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

Top 10 Star Trek Enemy Races and Groups

 Star Trek has a rich trove of enemy alien races and organizations that have plagued our heroes throughout the many films and TV shows. Aside from being formidable, many of the opponents featured in the beloved sci-fi franchise were actually more complex and layered, which is why they resonate so much with fandom. These are the best of the lot and hopefully we’ll see some of them again when Star Trek: Discovery premieres next year.

The Breen with the Dominion

10. The Breen Confederacy: Little is known about this warlike, enigmatic race who wear fully enclosed refrigeration suits. Even their speech is undecipherable. Often mentioned in Star Trek shows they never appeared until the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Indiscretion” and later allied with the Dominion in the war against the Federation, Klingons and Romulans. This resulted in a Breen attack on Earth that destroyed Starfleet headquarters and set back the Federation war effort against the Dominion. This alone proved the Breen are a deadly adversary to be reckoned with.

Species 8472

9. Species 8472: The nearly undefeatable Borg met their match and then some when they tried assimilating Species 8472. In their first appearance in “Scorpion, Part I” (Star Trek: Voyager), the three-legged aliens shocked viewers when they easily wiped out entire Borg cubes. As one of the most alien-looking enemies featured in Star Trek, Species 8472  stand out due to their weird physiology and use of biotechnology; plus the fact that they kicked the Borg’s collective butts.

8. The Xindi: Made up of five distinct races, the Xindi inflicted a 9/11-type of attack on Earth in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “The Expanse”. The crew of the Enterprise entered Xindi space in a season-long storyline to prevent the race from destroying the Earth.

3 Xindi racesThe Xindi can be thought of as a prototype of the Federation due to the diverse makeup of their member races: reptilian, aquatic, insectoid, primate and arboreal. Eventually, we learned that they are just as diverse in their beliefs in that some factions are more warlike while others are more reasonable. This enabled Captain Archer and  the Enterprise crew to win over some Xindi members. But others continued with their final attack on Earth and had to be stopped.

7. Terra Prime: An unfortunate fact is that even in the near-paradise future of Star Trek the worst enemy is us, humanity. Many Star Trek stories dwelled on evil humans and organizations, whose antagonistic belief system ran counter to the more enlightened humans in Star Trek. Out of the many nefarious examples like Section 31, the Mirror Universe inhabitants, and rogue Starfleet officers the worst of the bunch is Terra Prime.

John Paxton and Terra Prime

Led by John Frederick Paxton, they are a xenophobic terrorist group in the 22nd century that wanted to isolate Earth and humanity from the galaxy and keep out all alien influences…sounds familiar? Terra Prime only appeared in “Demons” and “Terra Prime”, which were among the final episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise. If the show had continued they would have made a perfect adversary as Earth began its first steps towards forming the diverse Federation.

6. The Vidiian Sodality: If anything the Vidiians are the grossest looking enemy aliens to appear in any Star Trek. We never saw much of them in Star Trek: Voyager. but they were still unforgettable when they did show up. First introduced in the episode “Phage” the Vidiians are a race suffering from a deadly disease that ravages their bodies. In order to stay alive they graft onto themselves body parts from other races, which explains their hodgepodge look.

Vidiians

What makes them so scary is that they just see other races, including us, as resources to cull. Most of them do not think twice as they carve up their victims and distribute their body parts to other members of their race. To them, the fact that they are saving other Vidiians easily justifies their actions while it horrifies everyone else.

5. The Romulan Star Empire: On the whole, the Romulan Star Empire are the go-to totalitarian enemy in Star Trek. Stories dealing with them are basically commentaries about the Cold War in that the Romulans are bitter rivals of the Federation. An uneasy stalemate existed between the two powers as both were equally matched, but there is something more about this race of Vulcan offshoots.

Romulans in Star Trek: Nemesis

This was seen in their very first appearance (“Balance of Terror”, Star Trek), as we met an unnamed Romulan commander who played a cat-and-mouse game with Kirk and the Enterprise. He was Kirk’s equal in terms of cunning, but was sympathetic due to his weariness about war and devotion to duty. Throughout their many appearances in the Star Trek shows, the best episodes about them were the ones that had them as fully fleshed out people who weren’t quite evil but happened to be on the other side.

4. The Cardassian Union: Once highly enlightened and cultured, the Cardassians became militaristic and harsh in order to survive. Their totalitarian ways led to conflicts with other space-faring powers like the Federation. Their prejudiced beliefs about other races also justified their brutal occupation of the planet Bajor as they stripped that planet and its people of its resources.

Cardassian in Star Trek Deep Space Nine

Although they first appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation (“The Wounded”), the Cardassians were fully developed in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as one of the main adversaries. What set them apart from other villains was their love of intrigue and desire to regain lost glory, as well as their distinct look with grey and scaly skin. That show’s best stories showed that Cardassians had deep, nuanced and complicated viewpoints as they struggled to find their place in the galaxy.

3. The Klingon Empire: Arguably, the most popular alien race in Star Trek, the Klingons are the perfect antagonistic foil for the peaceful Federation. They first appeared in the classic Star Trek episode “Errand of Mercy” and like the Romulans, they are supposed to represent the West’s Cold War rivals. Known for their harsh and warlike demeanor, the Klingons actually have a complex code of honor and a rich culture. Backing up their brutish reputation, the Klingons are a militaristic match for the Federation with a fearsome fleet of warships and they are all too eager to prove their mettle against anyone.

Klingons

Even though they were the opposite of the Federation, the Klingons eventually became solid allies by the time Star Trek: The Next Generation came along. In the Star Trek spinoffs, more aspects about these noble savages were explored and we realized there was more to them than their love for fighting. That is why they have become so popular to the point that a real-life subculture has emerged that emulates the Klingons.

2. The Dominion: In many ways the Dominion can be considered the dark version of the Federation. They are composed of several different races, the most prominent being the shapeshifting Founders, the deceitful bureaucratic Vorta and the battle-hungry Jem’ Hadar–the thuggish muscle of the Dominion. But unlike the benevolent Federation, the Dominion are brutal conquerors, who only see other races as adversaries to defeat.

dominion

Their presence was alluded to in early episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as the Federation began exploring the distant Gamma Quadrant. This raised interest among viewers as to who they were, and they got their answer in the episode “The Jem’Hadar”. From the start the Dominion (represented at first by the reptilian-like shock troopers) demonstrated their ruthlessness and mantra to win at all costs. The Dominion soon proved that they were superior to Starfleet in battle tactics and weapons. When war eventually broke out, the Dominion decimated both the Federation and the Klingons. The fact that they came so close to nearly conquering the Federation is why the Dominion rate so highly on this list.

1. The Borg Collective: Ever since the cybernetic race first appeared in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Q Who?” they have thrilled and terrified fans. What is so frightening about them is their cold, adaptable nature. They forcibly assimilated other races they encounter and add their distinctiveness to their collective in a goal of achieving biological and technological perfection.

Borg

The Borg made an instant impact in their first appearance in how they quickly outmatched the Enterprise and would have assimilated the crew if not for the fact that Capt. Picard had to eat crow to get Q to save them. They are a relentless threat and what makes them more terrifying apart from the other Star Trek races is encountering them means a loss of one’s identity. Whenever they assimilate their victims and forcibly graft cybernetic parts onto them all traces of their personality are gone. By transforming victims into mindless zombies, the Borg turn anyone against their former friends and colleagues. This is something that the Enterprise crew grappled with when Captain Picard was assimilated and used Starfleet’s tactics against the Enterprise and the Federation.

Waldermann Rivera

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Star Trek Movie Retrospective–Star Trek

“Punch it”

Captain Christopher Pike’s order to take the Enterprise into warp space

posterDon’t worry readers, the review for the new Star Trek Into Darkness is coming right up. But first, let’s look at its predecessor, the eleventh Star Trek film. After Star Trek: Nemesis became a box office failure in 2002 and the series Star Trek: Enterprise was canceled in 2005, the franchise seemed to have died. Paramount Studios realized they ran Star Trek into the ground and so it went on hiatus. The fortieth anniversary of the original TV show came and went without any fanfare and implied that no one cared about Star Trek anymore.

However, J.J. Abrams, the man behind the classic TV show Lost, was brought in to rejuvenate the franchise. It was decided to bring Star Trek back as a film series rather than a TV show and so Abrams and his team rebooted the franchise, resulting in the 2009 feature film Star Trek that went back to the beginning. The film was a rousing success but sparked controversy among stalwart fans.

Star Trek begins with a dizzying, close up shot of the starship Kelvin gliding past the camera as it investigates a lightning storm in space. This storm turns into a black hole and from it emerges a gigantic spaceship shaped somewhat like a squid with sharp mechanical kelvin2tendrils. This ship immediately opens fire on the Kelvin with advanced weaponry. The Kelvin isn’t a match but puts up a gallant fight. The attackers demand that the Kelvin’s captain, Robau (Farin Tahir), go to their ship to discuss a surrender. Right away these scenes signaled that Star Trek was reinvigorated with wild, kinetic battle scenes.

Robau leaves First Officer George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth) in command and is killed in the enemy ship by its crew, a group of bald, tattooed Romulans. Kirk orders a shipwide evacuation and covers it by setting the Kelvin on a collision course with the attacking ship. One of the evacuees is his pregnant wife Winona (Jennifer Morrison), who goes into labor in an escaping shuttlecraft. Kirk is unable to join her because he has to manually fly the Kelvin into the enemy ship. He is able, however, to hear the first cries of his newborn son James Tiberius Kirk moments before the Kelvin smashes into the Romulan ship.

George Kirk’s sacrifice wasn’t in vain, the enemy ship is crippled, giving several shuttlecraft an opportunity to escape…

shipyard

Years later, Kirk’s son grows up to be a rebellious, angry young man (Chris Pine) without any direction in life and living in Iowa by a shipyard that is constructing the Enterprise. After a bar fight, he meets Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), who sees some potential in James Kirk. Pike is able to convince the young man to join Starfleet.

During his training Kirk meets many people who will become important parts of his life, notably Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) and Spock (Zachary Quinto). Ironically, Kirk and Spock do not get along at first. Spock is a by-the-book officer who cannot abide Kirk’s brash and reckless demeanor. Things come to a head after Kirk takes the Kobayashi Maru simulator test, which Spock developed to train cadets, and is caught cheating.

crew

Kirk is under inquiry for his actions when fate intervenes. Starfleet receives an emergency distress call from the planet Vulcan and all available ships on Earth are dispatched. Among them is the new U.S.S. Enterprise commanded by Pike with Spock as its first officer.

With McCoy’s help, Kirk is able to get onboard the Enterprise as it joins the armada. The ship is unable to jump into warp space with the other ships thanks to an error made by the helmsman Hikaru Sulu (John Cho ). It turns out that this delay and Kirk learning of a lightning storm reported by Vulcan helps saves the ship. Kirk guesses that the Enterprise will be facing the same fate as the Kelvin and tells Pike. When the time the Enterprise drops out of warp space near Vulcan,  the crew finds a floating junkyard of destroyed ship parts.

shipwrecksThe other Starfleet ships were easily destroyed by the same Romulan ship that destroyed the Kelvin. The ship had launched a long, tethered drilling platform to Vulcan’s surface. When the Enterprise is discovered, the Romulan ship’s commander, Nero (Eric Bana), orders an attack on the Starfleet vessel but stops when he realizes it’s the Enterprise. The Romulan demands that Pike go to his ship just as was done with Robau. Pike agrees, but before leaving, he promotes Kirk to first officer and leaves command of the Enterprise to Spock. He has Kirk, Sulu and a redshirt accompany him in Pike’s shuttlecraft. Before Pike turns himself in, the trio are clandestinely launched via parachutes to the drilling platform to disable it. After fighting off  Romulans on the platform, Kirk and Sulu are able to disable it. But they’re too late, the drill already reached the planet’s core. The Romulans release a substance called red matter that creates a black hole in Vulcan’s core, dooming the world.

kirk sulu

In a desperate move, Spock beams down to Vulcan just in time to save his father Sarek (Ben Cross) and a few others but not his mother (Winona Ryder). Shortly after, he and the handful of survivors are beamed back to the Enterprise as Vulcan is destroyed from within.

Spock struggles not displaying emotions over the death of his mother and world and Pike’s capture. He decides to regroup with the fleet but Kirk tries to convince him otherwise. The Romulans are heading to Earth and Kirk demands that they try to stop them. After they argue for several minutes, Spock has Kirk removed from the bridge and ejected from an escape capsule to a nearby planet, Delta Vega, and orders the Enterprise to resume its course to rendezvous with the fleet.

old spockAfter the capsule lands,  Kirk breaks out and finds himself in a frozen world filled with predatory animals out to snack on him. He is saved from one huge animal by a mysterious Vulcan who turns out to be a very old Spock (Leonard Nimoy). This Spock mind melds with Kirk and he learns that Spock is from the future as are the bald Romulans. In the late 24th century, the Romulans’ homeworld was destroyed by a supernova that threatened other worlds. From his own ship, Spock launched a sample of the red matter to destroy the supernova by creating a black hole. As he tried to escape the black hole, he encountered Nero and his ship. The Romulan was enraged at Spock because the Vulcan promised the Romulans he would save their world, now his wife and family are dead. Before anything could happen, Nero and Spock’s ships fell into the black hole, which was a doorway to the past. Nero had Spock abandoned on Delta Vega so that he could witness the destruction of Vulcan and experience the pain that Nero felt in the future.

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