Paramount Plus' Star Trek series, Picard concluded its second season this week, and the 10-episode run has felt like a real slog.
After announcing in 2018 that Paramount had tempted back Patrick Stewart to play Jean Luc Picard once again, there was a hope that we would not only see Picard in his twilight years to get the bad taste of Star Trek: Nemesis out of our mouths, but to see what that world has been up to since we last saw them.
While there have been some high points, mainly from the performances of all the actors, the majority of the series has been riddled with plot inconsistencies, jerky twists that don’t lead anywhere, and camera angles so silly they are reminiscent for Adam West's crash, bang, wallop days as Batman.
With the finale of Season 2 wrapped up, we wanted to go into what’s missing from the show, alongside some thoughts of the viewers who have also been invested in Picard, and the series of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
A little bit of history...
I first watched Star Trek on Sunday afternoons with my family in the late 1990s, where Voyager and Next Generation would play in marathons while others would watch the EastEnders omnibus on another channel.
I don’t class myself as a hardcore Star Trek fan - more of a casual watcher who enjoyed the serialized stories. But it seems as though there’s been a big misunderstanding as to why those Star Trek shows worked so well in the 90s.
I watched the remainder of Picard out of pure curiosity - to see just how more nonsensical the stories can become. In one episode we’re watching Picard and company look for ‘The Watcher’, but instead, we see the police, twice put Picard and Cristóbal Rios in jail with their missing comms link, which is the badges on all Trek uniforms.
We then get a younger Guinan, normally played by Whoopi Goldberg, advancing the plot, very slowly, over three episodes. Then followed by Dr. Soong, an ancestor of Soong who created the android Data and Lore, who is also making an early synthetic of his daughter. There’s also Q who appears to be dying. Also, the Borg Queen is involved with Agnes.
It’s a lot. The early Trek series had a more procedural feel, a new adventure each week with a much neater feeling, whereas with Picard, there’s an overarching story to save the future. That arc has made the show feel so long-winded and lacking the efficiency of the early series. This storyline could have easily been a two-parter if The Next Generation (TNG) was still going.
The advent of streaming services have been wonderful, but with a captive audience already in place and without the fiery breath of executives demanding high ratings to sell back to advertisers, you can start to see storylines become bloated.
The wrath of plot holes
The first episode of Picard Season Two was a marked improvement - there was structure and a plot you could understand, with every character having a purpose. But once episode 2 arrived, we were brought to the many plot strands that yet again, made you care less for the characters.
While the finale tied up the many plots into a bow, even with Elnor having been resurrected by Q, as Rios decided to stay behind, I watched the credits with the same frustrations I had, rather than being moved.
I decided to ask a few viewers who had also been on the same journey as me, just to make sure that it wasn’t me thinking that I was becoming out of touch with television.
Richie Morgan is a freelance videographer and podcaster (opens in new tab), and I asked him why he put up with watching it, regardless of knowing the show’s flaws. “I keep getting annoyed while watching it and yet I return every week. Maybe I love the characters and want to see them again?” Morgan wonders. “That might be the case if anyone remembered how to write or play those characters. Maybe it's just because it's Star Trek, but it’s not with Picard here. Even at its darkest, whatever form it has taken, Star Trek was about optimism and utopian ideals either thriving or trying to thrive in the darkest places.” Morgan explains.
“Now I'm just tuning in every week to see returning characters tortured to death, or exploring their hideous retconned traumas, or in some cases committing actual murders.”
I’ve read high-praise of the show, but I can’t help but think that this is from wearing rose-tinted nostalgia glasses, in awe of the fact that Admiral Picard is back after 20 years. But without a coherent story, the series is already on course to be worse than Star Trek: Nemesis, the final film for The Next Generation crew.
Another viewer is a reader of TechRadar who got in touch after watching the penultimate episode of Picard towards the end of April. Ian Hicks sent in what he thought of Picard as a whole. “Whereas other Star Trek shows don’t hit the heights of TNG, it at least had all of the formulaic aspects of a typical star trek show. A thirst for discovery, a higher purpose and logic.” Hicks explains.
“Picard has none of these. It’s clear Sir Patrick Stewart can’t even himself recall what the character stood for. Where’s the unwavering authority, the moral righteousness, and virtue that made Picard such a beloved captain? It’s a hollow ensemble of lifeless hollowed-out Star Trek characters, that are thrown together into a story that makes no sense and goes off on so many confusing tangents, that it makes Season 1 look well-written.” Hicks continues. “Character traits flip flop to further the inane script rather than for development. It’s a show that tries to be everything and ends up being nothing.”
To boldly, go?
Season 3 of Picard is not only commissioned, but already filmed, as it was in production soon after Season 2 had been filmed halfway. With the cast of TNG coming back, I asked Richie Morgan again as to what he’d like to see in this final series of Picard, with himself being a lifelong Trek fan.
“I'm telling myself now that I don't care what happens in the next season. I'll just be happy to see everyone again.” Morgan reveals. “In an ideal world, I'd love to see an exploration of late 24th century Trek again. Maybe a stop to Deep Space Nine - perhaps a plot as to how the Alpha Quadrant rebuilt itself after the Dominion war?” Morgan wonders. “Or what's happening with the Klingons, the Romulans, or even the Ferengi! An exploration of what it is to be an intergalactic hero in the twilight years of your life. Let's acknowledge their age and really tell that story. I want to believe they can do it." Morgan hopes. "I want to believe every character won't return with a miserable back story. That Geordie LaForge married Leah Brahms and she didn't immediately die.”
As we head into a story where the Borg is part of the Federation, sudden plot points may rear their heads once again, as the third season hasn’t had the chance to breathe and look at the feedback of its fans.
But with this clearly being the final season of Picard, not just the series but the character, there could always be a glimmer of hope that we can say a proper goodbye to this part of Star Trek, and see what else the franchise can offer.
That said, with the lazy plotting and non-sensical decisions made in the show's second season, I'm not hopeful.