ST: Picard Season 1 Finale, for better and, unfortunately, for worse

NOTE FROM LB: I’ve enjoyed watching Star Trek: Picard on CBS All-Access, but have to admit feeling guilty about doing so. In fact, I’m often truly ashamed of myself.

I love seeing so many Next Generation and Voyager characters again, but I hate seeing the way the stories (actually only one overarching story) treat them. And, in the process, treat Gene Roddenberry, creator and Great Bird of the Universe.

I’m not objecting to the way the characters are portrayed, per se, but to the context we see them in. This ain’t a Roddenberry universe, my friends, not by a longshot. As far as I’m concerned, Michael Chabon and company have royally screwed my early ’70s mentor, the aforementioned Great Bird.

Which is why I’ve taken quite a fancy to the following review.

“Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2” — Episode #110 — Pictured: Brent Spiner as Alton Soong of the the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: Aaron Epstein/CBS ©2019 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

by Christian Blauvelt

You gotta love “Star Trek: Picard” in theory.

It’s a show that flies in the face of fan service, that rejects nostalgia, to push its beloved character into uncharted territory. It’s meant to look different from any “Trek” that’s come before, feature characters like we’ve never seen before, and feature a level of danger like we’ve never seen before.

In theory.

But in practice, the reality of “Star Trek: Picard” has missed the mark of its intent. Instead of looking different from any other “Trek,” so much of this show has just looked ugly: sets that are just different shades of gray. It looks like any of the now-canceled Marvel Netflix shows. We have indeed gotten ourselves new characters, and for the most part they’ve been enjoyable — when their arcs actually go somewhere — but it’s hard not to think Picard himself is now the least interesting personality we’re watching. We did have big stakes, down even to Picard himself on death’s door from a “brain abnormality” — but the show pulls its punches.

By trying to be so different from the “Trek” that has come before, “Star Trek: Picard” has dispiritingly ended up looking like most other serialized shows in the streaming era: overlong and overplotted with a sense that everything is forgettable. And it’s not even that different from some more recent “Trek”: the J.J. Abrams reboot films are bright and candy colored, while “Picard” is dark and gloomy, but both “Picard” and “Star Trek Into Darkness” end the same way — with the resurrection of a character whose “death” is meaningless as you’re watching it because you know he’ll be revived five minutes later. And he is….

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Star Trek: Picard Review – Who is Brent Spiner Really Playing?

TVWriter™ doesn’t do a lot of TV episode reviews these days, but this one – discovered on IndieWire.Com definitely has caught our attention. This TVWriter™ minion definitely is lovin’ Christian Blauvelt’s intriguing reasoning!

Brent Spiner as Alton Soong of the the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: Aaron Epstein/CBS ©2019 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

by Christian Blauvelt

Consider this writer impressed.

“Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1” does a spectacular job of synthesizing the style of “The Next Generation” with that of “The Original Series” — and the result is something new altogether.

What does that mean? Well, think about this: we’ve got a race of higher life forms that look somewhat human, but in manner are clearly not. Their women are scantily clad, unnaturally hued, and a tad spacey. Their men, shirtless, leave no impression at all. And they all live in a kind of Eden where any disruption to their utopian ways could result in an apocalyptic, deus ex machina solution. They also use giant space flowers as weapons!

This could be the setup of any number of “Original Series” episodes. But then you throw Brent Spiner in the mix as a self-described “mad scientist” and Jean-Luc Picard’s speechifying and you’ve got a dash of “Next Gen” added to the mix. The combination of the two results in a synthesis that could be the defining aesthetic of “Star Trek: Picard.”

Other than “Nepenthe,” this is surely the best episode of this uneven series to date, and it began with a bang: a space battle between La Sirena and Narek’s Romulan craft upon emerging from the transwarp corridor. They’d traveled 25 light years in 15 minutes and emerged above the world Coppelius — a name that has its origin in a strange E.T.A. Hoffmann story. More on that later….

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DOCTOR WHO Series 12 Finale Explained

“Spoilers? Who cares about steenkin’ spoilers?”

We know, a lot of people do. Sometimes we here at TVWriter™ are among them. But not this time around. Because every single one of us slaving away for our Beloved Leader Larry Brody agrees that knowing the info in this essay by Kyle Anderson on richer.

Not only that, it also has made the entirety of our Doctor Who experience fuller and just plain more fun. Ignore this if you must, but enjoy it if you, erm, you know, mustn’t.

by Kyle Anderson

As both Riley Silverman and I have said in various pieces this year, there were a whole lot of threads at play in series 12. Chris Chibnall went from having nothing and nobody of interest to maybe too much in the span of just one season. But going into the finale, we had a few big lingering questions to answer:

1. Who is/are the Timeless Child/Children?

2. Why did the Master destroy Gallifrey?

3. How does the Jo Martin Doctor fit into the timeline that we know?

4. Who was Brendan whose strange life we saw in “Ascension of the Cybermen”?

Luckily, the first question is maybe the simplest. Yet its implications bleed over into so much of Doctor Who, past present and future. The Master pulls the Doctor away from her friends—trapped in a life-or-death struggle against the Cybermen—to hook her up to the Matrix. Now, the Matrix, in Doctor Who terms, is the virtual reality-like depository of all Time Lord history and knowledge. We first learned about it in the 1976 story “The Deadly Assassin,” one of the most important stories of all time.

A quick digression about “The Deadly Assassin,” because “The Timeless Children” directly references it a LOT. That episode featured the Doctor’s first on screen jaunt to the Citadel, the Time Lord’s big central city on Gallifrey. There he fought the Master who had attempted to extract info from the Matrix to save himself. The Master was a decaying husk at the time, out of regenerations. “The Deadly Assassin” was also the story that introduced the deep held lore that Time Lords have only 12 regenerations, their lives end after 13 iterations. Obviously, there’s some fudging throughout the series on that front.

“The Deadly Assassin” was also the first mention of the Shobogans. The Shobogans are an indigenous race of Gallifreyans who, apparently, do not have the ability to regenerate and are therefore not Time Lords. And as the Master explains when he and the Doctor enter the Matrix, a Shobogan scientist named Tecteun traversed the stars until she found a mysterious portal on a distant world. At the foot of this portal, Tecteun also found a small child. Tecteun took the child with her and raised the little girl as her own. During a fight with a playmate, the child fell off a cliff and seemingly died. Except, she didn’t. She regenerated….

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Why ‘Mr. Robot’ is the Most Thought-Provoking TV Series in History

You thought The Good Place was profound?


Emma Fraser knows the Truth. (And so does Mr. Robot. Bwahh!)

(Photo by: Peter Kramer/USA Network)

by Emma Fraser

The world of Mr. Robot isn’t too dissimilar from the current political and social landscape; the one percent of the one percent have an exorbitant amount of power, and this level of control has led to overwhelming wealth disparity. Over four seasons, hacker Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) took on those who “play God without permission” to break the system, which hit a lot of bumps along the way. His original target was E Corp, one of the world’s largest multinational conglomerates (often referenced as Evil Corp). It isn’t a subtle name, but when veering into a dystopian landscape, nuance often gets left at the door.

Debuting in 2015, the main action of the entire series takes place across that particular year, revealing a “darkest timeline” version of a period that was already pretty messy IRL. However, the nightmare landscape shifts in the final season, offering up a semblance of hope about our collective future. In the final episodes, this contrasts with the image of a personal utopia turned hellscape. At the center of the story, an identity constructed out of trauma underscores why authentic personal connections are ultimately more important than imagined ones.

Creator Sam Esmail delivered numerous jaw-dropping twists and turns throughout Mr. Robot‘s run, including the Fight Club-style Season 1 reveal that Elliot’s friend Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) is not real — rather, he is a personality created by Elliot, resembling his deceased father. This is just one layer of Elliot’s disassociative personality disorder; the final twist is that the person we have spent the most time with isn’t the real Elliot, either.

Mr. Robot is a show that doesn’t always spell out what is imagined, so when Elliot wakes up in the seemingly perfect alternate reality at the start of the two-part finale, questions stack up. Whiterose (BD Wong) claimed she could transport someone to a better version of their life; maybe she wasn’t lying after all?

In this other place, Elliot’s parents are both alive, and so is Angela (Portia Doubleday) — she was murdered in the Season 4 opener. Meanwhile, Elliot is not the hoodie-as-armor, anxiety-ridden figure we have spent four years watching….

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Diana Vacc sees “Holiday Date”

A couple of actors trying their best

by Diana Vaccarelli

It’s that time of year.  Cheesy Hallmark Channel Holiday Movie Season!!!! As cheesy as these movies are they bring a light to the stress of everyday living.  The third in a series of film reviews from yours truly is Holiday Date.

Holiday Date is a look into the life of aspiring L.A. clothing designer Brooke (portrayed by Brittany Bristow)  as she braces herself to go home for the holidays after a break-up  and has to figure out a way to tell her family.

Yes, really, that’s the big problem she starts off with, but, please, don’t yawn yet. There’s more such excitement to come.

Brooke heads to a party at a friend’s house and meets actor Joel Parker (portrayed by Matt Cohen).  The two hit it off as friends, and Joel’s agent suggests he go home with her and pose as her (former) boyfriend Evan to research a role he is up for.  The two new friends agree to this and travel to Brooke’s small home town in Pennsylvania, where every possible ridiculous mistake that could be made in such a situation is in fact made.

I found myself laughing out loud throughout the whole film.  The humor may not have been intentional, but nevertheless it was truly hilarious thanks to the mistakes Joel makes as pseudo boyfriend Evan in such otherwise normal (and boring) tasks as helping to make a gingerbread house, putting up Christmas lights, and, in a context that should surprise nobody, getting the Christmas tree. I have known a lot of people-pleasers in my life, but Joel as pseudo-Evan is the saddest example ever of that very sad breed.

In other words, writers Karen Berger and Kraig Wenman have written a script with enough cheese to make a dozen pizzas with and topped it with dialogue that I am absolutely certain made the actors cry. Bristow, Cohen, and the rest of the cast give it their best shot, but the writing betrays them so much at every turn that they and the film and the audience all would have been better served by no pizza…oops, I mean script, at all.

I love film and TV so much that TVWriter™ boss Larry Brody often describes me as “my friend who never has met a movie she didn’t love,” but those days have just ended. Holiday Date is a disaster from first bite to last. Anything you do other than watching this, except maybe throwing yourself into an oncoming vehicle, would be a much better way to spend your time.

Yay! Diana Vaccarelli is  back! Find out more about TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large (and a TVWriter™ University grad) HERE