Star Trek: Picard is a polarizing show but do the detractors have legitimate points?
We have to have a talk about Star Trek: Picard. Let’s start by saying there is no such thing as a “correct opinion”. It’s an opinion. It is one’s perception and that’s ok. If you like Star Trek: Picard that’s ok. If you don’t, that’s ok too. Neither person has to change their perception of a series, as it’s all about subjectivity. What are you looking for in your entertainment? Some people like Nu Trek, and some don’t.
Whichever side you fall on is fine.
However, we’re going to look at Picard and see what the detractors say about the show. I want to see if their opinions have any validity to them, or if they’re just mad for the sake of being mad. First, let’s look at an article from TheGamer. The author, Andy Kelly, is none too pleased with Picard and his second season.
He listed seven points that he feels hinder Picard as a series.
"It’s obsessed with violence and miseryThere’s no actual science fiction in itPicard feels like a totally different characterThere’s no dialogue, just sarcastic quipsThe fan service is relentlessEveryone is an alcoholic for some reasonThey made Q boring"
“It’s obsessed with violence and misery”
Looking at these objectively, the series is very dark and that’s not something Star Trek ever tried to be consistent. It tried to be optimistic, and even when it wasn’t, it used the failings as a way to show that there is a way forward. A key example is “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”, where two aliens from the same planet have been involved in a conflict for so long that their species died out. Instead of finding a commonality, they continued to fight.
Kirk and company drove home the point that if you lead with hate, all you’ll have left is hate. It was an episode that ended on a dower note but it also was for a reason. It’s hard to argue that showing Icheb getting his eye ripped out had the same emotional resonance. You can argue whatever you want, but it was a scene for shock value.
Which isn’t exactly what fans love about Star Trek. So valid criticism.
“There’s no actual science fiction in it”
There are cyborg ladies and time travel. Incorrect. The author associates science fiction with “asking big questions” but all science fiction is, is fiction that relies on science as a narrative, which Picard does.
“Picard feels like a totally different character”
This is a fair criticism and is accurate. The same could be said for Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi and people hated that. Some people like the change, but most don’t. Picard, however, is trying to be a show about a man aging and as people get older, they lose their hardness. So it’s not unbelievable that Picard changed. That said, maybe that’s the biggest reason to not do more stories. If it’s changed that much, why do it?
“There’s no dialogue, just sarcastic quips”
This is accurate but not a Star Trek problem, this is a modern Hollywood issue. The Guardians of the Galaxy changed everything and now everyone has to be sarcastic. It’s what Hollywood does, once a new trend pops up, everyone does it. It was like in the 2000s when every movie had some weird blue tint to it for some reason. Or shaky cam.
I hate shaky cam.
“The fan service is relentless”
This is always a weird complaint to me. “How dare you give us what we want!”. Oh, ok, my bad. I do have an issue if it’s only for fan service. I don’t have a problem when it’s used as part of a larger narrative, however. Like bringing back the cast of the original Star Wars trilogy was just fan service for the sake of it, they really didn’t contribute anything new to the proceedings. Bringing back Seven of Nine and Q I have fewer issues with.
“Everyone is an alcoholic for some reason”
I’m against the glorification of alcohol for moral reasons, so I agree with this. Star Trek had moments of alcohol, like Scotty getting blotto when the Enterprise was taken over, but it had a purpose. This is just bad writing.
“They made Q boring”
Q is boring in Picard, but that was because John de Lancie wanted to be more serious, highlighting why this encounter is different than the others. I don’t blame them for trying this, but I don’t think it worked. Fans want what they expect. Subverting expectations doesn’t make something good, it only shows that people don’t realize why fans love a brand. Nobody wanted New Coke for a reason. They don’t want serious Q.
Why do critics love Star Trek: Picard and why do fans hate it?
Because I have to say this, not all critics loved and not all fans hate it. There, happy? If you look at Rotten Tomatoes scores, more than most critics love the show, while more than most fans hated it. So why?
Well, part of the issue is that those professional critics often talk in platitudes. They cite the callbacks, seeing Patrick Stewart again, etc. Yet, most of the reviews are only of the first episode or so (usually the first three) and that’s it. If this were Star Trek of the 90s, when each episode told a new story, then that’d be a fair review strategy. The problem is, this Star Trek continues the narrative across the whole season. It’s not episodic anymore. Meaning, that you can’t judge an entire season off three episodes. It’s more a very long movie, broken up across a bunch of episodes. So the first three episodes are no longer a good indicator of if something is going to be good.
It needs to be reviewed as a whole. That’s where the fan reviews are more accurate in that sense, as they’re being updated and new ones are being added as each episode concludes. Sure, some fans have biased opinions but so do critics.
Critics are nothing but fans with a paycheck. They don’t have doctorates in entertainment reviews, so there’s no reason to consider “professionals” any less biased than fans. Each person has their own reasons for liking or hating something. In fact, some of the fans bring up good points.
One Rotten Tomato fan review commented on Picard’s attempt to talk about the border issue and illegal immigrants but seemed to only bring it up as a plot device and not as an actual topic to address.
"Remember when Star Trek’s social message was cleverly woven into a compelling story? This is entirely story in service of message, and even though I agree with the message, it’s just tiresome how clunky and obvious the showrunners push it. Seriously? Are there no talented writers left?"
Even fans who like the show admit it isn’t what Star Trek is supposed to be.
"This isn’t a Star Trek show in the typical sense…"
That’s from a fan who liked it.
Star Trek has a brand, it tells episodic morality plays each and every week. It comes down on the obvious (racism bad) while debating the less obvious (do two lives count more than one?) When Trek doesn’t ask questions with their stories, then it’s not Trek.
That’s not some heavy-handed, gate-keeping point of view, it’s just a fact. If you eat chicken, you can’t say you had beef. If you make a show that isn’t at all like past Treks, then you can’t really say it’s a Trek show in anything other than name only.
Picard is Star Trek’s attempt to do their own version of Logan. Except, not many fans in the fandom wanted a Logan-themed Star Trek show. We wanted a Star Trek-themed Star Trek show.