The Picard Binge

My morning routine is always the same once I reach my desk but I should perhaps start to avoid that first hit of Twitter. It can put me into a foul mood and I’m already pretty tetchy. At the risk of turning this blog into a diary of my continuing and utterly frustrating struggle with hay fever, I swear these antihistamines are making me irritable. It’s either that or I’m responding to the mess my eyes are now in.

I can, however, see perfectly well – it’s more of an issue with soreness – and, to prove the point, yesterday I seriously binge-watched Picard. I have just two episodes to go and I’m loving it, even if I do understand why some people might hate it. First, it’s a slow burn. A real slow burn. The first five episodes luxuriate in the room they have to flesh out characters. When writing about the latest Star Wars movie the other day, I lamented on how little room they left for character development. Picard is all about the characters, which isn’t surprising, given the involvement of Michael Chabon, who, by anybody’s measure, is a serious writer.

It’s also different to what fans of Star Trek would probably be accustomed to. The move from a series to a serial makes a huge difference. The first ten episodes could have made one decent episode of The Next Generation if they’d rushed through it and avoided all nuance. Over 10ish hours, it’s sometimes frustratingly slow but I didn’t mind that. I was constantly thinking: if John Le Carre ever wrote Star Trek, this is what it would feel like.

Lastly, there’s the swearing. There have been about five ‘f’ bombs in the show, which, admittedly, did feel out of place in Star Trek, yet I also don’t care. They are unnecessary but a juicy reminder that the producers were trying to do something different with the show. There is a persistent sentiment in the nerd community that they (why don’t I write “we”?) want some of their (“our”?) favourite shows to go seriously “R”. It’s why the movie Dredd was so good. There was no attempt to make it suitable for family audiences and the result caught all the vibes of the comic. Conversely, there’s nothing worse than when a great “R” rated movie is remade for a family audience. It happened with Robocop, which was never as good once it lost Paul Verhoeven’s eye for society’s brutality. It happened with Terminator, going from hard sci-fi to this popcorn popularism where Arnie had to be the good guy.

So, Star Trek heading into more adult waters felt, to me, entirely reasonable. Oddly, from the first episode, the characters felt more rounded, prone to less TV-friendly sentiments. It also made it possible to address the themes in a way that didn’t feel forced and obvious. No doubt some might think it was pure liberal Hollywood emoting again on topics of nationalism, but Star Trek has always done that. Here it is done with a lighter touch and allowing room for doubt. It doesn’t entirely rule out the idea that synthetic life might be a bad idea, although with two episodes to go, I’m not sure how that will be rounded out. I do know that it’s not entirely either/or.

The whole thing could yet fall flat over the final two hours, but I really don’t mind at this point. I was expecting to hate it and found myself loving it. It’s certainly the best Star Trek I’ve seen since, perhaps, Voyager. Definitely better than the J.J. Abrams nonsense. I’m invested in all the characters, which is a lot more than I can say about any in the new Star Wars trilogy (two of which, unsurprisingly directed by Abrams). And, best of all, I loved seeing old characters in shows that didn’t merely use them as tokens. The biggest takeaway here was that Seven of Nine needs her own show.

7 thoughts on “The Picard Binge”

  1. As you know I’m a real trekkie. I enjoyed it alot but did have some issues. Mainly with the swearing, it was unnecessary unsubtle, forces and just not Star Trek. I have some issues with the execution of the last couple of episodes so will be fascinated to hear what you think? Btw if you like Star trek as serial you REALLY should watch DS9.

    1. Yes, I thought the swearing was unsubtle because it was initially one character (the Admiral?) who it just didn’t suit. Yet as an adult Trek, I liked the tone it set because from that point on, I literally didn’t know what to expect. Really didn’t expect the young guy to behead the “Senator”. Plus Raffi’s character was so messed up with (I assume) drugs that it was part of a world that felt better than anything you’d see on pre-watershed TV.

      I also wondered if it was a bit of a response to Game of Thrones, Westworld, Deadwood… After those shows, everything else looks a little too tame and Star Trek’s problem was always that it was a cleaner universe that Star Trek. Picard felt like the first series made for adults and I *really* appreciate that. For example, my favourite bits were around Freecloud. Loved the sleazy cyberpunk vibes.

      Will try to catch the other to tonight after the match. Have no idea which direction it’s going in. Really hope there’ll be a Season 2.

  2. I feel betrayed i always thought you had good taste (lol) Glad you have liked it. I was firmly in the other camp with regards to the show. Be interesting to see how you feel after seeing how the season finishes.

    I also wonder if because i watched it week to week as it was released that changes the viewing experience.

    Not sure if you have watched any RedletterMedia on YouTube they have done some fun reviews of Picard.

    Have you watched The Expanse on Amazon? I feel it does the realism of space in the near future really well with some great characters.

    1. Hey! I have impeccable tastes! 😉

      Pretty certain I’d have hated it watching it from week to week. It would totally change how I now view it. I saw the first episode but stopped immediately, thinking I’d end up going back. I never did and probably wouldn’t have until Max mentioned it to me on the blog earlier this week. So glad he did!

      I’m going to write up my bit on the last two episodes but generally thought it was solid, even if I hated a couple of the devices they employed.

      Not read anything about it anywhere else, though I checked Wikipedia to see some of the background story to this season and the next. I was glad that it’s been generally well received because I want to see companies praised for taking risks with more serious and darker approaches. I think a seriously dark cyberpunk tale inside the Star Trek universe would be my nerddream.

      Not seen the Expanse but I’ve heard about it. I should probably watch it. Adam Savage on Tested is always raving about it. I think he even appeared in an episode and has made quite a few interesting videos about the props. I just don’t watch as much TV as I probably should.

    1. Ah! So that explains why he’s suddenly got lots of mech with, I think, Savage Industries on it!

      Not that I’m into merch but I enjoy the channel.

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It’s a cool domain name and it was available. Yes, I know. Available. Crazy, isn’t it?


Yes. It also helps that it’s also my favourite satire written by Alexander Pope, one of the most metrically pure English poets who also knew his way around a crude insult or two. If you’ve not read it, you should give it a try.

So this is satire, right?

Can’t deny it. There will be some. But it’s also an experiment in writing and drawing, giving work away for free in order to see how many people are willing to support a writer doing his thing. It’s the weird stuff that I wouldn’t get published elsewhere in this word of diminishing demands and cookie-cutter tastes.