Star Trek Picard S01E09 Review: Et in Arcadia Ego crashes the landing

Episode nine is in the books. You can catch our previous reviews here…

Episode One earns a 10/10 – It’s Star Trek. It’s more modern, slicker, but still Star Trek. I’m glad it’s back. I’ve really, really missed it.

Episode Two earns an 8/10 – Picard’s second outing is a solid half of an episode, that itself is only an okay one-tenth of a story. I need more.

Episode three earns an 8/10 – The show’s third episode ends the storyline’s first act. We’re through the looking glass; now we see where this story is actually going.

Episode four earns a 5/10 — Patrick Stewart’s mellowed take on Picard continues to be a surreal spectacle as someone who’s been watching him play the role for as long as I can remember. Nevertheless, my interest in the show is waning.

Episode five earns a 6/10 – A marginal step-up from last week; competently directed and occasionally well-acted, but there’s not much to work with here.

Episode six earns a 5/10 –  I basically hate every character other than Picard and my love for him is purely a legacy matter since he acts nothing like he did in the old days.

Episode seven earns an 8/10 – What was good was great; what wasn’t was more of the same

Episode eight earns a 9/10 – Broken Pieces gives me hope that this show will stick the landing and earn its place in the pantheon of Star Trek.

*****

Well, that sucked.

I really wish I could say, after back to back good episodes, that Picard would start a two-part finale that promised an effective conclusion to its first season. I don’t want to be supremely disappointed in the show. I want to love it. I love Star Trek. I’ve loved it since I was three years old in the late-80s, watching reruns of the Original Series in my pajamas before going outside and pretending to be Kirk fighting a Gorn. I have seen every episode of everything Star Trek more times than I can imagine.

I’m sometimes criticized for being too lenient with properties I love, grading on a curve, but I think I’m too hard, sometimes; I tend to hold the things I grew up with to a higher standard…or maybe it’s just I rate those beloved things really high when they do okay and really low when they disappoint.

I love Star Trek but Picard’s first season is halfway through a very disappointing finale.

There was precisely one thing that I liked about the episode. Just one thing and it happened within the first handful of minutes: When Narek’s pursuant ship is damaged and he looks to be near death, Soji suggests letting him die, arguing that it’s justified since “he attacked us first.” Picard doesn’t miss a beat in offering a rebuttal:

There’s a difference between killing an attacking enemy and letting a wounded one die.

It was a nice bit of sage wisdom that this 25th-century version of Picard rarely is allowed to demonstrate. Typically he’s being quippy and hip, or being dressed down by the cynical and cold-hearted people that inhabit this universe. For a brief moment, in that one line, the old Star Trek that I fell in love with was back. That’s a line that any previous Star Trek captain could have uttered, from the pragmatic Kirk, to the eccentric Sisco, to the rash Janeway, and even to the often-wrongheaded Archer.

It was nice for the real Star Trek to pop in for a quick hello.

I suppose, if I’m feeling diplomatic myself, I might say that the giant space flower that eats the ship is something that would have been right at home on The Original Series. I appreciate the randomness of it, if nothing else.

That’s it, though; that’s all I’ve got. The rest is just straight garbage.

Let’s start with the absolutely horrendous job directing that Alex Kurtzman did. The staging was flat, the actor movement and blocking was boring, the acting—which has been hit and miss all season anyway—was especially bad. This is the first part of the finale; this is your last impression, which is almost as important as your first. You want to leave fans thirsty for more seasons and so far, I’m saying no thank you to that prospect.

This guy is the current top creative voice on all NuTrek and he’s about as bad for the job as any “top creative voice” can be for a property. Even more than Rick Berman who, for all his many faults as Gene Roddenberry’s successor, at least knew he wasn’t a writer/director and let more talented creative minds like Michael Pillar and Ira Behr run the shows.

Kurtzman is a hack and his work as writer/director throughout the past few years has only solidified it.

As for the plot of the episode, there barely was one. This two-part finale really feels like a one-part finale that’s been padded out into two. Nothing happens for a solid twenty minutes and the other twenty is spent with ten minutes of actual story being slooooowly stretched to fit the runtime. I’m okay with a slow-burn story as long as what’s slow about it is how it allows us to contemplate the morals being debated, etc. There’s none of that here. This is just a paper-thin story being stretched like butter over too much bread.

And then there are the hackneyed things.

Brent Spiner is back, this time playing yet another Soong relative. Apparently, Noonian Soong (creator of Data) had a son we never knew existed until this highly convenient moment.

And then there’s the colony of androids he and Dr. Maddox created, with gold skin and yellow eyes, except they all talk and act basically like normal people, creating a weird juxtaposition that never works. Then again, it could just be shoddy direction and acting holding it back.

I’m not even going to touch on the “this android read a few books on Vulcans and now can do a mind-meld because apparently robots can be telepathic or maybe telepathy can be learned from a book my name is Alex Kurtzman and I think all this Star Trek stuff is stupid and my ideas which I just stole from Mass Effect 3, the worst of the Mass Effect Trilogy are much better than all that silly Hugo award-winning stuff from a generation ago.”

I was insulted by this in a way I haven’t been since Star Trek Into Darkness. It wasn’t as insulting as that, but it’s in the same garbage can.

We’re three seasons into CBS’ new take on Star Trek and the most crystal clear lesson to take from it is this: Star Trek does not work as a serialized show. At best, it can be a good series that’s not good Trek. At worst, it’s a disaster on both fronts.

Picard isn’t a disaster, but it is proof that Star Trek works best when it tells its stories in an episodic format.

1/10 – Hammy, overacted, contrived, and soulless, Picard’s season finale (part one) sticks the proverbial landing about as well as Troi when she piloted the Saucer Section…

Not great, Bob.

Next week we have the actual finale, with HUMONGOUS, GALAXY-SPANNING STAKES so big they don’t even matter.

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