Star Trek: Picard aims for fan fiction, falls short badly

A plethora of familiar faces and reheated plots sink Jean-Luc’s 2024 adventures.

The term “fan fiction” flows too easily as a pejorative these days. Star Trek fans, of all people, should be accommodating. Although Trekkies didn’t invent unofficial stories featuring popular characters, they certainly popularized them in the modern era. There’s a robust tradition of writers, especially those marginalized in more traditional media spaces, finding their voices or having fun using familiar settings and characters to tell their own stories.

When people deride something as fan fiction, they tend to mean that it conforms to some unfortunate stereotypes. Some of that amounts to plot points that are too shaggy or nonsensical. Some of it comes down to protagonists who succeed by fiat rather than earn their wins. The biggest hallmark is stories that merely reference and regurgitate what the audience already knows and likes. Meanwhile, they offer nothing new, relying on familiar faces and names repeated ad nauseam.

By that measure, “Fly Me to the Moon” is the most fan fiction-y hour of Star Trek: Picard yet. Of course, Jean-Luc’s (Patrick Stewart) jaunt to the twenty-first century already involved the former captain running into his old bar buddy, not to mention the spitting image of the amiable caretaker with whom he’d shared a DOA flirtation. But by Jove, for some godforsaken reason, that’s not enough.

On the other hand, “Fly Me to the Moon” may as well be a shabby attempt at a greatest hits record for Jean-Luc and company.

Never mind the fact that Briones is back too for some reason, now playing Soong’s daughter. why? It’s established that Data was created to resemble his “her father.” Did Altan Inigo Soong (Noonien’s aforementioned biological son) design Soji to resemble his great great great (etc.) grandmother for some reason? Or do all male Soongs look like Spiner and all female Soongs look like Briones? Spread the genes, people!

There’s juice in the idea that what spurred Soongs toward genetic and cybernetic experimentation began with a father trying to save his daughter. But none of it makes any sense. The only reason for another set of Starfleet officers to cross paths with another set of Soongs is because the audience already knows the actors and characters involved. Spiner standing across from de Lancie or interacting with one of Data’s spiritual offsprings still excites. That trumps whether it ultimately amounts to something worth while for this show and this story.

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