Wednesday, 12 August 2020

All Good Things... The Official Starships Collection Issues 178,179...and 180

But we are....

One hundred and eighty issues, .six years and eleven months later it's come to the last edition.  

As you might expect, it's a real mix of expectations and delivery with the Husnock Warship from The Survivors, the Vidiian Starship from Voyager's Deadlock and finally, perhaps fittingly and conspicuous by its very absence, the Borg Cube from First Contact. The Husnock ship from The Next Generation's pivotal third season might look a little familiar - and so it should since it's the original form that would be altered to become the Bajoran Freighter and the Smuggler's Ship from Unification among several others.

in terms of its detail, the original is probably this model in its simplest version. Coated in a plain grey with darker grey highlights, the Husnock Warship has a subtle aztec pattern across its surface with some small, raised details. Towards the centre the darker grey denotes the bridge module painted in with blue windows around two sides of the ‘v’ shaped unit.

In comparison to its later variants, the Husnock Warship continues to build towards the rear and Eaglemoss have accurately captured its simple but distinctively angular shape at the back end too. I always remember this one looking particularly "plasticky" on screen and I'm glad that they have kept that manufactured feel in the replica here. 

Everything about it seems almost too good to be true and too pure in form with only a series of blue and white dots, indicating the size of this craft, spread across the central piece to the rear. 

Out to the sides that clean, minimal finish has been maintained into the darker grey wings with each of these tipped with an underslung, pointed energy weapon. Both of the prongs to the sides are a little flexible but still feel sturdy. Indeed, the whole ship feels very solid thanks to its blocky structure. 

The rear of the warship is tonally even darker than the forward sections and carries a more condensed form of the aztecing seen elsewhere. The lines continue to be cleanly finished and the painting in of the engine is also crisp alongside what seems to be a small docking port just below it.

On the bottom, there's a fraction more detail to be seen. You get a better look at the greebling on the underside of the two weapon prongs which are more visibly attached into the main body of the ship. You also get a clearer view of the windows that line both sides of the hull almost right to the front.

There's a third weapon prong slapped in underneath and right in the middle which wasn't present during the Husnock's first attack during the Enterprise's first visit to the planet. This is noted a few times and lines up both the screen appearance with the model.

While you can see where this and the wingtip weapons fit into the ship, the main join line is hidden away below the overhang from the top of the hull giving an overall seemless impression.

The first of the three magazines in this delivery provides the usual ship overview as well as the customary plan views to compare against the model. In fairness they are very close perhaps on this occasion the CG and images contained therein are even more plain than the mode.. Issue 178 also includes a relevant section dedicated to the making of The Survivors especially in note to the location work that made this one such a memorable episode. Alongside the text are a good selection of photos from the story as well as behind the scenes from the time out of studio.

An excellent final piece for The Next Generation here allows Hans Beimler a chance to recount his memories from his time on the series including writing this episode and being involved with the many-handed Yesterday's Enterprise instalment from later in the same season.

The penultimate edition of the collection takes us into Voyager territory with the Vidiian Starship. It's only the second occasion that the race famed for its ravaging Phage has appeared in the series following issue 103's Warship which was actually used later in the series.

The overall design theme of them both is extremely similar although this later creation has a more golden coat but retains the "front heavy" concept tapering to the rear.

Certainly the colour difference is striking and actually out of character with keeping an aesthetic with alien ship continuity. Perhaps with the Vidiians though it was easier to retain a visual impression alone in the shape of their ships.At the front the starship features a pair of pincers arcing out to the front paralleled by the two warp engine humps on either side. 

The golden finish is speckled with white dots to indicate internal lighting and are painted onto the hull rather than sitting into indentations that probably wouldn't be aligned. Rather than an aztec look, the Vidiian ship carries distinct panelling across the whole surface .

Both the warp engines mounted as part of the wing design are tipped with a slightly orange glow before curving back into the larger "shoulders" of the ship and the assembled gubbings on top of the craft. It's not a stunner but the detail of the hull is well replicated from its limited outings and does come across as a model that more time was taken to complete given the texture of the hull, the colour and well, everything.

The structure around those main, prominent features are supplemented with well defined supporting sprues to the rear from the hull to the engine exhaust and then to the front, either side of the predatory pincers. It contrasts quite starkly to the Husnock Warship with its simple lines and plain finish, demonstrating once more the difference just six years of model creation and CG had made on the franchise.

Even out to the edges of the wings there are the geometric panel forms both top and bottom with the underside losing the spinal feature of the dorsal piece but retaining the finely painted engine in the centre back.The other less noticeable details that do reappear on both sides are the blacked out, recessed grilles on the engine pods, again with their painting precisely aligned with the indents. 

For a ship that, for once was used more than once but not more than twice, the Vidiian Starship is somewhat seductive with a smooth slimline shape and profile that Eaglemoss have done well to recreate. The stand positioning works very well with the negative space of the hull allowing for a central grip more evenly distributing the weight of the ship over the stand. It's a bit of a fiddle due to the length of the forks that grip the main hull from the back and how far the go back against the main hull but the end effect looks good.

This magazine is our last trip into the Delta Quadrant exploits of Voyager and focuses mainly on the second season. Opening by compiling the stats for the Vidiian Starship, the magazine suffers from not having that many good photos of this vessel to work with, leaving the visuals a little fuzzy or, at best, long distance. 

The CG here is better than the real thing, adding more texture to the ship than we received on screen or in the flesh. 

Starting out as another ship - that from an earlier season two episode, Parturition - the Vidiian ship made just two appearances in the excellent Deadlock and later in Fury before being replaced with the even more angular Warship.

Finally we take a look into the filming of the Voyager episode in which this starship appeared and it's one that took a lot to complete since there are two of the hero vessel, a challenging-to-film death scene and a sequence which saw Janeway meet Janeway. This probably provides more detail on the filming of the episode than the Voyager Companion (not the greatest series guide written) including how some of the pieces were successfully committed to film.

Deep breath now. 

Here we go - and forgive me if I stumble over this because we are now here...the Borg Cube and the end of the regular collection. Grab a hankie.

Now the last time we welcomed a six-sided addition to the series was the Tactical Cube in issue 58 from October 2015(!). Now we have our sixth Borg ship and the first "proper" Cube since we're not going to count the oh-so-well-remembered light up box that was among the initial free gifts way back when.

Unsurprisingly the whole thing is plastic so it's a bit of a double-edged finale since we would have sincerely loved this to be a true combo of the metal and plastic builds we've been used to since issue one.

But hey, there is one major redeeming feature which sets this one right above the Tactical Cube. That Borg craft cleverly repeated each of its sides meaning there were only three distinct elements combined in duplicate to make the threatening starship. Here, each side is unique, each piece carries its own markings and hull nuances and every surface is filled with technical detail including - and it would have been a major error to leave out - the hatch for the Borg Sphere on which the Queen makes her escape into the 21st Century.

Coated in a single dark grey, the hull of the cube is highlighted with marks of green to show the pulsing energy through the structure. This effect is a bit lost on a plastic model and it doesn't help that the depth of the craft that you see on the big screen is lost due to the nature of the building material which only allows for minor changes in the undulation of the detail. Final tip of the hat to Eaglemoss because I could swear point blank that the surface of the Tactical Cube under the added armour plating is almost identical to that of the First Contact cube - nice but of continuity/cheap option to reuse the mould...!

As for the fit together, the six sides are clipped into place internally with only a slight seam around two of the face to give any indication of the construction. As for the stand, it's the same principle as was utilised for the Tactical Cube - just sit it on a plastic shelf and attach to the base. Job. Done.

So to our last look into the magazines and we have a straight forward retelling of the opening battle sequence from First Contact  along with some crisp new CG of the distinctive craft and shots from the movie. As for designing the ship, it's a bit like trying to reinvent the wheel as we discover from the perspective of John Eaves.

Voyager introduced Borg Probes, the Queen's ship and the already hat-tipped Tactical Cube but it's odd to think that the lead alien vessel could have looked very different before the designers returned to the familiar - but even then it did look, initially, different to the screened version which even has its visual cues in the Artifact from Picard

Closing out this issue ahead of the Key Appearance is a brisk two page piece on how some of the Borg technology in the film came to'll be surprised as to what was used so I won't ruin the surprise.

And that's it. 180 issues over and done. We've reviewed every one from the very beginning and it's been an utter pleasure to do so. As for the pick of the crop from these three, well, let's not select a top dog this time. All three have some great merits and are pretty damn screen accurate all round. The magazines have a right mixture of quality with, as we've come to expect, some articles being over long and others that merit more length getting a few paragraphs.

Apparently we will have more collections coming in 2021 - so that'll be Picard and Lower Decks at a minimum...but who knows what else. For now the binders on this one can be snapped shut and filed. Could there have been more issues? Yes, but what would we have been left with since this felt as though we were already starting to get the splinters from the barrel bottom. The Official Starships Collection has been a major game changer for the franchise and one would suspect, Eaglemoss/Hero Collector as well and that will never ever be surpassed. 

You did us fans proud. 

Thank you.

Read all our other reviews of The Official Starships Collection from issue ONE here.

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Monday, 10 August 2020

Every Second Counts: Lower Decks; Episode One

For 30 minutes this sure crammed a lot in. 

The first episode of Lower Decks isn't perfect, its not even close to being a classic but for once, the Star Trek universe managed to get its comedy almost spot on. I wasn't rolling in the aisles for half an hour but what Mike McMahon and the team have achieved should definitely be applauded. 

Second Contact has a classic Star Trek disease plot that fans will immediately spot is parodying many an Original Series episode but here it’s relegated to the B story while we focus more on Boimler and Mariner. Even the title sequence is a spin on what has come before especially the more relaxed, exploratory Voyager opening although here there’s a suitably Lower Decks twist on your expectations and doesn't take itself too seriously.

Big thumbs up too for choosing the Next Generation font and including episode titles - it’s like being back in 1991 all over again. its the relationship between these two characters which looks to be the fulcrum of Lower Decks with the two of them playing from very different perspectives to meet somewhere in the middle. 

Mariner is the demoted ‘cool’ kid while her foil is the by-the-book and hot for promotion Boimler who here is entrusted with a mission from the captain of the USS Cerritos to watch over his troublesome fellow ensign. Their antics do take us into some understanding of this second contact trope in which they are following up on the initial visit by what you can assume is a much more important starship.

At the core we have a character story in which the two command division ensigns come to the realisation that they're sort of ideal for each other while the medical ensign, Tendi, provides us with the perspective of the new arrival, joining the ship right at the start of the story. Boimler and Mariner do get the best treatment in terms of getting to know their characters while Rutherford (complete with his new bionic upgrade) and Tendi unfortunately fall into the more action-heavy "B" story and suffer to some extent from both the run-time and brisk pace of that segment of the episode. 

Tendi's youthful optimism and naivety are perfectly set to be the officer newbies to the franchise and the show can latch onto but Rutherford seems a bit of a mix of all three with a tint of nerd and action-hero in there for good measure. Of the four he's the one I would like to see fleshed out more in the coming weeks as he does feel underappreciated here even through the date night which turns into a zombie-horror event.

For once the senior officers take a back seat. The four main ones - the captain, her first officer, chief medic and chief of security - are present but in the background and, laughably, taking credit for the solution to the zombie problem even though the lower decks ensemble have more of an impact than they're given credit for - and I suspect this won't be the last time that scenario is played out.

The tonal choices of the two plot threads this week are not exactly suitable for young children with flesh eating zombies and then gigantic (vegetarian) spiders but they also explore the potential that the animated realm can offer over live action and even the things that can be done with CG. This is the most imaginative vista that Star Trek has painted since The Animated Series in the 70's because there are no limitations to what can be done, no stops on who or what can appear - anything is possible from any point in the timeline - now THAT'S a powerful thought.

The jokes might not be belly-laugh inducing but where Lower Decks succeeds in this half an hour is playing with our expectations, dropping in a neat fan-pleasing reference (a VISOR, the Argo...) in a familiar visual style that will seek to attract fans particularly of The Next Generation while still telling that humanising story. It is a delicate balance and at this point it feels that Second Contact is probing the possibilities and seeing what can be done. It is lighter than anything live action in the cooker at the present time with a much brighter visual palette and, for the first time since Enterprise, stand alone episodes that mean we can dip in and out at any time and not feel as though we've missed a massive, essential plot point. This could make Lower Decks the most accessible series for fans to revisit from the Kurtzman era - at least until we get Strange New Worlds.

Is it something that will be accessible to a wider audience too? Maybe not so and it does feel that through the less serious tone, the style of the animation and the period specific setting, this is going to be a niche piece of the ever growing Star Trek franchise. For some it might just be that necessary fix to get them through until Discovery yet either way it's great to see that Star Trek is embracing the unknown and, in an odd way, stepping over its own boundary into new frontiers. I honestly can't see viewers who aren't already fans or at least casual viewers of Star Trek tuning in for this. It's a good avenue for parents to get their offspring of a certain age perhaps wanting to see what else is out there but this does come across as the series which will draw the least amount of fresh attention to this universe.

If we were to stick a rating on here it would be a firm 3.5 out of 5. It's a steady start to the series introducing the main cast of ensigns plus their counterparts on the bridge in a suitably Star Trek way - but there's still much to be worked on to properly find its feet in what could well be the most unique and engaging Star Trek for a generation.

What's your take on this animated foray? Hit? Miss? Maybe?

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Wednesday, 29 July 2020

The Wire: In Discussion - Especially the Lies

In association with Star Trek Club Stoke, this time we're digging into Deep Space Nine's second season instalment, The Wire.

This episode focuses on Garak, the Cardassian tailor and possible spy and his unlikely friendship with Doctor Bashir. Garak suffers debilitating pain, which he initially tries to hide until he eventually collapses. Bashir discovers he has been fitted with a device by the Cardassians which is degrading his nervous system (presumably, this is the ‘wire’). Is this some kind of punishment?

As Bashir seeks further information, Garak tells various tales of his fall from favour in the eyes of Obsidian Order overseer Enabran Tain. This in turn caused his exile to Deep Space Nine although each of the explanations turns out to be false and subsequently replaced by new lies as Garak becomes increasingly hostile and deranged. Did he betray his friend Elim or did Elim betray him? Did he murder Bajoran children or save them?

Garak's nuances and frailties would only be covered again through his claustrophobia in In Purgatory's Shadow and this instalment gives Deep Space Nine fans a rare chance to see the chinks in the armour of the most secretive man on the station. You have to wonder if there would be a point at which he would give up anything he was asked but we never quite reach that point. Ironically it's a device implanted to create euphoria and counter torture that has the potential to end Garak's life.

Bashir has to be strong enough to navigate the lies and hostility, eventually tracking down the now retired Tain who seems to retain a fondness for Garak and gives Bashir the information he needs. The episode ends with a now recovered Garak joining Bashir for lunch, telling him that all his stories were true; ‘especially the lies’.

From the outset this appears to be an episode to explore, after two years, the background of Garak even if it all turns out (or doesn't) to be lies. With the benefit of hindsight and a further five years of stories, do we ever really get to a finite answer on this episode? Do we really ever know why he was exiled from his homeworld? Simply, no. The nearest we probably get is his reunion with a dying Tain in By Inferno's Light but that only confirms that Garak might be Tain's biological son as it's not firmly set out in the dialogue, only inferred.

What The Wire actually turns out to be is a coming of age story for Bashir. Initially seen as young and naive especially back in Emissary and any away missions thereafter (note to The Storyteller, Battle Lines...) but here in the latter half of season two there's definite change in the character noticeably from Armageddon Game and here. The arrogant self-belief that he has all the answers has long since dissipated, replaced with a wiser, more open Julian Bashir who, in this case looks as though he might be beaten in a scenario where the patient is a "close friend". 

The discussion on the episode suggested this made him a match for Garak however it may be that by the end of the story he is seen as having more potential than the Cardassian initially believed. Julian has to see past the lies and try and discover what actually happened and how Garak ended up in this state. The weird thing is that by the end titles we're no clearer on anything apart from two things; Garak's first name is Elim and secondly that you can't trust a word that comes out of his mouth. 

It was also suggested that Garak’s cryptic references to his ‘friend’ Elim could support the fan rumours that the Garak character is either gay or bisexual. Indeed, it was pointed out that he had been the one to initiate the relationship with Bashir back in Past Prologue and continues it to the conclusion of the show although nothing is ever made of this directly on screen.

The Wire is a definitive moment in the relationship of the doctor and the tailor, cementing their unusual friendship and exploring both in a new and unexpected way that looks at the way in which they are seen from the outside - and are not quite the same individuals by the end. It's also the first time we get to hear about the Obsidian Order (much more on them over the next few years) plus we're introduced to The Never-Ending Sacrifice and Meditations on a Crimson Shadow - two of the finest pieces of Cardassian literature written.

Thanks to Alan Boughey for his assistance in this discussion summary of The Wire.

Friday, 24 July 2020

On the Way: Nick Series Gets Named

Lockdown hasn't slowed the Trek train with Comic-Con virtual panels bringing us more news from the franchise.

In terms of Lower Decks, the panel highlighted the characters of Boimler and Mariner plus treated us to the first scene from episode one entitled Second Contact. Episodes two, three and four will be Envoys, Temporal Edict and Moist Vessel.

I'm cut to it, I thought the opening scene for Second Contact was fantastic. It kept with the look of the franchise while also dropping that little tint of humour and a rather unexpected conclusion in a matter of minutes. I'm genuinely very excited for this - it's brighter, it's lighter and it's definitely a huge contrast to the gloom and doom that many say has perpetuated Picard and Discovery before it. Even just this first scene manages to get Romulan whisky and a bat'leth into the show and that's less in than two minutes!

The other more interesting news is the unveiling of Prodigy - the 2021 show that will be landing on Nickleodeon. For once using the star of the command emblem rather than the delta shield as part of its logo, Prodigy will follow the adventures of a group of lawless teens who discover a derelict Starfleet ship and use it search out adventure, meaning and salvation. 

Sounds a bit heavy for a kids show but the adventure certainly suits the channel. While Lower Decks heads for the adult audience, Prodigy could be the franchise's first real chance at tapping into the younger market and begin to grow the fanbase of tomorrow to ensure Star Trek's longevity into the 2100's even.

What does seem odd is that while we're being told about these two new animated shows - both of which have a minimum two season run confirmed - we've not seen a second trailer for the third year of Discovery nor have we really heard any more about the future of the Michelle Yeoh-led Section 31 show. In fact, we probably know more about Strange New Worlds!

My thoughts would be that with recent pandemic events, the animated arms of the franchise can continue fairly freely but social distancing will have placed serious restraints on physical filming progress for any and all of the live action elements of the universe.

The premiere of Lower Decks itself is set for just over two weeks but for those outside the range of CBS AllAccess, there's still no word on a distributor. Yes, Amazon did step in fairly late to the game with Picard but this would be a big concern at such a late date. Is it Netflix-worthy to sit alongside Rick and Morty for example? What is the plan for the show for the global fan community or are we going to need to find dubious websites to download the ten episodes?

What are your thoughts on Prodigy and the imminent arrival of Lower Decks?

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Friday, 17 July 2020

Lower Decks: The Trailer

The Lower Decks trailer has, expectedly, split the ol' fandom a few more ways.

Whether it's too much comedy, bad animation, cheap gags or...well...whatever, someone somewhere has a complaint goddamit and we should all pay attention/boycott Star Trek/reminisce about the Golden Age.  

Or maaaaaybe we could give it a chance and see what a full episode is like? Logical? 
I openly admit that comedy in Star Trek is an element I have struggled to understand. It could be the American sense of humour washes over me or that it's just not that funny. I, Mudd, anything with Lwaxana Troi...not a glimmer. In fact the only ones that I can say did raise a smile were the Tribbles duo from The Original Series and Deep Space Nine and the inventive The Magnificent Ferengi.

Lower Decks is going to attempt two very alien concepts to the franchise. Firstly that key animated show that has not been seen since the '70's and then splicing that together with a more adult edge humour. The animation already reminds me of Final Space but I hope it's not just retreading that kind of territory.

Featuring the four main cadets - Mariner (Tawny Newsome), Boimler (Jack Quaid), Tendi (Noel Wells) and Rutherford (Eugene Cordero), the trailer also sees a few more angles of the Cerritos confirming further there's definitely no physical way to step between the hulls except through the engines and also, if you're quick to catch it, that there's an Argo stored somewhere aboard as well - could indicate that we're going to see a lot of Easter Eggs in the background to try and catch each week!

The comedy aspect of the show certainly shows through with Biomler interrupted as he recites a fake captain's log in the cupboard and Mariner gets all excited about the new blast shield on the shuttle. Then there's the tasks these guys seem to have to do - the mundane of the mundane including emptying holodeck waste - one of those things that you probably don't consider when you're watching The Next Generation. If Lower Decks hits this right and looks at the bizarre plot holes, bloopers or oddness of some parts that we have taken for granted within the franchise while simultaneously managing not to destroy its credibility (it's a tall order...) then this is destined to be a roaring success. 

But the look, the very aesthetic of Lower Decks looks very close to canon in a bizarre way with a familiar looking bridge set up including three central chairs as well as a Conn and Ops position. Wonder if they'll change the carpet colour each season? Check out some of the background details such as the labelling on the pipes or the look of the ship corridor that echoes the design of the Enterprise-D including wall-mounted LCARS. The detailing on Mariner's PADD for example is equally brilliant and legible - carbon filter maintenance anyone? It is super light on plot details suggesting that each of the ten stories will be independent although there's that moment where we have two of the senior staff are congratulating each other on a "successful second contact" reiterating the Cerritos' less than premier status within Starfleet.

One of the things that fans seem to have latched on to pretty quickly is Rutherford's takedown of a group of cartoon Borg which seem to be viewed through his optical prosthetic. The redesign for Lower Decks has simplified the armour and the detailing there on for the Collective and has managed to keep them instantly identifiable with their glowing eyewear and zombified facial expressions. It may well be that, as we see in the trailer, the background attention to detail is the draw and the big win - even the bridge stations at the rear are labelled Engineering, Environment and Mission Ops.  I have to say that this burst of shots, including some gorgeous teases of a Klingon planet as well as several alien encounters that look to be significantly less than 100% successful given some of the expressions we see here!

The trailer really does lack any cohesive context, instead hinting at humour and the visual aspect of the show rather than attempting to show any definitive storytelling. In comparison to both the Picard and Discovery trailers this is a very distinct shift where both series’ teasers chose to focus on elements of the arcs that were to dominate their seasons. 

This could indicate that Lower Decks is going to be a much easier watch in every respect although i personally feel it would be a detriment to the franchise whole if the characters aren’t fleshed out and fully realised. McMahon’s style is certainly all over this product and lines up with Rick and Morty although you can hope its a bit more family friendly than that series. Will it manage to balance the humour element against the background of a franchise which has avoided such a direct attachment to that genre for decades? It is a risky move but choosing to go into animation rather than live action may pay off and open up the franchise to a new audience in the way that the Kelvin Timeline did in 2009. 

That too was divisive but here we have the franchise’s first real step into the unknown which has already been greenlit for a second series with the first not even on air; that's a lot of confidence in a product that the public have not yet seen.

So whether you think Star Trek has jumped the shark, taken a road it shouldn't travel or are genuinely looking forward to this utterly unique chapter in Star Trek history it's coming...

Excited? Concerned? Done with the franchise? Where do you stand with Lower Decks after seeing the trailer?

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Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Guest Starring: Reflections on Picard

Like so many fans, I came to Star Trek as a child in the mid-90s. Unbeknownst to me, the franchise was in the middle of a renaissance with overlapping series and movies being released at the same time. It truly was the best of times. Trek fans were spoiled, and we didn’t even know it.

At the heart of this new resurgence, of course, lay Gene Roddenberry and his philosophy. After his death in 1991, the onus fell upon Rick Berman who tried his best to create television that Gene would have approved of. It was an approach that Berman himself has, at times, been critical of. Should he have permitted more serialised storytelling on The Next Generation and Voyager? Would darker themes have yielded higher ratings and therefore greater commercial success? Time certainly has been good to Deep Space Nine – once the ugly duckling of the franchise it is now experiencing a long overdue critical re-appraisal.

So, when Star Trek returned to television after more than a decade away, it was clear that many of the tropes of contemporary storytelling would be employed to bring the ageing franchise into the 21st century. The result was 2017’s Star Trek: Discovery.

I’ll admit it – I’ve never warmed to Discovery. It's certainly not for lack of trying (having watched every episode of the two seasons presently available). Sure, I could point to the unlikeable characters or the dour wartime storyline, but the cause of my discomfort lies deeper – it doesn’t feel like Star Trek.

When it was announced that Patrick Stewart would be returning to his iconic role as Jean-Luc Picard, I was elated. Not only was I excited to see one of the most beloved characters in all of science fiction return, but it symbolised a return to the 24th century (the first since 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis) and a re-engagement with established canon. As the first season of Star Trek: Picard unfolded, I began to sense a growing unease – not only in myself – but in certain segments of the fandom as well. This wasn’t the show we had hoped for, and it sure as hell didn’t feel like Star Trek

What follows is my personal laundry list of why Star Trek: Picard fell short of my expectations:

Patrick Stewart himself:

Patrick Stewart’s very name is synonymous with thespian excellence. His rich timbre and dedication to his craft have allowed him to create some unforgettable characters both on stage and screen. I’m saddened to say that I was less than impressed with his performance in Star Trek: Picard. His voice – one of his more formidable acting tools – is shot. No one is immune to the passage of time, and, without wanting to appear ageist, I believe he has simply aged out of the role.


Episode five featured the now infamous eye gauging scene – it was the one and only time I have turned my head away from the screen during an episode of Star Trek. It wasn’t just the scene itself that I found distressing, rather the context. The audience watches as a familiar character has his eyeball forcibly extracted as he is restrained on a bloody bed, screaming in agony.

Some in the online fanbase were quick to respond: “Star Trek has always been violent; they were just hindered by network TV censorship standards”. Others cited Harry Kim’s spaghetti-like wound in Scorpion, Part I as precedent, or, better yet, Remmick’s exploding head from Conspiracy. It’s true, Picard is not beholden to the censorship standards of the 90s, but just because they can show gory content, it does not mean they should. 

At this point, I feel the need to qualify my critique by identifying myself as an ardent horror fan. I’m not “against” gore on television, but that kind of imagery is not what I want from Star Trek. 

Swearing & Contemporary dialogue:

Many reviewers have taken umbrage with some of the language used in the show (one foul mouthed Admiral in particular). I personally didn’t care for it, mainly because I feel it was it was used clumsily. Swearing for swearing’s sake. 

It reminded me of the scene between Kirk and Spock on the bus in Star Trek IV. Spock notices that contemporary speech is peppered with profanity. Kirk waves it away as a vernacular artefact of centuries past. In the Star Trek universe, this is the way humans on earth used to speak to each other. Swearing in dialogue and the use of contemporary phrases (like “dude” and “hell yeah”) shatters the illusion that we are in a future time. Which brings me to…

It breaks the reality of Star Trek:

What happened to the post scarcity utopia of the 24th century? It appears to have been supplanted by a much more cynical and nihilistic zeitgeist, almost completely embodied in the character of Raffi. Her entire motivation is driven by the trauma of her losing her “job” and her slow descent into poverty. She even compares her home to Picard’s – making reference to his “heirloom” furniture. The ugly image of a drug addicted black woman living in a trailer seems especially miscalculated given the current wave of social change that minorities around the world are attempting to initiate.

It’s depressing as hell:

Who would have thought that Seven of Nine, upon her return to the alpha quadrant, would  become a cynical, hard drinking murderer? Or that poor, gentle Icheb would be so brutally butchered that he would beg for euthanasia? The world of Star Trek: Picard is a frightening place populated by damaged characters. As the credits rolled on each episode, I was filled with a sinking feeling, disturbed by images of murder, poisonings, suicide, panic attacks, insanity and vivisections.

On social media, many of my criticisms of the show were shouted down or dismissed derisively as “you just want old Star Trek” and “OK Boomer”. Fair enough. The show is different, radically so in places. I accept that. I often try to remember what a shock it must have been like for viewers in 1987 tuning in to see Encounter at Farpoint for the first time. But this iteration of Trek doesn’t feel right.

So, what does Star Trek feel like to me?

It feels like a slice of media that challenges me with bold science fiction ideas. It feels intellectual, and at times, a little high minded. But mostly, it makes me think about the future – a time when all of the resources our planet currently devotes to war and interpersonal division will be funnelled into the exploration of space.

At least, that’s what Star Trek means to me. Here’s hoping season two can offer a less depressing vision of the 24th century.

Thanks to James Patrik for his article taking a look back at the first season of Picard.