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Bold Helmsman
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 11:33am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

@Chrome

Hearing something like that from Zack Handlen of all people is what makes it all the more remarkable.
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Chrome
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 11:23am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

A slow burner that tells a fairly effective story about Soji's realizations about herself, and Narek's methods for harvesting Soji's knowledge. Luckily this episode does move the plot forward, by explaining that the planet where Soji was built is trapped in her memories. Narek then handily finds the location using his methods of dream reenactment to get a picture of Soji's real homeworld.

Like others, I enjoyed the tan zhekran ("impossible box") metaphor. There's also a cultural reference with the box because it resembles a Rubik's Cube, which was a brain-busting puzzle toy popular during TNG's original airing. One might even say there's a meta-criticism involving "mystery boxes" and Kurtzman is comparing critics to the impatient Rizzos who are unwilling to patiently enjoy a game and learn answers. But, I kid, I kid.

I think the parts with Picard and Hugh were the strongest. It actually felt like TNG for a second there. I kind of wish they could get rid of all these twists and turns that accompany serialized television and just have these two hash out a good hour long episode together.

Elnor is kind of fun here, but the teasing of his death got a tad ridiculous. I mean, the show doesn't make any explanation as to why Elnor can't just get in the spatial trajector with Picard and Soji. Well I know why: they want a cool action scene next episode - but I think the in-universe reason needs at least some lip service. These missing details are what fuel fan critiques each week.

Speaking of which, The AV Club review had some interesting commentary on "This is isn't Star Trek" criticism; basically it's not effective because franchises by definition change to meet the demands of the audience of the time. Conversely, franchises that stay the same are the ones that tend to die off. I can think of many examples of this like Tim Burton's Batman movies being nothing like the 60s TV series and the Chris Nolan series being its own thing entirely. For better or worse, Star Trek is a huge franchise and it's going to keep changing to be profitable no matter how much we resist that change.

Incidentally, ENT and VOY don't feel like Star Trek to me but hey, not really much I can do about it - except not watch them. :-)
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 11:18am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

@Richard James.

You are of course entitled to your opinion. But what you basically seem to be saying is "I can't point to anything this episode did wrong - I just don't like it."

To my mind, the episode had a very, very strong thematic core, which the title (The Impossible Box) alludes to. Not only does Narek have a puzzle box, and is the Artifact a literal (albeit slightly broken) box, but most of the characters are trapped in a mental box as well. Soji is trapped in her subconscious for most of the episode as she seeks to escape her programming. Narek is trapped between his feelings for Soji and his sense of mission. Jurati is trapped by her feelings of guilt. Raffi is trapped by past bad decisions destroying her relationship with her son. Picard is trapped to some extent too initially - trapped within the fear that his memories of assimilation left him with.

Everyone but Rios and Elnor gets a solid plotline which reinforces common themes. Rios isn't because he's basically just a sounding board for the woes of Jurati and Raffi. Elnor isn't because - well - he seems to be someone who is fairly comfortable with who and what he is now that he's not cooped up on a planet any longer.
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Trent
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 10:53am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

Subtle time-travel breadcrumb in this episode. The announcer when Picard enters the bedroom with Hugh says: "Sectors 5-8 are temporarily closed due to detected chronometric activity."
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Richard James
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 10:29am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

I'm on the fence with this episode - mainly because it had so many elements that should be interesting, but the execution was pretty, well - dull. Picard meeting the Borg, Soji discovering who she is - all of these are decent enough and actually move the story along, but I couldn't help feel empty by it all.

This series really wants us to 'feel' over 'think', that much is obvious. Rather than exploring the philosophical or moral implications of synthetic life, we get Soji's personal, emotional struggle. That's fine, and perfectly valid for a story, but if that's the route they follow then the series stands or falls on how convincing that dramatic arc is and in this Star Trek Picard seems to be failing. Raffi's alcoholism, Picard's stress being back on a cube, Jurati's guilt - all of them are high on the drama but seem hollow, as if the writers never really considered how these arcs might unfold. We get callbacks to the 'ideas' of previous ST series, but they just echo - nothing more.

Even Picard seems like a 2-dimensional version of the character. He says the same lines and talks about federation values and how the borg are evil, but it has none of the intelligence underpinning the previous series. STP wants us to feel, unfortunately the only thing I'm feeling is a sense of apathy.
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Wainscoting
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 10:28am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

I genuinely enjoyed those moments between Picard and Hugh. When they interacted there was none of the passive aggressive snark or vacuous, tropey melodrama; just a calm, rational discussion between two good people with implicit trust in the motivations of the other. There are perhaps slight liberties taken concerning the depth of their relationship (as with Data, Geordi was Hugh's main contact and friend onboard the Enterprise as Picard learned to tolerate him from a certain emotional distance) but it effectively delivered some exposition about the 'ex-b' community, which for me is the most narratively interesting fragment produced by STP's patchy efforts at world building. I slowed down from 1.5x speed for that whole sequence. It was nice.

Then one of our heroes coldly murders three security guards from behind by hacking into their necks with a samurai sword, despite their having clearly announced an intent to apprehend rather than attack the 3 ostensible criminals. Picard chides him for not staying on the ship and then chuckles gratefully at his homicidal friend's forthright reply. Ah, the magic's gone again.

Hugh was also being threatened with a knife in the next episode's preview. Yay.
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Top Hat
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 10:18am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S7: Parallels

The most obvious point of comparison to this episode is "Cause and Effect" for its episode-length high concept wackiness. It's not quite as tightly scripted but it's more emotional and character-driven. It's an unusual story for Worf on TNG, since while there's some Klingon stuff in it, his behaviour in the episode isn't driven by his Klingonness. And is there a more touching low-key moment in the whole series than when Captain Riker tells Picard it's good to see him again?
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Bold Helmsman
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 10:16am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

@Milqueodt

Rather than pleasure, it's more like reputation. By slamming the show each week, they prove that they are Real Trekkies™.
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Tommy D.
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 10:02am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

Before the usual suspects show up.

That was pretty good. I think the best episode of the show so far.
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Trent
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 9:42am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

This episode begins with yet another flashback. Most good writers will tell you that flashbacks are a lazy device which kills the flow of a story, and which generally exist because the author couldn't find another way of conveying exposition.

In "Picard" these flashbacks also epitomize Kurtzman's approach to writing. His Mystery Box plots are all about withholding information, teasing and shocks. This leads to jagged, fragmented narratives - little bits of disconnected morsels of plot - and constant exposition and infodumps. Characters are constantly explaining where they are now going, and why they are going there, and explaining the latest new morsel of information which exists to yank the plot in yet another non sequitur-like tangent.

Like no season of "Discovery" could focus on one idea long enough, Picard jumps from synths to Romulan refugees to Federation conspiracies to Borgs like an ADD-inflicted goldfish. Nothing is given a chance to develop gravity or weight.

In this episode Picard has a phony outburst when someone trivializes the Borg. In the next scene Jurati initiates sex with Rios after murdering Maddox. This is after a last episode recap in which Raffi's son tells his mother that it "totally sucked to be your son" (nobody in this show sounds like they're from the far future). In the next scene, the Slightly Incestuous Romulan Spy asks her brother if "he's making progress?". "I'm making progress," he replies. "You are in love with her!" she snaps. "In love with it! A program! A machine!"

The show is so top-heavy with subplots you just have to laugh. And it goes about these subplots in very obvious ways; consider the Spy's literal Mystery Box toy ("Patience! You have to put the pieces in the right place!") which literally pops out a girl.

Still this episode has many great scenes, and is IMO the most interesting episode since the show's first two.

A moment where Picard trawls through a computer database and confronts images of Locutus is good. There's also a scene where the Romulan Spies discuss synths developing dreams as a means of denying and/or reconciling their true natures.

Also cool is a scene in which we learn that a synth's call to her mom always lasts 70 seconds, hinting at secret shutdown mechanisms. Later, in a pair of good scenes, the robot-girl has a meltdown and then confronts that fact that she's a synth. Unfortunately this has little dramatic effect, her nature having been long spoiled and/or repeatedly alluded to.

Also sabotaged is Picard's approach to the Borg cube, a sequence that should be huge and momentous and filled with horror. Instead, the cube feels like a ruined revelation. You get the feeling that this show takes rich material and structures and lays it all out improperly, the show's messy arc constantly self-sabotaging its dramatic weight.

Regardless, Picard approaches the Borg cube. This approach is begrudgingly sanctioned by Starfleet thanks to some conmanship by Raffi, a scene which others seemed to like but which I found too cutsey and snarky for Trek (also silly is Raffi's bumbling about the ship with space-weed and countless bottles of booze; too heavyhanded).

On the cube, we get more good stuff. Hugh and Picard browse the Borg catacombs, and one of the show's best ideas - the Romulan's rehabilitating ex Borg - is touched upon. Haters of the last episode will be relieved by some of this stuff ("You're doing good work, Hugh!"), though one imagines newcomers to Trek will find this all baffling and incomprehensible. Indeed, Kurtzman Trek as a whole seems strictly for Massive Fanboys only, far too wild for casual viewers.

The episode closes with its obligatory action sequence. Our Space Elf hero is a bit cheesy here, and the action unfolds a bit too neatly, but it generates some excitement. The show's halfway point pivot from Romulan Refugee Crisis to Borg Armageddon reminds me of Disco's pivot from Klingon War to Mirror Universe (and Red Signals to Control), a pivot which seems Kurtzman's stock in trade. A better writer would have balanced this somehow, perhaps by significantly including the Borg in the pilot (perhaps with the Borg causing the Romulan supernova).
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Daniel
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 9:18am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

You'd think that with all of the other holograms, there'd be an emergency counselor hologram in the system somewhere that's avoided and loathed by Rios.
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EventualZen
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 9:02am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S6: Riddles

An enjoyable episode - 7/10. I agree with those who say the fact that it's a reset episode makes it a tragedy because Neelix loses a friend.

The translation of Sunday/Sundae wouldn't be a pun in Talaxian or Vulcan. So unless Tuvok and Neelix learned English, this wouldn't work. Similarly in VOY 5x22 (Someone to Watch Over Me) Paris' joke about the psychologist telling the hologram "you're projecting" wouldn't make sense in an alien language.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 8:04am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

Damn. That was good. Like good in an unqualified sense of the word. And I'm someone who thought the beginning of the season was flawed, and the last episode was a stinker.

Basically everything was done right on this outing. Dialogue was for the most part natural, with no clunky infodumps. There were multiple cases of character interactions (Rios/Jurati, Rios/Raffi, Picard/Hugh) which didn't seek to move along the plot so much as just allow us to better understand the characters - which is a sign of great writing. There were numerous subtle references to past Trek - in the best way possible. The episode itself was high-energy and well-paced. We finally started to get the mystery box opened up a bit. There were solid themes and metaphors which were used across the entire episode (the impossible box was both Narek's toy, the Artifact itself, and arguably Soji's unconscious).

I had a few minor quibbles. Narissa is still a tiresome vampy character who doesn't belong in this show. I wish the episode hadn't glossed over how easily Jurati hid her murder of Maddox (and the crew hadn't moved on so rapidly). And I felt like Raffi's scene with Rios in her room was a bit underwritten. But none of that took me out of the experience.

Four stars. Better than anything in Kurtzman Trek yet.
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Milqueodt
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 8:02am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

I do not sense an anhedonic vibe here. The people who rip this show seem to derive great pleasure from doing so, regardless of their overall level of circumspection.

So, to understand what Star Trek is, onr must not only be a metaphysician, a philosopher, a curator of "The Orville" trivia. One must also be incapable of going "crazy." (Nice sentiment about mental illness). Tall order
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Drea
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 8:01am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

Wow. This was riveting.

These people are an absolute mess. And they just did their first right thing. That's why we get the Trek music cue for drunken Raffi pulling in a favor: her upward trajectory starts here, helping this rescue when she's accepted she's not getting her family back--and Rios taking her bottle.

We're in this for the long game. This show isn't writing its characters for one season. Narek, Jurati, and the rest won't redeem themselves by season's end. Maybe they never will, or can.

But Jurati in her self-loathing sought out someone decent at his core. She'll come clean. Narek's set on an arc to change loyalties. Elnor has purpose. Hugh sacrifices his safety to help Soji. Soji confronts painful truths about herself--and our other characters' struggles to do the same underscore how courageous that is.

And Picard? Picard is finally meeting old friends. Hugh, and next Riker. He needs them to be the man he can be. We're watching people who have slipped from ideals claw toward the light.

Rizzo had her first not-bad scene. I don't mean her dialogue about the puzzle box; that could be cut like everything else prior. If we introduce the character during the meditation scene, and pretend the rest doesn't exist, she's... fine.

Our story has moved forward in a significant way. This is some of the best Trek has ever been in a first season.
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Dougie
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 7:40am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: Stardust City Rag

@Booming, we only see a very small, extremely vocal slice of the Star Trek comments. If cbs all access were supplying to just the group here they’re broke. But those here post within moments of a new episode. That behavior, regardless, is indicative.

I will disagree that America’s past is random and agendaless. We are not some big sop that just aimlessly plods, nation-building and policy actions have been planned for years. Along with that have been reactionary policies as well.
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Steve McCullagh
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 7:28am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: Stardust City Rag

Hey, at least we didn't have the Romulannisters this week!
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Daniel
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 6:59am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

I wish we could edit our own posts, but I guess when the platform originated in the 90's it's not easy to retrofit.

I forgot to add on the Raffi scene--the thing that seemed most disjointed was actually the Star Trek fanfare that closed out the scene. Dramatic, yes. Well-acted, yes. Solved the problem and advanced the plot, yes. But the content of the scene, the laying bare of one's flaws and vices probably wasn't the best venue to apply a sound cue that evoked the traditions of Star Trek. This one I'll blame on post-production, and the limited library of music cues the sound director was working with. Also, poor judgement.

@Rimmit

Valid point. They could've beamed back, I suppose, but it looks like from the previews of the next episode they're going to address the matter. (There's a slight flash frame of Narek in some sort of shuttlecraft) My guess is that La Sirena is too close to the cube and no match for all of the Romulan patrol ships that are guarding it.
I was a little more confused as to how Elnor was able to beam himself over to Picard's position on the cube. Didn't know the Quwat Milat trained the nuns on how to use Federation transporters and targeting scanners.
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Rimmit
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 6:48am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

Something that I don’t quite understand and maybe I missed it. Why couldn’t Picard and Soji just beam off the ship? Initially I thought maybe they edited a scene where they explained that but then Elnor beamed over so clearly the transporters were working. Did I miss a line somewhere explaining this?
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Daniel
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 6:40am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

@Tim C

From the tie-in book, which so far has not conflicted with the stuff we're learning with each successive episode, Jurati is actually a medical doctor by training, and did her post-doc work at Daystrom to cross-train as a synth researcher.

I am a little heartbroken for her as a character, however. Unless there's something wacky going on like the Maddox they had was a synth replicant instead of the real person, I can't see of any way she could ever be fully redeemed. It's a murder of a kind that's quite different from Seven's revenge killing.

The Raffi and alcohol/drugs thing I don't think tonally was handled the best way possible--I think that's more direction than the writing. I think it was written to show that she relapsed at abit, but that despite being a bit incapacitated, she was still able to do her job incredibly well and snag that diplomatic letter. Picard clapping and then leaving her alone to stumble back to her quarters just felt odd. If he was trying to make amends with her, he should've been the one to see her to bed instead of Rios.

At first, I thought Picard's fearful reaction to being on the Artifact seemed out of place, but then I realized he hadn't been on a cube since he was rescued as Locutus. His last contact with the Borg was in First Contact, but he had the benefit of being on his own ship, and all of the familiarity and comfort that that engendered.
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Tim C
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 6:05am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

Daniel - nice spot with the Sikarians. I knew I'd heard the name before, just couldn't recall where.

Bullet point thoughts on the episode:

* Why the hell hasn't anybody consulted the EMH on what happened to Maddox? Why is Picard taking Jurati's word for it when she's not a medical doctor? Methinks Raffi would be way more suspicious, but speaking of...

* Why is Raffi's alcoholism being played for humour? Weird choice, show. However, as a way of sidelining her from looking too closely into Jurati's obvious shadiness, I guess having her in a drunken stupor works as well as any other reason. I would really like to see a redemptive arc for her, though. I feel like with only four episodes left in this first season, we don't have time for a satisfactory one.

* The Narek/Soji stuff actually interested me this week, perhaps because it was all finally coming to a head. Unlike his boringly caricatured dominatrix sister, Narek interested me in the manner of the best spy dramas, and kept me guessing where his loyalties were ultimately going to lie. (Gee, his choice of assassination method was pretty Bond villain stupid though. Why not just beam her into space instead of relying on a slow-acting gimmick? Nitpick, nitpick...)

* Speaking of his boring sister, she really does seem to be the worst spy ever. How did she get so far in her career when she's clearly so dumb? (I think it's because the script said so.)

* it's a shame Agnes is Evil now, because I really like Alison Pill's performance. Everything she said to Rios played as truthful; she just ommitted that she's a crazed murderer.

* It was nice to have Picard finally encounter some people who don't immediately line up to kick him in the balls for his past mistakes. That Starfleet captain Raffi contacted was appropriately impressed by the name drop, and Hugh was very pleasantly happy to help in any way possible.

* Elnor is just the best. "Character who ignores decorum and thinks out loud" is always an amusing type to me.

I enjoyed the episode! Not as much as "Stardust City Rag", but it's nice that they finally seem to have some momentum.
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Booming
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 5:54am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

@Remco
Dukat said that to Weyoun. What did Weyoun respond: You think I'm incapable of experiencing joy because I'm cautious.
Plus Shortly afterwards Dukat went crazy.
So good luck.
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Remco_Spock_Helmet
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 5:25am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

Of course it's Star Trek, you anhedonics.
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Brian
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 5:12am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

It still isn't Star Trek but it's better than the last episode. But that isn't hard.
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grey cat
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 4:40am (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

This is not Star Trek.

Just wanted to be the first to say that even if it's drivel.

Looking forward to watching it in 12 hours or so when it's released here.
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