STAR TREK: PICARD (S1E8) “Broken Pieces”: Preparing For The End

As we get closer to the end of Star Trek: Picard‘s first season, I once again find myself asking “what are we doing here?”. It feels like a lifetime ago that Picard was sat at the Château, thinking about the choices that led him there and how best to use his limited time in this world. Now he’s become so lost in this overblown, overcomplicated story involving Romulan conspiracies and ancient prophecies, that it almost seems odd to see his name up there in the title of the show.

At some point, Picard stopped being about, well, Picard. Sure, “The Impossible Box” dealt with his lingering trauma over the Borg, and “Nepenthe” had him reunite with Riker and Troi, but these are mostly asides compared to the larger ongoing narrative. On a better-constructed show, these asides might contribute something meaningful to the season’s main plot, but this one has consistently struggled to connect its larger concerns with those of its titular character. The big Romulan plot to wipe out all synthetic life is at this point so immensely vast-reaching, with its connections to both the Borg and the attack on Mars, that the personal matters of one Jean-Luc Picard have all but faded away.

A Tough Dilemma

This week, the good Captain faces a crisis on his new ship—Dr. Jurati is found with a tracker in her system and is suspected in the murder of Bruce Maddox. Picard is, somewhat naively, reluctant to believe all evidence against her, even when the EMH all but confirms it (speaking of whom, where was he last week? I figured Jurati had deactivated him to cover her tracks, but apparently he just held on to that information until the plot demanded it). It’s not that he should be gung ho to convict his new crewmate, but the scene suggests more a flat-out refusal to believe she could do this, than a concern over the slippery slope of justice.

source: CBS All Access

This sort of process makes me long for episodes like “The Drumhead”, where such matters would be mulled over for the length of an entire episode, allowing for a thoughtful, nuanced discussion that would justify Picard’s belief in someone he barely knows (this could even tie into Raffi’s initial mistrust of Soji, an issue that’s dropped as quickly as it’s raised). Whether there’s a place for that in this slicker, modern Star Trek remains unknown, however, as we have another ten storylines to cut back to as all this is going on. It does mean though, that individual episodes like these are more concerned with furthering the plot than they are exploring any theme or idea, tending to make them forgettable in the long run.

Other Bits and Pieces

“Broken Pieces” then, is an episode that sends everyone on their way to where they’ll need to be in the upcoming two-part finale, but hardly seems interested in doing much of anything else, at least not with any tangible enthusiasm. Rios’ standard-issue tragic backstory, for example, is about as passably bland as they come, revealing little about his character and coming so late into the season that you wonder why it’s even here. Is this any more illuminating than if he’d just remained an enigma? Hard to say, but beyond the gory description, it resonates about as much as any non-explanation would have.

source: CBS All Access

Raffi’s wacky hijinks with his numerous emergency holograms further muddy the waters in the question of who this man is, giving us an all-new Scottish engineer character (ha!) to add to the collection. Does this hard-drinking tortured soul really seem like the kind of person who’d program goofy accents into all of his helpers, especially after designing them in his image? Not exactly, but given that this is less the “Rios episode” than it is one that struggles to find him space, it’s again hard to say.

Missed Opportunities

The same type of half-baked thinking goes for Seven’s story this week, which sees her show up on the Artifact in perfect action movie timing, reclaim the vessel and even (briefly) become the new Borg Queen. This all takes place in such a short amount of time that you’re barely left to consider the ramifications of her undertaking such a drastic, and likely very traumatic, decision. Everything Seven has gone through in the last twenty years could all be for nothing if something were to go wrong, but before the stakes can even be established, they’re quickly defused in time for the next thing to happen.

Worst of all is the attempt to bring some humanity to Narissa Rizzo, who’s revealed this week to be fighting for what she believes is a just and righteous cause, but not before the show cuts back to her gleefully murdering innocents. It’s frankly comical to suggest some shred of humanity in this walking twirled mustache of a character, and that’s without getting into how it’s tied to some ludicrous ancient prophecy, predicting the end of all life. You can’t just give the villain a sympathetic backstory if that’s not going to inform anything she does, unless you want your audience to immediately see it for the lazy writing it is.

source: CBS All Access

While little of this is necessarily bad, it all underlines how unimaginative and half thought out this how has been. It’ll throw out ten different ideas per episode, some of it good, most of it half-baked, and hope it’s enough to have Stewart at the center. After all, for an episode paying lip service to ideas of “openness, optimism, and the spirit of curiosity”, it sure would be nice if “Broken Pieces” could develop that into something concrete.

Further Thoughts

  • I’m not a prude for language or anything, but the apparent mandate on characters saying “fuck” at least once per episode plays like a lame attempt make the show look edgy. Who honestly needed to hear someone tell Picard to “shut the fuck up”?
  • Considering how little we’ve seen of what’s going on with Starfleet, I was quite looking forward to visiting Deep Space Twelve. Oh well.
  • Everything involving the Zhat Vash is just so silly. This week we find out that they apparently moved eight suns to align in space. What?
  • The crew is bizarrely chummy with Jurati after finding out she killed Maddox. They even let her stay on for the final mission. Why?

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