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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!

This Trekie Not Impressed with First Look at New Star Trek Series

There’s a new teaser trailer online for the upcoming “Star Trek: Discovery” series. Over a million fans have already checked it out. Is the show ready for prime time? Uhhhh….

There’s a new teaser trailer online for the upcoming “Star Trek: Discovery” series. Over a million fans have already checked it out. Is the show ready for prime time? Uhhhh….

I’m a Star Trek fan, and I have been since I was seven years old. So it really pains me to say this…

But as a ‘Trekie,’ I think the first trailer for the new Star Trek series, “Star Trek: Discovery” is simply…well…

It’s terrible.
(You hadn’t heard there’s a new series in the works?)

Granted, this first teaser trailer doesn’t reveal much except the new starship itself. So what could be so bad?

Here… take a look…

Where’s Scotty When You Need Him?
Yes… my problem is with the U.S.S. Discovery.
The new starship.

It looks like an ambitious fifth grader designed it on a Mac. All of the right parts are there, but the design is… well, kind of odd.
(I know… geek alert!!)

Sure the ship has the familiar saucer and two nacell warp-engine design. But it looks… rather boxy. Not sleek or elegant the way all of the ships in the Federation’s Starfleet have always looked.
(Both in the original ‘Prime’ universe as well as in J.J. Abram’s alternate timeline)

If this is a pre-Kirk era starship, (note the NCC-1031 on the saucer) that doesn’t mean the ship has to look like an old Volvo. The NX-01 starship of the doomed “Enterprise” UPN series (2001-2005) still looked pretty cool…

A Teaser is Supposed to Generate Excitement
Also, the footage looks like something out of a Star Trek fan film you can find on YouTube. It approximates the quality of a Hollywood-created starship, but the ship doesn’t feel ‘real’ at all. It’s clearly stuck in an animated universe.

Which isn’t so good considering the best-in-class special effects we’ve just been exposed to in Justin Lin’s “Star Trek Beyond.”

Granted, “Beyond” is a big budget movie, and we’re comparing it to something out of a TV series.

But for one minute, the special effects department can’t do a little better?!
(You only get one chance to make a first impression.)

Look… I get that the producers can’t give too much away, with “Beyond” being front and center right now.

But if you’re going to give up anything, please make it great!

Live Long and Prosper
I really don’t mean to bash “Star Trek: Discovery.” I want Star Trek in all its forms to succeed, and the truth is I’ve stuck with all of the incarnations my entire life.

Perhaps I’m smarting a little bit, because “Star Trek Beyond” isn’t doing that well at the box office. And I have to admit that (Spoiler Alert) there’s so much frenetic and confusing action, the film sometimes forgets it’s a Star Trek movie. Even with all the great special effects and Simon Pegg’s witty lines, you leave the theater feeling hungry for more.

So now that “Beyond” is behind us, the attention turns to “Discovery,” which premieres in January.

The Band’s Back Together
I’m thinking, “Guys, you’d better get this right!”
(The failure of “Enterprise” over ten years ago is still fresh in my mind.)

That said, I’m excited to see so many Star Trek A-List production alumni attached to the project….
Alex Kurtzman (co-writer of 2009’s “Star Trek” and “Into Darkness”), Bryan Fuller (“Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager” writer), and Nicholas Meyer
(“The Wrath of Khan” writer and director)

That’s pretty exciting, right?

So why am I so cranky?
Because of a silly teaser trailer?

Exactly.

Discovery Will Not Be Free
Plus, I’m going to have to pay for the pleasure of watching this new series, as it will only be available on CBS All Access streaming at $5.99/month.
(Except for the series premiere, which will be distributed old school.)

So now if I’ve got to pay to watch your Star Trek series… then you’ve also got to show me the money!

This is Just a Test?!
All we really know about “Star Trek: Discovery” so far is that a poorly-designed starship likes to hang out in the middle of an asteroid space station. I’m hoping that it was just a concept piece to get the fans excited at Comic-Con.

There is one other little detail to pay attention to…
The title of the trailer
It’s “First Look – Test Flight of Star Trek’s U.S.S. Discovery.”

Test flight?

Huh.

Does that mean these are just test shots. Not the real deal?

Huh.

Does that mean I set my phaser to ‘severely angry’ for nothing?

I hope so.

Okay.
Red alert cancelled.

Deep down, I’m a believer.
Always have been.

I’ll try to be more patient as I wait again to “boldly go….”

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