Release Date: February 13, 2020
Network: CBS All Access
Genre: Science Fiction
Star Trek: Picard, at its heart, is a show that seems to want to spend equal parts as a mystery and a show that pieces together what its titular character was doing between now and when The Next Generation ended. That sounded like a recipe for a great show, about three episodes ago. As the series continues to stand still, it’s less appealing.
Add in that “Absolute Candor” seemed to be all about bad decisions, in the present and the past, by the writers and the characters, and the fourth episode of Star Trek: Picard turns into the worst of what has been a progressively worse run.
“Absolute Candor” opens with Jean-Luc on the Romulan settlement known as Vashti, where he’s greeted as a hero and savior. Yes, this is the kind of heavy-handed foreshadowing Star Trek is known for, and it fits into the series quite nicely in a way that actually gave me some warm fuzzies. On the other hand, his interactions with a young boy named Elnor is equal parts cringeworthy and confusing. At one point, it’s pointed out Picard doesn’t really like children, which Elnor flat out tells him, hurts his feelings. Picard then tells him he’s very fond of him, though he does it in a way that would just confound small children.
Fast forward to Star Trek: Picard’s present, and we’re heading back to Vashti, this time to try and hire the group he interacted with at the beginning of the episode. This group is a kind of female Samurai, and he wants one of them with him on their quest to unravel the mystery of Dahj, Data’s daughter. In the end, it turns out that Elnor is exactly who he was looking for, and the two reunite as though they were absent father and son.
Making Bad Decisions At a Record Pace On Star Trek: Picard
While the return to Vashti is a good idea, it would appear for Picard, the decisions he makes once he gets there are perhaps some of the dumbest of his entire career. They aren’t just dumb, but so odd; they don’t strike me as something the former captain of the Enterprise would ever do. Even a man who has spent too long a life being looked up to and revered, would hear warnings of threats against his life and not decide the best course of action is to sit down, in a section marked as off-limits to him, and yell for a waiter repeatedly.
If walking into the middle of a people he was told just minutes earlier wanted to kill him wasn’t silly enough, his reaction to Elnor fighting for him, and eventually killing a man in his name is even goofier. To recap, Picard came to Vashti to find a warrior trained by the best fighters he knows. He then wandered into a situation that demanded he fights. When Elnor does indeed fight, after warning an adversary to stand down or die, Picard is incensed Elnor did his job.
While the intention that Picard is always incensed when lives have to be taken is obvious, the scene makes little sense. A better script would have simply had Picard walking into a situation he didn’t understand. Take out the “Romulans only” sign he throws away aggressively, or the warning that the crew has to get him out of there or his life is in danger, and the scene plays out differently. Instead, it’s an old man showing extreme hubris, and then being angry, someone saved him from his own stupidity. There’s a sense the show is trying to illustrate this is a Jean-Luc Picard that is rusty and a bit naive in his old age, but if that’s the goal; It’s not charming. It’s just annoying.
Infinite Space Boiled Down to Three Feet
The weird decisions made just to fit into a few plot points doesn’t begin or end with “JL.” Back on the starship and having finished yelling at Elnor for saving his life, Picard is pursued by another enemy, this time a Romulan Bird of Prey. The dogfight is relatively quick but doesn’t end before Rios comments on how nervous he is about crashing into Vashti’s defense grid. At the same time, he keeps the ship battle close to that grid.
It would seem he might try and fly as far away from the planet as possible. He’s literally got the entirety of space to try and avoid the firefight, but that battle continues to keep them close to the thing they desperately want to avoid. The plot device does allow for yet another cameo. Even the much anticipated and heroic arrival of Seven of Nine was undercut both by the weird proximity to a giant defense grid and questions about just how she found them.
While the trip to Vashti led to some rather frustrating issues, we did get at least a couple of answers about just what the Romulans and Narek are doing with Soji. At the same time, the continued valuable screentime being eaten up by scenes of what is obviously a very fake romance, when the overall plot isn’t being moved forward, still grates.
Verdict: It feels like every episode of Star Trek: Picard so far has been a kind of set up for “man you’re going to love what we have in store next week!” What if there’s never a payoff? Episode 4 was the first time I began to wonder if the right people are at the helm of this program. It’s the first time I began to wonder if this was really going to allow me to return to a series I love or walk away entirely. Here’s hoping what appears to be the midpoint of the season finally, really does pay off.
- Some answers about the Romulans finally arrive
- We finally saw a space battle
- Alison Pill might be the best thing about the show so far.
- Mind numbingly stupid decisions, by the writers and characters alike
- Still, very little progress made in the story
- Alison Pill has far too little screen time