Monday, 3 February 2020

A successful ressurrection?

A recurrant theme of cinema for the last 20 years has been to remake and reshoot successful films or extend their series, but with more recent actors, better CGI, and in some cases a reworking to include misandrous thinking. Sometimes the films are good (most recent films adding Spiderman to the Marvel series can stand up on their own) while sometimes they are not (did we need to remake Ghostbusters with women?) .

Then there's the Starwars debacle.

It was therefore with some trepidation that I approached Amazon's new 'Star Trek' series Picard.

The essence of the original series (TOS) with William Shatner was 'cowboys and aliens' with lots of classic, memorable lines to use in the playground, plus a come in peace and shoot to kill approach to action where the good guys always won using courage and 'magic' technology. It suited a simple world, where war was still a fresh memory, the general public were not technologically savvy or especially liberal, and it naturally found a place in many hearts.

The Next Generation (TNG) with Patrick Stewart was a very different beast. Pushing a strong liberal and libertarian agenda to the point of being preachy at times, it also suited a generation that felt they had put the wars behind them and were looking for a society that would continuously offer them more of everything that was fun without guilt. In contrast to TOS, there were a broad spread of characters starring, though none could overshadow Patrick Stewart, not that I think any of them would have wanted to.

Almost all the shows were able to encapsulate a complete story in 45-60min of screenplay, and the time often seemed much longer, simply because everything was packed in so tightly. There was the odd double-episode, but they were rare. This made the shows relatively satisfying, at least to a viewer who was not demanding or overly concerned with dotting every i etc. Possibly because of growing up with TV in this format, I dislike a story in episodes.

So to Picard.

I was already aware that this was a series, rather than 1 off shows, but it felt like I had barely started watching before the first episode had finished. Where did that time go?! The show is very carefully paced, suiting a now very old lead character, yet at the same time in that first epsiode it never once dragged (that happens a little in episode 2, with too many returns to Chateau Picard, but not enough to spoil it). 

In terms of feeling and visible technology, this is much closer to the latest Startrek movies reboot than any of TNG TV programs. That's not a bad thing, since they were well done in sympathetic style, though see my opening comments, but it does mean comparisons are going to be a little apples and oranges.

In terms of philosophy, thus far it has escaped the worst ravages of 'me too', and although there will be lots of opportunities to present men as weak, shameful and failing in contrast to strong, powerful and successful women, I'm hoping they won't spin the series like that. My one concern is that IF they don't then the series will be critically damned for having missed an opportunity to strike a feminist blow, and presented as a failure, rather than success for having presented the sexes naturally and with equality. Not that they are afraid to handle current kinds of issues: as shown in the live TV interview scene where the interviewer has an obvious agenda they wish to press, also the obvious moral stagnation and disinterest within the Starfleet organisation mirroring western democracies that are facing accusations of failing nations through actions taken in relatively recent times.

I have high hopes however.

Patrick Stewart does very well reprising his role - I suspect that JLP simply is Patrick Stewart. The other key characters revealed so far look potentially interesting and are developing nicely. There's lots of scope in the plot (no spoilers from me) for things to go in interesting directions and hopefully it will all come together well in following episodes. Personally I would rather have it edited into a single film of perhaps 4 hours duration, but I'm prepared to put up with episodes for something of this quality.

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