing to live up to his promises of helping them, so the young El-Ron (El-Nor, L. Ron Hubbard, whatever) chops the guy’s head off! Seriously! Picard apologizes to the rest of the gathered Romulans for his “Starfleet Privilege.” Shouldn’t he be apologizing to the severed head? If I felt that there was context, or a deeper meaning to all of this violence instead of the torture porn it is shaping up to be, Star Trek: Picard would get much higher marks.

Let’s recap, shall we? We can add a sentence to the two sentences that began my review. Picard argues with Romulans, recruits an elf named L. Ron Hubbard, and meets Seven of Nine. Star Trek: Picard could be so much better than what it is; a rambling pre-amble (hey!) to a much bigger story, four episodes in (and still, nothing has happened). Deep Space Nine and Enterprise had massive story-arcs, but individual narrative elements were incorporated into each episode. There were set-ups and resolutions within the context of the story-arc, and the viewer felt satisfied. Star Trek: Picard is terrible foreplay with someone you love. ‘Nuff said.

Twice a week, Star Trek Rewind explores the Star Trek universe. From Archer to Janeway, Kirk to Picard, and Georgiou to Sisko — boldly read what no one has read before!

For more insane Star Trek babble, check out my podcast (with co-host David B. Anderson), Ship to Ship: A Star Trek Podcast.

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