Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Thoughts on Star Trek Picard S1E4 "Absolute Candor"


This entire episode was a long line of addressing some of my questions about the writing. It worked out pretty well in the end actually.

First we get another flashback to 14 years ago. We see Picard in some sort of Romulan settlement and while the scene doesn't explain to us yet why it is necessary, it will become quite clear later in the episode. One very interesting thing about this scene however is that Picard really comes off as younger. And I don't mean that they've tried to de-age him, if they did I didn't really notice. But Patrick Stewart really plays Picard more energetically and jovially. That makes it so much more clear that the weary, quite tired and frankly damn old Picard that he plays in the rest of the series is exactly that, a carefully crafted character act. It's in fact not just an old actor playing himself, there is thought behind it. Damn, this man is good.

Picard visits some sort of convent looking thing where everyone, except a young boy named Elnor, are women. It's not explained outright yet, but it is clear that the convent obeys some sort of "open book" policy in which they never lie about their feelings. When the young boy happily greets Picard, his teacher/caretaker tells him to leave Picard be because he doesn't like children. The boy gets saddened and asks Picard "but I thought you liked me?". "But I do!" Picard answers and he seems genuine about it. Elnor is going to turn out to be another person that Picard has quite frankly just turned his back on, like Raffi. At this moment in the flashback they're still planning the evacuation and Picard gets the information that the synthetics have killed people on Mars. At that point he is still reassuring everyone that the evacuation will continue as planned, but we all know that it's not going to. We also know that for some reason, Picard chooses to just leave everyone involved in this behind and go hide at his chateau out of disappointment, presumably.

Sadly Guinan wasn't part of the convent.

We move back to present time and get a very scripted feeling conversation between Rios the pilot and Agnes the synthetics expert professor. I'm not really sure what it is meant to accomplish except maybe the feeling of team building, like we as viewers need to start cheering for these guys as a group (and not just Picard) but it just comes off as stiff and weird frankly. I guess that makes sense too though since they don't really know each other yet.

Picard has decided to take a detour to a planet named Vashti before heading to Freecloud. Raffi is very much against this, but we find out that this is where the convent place was and Picard wants to enlist someone from the convent as his personal super-warrior. Apparently these nuns are some sort of close combat battle-nuns, because of course they are. My first thought was - what use is an expert in close combat going to be in a time where there is mostly space ships and laser guns?

Vashti is apparently in a bit of a lawless zone at the moment and the area is sort of owned by some person called Kar Kantar. Not only do they need to keep out of his hair, but the planet itself has some sort of dangerous planetary defence that is going to turn out to be barely any trouble at all, especially considering the amount of time they spend building up the tension around it.

Before Picard beams down to the surface however we get to meet another one of Rios' holograms modelled after himself. This one is the "Greeter Hologram" or something like that, later on we also get to meet the "Gunner Hologram". They're all pretty distinct and I actually love the idea of having an entire ship inhabited with loads of holograms of the same person, none of them actually being that person though and all having their own, annoying, personality. Rios seems to strongly dislike most of them, which is another fun aspect to it.

And definitely a hundred times more fun than these gits.

Down on the surface of Vashti, Picard notices that most things seem to have gone to pits. For one thing, the Romulans have started segregating, making certain areas "Romulan only". He goes to the convent and meets the same lady from the flashback whom I swear looks exactly the same. Not a wrinkle in her face has changed during the 14 years. Just as I was thinking about that fact though, Picard points it out himself when he tells her that "she hasn't aged a day". Do Romulans age slower than humans too, like Vulcans do? Makes sense I guess.

We learn that the warrior-nuns are called the Qowat Milad and they are the sworn enemies of the Tal Shiar. How convenient for Picard.

Elnor on the other hand has changed a lot. He is now a young man who looks a lot like Legolas, only with dark instead of blonde hair. Though he wasn't meant to grow up in the convent, the aftermath of the attack on Mars meant they couldn't find another place for him. This meant he too was trained in the supreme battle skills of the battle nuns and guess who Picard then goes on to enscript (a word I just made up reflecting conscripting and enlisting) into his group of oddballs?

Elnor isn't too keen on the idea though since he too has felt completely abandoned by Picard all these years. What kind of asshole has Picard been? I've got to say, if this series achieves anything, it's going to be the slander and ruination of Picard pretty much spotless legacy. But maybe that is part of the idea, to make him more human?

As Picard leaves he decides to go have a drink in one of the "Romulans only" bar, but not before he pulls down the sign and kicks it away. What a great way to make friends. A Romulan ex-politician confronts him, and ends up challenging him to a duel with actual swords. At first Picard refuses, but the bad guy is about to kill him when Elnor shows up and ends it with a cool looking but probably useless spin-sword-slash. The entire scene is so obviously set up for them to be able to show us Elnor's skills because why else would Picard decide to behave this way? But then someone shows up with a blaster rifle and says something along the lines of "your combat skills won't be good against my gun" which also reminds me of that scene in Indiana Jones. It'll definitely be interesting to see how they plan to make Elnor's combat skills useful later on and hopefully he knows more than just how to swirl through the air with his sword.

When Picard asks Elnor why he changed his mind he basically just answers "ehhh I just felt like it". The writing in this can be both so extremely lazy and down right bad some times and other times it is gracefully subtle and clever. It's like there are several different people writing different scenes and that is probably the way it is too.

Let's go to Soji for a little bit though. She is finally addressing the fact that Narek is acting weird as hell and he needs to turn up the charm-dial a few notches to ease her mind. Ramdha, the liberated ex-borg Romulan from the last episode who accused Soji of being "The Destroyer" came from a ship called the Shaenor. I mentioned briefly in a previous post that this made her special somehow, but it hasn't been explained why yet. Narek and Soji both agree they need to dig deeper into this. Narek then confronts Soji with the fact that there are no records of how she came onto the cube. Soji seems to think he is just toying with her but Narek is actually divulging some pretty sensitive information. He is basically telling her that he knows that she has been doing some trickery which she A) either already knows and then presumably isn't to happy about him knowing or B) doesn't have a clue about and then he's just made her really confused. What is Narek trying to achieve?

But not much happens with this information, Soji seems to think he is just making things up, as mentioned and they quickly move on to other things.

Nareks sister (?) makes another appearance to see how things are getting along. While they are referring to eachother as siblings, I am not so sure they are. They're pretty handsy for being siblings, but then I'm not well versed in Romulan customs. In their conversation they refer to "the rest of them", implying they know there are a lot more synthetics out there somewhere and the plan is to try to get Soji to tell them where they are, either she knows it consciously or not. He tells his "sister" that he is planting the seed of doubt in Soji, though what kind of doubt it is is not entirely clear yet.

Back on board the ship they've of course been attacked by Kar Kantar. A short battle ensues which is literally just an excuse to allow yet another character to make a grand entrance as she saves their behinds. Just as her ship is about to be destroyed (after she has dealt with Kar Kantars Bird of Prey) she is beamed over and it is - Seven of Nine!

Yay! Now if the rest of the Voyager crew could join as well...

I've been waiting for this moment and it's going to be very interesting to see how she fits in with Picard rag tag team of weirdo's but also how she will fit in with Picard himself. Seven of Nine is arguably one of the best characters of Voyager (though she was apparently intended mostly as eye-candy the writers managed to make so much more out of her).

To wrap up, though more might and probably still will join;
Picard - needs no introduction.
Raffi - Picard ex-colleague, unknown role. Angry with Picard and claims she is just hitching a ride and will leave them as soon as they get where she needs to but we all know that's not going to happen.
Rios - Picards laid back pilot.
Agnes - Picards somewhat strung up synthetics expert of unknown usefulness.
Elnor - PIcards close combat expert of unknown usefulness.
Seven of Nine - Ex-borg of extreme usefulness.

This episode doesn't move the plot forward much but rather stacks the deck a bit higher. I don't mind that at all as I find it's necessary to build a good story. All this needs now is for these different characters to blend together well with great chemistry and we might actually have a very tasty soup.

Images from dailytimes.com, wikipedia.com, gamesradar.com.

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