Friday, 10 January 2020

Journey to Picard: Short Trek's Children of Mars

Expectations for Picard are understandably high.

Now with Patrick Stewart's recent revelation that this show is definitely nothing like The Next Generation and that time has definitely moved on (and we mean on and offscreen), Children of Mars is our first, real non-trailer Star Trek that offers an insight into just what will be different about the new series.

Another sub-ten minute tale, Children of Mars contains only a few lines of dialogue early on as school pupils Kima (Ilamaria Ebrahim) and Lil (Sadie Munroe) briefly converse with their mother and father respectively who are both stationed on Utopia Planitia, Mars.

For those in the know, that name will immediately ring bells but for those new to the franchise, it's worth noting that this is one of Starfleet's major ship-building facilities and where the Enterprise-D was constructed. Nicely we've also got a few cool ship shots of the facility swung in here for good measure which should get anyone who's a starship fan into a right tizzy (see bottom!)

Set to a version of David Bowie's Heroes, we see the two girls are not the best of friends, causing each other no end of pain and trouble culminating in an intense fight.

Children of Mars is a beautifully made short, documenting two children from very different backgrounds and cultures with very different relationships with their distant parents. What you do come to see is that both are initially loners, outsiders who aren't "in" possibly due to their absent parents and almost seem to take pride in causing anguish for the other as a form of personal entertainment.

The fight is their Waterloo if you will, a breaking point at which they realise they are potentially more alike than they would readily admit. While the looks from one to another suggests they regret their violent actions, it is an offworld incident that truly draws them together in the closing seconds.

All credit to the two girls here as they have a range of emotions to play out visually with absolutely no words to fall back on to explain their motives and actions. Also to be the focus of an Earth-based Star Trek short that is once more outside the main story is a gem to add context and body to the larger universe which this Kurtzman era seems very focused and dedicated to nurturing. In fact, this marks possibly the biggest step away from the main body of story with only a brief shot of Jean-Luc Picard to tie it in to the upcoming show with any certainly.

We knew that Picard would open our eyes to a different Federation just as the 900 year time jump will do for Discovery and here in Children of Mars we have another twist to the story which explains some of the material we have seen in the trailers and comes totally from left field. Plus, we all noticed the "First Contact Day" celebration banner in the school? How great was it to see a major historical event tied in?!

Mars is attacked by what the news footage refers to as "Synths" leaving at least 3000 dead on the red planet. This may well refer to the "F-8" we saw in the first teaser and may well rope the Borg as well as Data, Lore and B-4 into the Picard story. It's a huge, unforeseen kick and one that sits between this and when we will next see Picard. I'd lean towards this theory rather than these are "reformed" Borg on a rampage and would indicate that humanity's search for android perfection has gone off the scale in the wrong direction.

In fact, it's not hard to see since Admiral Picard's reaction is recorded in the FNN news footage which also contains some shots of attacking ships we have seen in the trailers.  Children of Mars is an absolute kicker, turning our expectations over and revealing that the Federation is not in as rosy a state as we might have thought - and might even be in the first stages of crumbling to the form we have seen it in during the Discovery trailer.

There has to be a link into the inclusion of Alison Pill as a character here too since she is an expert in cybernetics and this story easter egg also adds weight to just why Picard is having visions of Data and visiting the boxed up B-4 (or Lore?). 

For the time being, Children of Mars has become one of the furthest points of continuity in the Star Trek universe behind the destruction of Romulus in flashback during the 2009 reboot and Calypso from last year's four shorts - but this will be eclipsed in a matter of 13 days with the premiere of Picard on January 23rd.

Go watch this one as soon as possible because it's going to be the last, big precursor to the new series especially with the news that issue three of the Picard: Countdown graphic novel has been delayed until the 29th January and therefore after the series has why might that be....secrets revealed too early perhaps...?

Utopia Planitia with two distinct new starship classes front right and left. The docks appear to be an upgrade of the version seen at the end of Nemesis.

Earth shuttleport - the shuttle looks suspiciously like a refresh of the Discovery shuttle.

Synth ships attack Utopia Planitia (note the label bottom left)

Welcome to Picard!!! What are your thoughts on the latest Short?

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