Tripping on Tropes

image by Veronica V. Jones

Star Trek: Picard’s Problematic Foundations

Patric Stewart as Jean Luc Picard, sullen action hero.
Former Admiral Picard
Brent Spiner as dream sequence Data.
Formerly living Commander Data
Isa Briones as the clone that dies, or maybe the clone that lives.
Positronic Person Dahj and/or Soji
Harry Treadaway as a double plus secret Romulan operative.
Double secret Romulan Operative Narek

I’ve been dreading Star Trek: Picard since I first heard it was in the works. I feared it would be a vanity project for a less than gracious actor focusing exclusively on the least engaging member the ST:Next Generation command crew. After two episodes, a heavy reliance on a slapdash collection of potentially crippling tropes have not allayed my fears. Here are my biggest worries:

The Disposable Twin: Introducing, and summarily killing a dynamic young woman to suitably engage a reluctant old man to action by revealing an identical young woman still in peril is an infuriating collection of bad plot elements. It’s exploitative and lazy writing all around.

Magical Clones: How can cloning a synthetic brain result in an organic brain? How can a single neuron contain copies of a meaningful number of constantly evolving connections from that synthetic brain? And why didn’t Data paint Lal?

Double Secret Police: The Tal Shiar are the Romulan secret police, but ST:P introduces us to a even secreter, policier component of the Tal Shiar; the Zhat Vash. And of course they’ve infiltrated Star Fleet Headquarters. Of course.

First season issues are nothing new to the franchise, but we’ve already been promised a second season of of ST:P, so here’s hoping the showrunners can build something engaging from such shallow roots, and ultimately focus on new voyages, not merely fading echoes of the past.

Written by in February of 2020. Last edited October 2020.

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  • Mark - February 4th, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    The biggest problem I have with ST:P is that in essence, it’s ‘Logan’ but with Picard.

    Let’s See:

    – Old Character who is dying/suffering from disease/issues that were foreshadowed.
    – Mysterious young woman with mysterious connection to main’s backstory and history with powers and abilities.
    – Old character reconnecting with their drive/purpose/humanity through travel montage and call to action.
    – Mysterious agency/organization which is even more mysterious than the last one.
    – A tragic accident some ten years in the past that has haunted/shadows the main character.
    – Johnny Cash’s version of ‘Hurt’ (Wait….it’s not been in ST:P…..Yet…

    I addressed this on FNL last week, but the other big issue is that while i love DS9, it did sort of set a tone in which Rodenberry’s idealism for ST was mashed against the conspiracy and reality, which completely worked for DS9, but not so much for the rest of TNG. I think also that playing the nostalgia element is not always best for best results….and ultimately, we don’t need another ‘who can you trust’ series, especially for ST. Discovery did that just fine in season one + two (Being cynical with that). It’s not that I don’t welcome the idea of going back and revisiting characters…it’s just that I’m not as keen for this as I would have been if it were different.

    Nemesis left a bad taste with TNG (I’d argue that Insurrection did as well, but there were moments). I think that trying to build away from that experience is fine, and trying to use the connective tissue in the 2009 Star Trek and even the Voyager series finale is one thing…but basing a series around ‘Measure of a Man’ and not crediting Melinda Snodgrass or actually watching the episode probably isn’t the way to go.

    Just my two cents.

  • Jeff - February 5th, 2020 at 1:23 am

    Mark, multiverse conspiracies aside, I think they’re trying to make a movie, not a television series. Maybe that’s why they feel they have to trot out all the threadbare tropes and cheesy nostalgia? Who can say…