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Tag: Star Trek

Feeling Burned by Star Trek: Discovery’s Season 3?

After watching the season finale, this Trekkie’s got some thoughts to share about the latest season of “Discovery.” Here’s my review:

You can’t blame “Star Trek: Discovery” for not trying. Season 3 attempted to envision a universe 930 years into the future, tackled big social themes and finally decided to give a little more screen time to its supporting cast of regulars.

This CBS All Access series originally insisted that is was not your parent’s “Star Trek.” It tried to be darker, edgier and bolder. Characters used four letter words, though not very convincingly (and far more awkwardly than in “Star Trek: Picard”).

The writers spent much of season 3 trying to return into the fold. There were multiple references and story devices from the old “Star Trek” manual. And in the end, we found ourselves right back where we started, with the same closing music as the original series.

This return continues a long overdue course correction. It was so obvious that there was no real need to separate itself from its heritage when we saw how the best episodes from season 2 focused on Captain Pike from the original Enterprise.

And you can’t say “Discovery’s” season 3 wasn’t earnest. No way. There was so much hugging and crying. Crying and hugging. I lost track how many times “I love you” was in the script. The writers were clearly working hard to finally evolve this crew into a “Star Trek” family.

And “Star Trek” at its core has always been about family. I just don’t know that I needed the “Discovery” writers constantly telling me that.

Warning Signs
As the credits rolled at the end of season 3’s finale, I’ve got to admit, I wasn’t pumped. But I didn’t feel burned either. Season 3 was… fine. For me, “Star Trek” is always better than no “Star Trek.” But I can’t deny I’m still a wee disappointed.

It’s not that season 3 was bad. It just couldn’t quite elevate itself beyond its own unremarkable storytelling.

The writers put a huge effort into building a diverse and inclusive set of relationships. In fact, in many ways, that’s really what season 3 was about. The Burn and (minor spoiler) rebuilding the Federation was just something for this group of Trek characters to focus on. And that’s all great.

But then, the writers ran out of steam (Dilithium?) when it came time to come up with some cutting-edge science fiction storytelling worthy of the “Star Trek” universe.

Why So Far?
Moving the story 930 years forward is a huge leap. Unfortunately, this future doesn’t look all that different. Sure, personal transporters are cool and organic tech is nice, but I would expect something more dramatic a millennia out. And that requires more writing muscle… not special effects.

Yes, I understand that the writers needed to warp Discovery into a new era that was not burdened by existing Trek canon where the Discovery doesn’t exist. (A downside of creating a prequel series.) But a hundred years forward past Picard is all they really needed to do.

Back to the Future
And it’s ironic that the writers ultimately created a new “Star Trek” future that in many ways had gone back in time.

They were pulling on the same storytelling threads as the creators of “Star Trek: Enterprise” when space was truly the final frontier… again.

Missed Opportunities
I’m happy to allow a series some leeway in plot development as long as the writers stick their landing by the end. Over the course of 13 episodes, I feel that season 3 was not entirely successful. (Spoilers ahead.)

Tilly
“Discovery” has painfully stuck with this character and promised some future payoff. I understand that Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman) is evolving, but after three seasons, it’s not fast enough. When Tilly finally got her big chance and sat in the captain’s chair, she essentially blew it. Later, her moment of redemption wasn’t all that satisfying.

The Mirror Universe
You know there’s a problem when “Discovery’s” best episodes focus around the linked alternate universe. But by now, this Trek storytelling device is feeling a bit tired. Even though it was the main reason that Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) had anything to do in season 3, watching the alternate versions of our other characters as two-dimensional opposites grew boring. Sure, Georgiou evolved, but her own universe wasn’t able to.

The Source of the Burn
Really? I expect we’ll see some therapy sessions in season 4 for someone.

The Discovery’s Big Brain
Remember when Discovery’s computer acquired 100,000 years of data from the alien sphere in season 2? The only influence from that upgrade was when the computer pointed Discovery to meet up with Carl. There’s a lot of untapped plot potential that the writers ignored.

Carl
Again… Really? You can’t recycle a classic Trek plot device like that and simply rewrite it as Carl. A ‘Q’ character would have been better.

The Bad Guys
A 1960’s biker gang with a really big ship. Is that what capitalism eventually evolved into? Osyraa (Janet Kidder) needed more screen time to develop beyond her two-dimensional antagonist.

Saru
Captain Saru (Doug Jones) sits at the center of the heart of “Star Trek: Discovery.” His humanity, even in Kelpien form, shines bright. He’s the perfect Federation captain on paper.

But his evolved and balanced perspective isn’t ultimately suited for this future frontier. Not as captain of the Discovery. It’s a bittersweet conclusion.

The Good News
So, I wouldn’t be a Trekkie if I didn’t prove how geeky I am by nitpicking. Sure, season 3 could have been better, but it still had a lot going for it. The special effects were great, although I would have appreciated a few more closeups of the new starships.

It benefited from a generally strong cast. (I really liked the addition of Book’s character played by David Ajala.)

Of course, Sonequa Martin-Green is the star of the ensemble. Her Michael Burnham has often created more problems than she’s solved, but her passion and sense of purpose and drive to do what’s right has continued to power this entire series forward. Martin-Green provides almost limitless emotional and physical energy in this regard.

As it turns out, breaking the rules in the 31st century is seemingly okay as our new Prime Directive. It’s an odd conclusion that doesn’t quite fit with what the writers have otherwise been trying to accomplish. But it continues to fuel Burnham’s success. So, in what has become a season-ending Discovery ritual, it’s time to switch up the captain’s chair again.

Let’s Fly?
I’m happy that “Discovery” is embracing his own heritage.

And I’m always pleased to be watching more “Star Trek” after all of these decades. It hasn’t gotten old. In fact, its familiarity is more comforting than ever, especially in today’s unstable reality.

There’s also something to be said for watching science fiction and not feeling depressed as a result. You can count on “Star Trek: Discovery” for maintaining its sense of Trek-infused optimism.

I don’t think season 3 is the best of the series. (I prefer season 2.) It’s certainly not the boldest. But “Discovery’s” imperfections ultimately didn’t prevent me from still enjoying the ride.

Oh… and that last line in the season finale…
“Let’s fly.”

Really?
(Just go with it.)

Locutus, Is that You?

“Star Trek: Picard” is going back to the future by drawing heavily on its past. But not how you’d think.

Nobody escapes the ravages of time without stacking up some serious scars along the way. It doesn’t matter which future ‘enlightened’ century you’re from.

That’s the major premise of “Star Trek: Picard.” And after watching seven episodes of the first season, it’s entirely clear what’s going on here. And I’ve increasingly enjoyed what the writers are doing.

Core Damage
Forget the story… Good Romulans. Bad Romulans. Data’s daughters. Abandoned Borg. Federation conspiracy. That’s not really what’s important.

This new “Star Trek” series is essentially about broken people, just trying to hold it together. Trying to figure out how to play the cards they’ve been dealt. Trying to make the right choices.

And as for Picard, we don’t get the great captain we once knew. Oh no… Since the last time we saw him, he’s made a few bad decisions (for the right reasons).

So, now the great Jean-Luc is having a tough time getting out of bed in the morning, and I’ve got to admit, I was interested in what the heck had happened!

I think it’s a great premise for this new series on CBS All Access, as opposed to more standard-fare plots that focus on new alien species each week.

Reunion
Yes, something is definitely rotten in the state of Denmark. But, all is not bad. We are still in the same hopeful galaxy that all Trekies have grown up in.

“Star Trek: Picard” also gives us a chance to reconnect with some of our favorite “Star Trek” characters… Seven of Nine as well as Riker and Troi.

Everyone here has their own demons to deal with. And as we already care deeply about these characters, how they’re coping is especially interesting. But even when our heroes from back in the day are down, they’re not out. Come on… this is still “Star Trek,” right?

Unfortunately, the reunions are short-lived as the larger plot focuses on the newer characters. Nevertheless, as a viewer, it still feels like enjoying a cup of hot cocoa on a cold day.

“Shields Up!”
“Nepenthe” (episode 7) with Riker and Troi was an especially healing experience to watch.

No, the band’s not getting back together, but seeing that they actually could after all of these years is an affirmation to Trekies, who have remained committed to the core of “Star Trek” (just substitute the dinner table for the old Enterprise ready room).

Honk if You Like the Borg
This enduring emotional connection is a solid reminder why “Star Trek” is not “Star Wars.” It’s the journey that matters, not the next light-saber sequence. That’s what “Picard” really focuses on. Traveling through life can often be the most challenging journey of all.

(Minor spoiler alert)
In one moment mid-season, a former Borg spots Picard rushing through a hallway and calls out hopefully, “Locutus, Is that you?!”

You can detect a hint of desperation in his voice.

Yes, even the Borg (some of them) are having a rough go of it here. They’re not the bad guys anymore.

I smiled. Not because it was funny, but because it was so unexpected. Yet so perfect.

It’s an insignificant moment in the larger story, but it’s a gem, because it successfully taps into the deep culture of Star Trek, built across decades.

The series may have started off a little slowly, but it’s this attention to the many details from past “Star Trek” series that’s making “Picard” particularly delightful.

Family
If you’re a Trekie, and you haven’t tried “Star Trek: Picard,” you really should. In so many ways, it’s successfully returned to the core of what makes “Star Trek” great.

It’s always been about family.

Is Star Trek: Picard Any Good?

If you were hoping that “Star Trek: The Next Generation” would get the band back together one day, you’ll be disappointed with what “Picard” has to offer. Instead, this series takes Picard in a new direction. Here are my thoughts on this new course.

“Star Trek: Picard” has arrived, and as a life-long “Star Trek” fan, I should be ecstatic with not one but two new “Star Trek” series to watch on CBS All Access.

Well, not exactly. But I do keep paying money to stream them. So, that says something right there.

I’m also not so annoyed that the producers keep messing with the original formula for “Star Trek.” I respect the need for “Star Trek” to evolve.

That said, since “Star Trek: Discovery” premiered, I think it’s also become clear to the producers when they have strayed too far from the source material. I feel the second “Star Trek: Discovery” season was more enjoyable than the first due to the ongoing presence of Captain Pike, played so well by Anson Mount. It was the perfect way to connect that series back to familiar territory.

The Picard Maneuver
The producers have clearly used the same tactic in creating their newest “Star Trek” series. What better way to anchor this one than center it around Jean-Luc Picard, played by the great Patrick Stewart?

The story follows Captain Picard fourteen years later, after his retirement from Starfleet under complicated circumstances. He’s down… but not out.

Of course, there’s an important reason why he feels compelled to leave his family’s vineyard and come out of retirement, and the Romulans seem to be at the center of the problem. There’s also a Borg cube. (Enough said.)

For me, the fact that the writers have picked up from the plots of 2002’s “Star Trek: Nemesis” and J.J. Abrams’ 2009 “Star Trek” is compelling, but I’m not sure if other more casual “Trek” viewers will find that same narrative pull.

Not “The Next Generation”
If there’s any doubt, you should know that “Picard” is absolutely not Season 8 of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” There’s an entirely different cast of characters in this series, although some legacy characters do show up from time to time.
(Data is in the first episode. Don’t worry about how. It’s explained.)

My favorite new character is Laris, played by Orla Brady, a Romulan former intelligence operative and current employee at Picard’s vineyard. In these early episodes, she’s essentially serving as Picard’s Number One. (His dog holds the official name.)

Even though the writers seem hell-bent on continuing to use four-letter words in their scripts including the f-bomb, Brady is the first Star Trek actor to actually pull it off with a sense of style.

Taking Time to Get to Warp Speed
So far, the producers of “Picard” have performed a successful narrative balancing act by giving Trekies what they want with plenty of Easter eggs, while not making the whole experience feel like you’re a nerd attending a “Star Trek” convention.

After watching the first two episodes, I do need to admit that the series is taking some time to set itself up. It’s not exactly slow, but I’d prefer that the plot move more quickly beyond what I already know from watching the promos for the series.

But in case there’s any doubt, I’m in. I do plan to watch the rest of the season. In fact, I’m already more invested in “Picard” than in the upcoming “Star Trek: Discovery” season 3, which is seemingly rebooting itself… again.

An Inclusive Viewing Universe?
With the current movie series sputtering to a halt, the future of “Star Trek” is currently in the hands of “Picard” and “Discovery.”

I do continue to wonder about the audience that CBS is trying to attract. Sure, there are still old-time Trekies out there who will pay CBS All Access to watch, but what about the next generation of viewers?

Sure, bringing Jean-Luc Picard back is a huge hook for “Star Trek: TNG” fans, but there’s been an eighteen-year gap here. That’s an eternity to recapture a viewer’s attention.

I think it’s also fair to say that “Star Trek” hasn’t maintained the same cultural gravity as the “Star Wars” universe.

Plus, kids can’t join this party due to the bad language that’s sprinkled into the scripts.

So, that might leave a relatively narrow segment of the viewing population who will rush to sign up for “Star Trek: Picard.”

We’re Just Getting Started
Still, for those who are already predisposed, I’m here to report that “Picard” is certainly ‘engaging’ enough to spend time with. (You thought I wouldn’t get to that pun?)

With the exception of the original 1966-1969 series, new “Star Trek” shows have often had uneven early episodes, including “The Next Generation.”

And when viewing “Picard” though that lens, I’m actually quite excited to see what comes next…

Let’s make it so!

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