Thursday, January 23, 2020

Picard's Promise

SPOILERS for Star Trek: Picard





Star Trek: Picard is off to a promising start with "Remembrance," as a retired Jean-Luc Picard is rudely awakened from a metaphorical slumber to remind humanity of its better angels.

There's a lot to love here. Patrick Stewart slips into his Jean-Luc Picard persona with authority and grace, and yes, his age is showing - and the showrunners aren't afraid to hide it - but the character's charisma, charm, and essential, inspirational decency remain. The supporting players, particularly Picard's live-in friends, a pair of Romulan refugees, are well-drawn and well-acted.

Star Trek fans tend to love touches of continuity, and the showrunners deliver a myriad of plot points and easter eggs to connect this show to those that have come before. They even manage to craft a potentially interesting storyline from the dreadful final Next Generation film, the lamented Star Trek: Nemesis.

It's clear that Star Trek: Picard is going to explore the issue that has, in some sense, defined Star Trek from the very beginning: our civilization's ongoing quest to move past the fear and hate that creates the Other, moving forward to recognize our common humanity, whatever our language, skin colour, and other ultimately trivial differences. In this latest iteration, the approach is two-pronged: the question of human rights will be addressed through the lens of a refugee crisis (much like the ones people are going through today) and the more metaphorical (so far) question of whether or not artificial beings (the latest Other, in the world of the Federation) are part of the human family.

There are some intriguing mysteries to explore. Why do (some) Romulans want to kill Data's daughter(s)? Why no mention of Lal, particularly when the writers are clearly being very careful with respect to continuity? Why did androids attack Mars 20 years ago? And why are humans and Romulans using a Borg cube as a "Romulan Reclamation Centre?"

Looks like the human adventure is just beginning...


2 comments:

Jeff Shyluk said...

I'm surprised you thought First Man was dour and Picard was not. I agree that it's kind of fun to revisit the Next Generation characters, but starting a show with genocide is... dour. More sulky Star Trek, yay.

And: yet more pages cribbed from the Joseph Campbell playbook. Dream sequences that provide mystical answers! Beings with untapped supernatural powers! We will leave the village and go off into the realm of the jealous god to retrieve the Promethean flame yet again. Or... maybe not? Maybe the writers have read The Virgin's Promise?? Perhaps screenwriting has advanced into the new millennium? Jean-Luc Picard is no virgin.

So far there's no Tilly and no mirror universe, so I guess that's a plus. Picard the character is likable. The show will have to go a long way (reuse many more tropes than it already has) to damage his reputation. But he is so old now. Which means we have aged along with him, something it looks like Star Trek wants to address. Maybe that's a good thing? Maybe the show could have been better served going boldly. Of course that's something JLP may no longer be equipped to do.

Jeff Shyluk said...

I had to think on this - maybe JLP *is* a virgin after all.

There are two "monomyths", as Joseph Campbell would put it. One is the Promethean ideal: the village is doomed, the Hero strikes out on a quest and crosses into a forbidden land. There, he discovers the item that will restore his village and overcomes the obstacle to get the thing. He returns to his own world and saves the village. That's it in brief, there are many iterations but this is the core of the myth.

Modern critics of Campbell point out that the monomyth is gender-biased and rooted in Jungian imagery. Absolutely true on both counts. So Kim Hudson, a bright Canadian researcher, came up with the "feminine" version of the monomyth: The Virgin's Promise.

The Virgin is a character naive in some ways of the world, perhaps an idealist. The Virgin does not live up to the collective ideals of the village and is cast out into the forbidden land. There she embarks on a quest to discover her true nature. She finds the thing that enables her to fulfill her destiny and brings it back to the village. The village changes its collective ideal and embraces the Virgin.

Star Wars is as good an example as any of a Campbell monomyth, and I guess Schitt's Creek might be a good example of a Hudsonian monomyth. I should add that the gender of the hero in any of these monomyths is irrelevant. You can have a female Hero like Ripley or a male Virgin like Picard.

JLP obviously quests for whatever the McGuffin is that will solve the problem with the Romulans, robots, etc. If the quest ends up saving the universe, such as in Discovery, then we have a Campbellian ending and unless it's truly great I won't help thinking that the story could have been better. Seeing as Picard the TV series is already set for a second season, I imagine that we will be in for the most standard of story arcs possible.

If, by some miracle, Picard's idealism fails to save the universe but instead redeems the sins of the Federation, then we will have a Hudsonian ending and

I
WILL
BE
IMPRESSED.