I started watching the Star Trek Picard series pretty much right when it came out and was keeping up week to week. I am a long time Star Trek fan. Sadly, I got sidetracked before watching the last couple of episodes, thanks to COVID and kids. But, I recently set out to remedy the situation.
I have mixed feelings about this series. There are lots of things I like, and some not so much. However, in the end, I think I'd rather have it than have nothing.
For me, the genius in Start Trek is that besides being cool sci-fi with good storytelling, it has tried to cast a critical eye on social problems. Some obvious and contemporary, such as racism. Other cases have been more abstract such as what rights an artificial intelligence might be entitled too. Then, such real-world importance has been paired with exhibiting forefront scientific and engineering thinking. Sure, there is artistic license, and sure, some things are wrong in retrospect. But, it is easy to see how Star Trek has tried to come up with as realistic of scientific ground for the sci-fi fantasy as possible. From warp drive to replicators, and sometimes Trek has been remarkably prophetic, such as computer voice interaction and tablet computers. Heck, in my experience, few sci-fi properties have even tried to explain how they achieve faster than light speeds. And of the few that do, none have been more realistic than Trek's warp drive.
Now, much of that went out the window in the JJ Abrams Trek movies. They were first and foremost action movies. While much of the cast was great, I wasn't especially thrilled with rehashing old characters or throwing out the Trek fidelity to science. Still, after years without a new Star Trek, I could at least take some satisfaction in the property being revitalized. And to give credit where it is due, I don't imagine it would have been as easy, perhaps not even possible to have the Discover series or the new Picard series without the Abram's Trek movies. So at least there's that.
With that in mind, where does Picard fall? For me, the series is all about character. The Picard character is beloved, and now we get to bring him back and double down on his screen time. With that, we get to revisit a few other beloved characters along his journey and meet a few new ones. This is different from previous movies and series, which have been rather ensemble-driven, maybe more like many of the Star Trek books over the years. And I can buy into it. I, too, love Captain Picard.
It's the rest where I have some trouble. Rather than weight what remains aside from Picard's life in realistic science, we get a lot more action. In fact, what technology can do or cannot do seems entirely dependent on what is easiest for the story. (Spoiler Ahead) If the science and tech exist to recreate Data's consciousness form one positronic neuron and taking for granted all the miracle medical advancements we've seen in Trek, how the heck can Picard be so fragile to a brain abnormality? It's just total disregard for any realism and, in many places, a move backward in technology. Another example, now the ships are controlled through holographic interphase. Is there some reason to think this is an advancement? They've had holograms since TNG began. I guess it looks more futuristic, but that's not the Star Trek way to me.
Next, there's the social conscious. The entire season arc is based on the rights and treatment of synthetic life. Now, this on its own is a Trek worthy idea. So much so, that we've seen it explored more than once on TNG through Data-centric and Borg-centric episodes and even movies. Revisiting it alone doesn't bother me, but the notion that somehow Starfleet has taken huge steps backward in this area is hard to swallow, and the explanations seem more convenient then well thought out and intelligently explored.
I wanted to love this series, but instead, I just like it.
That's right, I still really like it. I am a fanboy in some regards here, so see Picard in any way is delightful. Getting throwbacks to Riker and Troy, 7 of 9, and Hugh, that's right the borg Hugh. These are all wonderful. And a season 2 promises more. I also very much liked most of the new characters. I'd like to have seen better fidelity to the Trek of old in spirit, but Picard is superior to the recent movies, and I'll take it. See you for season 2.