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Tim C
Thu, Mar 26, 2020, 7:07am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

I agree with you that narratively speaking, the need to fill in the gaps since "Nemesis" and "Star Trek '09" was a bit of an anchor around this season's neck. Hopefully the next time around can knuckle down further.

Honestly though, one of the things this show really made me want was "Star Trek: Firefly". It's lovely to have Picard back and all that, but the episode of this season I enjoyed the most was "Stardust City Rag". I want more one-off adventures about the crew of La Sirena getting about the galaxy and making ends meet and delving into the unexplored, grimier corners of the quadrant. Part of the problem with old Trek at the end was that it was just getting too familiar. Disco is attacking that problem by just cranking the volume up to 11, with varying levels of success. For as much as it was a better-told story than either of Disco's efforts, PIC has not felt as fresh to me thus far, and that feels dangerous going forward.
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Tim C
Thu, Mar 26, 2020, 6:05am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

Sure Daniel, it does seem like a great place for a Borg rehab facility. But the way the script just blasts straight past it feels a little strange, especially after it was seeming to be presented to us as "Seven is going to take up Hugh's mantle and finds new purpose" as recently as one episode ago...

Still a good episode, but the amount of loose ends makes it look positively ragged. Fortunately, the primary story of the season as set up by the pilot managed to come through intact, and rather nicely: Picard did right by Data's sacrifice and saved his "children", and reclaimed his own title as champion of new life. This is a far cry from Disco's original Klingon War story which wrapped up so fast and so easily I got whiplash just sitting in my chair, and then the "seven signals/evil AI" story which just turned out to be complete and utter nonsense in the end.
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Tim C
Thu, Mar 26, 2020, 5:33am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

And one more...

* They're just gonna leave that Borg cube down there, huh? I take it the synths are gonna look after the XB's now? Seven just figured "nah, too much commitment, cya!" ??
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Tim C
Thu, Mar 26, 2020, 5:24am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

As far as endings go, this was better than either of Disco's thus far. I still have a ton of issues with it, especially with Commodore Oh's painfully tedious cliched villain nonsense and the by-now boring-as-hell visual trope of a blue beam shooting into the sky opening a Portal Of Doom. And after promising hell, the most creative thing we get are some... metal tentacles? Yawn.

But! The rest of it was decent, and better than part one... to an extent. I always figured that this season would end with some variation of Picard convincing Soji about a good vs. evil decision; I just didn't know how it would get there, or if the writers would try to pull the rug out from under us with a "shock" betrayal. I am glad that Picard stuck with what he's been doing this entire season: leading by example, regardless of whether he knows others will follow him.

I have bullet point thoughts in no particular order:

* What happened to Narek? Did they just let him go?

* Good riddance to Rizzo.

* When Seven talks about not having a home, it would have been really nice to hear why she seems to be estranged from her Voyager crewmates.

* Why the hell is everybody so sad for dead Picard while they're busily whipping him up a new body and they've already saved him to a flash drive? Did Agnes and Soji decide it would be a fun surprise to let everyone grieve for a bit before the reveal?

* The can of worms that this opens up is gigantic. The synths now have the key to eternal life, "Altered Carbon" style, for anyone who wants it. It wouldn't be the first time Star Trek has instantly forgotten about universe-shattering technology, but gee it would still be annoying if they did.

* I guess Agnes is *not* going to turn herself in for murder now, and everyone's decided to forgive her? Uh...

3 stars for "Et In Arcadia Ego, Part 2" and 3 stars for season 1 of Picard. I feel it's come out of the gate as a more focussed show than Discovery and is the better for it, but there's plenty of room for improvement.
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Tim C
Thu, Mar 26, 2020, 3:45am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

Your feelings on this were about the same as mine, Jammer, although the nitpick that you (and others) have raised, "how you can kill a synth by stabbing them through the eye?" doesn't seem quite as far-fetched to me. If anyone knows exactly where to strike a killing blow, it's Sutra. If it had just been a random stroke of luck by Narek or some other organic character I would have been more skeptical.

I hope they can manage to grab my interest again in the finale`. It would be a shame if a story that has otherwise entertained me (with far less pogo-stick leaps in quality than Disco) should fall on its face right at the finish line.
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Tim C
Tue, Mar 24, 2020, 8:12am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

Well now we're running into a different line of criticism, being the structure of this season itself. I'm more willing to cede to the negative arguments here that the non-linear, "mystery box" storytelling is not proving more effective than a traditional narrative.

But has it completely sunk the show? I guess it depends on how much you need to have spelled out for you, and how soon. We still don't know exactly how they're planning to wrap up this first season. I'm not the type to pre-judge until I've seen the final product.

Personally, the show has given me three characters that I like and want to see succeed. Obviously I'm rooting for Picard to find a peaceful resolution. I want Soji to be convinced to see the light. And I want Rios to find his idealism again.

(I also want to see Elnor, but that more out of amusement at his portrayal than any deep character building that's been done for him.)

The more detailed backstory questions you've raised are interesting to me, but thus far I've enjoyed the character journeys enough that I'm willing to fill in the gaps myself. The danger of these long-form shows of course is that they don't stick the landing, as Disco messed up twice already. Third time's the charm for the new era of Trek, I hope.
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Tim C
Tue, Mar 24, 2020, 6:52am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

Lynos' comparison with TWOK is an apt one here, in that PIC is also attempting to tell a story about a legend being forced face to face with questions about his own relevance and mortality. Is it doing so as successfully as TWOK did? Opinions are obviously wildly varied, as these never-ending debates are demonstrating.

My personal view is that it's too early to judge. PIC is telling this story in a long-form format, across more than one season. It's not my preferred method; my own preference for genre entertainment is a more Buffy/DS9 approach, wherein the self-contained adventures play into a larger arc. Nevertheless, it's what we're getting, so I'm attempting to judge the show on those terms.

And on those terms, I've found myself quite engaged. The goal Picard set himself way back in the pilot was to find some way to help Data's kin, a new form of life whose rights to liberty he himself helped define back in his glory days. As a follow up to "The Measure Of A Man" and "The Offspring", PIC's first season has given us vintage Picard, willing to stick his neck out for what he sees as an embodiment of Starfleet's mission statement.

We've seen him pick himself up and dust himself off from what he felt was the greatest betrayal of his life, in the Federation's abandoning of the Romulans. We've seen him put himself at personal risk, sometimes recklessly, to try and re-establish even a chance of dialogue with angry people. ("Absolute Candor") He's willingly walked into a representation of his greatest personal terrors to try and help someone in need. ("Impossible Box").

This guy we've been watching is Picard. An older, gentler, more mellow man, but still unmistakably Picard to me, trying his best to do the right thing in the face of fear and prejudice. I don't find it depressing, or cyncial, or uninspiring, or any of the other words that have been getting thrown around. He's being the change that he wants to see in others, and that's the best that any of us can ever do.
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Tim C
Tue, Mar 24, 2020, 1:04am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

^^ There's so much TNG that of course it's easy to come up with examples that go against the broad strokes of what I'm saying here, but I still don't feel like it makes my point completely wrong. The Picard we have now is a changed man who has to approach things differently by necessity.

I would disagree that he is not effective any more. It's just *harder* for him to get the same results, and he won't necessarily get them in a nice little wrapped-up package at the end of that week's adventure.
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Tim C
Tue, Mar 24, 2020, 12:33am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

James, you say he's "obviously going to do things the way he's always done them", and yet that's not obvious at all. Captain/Admiral Picard could just tell people to make it so, and they would do it whether or not they agreed. Retired Picard has to take a different tack by necessity. The only person he has any real power over is Rios, and even then it's a purely commercial arrangement that Rios can terminate at any time he chooses.

Picard now has to persuade people that he's right. He has to listen, and empathise, and *ask* for help, and rely on the charity of others. He can trade on his reputation and earned goodwill a little, depending on the audience, but otherwise he is playing an entirely new game. Granting asylum to someone like Soji on TNG meant putting the Enterprise at red alert and threatening the bejesus out of anybody who would come after her; now, it means he has to physically stand in front of someone holding the phaser and convince them to put it down.

Of course, such an approach is not always going to be successful as it was with Raffi in "Broken Pieces". That's the point.

And yeah, these questions of mortality and character and ageing could be done outside of sci-fi, you are correct. But so could 90% of Trek's best stories, so as an argument against the entertainment value of this particular show I don't think it holds much water. (Not that I think this show is beyond criticism, mind you.)
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Tim C
Mon, Mar 23, 2020, 9:32pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

Picard comes across perfectly in character to me, and has since this show started. People asking "could you see TNG era Picard saying this / doing that?" are acting like it hasn't been thirty years since we saw that man, and the character on screen is in his nineties. His nineties, for christ's sake!

He's been out of the service life for over a decade. He's no longer in command of one of the most powerful ships in the Federation and its accompanying team of crack operators, the kind of thing that used to make people sit up and pay attention automatically. He's just an elderly man now, one coming face to face with his own mortality and savouring his last chances to do good in the world.

Everything he's done that we've seen on screen has resonated for me. I don't think the show is treating him badly at all. Rather it's asking a question: how does someone like Picard act in accordance with his oft-stated lofty values, even without the backing that came with being a Starfleet captain?

We are seeing that question answered. I'm enjoying the results, although I still think this episode felt a bit weak.
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Tim C
Thu, Mar 19, 2020, 5:03am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

It's always difficult to judge a two-parter properly, but this felt a bit... haphazard. I can't tell where it's going, which is interesting in of itself, but also makes me wary. Maybe it's just a lack of faith on my part after Disco delivered two disappointing season finals. I think I'll be saving my final judgement till next week.
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Tim C
Mon, Mar 16, 2020, 8:38am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Broken Pieces

Dougie is 1000% correct in his very reasonable demands of Jammer, who has the temerity to provide us all with a freely accessible forum to talk about Star Trek on the Internet alongside his well-written critical analyses, without even giving each commenter a personalised hand shandy with each comment. Snap to it Jammer, you commercial whore!

🙄
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Tim C
Thu, Mar 12, 2020, 6:43am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Broken Pieces

Well, it could never be as feel-good as "Nepenthe", but this episode still brought the goods. Where "Nepenthe" cannily used the nostalgia factor to get us involved (to great effect!), this one has the much harder task of bonding us with new characters we don't have the benefit of having had a decades-long relationship with. But it mostly pulled it off.

I think one of the signs of an involving show is that I'm willing to look past story contrivances - and there were a couple here. Like, how much of a coincidence is it that of all the people Picard could have hired, he just happened to get Rios, who has a deeply personal connection with the synths? How much of a coincidence is it that the (unexplained, unless I missed something) Fenris SOS that Elnor found brought Seven of Nine to the rescue, and how did she get there so damn quickly, and undetected? Like Disco's teleporting shuttlecraft, this feel like the writers pushing the bounds of credibility in order to tell their story, rather than finding more organic ways to get it out.

But the character work was good enough that I can say "I don't care". Jeri Ryan's screen time was much shorter here, but she sure sold the conflict of willingly hooking herself into the collective again. And Rios' swift descent into depression and subsequent bounceback was also effective stuff, showing us both his demons and his strength of will. He would've fit right in on the crew of an earlier Trek show.

(I also appreciated the way the story showed us his competence as a ship captain. Soji might be able to hack his systems, but he's got a master override prepared for such a circumstance. Too bad Picard never thought of that back in the day when Data was hijacking the Enterprise for whatever anomaly-of-the-week was controlling him.)

I also appreciated having it reinforced that Raffi is more than just a stereotyped alocholic; she had the foresight to lock herself out of replicating alcohol, and the way she drilled down into the emergency holograms to root out Rios' secret was also clever.

The final roundtable scene where they deduced the conspiracy also played well for me. Our requisite Giant Threat in the end really just turns out to be the paranoia of a race long gone, and delivered by technology at that. Rather than mystical prophecy, this could all be explained away as a bit of kit that malfunctioned, and in that way it reminds me of Voyager's "Memorial".

Final thought: the idea of a "threshold moment" that attracts the attention of a Big Bad reminds an awful lot of the Reaper storyline in Mass Effect. Anyone else get that vibe?
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Tim C
Thu, Mar 5, 2020, 3:17pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Nepenthe

I'm with you on Trek's unwillingness to kill off characters who weren't just red shirts, Drea. It was one of the reasons the "action" in Treks past could feel so rote. But I can't agree on killing off Hugh so soon. You're right that it's a logical outcome of his decision in "The Impossible Box"; but I felt like there was a lot more potential for his character that we sadly won't get now. The killing of his XBs was already enough to sell us on the threat; surely he could have been sidelined without killing him off!
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Tim C
Thu, Mar 5, 2020, 6:21am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Nepenthe

That was really great. I mean, screw the critical analysis for a moment. Seeing Picard, Riker and Troi back together like this, with such an genuine love and respect for one another, was just lovely. The episode could've coasted on the nostalgia factor alone, but the tragedy of their lost son added a real edge to this episode that had me genuinely hurting for them. It was just good dramatic TV.

Elsewhere, the story took a couple of turns I wasn't expecting. For starters, I thought that Commodore Oh was a secret Romulan; wrong guess. I also thought, like Jammer, that whatever she told Agnes couldn't live up to audience expectations. I wasn't expecting a mind-meld, which opens a whole new can of story worms: was what she showed Jurati genuine, or some kind of mental implant? Are the Vulcans in on the Zhat Vash as well? I'm interested again!

The stuff on the cube also felt genuine. Rizzo actually moved over from the "boring caricature" column into the "genuine threat" column for me. She's still not a particularly interesting character, but the casual slaughter of the XBs to pressure Hugh was damn cold.

Speaking of Hugh, his apparent death is the weakest point of the episode for me. It felt unnecessary, and I don't just say that as an audience member who doesn't want to see a character I like die. I mean dramatically speaking, his death doesn't really motivate anybody. There's a million ways you could write it so that for whatever reason he can't help Elnor anymore; the death just felt like some cheap manipulation.

Damn good episode. The kind of character-focused breather that Discovery has always been crying out for. Nice work, show.
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Tim C
Tue, Mar 3, 2020, 3:27pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

Y'know what, further to my sarcasm, there's a pretty great quote from Jammer's review of Nemesis that seems very relevant to new Trek:

"It is perhaps a telling sign of the age of the Star Trek franchise that I went into the film more or less knowing what to expect and pretty confident that few, if any, of those expectations would be shattered. Star Trek these days, especially The Next Generation, is — let's face it — safe. We know what they're selling. The question is whether we're buying."

Basically summing up all the problems with tail end of the Berman era. PIC and DSC are trying new approaches, and should be lauded for seeking new audiences, rather than constantly getting shit upon for failing to live up to people's rose-tinted memories of such classics as "Sub Rosa", "Shades of Gray", or "Cost of Living".
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Tim C
Tue, Mar 3, 2020, 2:09pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

OTDP is right. There's just too much damn Star Trek now! If you just say "I like Star Trek", people might thing you... *dry heave* ...enjoyed a different TV show to your preferred variant!

Time to burn it all down to the core and start over! We should demand our governments pass a law: TNG reruns forever! No other!

🙄
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Tim C
Mon, Mar 2, 2020, 3:34am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

You raise a good point with Agnes' secret motivation, Jammer. The longer they hold back this particular reveal, the more likely it is to be underwhelming. Then again, modern Trek has managed to get me good before; I found the reveal of Burnham's mum as the Red Angel last year to be a pretty good twist, even if everything else about that storyline turned out to be a deeply unsatisfying mess.

Congrats on 25 years! I've been reading you since VOY season four, when your review of "Demon" made me laugh my teenage ass off. It's really great that you're sticking around for the latest incarnations of Trek, and I hope you remain for many more.
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Tim C
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 12:48pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

Daniel, you have a much better memory for the little things than I do. I'd forgotten that Agnes was a medical doctor by training. (Then again in my defence I blitzed "The Last Best Hope" in one long evening, heh.)

However, it hasn't been brought up in the show unless I'm forgetting something else, and if I couldn't remember it as someone who's actually read the tie-in media, I don't know what a regular audience member is supposed to think when the robot expert starts rattling off medical stuff.

It's not a huge sticking point for me, but it did break me out of the story in those opening minutes.
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Tim C
Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 6:05am (UTC -5)
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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Tim C
Sun, Feb 23, 2020, 5:23am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Stardust City Rag

I'm not American, Booming. ;)
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Tim C
Sun, Feb 23, 2020, 4:15am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Stardust City Rag

(above comment was a reply to Booming)
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Tim C
Sun, Feb 23, 2020, 4:14am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Stardust City Rag

^^ Obviously when Crusher or the EMH de-Borged people, they were sedated. But when people got assimilated you'd better believe that at least some of them were aware of it. Remember "Dark Frontier", when Seven is present on a cube during a mass assimilation? Those background screams from people gettin' all Borged up sounded pretty conscious to me.

Why wasn't Icheb sedated? I dunno if they're sadists so much as it seems like they just don't give a damn. Maybe they don't even consider ex-Borgs as people anymore. Whatever the reason, it's immaterial to the events being depicted: Icheb met a horrific end at the hands of some bad people, Seven saw the aftermath, and it changed her forever.

Yes, the torture scene is there for the audience, so that we *empathise with Seven*, and that we know what an incredibly dangerous risk she is taking when she decides to confront these people. They will literally *dismember* her. It adds tension. I get that some people are squeamish with on-screen violence, I just don't agree with them that the scene is totally perfunctory and the episode could be exactly the same without it. I for one will never look at Borgs the same way again.
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Tim C
Sun, Feb 23, 2020, 3:33am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Stardust City Rag

Hard disagree on this one, Jammer. Robert above raises an interesting point about the gore: Borg assimilation and part removal is a genuinely horrific process. Previous Star Trek shows have hinted at it but this is the first time it has really been show to us just how horrific it is. This is what Picard was put through. That is what Seven was put through. *As a child!* (Incidentally, it also highlights just how insane the "let's get assimilated deliberately" plotline from VOY's Unimatrix Zero was).

The opening scene serves two important functions. (1) It shows new viewers, and reminds older ones, what it means to have Borg implants removed (and put in in the first place). It demonstrates, graphically, the danger that Seven is going to be putting herself in later in the episode by using herself as bait. (2) It shows us why Seven has become what she has become.

If we hadn't seen this moment on-screen, and Seven had just turned up saying "I want revenge because Icheb was tortured and murdered by 24th century organ thieves", would that have sufficed? I don't think I'd have been happy with it, and I would have questioned why her ex-crewmates - her "collective" - weren't able to bring her back from the brink that she's clearly gone over.
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Tim C
Fri, Feb 21, 2020, 7:15am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Stardust City Rag

I think that's a mischaracterisation of my opinion, Booming. It's not that I don't think Star Trek has an identity; it's that I think it has *multiple* identities, and it suffers whenever it tries to copy itself. TOS, TNG and DS9 are all quite distinct from one another. VOY and ENTs biggest creative weakness was their unwillingness to move on from the TNG model. It led to the eventual cancellation of the franchise. People had been there and done that.

Trek has to keep moving forward and reinventing itself. In Disco's case, it's as a slam-bang action adventure, the kind that VOY was always trying to be. And PIC wants to try being a long-form streaming-era drama. Much better to have these honest attempts at something new than a rehash, I feel.

Some vocal commenters seem to think that Trek has lost its optimism. I disagree. The writers of Disco have not been great at it, but there *have* been honest attempts to maintain the spirit. And PICs first season is one singular story, perhaps even to continue into the next, so I think it's a bit early to judge it at the episode five mark.
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