Ah, the science of Star Trek.
What They Say:
Picard and his team are pitted against the Romulans and the synthetics of Coppelius in a final confrontation.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having grown up with Star Trek around me for my entire life, you kind of make certain allowances. I appreciated that with this series and Discovery that the word “tachyon” hasn’t been a common part of its lexicon as that little word allowed a whole lot of anything goes with past episodic series. With the end of this first season of Picard, we get some fun anything goes fiction in the science here that plays like magic and opens up a whole host of ethical questions. Questions which any number of novels have “answered” and grappled with over the years, notably for me with the Peter F. Hamilton books that dealt with nanites. I can see aspects of this finale frustrating a segment of fans, new and old alike, but to me it felt like a welcome bridge between what Star Trek was and is with what science fiction novels have become over the decades.
This episode has a lot going on with it and, quite frankly, it’s an emotional delight to the point where I’m likely going to skim or miss things. The previous episode was setup for this but even the first half of this feels like a continuation of that as we get the beacon being built, Picard held captive, and others moving about. It works well as we get Seven of Nine going up against Narissa in order to stop them from causing trouble with the long-range Cube weapons she’s gained control of but also because revenge is exacted over Hugh. That still pisses me off but some justice was done yet we see later how it’s a moment that she regrets, especially because she knew it was the right thing. We see Elnor coming into focus here as he’s starting to truly find his place and how strong his bonds to other but I just delighted in seeing him stalking and constantly threatening Narek once he begins following him. Narek’s escape, aided by Saga, is itself interesting as he gets what he needs to come back and sabotage the beacon. But to do so he needs help.
Putting him together with Rios and Raffi was a surprise but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. The dynamics as they shift over the day that these events unfold is nicely done, even with a little campfire moment, because it delves into a lot of different aspects. The myths that are shared among races that go back to the dawn of days is a common story element and Narek digging into what this threat is resonates with everyone. All of this helps to reinforce why the beacon needs to be taken down, but the reality is that it all comes back to what Picard has understood. Soji and her people are living in fear and for good reason when you look at the big picture with synthetics. The problem is the lack of exposure to all the other races that exist out there and what they can teach them. Everything they’ve learned has been through the lens of fear. Which sounds good and is understandable, but one would imagine they would be a lot more militarized if it were deeply true. I get where Chabon is coming from with it but it’s presented visually with this settlement in a way that feels contradictory to it.
But that reality is what Picard is working with and his intent, a right one I think, is to make them truly make a choice rather than act out of fear. With the Romulan fleet arriving, we finally see Picard pilot Rios’ ship to orbit with Agnes and the two of them manage to hold things off through a lot of stuff that happens quickly, looks cool, but is empty in its own way. The action is nicely done as I continue to like the orchids and the latest iteration of the Picard Maneuver is fun to watch thanks to some of the synth tech. But the arrival of the Federation and how everything just moves at warp speed (and seemingly with no forces left behind to look over the world from anyone that might exploit it) just left me cool. Yes, very fun to see Riker all done up in uniform again (and Picard in his classic uniform later with some de-aging), but it felt like fanservice more than anything else and didn’t serve the story.
The main storyline of the season with the synths had reminded me of the Descender comics a great deal so I wasn’t terribly surprised that what starts to come through the beacon/wormhole is pretty dark looking. It’s like a Dark Metal Trekverse thing and that’s okay, something I really do hope gets explored a little more some day. But like others, I halfway wished it was more like the David Brin Uplift works in that there’d be a benevolent aspect to them that would help out the species to another plane. But the reality is that these synths are truly children and they have to uplift themselves – but with new friends at their side. It’s all well and good and basically wraps up the main issue with the synths in a big picture perspective but there’s likely going to be a lot of heavy anti-synth feelings out in the real galaxy.
So that leaves us with two different things at the end with an extended epilogue. First, Picard overdoes and his special problem ends up bringing him to his end. That was a 50/50 thing to happen either at the end of the season or the series. With it happening here, all the obvious foreshadowing of what this place represents meant that a new body was given and his engrams being copied over. That he spends time with Data in a quantum simulation before being transfered is better done than I expected – I still think the de-aging done in the series is quite good and am just ignoring those that complain about it at this point – and the conversation between the two definitely brings their storyline to an end. It’s a long bond that they’ve shared and one totally understands Data’s desire to put finality into his existence since, as has been mentioned, he spent just a couple of centuries as a head in the ground at one point. Data’s lived, Data’s done. These two know where they stand with each other and all regrets are taken care of.
As mentioned at the top, this new Picard is one that’s basically what he was before but without the terminal abnormality. Jurati does make it clear he has no superpowers and Picard makes sure he’s not immortal but he’s glad to have a few more years ahead of him still. There’ll be debates as to whether this is really Picard or just a copy but that’s been an ages-old debate in Trek with transporters themselves. I’m mixed on what to think here and will kind of just let it ride without putting much thought into it. But it does lead into the rest of the epilogue material that I liked as we see how everyone has spent some time together on this world before making plans to stick together and head out into the galaxy. I really like the relationship dynamics that form here and hope for some real exploration of them in the second season since all the new characters need more screen time. And a Raffi/Seven pairing – with Jeri Ryan saying she views Seven as pansexual – is a delight.
There’s a new confidence to this crew at the end and a good look about them that has me curious as to how they really view themselves. And a curiosity as to whether they’ll deal with Jurati as a murderer or someone who was manipulated and tweaked by a the secret Romulan in Starfleet…
The finale for Star Trek: Picard is overstuffed in its back half while the first half is wrapping up the foundations that were set in the previous episode. There are a lot of gaps and holes to play with here and complain about but that’s standard Star Trek in a lot of ways. I always end up in a place where I have to ask if the larger storyline pleased me and if I liked the journey itself. With this series, I fell for it pretty quickly as I adored its pacing, I was glad to see new characters from places and situations that didn’t feel like painted over versions of past characters, and a good smattering of the past brought in with wonderful moments, such as Hugh. I had said early on that this felt like the Trek series was trying to evolve and move to the next level and you could align that with the synths gaining a place at the table and maybe some of the semi-transhumanism of Picard with what he is now. There are a lot of dangling threads here and I totally get some people feeling the new characters didn’t resonate, but for me this hit a lot of strong marks for a first season and I’m already excited to sit down and binge on it in a couple of weeks to see how different it feels.
Series Grade:</b >A-
Streamed By: CBS All Access