a (rather delayed) review by the Crow.
(This week’s Captain’s log will be rather long.)
Captain‘s log, Stardate 97743.64: As is quite evident, we have been quite delayed with our posting schedule of late. The 2nd Annual Oscine Awards — as well as the final parts of our Death Stranding review series, and these Star Trek: Picard reviews — have found themselves postponed for far too long for various reasons. While the Azure-Winged Magpie has been providing updates regarding the Oscine Awards, it’s safe to say that her estimates were rather hopeful, given how much there was to do.
Behind the scenes: The Oscine Awards have been both a joy and a chore to work on, considering how little time we had to achieve our rather lofty — and very last-minute — goals. It is by far the most complex post we’ve ever worked on, and wasn’t as well-thought-out as it has been made to seem. However, the delay is not without its blessings. In the two weeks since the awards’ postponement, some of us who were behind with last year’s releases (especially Netflix titles) have managed to catch and cast additional votes. While the winners have not changed for the most part, it was essential that the Awards weren’t purely based on the opinions of two people, as they were last year. We will be sorting out the issues regarding our “radio silence” soon, so all I can ask for is your patience until we do. We are trying our hardest to return to a regular posting schedule — as we have been since last year — and have much lost time to make up for.
But now, onto why we find ourselves here — Star Trek: Picard. I had to cut my review for the last episode rather short; and find myself in much the same straits as I did then. Given our delay, I would like to tackle episodes four and five in quick succession so that we can take a more timely look at next week’s episode. While it should not make much of a difference (one — since-revealed — spoiler/piece of speculation I would’ve liked to mention aside), I would still like readers to keep in mind that this review is being written following the release of episode five.
That said, let’s break with Starfleet and take a closer look at:
SPOILER LEVELS at RED ALERT
Absolute Candor is once again — much like The End is the Beginning — somewhat of a “filler” episode (as much as an episode can be filler in Star Trek: Picard). It continues to set up the coming conflict as well as expand on the seeds that were planted in the previous episode.
The main plot of the episode is a self-contained story about how Picard enlists the “muscle” of his rag-tag crew: Elnor (Evan Evagora as an adult; Ian Nunney as a child). Elnor is a Tolkien-esque figure who visually falls somewhere between Hugo Weaving’s Elrond and Orlando Bloom’s Legolas. Elsewhere, the plot surrounding Dr Soji Asha and the Romulan Zhat Vash continues, with Narek beginning to plant “seeds” — pardon the stupid pun; it isn’t mine — and battle with his sister over how Dr Asha should be treated.
Elnor is a child living on the planet Vashti under the care of the Qowat Milat — a sect of Romulan warrior nuns — during the last days of Starfleet’s Romulan rescue effort. Over the course of Picard’s many visits, the two bond, with Picard becoming something of a father-figure in Elnor’s life. Much en garde!-ing and stick-fencing after, Picard is forced to abandon the rescue effort due to the attack on Mars; and, therefore: Elnor with it. This abandonment serves as the emotional core of the episode’s plot, but falls a little flat on its face by the end of the episode.
While I talked much of how “comfortable” Star Trek: Picard felt in the early episodes, I think it’s time we spoke a little about the “emptiness” Picard brings with it. Yes, Star Trek: Picard is certainly a very warm and welcoming show, but unlike The Next Generation, it fails to really make us connect with the characters it presents. Whereas an episode such as The Inner Light or I, Borg could flesh a character out in full within the same runtime as an episode of Picard, Picard fails to do the same. The obvious factors here are — of course — the over-arching story format and the overall shorter series format, but a lot of it comes down to the writing as well.
While showing-rather-than-telling is a good rule of thumb for any aspiring writer, with series’ which boast such expansive ideas in such short a time such as Picard, I wouldn’t mind a little extra dialogue to boost the character interactions we are presented with. Elnor, by the end of the episode, is as much a blank slate as he is when he first appears as an adult, giving us very little to hold on to. It says a lot when his character is set up better in the episode following his first appearance — a first appearance which is meant to be the introduction to him. One outburst is all we are given by him, apart from a low smouldering resentment which is abandoned fast enough.
Much like Star Trek: Discovery the episode also falls prey to a little bit of “spectacle over substance” which I have come to resent so much in recent years. Ignoring Narek’s utter lunacy, and Narissa/Rizzo’s incestuous overtures, the character who is given the most care in the episode turns out to be Captain Rios — and even that’s a hard-sell.
Picard seems to be coming apart at the seams in this series. He is becoming the shadow of who he used to be. While he still is Picard, he seems tone-deaf to his immediate surroundings, and now boasts two spectacular failures at interpersonal negotiation under his belt. His behaviour at the Romulan pub (for lack of a better word) is quite satisfying, but it’s immediately undone by his impotence at the threat he is faced with. Yes: Picard would act so defiant, but he would not act with such airs of impunity. If anything, Absolute Candor serves as an episode which shows us how much worse things could get, if Picard isn’t reigned in. Whether this is intentional or not, only time can tell, but I have to admit some uncertainty as to whether or not this is interesting or disappointing.
I should also point out that — ignoring the fact that episode five has already aired — Dr Jurati remains unquestioned by all save Raffi. Whether or not this is a further indication of Picard’s waning sensibilities or not, it’s hard to tell, but did Laris and Zhaban also take her at her word?
To discuss the technical aspects of the episode: our old friend, sloppy editing, makes a return, as does a very obvious dragon fruit. On the whole, however, Mr Frakes’ direction is tight. The dialogue can best be described as pure fun at a few points, and Sir Stewart is on-point as always. Mr Cabrera continues to shine, and is quickly becoming my favourite character. Ms Pill is still an outlier to me; although she has the lion’s share of the best lines (typical Chabon-the-interior-designer), she is beginning to feel a little like used space until she reveals her purpose aboard La Sirena. The surprise arrivals at the end of the episode are also welcome call-backs, and no doubt might’ve saved the episode in the eyes of many.
Despite my frustration with what I see to be hallmarks of Star Trek falling back into the need to appeal to the larger audience (which it doesn’t necessarily need), I do like this episode. There is little to laud, but as another filler episode, it’s hard to criticise Picard for taking the foot off the pedal for a few episodes.
Then again: there are only ten episodes. Either the overarching plot is thin and requires padding, or we are being given a rest before some heavy revelations are thrust our way. Whether or not Picard will shine at the cusp of the best of Star Trek has yet to be seen. The best we can hope for is that it isn’t a lost cause.
The Corvid Review‘s ciritcal look at episode five of Picard will be uploaded shortly, in which we shall continue to explore the direction the series is taking. Until then, LLAP.
— Crow out.
THE CROW: 4.5/10
THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 6/10
THE SPOTTED NUTCRACKER: 5/10
- Star Trek: The Next Generation — S05E25: The Inner Light
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — S05E06: Trials and Tribble-ations
- Star Trek: Picard — S01E01: Remembrance
- Star Trek: Picard — S01E02: Maps and Legends
- Star Trek: Picard — S01E03: The End is the Beginning
- Star Trek: Picard — S01E04: Absolute Candor
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E01: The Vulcan Hello & Battle at the Binary Stars
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E02: Context is For Kings
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E03: The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E04: Choose Your Pain
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E05: Lethe
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E06: Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E07: Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E08: Into the Forest I Go
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E09: Despite Yourself
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E10: The Wolf Inside
- Star Trek: Discovery — Episodes 11 — 15 Round Up
- Star Trek: Discovery — Short Treks
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E01: Brother
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E02: New Eden
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E03: Point of Light
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E04: An Obol for Charon
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E05: Saints of Imperfection
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E06: The Sound of Thunder
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E07: Light and Shadows
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E08: If Memory Serves
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E09: Project Daedalus
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E10: The Red Angel
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E11: Perpetual Infinity
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E12: Through the Valley of Shadows
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E13: Such Sweet Sorrow Part One
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E14: Such Sweet Sorrow Part Two
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
- Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
- Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
- Star Trek: Generations
- Star Trek: First Contact
- Star Trek: Insurrection
- Star Trek: Nemesis
- Star Trek (2009)
- Star Trek Into Darkness
- Star Trek Beyond