Thursday, February 16, 2023

Haven't We Been Here Before? - The Picard Season 3 Pre-Show Ramble

Tonight is the premiere episode of the third season of Star Trek: Picard.

The big TNG reunion season. The final season. The final journey. A clean break from the previous two seasons. That sort of thing. And you know what? Early reviews have been enthusiastic. It's the best Trek in years. It's the TNG reunion we should've had years. The press has been positive. Perhaps a bit too positive. This shouldn't be cause for concern. This shouldn't be raising any red flags. This shouldn't be raising any shields. But it does on all counts.

The reason being that... I've been here before. I've seen this all before.

Let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we? Back to the space year 2015 A.D. That was the year where the first new Star Wars film since Revenge Of The Sith - not counting the Clone Wars animated flick - graced movie theatres with Episode VII: The Force Awakens, which would kick off the brand spanking new Star Wars sequel trilogy. You know, the one that has been rumored to be on or off along the way. Now, with the change in ownership, the Sequel Trilogy that nobody could tell was going to happen... was going to happen. And then they showed trailers. They were promising.

And then the movie came out... and I thought it was a fine film; a return to form, so to speak. While it may have felt like a less-than-subtle remake of A New Hope - or perhaps more accurately, a greatest hits compilation where we touch on all the popular tropes in some form or fashion - it was nevertheless a good little opening chapter, even if it was a bit safe. But it left the doors open for the next film to come along and guide the trilogy along a different path.

And it certainly did that... and that's when it feel off the rails.

I've already said my piece on The Last Jedi numerous times, so I'm not going to retread that territory here. Suffice it to say, the movie did nothing for me. It had nothing to say. All sizzle and no steak. That sort of thing. And then we got The Rise Of Skywalker, which tried to do too much and ultimately had nothing to say... and again, I've said my piece on that film, as well.

What started off as a hopeful beginning soon paved the way for the fall from grace of a franchise. After The Force Awakens, the trilogy fell off the rails hard, and other than a few anomalies here and there, the Star Wars name is pretty much damaged goods. I can go back and watch the old stuff just fine... but as far as the current stuff goes... let's just say that when I rewatched The Force Awakens recently - a movie that I ENJOYED the first time around - it left a bitter taste in my mouth because the stuff that followed it had tainted it. And that greatly annoyed me.

Which brings us back to Star Trek: Picard.

For years, people have been clamoring for a proper end to The Next Generation. We already had that; it was called All Good Things. It was a fine closure to seven years of a quality television show that has had its ups and downs, but was a fun journey all the way through. If All Good Things was the final adventure of Picard and crew, it would've been a perfect ending to a wonderful adventure.

And then the movies came out. We enjoyed them back in the day, but as time went on, you begin to question whether this was the crew that needed a motion picture franchise behind them. Generations was a bit of a letdown, First Contact did a fine job of re-establishing the Borg as a threatening villain before Voyager shat the bed on that front, Insurrection could've been just another episode of the television show, and Nemesis is one of those films that just sours as time passes... which is all the more depressing when you realize that this was the final film with that TNG crew. This was supposed to be their big farewell, with a whole FOUR movies under their belt.

Years later, we get word that Star Trek: Picard was going to be a thing, but it was going to be Picard messing around with a bunch of new characters... and Seven Of Nine for good measure. We're fussing about Data again, it's not going to be a reunion. It's going to be a whole new thing. And it turned out to be a dull mess despite a bit of early promise. It says a lot when the best episode in the series takes place on a planet and happens to feature Picard's former first officer and counselor; the closest thing to a reunion that this show was going to get. Season 1 was a bit of a bust.

And then Season 2 comes along... no comment.

Well, except for the bit where, midway through season 2, they show a teaser for Season 3, which announces the return of the old TNG crew. Which meant that if you didn't care for Season 2, you can stop watching right then and there, because season 3 was going to bring back the old crew and we're gonna have the reunion we should've had from the get go. Cool!

Here's the thing; Season 3 seemed like it was hitting all the right notes. It seems like a potentially interesting premise; our valiant crew reunited for one last adventure, all of them having gone through various life changes and events over the years. We're on a new starship, the Titan, itself the second ship to bare the name and basically a new take on the Constitution-Class Heavy Cruiser. We've got a new antagonist with a connection to Picard, the return of the hologram Moriarty from those Sherlock Holmes holodeck episodes as well as Data's evil brother LORE, who looks about as old as Brent Spiner... oh wait. There's a lot of bits and pieces being teased in these trailers that has me somewhat interested in what's going on and this feels like the sort of thing that we probably should have gotten in the first place instead of whatever the first two seasons were.

At the same time, however, the whole thing reeks of absolute desperation; as though the people in charge of Trek realized how much shit was being tossed their way because the poor quality Treks, and so they decide to bring back the old TNG crew for this one last rodeo. One could argue that Strange New Worlds coming to fruition reeked of being desperate as fuck, especially when people would declare the legacy characters of Captain Pike and Spock being the best parts of a rather tepid second season of Discovery, owing in no small part to the performances of Anson Mount and Ethan Peck. Thing is, I actually like Strange New Worlds; it's probably the first new Trek show that I actually enjoyed without reservation, so I am more than willing to give them a pass in this regard.

And I'd be willing to do the same for Season 3 if it turns out to be genuinely good. But I can't help but feel a sense of dejavu. I'm sure I'll enjoy the first episode, it'll leave a great first impression... but then again, I felt the same way with The Force Awakens. I felt the same way about the first episode of Season 2. No need to get into how things went from there.

I want to be optimistic about this, I really do. Even cautious optimism would suffice.

I guess we'll have to wait and see where this road takes us.

P.S. By the way, I'm not ignoring Number One in Discovery - Rebecca Romin made the role her own, but she only showed up for a couple episodes on that show and got a little more to work with in SNW. Here's hoping she sticks around for Season 2.

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