Michael Chabon

Star Trek: Picard (2020) s01e08 – Broken Pieces

Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon is writing solo again this episode and, I mean, there are some bad scenes but the cringe factor is gone. Of course “Picard” is going to have poorly written and acted scenes, what else would it have; there’s no surprise in them anymore.

This episode has Picard (Patrick Stewart) running back to Starfleet for help with the gigantic intergalactic conspiracy, knowing Tamlyn Tomita is running things from the inside. So basically he’s a trusting dope. Great protagonist. But he’s not because the show’s so drug out most of the episode is the supporting cast, which isn’t great.

Alison Pill and Isa Briones bond this episode, even as Pill’s processing being a double agent and everyone knows about her. Meanwhile Briones has full access to her genes’ memories, including knowing Data loved Picard, which should be a touching moment but barely elicits even an eye-roll. Chabon’s not capable of writing honest moments, so why bother getting worked up when the show can’t deliver them.

Also terrible this episode is Michelle Hurd trying to figure out what’s wrong with captain Santiago Cabrera. He freaks out when he sees Briones beam aboard and instead of it just being him explaining why he’s freaking out, he goes and hides for the entire episode, leaving Hurd to talk to all of his holograms. So if you’re a fan of Cabrera doing caricatures… this episode’s for you.

Hurd’s not good either.

Tomita’s bad, Briones’s bad, Evan Evagora’s not as bad, oh, yeah, the pointless inclusion of Jeri Ryan to drag out the Romulans chasing Picard… Ryan’s not as bad as she could be.

Some terrible, terrible scenes throughout with an ending straight out of Empire Strikes Back for the second time (the same Boba Fett action beat too). It’s like Stewart and Cabrera are just inept at captaining. It’d be concerning if it weren’t all so bad.

There’s a lot of exposition on the Romulan fear of androids and basically… Chabon watched a bunch of new “Battlestar” and puked it into the mix for this show. Or there are only so many stories you can do about secret societies and androids.

“Picard”’s fairly awful. It’s just about who’s getting through it and who’s not. So far, none of the regular cast are getting through. Pill’s gone from being welcome to terrible, Briones has had a similar arc. Stewart’s badness has gone from being a surprise to being the standard.

You’d really think he’d ask not to be written like such an absolute moron though. Chabon, quite obviously, can’t write him as anything else.

Star Trek: Picard (2020) s01e04 – Absolute Candor

Let’s get the elephant out of the way: show co-creator, episode single credited writer, and Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Michael Chabon. He’s really, really, really bad at writing dialogue. At some point in this episode, I realized Akiva Goldsman—the profoundly hacky screenwriter of Batman & Robin, iRobot, and I Am Legend who is also a “Picard” co-creator and co-wrote Chabon’s previous episodes… helped Chabon’s writing. Left alone, Chabon’s truly atrocious.

I thought the dysfunctional crew banter—between Patrick Stewart, Michelle Hurd, Santiago Cabrera, and Alison Pill—would be the terrible low point, but Chabon keeps finding new depths. The banter’s bad—and reveals Hurd might end up being one of the show’s biggest liabilities unless someone gets her performance under control—but nothing compared to the big romantic dance sequence between Isa Briones and Harry Treadaway on the Borg cube. It’s not even Treadaway’s worst scene, which comes later and implies a sadomasochistic (no kink-shaming) incestual (okay, kink-shaming here) relationship between Treadaway and sister Peyton List, but the dancing on the Borg cube scene? Real bad. Real, real bad.

But actually nothing compared to where Chabon’s taking it with Stewart this episode. The title, Absolute Candor, refers to the guiding principle of this convent of Romulan warrior nuns. They’ve got a name straight out of a Dune book, which is fine since apparently Briones’ synthetic android has a hidden home world as well as a Plan. Really hope the home of the fabled Thirteenth Tribe ends up being a place called Earth. Could they seriously not come up with anything original. Like, there’s a Terminator 2 rip in here where Stewart has to tell his newest Musketeer (Evan Evagora) he can’t just go around killing people. It’s a lot.

And it comes right after Stewart has a meltdown on the failed Romulan rescue planet—where the Federation stopped transporting the Romulans so they could all die out instead—about how the Romulans there don’t appreciate him as their great White savior.

Chabon writes Picard as an egomaniacal dilettante (who didn’t even keep up with interstellar political news in the last decade and a half); it’s actually surprising Stewart came back for this series given the writing.

Picard’s obnoxious and kind of playing a parody of himself but if William Shatner were doing it on “SNL.” Again, real bad.

Also bad—Jonathan Frakes’s direction. Frakes directs the Stewart stuff like it’s an episode of “TNG,” only with the wrong music—Jeff Russo does some lousy work here—and the wrong kind of sets. “Picard”’s not cheap enough for how Frakes is directing it. Then there’s the action, which is poorly edited to the point the battle music starts not just before the battle but before the enemy ship even shows up. It’s incompetent, which it really shouldn’t be.

What’s good? Amirah Vann as the only warrior nun with any lines.

Really not sure about all the holographic clones of Han Solo-wannabe Cabrera on the ship, especially since they’re used for laughs and rather broad caricatures.

This episode does move better than the previous two… is moving better through worse material a good thing?

The White savior stuff needs to be seen to be believed, but shouldn’t be.

Also the end special guest star reveal is badly executed.

Yuck.

Star Trek: Picard (2020) s01e02 – Maps and Legends

I was expecting a lot of fan service this episode and it definitely did not provide. But instead of doing fan service—outside confirming Riker, Work, and LaForge are all still alive—this episode just kills forty-five minutes or so until the next one. “Picard” has a ten episode season and Maps and Legends is utterly disposable. Unless it really matters seeing a sadly underutilized Ann Magnuson as a Starfleet admiral telling Patrick Stewart she’s sick of his liberal mansplaining and no one has to listen to him anymore, which doesn’t work because Stewart’s right. He might be mansplaining but he’s not wrong. The whole “Starfleet decides to let billions of Romulans die because they’re basically space racists” thing? They’re the bad guys now. They had to decide whether or not they were going to step up and they did not.

Because the post-Roddenberry “Star Trek” humanity is humanity, not the aspirational stuff. “Picard”’s future humanity never would’ve made it through the twentieth-first century… just like we won’t. Anyway, I wish Magnuson was better in it. There’s no real stunt-casting but some familiar guest stars—David Paymer plays Stewart’s Bones McCoy from the Stargazer, which was Picard’s first command and a big recurring thing on “Next Generation.”

Paymer’s not great. He’s not even good Paymer annoying. He’s just there to give Picard his Search for Spock arc. At one point, Stewart’s even talking about how even if there’s a chance of Data’s soul existing, he’s got to go find the daughter (Isa Briones, who has a somewhat interesting arc fooling around with Romulan emo stud Harry Treadaway as they excavate an old Borg cube) as surely if she were his very own.

Yeah, so… this episode is like if they did a Star Trek III homage but forgot to be intentional and fun about it.

But then there’s also the cross-species conspiracy against… hang on… got to drag this reveal out because they really drag it out in the show, with Orla Brady acting like anyone is going to care the Romulan secret secret police hates androids. And, guess what, they’re not the only ones. There’s a secret society in the Federation who helps the Romulan secret secret police’s quest to destroy androids.

Somebody’s seen Star Trek VI too!

And why do they hate androids? Who knows. But they’ve hated them for hundreds of years, probably because the Romulan equivalent of a Roomba hit some ruler’s toe and he went ape-shit. Actually, no, because that idea is too fun and “Picard”’s unnecessarily morose. Especially since second-billed but in the episode for a scene Alison Pill has fun, even when she’s in high drama. Ditto Stewart. He’s trying to bring some charm to the project, even as the project resists.

Tamlyn Tomita plays the evil Starfleet mole. Peyton List is her sidekick. Fourth-billed Michelle Hurd shows up for a scene at the end. Not the cliffhanger scene because Stewart doesn’t get the cliffhangers (yet, hopefully), because he’s not important this episode. He’s not going to get important until he gets out into space and engages and whatnot. This stuff is just episode commitment time killing.

Though the Borg excavation stuff is at least interesting. Co-writers Akiva (Batman & Robin) Goldsman and Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Chabon are a lot better with the Borg fanfic than the actual writing for Patrick Stewart stuff.

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