The Unsatisfying Return of Old Characters

The last couple of years delivered several examples for “old” characters, which “came back”, after decades even. While this is done for obvious reasons, there is one theme that unites most of these examples: according to these “stories”, the majority of these characters did next to nothing during the entire time, the audience didn’t see them. It’s like they sat down on a couch, after the last adventure they had and then just kept sitting there for decades, until the new adventures began.

That right there, is obviously a massive, glaring problem. None of these, usually adventurous, strong and brave characters would do that. If they would do that, the audience never would have found them so interesting in the first place. And even if people aren’t actively thinking about this, deep down they all still know, that there is something… just off.

So the only acceptable way to bring back such characters, is if there is a plan that explains, what they were doing all that time. It doesn’t even have to be the most detailed explanation, it’s okay to just give audiences a general sense of what was going on. It should, however, be something that makes sense for the character “we” all knew. The explanation has to be especially good, if the character is now all of a sudden very different from what “we” knew and liked.

So either put at least some effort into this, or just don’t do it. Ever.

Is there even a really good example of such a character, that was significantly more than (failed) fan service? I can’t come up with an example…

Advent Forums

Maybe this is really just yet another lesson, that one should only discuss products on forums, which aren’t owned/controlled by the maker of said products, but seeing how such arbitrary reasons are now being used to threaten anyone with a ban, who doesn’t just unilaterally shower a product with nothing but praise, still managed to bother me.

Also, contrary to the “support staff” doing this, the irony wasn’t lost on me, that the makers of a game, which is about a resistance who fights a regime that suppresses any and all dissenting opinion (amongst other things, of course), would have their community handled by people, who harass users with such techniques. It’s not a good look. Ever.

“from a member of Steam Support” also got a hard eye-roll from me, since it’s obvious who sent this, since it’s always the same guy on these forums, who goes off the rails with his “Advent Speaker”-mimicry. And if I were to ask Steam Support a question, like this threat kindly suggests, it would be why they are still having someone on their staff, who clearly doesn’t have the psyche profile of someone, who would handle such a function well. No wonder that these forums are almost dead, despite thousands of active players.

Literally 1 day after I wrote this, they released an update for the game. The launcher can now load mods it detects as WOTC content. Great. But. It still doesn’t load all the mods it doesn’t read as WOTC content. Including several mods I’ve been using for years without any problems. The original launcher let the user decide what they wanted to use – which is clearly better.

And sure, yes, I could just use the alternative mod launcher for instance. It still doesn’t change the fact, that even after this update, the launcher is still in a worse state, than it was before all this needless drama. The old launcher could do all this, without having to switch to the alternative launcher or whatever. I really don’t understand the mentality of people who defend this.

They also haven’t bothered to mention this anywhere. Neither official Firaxis nor XCOM Twitter accounts mention this. Completely silent. Like more than 1 tweet a year would kill them.

Haven’t decided yet, if I’m going to throw all the mods out, which are now no longer supported, or if I’m going to switch permanently to the alternative. 🙄


I decided the best solution for me would be to go to


and add


in all the *.XComMod files. Right under Description. Then the new launcher will load everything again and nothing else needs to be changed.

Almost 6 weeks ago or so, Firaxis released a first (and so far only) patch for Chimera Squad. At the same time they patched a new launcher into all their games. What a wonderful idea from management. While the patch for Chimera Squad actually helped and removed some of its bugs, the new launcher for XCOM 2 introduced at least one new bug the game didn’t have before: mods no longer worked out of the box.

Given that mods are/were THE major selling point of XCOM 2 and few of their devs could shut up about how much they cared about mods and wanted people to make and use them, it’s especially breathtaking, that this, of all things, is the function they didn’t even test once.

Now there is a workaround, to get mods working after all, but this changes little how astonishing it is, that they apparently have no QA. Firaxis even found out about it on like the same day, which probably wasn’t very hard, with thousands of players talking about that and released their, so far, sole reaction to it.

A single tweet, which they only posted to their Firaxis account and not, for instance, on their offical XCOM account. Because why would you communicate something on the XCOM account, that is about XCOM. Now, this was, again, over 5 weeks ago and so far there is no official fix, nor any further reaction. This must be some bugged launcher, that they can’t fix it in all this time.

The problem isn’t even that they can’t present a patch in record time – that I’d understand, but going completely silent on it, is just poor handling of the situation. It’s not that hard to explain the situation, they could even lie their asses off, after all. Pretty much anyone should be able to handle this significantly better.

They even could have restored the old launcher and only could have rolled out the new one, once it was working properly. Should have taken zero time on steamworks. Then people wouldn’t have been stuck with a broken launcher all this time. Every other topic on the Steam forums is now about this issue.

These screenshots are of the patched CS version and no one has to look long and hard to run into some more bugs. And by now I’m not holding my breath that they will fix anything else. Great games, poor management.

I really like playing this game a lot. Gotta be honest. The only big negative thing here, that bums me out hard, is the state of this beta. And it’s really hard to go easy on them, because pretty much all the bigger problems/flaws are in this engine since the release of XCOM 2 in February 2016 – which obviously was, at this point, over 4 years ago. I don’t see why this dev should be forgiven for not fixing all this during this time. Players probably wouldn’t forgive a small indie dev for this either. And XCOM sells as far as I know.

Just releasing the next game, with the same engine, without fixing age old glitches – it’s just poor. The only upside here is, that this time they only charged ~9 instead of ~60, so players can only be 1/6 as mad. Something like that. Although I noticed that they are using Google Analytics in this one, so… once more people are paying to do market research for a company.

Axiom floats over the ground, Cherub gets stuck (reloading a save usually helps) and even the camera can bug out so hard, that the game becomes almost unplayable. Too bad they can’t afford proper QA. All of this comes accompanied by more glitches, which just underline the general lack of polish.

In this screenshot, it’s not possible to enter part of the room, which makes it impossible to complete the mission. It’s apparently similar to Cherub being stuck, reloading is a workaround.

They don’t even have the same fonts for numbers in the GUI (check out 4 and 5 in the training bar on the right). All of this stuff are clear signs of a game they rushed out. Or maybe not, since every XCOM release had many bugs. Maybe it’s just their management, their way of doing things. XCOM 2 has more than enough bugs that were never addressed (too many of them seem like fixing them wouldn’t take all that much effort).

Hell, even XCOM: Enemy Unknown still has them and that was released 2012. Several of the “mods” I have installed for XCOM 2, primarily aim at circumventing bugs in the game, so it’s hardly impossible to fix anything, if even modders can do something about it. I’d really like it for a journalist to just ask them, why they have such a poor patch/support policy for this brand/entire franchise. Players everywhere spend a lot of time with those games and therefore experience all these bugs again and again and again.

The breach mechanic, which seems to be inspired by Phantom Doctrine, is fun and can surprise even robots. That’s how effective it is!

Anyways, almost everything in this XCOM is scaled down somehow and I’m into it. I generally like it when things aren’t desperate to appear epic. This time everything takes place inside one city, instead of the entire globe. Chimera Squad itself is more of a police unit than an army. I enjoy every break I can get from saving the world AGAIN.

There are also a lot of things about the very design of Chimera Squad, which I do not understand at all. When it was first announced, that agents (what units are called in this game) could not die, because it would equal a mission failure, I thought this would mean that there would be story missions, which would require certain agents to complete them. That is not the case.

There are even androids available, which can replace unconscious agents. So even if agents could die and a player would get all of them killed, they still could buy androids, just like new soldiers can be recruited in a “regular” XCOM.

So why is this game still designed this way? It feels like they had other plans initially, that were scrapped at some point and they kept some of the design decisions, which now no longer make any sense. It’s like the flashlights on weapons in XCOM 2 feel like relics, from a time when this might have been intended to be of actual use in missions.

The new characters are weird in general. What was the point? They aren’t even as fleshed out as Jagged Alliance 2 characters, let alone as “deep” as folks from Valkyria Chronicles 1 or 4. They also have this rushed feel about them. All aliens have normal human voices. As if it was out of the question to put that much effort into them. I don’t even want Torque to sound “like a snake” (which can be bad/embarrassing all on its own) but hearing her having a normal voice like any other human female, is still something I never would have expected. All the voice work itself is good though and my favorites are obviously Pallegina and Mordin.

The only explanation I can come up with, for what they have done here, is that they wanted playable units with more variations in their abilities, than their typical classes can deliver, so they decided to circumvent this problem by making them “individual characters”. There is really no other mileage they are getting out of their characters besides that. Everything else would have worked with their typical, randomly generated soldiers.

There is some banter between the agents, but it is so superficial and short, that it hardly qualifies as actual story etc. – it’s fluff. Now I’m not one of those people who hate the characters, or anything like that, but there’s barely anything here. So if I was to dislike anything in this regard, it’s only that this aspect isn’t more detailed. They could have fully embraced it. And maybe should have.

I like the general art style, they definitely did try to make the individual rooms look good, which I appreciated and I like this type of cut scene. Maybe those are cheaper/quicker to make, but I’m into this type of art, so it’s not a negative for me.

I really want to play the game again, ideally after a patch came out, but I’m not holding my breath, that they are now suddenly starting to fix over 4 year old bugs in this engine. Maybe they will address the toughest stuff a bit, like vanishing equipment (there is already a mod out trying to fix that), but then they are probably going to drop any patch support quick, like they did for XCOM 2.

The timeline should be mentioned as well, while I’m at it. I honestly can’t tell if it’s better or worse. Instead of ideally killing an entire pod before ending a turn in XCOM 2, it’s now about killing the first enemy in the timeline who would get a turn. It’s definitely forcing players to re-learn XCOM a little bit, which is a good thing? A breath of fresh air? Something like that. I’ve played CS from start to finish without doing any manual saves (it saves automatically during missions). While I save after every turn in X2.

So together with breach, these two things are definitely the biggest differences between X2 and CS. Not “characters” instead of randos or city instead of globe. That much is hardly affecting gameplay. I also didn’t miss not having to look for enemies and didn’t care much that they took out the whole pod/stealth mechanic. Which isn’t surprising, given how often I played X2. Only being thrown from small room to small room in a lightning fast fashion has it’s own drawbacks, of course.

PS: I think it’s weird how wounds are called scars and not wounds. And instead of healing these wounds, people have to undergo “training”, to get rid of them. Looking at wounds also lists them as something the agents “earned”. All of that sounds wrong and inappropriate to me. I’d expect people to react “Dammit, I got wounded” and not “Yay! I earned a scar!!!”. That’s insanity.

Another odd design choice I forgot to mention earlier, is that some missions give you +x days towards the reveal of a major story mission. And it is named “a reward”. But how could something be a reward, which is so bad for me? It’s like they don’t know what words mean. Since everything in XCOM: Chimera Squad at least “costs” time, I want/need as much of it as possible. The earlier a major mission drops, the worse the weapons/armor and everything else will be. Obviously the only correct strategy here is, to DELAY any such story mission for as long as possible, so research has a greater chance of providing the best weapons and equipment possible. That goes without saying, right?!? All of that stuff is so odd!

A couple months back I played PD, so I wouldn’t just play XCOM all day long. It has a couple of cool gameplay tricks up its sleeve, like breach and next week XCOM: Chimera Squad comes out and it has a new option called breach, so it seems like a good point in time to discuss Phantom Doctrine. 😛

Instead of commanding soldiers to fight aliens, PD has the player command agents to mostly infiltrate hostile sites to gather intel. Its setting is the cold war. While it’s only consequent, to have the missions in a spy game focus on stealth, this still bummed me out somewhat. It makes every mission really long and slow and I liked the fights XCOM 2 WotC has to offer. It’s possible to fight in PD as well, but blowing ones cover is almost the same as failing a mission.

The enemy will keep calling in endless reinforcements, who will usually crush the agents on site. So there isn’t really an alternative to complete stealth. This also leads to a full campaign being really long. I wish there would have been more opportunities to use all the guns that are in the game. But playing PD is really about knocking hostiles out and hiding their bodies. I guess the real maestro will even circumvent enemies entirely. That’s something I don’t like doing, since even civilians in the area can blow an agents cover, if they are spotted doing anything suspicious. It’s so vexing, if the cover is blown at the last moment during evac, because an agent was seen carrying a body.

There is also a lot less variation in missions, which further adds to the grindy feeling. PD’s world map throws a lot of routine missions at the player. Not doing them isn’t an option, because this will raise the threat level, which forces this agency to move the base, which eats up a lot of resources. Moving the base costs almost as much money as the agency earns in total, so… It feels like hell. 😛

What’s really good about it, is that it runs really well, I don’t think I encountered a single bug during my 68 hours with this game. This is incredible. It’s also superfast. After release, XCOM 2 was sometimes lagging so hard, as if the PC was trying to run it at 8K resolution. Not PD, this game is super-smooth at all times.

I also liked the idea of creating this main agent at the beginning, like it’s an RPG. My favorite game mechanic probably was breach, it becomes available if enough agents are positioned at doors/windows around a room. If triggered, all positioned agents run into a room and start shooting. This is one of the few instances in which the player can use guns without getting into trouble, as long as all guns have silencers on them, which should be taken care of as early as possible in the game. It’s game-changing.

Another part of the gameplay, that I liked much more than I should have, is this minigame of connecting all the clues until a case is solved. It’s possible to order agents to do this automatically, but it takes so much longer than just doing it manually.

The reason why I like this less than XCOM is really the heavy reliance on countless stealth missions (I guess I don’t like every type of stealth game there is), which could have been very cool in moderation, but is done to death here. I stuck with it to at least experience the story once, but when the ending screen unfortunately informed me, that I have to play it through once more, to really experience the full story, I had to give it a hard pass. 😛 Maybe one day!

Apparently Max was cosplaying as an android from NieR: Automata before it was cool.

After finishing Star Trek: Picard, I watched all 42 episodes of Dark Angel (yeah yeah, embarrassing – WHAT ISN’T?!?). What’s interesting/funny about this 20 year old show (and I forgot all about that), is that it takes place in 2020. I was positively surprised by that and it’s definitely one of the reasons why it felt like the right time to watch it right now.

It got a lot of things right, like surveillance drones flying around and whatnot. 😛 What I like so much about this show, is that it does a solid amount of world-building. Max doesn’t just go off on her crazy adventures (every episode), there are also all these other “normal” people, who have jobs and apartments and so on. Sometimes they hang out after work together. I, as a viewer, understand how this world works and what’s going on. There are streets I recognize. This is the opposite of what STP does, where I never knew where Starfleet (or whomever else) was or what it was doing until it shows up once at the end of the season. It’s great when a fictional world feels and works like a real place anyway. And shitty if it doesn’t.

Also, other than on STP, I’m actually invested in the plight of Max and her friends. I was rooting for them all throughout the show and would have wanted to watch a third season of this. It makes me sad there isn’t one. Care to guess which show failed to make me care about anyone? 😛 Oh and, yet another funny fact, is that one of the writers of DA worked on DS9, so unsurprisingly this feels more like a Star Trek show, than what they are pulling out of their… hats currently for this license.

Actions the characters undertake make sense not only for the characters themselves, but also within the world they inhabit, the world that shaped them. That’s really cool. btw: The books that took place after this show, were also canceled. When it rains, it pours?

Star Trek: Picard is the dark reboot that boldly goes where nobody wanted it to

While this article is extremely spot on (and better written than anything I could hack together here), there were still some thoughts that kept lingering in my head, after seeing all 10 eps – despite trying to cram as much as possible into the last entry.

Apparently the writers of this show were mumbling something about Picard “walking the walk”, by making him an android, but there are several glaring problems with that, right out of the gate. For one, Picard is dead. He died. Period. If something is copied and the original is destroyed, the original is still gone, even though the copy is still around. It’s not that hard to understand, right?

If a person’s mind is copied and they die, it doesn’t change the fact that they are dead. Whatever/Whoever is holding the memories then, is (in this instance) another person. This android is still a person, but another person. If they would have installed several copies of Picard in android bodies, they would eventually all branch out and become different people, based upon their new and differing experiences and so on.

That’s also where Picard II is entirely different from Soji and NOT the same. Forget about “superpowers”. While every Star Trek fan should agree that Soji is a person, she’s not a copy. She was made this way and existed like that (and in the same body) for her entire lifespan.

The next issue with that is, that Picard himself never asked for this. He didn’t just die NOT asking for this, he also spent his final moments saying goodbye to everyone. So he clearly didn’t even expect, that they would do this with his remains. He was entirely unaware and he didn’t die begging to be copied into an android body. He also never consented to anything, he had never even entertained the possibility (they could have put a conversation about this in an earlier episode, so the audience might have learned how Picard himself felt about this, but they chose not to) – he had made his peace with dying from his brain condition, way back on Earth even. It was done to him. And isn’t that the perfect tagline for this show, doing things to Picard’s remains, his TNG character never would have given consent to? 😛 How… “fascinating”?

Worse, given this show’s treatment and handling of Picard (him being treated like dirt almost every episode), it’s only consequent to assume, that this was only done, so they can keep treating him like shit in the next season too. It’s just that the open hostility will now be explained with him being a synth. It might be the most off-putting part of this show, that someone would dedicate a show to a character, for whom it has little appreciation.

This hate was also never explained. Why would anyone respond this way, to one of the Federation’s greatest heroes, one of Starfleet’s most decorated officers? The Romulan rescue mission doesn’t suffice here, since it was the Federation that cancelled it. Not Picard. This show’s nonsensical, absent logic was well portrayed by this Romulan senator (Elnor ultimately beheaded), who was talking about how self-sufficient and capable the Romulan people supposedly are, while expecting this 94 year old man to do everything for them. Admiral Fuck on the other hand, I bet, won’t even have to resign, after working with a Zhat Vash spy for years without noticing anything. It wasn’t a thing in Star Trek, that fools would prosper and the good guys would be punished. We already have reality for that.

While STP went, where no one wanted it to go, they still could have had their dark storyline, by simply having the Romulans be the ones, who tried to establish such a synth ban. Not the Federation. The synth planet could have been in the Romulan neutral zone, which would also explain why Starfleet could not go there, because they could not risk a treaty violation. See how easy that was?

This show also takes a contradictory approach towards Soji being a real person. In parts it wants the audience to see her as a person, but then it tries to establish this lore, that “a butterfly isn’t a real butterfly, if it won’t die”. But Soji won’t die, unless she is killed or kills herself. So by that logic, she isn’t a person after all.

Then there is this scene, in which the meaning of life is declared as helping each other, but how can one still help anyone, if they are dead? Wouldn’t it be better for Starfleet, if people like Data were still around? Given the now sorry state of this formerly amazing institution, one would think they would desperately need such people. STP is so poorly thought out, that it is not aware of any of these things. In combination with its misguided themes, this is dragging, the experience of watching the show, down hard.

So, what will season 2 be about, other than hating Picard II for being a synth? 😛

PS: What was everyone thinking about this fleet, that seriously only consisted out of 2 ships, one Romulan Warbird and one unknown Starfleet vessel, which were then copied numerous times? Just like Picard and Agnes copied the La Sirena moments earlier? They managed to show a diverse fleet of ships in Deep Space Nine, back when they still had to build actual models of all those ships. 🙄

PPS: The second they said Deep Space 12, I knew we were never going to see it. No way they were going to come up with its looks or anything like that.

They just couldn’t resist the hundreds of ships thing, could they? And that after Admiral Fuck said she would send “a squadron”, which typically consists out of 12-24 ships. Not 500. It truly is the kind of writing, that couldn’t even be bothered to do a 5 second Google search.

It also contradicts the picture they drew up until now. The audience was supposed to believe, that Starfleet just doesn’t have the resources to save the Romulans. But then they can send “all of Starfleet” on one mission, the highest ranking Admiral of Starfleet didn’t even give a shit about? They at least could have shown some people on Earth, changing their minds or something. But nothing.

Riker says something about the fleet (he’s commanding) only consisting out of the newest and most powerful type of ship, Starfleet has ever built. So how could Starfleet still build such massive fleets, after loosing their main shipyards at Utopia Planitia? It looks to me as if this didn’t set back Starfleet all that much after all. Which makes them liars for one and also incompetent. Why are organizations like the Fenris Rangers “needed”, to police large, lawless sections of space, if Starfleet can assemble fleets, bigger than the one they used to win the entire Dominion War, in no time? What is Starfleet doing with all these ships, when they clearly aren’t being used to do their ostensible jobs?

While “we” are at building things: Couldn’t they build as many of the “golems” as they wanted? You shouldn’t introduce a technology like that and then claim it’s a one time thing. It’s like Khan’s blood in Star Trek Into Darkness, that can resurrect dead people. They should be able to do that all the time then. This is poor writing and storytelling. I really don’t want to be an asshole about any of this, but this is bad. Brent Spiner acted as if he gave up his sole chance of saving himself with such a golem, when he just should have started on building another one.

I never liked the use of these “all-powerful” machines as doomsday device and this episode pretty much underlines why. Soji opens a portal like Loki in the first Avengers movie and the giant CGI army is supposed to come out of it. But Picard convinces her to close it again. But really, what good should that do at this point? The reapers now know of the androids and Starfleet and the Romulans. Would they just remain in dark space and do nothing about it, just because this portal was closed on them? They should really remain as big a threat as ever, since they could decide to drop by any time now. This show introduced several technologies, which enable everyone to travel faster than warp even. Surely these advanced machines can use transwarp corridors, even the Borg have access to. And would these machines even kill Borg, given that they are also organic?

But just like Riker and Commodore Oh, the audience apparently isn’t supposed to pay any attention to that and just completely forget about them. Maybe Picard season 2 will have the Thanos “Fine, I’ll do it myself.” scene. 😛

Additionally everyone is supposed to forget how easily Starfleet could be infiltrated by the Zhat Vash.

Speaking of the Zhat Vash, what are they supposed to do now? If I would have been a member of the Zhat Vash, I’d feel pretty stupid now. They did not just let their own people die in the supernova incident, but also prevented Starfleet from saving them – only to fail in the end, in their goal to kill all the synths. The old holo-vid, the admonition, might not have been a sufficient reason to blow ones own brain out, but this sure sounds like it would be.

Of course, now, at the end of things, there is still no explanation for why the Zhat Vash didn’t just publish their knowledge. The maybe stupidest part is, that the Zhat Vash are essentially correct. There actually is a synthetic race of beings, that is willing to murder all organics at the drop of a hat. They were just wrong about it being Maddox’ androids. Or is this what they will do now? Find a way to fight these unknown machines? I kind of doubt they could. But given how dangerous they are, someone really should, right?

Let’s also not forget how satisfying the ending to Peyton List’s character was, by simply being kicked down a hole. 🙄

btw: Why and how was Data’s face in the 200.000-300.000 year old admonition? It’s like Maddox’ lab being blown up, although it clearly wasn’t. JUST FORGET ABOUT IT. Agnes was supposed to turn herself in for MURDERING A GUY. But nobody is even talking about this anymore, when they fly off together in the end. What became of Peyton List’s character’s aunt? AHHH. 😛

The best moment in the episode to me was, when Brent Spiner simply disabled Sutra, after he learned that she killed Saga (which obviously wasn’t done by Frankenstein). Although no one ever asks about her nor explains what became of her. I did not see that coming. It surprised me and in a positive way at that. Everything else was exactly as it seemed. No twists, no Lore, no nothing. Given that the entire season functioned this way, I apparently failed to learn my lesson, when I kept guessing.

The worst moment in the episode to me was Picard’s death and every scene that had to do with it. It’s this cheap hunt for superficial and fake emotions, which always backfires. I’m not susceptible to this and I really dislike it. I would consider this a prime example for poor writing. Acting as if a character is dead, when everyone in the audience knows they are not? Give me a break. What’s the point? It makes everything look cheap. It’s like Chewbacca in Rise of Skywalker, who is captured, “killed” and alive again within 2 minutes. No story should ever have such a death scene, unless the character is actually dead. Stakes, consequences and pay offs make stories feel rewarding. Proving that none of this exists in a story, makes it terrible. This should be a fairly common opinion, right?

What was also off-putting to me, was this other thing they always do in new Star Trek shows and movies, I’m talking about playing the Star Trek theme all of a sudden. First it’s all murder and violence, then they play the Star Trek music and everyone is supposed to think of the Star Trek ideals, which were mostly absent for the rest of the episode. It’s not always as bad as in Star Trek Into Darkness, when Kirk talks about not giving into hatred/vengeance etc. when this was exactly what everyone did for the entire duration of that movie. But it’s definitely adjacent to that.

Starfleet doesn’t just get to wash its hands of everything it did wrong, just because it briefly showed up once to do an okay thing (which is their damn job). They couldn’t even get Admiral Fuck on the screen who would admit that several things were done wrong. And that there should be an investigation of all this, at the very least. Commodore Oh infiltrated Starfleet for how many years? Who else was involved? How much damage did she cause? This should be a major incident. As big as the Mars attack – or bigger actually, since the Zhat Vash were the ones who orchestrated that attack. So I bet it won’t even be mentioned in season 2. 😛

PS: They used the word superpowers in this episode. I don’t think I have ever heard this word before in Star Trek. Feels just wrong in this context.

Since they are so married to having a half-baked synth arc on both STD and Picard, I would have preferred it, if they could have at least made the season about the synth ban. The ban shouldn’t just have been a thing that happened in the (almost distant) past, but could have been an ongoing deliberation during the season.

In this scenario Dahj still could have asked Picard for help, looking at an uncertain future and Picard could have uncovered the Zhat Vash plot, to trick the Federation into doing this. At the end Picard could have essentially barged into a session of the Federation’s leadership and presented his proof, convincing them to not make this mistake.

It would have been more in tune with Picard’s character, of being a more diplomatic leader and it would have side-stepped this seemingly anti-Star Trek idea, of the Federation being evil.

Maybe I just thought of Wing Commander IV – The Price of Freedom (still love the title), in which Blair runs into the Confederations parliament and has to convince them to vote against the war. That was a cool idea, the final “mission” wasn’t combat, instead the player had to say the right/convincing things to the politicians. And that’s precisely how such a situation should be handled, on a show having the title Star Trek: Picard.

In this episode, they used the term mind meld for the first time. And it was Brent Spiner who said it, which made it look like, as if it wasn’t in the script (because mind meld wasn’t in the Star Trek cliff notes the writers skimmed through) and Brent Spiner just said it (because he knows what that is).

The writing is so clumsy when Brent Spiner calls HIMSELF a mad scientist, do you get it? Don’t show, TELL. The writing is as hapless and as on the nose as ever.

So… This time they finally land on the synth homeworld and I was reminded of an early season 1 TNG episode. These weird togas everyone is wearing and everyone is just out playing in the sun (yes, Justice – the episode in which Wesley says “I feel strange, but also good!”). The writers didn’t seem to have any plan for this, because why would that be all, the most intelligent beings in the galaxy, would be doing ALL DAY LONG? They all just hang around. The Ba’ku village in Star Trek Insurrection was more believable and more fleshed out.

Even the construction of new/more synths is done by humans. Even Evil-Soji, who wants to murder all organics (and whose villainy is painfully obvious), doesn’t lift a finger, when it comes to that. It’s like that Dracula movie, in which he, who needs human blood, wants to murder all humans. I guess. There isn’t even a hint on what their plan is. Are they literally just planning to stand around in the sun all day, while Brent Spiner builds more synths by himself until he drops dead? Why wasn’t even a single one of them helping Maddox? I wouldn’t complain, if all of that wasn’t so damn disappointing.

It didn’t even need to be very complex. I would have been completely satisfied, if they would have been busy building a ship, so they could explore the universe for themselves. A simple idea and it would have made sense. Since they are being hunted, they would be much harder to find on a moving ship, than on this planet.

And I guess the lab riddle™ is now officially a plot hole. The place Brent Spiner was working in, clearly wasn’t blown up. Not that this would have explained then, how the Zhat Vash didn’t already have this planet’s location. Speaking of plot holes, Evil-Soji clearly states, that they had only one ship, which they lost when the diplomatic mission, her sister was on, failed. So how did Bruce Maddox leave the planet, when he and no one else there, had a ship?!? How did he send Dahj and Soji to Earth and the Borg cube?

They couldn’t even do the bare minimum such a topic deserves. Picard just helps the synths, who never asked him for help. Dahj did, but she was killed. Soji never did. This show did little more than state, that Picard feels bad because Data died for him and that’s why he feels obligated. That’s okay, but they should have made a stronger case for his mission than that. Show us why helping the synths is the right thing and why the others are wrong. Properly discuss it. Or even make a strong case for both sides and let the audience think about, which way they would go in Picard’s shoes. TNG had better eps about AI and that ended 26 years ago.

The show just feels tone-deaf to me. The worker androids on Mars seemed to be nothing but soulless automatons. Simple machines. And then there are these holograms. Instead of pizza, have them discuss this – when does synthetic life begin? What is its definition? They have so many facets of this on this show. Seven of Nine is a cyborg. They have almost every aspect of “artificial life” (science fiction ever dreamed up) on this show and then do little to nothing with it.

I don’t know what I was expecting. I was rooting really hard for this show to be so much better than it actually is, but it’s still so sobering, that they have nothing/no substance, that’s beyond an average TNG season 1 episode and stretched that to the length of 10 episodes…

The Zhat Vash want to murder all the synths (except for the Borg, whom they mysteriously do not worry about – why is that?), Evil-Soji wants to murder all the organics and Picard is in the middle of that and just wants to resolve the situation ideally without anyone being murdered. That’s it. It’s that simple and that’s all there is to it. The TNG movie First Contact had more going on. And it wasn’t 10 hours long.

So next episode the Zhat Vash fleet is going to arrive, Evil-Soji will be trying to use the mysterious synth collective to fight them and Picard will have to convince Soji that there is another way and that she doesn’t have to do what Evil-Soji wants her to do. Which is going to work, since no one here believes that the synths are going to wipe out all organics. I wouldn’t expect that, even if they hadn’t already ordered season 2.

The only thing that seems unclear now, is if this arc is going to be concluded in its entirety this season, or if they will drag the same story into season 2. Since we know now for certain, that this entire arc is only paper-thin, I’m hoping for something new in season 2.

I noticed how they deliberately highlighted Picard’s mortality in this episode AND at the same time showed Brent Spiner working on a technology, that would allow the transfer of a mind into a new synth body. Again obviously this makes it look like, as if they want to have the option, to have a new android Picard in the lead, should Patrick Stewart no longer play the part (they could just drop in any young actor, like they did with Spock on STD). In this new streaming world those shows can go on forever, but Patrick Stewart probably wouldn’t want to do 10 seasons of this. If they were to do this, I would really dislike them for it. 😛

I’m not even going to talk about the orchids (at least those were foreshadowed?). Seriously. Let’s instead talk about them letting Agnes (!) treat the unconscious Picard in Sickbay without any supervision… 🙄 It boggles the mind.

Little blast from the past: Star Trek: Picard vision vs. Mass Effect vision

Guess which is which! I know this would work better in a video, but be glad that for once there’s just some text to read instead of a 5 hour video to watch and sit through! 😛

btw: It’s not just the Protheans, the Reapers, visions from the beacon and all that stuff that’s taken directly from Mass Effect, also that stupid premise, that organics wouldn’t even be able to comprehend something machines are up to. Every viewer of Mass Effect: Picard can comprehend their design and is not driven mad by the admonition. Why would anyone still write it this way? That’s the sole mystery here.

So, who are the ancient machine gods, Evil-Soji is going to call? Let’s just hope it’s not going to be Mass Effect’s star child. 😁

PS: So, who else believes, that the Brent Spiner character, who shows up in this episode, is actually Lore? He even says something like “My father had me but then he made Data and he never let me forget it.” I found it odd but it would be a total Lore thing to say. 😁 If he’s Lore, he’s probably also the one who killed the nice but naive android lady. Right now they want the audience to believe it was Sutra?

PPS: Almost forgot – this scene, in which Picard is mind-controlled, is extremely weird, right? It doesn’t fit the theme of the situation they are in at all. Who was controlling him?!? This is never resolved and they never mention it again… We learn later that Sutra taught herself mind melds, but even those don’t enable you to remote control people. And the words didn’t sound much like her in the first place. Is this just another thing the audience is supposed to forget everything about?

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