Picard – A Few Thoughts

picard

While I admit that I am first and foremost a Star Wars guy, I would be lying if I said I didn’t love Star Trek: The Next Generation. I remember watching quite a bit of TNG while in high school late at night when there was nothing else on. All of the characters were great, but no one can deny that Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard is what made that show so accessible to the mainstream audience.

When I heard that Patrick Stewart planned to return to the character in a new series written by my favorite author, Michael Chabon, I got very, very excited. But, then I read that the series would be exclusive to the streaming service called CBS All Access. Because this was not a free service, and because I’m already paying for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+, I refused to spend money on yet another service basically just for one show.

However, last week something wonderful happened. CBS All Access offered a free 30 day trial. 30 days? Even I could get a ten episode series watched in 30 days! I signed up immediately through an Amazon Prime Video/CBS All Access channel.

Last night I finished Picard, and, in my opinion … it wasn’t great.

This could be a case of me just not being Trekkie enough, but I found most of the episodes slow, uneventful, and full of far too much exposition.

Granted, our primary actor is currently 79 years old, so he’s not going to be quite as active as he once was, but that’s no excuse for the show using all of the other actors to explain things, talk about what happened in the past, and describe scientific processes. There’s an old writing adage: “show, don’t tell.” In a visual medium, you would expect this to be especially true. Picard is a lot of characters standing around talking to each other.

However, there are many, many positives. The special effects are incredible–this is Star Trek in all its glory. There are also many satisfying cameos for Star Trek fans of all stripes. The acting, overall, is very well done, too. The plot is thoughtful, complex, and could have been captivating if the creators had bad been more successful with the pacing per episode. Finally, the tenth episode was mesmerizing because it was fast and full of action, utilized interesting battles, executed quick dialogue, and simply had a certain “attitude” that the other episodes lacked. And, of course, Patrick Steward is legendary. Even at 79, he is a force to be reckoned with–his vigor at such an age is astonishing.

Unfortunately, I can’t say I recommend Picard to the casual fan. It simply moved at too slow of a pace to keep my attention attention.

 

Star Trek – A Movie Review

I suppose I should get his out of the way: I’m not a Kirk and Spock Star Trek guy.  I enjoyed The Next Generation when in high school, but other than that, I wouldn’t call myself a fan.  I certainly never thought much of the previous films.

So with all that being said, J.J. Abrams’ newest addition to the Star Trek mythos delighted me, amazed me, and—dare I say it—even made me a fan.

Within the first five minutes of Star Trek, I experienced more authentic emotion than all of the previous films combined, and it only got better from there.  Although it has a running time of 127 minutes, it felt like I sat in my chair only mere moments.  Star Trek is fast-paced, action-packed, and laden with fantastic special effects.  Moreover, the story actually (for the most part) makes sense and is well-constructed.  The heroes were given ample motivation, and even the villain’s malevolent incentives were integral to the plot (if not always completely understandable).

The best part of Star Trek for me, though, is that each and every major player in the film has charm.  Before Abrams got hold of them, I couldn’t have cared less about any of Kirk’s crew.  But from Chehov to Sulu to Uhura, each and every one of the actors oozed charisma and lured me into investing myself in them.  They are distinctly their own personalities, and they’re a heck of a lot fun to watch in action (especially Simon Pegg as Scotty).

The true victory, however, is that Abrams took two characters who had frankly been done to death and made them fresh, magnetic, and appealing.  I never in a million years thought I’d find Spock and Kirk “cool,” but they are now indubitably just that!

Chris Pine’s James T. Kirk is arrogant, tough, funny, and incredibly compelling.  They were smart to start the film the way they did, because it makes us root for Kirk before we’ve even met him.  I wanted this underdog to succeed, even if he’d probably irritate me to no end in real life.  Pine pulls off Kirk’s overconfidence in a supremely amiable manner, and good for him, because otherwise the character wouldn’t have worked.

And I have to be honest—I previously thought Spock might have been the lamest character ever.  There was nothing remotely identifiable about him until Zachary Quinto took hold of the half-Vulcan and gave him a surprisingly robust edge.  Quinto’s Spock is far more human than he would like, full of rage and emotion, and you can literally see Quinto restraining Spock’s emotions as they fight for release.  His Spock is sarcastic, tense, and even dangerous.  And yet, even with all of these qualities, Quinto makes him likable—even vulnerable.  Again, because of how Spock is introduced to us, we can’t help but root for him as well.

I think that’s the real success of the film—they make us root for the crew of the Enterprise.  They make us care about the characters.  They make us want to see more of Spock and Kirk vying to one-up the other, even if eventually on friendly terms.  Most importantly—they make us want to see more of these two in action.

If you’re a science fiction fan, I cannot recommend Star Trek highly enough.  Even if you never enjoyed Star Trek before, I know you’ll walk out of the theater cheering for this crew.  And best of all?  While Abrams didn’t eradicate the past Star Trek movies, he made sure that the audience can’t know what will happen next for young Kirk and Spock.  He didn’t erase the past, but he muddied the future.  I know that I, for one, am looking forward to the next Star Trek movie, and I never thought I’d utter those words in a million years.