Star Trek: Picard just released its fourth episode and since I’ve been keeping up with the show, I think it’s time for me to offer my thoughts so far. It is certainly a departure from the aspirational world of Star Trek: The Next Generation and seems to take a peculiarly large amount of influence from Logan, with Patrick Steward essentially reprising his performance as the elderly Professor Xavier.
That’s not to say that either of those things are bad; quite the contrary. Even though this show feels more like Firefly than Star Trek, let’s not forget that Firefly was an amazing show that ended far too soon. In sort of a strange way, Picard himself is the odd man out on his own show; among the ragtag cast of characters who make up the crew of Picard’s new ship, Picard is a frail old square. That actually makes for a far more interesting dynamic, I think; though it remains to be seen if we see any personality conflict, or if every crew member continues to treat Picard with the reverence the audience projects onto him as the hero of TNG.
As of the end of the fourth episode, it feels as though the prologue is finally complete. The crew is collected, and we’re finally headed toward the meat of the plot. This is all fine if this show had a 16 episode season, but it doesn’t. It’s 10 episodes. That means the show is already basically half over and we’ve only just begun.
Truth be told, I’m not sure how much of the first four episodes could have been streamlined, although I am certain it shouldn’t take 4 hours to introduce the basic plot and get a crew together. In fact, I think they’re still missing some members. Based on the promotional materials from the show (and what they’re obviously building toward), the Romulan Agent Narek is supposed to pull a Vegeta and switch sides, and obviously they’re going to team up with Soji at some point. That’s definitely not going to happen in episode 5, so that means we won’t have the full crew until episode 6 at the very earliest.
The beauty of the Firefly formula, which was also shared by Cowboy Bebop (full disclosure: probably my favorite show ever), is that you have the crew and the crew dynamic and you have an episodic show interspersed with core plot development. What Picard seems to be doing is putting together all this potential for a satisfying 14+ episode season full of opportunities for these characters to go on side adventures, but instead of having any of those adventures to develop the characters or their interpersonal dynamics, and to let the plot breathe, it’s going to hone in on the plot and race to the end as quickly as possible, like it’s a movie and they’re obligated to fit it into a tight 10 episode season.
Firefly and Cowboy Bebop also took several episodes to put the crew together, but the difference is Firefly had 14 hour long episodes (16 if you count the movie) and Cowboy Bebop had 26 half hour episodes (28 if you count the movie). So, in short, I think it’s clear that this show is missing an opportunity here. Because as much as people love Ballad of Fallen Angels from Cowboy Bebop and Ariel from Firefly, the episodes people most love from those shows are Jaynestown and Mushroom Sambra — episodes that have absolutely nothing to do with the main plot whatsoever.
So, I think structurally Star Trek: Picard is somewhat flawed. Because it’s following the successful formula of Firefly and Cowboy Bebop, but then also changing it for the worse by streamlining it and making it more of a 10-hour movie than a character-driven space adventure.
As far as the characters go, I actually really like them. It’s a very interesting crew. I like the pilot and his holograms with their distinctive personalities and, not only do I like each of the pilot’s holographic personas individually, I’m impressed with him as an actor. I like Raffi, although she’s a bit milquetoast (but I think these space ensembles need someone who’s a little more normal). I like the two new characters introduced this episode. I like the doctor. It’s a shame we’re never going to see them get fully fleshed out because the pacing is simultaneously super slow and also happening at breakneck speed.
So yeah, in short, I foresee that by the end of this show my main criticism will be that they didn’t have enough episodes to pay off the crew that they spent half the show putting together.
That about does it for my thoughts on Star Trek: Picard. Be sure to check out the Movies and TV Section for more reviews, recommendations and content like this.