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GreenBoots
Thu, Mar 26, 2020, 11:37am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

They didn't show the eye gouging on camera this time, 10/10
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GreenBoots
Fri, Mar 6, 2020, 5:02pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Nepenthe

Also, after skimming some of the comments, I have to say that the tech in this episode didn't bother me except for the Fenris emergency beacon. Was that set up, ever? That seemed like an absolute asspull of cosmic proportions. But the chewable Flinstones tracker and the coma-juice were fine imo. Tech nitpicks like that are outside my particular wheelhouse, whereas bad storytelling and character motivation are what make or break an episode for me.

I am, however, very disappointed that people who love this show seem unable to accept that those of us who find it bad or lackluster are indeed sincere in our opinions. I haven't seen anyone on this site try to talk people OUT of liking this show, or belittling people who are finding enjoyment in it. If you like the show, I don't think less of you and would never try to dismiss your opinion out of... I don't even know, insecurity? I ask that you adopt the same attitude. Believe it or not, I would MUCH rather have a show that I liked and could celebrate, rather than one I have to constantly grit my teeth through; I was as excited for this show as anyone and was hoping against hope that it would be good. But that excitement and hope weren't enough to blind me to what I see as very real storytelling problems. That does not make my opinion less valid than yours, and it's insulting to insinuate that it does. If you disagree that the show has those storytelling problems, that's 100% fine. Discuss your opinions, or leave, but don't be a brat about it.

The sentiment that "people hate this show, how could they ever like the old shows when they have storytelling missteps as well" is particularly puerile. I like old Trek in spite of it occasionally having bad episodes, or weak elements in good episodes, largely because it's episodic, and if there's a horrible clunker one week, it can be safely headcanon'd out of existence for the rest of the show, with rare exceptions (the emotion chip is probably the biggest example). The standards of serialized storytelling are higher since EVERY element sticks around and has ongoing ramifications. If DIS and PIC were episodic (even DS9's version of episodic where each episode was generally self-contained within the framework of an ever-shifting status quo) I'd be more forgiving of mistakes and wouldn't hold mistakes of previous episodes against new ones. But modern Trek wants to wear the big-boy pants of strictly serialized television, with every episode building upon what came before it, and those are the standard I'm going to judge it by. A lame villain like the Romulan incest twins or a weak storyline like the Agnes-Oh-Maddox stuff just can't fly on a show like Picard; if every single storyline is important and interlocks with every other aspect of the narrative, then every single storyline has to be at LEAST solid and coherent, which the show, in my opinion, does not manage.
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GreenBoots
Fri, Mar 6, 2020, 4:26pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Nepenthe

The planetside story was excellent. The Agnes story was a competent attempt at recovery for an unrecoverable storyline. The Cube story and the death of Hugh were embarassingly bad. 2.5/4
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GreenBoots
Sun, Mar 1, 2020, 4:58pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

@Marco
"Funny that no one posted after the review. Is everybody re-watching the episode now?
:)"
Uh, you posted that like twenty minutes after the review went up. Do you think everyone just sits on this page refreshing every ten seconds?
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GreenBoots
Sun, Mar 1, 2020, 4:46pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

@Andy's Friend
Quincy seems to be taking a holistic view of the work for the purposes of assessing its quality as a piece of television, and you seem to be analyzing the script entirely in isolation to determine how well it fits into some "canon" of storytelling. One of these is a practical means of assessing the quality of the episode itself and one of these is a purely academic exercise that feels like it has very little bearing outside of a classroom setting; Star Trek scripts are never going to be repurposed as stage plays, they are scripts written for the episode that they are used in and then never used for anything ever again. The quality of the script is inescapably tied to the quality of its execution in the episode; there is no "what if the production quality were better," as that will literally never happen, at least not in our lifetimes while the Star Trek copyright holds.

I'd argue execution is more important than intent in storytelling; cliche characters (like, say, a Pinocchio story about an android who dreams of becoming human?) can be brought to life by proper costuming, acting, directing, and scripting working together in harmony. Imagine if a lesser actor had been cast as Data, and played him completely wooden and minus any internal spark for seven seasons. Imagine if every scene involving him was staged in such a way that he never moved whatsoever except to enter and exit the shot as absolutely required, never lowered his head in thought, never "mimicked" human mannerisms. Hell, imagine if they pulled a Kamelion from Dr. Who, and had him be a lifeless, unconvincing prop rather than a human actor. Would we care about the character the same way we do now, even if the intent for the character and the writing were the *exactly* same? I'd argue not, as the form (the intricacies of acting and directing, in this case) conveys the pathos of the character far better than just words on a page ever could. If I lived in an alternate universe where we had gotten a bad actor playing the character, it wouldn't matter to me in the slightest if you sent me a message from this universe saying that the character was brought to life in an engaging and meaningful way by Brent; in my reality, it would be an unengaging character and no amount of daydreaming would change that.

Your examples of the characters in Hamlet, Macbeth, and the Iliad being presented with opportunities to escape their fates are not at all equivalent to bad direction ruining immersion. We know that Hamlet will never escape his fate because of his flaws as a tragic character; his hesitance, his indecisiveness, his obsession with vengeance. The inevitability of his death has nothing to do with the actual, literal cause of his death, and the audience will innately understand this if the production is competent. However, if a production of Hamlet kept the script verbatim but decided to stage the climax with Laertes holding his poisoned sword outward and Hamlet getting a twenty foot run-up before ramming his face into it, then delivering his dying actions and lines with a sword comedically jutting out of his eye, it wouldn't matter in the slightest how good the tragedy was executed up to that point; nobody would care about anything other than that absurd and immersion-shattering moment, and it would define public perception of that production. Of COURSE Hamlet could have avoided his fate- he ran face first into a sword! It wasn't human imperfection that led to his downfall, it was sheer idiocy. Would that diminish the quality of Hamlet's script? No, but you'd still look foolish trying to make that case to a friend whose only exposure to Hamlet was that disastrous production; bad form would completely supersede good authorial intent in his and most peoples' estimation. Now, imagine if that was the ONLY production of Hamlet that ever existed, and there would NEVER be another one, and suddenly you see the issue with the argument that execution is irrelevant to television and film.

A good script is a good script, but a good *episode* is far, far, far more than just a good script. In fact, any script that gets brought up as being one of "the best" of its medium is almost always matched by an equally high effort in nearly every other department (think Empire Strikes Back, think Groundhog Day, think The Graduate). Directing, acting, editing, etc. will always affect a person's judgment of a work's ideas when it comes to a multi-media work like film or television. If the laziness, incompetence, or simple bad decisions of an actor, director, editor, etc. diminish the quality of an overall episode, it is impossible to escape that fact unless you read the script in isolation, which is not the way that 99.99% of the audience is going to experience the work. Intent alone with no follow through leaves you thinking "Well, that's a neat idea, I hope a more talented production team can actually make those ideas work in a different story some day." (See: the endless fan re-writes of Voyager, which has a great premise, but lackluster execution) If I pay a carpenter and he provides me a table with uneven legs and a coarse top-surface, I'm not going to be particularly bothered whether or not he tried his best when I ask for my money back; the form undeniably impedes the function.
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GreenBoots
Sat, Feb 29, 2020, 7:48pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

@Karl Zimmerman
That is a fair point, and one I agree with in theory. Common Hollywood "wisdom" seems to espouse that every single scene must advance the plot, but that isn't always conducive to good storytelling and can exhaust/overwhelm the audience if taken to excess. Stories are made up of four primary elements- plot, setting, character, and theme. Every scene must advance at least one of those elements (preferably two or more, but one is acceptable), or else it's filler that doesn't deserve to be included in the runtime of the show. A scene that doesn't advance the plot must therefore focus on setting, theme, and/or character.

My issue is that the scene really doesn't seem to advance our understanding of the characters in any meaningful way. We learn that Rios likes soccer, but hobbies aren't character traits unless said hobby is tied to backstory/character goals, or if it's symbolic of a more abstract character trait (think Bashir's spy programs and "annihilation fantasies" reflecting his core fantasy of being a hero standing against seemingly insurmountable odds). We learn that Agnes is distraught over her situation, which we already knew and could probably assume that those feelings wouldn't vanish between episodes. We learn that Agnes and Rios are both sexually active individuals, but that doesn't really tell us anything unique about them. About the only things we do learn are that Rios is an empathetic guy who cares about the needs of others, which I feel is communicated better through his scenes with Raffi, and that sex helps Agnes take her mind off of things, which... great, I guess? But unless this comes up again, it seems like a rather irrelevant and uninteresting character beat to dedicate a whole scene to. If we knew more about her and Maddox's relationship, or even just more about Maddox as a character, we could maybe infer she's projecting her feelings towards Maddox onto Rios in a way to ease her conscience, but there's no clear link drawn between the two men other than maybe vague physical resemblance.

I suppose it could be a scene trying to enforce theme. Others in the comments have supposed that the main theme of Picard seems to be related to healing, which I can agree with, and on the surface this seems to be a scene about Agnes trying to take her mind off of her trauma through physical human connection, at least for a moment. However, a thematic read of the scene also falls a little flat for me, as it's lacking context. We know that Agnes's trauma is self-inflicted (unlike the Romulans, ex-b's, Raffi, etc), so the show could explore the concept of healing from extremely recent remorse through her. But the damn mystery-box storytelling prevents us from understanding her situation any more than "she did something horrible and wishes circumstances didn't force her hand into doing so"; without knowing what those circumstances are, I don't know if I should feel bad for her, or despise her, or something in between, so it's hard to say what I'm supposed to take away from the scene. In the show's mind, is this a healthy way for her to cope? Is this self-destructive escapism? Does she even deserve respite from her pain? Is lying to Rios and taking advantage of his kindness going to compound her guilt? Even if the scene is intended to be emotionally ambivalent, which it seems to be, it feels like by episode 6 of 10, I should probably have a good enough read on the character and situation to at least have opinions one way or another about these questions, but I just don't have enough information to form any.

All in all, I don't think it's a huge deal, certainly doesn't tank the episode or anything, but it just highlights for me how ineffective the character building has been on this show overall and how the insistence on drip-feeding us information to preserve the "shocking twists" for the dramatically appropriate moments just gets in the way of those classic Trek moments, where we were able to really sink our teeth into a meaty moral quandary. I certainly agree that Picard does at least *recognize* the need to slow down and build character in a way that Discovery never really does, which I appreciate, but I feel it's still pretty bad at it. When you compare it to the "Piller filler" of shows from twenty years ago, there's no comparison in my mind; those shows never artificially separated us from the characters or themes by holding back vital information that the characters were privy to, never prevented us from getting a clear read on our lead characters or their plights.
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GreenBoots
Fri, Feb 28, 2020, 5:53pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

@Tom
"I'm not sure why a sexual act needs a non-sexual motivation."
For the characters in-universe, it doesn't. In a meta sense, though, they spent about a minute of screentime on that pointless scene that could have been spent ironing out some of the plot niggles that everyone in the comments seems to have, even those feeling positively towards the episode. It is gratuitous, in that it seemingly exists for no reason other than "modern shows need sex and violence, or people will think we're immature" which is ironically a very immature attitude towards sex and violence.
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GreenBoots
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 11:03pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

Also, I find it worrying from a writing perspective that the Alpha quadrant now has access to transport tech that can warp entire ships up to half a quadrant away in the blink of an eye. Star Trek shows, even the good ones, have always had a problem of the tech being plot-bustingly advanced, to the point where many episodes needed to find ways for the transporters/warp drives to break down for the stories to happen. Depending on how the season plays out, that tech might become the Spore Drive 2.0, in that it raises too many questions that start with "why don't they just use that space-folding transport thing to immediately solve this season-long arc?" Might be a shadow that hangs over every future show, unless it ends up destroyed or otherwise permanently inaccessible to the Federation by the end of the season. Or, more likely, the writers will just forget that they established it in this episode and we'll all just have to sigh and roll with it.

Actually, wait. If the Borg has access to this tech, and now can essentially warp infinitely and instantaneously in any direction, why have they not steamrolled the entire galaxy already? Just sigh and roll with it.
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GreenBoots
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 10:43pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

Best episode so far, but it still hits a lot of the usual stumbling blocks for Kurtzman Trek; characters standing around talking poetically about The Symbolism, vapid sex scenes crammed in (har) between actors with literally zero chemistry, and wildly bad pacing and exposition. Hopefully we've gotten most of the needless plot twists out of the way, and can focus on the threads we've already established for the rest of the season.

I think I hate Elnor, also. They seem to be writing him less "absolute candor," and more "absolute social awkwardness" a la Tilly, and it annoys me that we can't escape this character archetype. He's also emblematic of Kurtzman Trek's tiresome love of murdering randos to keep the meatheads in the audience engaged. Reminds me of how Voyager thought so little of its audience that it felt the need to have the ship almost get destroyed every episode, lest the viewers get restless.

Still, I did like a lot of moments in this one. Picard felt like Picard, for once, rather than a withered and confused old man standing in his place. Felt a real sense of urgency from Stewart when he finally met up with Soji, and his reunion with Hugh actually did warm my heart for a moment. Even the scenes with Soji weren't too bad this time around. Her going from zero to "everything in my entire life is a lie" felt abrupt (again, pacing), but I liked her conversation with her "mother," and even the dreamlike meditation scene managed to build some atmosphere. I imagine the director of the episode had to fight Kurtzman tooth and nail to let that scene breathe, rather than rapid-fire cutting between it and two other plotlines.

I'm not super optimistic about the rest of the season, but this one gets a 2.5/4 from me.
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