Short review (analysis and reasoning in long version below):
When I watched Star Trek "Picard" I had the impression that the story is trying to include many important themes but does not spend enough time for them and hence feels convoluted. It feels rushed, unfocused and frustrating. It concentrates on the “What” and “That” rather than the “How” and barely the “Why”. Similarly, a cooking recipe is not a Story about cooking nor a cook nor about salt and pepper. A story is about a way- the How- not just the Start, some key steps and the End. Often I had the impression that dramatic scenes did not have sufficient setup by the story, and dialog was full of vague metaphors and truisms and the mysteries were not original and only superficially meaningful. The characters do not make difficult character revealing decisions - their development concerns rather their circumstances than their actual character, behavior or opinion. That left the taste of shallowness.
The art of allegorical science-fiction stories with thought provoking dilemmas and “what if scenarios” that tell something about the human condition is lost in Star Trek Picard.
In concept and premise Star Trek “Picard” season 2 is good – but struggles implementing them.
In the end result it seems to me that so many great ideas could have been shown by great Stories about them if they were set in another story world and not hindered by being more, lets say, set accidentally in the Star Trek World than by design.
Additionally there where again unnecessary cruel scenes. You cannot watch this show with children, again like season 1.
The actors do their best with what is given to them.
Long review(Warning Spoilers....!):
Season 2: A Christmas carol. Star Trek 4 The Voyage Home and the episode Tapestry from TNG
Themes like. Climate change, racism, totalitarianism, freedom of love, personal responsibility, exploitation and enslavement and marginalization of social groups, migration because of war or natural catastrophes, artificial intelligence – They are all super important, but they are all only mentioned and only shortly shown in ST Picard, but they do not become the core of the story – the story seems to be written with these themes but not about them. To show burning forests and a polluted atmosphere and let the protagonist say that this is terrible ( season2) is a true statement or comment but is not a story about climate change. To show police brutality and racism (season 2) is a true statement or comment or observation but not a story. There are differences between an observation and a story. One of them is that the story shows protagonists overcoming inner or outer resistance by having a revelation about themselves or certain subject - accordingly they change their point of view or opinion and consequently their behavior and overcome themselves and/or the outer antagonist. Antagonists are created to catalyze the internal challenge and revelation of the heroes. That is the actual protagonist and story struggle and depends on the protagonists weakness and desire and need.
Characters : TNG: Symbolic characters vs. “Picard”: setup for payoff - characters
The characters in TNG are not actual characters they rather serve a symbolic function in the allegorical and episodic narrative of classic Star Trek:
Picard: The explorer, the philosopher
Riker: the young adventurer. The fighter.
Data: Classic symbolic character in the line of Frankenstein and the Tin Woodman- the machine that is more human than the humans.
Troi: The magician: Symbolism of empathy in an else technical world.
Geordi Laforge: The magician: positivistic technological progress - a blind born human sees more then the others thanks to his visor.
Dr Crusher: The mother and the Healer
Worf: The fighter in tension between two worlds.
Season 2 is little better than season 1 because it seems to spend some actual time on childhood trauma and depression but handles it story-wise like a succession of steps.
In season 2 Star Trek “Picard” Picard finds out he has a childhood trauma. The whole premise is that a childhood trauma makes you stuck in your past- ok but than please show Picard being stuck in the past. Establish and show that he can not make decisions and relationships because he always thinks about his past and is followed by it step by step. Just one scene to show that he has struggle to connect to people is not enough for a character already known from hundreds of episodes in TNG, and already ca.10 in “Picard” and not enough to establish his troubles believable.
What about the character conclusion? Does he has any kind of struggle, any kind of dilemma to make the decision to accept his childhood trauma? No, there are some troubles to re-experience it again, but not to do the actual decision. The dilemma of should you change your past in order to prevent the death of your mother and your own childhood trauma vs. this act would have unknown consequences on the future and the person who you are, and basically neglecting yourself- this dilemma was never the driving force for the story. The solution is just theatrically given. And the same happens with the other protagonists. Rene Picard` depression is handled with the sentence that there is always some hope and light – that is too superficial, I am sorry. I mean that is not enough to tell a story about depression. Setup is given and a fitting payoff as well- but how they achieve that payoff is a question of circumstances in “Picard” and not a question of internal struggle to make that achievement. I leave it for you to think about what this tells us about the authors and about what they may thing about their audience and “popular” storytelling in general.
His love story is so shortly shown, I am sorry but there is no love story told, its just a scene showing 2 people that might have some connection and maybe some love potential but not more.
And yes accepting who you are, and accepting your childhood trauma, process it emotionally is the key, in my opinion, but I am sorry the story could have and should have focused more on that, because this gift by Q and that selfe revelation by Picard are the driving core of the Story. It is not expressed how Picard reaches his solution, only that.
What happens and What does Q want?
It turns out, Q creates an nightmarish, dystopian, galaxy impacting alternate future with allot of galaxy-wide suffering so that Picard decides to time-travel into the past, so that he can get hit by a car and fall into a coma, so that a Romulan agent, that looks like the Romulan housekeeper Picard is in love with, can go into his mind and help Picard face his childhood trauma in order to accept it as a part of himself - absolve himself and tell his housekeeper about his love for her and not die alone.
That is the gift Q gives Picard, because Q is dying, and he thinks alone. People die and suffer (basically the entire galaxy and the protagonists) during that story, and none of it is necessary to create that situation that Picard faces and accepts his childhood trauma.
Why let Q create a dystopian future with galactic wide suffering? Is it really all about getting Picard hit by a car so that he falls into a coma so that a Romulan watcher can go into his mind help with his childhood trauma. That's to far fetched even for Q.
Q could have done it much more easy but still weird. Besides- would the Borg Queen not know about Picards Trauma? It is a lost chance to not make the Borg queen make Picard remember and cope with his childhood trauma so that Picard at the same time learns to truly forgive the Borg and himself and solve his Borg trauma as well finally.
What impact does it have on the characters?
Picard- It is not evident how this changes Picard – it is told but not actually shown by choices he makes. Picard was already capable to connect to people or love them or make friends before but maybe not to stay with them you could argue- is this specifically shown in "Picard"- NO-
He decides to not prevent his own childhood trauma- but also not to prevent his mothers suicide. Regarding the role Captain Picard in TNG has in history, risking that by changing his own past would be an act of absurd selfishness for Picard, on the other hand does Picard now actually become guilty of letting his mother commit suicide knowing that he as a grown man decided it? What is Picards take on it? This kind of dilemma, is not even handled by the story. Does he behave now differently in the end? No. Does Picard being a Synth have impact on the Story (I mean the story not the plot) - NO
Elenor: dies at the beginning and comes back to life in the end- no growth
Raffi and 7of 9: They have a relationship with some disputes from beginning to end: no development.
7of 9: learns to accepts herself with and without Borg implants
Dr Jurati: she becomes more self-confident and finds a purpose in life -- kind of...But its not actually a self-revelation by the story- basically , she is brilliant but socially inhibited – so she becomes the new borg queen – is never alone again and creates an benevolent Borg collective. Ok why not. But to do this means Picard and Seven did not get assimilated by the Borg? Or similarly: would Picard have prevented his own childhood trauma by throwing the key away? Yes or no? But that seems just symbolic for him and woud have changed nothing in his timeline.
Captain Rios: He is Captain at the beginning - maybe a step for him? No reflection by him given. Then he falls in love and stays in the past and his doings during the rest of his life become an important part why our future becomes "good"- does he not care for the timeline or is he just assuming that his doings are meant to be? What is his revelation? He needed and wanted to care for people in a more social way and have a family- that's good but why could he not find it in his time?
Q- gets a hug while he is dying by Picard and therefore doesn't die alone. Q `s revelation: he is not alone because Picard is there. - Really? Thats it? (Didn't Q have a family as seen in Voyager?)
Why the Borg Queen doesn’t assimilate the captured policeman and the Picards ship and starts to assimilate the Earth is not explained, and not understandable and is not just a minor detail but an actual story world and character contradiction
Why the Watcher doesn’t use her ability to posses other people in order to posses Dr. Soong and stop him is not explained and not understandable and is not just a minor detail but an actual story world and character contradiction.
What is the moral argument about our society/human condition how I interpret the story of Picard?
1. Childhood trauma can cause you to do good things but hunts you in the end and inhibits you nevertheless, so that you have to accept yourselves entirely to find peace with yourself to be able to truly connect to people.
– I don't see Picard being changed in the last episode- it is just implied that he is changed.
2. Climate change and racism are terrible, and we will destroy our future if we don't solve them. And it depends on who solves these problems what kind of future we will have- because the story tells that if bad people solve the problem the future will be totalitarian and if good people solve the problems - the future becomes good.
- The story doesn't tell about the differences of their means both seem to be connected to technology. Actual social change is just implied but not story theme. At least that is how I interpret that story line.
So why do I like TNG and not Picard even though both do not have “actual 3-dimentional” characters in my opinion?
Because the protagonists in TNG are purposefully and with intention symbolic- catalyzing with their special symbolic function change in others or the situation. They do not have to be “complex”, because they are all together symbolic for our own complexity.
Captain Picard, in my opinion, was never meant to be a real whole character — as the federation was never described or meant to be in detail a real possible future form of society — they are symbols playing their part in a series of allegorical stories about us. Star Trek in its core (doesn't mean it can not diverge from that formula for a while of course) is not about Picard or Q or Data or the Enterprise, Romulans .... They are all figurative symbols.
The overall concept is similar to the famous TOS triangle: Kirk, Spock and McCoy: where every character is a symbolic personification of a certain aspect of a whole human- in that Triangle: Spock: the mind, logic, Rationality, the feeling of belonging and not belonging, rationality vs. and with emotion..., McCoy: Passionate, irrational, compassionate, human vs. technology and Kirk:- The decider: The consciousness that tries to balance between Spock, the mind and McCoy the heart with all their struggles between and inside them – Decision , risk, responsibility are his themes. It is a deliberate and in my opinion effective choice to show internal struggle of a human by letting different characters be representative for the facets of that one. Of course Kirk is as well famous for his questionable romantic adventures- I attribute this to a clumsy and anachronistic understanding of “entertainment” by the writers.
So, what is the other side? What choice does the series “Picard” do for its character design?
In my opinion the following: They are all variations of the same character concept but not different facets of that character: They are all variations on the theme- character with traumatic past and troubled present. The traumas are different: Childhood trauma, trauma of beeing emotionally abused and corporeally abused (assimilation, traumatic Vulcan mind meld), lost of close ones, having killed people.
So the setup for all their developments is a range of trauma related themes- It is shown that some of them drink and smoke but there is no reflection on that, one takes brutal revenge and in the end just says that she should do this in future, the other has to apologize constantly for past mistakes, the depressed one gets told to look on the bright side of life, the other depressed finds a love and family, the one with the childhood trauma realizes it and decides to not change his past and accept it. This sounds all good: the problem is the difference between knowing and doing or payoff and self-revelation: Finding love, connection, self-acceptation and purpose are the solutions we would all agree on, we all know them - the ones with the trauma do as well, but how do you achieve and live them ? What makes these “solutions “ actually impact-full is the deep struggle with your greatest weaknesses to reach a meaningful self revelation that come before that solutions. Without that turning-point of perception or interpretation , change of values – These solutions are shallow words. This turning comes with long training, repetition- most often in stories and life it is symbolically condensed in one decision the protagonist has to struggle with, so that his self-revelation makes the decision, the action, possible, and that action of decision makes us understand the character development. Its the action of deciding not the decision itself in my opinion that makes the story for us impact full. If the action of deciding – the way or the struggle that leads to the decision is to quickly or not shown, the actual decision does just seem obvious, because for us the audience it is obvious, but if the way is not told we will not understand why the protagonist could not just go that obvious way and that coping with that internal resistance is what makes the story interesting.
Go and accept yourself and find love and purpose! The story is not the “that” follows “that” its the “How that follows that”, the uncertainty and reliability of the struggles creates the foundation for interest. The “what if” and “why” give the setup and payoff but the “how” in between is the story.
Mostly we, in general, agree in “what” we see, the problem is more “how “we interpret, frame and communicate it.
And analogously we can agree in recognizing the premises of the story at hand, but we differ “how“ we interpret and evaluate them and their implementation and fulfillment - the “how” by the Movie or book itself. We can agree that we talk out of passion for and about Star Trek and Storytelling or other things. Consciously or not, what we love has patterns, attributes, personal reasons why we love them - and they are different for each of us. We might discuss and agree or disagree on them. And develop our taste, acknowledgement of differences, stand for ourselves and learn from others and questioning ourselves. And we develop expectations from the attributes we love. Its again the “ how”. We might be protective about them but open for change. We might be aggressively defending them out of passion. We might easily dismiss them and exchange them. And many other ways of course. And the creatives - the writers ? How can they not feel limited by such an abundance of rules given by 60 Years of Star Trek and other things? But should they subvert expectations just for the sake of subverting them? Should they change attributes and patterns many people love? But for what purpose? What is the gain, except the outlived creative freedom?How do we define progress ? Is it something we do just because we can? Is that good enough? Star Trek Picard has a lot of good premises, good concepts when you summarize singular character lines in one or two sentences. But how are they told? You can tell the same base concepts as a fairy tale in middle ages or the far future, as a comedy in today's New York, a tragedy in ancient Rome, science-fiction allegory yet again in the future and many more of course. But how do you do it ? How do you know what to tell and what to show, and what to leave to imagination and what to leave out because it distracts?
Great themes and good premises are chosen for Star Trek Picard and it was chosen in what world they shall be talked about- Star Trek. A Story World is more then just names and pictures- its again a pattern, interaction meaningful by not just giving context but being deliberately chosen and designed to be part of a Story about Something. Captain Picard (TNG), in my opinion, was never designed to be a real “whole” character - as the federation was never described or meant to be in detail a real possible future form of society - they are symbols playing their part in a series of episodic allegorical stories about us. So I see Picard not as a “real “ character to respect but more like a Symbol I admire. Therefore, because Picard symbolically important to me, changes or additions to his storyline are interesting to me but evoking scepticism. Should I be standing against personal change - no. But should I accept and appreciate who I am and my past?- yes! Should I neglect everything that stands against it or accept everything- either. Coming from there, making Picard a “real” character is not impossible, done with great care for what was told before, for the patterns and interactions of a world created with a lot of care to serve the story – a world that inspired for 60 Years millions of inter-individually very different people. The show Star Trek “Picard” is rushing over many great concepts without spending the time they deserve and need. And this way it makes compromises and uses Star Trek attributes sufficiently to frame it in that Story world, but the Story barely depends on that world or lives in it. In the end result it seems to me that so many great ideas could have been shown by great Stories about them if they were set in another story world and not hindered by being more, lets say, set accidentally in the Star Trek World than by design.
Thanks for reading!