***This first section is a repetition of my review for P1, Echoes of Lament, as the material here applies to both. Scroll down for specifics about this second piece.***
Firstly, this is an absolutely masterful edit. Taking ten episodes and turning them into two two-hour-long films would be impressive in any circumstances, especially done at this level of technical quality. But to do that with source material that is so utterly, completely, depressingly abhorrent is a work of skillful artistry that deserves the highest possible commendation.
I avoided watching Picard when it first came out because I hate streaming services, and because I was nervous. That nervousness increased to outright anxiety when spoilers began slipping into my sphere. When I finally bought it and watched it for myself, the emotional experience was something akin to watching a beloved friend beaten senseless, or having your dog drowned. Star Trek was a formative piece of my whole experience of life, and to see it degraded to such a degree (and lauded for that degradation by mindless hoards of critics) was literally and shatteringly depressing.
Coming from that standpoint, to say that I enjoyed even a moment of the material is pretty amazing. As it happens, this first part, Echoes of Lament, turned out to be... if not a *good story,* then at least not the worst. Utter trash was taken, molded, morphed, risen, baked, and turned into a crusty loaf that -- for all its flavorlessness -- was edible.
But, if "Lament" was a flavorless loaf, "Means of Redemption" got burned. This isn't to say that the editing is at fault—the source material is so dreadful that I cannot imagine it ever quite reaching a reasonable state. However, some of the editor's choices were not as conservative as they might have been in cutting out the bad moments. Some moments, like the retention of gore-shots (even in a limited capacity for half-second flashback purposes) were the editor's stylistic choice, not necessity, and I disagree with their necessity. I do appreciate what was cut though, because the original material was lousy with gore. Likewise, various elements of the final third of the film could have been tightened, including ridiculous out-of-universe continuity glitches like Narek's locating them based on their trajectory and heading (this makes no sense!). So, I do think that the narrative arc could have been made much stronger with a bit more cutting. That said, I noticed a few audio hiccups in places as music overlapped, and once with some distorted popping, so I can only imagine how hard it would be syncing things up with even more cuts.
Focusing on what wasn't cut is a better place to go, however. I loved the changes made to Riker and Troi's little life together with their kid - turned from something vomitoriously depressing into something a bit melancholy but, ultimately, extremely sweet. I think the time spent in their scenes was my favorite of the whole experience. So much terrible material is taken out, turning the characters into reasonable human beings instead of the tapestries of suffering and horror they were devised as by the writers. It was really beautiful seeing how the extremely clever cutting made literal changes to emotional beats within the story - which goes to show the power a good editor has when given directorial control - even on a piece that's already formalized.
I am incredibly impressed by these two films, and even if I enjoyed the second one a bit less than the first, I still commend Wraith for doing the unthinkable. They turned something actively harmful into something only a little bit worse than Nemesis, and that's an insane gap to cross. Now, I finally feel a sense of closure on a painful thorn in my emotional side, and I cannot thank the editor enough for creating that opportunity.
As much as fan edits have proven capable of salvaging some projects, sometimes there's only so much you can do with a deeply flawed product. This is unfortunately the case here. Because I did not care about the new cast, which this edit gives us even less time to care about, the 3rd act falls completely flat. To be fair, it also fell flat in the original version, but this makes the problem even more pronounced because the show's undercooked characters feel even more undercooked.
There are also a few minor technical hiccups like a couple burst of static and the audio during a part of the Riker/Troi section was ever-so-slightly out of sync. Nothing too distracting though and this might have been a problem that only I had. Overall, the edit was extremely well put together, It failed for me mostly because the narrative of the show doesn't work. Chipping away, remixing, and rearranging a broken story can only do so much. Sometimes, it just makes it even more broken. Season 2, I imagine, will prove to be completely impossible to re-edit into anything resembling a competent narrative.
However, this was certainly a noble failure and I would recommend it to anyone, like myself, who wanted to give the first season of Picard a rewatch without having to invest quite as much time ;)
I love Star Trek.
I have been watching it for over 45 years (yeah, I am THAT old!)
I have been there through the good times, the bad times, and now, the current, mediocre times.
While I still watch all current incarnations of Trek, I often ask myself, am I watching out of loyalty or because I actually like it?
I am not certain, it is probably a bit of both, as the resurrection of the Paramount Plus era of Trek has been a frustrating affair thus far.
The original 10 episode run of PICARD's first season certainly falls into this category. It is a show that seems to distain Roddenberry's vision of humanity. It takes pleasure in making every character broken. It seems to wants to be "other" sci-fi franchises rather than be true to what made Star Trek unique and special for nearly 50 years. But perhaps the greatest sin, it is just sloppily written and paced.
While it is a series with many good "moments", it's best parts do not make a good whole.
Which brings us to Wraith's two part movie epic -- ECHOES OF LAMENT and MEANS OF REDEMPTION.
I say immediately and upfront, this two movie fan edit is BETTER than the series.
While I own the series on Blu Ray, the truth is, I will probably never sit down to rewatch EVERY episode again as I find the entire series problematic. Thankfully, Wraith's fan edit offers a nice alternative solution if I ever want to revisit Picard's freshman season.
Gone are most of the more non-Trek moments and awful plotlines. I am most grateful for the excising of the whole Raffie as a drug addict and how Picard and crew treated/enabled her. It is so horrible, it actually makes to despise Jean-Luc. Which is probably not a good ideas since he is supposed to be the hero of the show.
Also, the removal of Seven being a cold blooded murderer -- THANK YOU!!! I mean as a parent, I totally get it. And I think there were other ways a similar resolution could have been reached. But the writer's purposely have a PURE Trek moment where Picard and Seven discuss their humanity, and then in the very next scene they flush it down the toilet.
Unfortunately, due to locked plot points, not all of the illogical elements could be removed in this new version, such as Androids can apparently do Mind Melds (who knew you program Telepathy?) and Noonien Soong had a human son (which NO ONE QUESTIONS).
There are many, many similar and welcomed cuts like this that try to keep the narrative on course and closer to the Trek universe and it's characters that we are familiar with. Also, aiding in the narrative, is the rearranging of many scenes, so the plot unfolds in a more linear style.
There is some AMAZING audio work done throughout both edits, which aid's Wraith in hiding many cuts and with scene transitions. Though there are many moments where one have tell a line of dialogue has been removed by a slight unnatural change in vocal cadence or a cut away reaction shot that does not quite fit the moment. Also, there are some moments where slo-mo is used for transitions, and it does not always work, as it looks a bit stuttery rather than smooth and natural.
While I liked the dark cliffhanger ending of Part One, I thought the sudden cut to Goldsmith's theme for the end credits was too loud and uplifting, completely breaking the tone and mood of that powerful final scene... a mood that should have ominously lingered longer. I think the end titles would have benefited from a darker, more somber closing piece... perhaps the theme from Nemesis or Undiscovered Country?
Also, I felt the entire Artifact storyline (episodes 6-8) was perhaps too truncated and frenetically cut, particularly the action sequences. One of the jarring aspects of the new cut, Seven seems to appear instantaneously when Elnor activates the Fernis transpoder.
Each movie plays over 2.5 hours, and even with all the positive cuts and changes made by Wraith, it still felt like a bit of slog for me, particularly Part One, since it is all set up and the action really does not kick in until Part Two. It makes me think this may have worked better as a trilogy rather than a duology, with three movies of about 100 minutes in length? As one of the issues with the series condensed into this format, it really hammers home some of the very weaker writing and plot elements. This is no fault of the editor, as you can only do so much with this source material.
Again, I do want to stress, I found this better than the original series and I was entertained.
An enjoyable fan edit!