Like “Star Trek: Voyager” and Marvel’s Avengers before it, “Star Trek Picard” has reached its endgame. In now-typical fashion, it’s a confusing and frenetic opening to the two-part “Et in Arcadia Ego”, one that makes you feel like you may have missed a scene or two at the end of the last episode. You’ll quickly realise, though, that the makers of the episode have decided to skip over some contextual stuff in favour of showing you some action. It’s a fun scene, especially the Borg cube emerging from the transwarp conduit but then it goes all horticultural and the power dies and Picard starts channelling another presence but nobody really follows up on it.
It’s pretty clear what “Star Trek Picard” season one is now: a bad adaptation of what seems like it would have been a decent “Star Trek” spin-off novel. The structuring of the story over the course of the season has been horrible, a fact felt most keenly now as the finale rushes to cram in as many underdeveloped new ideas, contrivances and characters as it can to deliver what the finale needs.
Unfortunately, for every interesting (but irritatingly unexplained) idea – why develop anti-orbital floral defences in the first place? – there’s a bunch of clichés thrown in, including a gold-skinned triplet to Soji and Dahj in the form of Sutra and another hitherto unknown relative of Doctor Noonian Soong, this time his alleged son Dr Altan Inigo Soong. You know, the son he never mentioned, nor did his androids nor did his wife, Juliana Tainer. It’s hard to believe they can dip into Data’s lore so deeply without mentioning, well, Lore. Certainly Brent Spiner – an actor not prone to subtlety – plays Altan Soong with the same sly cadence that he imbued Lore with, so let’s wait and see if “Star Trek Picard”, like “Star Trek Discovery”, always delivers the most obvious twists with an undeserved flourish.
That the Admonition was a message intended for a digital consciousness and has been hopelessly misinterpreted by analogue minds is a fascinating one, worthy of the kind of epic event “Star Trek Novels” that used to be the purview of Peter David but the idea that the Vulcan Mind Meld is a technique that an android can learn simply by updating its software is patently absurd by any application of the rules of the “Star Trek” universe. The franchise has pushed its luck with non-Vulcans being able to do the Vulcan Nerve Pinch and I’ve let it slide but to quote Picard in his pomp (albeit on the decline), ‘the line must be drawn here: this far – no further!’
Speaking of Picard speaking, this episode underlines just how much has changed in the intervening years. Patrick Stewart gives it his best shot, but his voice has gone and he can’t hit that Picard in full ethical eloquence anymore, which makes Spiner’s lines about conviction and authority comes off as archly sarcastic. The most eye-rollingly tedious part of the episode, though, is the mish-mash of betrayals, double-crosses and last-minute changes of heart that are woven into place to obviously be undone in the next episode. Isa Briones, who’s been so solid as Dahj and Soji is pretty terrible as Sutra, stilted and moustache-twirlingly obvious in her machinations, so much so that it requires all of our heroes so far to be at best naïve and at worst unconscionably dumb not to see it coming.
Next week will see this debut season of “Star Trek Picard” limp to a conclusion and unless they can pull something radical out of the replicator, it looks like our furthest glimpse into the future of the franchise has set it back quite a bit. “Et in Arcadia Ego” is well named because here we are in the promised land and, thanks to certain egos involved in the production, the series feels like it’s ready for death.