Spoilers for the fourth episode of Star Trek Picard
This episode wasn’t without kitsch either. But aside from a series of awfully convenient storytelling moves, I actually quite liked episode four of Picard season three. Once again, I can’t tell if that’s really quality what I’m registering in the third season of this show, or if it’s just boiled me down by now.
Or it’s gate number three: the expository breaking and bending work necessary for this new story to happen has been completed. The number of stupid coincidences and constructed enablers continues to shrink, which is why you can take episode four for what it is: a nice piece of teamwork trek, where the whole crew can think out of a problem and you can then help them watching the execution of a plan visualized with beautiful effects. Also, I have to admit that I have a soft spot for the USS Titan. Must be because of the saucer section, which looks pretty Constitution-class.
But this wouldn’t be Star Trek Picard if I didn’t still have a catalog full of issues with it that give the impression it’s all still a hot needle. For example, there is still a syrupy sentimentality about everything, which is probably intended as a camaraderie with the fans, but above all it doesn’t look particularly good on the boiled diplomatic philosopher Picard. He was never a man of emotional speeches, the calendar sayings with which he sings about faith in the crew, trust in each other and never-ending hope in a flashback are not worthy of a thinker like his. However, they don’t clumsily contrast the events on the A-narrative level at first, only to complement them towards the end, so I understand what the makers were trying to achieve. Still a pity, Picard seemed wittier than here even in weaker TNG episodes.
What else? Well, the shaky camera is irritating even in quiet scenes. Watching Seven stop shooting to watch the collectivist creep hide behind the wallpaper was difficult. The holodeck excuse about the emergency power pack was almost as hard to believe as the fact that so many people were gradually flocking there to resign themselves to their fate. That was a little weird. Also, I could do without the fact that Picard is regularly accused of being assimilated by the Borg. It’s starting to feel very contrived, even though I still really like Shaw and the actor who plays him. And the fact that the entire crew’s throat tightens when the life support is switched off is also not exactly in line with the “science” of this particular “fiction” – or reality. The air does not become immediately toxic as soon as it is no longer actively treated.
But it’s important to the drama of the finale that multiple beats happen at once: the increasingly violent “contractions” from the “Gravity Well” that will destroy the ship sooner rather than later, the sabotage during the last-second repairs, riding the wave with the simultaneous threat of suffocation, the Shrike, which of course appears right in front of the Titan to catch an asteroid, and the sigh of relief at the parallel birth of millions of space Cthulhus. It fits together too well because it’s series television designed at the drawing board with no room for coincidence or a natural flow of things. Everything has to come together in the end somehow. Which of course means that Jack is also present in the flashback when the keynote of the speech (crew’s trust in each other) is used to explain the son’s estrangement from his ignorant sire. As I said: drawing board. It seems unnatural and therefore doesn’t deserve the emotional beats. But it still works somehow.
As last week, the following applies: As stupid as it was at times, it was fun when everyone had a value and a task, technology and the environment in interaction were the solution and in the end even discovered a new way of life – albeit not without sugar icing becomes. The commitment and basic idea of this episode were right, there was no shortage of tension and the crew was a capable unit. Shaw has also finally found a use as he masters the engineering tricks that allow the Titan to harness the energy of the Wave. Riker and Picard bury their falling out from the end of last episode like two old friends and professionals at what they do. Frakes also plays pretty well in this episode he directed, putting Riker up to par with his old boss.
Now, however, I’m a little worried about what’s to come. Episodes one through four were the self-contained classic Disaster Trek story, as it so often just works like a charm. Now it’s back to the “bigger picture” and this is the point where the previous Picard seasons seemed badly overwhelmed. When it comes to choosing the meaning and destination of these trips, the makers have always made mistakes. Let’s hope they show a better touch this time.