Star Trek: Picard – A Season In Review

second picard poster

The first season of Star Trek: Picard has just concluded and it’s time to take a look at the season and the show itself. There will be many spoilers coming up, so if anyone has not seen the show streaming on CBS All Access or Amazon Prime then turn back. Otherwise, read on!

Star Trek: Picard naturally centers on the ongoing story of Admiral (retired) Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) as he left behind a tranquil existence at his French vineyard for one more grand adventure/mission which will reshape the galaxy.

The show takes place in 2399, twenty years after the film, Star Trek: Nemesis, and the death of the android Starfleet officer Data (Brent Spiner). Jean-Luc Picard angrily resigned from Starfleet fourteen years earlier and tends to his vineyard along with his Romulan employees, Zhaban (Jamie McShane) and Laris (Orla Brady). Picard meets Soji Asha (Isa Briones), a young woman who turned out to be a synthetic person and Data’s daughter. She is killed by Romulan secret agents but Picard learned that Soji had a twin sister, Dahj, and sets out to rescue her before the Romulans get to her. It turns out that Dahj is working in a deactivated Borg cube operated by Romulans and ex-Borg drones.

During his sojourn to find Dahj and protect her from the Romulan agents, a team forms around Picard who come in and out of his story. They include Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill), a cyberneticist; Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), a former Borg last seen nearly twenty years ago in Star Trek: Voyager, and is now a space vigilante; Picard’s former crewmate Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd) who has a bit of an addiction problem; Elnor (Evan Evagora), a noble Romulan warrior devoted to protecting Picard; and Chris Rios (Santiago Cabrera), a former Starfleet commander who pilots his own private spaceship La Sirena and is a roguish space pirate in the Han Solo/Malcolm Reynolds mode.

sirena and old romulan ship

The Romulans secret agents are after Dahj because they believe her to be the fulfillment of an ancient prophesy that spells doom for all organic life in the galaxy. They hope to learn from her the location of her homeworld in order to obliterate it and prevent the prophesy. Obviously it is up to the nonagenarian Picard to get back into the captain’s chair and save Dahj and the galaxy before time runs out.

Star Trek: PIcard is another welcome Star Trek spinoff that effortlessly picks up the story of Star Trek after the events in Star Trek: Nemesis and parts of the Star Trek reboot. Doing this gives weight and meaning to the Star Trek Prime universe by exploring the ramifications of the destruction of the Romulan homeworld shown in the Star Trek reboot and the subsequent refugee status of many Romulans though their overall status of their government was unclear.It also gives a well balanced exploration of the Romulans themselves; something most of the other shows and films failed to do. Not all of them are one-dimensional, sneering villains.

The show is undeniably a sincere tribute to fans of the Star Trek Prime universe and of course, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Some may complain that it’s too much of a tribute with its numerous references, Easter eggs and cameo appearances, but they’re all just background layering for the uninitiated while rewarding for fans.

The show is clearly a Star Trek show, yet it isn’t. How can that be? Well, the show is not focused on current Starfleet personnel but on civilians and former officers. Freed from regulations and decorum the characters give us a feel for how life is like in the Federation and nearby regions for non-Starfleet people. The vaunted Federation is not as revered or as noble as presented in other Star Trek shows. In fact, there is an underlying notion that the Federation may be entering a period of decay; that it’s best times are past. Hence, one of the reasons why Picard walked away from Starfleet. Star Trek: Picard is edgier than the typical Star Trek show; there is a lot of cursing including F bombs. Most of the characters are deeply flawed including the humans, which goes vehemently against the idealistic and ultimately unrealistic Roddenberry future utopia where humanity is completely without fault. This will make some fans uncomfortable but it helps make the show more real and relatable to most viewers.

What we’re left with is a show that feels a bit like Firefly in that it stars roguish types who disdain authority. These are some truly interesting characters with their own complex back stories. Standouts include Rios and Raffie, who are both broken souls with troubled pasts and unwittingly gain redemption by joining Picard’s quest. It doesn’t hurt that both characters are well performed. Other characters like Elnor seek a just cause or for something to believe in. And holding the group dynamic is Picard himself, the moral glue that holds them together.

It goes without saying that Patrick Stewart puts in a bravura performance in the role that made him famous. As always, he eloquently portrays the bitter and defeated old man who finds a real reason to go out and make a difference in the galaxy. Stewart is so comfortable and elegant playing Jean-Luc Picard, it truly is a shame he has not done the role in so long. But at least he is back to usher in a new era of the Star Trek Prime universe.

Unlike most Star Trek shows, Star Trek: Picard follows a serialized format that is essentially a mystery. The payoff in the final episodes (“Et in Arcadia Ego, Parts I and II”) felt a bit predictable but it had its fist-pumping moments with cinema-quality effects and cinematography; one of those standouts was when Admiral William Riker (Jonathan Frakes, who also turned up in the season’s best episode “Napenthe”) literally shows up with the cavalry. Still, the payoff wasn’t as invigorating or as intense as “Such Sweet Sorrow” the second season finale of Star Trek: Discovery. Coming way from the finale its realized that certain plot elements were unresolved, which was annoying. Mother bit of a copout was how the show resolved the personal journey of Jean-Luc Picard. Without giving anything away, it was an interesting twist but it robbed much of the emotional impact of the fate of the former Starfleet admiral. Let’s leave it at that.

picard takes charge

Star Trek: Picard is a welcome return to the classic heyday of the uplifting era of Star Trek: The Next Generation and its immediate spinoffs. In these times, the show provides a much-needed reminder of the wonderful potential of humankind and what we should aspire to.

José Soto

Tron: Uprising Presents A Bold Digital Realm

As most of us are staying home as a precaution to the coronavirus, one way to pass time is to binge-watch the myriad of TV shows and films available in our physical media collections or streaming services.

Anyone who has Disney+ will see that the streaming service has the animated series Tron: Uprising. This show aired on Disney XD shortly after Tron: Legacy as a holdover to an expected sequel. Sadly, the sequel to Tron: Legacy never happened and the animated series was cancelled. This was a shame because Tron: Uprising was a well-done show that expanded on the world building of the Tron universe.

Below is a quick review of the show that was done for a previous version of Starloggers back when the show debuted. Tron: Uprising may not be as attention grabbing as other shows nor as fondly remembered but it is certainly a notable sci-fi show, which should be on anyone’s queue list; besides there are other things to watch on Disney+ besides The Mandalorian!

Tron: Uprising, the Disney animated series, follows the adventures of a young program called Beck (Elijah Wood), who becomes a heroic rebel leader in a virtual realm that exists within computers. This reality is the Grid that was visited by humans in the films and the series focuses on the programs that exist as distinct entities within the Grid.

The series actually takes place between the two films and has many aspects and references to the films, which will delight fans, while adding nuances and layers to the unique digital world. The cityscapes are wonderfully detailed and build upon the architecture seen in the Tron films. The result is that the digital world seems more complete, more vibrant, and more alive. Kudos to Disney’s animation team for pulling off this feat.

Disney released a preview episode on iTunes, YouTube and on the Disney Channel that sets up the series and is a must viewing to understand what is going in with the regular series. In that preview called “Beck’s Beginning” viewers are introduced to Beck a young happy-go-lucky mechanic and disc player in the distant Grid city called Argon. He has a joyous existence with his friends until the forces of the tyrannical program called Clu arrive and occupy the city.

Clu, is a doppelganger program of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges in the films) that became corrupted, took over the Grid and betrayed the heroic program Tron (Bruce Boxleitner, who reprises his role by providing the voice of Tron in this series).

After Clu’s forces, which are led by General Tesler (Lance Henriksen), kill or derez Beck’s friend, he decides to strike back against Clu’s reign. Tron by this time has become a cult hero who was supposedly killed by Clu. So Beck decides to assume Tron’s identity to inspire a revolution. Along the way he encounters enemies and allies including Tron himself, who passes on the mantle to young Beck.

Some of the graphics of Tron: Uprising are beautiful and faithfully represent the digital world of Tron but while the series is computer animated the series, on the whole, has a more traditional animated feel. It isn’t an obvious approach but it helps distinguish it from the films. But in trying to set itself apart from the films the series goes too far in terms of the characters’ anatomy that are grossly disproportional; characters are drawn with long, giraffe-like legs! It can be distracting but it doesn’t detract from the show. Many sequences are simply stunning to watch and capture the essence of Tron, especially the latter film Tron: Legacy. It’s an auspicious start for an animated series, one can only hope that future episodes maintain the quality seen in the first few episodes.

The digital world of Tron lives on with Tron: Uprising and it can be enjoyed by fans of those films, and even those who haven’t seen them.

Twilight Of DC Comics?

The latest rumors percolating around the internet is about DC Comics and how it will cease publication. The reason behind this is low sales and loss of confidence by DC Comics’ owners, AT&T. While the comic book company is challenged by declining sales, it is too early to start writing obituaries for the company.

It’s been reported that AT&T does not have any interest in comic book publications and considers DC Comics to be a financial drain to the point that they want to sell DC. More dire is that if the upcoming DC Comics 5G revamp does not succeed then DC will fold. That is ludicrous and an exaggeration. First of all, even though DC comic book sales are down, the characters are still popular. Just look at the amount of money made in merchandising and from other media. Namely, TV shows, films and video games. The video game Batman: Arkham Knight and Batman: Arkham are some of the most revered video games ever released.

Sure, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) is struggling right now, but the cinematic universe is rife with potential. Want proof? Look at the positive reaction generated by the clip introducing the new Batman in next year’s The Batman. It is too easy to pile on the DCEU because Shazam! underperformed last year and Birds of Prey was a box office failure. Too many are comparing the DCEU to the MCU, which is unfair since the MCU was a properly planned cinematic universe that is reaping the rewards now. But keep in mind, the MCU may not be the top dog going forward and this could coincide with the DCEU taking over as the top cinematic universe. Just greenlight a Man of Steel sequel and all should be fine. 😀

Then there is the high anticipation for new DC TV shows like Stargirl and Green Lantern. Also, many current TV shows are getting lots of attention like the ones streaming on the DC Universe app (Harley Quinn, Doom Patrol and Titans) or on The CW–the recent crossover event Crisis on Infinite Earths earned tons of positive publicity as several versions of live-action DC superheroes made appearances and teamed up.

Getting back to the comics, the low sales DC is grappling with is shared with all the other comic book companies. There are many reasons for declining sales such as rising costs, other competing media, and so on. What can be done to deal with the sales? That is the million-dollar question and it is clear the current comic book model and distribution no longer works. A solution as innovative as direct sales was back in the late 70s is needed to allow the medium to survive. Whether this means going completely digital, lowering prices, or changing the print format (going directly to graphic novels or trade paperbacks) remains to be seen.

Of course, AT&T could license off their comic books and have another company create their comics. But that could lead to headaches down the road. What if a new character is introduced in the hypothetical licensed comic, does that character belong to DC? The best example is Marvel back in the 90s. The company canceled several comics and hired Rob Liefeld and other Image creators to relaunch core titles like Captain America into their own reboots. At the same time, Marvel sold the film and TV rights to film companies to raise cash and climb out of bankruptcy. The result was that the Liefeld books were poorly received and eventually killed, while to this date, Marvel is struggling with trying to regain the rights to all their characters. Hence the mess over Spider-Man’s film and TV rights, ditto for the Hulk. DC Comics is in a state of flux right now. This was evident with the recent dismissal of DC co-publisher Dan DiDio; and how 5G will fare is unknown. The comic books as we know will most likely change, but its too fluid to guess how, so we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, if any of you don’t want to see a twilight of DC comics then remember to keep buying them.

 

 

Steven Spielberg No Longer Directing Indiana Jones 5

The news was not unexpected, but it was still disappointing. Earlier this week, we learned that acclaimed director Steven Spielberg will not direct the upcoming fifth Indiana Jones film. Now the only person left from the original Indy films is the star himself, Harrison Ford, who is still committed to donning the fedora and leather jacket one last time.

Even though the announced new director for the project, James Mangold, is a great director in his own right, this development cannot adequately inspire much excitement over Indiana Jones 5. James Mangold has a superb filmography, he directed the best Fox X-Men film, Logan, among other terrific films. By itself Mangold’s attachment (keep in mind he is only in talks to take over Indiana Jones 5) should be great news. But this is trying to follow up on Steven Spielberg, one of the greatest film directors of all time. Following up on the auteur is a near-impossible task. Just ask Joe Johnston when he directed Jurassic Park III.

However, Mangold will likely turn in a fine film, but it just won’t feel the same. This will likely inject some new blood into the franchise, but at this point, why not just recast the role and start over with the character?

With Harrison Ford out of the way, the new slate of Indiana Jones films could smoothly go back to the 1930s time period or even the 1940s and tell new stories. The films do not nor should they remake Raiders of the Lost Ark or the other Indiana Jones films. That would be blasphemous and invite unfair comparisons. There are plenty of mystical or sci-fi macguffins that the swashbuckling archaeologist could chase after. Doing a straight recast will be a good jumping on point for those who haven’t seen the previous films and fans, as well. Otherwise, why bother with the film?

Getting back to the original team behind Indy, George Lucas was already not going to be involved with the fifth film. So, right there Indiana Jones 5 felt incomplete without the original trio, though some may have celebrated that idea given the negative reaction to Lucas’ story ideas for the last film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Frankly, this was a shame since he co-created the character.

Harrison Ford has been itching to wield his character’s iconic bullwhip one last time. He is in his mid-70s now, and although he looks healthier and fitter than his contemporaries, his age would strain credulity that he can carry out intensive action scenes. In the fifth film, no one could see Indy outrunning a giant boulder without suspending disbelief. It could be worse than the nuked fridge scene from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or jumping out of a plane in a life raft during Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Frankly, given Ford’s age, an Indiana Jones 5 would have to be made very soon.

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Harley Quinn & Her Fantabulously Funny Show

With all the headlines about how the film Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is not doing well in cinemas, many have overlooked the animated series Harley Quinn, which is a better showcase for the popular DC villain. Currently streaming on the DC Universe app, Harley Quinn is a hilarious and better fit for one Harley Quinn than the live-action film.

As can be guessed by the title, Harley Quinn is about the Joker’s ex-girlfriend (voiced by Kaley Cuoco) and her efforts to move past the Clown Prince of Crime and build her own reputation as a major league villain. Along the way, she acquires her own gang of misfit villains who turn out to be something not quite a family but almost as close knit. The gangmembers include her BFF Poison Ivy (Lake Bell), who functions as a world-weary straight foil to Harley’s antics and rants; Dr. Psycho (Tony Hale), a small-statured, misogynistic megalomaniac whose foul-mouth gets him exiled from the Legion of Doom; Clayface (Alan Tudyk), who aspires to be a great thespian as he shapeshifts; and King Shark (Ron Funches), a deadly half-man/half-shark hybrid who is generally good natured and a social media wiz.

In the episodes, Harley has to contend with her skeptical colleagues and fickle public as she tries to pull off the major crime that will put her name on the books. During the misadventures she encounters many DC heroes and villains, especially Batman (Diedrich Bader) and the Joker (Alan Tudyk) himself. During her interactions with the Joker and the way she keeps bringing him up, it’s clear to everyone, except Harley, that she has unresolved feelings for the Batman foe. As the series progresses, the viewers and Harley herself learn much about her and what drives her. All jokes aside, the series is quite deep as she learns to live a life without Joker and be her own person. Watching her grief and bitterness, and the Joker’s apparent disregard for her, it is easy to feel sympathetic for her. But this show is not a pity fest. Just as soon as an emotional moment occurs it is quickly glossed over with some slapstick moment or raunchy humor.

Harley Quinn is way out there when it comes to vulgarity. Riddled with F bombs and lewd humor and bloody violence, this series is definitely not for the kiddies. Some prudes will be put off by the raunchy nature of Harley Quinn but it will have everyone else in stitches, especially comic book fans. Surprisingly, the show doesn’t do any fourth-wall breaking like Deadpool so that is a relief since Harley Quinn finds other ways to keep viewers laughing or grinning with giddiness. Namely the characters and plots as seen in the episodes.

In one episode, “Finding Mr. Right”, Harley steals the Batmobile to gather headlines and Batman’s attention. Instead, she and her crew are harassed by the Damien Wayne version of Robin who is basically a bratty kid that outright lies about his interactions with Harley. This turns her into a public laughing stock and her efforts to make herself seem formidably evil kept backfiring.

Other episodes are downright bizarre and nonsensical, but still amusing. “You’re a Damn Good Cop, Jim Gordon”, has the police chief (Chris Meloni) becoming best friends with Clayface’s dismembered hand. Long story short, after Clayface loses his right hand, it becomes an independent entity complete with stubby legs and a face on its palm. Brought to Jim Gordon as evidence by Batman, the hand and Gordon bond due to their loneliness. It has to be be seen to be believed!

Throughout all the zaniness, Harley truly shines as a character and a comedienne. Her friendship with Poison Ivy is arguably the heart of the show and their comedic chemistry work perfectly and go up there with Lucy and Ethel or Laverne and Shirley.

Harley Quinn deserves much more attention than it is getting. It could be due to the low number of subscribers the DC Universe app receives or Birds of Prey has drowned out the animated series. Thankfully, the powers that be saw how well done the show was executed and Harley Quinn is getting a second season which will come out this April. So we’ll be treated to more funny antics from one Harley Quinn.