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DavidR
Fri, Jan 24, 2020, 11:59pm (UTC -6)
Re: PIC S1: Remembrance

Let’s begin with an exercise in willing suspension of disbelief. Which of these two scenarios sounds more far-fetched: that over the course of the next several centuries humanity could master interstellar travel, conquer all material needs, become a race of peaceful explorers, discover countless alien races and build a utopia on a foundation of individual rights and dignity?
Or that they could make a new Star Trek show starring Patrick Stewart that I wouldn’t greedily devour like a taspar egg after a hunger strike?
The series opens back in Ten Forward on the old Enterprise D with Brent Spiner reprising Mr. Data across the table from Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard. And they’re playing poker in a spiritual continuation of the final episode of TNG (I will not acknowledge the four dreadful studio movies. For me, as for most fans, the Next Generation I know and love ended with “…and the sky’s the limit” from the final TV episode.)
As in the finale, the poker chatter here veils a deeper meaning. As Picard mulls a call or fold, Data wants to know why he’s taking so long to decide. “I don’t want the game to end,” Picard replies. “I’m all in.”
With the weight of seven seasons and four movies of TNG behind it, this seemingly innocent remark nods to the mortality of Picard and even to that of the 79-year-old Stewart. It’s also directed at us, the convention goers, the cosplayers, the usenet-turned-Redditors who have watched, discussed, critiqued, dissected and loved Picard for decades now.
An extra-narrative angle like this can easily turn overindulgent, but director Hanelle Culpepper displays a light touch (and nice to see a black woman in the “captain’s chair” as well.) Perhaps she learned what not to do watching the latest Star Wars movies, where the camera fawned over original movie characters for so long it turned gratuitous and plodding.
Things take a turn for the worse as Picard sits for an ostensible interview that quickly devolves into some extremely sloppy exposition. Sample question: so Admiral, can you catch us up on what you’ve been doing for the last 20 years? Stewart does a voiceover (cringe) and explains how Starfleet dropped the ball on helping out the Romulans in their hour of need and banned synthetic life forms like Data, so he quit in disgust. Stewart is Stewart, so he sells the heck even out of this lazy backstory. “Because it was no longer Starfleet,” he mutters. “BECAUSE IT WAS NO LONGER STARFLEET!”
Newcomer Isa Briones plays Dahj, a young woman recently “activated” by mysterious assassins and now searching for answers from Picard. Here the fanservice, so deftly executed in the opening scene, takes a turn toward the maudlin. “Everything inside me says I’m safe with you,” Dahj says, with a very obvious double meaning most children of the eighties (me included) can probably decode. “Be the captain they remember” urges one of Picard’s assistants. That’s a little thick for my taste.
Picard is flummoxed when he realizes that Dahj’s face is identical to a painting that Data created decades ago. A quick trip to Starfleet HQ confirms Picard’s memory and establishes that Data named the painting Daughter. Even the thickest viewer realizes that Dahj is Data’s creation, an outlawed synthetic person hidden in respectable human society, though she herself doesn’t yet recognize her true nature.
Picard is trying to explain all this to Dahj when the posse of shrouded assassins returns and Dahj has to beat them off. Dahj drags a wheezing Picard to safety while she continues to kick butt of every hooded dweeb who beams in. These fight scenes are outstanding: fast, bone-crunching and visceral. The earlier fight scene where Dahj was first “activated” really had some shock value. I have no idea if Briones is doing her own stunt work, but we’ve come a long way since Kirk faced off with a Gorn in a rubber suit.
Picard gets a look at one of their faces and….they’re Romulans! The last one spits some acidic green blood on Dahj and for reasons I can’t understand her gun explodes. Yeah, not sure I buy for one minute that Dahj is permanently dead. “I owe it to her to find out who killed her and why!” Picard declares. Oh how motivated your character is! JUDGE JUDGE JUDGE.
Picard meets with Dr. Agnes Jurati (Allison Pill), a cybernetics expert and disciple of Commander Bruce Maddox, last seen arguing in TNG Season 2 that Data should be disassembled and reverse-engineered. Picard and Jurati ogle the disassembled B4, a Data precursor also played by Brent Spiner. In a plot twist everyone who watched Star Trek: Nemesis saw coming, “The essence of Data may be alive!”
Pill’s character intrigues me and I like what the actress is doing with it. “This is everything that ever mattered to us…to me,” she says of the now shuttered Federation robotics lab. Her backstory is convincing and interesting. Pill has some fine comic timing, too! She figures in a number of scenes from the end-of-episode trailer, so I guess she’ll be a big part of the new show’s cast. Thumbs up for initial impressions.
The other big reveal is that androids are created in pairs! (Remember Data and Lore? See, it works with the established universe.) Dahj has a Romulan twin working her flirt with a Romulan with a “sad story”… but what dreamy eyes! And are they in a….why yes they are in a Borg-like cube, either under construction or maybe damaged.
The ship designs look very cool here, with an updated, sleek Romulan warbird and a menacing cube that feels absolutely and appropriately huge. The pullback shot that reveals the cube is handled well, more props to Culpepper and the visual effects team.
So off we go with the launch of a new show. I’m pretty impressed so far and looking forward to the next installment. Let’s see what’s out there.
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