Thursday, March 12, 2020

REVIEW: 'Star Trek: Picard' - The Burden of Many Secrets Disrupts the La Sirena Crew in 'Broken Pieces'

CBS All Access' Star Trek: Picard - Episode 1.08 "Broken Pieces"

When devastating truths behind the Mars attack are revealed, Picard realizes just how far many will go to preserve secrets stretching back generations, all while the La Sirena crew grapples with secrets and revelations of their own. Narissa directs her guards to capture Elnor, setting off an unexpected chain of events on the Borg cube.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of CBS All Access' Star Trek: Picard.

"Broken Pieces" was written by Michael Chabon and directed by Maja Vrvilo

Just as history dictates how the main characters react to the various plot developments here, the past of Star Trek informs how this series develops over time. It can be comforting because it allows all of these references and call outs to the past. It can incorporate characters from prior shows knowing that the audience already has a strong connection to them. And yet, it also runs the risk of becoming too derivative. If the show is simply going through the motions of what is expected from a project set in the Star Trek universe, there is really no specificity for why it should exist in the first place. This series has set out to showcase how the anguish of the past and the decisions made a long time ago have fueled who the characters are today. However, there is the forced narrative pursuit of making it fit a certain preprogrammed construct. Every previous Star Trek show has featured the Starfleet crew on a ship becoming a makeshift family. That's exactly what happens here with Picard, Soji, Jurati, Raffi and Rios sitting down at a table and outlining all of the information they have gathered in a short amount of time. That is the moment where they are being completely honest with each other. And yet, it doesn't feel rewarding or particularly earned. It's just something that is expected from a Star Trek show. It comes with the revelation that all of these characters are already connected through the plot without needing to embark on this mission together. That makes no sense whatsoever and doesn't immediately bring value or character dimension to the proceedings. It was inferred previously that Rios had a tragic backstory. That has remained vague. And now, the show throws a bunch of information out there to explain he has had a previous run-in with Synthetic life. That was the reason why his former captain and father figure died and he was removed from Starfleet. It just takes him physically seeing Soji for him to understand the connection that exists. But it doesn't really inform much in the proceedings. Jurati and Soji have a very compelling conversation about personal identity. In that moment, it's meant to convey how Jurati can completely turn her back on the mission given to her by Commodore Oh. That's too much of a burden to place on one interaction. As such, it falls flat. Jurati killed Bruce Maddox and was the reason why the La Sirena was being followed by Narek. And now, she basically accepts that she'll turn herself over to the authorities at the next possible venture. She isn't a member of this crew any more. But she is also amazed by Soji and what her existence can mean for the future. The Zhat Vash operates with reverence for a message left behind centuries ago by a civilization wiped out by Synthetic life. They operate with the sole purpose of avoiding that seemingly inevitable demise once more. That just means those individuals are willing to kill millions of people in order to control fate. They want to prevent the rise of Synthetic life by manipulating the world to their ideals and their fears. Picard can speak eloquently about the noble pursuit of science and allowing curiosity to dictate one's actions. And yet, the show increasingly feels as if it is going for these big dramatic reveals that look cool on paper but falter in execution. It should be absolutely terrifying for Seven to reconnect herself to the Borg collective. It's her returning to the greatest nightmare and loss of identity she has ever known. But all of that is done in a matter of minutes with seemingly no consequences whatsoever. The show uses Borg imagery in order to tease crucial developments. But it's never really focused on that causing serious problems for any of the main characters. Similarly, it's not shocking when the Zhat Vash are revealed to be behind all of the chaos and destruction that has occurred over the last decade. They staged the attack on Mars to win people over to their side in this war. And now, Soji is trying to take back control of her life. She is fighting for her own individuality instead of some preprogrammed notion of what she likes. But it's hard to buy into the idea that she exists as a unique individual when the narrative fixates on the idea that Rios interacted with another being with her face and exact same interests. Dahj and Soji were given two unique personalities and existed as sisters. But now, it seems as if all Synthetic life is programmed in a similar way that goes against the notion of individualism. Meanwhile, Picard largely gets lost in the debate as he is unable to see what's going on with his new crew until they blatantly point things out to him. They are the ones driving the narrative forward while he is just along for the ride not really engaging with anything that is currently happening. That's incredibly disappointing given the importance of Picard trying his best to remind the world of the glory that once existed through exploration and curiosity.