Recommending “Star Trek: Picard”

What motivated me at long last to get the streaming video service CBS All Access (rebranded in March 2021 as Paramount+) was a simple life upended due to an international health crisis. Staying put in an apartment for longer than 30 consecutive days thus far has prevented me from getting the infectious virus. Yet the pressing sense of confinement started to affect my dreams, my moods, and my eating–not necessarily in that order. So it seemed the natural thing for me to do. I got this streaming service essentially as a distraction from real life.

I enthusiastically recommend that you also get this streaming service so you can watch Star Trek: Picard and other Star Trek shows.You may smile when you see the return of Sir Patrick Stewart in the cherished role as Picard in a science fiction series featuring richly developed characters. I hold a very high standard for critiquing any and all Strek Trek television shows and motion pictures. Why? I earned my doctoral degree in part because I wrote a lengthy study examining television producer Gene Roddenberry and a certain television series of his that you may have heard of. Learn more about my Roddenberry research findings and listen to rare MP3 recordings elsewhere at this website.
 
I consider myself fortunate to have interacted face-to-face with Roddenberry during the 1970s and 1980s leading to my publishing my research to share my findings. I examined his storytelling on Star Trek: The Original Series seeking to determine whether there were “secret powers” of audience persuasion embedded in the episodes. Spoiler alert: Yes, there were. These narrative persuasion devices in storytelling are, of course, not truly “secret” and they also show up in Star Trek: Picard.

Had Roddenberry lived to see Star Trek: Picard, I suspect he would not have been completely happy with how it turned out. But in fairness, it probably is accurate to the writer’s opinion that Roddenberry was not a man who could easily attain complete happiness regarding anything.

Rodenberry was very demanding and displayed a challenging personality (even by Hollywood standards) that directly led to entanglements with showbusiness people regarding the development of the Star Trek franchise through the 1970s until his death in 1991.He lived long enough to play a key part in Star Trek: The Next Generation bringing Patrick Stewart into the crucial role of the now-famous Jean Luc Picard. That financially successful series continued until 1994 for a total of seven seasons. Star Trek: Picard arrived on CBS All Access in January 2020 to show us ten episodes focused on the fate of the legendary captain of the USS Enterprise in his so-called “retirement.”

The character of Jean Luc Picard became well-known for his challenging personality, too, across 178 television episodes and four major motion pictures . That aspect of the character’s essence is sharply defined in Star Trek: Picard with great care and respect by the producers and writers. It is wildly surprising, therefore, when a superior Star Fleet officer actually says to Picard, “Shut the fuck up.” I have quoted the exact phrase here because no previous Star Trek film or television show ever dared to depict anyone speaking with such course language directly to the living legend known as Picard.

I found it very enjoyable to binge watch all ten episodes of Star Trek: Picard over the Easter weekend in an attempt to ease my cabin fever. The story spanning the entire first season is smart and entertaining in its coverage of existential conflicts between organic human life and synthetic humanoids who were created by humans. I already mentioned how the characters are one of the strongest features of this series. The performances of all the main cast members are generously full of energy.

The story dealing with organics versus synthetics, itself, should seem familiar to everyone (perhaps too familiar.) In the original Battlestar Galactica television series (1978 to 1979) and Galactica 1980, the concept of human-created war robots was at the core of the storytelling. In 1979 Ridley Scott introduced us to synthetic beings in his film Alien and that storyline continued into five major motion pictures that followed from 1986 through 2017. In The Terminator (1984) James Cameron gave us an indelible cybernetic organism created by human beings and portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 to 1994) gave us the beloved character of Data, a synthetic lifeform created by humans, struggles to be accepted by his human crewmates aboard the USS Enterprise. In the Ronald D. Moore reboot of Battlestar Galactica (2004 to 2009) the Cylons were reimagined to be indistinguishable from human beings and empowered with many superiorities over humans.

The question needs to be asked: Will audiences year after year continue to financially support science fiction storytelling on television and in movies that revisit the by now well-worn struggle between human beings and created being who merely look like us. While watching Star Trek: Picard you may not feel too sorry about the ill fortune humans suffer at the hands of the synthetics because it is crystal clear that the human race brought this entire mess upon itself.  

But let me get back to Ronald D. Moore. He is a respected member of the Star Trek family from his work as a noteworthy producer and writer on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Perhaps out of respect, the Star Trek: Picard producers snuck in (for a few precious seconds only) a framed portrait of Moore on one of the walls of Jean Luc Picard’s chateau.

There is one glaring storytelling element in Star Trek: Picard. I felt a deju-vu across many episodes that made me wish the Star Trek: Picard producers and writers would have invested more time and money to get stronger storytelling originality. Instead, there are narrative aspects and character types from Frank Herbert’s Dune instead of freshly genuine originality. To be specific, the Bene Gesserit religious sisterhood from Dune seems to have been the inspiration for the Qowat MIlat order of warrior nuns so crucial to the plot in Star Trek: Picard. Similarly, the Dune central character of Paul Atreides—raised since his boyhood in Bene Gesserit skills of observation and military arts—seems to have been the inspiration for the Star Trek: Picard Romulan character of Elnore—raised since his boyhood in Qowat Milat warrior nuns’ teachings and military arts.

However, the skills and talents of Sir Patrick Stewart in the title role, of course, are arguably the best attributes on display for anyone to see. I feel there should be nobody out there who would choose to avoid watching the second season of Star Trek: Picard once it finally is released somewhere out there in the far-off future.

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