Thursday, March 19, 2020

REVIEW: 'Star Trek: Picard' - The La Sirena Returns to Soji's Home World of Synthetic Life in 'Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1'

CBS All Access' Star Trek: Picard - Episode 1.09 "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1"

Following an unconventional and dangerous transit, Picard and the crew finally arrive at Soji's home world, Coppelius. However, with Romulan warbirds on their tail, their arrival brings only greater danger as the crew discovers more than expected about the planet's inhabitants.

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.

"Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1" was directed by Akiva Goldsman with story by Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman & Akiva Goldsman and teleplay by Michael Chabon & Ayelet Waldman

The series aspires to have the audience challenge and question our perception of Admiral Jean-Luc Picard. He is a revered figure in Star Trek canon. However, he is a flawed hero as well. He embarks on this mission to return Soji to her home planet and save Synthetic life mostly as a posture of what his former life used to be as part of Starfleet. He is accustomed to being the commander of a ship and making first contact with new worlds and species. He believes his word is always to be trusted. He leads from that commanding position. And yet, that isn't worth what it used to be. In fact, it's baffling that he still believes he can persuade the governments at large to avoid their discrimination of Synths seemingly over night. That makes it seem like Picard is nothing more than a repetitive character doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again. He is dying as well. There should be more agency for him to analyze his actions and see if there is potentially a better way of doing things. And yet, he mostly comes across as a stubborn man who is angry when a species under attack would rather arrest him then take him at his word. That's what this penultimate episode is building towards. The La Sirena crew lands on Soji's home planet. They see the civilization of synthetic life. It's mostly what science fiction fans have come to expect when a foreign but peaceful society is introduced for the first time. It's unimaginative in that way. It doesn't question the notion of what it means to be the next evolution of society and the human race. Instead, it's a formula that has been known to be effective in the past without really offering anything new for the future. Isa Briones gets to play yet another new character in Sutra, a Synth with a gold-based appearance who immediately comes across as the leader with questionable morals. She decodes the message implanted in Jurati's brain and understands that there is a civilization of synthetic life out there watching over this society and ready to free them from their oppressors. That seems like a genuine offer of salvation from the threat that looms from the Romulans. Picard just sees that as Soji fulfilling her destiny as the Destroyer. Now, that destiny has been vaguely defined at best. There has been some cryptic prophetic moments saying that synthetic life will doom the world. That's what informs the Zhat Vash. That's why Jurati killed Bruce Maddox. But it's hard to be invested in anything that is happening at the moment because the show hasn't exactly put in the effort. When Picard mentions his terminal disease, it's mostly just a way to inject melodrama into the proceedings. It makes people view him differently. It's possibly with more appreciation and reverence without him having to do any of the work himself. Raffi is suddenly willing to declare her love for him. That moment comes out of nowhere and seems to go against her season narrative of struggling for control over her life after being forced out of Starfleet because of him. That's odd and unearned. The same goes for the Artifact suddenly appearing. That serves a purpose of reuniting the La Sirena crew with Seven and Elnor before this fateful confrontation with the Romulans occurs. It doesn't make much logical sense. It's just meant to provide a cool and perilous visual. The rest of the time the show is simply going through the motions of what is expected of it. That is incredibly disappointing. The start of the season depicted a new take on Star Trek by analyzing the cost of what it meant to live in this world and needing to be at the forefront of exploration. The dangers of space could cripple Picard. But those are what gives his life meaning. He has found that in this journey. He has just lost any sense of consistency with his actions though. That erratic nature could be explained away by his terminal disease. That would just be a cheap cop out that proves the series wanted to create sensationalized and melodramatic moments instead of offering a new perspective on an iconic character from the Star Trek universe. At the moment, it's hard to see how the finale can bounce back from all of this to offer something hopeful and exciting about the future. Any big twists probably won't be earned because the show hasn't made the audience invest in the characters beyond some profound connection they apparently have to the past. That can only buy the audience so much leverage in the end.