When Discovery debuted on Paramount Plus or CBS Access or whatever it was, we were perfectly content to wait until it came out on DVD. But Tracy insisted that we watch Picard first run. I do remember there was some discussion on this board at the time, most of it positive. But I had my misgivings (although admittedly not nearly as many as I had had with Discovery). I now intend to watch season one a second time in order to determine both its strengths as well as its weaknesses. Here is what lies ahead...
2. Maps and Legends
3. The End is the Beginning
4. Absolute Candor
5. Stardust City Rag
6. The Impossible Box
8. Broken Pieces
9. Et In Arcadia Ego, Part 1
10. Et In Arcadia Ego, Part 2
Before I get started on the television series, I'd like to discuss two of the comic book series briefly. First, back in 2009, Star Trek: Countdown was released in the run-up to the Abrams-verse reboot.
It was touted as "The Official Prequel to the Upcoming Motion Picture" and readers were assured that events depicted in the comic book series would be treated as canon. That assertion proved to be true right up until the moment someone decided it was not. I dutifully read Countdown then i went to see the movie. Quite frankly, I liked the comic book series better than I liked the movie itself. A year or so later, when the movie came out on DVD, I bought it and watched it a second time, but this time something seemed to be missing. The parts of the story I liked best ended up being from the comic book, but I had remembered them as part of the movie.
Then along comes the TV series Picard and renders Star Trek: Countdown apocryphal. That is if one accepts Picard as canon, and I'm not sure I do. that's what I'll try to determine (for myself if no one else) during the course of this discussion. Discovery sure ain't canon, and Picard, as I recall, reflects many of the same storytelling choices. And Picard, too, had a Picard: Countdown comic book series leading into it.
This time, for whatever reason, I held off reading the comic book series until after I had seen the television series. As such, the comic book was something of a letdown. It introduced a key supporting character (Raffi Musiker), but it was primarily an explanation of how Picard came to have two Romulan vinters living and working on his estate. As such, it was about as interesting as the comic book which explained how C-3PO (from another franchise) came to have a red arm. I re-read it today, though, now that most of the details of the TV series have faded from my memory, and can appreciate it for what it is.
Ah. The DVD of Picard includes episode summaries, which the DVDs of Discovery did not. I hate writing episode summaries so I'm going to start each post with the appropriate one from the DVD.
REMEMBRANCE: "At the end of the 24th century, and 14 years after his retirement from Starfleet, Jean-Luc Picard is living a quiet life on his vineyard, Chateau Picard. When he is sought out by a mysterious young woman, Dahj, in need of his help, he soon realizes she may have personal connections to his own past."
Well, that really isn't all that helpful.
The year is 2399, 14 years after a supernova destroyed Romulus. A fleet was being ready at the Mars colony to save the romulans, but it was destroyed by an uprising of synthetic human beings (or "Synths") which led to the Federation banning all synthetic lifeforms. Picard agrees to an interview on the anniversary of the Romulan disaster, but angrily brings the interview to a close when the subject of Starfleet's ban on Synths is brought up.
Meanwhile, in Boston, a young woman named Dahj and her boyfriend are attacked in their apartment by a squad of assassins. Her boyfriend is killed, but the attack activates powers she wasn't aware she had. She catches Picard's interview and feels compelled to seek him out. He puts her up overnight, but the next morning she is gone. Picard goes to Starfleet HQ where he accesses his personal archive which contains a painting of Dahj titled "Daughter" which Commander Data painted 30 years ago. Dahj finds Picard again (she left because she felt he was in danger), but she is attacked by a squad of Romulan assassins and killed with acid.
Picard seeks out Agnes Jurati at the Daystrom Institute in Okinawa and learns of the research of Bruce Maddox on synthetic lifeforms. His research concerned Syths indistinguishable from humans which may have been created from Data's positronic brain. These Synths are created in pairs, and Dahj's twin sister Soji is working on a captured Borg cube.
The first hint that Picard is going to be another dystopian repurposing of the Star Trek legacy along the lines of Discovery comes when Picard reveals that he retired because "Starfleet wasn't Starfleet" anymore. At least PIC is honest about it. Although it's not quite clear yet, the benevolent and optimistic world envisioned by Gene Roddenberry is gone.
MAPS AND LEGENDS: "Picard begins investigating the mystery of Dahj as well as what her very existance means to the Federation. Without Starfleet's support, Picard is left leaning on others for help, including Dr. Agnes Jurati and an estranged former colleague, Raffi Misiker. Meanwhile, hidden enemies are also interested in where Picard's search for the truth about Dahj will lead."
That's an incomplete synopsis but I'll let it stand because I want to move on.
The first quart hour is spent with Picard, Laris and Zhaban (the two Romulan refugees) investigating Dahj's background. Laris and Zhaban are former members of the Tal Shiar, the Romulan secret police, but they reveal an even more secret organization, the Zhat Vash, an ancient cabal that loathes all synthetic life, which they suspect is behind the assassination of Dahj. Evidence suggests that Dahj had been in contact with her sister, who lives somewhere out in space.
On the Borg cube (which is in the possession of the Romulans, BTW), Soji sleeps with a young Romulan named Narek. their work involves reclaiming Borg drones. This Romulan operation apparently attracts many scientists from the Federation, where research on artificial lifeforms is prohibited.
Back on Earth, Picard approaches the former doctor of his first command, the Stargazer, to certify him as fit for space duty. The examination reveals that, although healthy generally, the disease he was diagnosed with back in the last episode of TNG has apparently returned and will one day kill him. I don't know this for certain, but I suspect that this plot element is introduced to explain why, in a century where humans generally live to be well over 100 (Admiral McCoy, for example), Picard might not. (Patrick Stewart is not going to live forever, after all.)
He then approaches Admiral Kristen Clancy of Starfleet Command about his being reinstated. He even offers to accept a reduction in rank back to captain. This scene reminds me of when Kirk approached Starfleet to undertake the mission to save Spock's katra, only Kirk was refused more politely. (Picard had just cast aspersions on Starfleet the previous night on the 24th century equivalent of what is probably at least world-wide TV, remember.) Clancy refers to Picard's request as "sheer f*cking hubris."
Agnes Jurati thinks Dahj and her twin were created just three years ago by the mysterious Bruce Maddox using Data's personality engrams. Picard next contacts a woman named Raffi Musiker to get him a ship. Meanwhile, Admiral Clancy informs the "Vulcan" Commodore Oh, who is in charge of the secret operation which led to Dahj's death. Oh orders Lt. Rizzo to be sure to capture the other "thing" (obviously Soji) alive. Rizzo appears to be human, but is in fact a surgically-altered Romulan. the person in charge of finding Soji is none other than Narek, Rizzo's younger brother.
The problem I have with Picard is that the Federation too closely resembles the world of today. Whereas Star Trek has always mirrored social and political ills, those problems have always been set on other planets. New Trek has turned Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future into a dystopia. The Syths represent groups that are marginalized; the Romulans represent racial prejudice (against asylum seekers and others); the Republican Party Federation has been infiltrated and is being guided by a group of fanatics more interested in power than in doing what's right.
THE END IS THE BEGINNING: "Completely unaware of her special nature, Soji continues her work and captures the attention of the Borg cube research project's executive director. After rehashing past events with a reluctant Rafti, Picard seeks others willing to join his search for Bruce Maddox, including pilot and former Starfleet officer Cristobal Rios."
On the Borg cube, Soji works with former Borg "Hugh" (from several TNG episodes). A former Borg named Ramdha deliver a "prophecy" concerning Soji, referring to her as "the destroyer" and telling her that her sister is dead. When Soji contacts her mother, she tells her daughter not only that Dahj is alive, but that she spoke to her that very morning, which is obviously a lie. (Before Dahj was killed, she contacted her mother who told her to return to Picard, although Dahj had not mentioned him.)
On Earth, Commodore Oh pays a visit to Agnes Jurati at the Daystrom institute to inquire about her two meetings with Picard. Later, Romulan assassins attack Chateau Picard and one of them refers to Dahj as "the destroyer." Dr. Jurati appears in time to shoot and kill one of the assassins. She tells Picard about her meeting with Oh and asks to join the crew he is putting together. Raffi has discovered that Bruce Maddox is at a place called Freecloud and asks for transportation there (for reasons of her own), but refuses to officially join the crew.
Although Raffi at first refused to help, it was she who recommended Rios as pilot. When I saw Picard for the first time, I was impressed by the technology, almost 25 years later from the last time we saw it. Now it looks less advanced than that of the Shinzou and Discovery in the 23rd century. Rios is the "Harrison Wells" of Picard, also playing a series of holograms quite different from the man himself. When Picard resigned from Starfleet, Raffi was discharged, which she resents. She now lives in the 24th century equivalent of a "doublewide" located in Vasquez Rocks (see also wiki), used as for alien vistas in many another Trek episode. (I guess it's legal to live in a natural area park in the 24th century, unless she's squatting.) Anachronistically, she vapes. Also anachronistically, Rios smokes cigars and sports tattoos.
I'm assuming that this is the same Bruce Maddox that appeared in the TNG episode "The Measure of a Man"?
It is. Good catch! Speaking of "The Measure of a Man," one would think that, after the results of that episode, the Federation would know better than to issue an outright ban all synthetic life forms, but that's one of my main problems with this show.
I still wonder what happened to the androids from "I, Mudd".
SPOILER: You won't find out in this series.
ABSOLUTE CONDOR: "The crew's journey to Freecloud takes a detour when Picard orders a stop at the planet Vashti, where Picard and Raffi relocated Romulan refugees 14 years earlier. Upon arrival, Picard reunites with Elnor, a young Romulan he befriended during the relocation. Meanwhile, Narek continues his attempts to learn more about Soji while Narissa's [Rizzo's] impatience with his lack of progress grows."
The episode's title refers to the motto of the order of "warrior nuns" which carded for Elnor during Picard's stay on Vashti 14 years ago. They may choose to bind themselves to a cause provided it meets one crtiterion: it must be a lost cause. Picard and Rafti were recalled when the Synths attacked Mars and they were unable to return until now. The population is now extremely anti-Federation. Picard visits the Qowat Milat (the nuns) on his own, where he finds Elnor still living with them.
Elnor refuses to join Picard's mission. On his way out of town, Picard defies a "Romulans Only" sign at a local bar and runs afoul of a former Romulan senator who bears a grudge against the Federation of big promises made but not kept. Picard tries to avoid the fight, but Elnor steps in an kills the man by decapitating him. Elnor then joins Picard on the grounds that his mission is a "lost cause." They beam up to Rios' ship, La Sirena, which is then attacked by a Bird of Prey. A small ship comes to their aid, but is disabled and in danger of crashing into Vashti's planetary defense shield. They beam the pilot aboard who turns out to be... Seven of Nine! "You owe me a new ship, Picard!"
The plot on the Borg cube progresses only slightly, as Narissa/Rizzo shares a semi-incestuous scene with her brother. The "incest" and decapitation scenes further highlight the differences between Classic Trek and New Trek.
Make that "ABSOLUTE CANDOR" (the philosophy of the Qowat Milat).
STARDUST CITY RAG: "The La Sirena crew begin an unpredictable and lively expedition on Freecloud to search from Bruce Maddox. When they learn Maddox has found himself in a precarious situation, a familiar face offers her assistance."
Stardust City is like a planetary Las Vegas. Bruce Maddox has run afoul of a woman named Bjayzl who deals in Borg implants. The episode is basically a Mission; Impossible-style rescue. When I saw "Stardust City Rag" for the first time, I didn't immediately recognize Bruce Maddox as the scientist from "The Measure of a Man" as bob did Tuesday. In that episode, Guinan warns Picard against Starfleet creating a race of beings that are property (i.e., slaves), but with the Synths, that's pretty much what they did, anyway.
I did recognize Seven-of-Nine, of course, but I did not recognize Icheb, the former Borg Starfleet officer whom she considered her son. (How could I? Voyager was 23 years in Picard's past, but I hadn't even seen the last three seasons of that series because my television market at the time did not carry the Paramount Network.) Bjayzl vivisects Icheb, and all Seven can do when she finds him is to put him out of his misery. She is on a revenge mission, but Picard doesn't know it. Seven is currently attached to a group called the Fenris Rangers, but the exact nature of her relationship to Picard is left unrevealed.
Raffi beams down to meet her estranged son and his pregnant wife, but the meeting doesn't go well. She ends up sneaking back on board La Sirena because she has nowhere else to go. Meanwhile, Seven suggests trading herself for Bruce Maddox. The plan is proceeding as expected until Seven turns the tables and threatens to kill Bjayzl. Picard seemingly talks her out of it, but after she takes her leave of the crew, she doubles back and kills Bjayzl anyway.
Bruce Maddox has been gravely injured and is in need of medical treatment. We learn that Agnes Jurati is closer to him than anyone knew. He confirms the existence of Soji and reveals that he sent her to the Borg cube to "find the truth." When Jurati is left alone with Maddox, she disconnects his life support, killing him. Add that to the torture of Icheb (especially the graphic removal of his eyeball) as further differences between Classic and New Trek.
From what I've read on-line, Maddox and Icheb were not played on Discovery by the original actors.
Brian Brophy (Maddox) seems to be not acting much anymore. Manu Intiraymi (Icheb) , I'm not as certain about. but one site I saw claimed he'd made controversial statements that made him persona non grata at Paramount. No idea how true that is.
"Maddox and Icheb were not played on Discovery by the original actors."
That's true, they were not, but neither one had a lot of screen time. Plus, a person's looks can change in 20 years.