TNG reunion injects a bit of enjoyable into Star Trek: Picard’s uneven last season

Jonathan Frakes is my dad.
Enlarge / Jonathan Frakes is my dad.

Paramount+

Few concerned within the making or watching of 2002’s Star Trek Nemesis would say that it was a implausible send-off for the beloved characters of The Subsequent Era. Over seven seasons, TNG grew to become one in every of Trek‘s most nuanced and constant entries (although nonetheless one which was able to producing terrible, silly, and just plain weird episodes). However Nemesis is a flat motion film outlined by skinny characterization, a tacky one-note villain, and distracting plot contrivances, and it did so poorly ($67 million on a $60 million finances, in a time earlier than “perhaps it’ll make some huge cash in China” was a factor) that it foreclosed any chance of one other sequel. The forged and people characters, the pondering typically went, deserved higher closure.

Star Trek: Picard has been the TNG continuation you’d get should you wished for a TNG sequel on a monkey’s paw. The primary two seasons made solely intermittent use of any non-Picard characters, and the brand new characters had been both annoying or bland or each. The present’s inventive workers makes use of “convoluted twists” as a stand-in for clear and fascinating storytelling. It is a present strictly for die-hard Trek completists, and it is simply the worst of the 5 Trek reveals in energetic manufacturing as of this writing.

The present’s third and last season has been pitched as a real TNG reunion, and if nothing else, it is good to see the clear affection these performers nonetheless have for each other. However Picard continues to be Picard, and lots of the characters and plot factors within the season to date (we have seen the primary six episodes of a deliberate 10, although this piece will solely check with particular occasions from the season premiere and the trailers) are eerily paying homage to those that made Nemesis so unsatisfying.

The film model of TNG

Most, but not all, of <em>Picard</em>'s characters this season are returning from other <em>Trek</em> shows.

Most, however not all, of Picard‘s characters this season are coming back from different Trek reveals.

Paramount+

My favourite writing on the Star Trek motion pictures is Darrich Franich’s Entertainment Weekly series that revisited every movie main as much as Star Trek Past‘s launch in 2016 (the hole between Past‘s launch and immediately is formally longer than the hole between Nemesis and J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Trek reboot movie). Franich is not significantly form to any TNG motion pictures, for causes I broadly agree with. These are crystallized in his piece about 1998’s Star Trek Insurrection, which is partially a dialogue with a then-unpublished e-book referred to as Fade In, written by Trek author and producer Michael Piller (who died in 2005):

However Fade In is on the market, should you’re searching for it. And it’s, I feel, the primary important e-book about screenwriting within the new century, a snapshot of Hollywood on the daybreak of the franchise period: A portrait of the artist amidst company necessity, narrative continuity, the perceived necessities of fandom, the hazy manner that actors in iconic roles can know every little thing but nothing about their very own characters, the urge to alter, the simultaneous urge to not change an excessive amount of. Piller writes how he needed this ninth Star Trek film to recapture the spirit of Subsequent Era, to point out how the Enterprise crew [w]as deep-down a household. Piller writes:

Throughout seven years of the tv present, Picard had emerged as a person of nice precept and ethical integrity. He solved issues along with his mind and communication expertise and would by no means fireplace weapons except fired upon. This facet of him had not been explored within the different two characteristic movies.

I kind of love this concept? I kind of agree? Generations and First Contact each landed on the concept Picard wanted to finalize into a person of motion, wanted to battle Malcolm McDowell throughout a rocky missile ledge, wanted to hold massive laser rifles earlier than dangling above acid mist carrying John McClane’s Die Laborious tank-top. Certainly there was a technique to make a movie with Picard the thinker, Picard the outwitter, Picard the intelligent? However somebody disagrees with me, disagreed with Piller. One of many main Picard consultants, truly: Patrick Stewart, who allegedly writes a protracted and considerate (and sometimes fairly humorous) memo again to Piller declaring that these TNG motion pictures wanted to be completely different from TNG, that the feelings and motion wanted to be greater, that an excessive amount of sentimentality results in heroes round a campfire singing “Row Row Row Your Boat.”

I do not disagree with Patrick Stewart about what made for a profitable franchise blockbuster within the late ’90s. However the primary drawback with Picard as a TNG reunion automobile (which is usually however not fully separate from its issues as a present) is that these heightened, flattened film variations of the characters are those who made it again to TV. There is a scene halfway by the primary episode of the brand new season that encapsulates this.

Captain Liam Shaw, played by Todd Stashwick, is one of the season's new characters.

Captain Liam Shaw, performed by Todd Stashwick, is without doubt one of the season’s new characters.

Paramount+

Picard and Riker, once more drawn out of semi-retirement, board a Federation starship. The captain they’re making an attempt to work with (Liam Shaw, performed by Todd Stashwick) is neither awed by them nor significantly inclined to offer them something they need. He additionally appears, like too many Star Trek characters, to have skilled his personal actuality primarily by watching Star Trek.

Riker: Not a fan of jazz?

Shaw: Mm. No, I’m not. I like construction. I like meter. I like retaining tempo and time, which is why you’ll in all probability discover this inspection boring, for the likes of you two.

Picard: Making certain the situation of our starships can be boring?

Shaw: Properly, we cannot be blowing issues up. Taking or participating in fireplace. Crash-landing, expectedly or unexpectedly. You realize, the same old for you boys.

This picture—of Picard and Riker as rule-breaking, property-destroying, authority-flouting cowboys—is a wildly inaccurate evaluation of their characters on The Subsequent Era. TNG was, kind of infamously, the slowest, talkiest, and most diplomatic of Trek reveals, at all times extra thinking about monologuing than capturing torpedoes. The present leaned into this to offer it a ways from the Wild West feeling of the unique collection, simply as subsequent Trek reveals like Deep House 9 and Voyager leaned tougher into fast-paced motion to tell apart themselves from TNG. Picard was the consummate rule-follower, at all times able to drop a soliloquy about responsibility on anybody he thought wanted to listen to it.

But it surely is an correct description of the film model of Picard. And there are different indicators, past plentiful references to the occasions of the flicks; the season has a mysterious, mustache-twirling villain with a huge warship, each retreads of Nemesis and Star Trek (2009). The music that performs over the top credit is the primary theme from First Contact.

So, sure, the final season of Picard is lastly giving us what the present arguably ought to have been from the beginning: a full-fledged Subsequent Era reunion that includes the whole unique forged (plus a number of enjoyable surprises). However for higher or worse, that is the film model of a TNG reunion. And beneath that, it is nonetheless a season of Picard, with the entire near-misses and unevenness and frustration that entails.