Ok, hear me out….the new Picard series seems to be fueled by the central plot of Exosquad. For those who don’t know, Exosquad was a great vehicle for selling toys, inspired in no small part by Robotech. HOWEVER, it also boasted a surprisingly complex and multi-faceted storyline that used politics, genetic engineering, cloning, racism, sexism, life under the rule of a totalitarian governments, all that and more, while also selling cool toys.
***Picard spoilers ahead***
It’s central plot revolves around a race of beings, genetically bred to work, Neosapians. They are tall, strong, blue beings whose hands only have four giant fingers, and basically slaves. They are grown in batches, which they view as their family. After years of slavery to their Human creators, they led an uprising on the planet Mars. They had essentially taken over the planet, prompting Earth to respond with the creation of a new weapon of war, agile enough to counter the Neosapians, and cool looking enough to sell toys. This would be the titular ExoFrame, the pilots of whom are referred to as the Exosquad. The uprising was suppressed, and an uneasy period of peace persisted between Earth and Mars, Humans (Terrans) and Neosapians for some time. That is until a particularly powerful and charismatic Neosapian, Phaeton, secretly constructs an army on Mars, starts creating his own breed of Neosapian warriors, and then launches a surprise assault on Humanity not just on Mars and Earth, but also other colonies such as Venus.
Picard very awkwardly shoves some exposition our way via his news interview in the first episode, where it is revealed that “synths” or synthetic life forms like Commander Data, suddenly decided to revolt against their human creators. The second episode shows a glimpse of this series of events. Highlighting that the creepy synthetics are picked on in basically every shot they are in. From being cheerfully referred to as “plastic people” right off the bat, to their human crew mocking them for their lack of humor. Picard’s synthetic revolution also takes place on Mars, though the specifics of why and how widespread this was beyond Mars hasn’t been clearly laid out. However they do go out of their way to instill the idea that Romulans are also Amish in regards to AI, in that they don’t trust it and keep their computers simple. The degree to which this is adhered to is given a very religious overtone by Jean Luc’s conveniently knowledgeable caretakers.
While Exosquad’s story would fairly complexly interplay the themes I mentioned above with multiple different story and character arcs taking place across the solar system over the course of the season, Picard just has three plates spinning at once, Jean Luc’s quest for the truth, whatever Dahj’s plan actually is, and the Romulan’s plans on earth VS beardy-Romulan’s likely plot to somehow use Dahj for his own goals separate from the above Romulans. -=[Side bar- I’m perfectly fine with most science fiction not explaining away everything. I enjoy suspending my disbelief out the window like Michael Jackson as much as the next person, but I really want to know WHY these super synthetics like Dahj are made in pairs, end Side bar]=-. Picard has also been very unsubtle in their paralleling their Starfleet to our America. So if they’ve made that step, I’d hope they are also capable of taking the next steps to properly address this America’s racism through this new theme of rogue synthetics.
Exosquad had a Neosapian, Marsala, in the otherwise human main crew, and their inter-personal frictions, as well as those they encountered during their adventures added a lot of flavor to the series. Picard trailers revealed early on that Voyager’s 7-of-9 will be part of the series, so hopefully her character can bring a Marsala-esq flavor to the adventure, since it looks like Dahj will be more a plot MacGuffin / Golden Snitch to be sought after by both sides. Picard seems to intimate that there may be some kind of an attack from within due to the sinister plotting of the Romulan ambassador lady, and Jean Luc’s direct threat to the other admiral. Why else would Romulans be mining out a Borg cube? Perhaps to overthrow the AI loving Federation? Somehow though Dahj is the key, and there will likely be other synths (that look just like us), and the key to fighting back the Romulans involves overcoming unnecessary prejudices and fighting a common enemy, because that never happens in fiction.
While the similarities may be a tad thin, I still feel there will be some more fiddly bits that dovetail between the two series over time. Not that the similarities are intentional, just amusingly close at points. I just hope Picard gets to slow down a bit to better develop some of the other characters, in ways that the weird 90s cartoon from my childhood managed in only 30-minute episodes, and a G rating.