Warning: Spoilers ahead for "Star Trek: Picard" Season 3, episode 9
We've said it before and after next week we won't have to say it ever again, but this third season of "Picard" would've really benefited from being the first. And the reason is this: The same basic plot formula has been used for all three seasons, relying oh, so heavily on the "What's in the box?!" approach to teasing a story and like overexcited, tail-wagging puppy dogs, the audience has been misdirected and missed the fact that the box, almost all of the time, has in fact been empty.
And while this was more enticing for the first season, it has sadly, now become commonplace. That said, if the Season 3 finale sticks the landing next week, we might find ourselves, for five minutes at least, feeling like we've been a teeny-tiny bit overcritical. The thing is, I Just Don't Think That's Going To Happen. And no media outlets have seen the actual S03, E10 episode yet; Paramount is keeping that one close to its chest and releasing it only a day or so in advance of the air date.
So yes, if the very first time this repetitive tactic had been used had been this season, it would've made the whole nostalgia revisit over the last three years and three seasons much more effective. Sure, there are still some nice ideas, occasionally some good dialogue and lots of explosions, but for the most part, it just doesn't go anywhere.
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Well, the die hards who insist on reliving the past will definitely go into a frenzy and spoilers are going to be near impossible to avoid on social media. And there is a lot to unpack this week. Captain Shaw (Todd Stashwick) met a death as utterly pointless as Huw and Cristóbal Rios, so that was lame. And probably the other big takeaway is that yes, Jean-Luc Picard had Borg tech in his spermatozoa. And a little like actually quantifying the Force in "The Phantom Menace" by way of those pesky Midi-chlorians, that unique gift of being able to hear the Borg is now an identifiable physical attribute, rather than just being cool.
And the terrorist threat or alien attack is always aimed at large social gatherings, so much so it makes you wonder why they're still considered a good idea. Admiral Shelby (Elizabeth Dennehy) last seen in the TNG episode "The Best of Both Worlds" (S03, E26) pops up and ... is that the voice of Alice Krige I hear as the Borg Queen? Pity we couldn't get to see her.
And just like the semi-assimilated Spearhead Operations soldiers that we saw in episode 9 no less, of last season, the crew of the Titan become cannon fodder for frighteningly formulaic set piece. Plus there's the giant fleet gathering for a giant space battle, the salvaged saucer section from Veridian III, drones loading torpedoes undetected and of course the non-networked USS Enterprise D.
As Michael Okuda said on Twitter, "As others have noted before, it partly depends on how many subscribers stream Picard, and how many times they watch it." Which makes one wonder why spend so much money on a show like this and then just rely on a cookie-cutter story template. Is it true that the best and only plan is play it super-safe every time? Truth be told, "Picard" is not something I will go back and rewatch. "Stargate" is something I go back and rewatch. And even then, I would still hate to see the old cast dragged out back in front of the cameras for spin-off series. Instead, I'd like to see some new "Stargate." Maybe that's why the next "Star Trek" spin-off is set at the Academy, because its target audience could be considered an easier target. The younger folk are so much easier to please than us crumblies who still bang our fist on the table and insist on quality. Heck, we're a dying breed.
Really well-written shows can also make money as well as being fun and engaging to watch and rewatch. Take "Game of Thrones" or "Ted Lasso" or "Severance" or "The Boys" or "The Orville" — these are amazing television shows and they made money for the network showing them. It's also worth noting "Picard" made its first ever appearance in the Nielsen rankings, finishing ninth among original series with 310 million minutes of viewing as it reached the midpoint of its third season.
To put it in perspective, it's also worth noting that "Ted Lasso" put Apple TV+ back in the rankings, racking up 539 million minutes of watch time with the premiere episode of its third season. The takeaway from this is that this took a collective effort of half the season of "Picard" to enable it to appear in the rankings for the very first time. Just one episode — the third season premiere episode — of "Ted Lasso" had almost double the viewership. Not even the third season premiere episode of "Picard" — or the second, which was actually much better — managed that.
And the science fiction genre can't be an impossible nut to crack, because other shows have managed it.
This season of "Picard" has been fun, don't misunderstand that, but I suspect all the folk who were turned off from this third season because of the first two, will feel vindicated. It's just disappointing that Paramount and Alex Kurtzman, with all of the wealth and talent at their disposal, still couldn't come up with something less formulaic. Anyone looking for cerebral sci-fi should probably skip "Star Trek" these days.
"Star Trek: Picard" and every episode of every "Star Trek" show currently streams exclusively on Paramount Plus in the US. Internationally, the shows are available on Paramount Plus in Australia, Latin America, the U.K. and South Korea, as well as on Pluto TV in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland on the Pluto TV Sci-Fi channel. They also stream exclusively on Paramount Plus in Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. In Canada, they air on Bell Media's CTV Sci-Fi Channel and stream on Crave.
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