Skip to content

“Save the poet – save the universe”. The Haunting of Villa Diodati reviewed

maryshelley

Perhaps it’s the rather rareified literary atmosphere, but I think Jodie Whittaker got some better speeches yesterday.  Thank you Maxine Alderton.

She also managed to get something of a big speech – the sort of speech a Doctor can expect only once or twice in a season – a speech that centred on the familiar dilemma of whether you can kill in the short term in order to avert a hideous futurity.  It’s a “have I that right” speech, only this time, The Doctor is not left trembling with two wires in her hands for very long because she’s actually very determined not to wipe out Percy Shelley prematurely.  “Save the Poet – Save the Universe” should be on posters now.  It’s a standout slogan from Season 12.

The celebrity historical adventure is always replete with comic potential.  Shakespeare was funny, and James I/VI was funny and Byron is funny even though he’s a bit of an arse.

The depiction of Byron as someone who is hopelessly charming even when casually abusive does not appear to be too far off the mark.  And at the end of the story he is allowed to recite “Darkness” – demonstrating that being a bit of an arse does not mean that he’s not “the real deal” in literary terms.  The poem is also a foreshadowing of Mary Shelley’s grim masterpiece – The Last Man.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43825/darkness-56d222aeeee1b

We are told that poor Percy had to be given a sneak preview of his own death as part of the cyberium extraction process.  Percy had been attracted to the shiny thing in the water that takes him over in a way that reminded me of Deagol the hobbit finding something similarly entrancing and lethal a long long long time ago.  PBS is easily reconciled to his early watery grave apparently, but still – if I were Percy I’d still have an aversion to small boats from now on.

Ashad was well portrayed I have to say.  “Ashad” is the sort of name for an antagonist that Byron or Shelley themselves might have chosen.  Ashad is an incomplete cyberman who hasn’t yet managed to shed all emotion and is all frustrated and emotional about it.  It’s a sort of “amok time” without the sex.  The extent to which this cyber-encounter is going to inspire a well known novel was dealt with comparatively subtly, I must say.  Mary Godwin Wollstonecraft Shelley has a good scene with Ashad – trying to reconnect with the latter’s humanity before Ashad reverts to horrible cybertype.  I’m reminded of the fact that in essence, Frankenstein’s monster is a sort of incel terrorist who is prepared to kill indiscriminately until he gets a girlfriend.

I must confess that I was bracing myself for some nonsensical reference to Frankenstein as the stand-out literary masterpiece of the Romantic era.  When it’s not even Mary Shelley’s best novel.  To be fair – the encouragement she receives from Team Tardis is satisfyingly vague – “just keep at it” – allowing me to cherish the encouraging suspicion that Maxine Alderton is aware and appreciative of Mary Shelley’s larger body of work. So now I can breathe again.

 

“In Lambeth”: Something available on YouTube right now.

 

Every year I have to check the video links on my Moodle sites to see if the cool stuff I’m sending my students to look at is still there.  Every year, something has been removed – for some reason or other.

I’m teaching a course on Literature and Revolution, focusing on the 1790s, so Jack Shepherd’s 1989 play In Lambeth is kinda overwhelmingly relevant.  There was a TV production of this play made in 1993 (pretty much exactly 200 years after the imagined encounter) starring Lesley Clare O’Neill, Mark Rylance and Bob Peck.

What a fine actor Bob Peck was, eh?  And now, if I have to tell students who he was – I have to say that he was that guy who says “clever girl!” just before being eaten by velociraptors in the first Jurassic Park movie.

Peck’s Tom Paine sports the kind of of thick Norfolk accent that reminds me of Bernard Matthews, the turkey mogul.  The rights of man are truly bootiful.  Mark (“what a shame he’s an Oxfordian”) Rylance is suitably ethereal as Blake.  Do you remember that irritating vogue for earpiece phones a few years ago?  You’d be talking to someone and suddenly they’d tilt their heads slightly and you’d realise they were suddenly talking to someone else – miles away.  Blake was a bit like that – and Rylance captures this ability to suddenly tune into the spirit world and have conversations with various spiritual essences in the middle of a normal conversation.

Paine is actually poetic in spite of himself, seemingly unaware of the fact that his own “plain speaking” has a rhythm and a style and (yes) a poetry all of its own.  Because this is what the play is about – it’s about the poetry and the rationalism of a revolutionary era and how the rationalism has a poetry to it and how the poetry keeps trying to rationalise itself and about how nothing can better give life and flesh to this strange dance of verse and prose than an imagined conversation between Paine and Blake.

Lesley Clare O’Neill’s Catherine Blake is peculiarly practical yet remarkably trusting.  She is not herself vouchsafed visions, seemingly, but her faith in her husband seems sincere enough.  She kisses Tom Paine freely enough regarding it as no betrayal of the sort of relationship she’s found herself in.

Paine and Blake meet on friendly terms, become angry with each other but part as friends again.  It’s a familiar and necessary process – a sort of “revolution” all of its own.  Blake’s sense of revolution is rather older and more “rotational” than Paine’s.  Blake is more inclined to anticipate Pete Townsend’s “Meet the new boss – same as the old boss” and regards spiritual regeneration as more urgent and necessary than social transformation – a priority that Paine derives as an artsy-fartsy renunciation of basic human obligation.  Yet perhaps motives and incentives are less important than a constantly renewed commitment to loving others – something that paradoxically binds Blake and Paine together.

The production itself creates a garden of Eden in Lambeth – imagined as a walled sanctuary of happy and untidy fertility abutting a hostile metropolis.  The world is locked out but the world is very close.

This production was only available on YouTube in little bites – with the first bite unobtainable on account of its rather innocent nudity.  But right now, today, 16th February 2020, the whole thing is available in just one continuous bite.  Watch it now before it gets removed or chopped up again.

“The Man from Del Monte – he say… probably!” Picard Episode 4 reviewed.

Picard-suit

Who remembers those adverts for Del Monté fruit juice involving the high and mighty visitor in the panama hat who arrives in a tropical village to taste the local produce and decide on his own almighty whim whether or not the entire community will survive for another year?

As a commercial, it was perhaps too raw a depiction of the chains of dependency imposed by global capitalism and it was binned accordingly.  Nonetheless, I was reminded of its imagery while watching Picard last night.

Picard insists on a detour to the planet Vashti – a planet somehow named after a queen of Babylon who refused to be put on show at a party and who had to be replaced with a nice Jewish girl instead.  Vashti was a resettlement community for displaced Romulans and 14 years earlier (the caption “14 years ago” is appearing with great frequency on this show”) – the Del Montéish Picard was making grand promises about the commitment of the Federation to the ongoing Romulan rescue mission.  Turns out, he was making promises he couldn’t keep.  The notion that promises are a prison is a recurring theme in this episode and perhaps in the series as a whole.

Picard is not the story of a legendary starship captain off on one last spree.  It’s the story of a sad old man who feels he’s let a lot of people down and has very little time to make some of it right.

A return to Vashti reveals a bitter segregated society in which Picard – as the once smiling face of the Federation – now focuses everybody’s resentment against Federal betrayals generally.  He does however sort of reconnect with that rarest of creatures – a child whom Picard actually liked.  The flashback scenes with Picard playing three musketeers with little Elnor bring tears to the eye and should make an adult Wesley Crusher feel really resentful.  Adult Elnor is suitable sulky and has plenty of abandonment issues of his own.  He’s been raised by nuns (which isn’t right, apparently) but he’s a superlative fighter.  A well timed decapitation saves Picard’s life.

It turns out that Elnor is now a representative of a ancient order of knights who believe in “Absolute Candour” – complete unfiltered emotional transparency at all times.  Do not invite one of these guys to sample your elderly mother’s cooking unless you are very very sure of your elderly mother’s cooking.  (I’d be fine, by the way.)  These knights will also only join your quest if it satisfies a certain prime criterion – which we learn at the end turns out to be complete hopelessness.

Back on the defunct Borg cube – the romance between Narek and Soji seems to have progressed to the imaginatively playful sliding down corridors stage.  (There’s no way back from this stage.) The main barrier to their blossoming love appears to be the frequent holographic interventions of Narek’s sister – whose sneering relationship with her little bro’ seems unwholesome on every conceivable level.  At present, Narek seems to be in love with something that many Romulans seems to regard as an existential threat to everything cherishable in the entire universe.

What else?  Oh, some proper dog-fighting in space, with everyone having to hold on tight as the ship lurches back and forth.  And then guess what?  Seven of Nine arrives.

No part of this episode seemed to drag.  Indeed, after this episode, I think I could handle a couple more that are just about Patrick Stewart wandering about and looking sad again.  I like my obvious excitement rationed in comparatively small doses.

A tiny final note about gender.  Even in the late 24th century – gender is depicted as such a determinant (whatever one’s species or planet of origin) that the circumstance of a boy growing up among women is assumed to be somehow problematic.  Furthermore, the incredible pilot who turns out to be Seven is casually referred to as “he” until her actual appearance.

Clearly, the struggle continues.

“Can you hear me?”, belatedly reviewed: Is it scary enough though?

Doctor-Who-spoilers-Fans-horrified-over-creepy-detachable-fingers-2305701

The bit with the fingers is scary.  There is something creatively unsettling about a creature that can detach all its fingers and send one of them into your ear in order to extract something from your brain.  If this episode is remembered in fifty years time, it will be for the detachable fingers – that’s the basic mnemonic device of the story.  When every other bit of the plot is forgotten – the fingers will linger.

The story doesn’t make a lot of sense, but perhaps it doesn’t have to.  At various times in the Whoniverse we’ve been introduced to various immortals who have nothing better to do than play silly buggers with the rest of us.  These are the sort of creatures that Samuel Johnson incredulously described when reviewing Soane Jenyn’s conception of the Great Chain of Being.  These particular bored deities feed off human nightmares and one of them is trying to harness this power to free the other.

We visit Aleppo, which is nice.  It’s always instructive to be reminded of how important and sophisticated Aleppo was in the fourteenth century.

None of the hints of actual nightmares seem quite up to snuff, however.  I’m not sure there is really the power in these nightmares to do the job that these sadistic immortals seem to want done.  The extraction process is scarier than the content.

This, like many other episodes in this season, is a story with a clear moral.  I for one have no problem with honest didacticism.  The moral of the story is – “get help”.  Or “talk to somebody”.  We are not meant to live and die within the frontiers of our own skull.  We achieve fulfillment and liberation in dialogue with others.  The scene where Yaz makes a point of reconnecting with someone with whom she had a life-changing and perhaps life-saving encounter years earlier – is very movingly handled.

So this was something of a curate’s egg, which may achieve a greater sense of retrospective integrity when judged in the context of the season as a whole which is clearly building rapidly to a climactic showdown with the Master and what may or may not have happened to Gallifrey.  This adventure was perhaps less satisfying judged formally on its own individual terms.  Never mind.

Next Sunday, we’re off to meet Mary Shelley.  Obviously I have very mixed feelings about this, and will be watching like a hawk to see how much they get right and wrong – how much of the zeitgeist, Hazlitt’s Spirit of the Age, is somehow communicated and satisfyingly subverted.

Perhaps the Tardis will accidentally prevent that volcano erupting, thus giving those Romantics a nicer more outdoorsy summer – and thus negate the enforced seclusion that provided the occasion for Frankenstein‘s composition?

Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu died OTD 1755.

conradbrunstrom

220px-Charles_Montesquieu

Edmind Burke was a great admirer of Montesequieu.  Indeed, by the 1790s, Montesquieu had become for Burke, a stick with which to beat Rousseau (someone who could never be beaten too hard, or too often from Burke’s point of view).  As an Anglophile who never ceased to be a Frenchman, Montesquieu stands as someone capable of reforming the French ancient regime in a fashion that is inspired by the English examples while remaining true to the peculiarities of the French national temperament and building firmly on pre-existing Gallic legal foundations.  Burke eulogises Montesquieu with a positively homoerotic degree of enthusiasm as

… a genius not born in every country or every time: a man gifted by Nature with a penetrating aquiline eye, — with a judgement prepared with the most extensive erudition, — with an Herculean robustness of mind, and nerves not to be proken with labor, — a man…

View original post 357 more words

Engage. Picard, episode 3 “The End is the Beginning”, reviewed.

star-trek-picard-episode-3-review-the-end-is-the-beginning

“Engage”.  There.  He  said it.  He finally actually said it.  And then the closing credits rolled because there really was nothing more to be said.

The episode begins where the last one started, in a trailer huddled in the shadow of Kirk’s favourite fightin’ rocks – with Picard using alcohol to try to persuade a Tina Turner lookalike called Raffi to go with him on a dangerous and unsanctioned mission.

We’re given a flashback sequence which shows the pair of them fourteen years earlier.  Starfleet has just accepted Picard’s resignation and is about to end Raffi’s career.  And in the fourteen years since, Jean-Luc has hunkered down in his chateau and failed to stay in touch with Raffi.  Bad Jean-Luc.  However, she does give Picard the name of a possible pilot – an embittered and laconic character called Rios – who managed to stay laconic and cool-looking even with a massive chunk of metal sticking out of his shoulder.  He converses only with his amusing medical hologram (medical holograms are the Oscar Wildes of the Star Trek universe, although this one sports an accent that 24th century digital diagnostics would struggle to pin down).

When Picard meets Rios he quickly concludes that, piratical nonchalance notwithstanding, the sheer tidiness of the bridge are indicates that Rios is really Starfleet through and through.

In other less interesting news, the fake relationship between Narek and Soji may be getting less fake.  Soji’s anthropological line of inquiry starts to take a detour from her original research proposal.

I was beginning to think that “Picard” might be a ten episode series about maybe one day possibly beginning to think about returning to the stars, and I think I was OK with that.  But following an attempted Romulan assassination attempt (and why would any Romulan want to assassinate the man responsible for saving more of their people than anyone else?  Ah – curiouser and curiouser), it’s decided that it’s time to get a shift on.  They are joined by cybernetics whizz Dr Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) who will provide much of the “cloistered academic in scary real life situations” comedy for the remainder of the series.

Oh, and Raffi will be coming some of the way after all.  I think she has some more bleak, embittered speeches to give Picard and she won’t be able to give them without coming along too.   Then Picard says “engage” and we’re off.

So in a sense, the fourth episode will be the first properly Startrekky episode, the first episode with the main character involved in extraterrestrial adventures.  The first three episodes have all been preparation for this take off, which means that the real fear of disappointment starts now.

Anticipation is so frequently preferable to the arrival of the main course, that we’re almost concerned about the onset of an actual adventure.

Will plausibility suffer, now we’re now left wondering what someone like Picard and his tiny crew can actually DO in the face of Romulan terrorists backed by elements of the Federation?  And then there’s the Artifact itself.  Does anyone really think it’s going to stay switched off forever?  Does anyone really think that real Borg won’t be re-appearing?  If Picard’s little mission succeeds, will it feel unrealistic and unsatisfying?

It’s too late for me to give up though.  I’ve been assimilated.

Ann Radcliffe, inventor of the Scooby Doo ending – died OTD 1823.

conradbrunstrom

scooby

Just as Samuel Johnson became a ghostbuster because he really did believe in ghosts, so the Scooby Doo gang never lose faith in the supernatural as a category no matter how many times Velma explodes individual apparitions.

Ann Radcliffe is rather similar.

As it happens, I’m not really a fan of Radcliffe.  I’m appreciative of The Italian, but I found Mysteries of Udolpho something of an ordeal.  I should re-read it I suppose, though with every passing year the extent of my own literary ignorance and indolence feels more oppressive.  There’s so much stuff that isn’t Ann Radcliffe that I haven’t read yet and feel I urgently should.

Now that I think of it, Romance of the Forest is well worth a look, as is The Sicilian Romance.  Perhaps she is most to be praised for her powers of natural description.  She does at least stop and smell…

View original post 219 more words

The new Sinn Fein Vote. Why can’t we have nice things?

macdonald

I’ve been thinking about the surge in the Sinn Féin vote and wondering what it represents.

Thinking about the Sinn Féin vote is, of course, different from thinking about Sinn Féin past, present or future.  It’s different from thinking about whether Sinn Féin have the ability to deliver on their promises.  It’s different from thinking about what Sinn Féin – the party and its leaders – really want.

Nor is the new Sinn Féin particularly about Irish unity – though given the sudden transformations of North West Europe – it probably “should” be.  Voters, including Sinn Féin voters, in the republic (except perhaps in some of the border constituencies) are not thinking about what a United Ireland might look like as much as they should be.

But I’ll stick my neck out and say that on the whole the rise in support for Sinn Féin would seem to represent a significant, but not a massive shift to the left within the Irish political imagination.

This is an election about inadequate investment in affordable housing, the health service, and public infrastructure more generally.  If we have a buoyant economy – as we’re always told – why do we have such a homeless problem and why are patients waiting on trolleys in our hospitals?  There’s concern for those at the very sharp end, but also a more prevalent sense of the whole country having been short changed.  Why do most of us have to pay to see a GP?  Why can’t I afford to buy a house in Dublin?  Why isn’t there a real commuter rail service to Navan?  Near the M3, right by the Parkway,  is a huge sign – designed to lure those stuck in traffic – “Want the train?  Vote Sinn Fein.”

Why can’t we be Denmark?

(I should stress that people who know the region much better than I do are a bit fed up with various Scandinavian nations being lazily invoked as beacons of enlightened social democracy when they have many serious and deep rooted problems of their own.  But that doesn’t stop people wanting to emulate notional Denmarks.  It doesn’t stop people in Ireland feeling that there are other northern European countries with comparable populations that take care of their own people a lot better – and that there’s a cosy FF FG consensus that has for too long encouraged the electorate to just put up with things more or less the way they are.)

A great many people feel that Sinn Féin is the largest political party that looks as though they might be serious about investing in public services.  There are parties to the left of Sinn Féin that might be even more serious – but none of them look large enough to play a decisive role in any government.  FF and FG keep talking about health and housing – but sure, they would have done something rather more impressive already if they were that committed.  What does “doing well” consist of if we can’t have these things?  How are we rich if we can’t afford them?

There’s also a widespread feeling that Sinn Féin are too big to be frozen out of government indefinitely.  There is an expectation, within our sort of PR system that invites a variety of coalitions, that any significant party is going to have to get their hands dirty with actual government at some stage.

Some sort of FF and FG coalition – stronger than the “understanding” these parties have managed to live with for the past few years – could be disastrous in the medium to long term for either or both of these parties.  A FF/FG coalition would sound the death knell for the “your great grandad killed my great grandad” polarities that have kept Irish politics so tribal yet so consensual for so long.  A FF/FG coalition would also establish Sinn Féin as definitively the main opposition party – the government in waiting – the party ready to take over the next time things go pear-shaped.

Likewise, Sinn Féin has much to risk by entering government.  Parties of the left who are compromised by coalition tend to be punished very harshly by electorates.  The easiest way to satisfy electoral expectations in the very long term is always to lower expectations.

I think, though I could be wrong, that Sinn Fein will not be the strongest party in the Dail.  They are only fielding one candidate in each constituency while FF and/or FG tend to field two.  I think Martin rather than Macdonald is most likely to be the next Taoiseach.  Martin has ruled out coalition with SF but not as loudly as Varadkar has.  The fate of smaller parties that have gone into government with FF has been grisly.  The Greens are only just recovering from the experience.  Labour has not recovered.  The PDs have long disappeared.  SF would be a larger party than any of these, but they would still risk being tarnished with the FF branded brush.

A lot may depend on the transfers.  The count will be a very long one and the horse trading could be even longer.

The rise in support for Sinn Féin is, on the whole, representative of a desire for very practical things, coupled by a general sense that the traditional parties of government have had their chance and that Sinn Féin should not be artificially excluded from government.  Sinn Féin is, after all, in government in the North.

This is not a “populist” vote.  The Sinn Féin vote is not a nativist vote.  Despite Sinn Féins name, the new Sinn Féin voters are not isolationists or anti-European.  They are not nativists.  They are not obsessed with “protecting the Irish way of life” or are especially fearful of other cultures.  They are not obsessed with any mythic Irish “golden age”.  They are not nostalgic.  There are a few tiny parties and individuals standing on Saturday of whom this could be said – but they are tiny and almost irrelevant.

Instead, the new Sinn Féin voters want fairly moderate but decisive change that might guarantee a few things that it’s imagined that other European countries probably regard as pretty standard.

Whether or not Sinn Féin – whatever their percentage share of government – can satisfy these aspirations – is of course an entirely different question.

 

Today, the US Senate will invite Donald Trump to cheat in the November election.

senate

Nancy Pelosi, above all, was tasked with the burden of having to choose whether the impeachment trial should have a broad or a narrow focus.  She chose narrow.  A broad focus trial  would have involved much of the material from the Mueller Report.  It would have considered the sheer range of Trump’s criminality.  However, a broadly focused trial would have looked far more partisan – looked far more like a character assassination than a forensic prosecution.  The broad focus would also have looked (to a crucial section of the electorate) like a fishing expedition – trawling for evidence rather than examining it.

The decision is understandable but it’s come at a price.  Republican senators are now justifying their decision to acquit Trump on the basis that although his Ukrainian dealings were “wrong” – they don’t warrant removal from office.  They aren’t denying the evidence – just denying the seriousness of the charges.

The Mueller Report is scarier than the Ukraine phone call but lacks the smoking gun.  Now, in a world where senators were responsible vertebrates – convicting Trump on the unassailable evidence of the Ukraine transcripts would connect immediately with the larger pattern of behaviour revealed in the Mueller report.  The point of impeachment should have been (to anyone capable of joined-up political ethics) not just what Trump did with President Zelensky of Ukraine but the fact that he’s boasted about it and seems determined to do it again.  Trump is going to take his acquittal and immediately prepare to solicit and/or accept foreign interference in the 2020 election.  Everybody knows this.

Foreign interference in the US political process was one of the main anxieties of the  Founders.  Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton and Madison were all deeply concerned about how the office of the President could be influenced or even controlled by foreign powers.  Of course, in their day, Britain, France, and Spain all retained a significant territorial presence on the North American continent and these were the powers that these Founders were concerned about.  They had no conception of a nation like Russia or China manipulating an election electronically from thousands of miles away.  But if you explained the concept of “infowars” to them (and they were smart guys), they would have been horrified.

Nor were the Founders strangers to the concept of electoral fraud and unfair electoral influence.  They did not inhabit some ideal Republic of Virtue – but a realistic world of fallible and corruptible mortals and every line of the Federalist Papers reflects this realistic view of common human weaknesses.

The Founders were very conscious of the possibility that a POTUS could be corrupted by foreign influence and that foreign influence could corrupt elections.  Not co-incidentally,  they devised articles of impeachment – making it clear that elections cannot be the only check on presidential abuse of power.

Now the Dershowitz defense gives such sweeping discretionary powers to the Presidency that it is impossible to separate self from public interest.  According to the Dershowitz defense, it is impossible to imagine how any President could be impeached for anything whatsoever.  We’re seeing the vindication of an imperial presidency.  Apparently Louis XIV is a more exemplary POTUS than George Washington.

The Mueller Report proved that the 2016 presidential election was compromised and corrupted by foreign backed influences.  It is now certain that the 2020 election will be as well – probably on a larger scale.  Trump will benefit from international dark money as never before and the Senate will have given him the green light.  Go ahead.  Cheat.

Trump may still lose the election in November, but the fact that he now has permission from the Senate to use the powers of the Presidency to break the law gives him a massive advantage.

Of course, the real problem is that cheating is popular.  While Nixon’s evident criminality had sent his popularity plummeting below 25%, Trump’s equally evident criminality has actually boosted his appeal.  People like criminals these days and warm to mob mosses.  A critical mass of the electorate, in the US and around the world, prefers feudalism to freedom and gangsterism to rule of law.

More Picard: “Maps and Legends”. It’s all so pretty.

Star-Trek-Picard-102-1

Caught up, belatedly, with the second episode of Picard.  It’s visually very elegant.  This is film-making with an eye for landscapes – natural and architectural.

We learn that the Borg shape that haunted us at the end of the previous episode is a stranded apparently defunct Borg ship that is currently being salvaged while its former crew are being de-Borgified by Data’s daughter – one of twins.  The synthetic (who may or may not know she’s a synthetic) is now having sex with a Romulan who is working for an ancient sinister order called the Shat Vash, who are secretive even by the standard of an entire civilisation built on secrecy.

Shat Vash are now not only operating on earth, but have also managed to inveigle themselves into the Federation high command.

What are they up to?  We don’t know – all we know is that Romulans really really hate synthetics – for some reason.

Picard has yet to assemble a crew to leave Earth.  He receives a fairly bleak prognosis from his Doctor friend whom he’s known since pre-Enterprise Stargazer days.  One thing I like about this show is that it is realistically concerned about the prospect of someone Picard’s age swanning about the Galaxy.  His request for a starship (“just a small one”) is shot down with perhaps unnecessary rudeness.  Just how many times did Picard save the Galaxy again?  He’s barely even recognised at the reception desk.

People swear in the world of Picard.  That feels strange.  The impression we got, especially from Star Trek IV, was that excessive profanity was a very late twentieth century phenomenon that humanity grew out of.  Actually, I remember Data swearing once when his emotions chip was turned on too high at a moment of understandable stress.  But overall, I always had the impression that the Federation was a rather courteous place – that First Contact with the Vulcans inaugurated a rather polite trajectory of civilisation.  Indeed, much of the fun of following “Swear Trek” on twitter is based on the very fact that people in Star Trek DON’T swear.

The music is a little too soothing for my taste.  The landscapes and designs are very lovely, and the syrupy music serves to gild the lily rather too much for my liking – as though the programmers cannot trust the audience to see that certain things are lovely and needs to shout the loveliness at us.  But then – I hate “appropriate” background music – much preferring “inappropriate” music that offers some sort of contrasting commentary on what I’m seeing.

But I’ll keep watching this – because I’m intrigued and because it seems committed to a dramatic consideration of what life consists of – and whether “natural” and “synthetic” are even appropriate terms any more.

When Picard finds his first crewmember in living in a trailer – is she huddling under the very rock formation where Captain Kirk used to have most of his fight scenes?