Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers for Remembrance, the first episode of Star Trek: Picard, as well as potential spoilers for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
I don’t read a lot of reviews. Maybe you could tell from the amateurish way that my own review of Remembrance (the premiere of Star Trek: Picard) was written! But I do check in with Star Trek on social media, and I sometimes watch a couple of folks on YouTube who discuss the franchise. In the aftermath of Remembrance last week, some people seem to be pulling at the threads of the story expecting it all to unravel.
There are a few points that I saw being raised multiple times, especially in comments on other sites and on social media. Makes me glad to not have comments enabled here, really! I thought I’d go through and take a look at a few of the complaints people had, because they’re all nonexistent as far as I’m concerned.
Remembrance was a stunningly good episode. Sir Patrick Stewart was outstanding as Picard, despite an eighteen-year absence from the role. And the three new actors who took starring roles – Harry Treadaway, Alison Pill, and Isa Briones – were on top form. I could nitpick a handful of very minor things (and I did), but that’s always the case with practically every work of fiction. And in case you missed it, Star Trek’s canon has always been a bit of a mess – just look at warp factors as one example.
So here’s a list of a few criticisms folks have thrown out regarding Remembrance – along with my own deconstructions and why I don’t think they’re relevant.
Please don’t take this as a personal attack – if you didn’t like Remembrance that’s okay. Even as Star Trek fans, we like different kinds of stories within the franchise – and that’s okay too. Entertainment is always going to be subjective, and we don’t all enjoy the same things. This isn’t meant to insult or attack anyone; if anything it’s a response to general points I’ve seen made, and it’s really just an excuse for me to get my own thoughts in order.
That said, if you can’t tolerate disagreement, now’s your chance to jump ship!
Number 1: Wasn’t it the “Hobus” star that went supernova?
Short answer: no.
Longer answer: I spent a while going back and looking at 2009’s Star Trek to see where this word came from. Even I knew the word “Hobus”, and although I didn’t remember where I’d heard it spoken, it surely had to come from the 2009 reboot film, right?
Wrong – no one in that film uses the word “Hobus”. It was only ever mentioned in the Countdown comic book series that preceded the film. Since those comic books aren’t canon, it doesn’t count.
In the film itself, Spock simply says that “a star” went supernova, and that he raced to get there in time before it destroyed Romulus. For some people – probably some of the same people now getting upset about “Hobus” – this was always a bit of a plot hole in Star Trek, because supernovae can’t really destroy planets in nearby star systems, nor threaten “the galaxy”. At least that’s our current understanding of the phenomenon.
In that sense, changing the star that went supernova to be in Romulan system actually closes a plot hole rather than opens one.
And even if we’re so attached to the word “Hobus” that we can’t let that slide, it could simply be the Romulans’ name for their star, in the same way that we call our star the Sun or Sol. Thus it’s possible to have your cake and eat it: Hobus was the name of the star in the system containing Romulus, and it went supernova.
Number 2: How many Romulans are there?
Some people seem to be confused by the “900 million” number given by the FNN interviewer when discussing Picard’s evacuation of Romulus. I can kind of see why; it seems like a low number on the surface given that there were 50 million people just living on Earth’s moon in the 24th Century.
I tried looking for sources on the population of the Federation as a whole for some kind of guide. There’s nothing “official”, only non-canon sources like reference books which don’t really count. But there’s no reason to believe it would be a small number – tens or hundreds of billions people could easily be in the ballpark. So the population of the Romulan Star Empire, which controlled a large expanse of space, should be somewhere in the region of tens or hundreds of billions too, right?
Well there are a couple of issues here. First is that we have absolutely no idea. We’ve only ever seen a handful of Romulans on screen all at once, and even their biggest fleets at the height of the Dominion War weren’t huge – so it’s conceivable that their population wasn’t as large as their territorial expansion would suggest. That could be for many reasons, like their empire containing a large number of uninhabitable worlds. Pure speculation, but it fits with established canon.
Secondly, and most importantly for this discussion, nobody said that Picard was evacuating the entire Romulan Star Empire – it was probably just Romulus and Remus and any bases or stations in that system. Add to that the fact that the Romulans have their own shipyards and their own fleet, meaning they could conduct a significant portion of any evacuation themselves. Starfleet wasn’t doing the entire thing while the Romulans sat on their hands – they would have been constantly evacuating as many people as possible while the fleet was being built. The 900 million figure is what Picard was able to contribute – and based on what he said about arguing with Starfleet Command, I bet he wanted to have more capacity on that fleet.
Thirdly, 900 million people could easily have been the population of the Romulus system – with billions of other Romulans spread throughout their Empire.
A combination of factors is actually the most likely – the Romulans were evacuating as many people as they could, but they needed extra support. The Federation, under Picard’s command, could get 900 million Romulans out of danger, which was a contribution to the effort but not the entire thing by any means. 900 million may have been the leftover population of Romulus by the time the fleet was being built.
See? It doesn’t have to be a problem at all.
Number 3: Too much politics!!!
If someone told me they’re upset by the intrusion of politics and political themes in Remembrance, I’d ask them one question: “have you ever seen Star Trek before?” Since its 1960s origins, Star Trek has used its science fiction setting to highlight real-world political issues.
If someone first watched the show while very young these things would go over their head, which is perfectly understandable. And if they watched it two decades or more after its initial airdate, many of the issues raised wouldn’t be obvious because they’re no longer current affairs. They were important socio-political issues at the time, but may no longer be something we’d even think about. So it’s easy to miss if someone didn’t watch each series when they were originally broadcast.
Let’s look at a handful of examples of where the Star Trek franchise has brought in potentially controversial political themes:
The Doomsday Machine (TOS, 1967) This episode featured Kirk and Spock discussing nuclear weapons and how good it was that they were never used, as well as looking at the concepts of superweapons and mutually assured destruction – both massive topics during the Cold War.
Let That Be Your Last Battlefield (TOS, 1969) This episode looked at racism and the consequences of holding on to hate for a long time. It was an attack on racist attitudes held by some in 1960s America.
Ethics (TNG, 1992) This episode dealt with the concept of ritual suicide in other cultures, disability and suicide, the concept of moral relativism, and the ethics of experimental medical procedures.
Relics (TNG, 1992) This episode looked at how we treat older people, and how people can make valuable contributions regardless of age.
Melora (DS9, 1993) This episode dealt with disability and how disabled people can be treated differently, looked down on because of their condition, and underestimated.
Jetrel (Voyager, 1995) This episode looked at the consequences of using chemical weapons and weapons of mass destruction – and the toll it can take not only on the victims, but the perpetrators too.
Rejoined (DS9, 1995) This episode is famous for featuring one of the first female same-sex kisses on American television. It touched on homosexuality and LGBT+ issues.
Death Wish (Voyager, 1996) This episode dealt with the concepts of suicide and euthanasia, as well as whether a “right to die” exists or should exist.
Stigma (Enterprise, 2003) This episode looked at the stigma of living with a disease that only “undesirable” people would have contracted. It was an allegory for the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Damage (Enterprise, 2004) This episode tackled addiction, and the long-term effects it has on people.
So there’s a few episodes from all the iterations of Star Trek prior to Discovery that dealt with contemporary issues. There are literally hundreds of other examples, including smaller points in episodes about other topics. This could be a full article in itself, but anyone suggesting politics “has no place in Star Trek” hasn’t been paying attention.
As a final note on this, I didn’t really think that Remembrance got particularly political. The section of the interview regarding the evacuation of Romulus could be taken as allegorical for the modern-day migration crises facing Europe and the United States, and it could also be taken as a critique of isolationism as a broader concept. That’s really the only point that was “politically charged”, and even then it wasn’t the focus of the episode. That scene was there to provide some backstory.
The only other point where I think people have seen the episode through a political lens is the rooftop fight scene, where Dahj takes on the attackers while yelling at Picard to take cover. For some people with preexisting biases, perhaps they took this as “Strong Woman has to defend Old White Man” – she’s strong, he’s not, so it must be a feminist political point – or so goes their argument. But Picard is an old man, even by 24th Century standards – and more importantly he’s unarmed. Dahj, by contrast, is a newly-activated butt-kicking machine – probably literally a machine. Picard would have been useless in that fight, so she was the only one of the two characters who, in the context of the story, could have made a stand. It was just a fight scene – not a political attack on one group or another.
Sometimes we all need to deactivate our political lenses when watching something that’s designed to just be entertainment. If we turn every single thing into a political fight, there’ll be no room for entertainment or anything else.
Number 4: Technology is wrong – it’s not advanced enough!
So firstly, the episode took place entirely on Earth. As a result, we don’t get to see as much technology as we would if we were on board the Federation’s newest flagship. Secondly, Château Picard – the setting for much of the episode – is deliberately rustic. Picard’s family, if you recall from The Next Generation, were quite traditionalist. Picard was the first in his family to have left the solar system, and the way the house is built and decorated reflects the past deliberately. But even here at the Château, we see an updated LCARS display, a food replicator, holo-screens, and other trappings of the 24th Century.
The transporter – as used by the attackers anyway – also seems to have been updated. Whereas the transporters of the TNG era took several seconds to fully materialise, in Remembrance the attackers appeared practically instantaneously – the transporting process now taking less than a second.
There’s also the archive. How exactly it works isn’t clear, but I’d speculate that the all of the items are held in some kind of transport buffer, able to be materialised at will. That’s a pretty impressive feat, and not something we’ve seen before, at least not on this scale.
We’re also looking at Earth a decade after the attack by rogue synthetics. The synths were living technology – and perhaps as a result of their actions, people are less enthusiastic about trying out new technology.
Finally, when we’ve seen Earth in other iterations of Star Trek, technology was never front and centre then either. Sisko’s restaurant in New Orleans is a good example – where was the technology there? We hardly saw any. It’s possible that the Federation likes to keep Earth looking as pristine as possible, at least in some regions, without too much tech everywhere. These could also be aesthetic choices by citizens of Earth to hide as much of their tech as possible. And of course, it’s also possible that, since the TNG era, miniaturisation has occurred, allowing formerly large devices – like the computer panels that took up a whole wall that we saw on starships at that time – to be much smaller.
Number 5: Picard is depressed.
He lost a very close friend in Data, who sacrificed himself to save Picard. That isn’t something you can just snap your fingers and get over. It came only a few years after his brother and nephew died, too, with that loss (seen in Star Trek: Generations) affecting him greatly as it meant he was the last living member of his own family – and the end of his family line.
I’ve lost friends and family in my life, and I still think about them, I still visit their graves, and I’m still sad about them no longer being here even decades later.
In addition to his personal loss, he went through a series of traumatic events. Firstly, the attack on Mars destroyed his fleet and killed over 90,000 people – many of whom he will have known. It’s even possible that Geordi La Forge was among those killed – he was working on Mars in the Star Trek: Picard Countdown comic book series (which is confusingly not the same Countdown as the 2009 series mentioned above), though whether this is fully canon or not is unclear. Next the Romulan supernova hit, and despite his best intentions it seems clear that he wasn’t able to save as many lives as he hoped. Finally, he’d been a Starfleet officer since he was very young – we’re talking six or seven decades of service, practically his entire adult life. And in an instant it was all over – he resigned in protest at Starfleet’s decision to pull out of helping the Romulans. No one stopped him – perhaps this is part of what he meant by his “offended dignity” remark.
We were warned a number of times that Picard might not be the same way we remember him, and in that sense it’s true. He’s missing a part of himself because of what he’s been through. But at the same time, the man we knew is right there under the surface. The way he speaks with passion and anger during his interview, defending the rights of Romulans and synthetics alike was absolutely pure Picard, and anyone who thinks otherwise must’ve skipped episodes like The Drumhead, The Measure Of A Man, Who Watches The Watchers, and countless others because the way he reacts in that moment is absolutely the way we would expect him to.
I felt the same way when I read so much criticism of Luke Skywalker’s characterisation in The Last Jedi too, and the two characters and their situations are somewhat comparable. But anyone saying “my childhood hero would never ever become depressed!” clearly has no understanding of depression and mental health. They’ve almost certainly never experienced it in their own lives or within their own families or peer groups, because if they had – and they were capable of basic empathy – they’d know that depression can afflict anyone. Sometimes it’s a result of circumstances – in Picard’s case, the loss of his friends and his treatment by Starfleet. In Luke Skywalker’s case, it was one moment of weakness that had disastrous consequences. But sometimes depression comes out of nowhere and hits you like a ton of bricks. Anyone who’s lived a life will know that there are good moments and bad moments. If we’re lucky, the bad moments don’t last long. But for Picard, his bad moment clearly has.
This is a much broader point. Life happens – and the way a person is at age twenty isn’t the same way they’ll be at forty, and the way they are at forty will change again by the time they’re sixty or seventy. We haven’t seen Picard in two decades – in which time he’s been though some really difficult experiences. It’s no wonder he’s stepped back.
But the point of these kind of stories isn’t that he’s a depressed old man, it’s that something gave him a reason to get involved again. There’s a mystery to unravel, a long-lost friend’s family to find – and suddenly Picard has motivation and confidence again. It took the extraordinary events of Remembrance to remind him that he can still make a difference. And a similar story plays out in The Last Jedi – Luke eventually realises that he can’t just sit around and die, he has to take action because there’s a cause worth believing in.
This is a twist on a very classic adventure story setup. I mentioned this in my review, but Remembrance plays up some of the elements present in classics of the genre like The Hobbit – Picard is living a quiet, rural life, with no plans to leave his home or do anything significant. But his life is interrupted by someone new, who drags him into a mystery and sends him on an adventure. The added twist is that Picard used to be an adventurer of sorts, but he ended up depressed and back at home before someone reignited that spark within him and gave him something to investigate and a cause to get involved with.
It’s an incredibly positive message: anyone can fall victim to this kind of mindset, but there is hope. Under the right circumstances, someone who has lost their way and who has been feeling down for a long time can find a way out of it. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, even for someone who had arguably lost all hope and was “just waiting to die”.
So that’s it. A few criticisms of Remembrance that I’ve seen people throwing around. Some were glorified nitpicks, like the Romulan population or the supernova’s name, and others were more to do with the themes and concepts the story established. But in both cases I’ve provided my rebuttal just based on my own viewing of the episode.
As I said before, this isn’t meant to call out anyone or criticise anyone. It’s totally okay to dislike the episode, it’s totally okay to have a different opinion to me on all of these points. Entertainment is subjective, and we all have different opinions about an episode or film. Some of these are informed by our own experiences in life.
For me personally, I hadn’t considered any of the above points to be problematic while viewing Remembrance, and a couple of them caught me completely by surprise when I saw people were upset.
I had expected the biggest criticism to be along the lines of “this is completely different from The Next Generation“, and while I’m sure there are people who don’t like the concept of the series, I haven’t seen a great deal of criticism centred around that point thus far.
Friday can’t come soon enough for me, though! Roll on episode two – Maps and Legends.
Remembrance, the first episode of Star Trek: Picard, is available to watch now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and other countries and territories. The Star Trek franchise – including Star Trek: Picard – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.