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O Captain My Captain Picard—Be Optimistic

January 25, 2020


Why oh why do I bother to read “reviews” of shows I like? It’s not as if they’ll tell me anything useful, interesting, or helpful to understand the content. And it’s much more likely that they’re written by people who don’t understand the show and/or are chomping at the bit to be as snarky as possible to show off how brilliant they are at criticizing others with more talent.

So. Picard. My quick review: I’ve been waiting for real Star Trek to return. It has. Despite the reviewers. And I can’t wait to see more.

The biggest complaint of the pompous pontificators is the “information dump” (i.e., the use of an interview to fill in what’s been going on the last 20 years in Star Trek‘s “prime universe”).


But you know what? So what. The idea that we’re going to find out what’s been going by having to watch the main character run around getting bits and pieces fed to him over the entire first season clearly doesn’t work (not that it hasn’t been tried). Let’s get the “information dump” and then get the story going already.

Most reviews were positive anyway.

The lists of “what to watch before Picard” are interesting, only because they often contain episodes that have really very little to do with the new show.

(Best 10 lists abound online, so I won’t waste your time with another one. Here are a couple if you’re interested, one from space.com and one from wired.com.)

The writing in reviews often is just as hackneyed as the reviewers claim the Picard dialogue is. Case in point: in his review of the first three episodes the Wired writer repeats his favorite phrase “a series of chin-stroking, philosophical debates about the nature of existence in Conference Room A” from his previous review of Discovery. Self-plagiarism, yay.

I even read one reviewer complain that there wasn’t enough “world-building” in the first episode.

Uh. The show has been around for over 50 freaking years. Take your “world building” and shove it.

What I really don’t get is the repetitive whine that Star Trek, and specifically The Next Generation (ST:TNG) represents a pie-in-the-sky ’80s “optimism.”

Um. What?

I lived through the ’80s. I don’t recall the ’80s being full of optimism. I remember airplane hijackings and bombings of embassies, massive earthquakes and race riots, the constant fear of nuclear war. Where is this ridiculous criticism coming from?

Here’s Ars Technica:

The Next Generation set for us that the future would be full of track lighting and ugly unitards, a vision of utopia conceived through Gene Roddenberry’s almost pathological level of optimism and visualized through all the synthetic fibers and beige interiors the 1980s could offer…”

Ah. So the complaint is that the future shouldn’t be a positive thing? I’m the farthest thing from a glass-is-half-full personality, but since when is optimism a bad thing? And “pathological”? Sweet Jesus.

And, we must “update” Star Trek to “fit” 2020’s reality because “[t]hat TrekTV series was made in the 1980s, the world has changed and our view of the world has changed.“?


Here’s the Verge:

“Giving the show the benefit of the doubt, however, feels too much like the hollow centrist play that Star Trek needs to move past if it truly wants to be resonant today. Because the upsetting truth about 2020 is that, when faced with certain disaster, there are people who will ultimately refuse to work together, who’d rather rule over ruins than labor toward an equitable future.”


Um. I don’t think Star Trek at any point in its history ever argued that people would never refuse to cooperate or disagree. I seem to recall an awful lot of arguing and shouting back and forth in ST:TNG. And fighting. Especially once the so-called “optimistic ’90s” started (the show ended in 1994).

And even though “[h]ere at the dawn of 2020…the mirror of science fiction has a more somber and foreboding reality to reflect back to us,” that doesn’t mean the SF is supposed to reflect reality all the time.

That’s why, guess what, it’s science fiction. You know. Not reality.

To be honest, I’m tired and bored by the endless dystopian, blood-and-gore, life-sucks, people-are-all-evil, lets-blow-shit-up strain of science fiction. There is a place for the “warning” style of SF. There is also a place for the “hope and dreams” style of SF. And as has been observed, “Positive visions of the future are scarce.” (That is, in the “Western world.” There are plenty of positive visions in other countries.)

What’s wrong with hoping that the future might be a better world to live in than now? A place where racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, hunger, disease, and want don’t exist?

An impossible dream?

OK, maybe. “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for.”

Gloom and doom doesn’t inspire. It just makes people miserable and depressed. Star Trek‘s not perfect, but I’ll take hope over misery any day.

(Btw, I hate the term “Easter eggs,” particularly when the references are way too obvious for longtime fans, but’s here’s a good video detailing some of the canon references in the first episode.)


  1. Make it so
    Live long and prosper
    Damn it, Jim
    Resistance is futile
    Warp speed
    Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra
    Americans saying “day-ta” instead of “dad-uh”

    …and what exactly has pessimism-porn sci-fi contributed? All I know is that every episode of TNG uplifted me during a time when all the news was bad, and right now I’m loving the new Picard series.

    Liked by 1 person

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