PICARD IS TASKED WITH SAVING THE UNIVERSE – AGAIN!!

AUDIO PODCAST OPTION OF STAR TREK: PICARD REVIEW

SHORT TAKE:

Newest Star Trek show, this one starring Patrick Stewart as the now aged and retired Admiral Jean luc Picard on a quest to rescue a friend’s daughter and, oh by the way, save the Universe while he’s at it. And while it’s not as good as Star Trek: Next Generation or most of the movies, it is more “Star Trek-ian” than Discovery.

WHO SHOULD WATCH:

Unfortunately, THIS Star Trek venture uncharacteristically includes: profanity, even blasphemies, drug use, and hints at alternate lifestyles, which makes this show inappropriate for younger teens.

LONG TAKE:

I just got finished watching the first season of Star Trek: Picard. And while I was delighted to see Patrick Stewart in the saddle again, especially with cameos from the Star Trek universe, if this is the best the writers can come up with, then maybe it’s time for Picard to hang up his stirrups for good.

Like Discovery and unlike Star Trek‘s original inception, it is not episodic but moves along like a 10 hour movie (10 episodes at about 1 hour each). That is good and bad. If the storyline does not appeal to you then your are out of luck. You can’t drop into the middle of the season. Unlike the original shows it does not always seek to demonstrate the best that mankind can do, but far too often sinks to its lowest level, from drug addiction to bureaucratic disregard for entire civilizations, resulting in prejudice and genocide by neglect.

Patrick Stewart and the troupe from the original show were wonderful. Stewart throws himself into every role he plays. To underline that in a comic way, see the hilarious Honest Trailers for Star Trek: Next Generation.

I did think the plot pretty compelling and grew organically, pun intended, (you’ll see what I mean if/when you watch the show), from previous plots and concepts from the Trek universe. But while everyone is so busy being excited about the overall story line they forgot to include one of the things that made the Trek universe so relatable – the human element.

They took a few broad-stroke shots at it – but much of it felt like last minute thrown together ideas put on paper from the first brainstorming session.

For example: I know – Let’s give each of the characters some cliched “brokenness”. Rios, the captain of the ship Picard hires, (Santiago Cabrera), is a former Starfleet officer with an unresolved trauma. Picard’s best friend, Raffi, (Michelle Hurd) whose name inevitably reminds me of the children’s entertainer,  looks and acts like a female Bob Marley – drug habit included. All she’s missing is the Jamaican accent. NOT to mention the fact that even the most hard core Trek fan knew nothing about her. Alison Pill (Hail, Caesar!) is Jurati, a scientist with a tragic personal relationship with another familiar scientist (who I will not mention in the name of avoiding spoilers). Throw in some subtle, politically correct, lesbian overtones and you have the making of a Star Trek that might embarrass even the fanboys from Galaxy Quest operating out of their garage.

Not all is lost.

Soji (Isa Briones) does a good job as the damsel in distress with a past which propels the rest of the story arc.

The space special effects are pretty cool. Nothing spectacular, groundbreaking, or anything to write home about, but definitely up to the standard Star Trek TV show.

Jeff Russo creates a music score which uplifts familiar themes and makes them fresh. Hauntingly appropriate for the space through which the characters travel as well as the space of isolation through which each of the characters move.

BUT! And here I come to one of the more egregious points of evidence proving the show makers did not really do their homework on the characters. What the heck did they do to Data? I understand Brent Spiner is, realistically, decades older and a number of pounds heavier than when last he played Data in 1992’s Nemesis. But the makeup job they did on Spiner must now be a relief to those who did the understandably maligned CGI job on Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy. The Data in Picard makes the creepy bad youthening of Bridges in Tron: Legacy look like the amazingly good job they did on Chris Evans in Captain America: The First Avenger.

Data, in Picard, was suspension of belief killing bad. Contrast Data from the original show.

Picard‘s Data’s contact lenses were too big, covering the whites of his eyes, and the wrong color. The pupils were too small and reptilian looking. The color of his skin made Data look as though he had spent his afterlife in a tanning booth. And do not get me started on the semicircular hair line which made him look like Spiner had just come from an audition to replace Shemp Howard in a movie about The Three Stooges. How hard would it have been to touch up Spiner’s hair, contacts and skin color to make him look better than that he had spent 15 minutes in a chair with somebody’s leftover makeup bag? To quote Sam Rockwell’s character, Guy, in Galaxy Quest: “Don’t you people WATCH the show??!!”

ALSO, and I’m trying to be as spoiler-free as possible, there were some rationalizations for decisions in the last show’s denoument which should have been run through a couple more rewrites. I hate being this obscure but do not want to give away MAJOR spoilers, so if you want to know the details to what I am referring before or instead of watching the show, I’ll explain way down below.

ALSO also, the acting wasn’t all it could have been. Sometimes the cast sounded like they only had one table reading under their belt before they were thrown in front of the camera.

The cameos were great, with the previous regulars stepping right back into character as though they had just wrapped up their previous season or movie last week, (for which I do not want to include pictures because, again, I don’t want to give spoilers). And while Patrick Stewart gives it his all, I cannot honestly say the same for his fledgling crew. The new kids on the block were really hit and miss ranging from: not bad and establishing the groundwork for a new character, to first season Deanna Troi weeping, to awkwardly inappropriate and dulled affect.

I’m not suggesting that Picard is terrible or that you shouldn’t watch it. And there are lots of surprises which I don’t want to give away. But I am saying I was periodically disappointed. To be fair many of the Star Trek shows needed to get their first season under their belt before they hit their stride, mature their characters and improve their special effects – INCLUDING Star Trek: The Next Generation from which Picard originally sprung in 1987 .

But, to be blunt, as fond as I am of Patrick Stewart and as much as I respect his Shakespearean grounded acting ability, he is 89 years old. They don’t have time for a practice run if they’re going to get any traction with this show. I would hate to think this was Patrick Stewart’s last hurrah with Star Trek.

While almost any Star Trek is better than NO Star Trek, Star Trek: Picard could have been better.

MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW – YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

Near the tip end of this season’s last episode, Picard collapses and dies from a brain anomaly in his parietal lobe, caused by Irumodic Syndrome first referenced in All Good Things (the ST: TNG finale). OK – ballsy move. So – Star Trek being what it is, and no one really dies if they’re super popular – they put Picard’s mind into a “golem” or super advanced android that looks like him (Is anyone surprised?) Great – fine and in keeping with the story line. BUT they explain that his new android body was given an algorithm to age and he will not have any more years than he otherwise would have.

No extra years?! This incredible new body and it’s given to Picard pre-aged like a pair of pre-distressed blue jeans??

Wait! WHAT? REALLY? On PURPOSE!? WHY?

Because, it is explained to Picard, they “knew” he would not want anything to change with the already 94 year old (character not Stewart) body he was used to. EXCUSE ME!? I think I would have put my android fist through his stupid face. Did they not think that maybe HE MIGHT want a few more years?

OK Back up. I understand the writers can NOT do that because Stewart really is old – 89 as I have said. So the fact Picard’s character has to stay old is a given. But they needed a better reason than THAT. Whoever came up with THAT dumb excuse should have been relegated to checking for typos in the script.

This is an unfortunate limit that would only be believable if it was forced on them by circumstance. How about they had no choice? Maybe something about how an extension of years would have taken adjustments in the algorithms already in the golem which they didn’t have time to accomplish because he was dying? Or they couldn’t add years because the golem was built for someone else and there were problems getting him IN the golem. How about an elf came along and held a phaser to their head to prevent them from adding extra years? ANYTHING but this bizarre rationale – that Picard was USED to his existing deteriorating body so they KNEW he wouldn’t want to make any changes……This is just a new level of casual bad writing and beneath the quality we expect from Star Trek. Hopefully they will do better in the future.

The Orville – an update – NOW A WARNING?!!: Seth MacFarlane’s stand against science

On October 12, 2017 I posted a tentative but positive blog review of The Orville and told you I would update with any new insights or concerns. The very next show, "Krill," provided one. Originally I endorsed the show for mid teens and up. And while that continues to be true as far as content, visuals and violence go, I must in good conscience add a caveat. I would NOT encourage ANYone young or adult to watch who is not spiritually mature and confident.

The latest show, "Krill" while well written and in all fairness approaches the subject matter with an intelligent script, does state up front and baldly that the characters believe there is no place for religious belief in their society.

To give the writers their due – unlike a lot of other shows and movies – they do NOT disrespect or place as strawmen any Judeo-Christian philosophy or representative. The religion they face is more of an Aztec one held by the Krill, who apparently, as the writers created them, believe that all other creatures who are NOT Krill are like animals without souls and can be treated as cattle.

The premise of the episode addresses the hostilities between the Krill and the Union. During a firefight, the Orville manages with a Picard/Stargazer type maneuver to outfox and destroy a much more powerful Krill ship. They retrieve a Krill shuttle from the wreckage and Gordon and Ed are sent undercover as Krill to retrieve a copy of the Krill sacred book, the Ankhana, in order for the Union to study and perhaps find grounds for detente between the cultures.

While this all sounds like serious stuff, and the topic is treated with respect, in Orville fashion there are light moments. When Ed and Gordon, in the guise of the Krill and their far bulkier uniforms, approach the bridge of the Krill ship to pay respects to the captain, they get stuck trying to go through the doorway at the same time. It’s the kind of thing that happens that you suspect would have occurred in the course of all the Star Trek shows – something that would happen to normal people. Which is why in the previous blog I suggested that The Orville is what REALLY was going on behind the sanitized version brought to us by Kirk’s Star Trek and all of its conceptual descendants.

When Gordon finds out the Krill god is named Avis, the smart alec Gordon has a field day. Sidestepping the question of why Gordon would know of a 400 year old car rental company as irrelevant, when confronted by the Krill spiritual leader in unauthorized perusal of the Ankhana they explain they were seeking solace on the loss of their ship, to which Gordon intones: "Oh wise and powerful Avis cover the loss of our vehicle."

And yet this episode still manages to creatively and intelligently include issues on the morality of war time actions, respect for other culture’s beliefs and how far does one go to protect innocents in the line of fire. Heavy stuff in a show which still manages to evoke laugh out loud scenarios.

I respect people who honestly speak their minds and MacFarlane does exactly that. With no pussy footing around, in the course of being briefed on the Krill political situation the Union Admiral Ozawa says "…generally when a civilization becomes more technologically advanced their adherence to religion declines…" and everyone nods sagely and approvingly. Of course, this is a blind denial of the devout men upon whose shoulders those "technologically advanced civilizations" stand: Galileo, Newton, Mendel, Pascal, Descartes, Pasteur are just a handful of the most famous superstars. And it might comes as a shock to these sadly ignorant writers that the theory of the Big Bang on which they hang so many of their hats was FIRST postulated by a Roman Catholic priest, WHILE a Roman Catholic priest – Georges Lemaitre TWO YEARS BEFORE Hubble suggested it, and whose theory was lauded by none other than Albert Einstein, who publically endorsed Lemaitre’s theory even as Hubble’s was being published.

There are literally thousands of devout Catholic contributors to the sciences who were trained in Catholic founded and funded universities. Not to mention the devout Christian Protestant contributors NOT to mention devout practicing Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims who – all the while adhering to and practicing their faith, believing in a Divine Creator and PRACTICING THEIR RELIGION, discovered brilliant insights in every discipline: biology, astronomy, paleontology, optometry, genetics, physics, chemistry, algebra, calculus – etc. BELOW FIND A SAMPLING OF CATHOLIC SCIENTISTS AND A SMALL EXCERPT A-C FROM AN EXTENSIVE LIST OF CATHOLIC SCIENTISTS THROUGHOUT THE AGES.

Sadly, it never occurs to anyone to mention that the likes of Pasteur and Mendel were as cutting edge and "technologically advanced" for their time as the people of The Orville believe they are…or that WE, in our egotism, believe WE are. It is what CS Lewis might have called chronological bigotry – wherein people who are anti-theists rely on a false assumption that events and concepts closer in time to their point in history – the "NEW" – have more merit, JUST because they are "new", than those events or concepts which preceded them.

It is tragic that Mr. MacFarlane's atheism, based upon what I have read from his interviews, stems from a hero worship of Carl Sagan and the classic misapprehension that science and religion are at odds – that to believe in one you must dismiss the other. This is, of course, absurd on a number of counts, not the least of which is the Catholic Church's support – at periods in time the SOLE support – for scientific study in the West. AGAIN – CHECK OUT THE TRUNCATED LIST BELOW THEN CHECK OUT THE WIKIPEDIA.COM PAGE FROM WHICH JUST THIS SMALL ENUMERATION COMES: LAY CATHOLIC SCIENTISTS then TAKE A LOOK AT THE CATHOLIC CHURCHMEN SCIENTISTS:

Although the ethics of waging war are treated with a balanced hand, the treatment of belief in God is not. The belief in even a philosophy as nebulous as an Intelligent Designer is dismissed out of hand and assumptions are made from that premise with no counter argument.

So while I still conclude I can endorse The Orville as a clever, well written, mostly balanced view of social issues from a humorous Star Trekkian POV, I must in good conscience, temper my praise with a warning for those who are unsure of their belief system. While I commend MacFarlane for his openness on the subject, I must warn that you will find neither answers nor a constructive contribution to your search from MacFarlane’s theologically biased anti-theistic Universe-view.

IRONICALLY – as Seth MacFarlane stands against the very institutions which produced, is populated and defended by priests and churchmen who broke frontier scientific grounds aided and funded by the church –  by his own words Seth MacFarlane stands against science.

Ampere  Pasteur  Lavoisier  Kolbika  Eccles Zahm

 Chardin  Copernicus  Gassendi  Bacon  Ockham  Pacholczyk  Mersenne