On The John

On The John: Godzilla Vs Kong: King Of Punches?

Review By John Camarena

…we get to see what it would be like for a radioactive dinosaur to throw down with a giant gorilla.

The time has finally come, and one of the most anticipated movies by a very small faction of specific fandom can finally rejoice: ‘Godzilla Vs Kong’ has arrived and it is good!
After a couple of delays and uncertainty due to the still ongoing pandemic, Warner Media and Legendary Pictures has allowed us to stream this movie from the safety and comfort of our own homes through HBO Max for 30 days after its release date, though this one would be worth watching on the biggest screen possible; it looks absolutely gorgeous and sounds fantastic. This movie is everything it sold itself as: Godzilla and Kong have a couple of showdowns and we get to see what it would be like for a radioactive dinosaur to throw down with a giant gorilla.
Spoiler alert: It’s awesome!

This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment from “Godzilla vs. Kong.”

But not to get too ahead of ourselves, there are a few problems with this film and with this being the fourth entry in the American Godzilla series which started with ‘Godzilla’ (2014), followed by ‘Kong: Skull Island (2017)’, and ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ (2019), let’s just say that if you’re not already on this giant monster train, this movie is not going to suddenly make you love the kaiju genre.
There will be spoilers from here on out so watch it first if you do not want it ruined for you.

This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment for “Godzilla vs. Kong.”

It is explained that both Kong and Godzilla are both alphas, so any meeting between the two would result in a fight to the death, and for some reason this would be a bad thing.

This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Millie Bobby Brown in a scene from “Godzilla vs. Kong.”

This movie picks up a couple of years after ‘King of the Monsters’; Godzilla is still the alpha monster and the world seems to be relatively at peace, though everyone is acutely aware that a monster attack could theoretically happen suddenly and without warning.
Kong, on the other hand, is now full grown on Skull Island, which has been converted into a protected habitat to keep him away from Godzilla. It is explained that Kong and Godzilla are both alphas, so any meeting between the two would result in a fight to the death, and for some reason this would be a bad thing. Then the unexpected happens expectedly; Godzilla attacks a tech company in Florida.
Meanwhile, Bernie Hayes, played by Brian Tyree Henry, a conspiracy theorist, engineer at said tech company suspects the company is doing something shady. Coincidentally, Millie Bobbie Brown’s “Madison Russell” (one of the only two returning characters from any of the previous movies), also listens to the conspiracy podcast and figures out how to find the engineer with the help of “Josh Valentine” played by ‘Deadpool 2’s’ Julian Dennison, and they investigate what the company is hiding. After the attack, the media turns on Godzilla as the savior of mankind and the CEO of the company is suggesting terminating Godzilla once and for all.

This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Kaylee Hottle in a scene from “Godzilla vs. Kong.”

Back at Skull Island, Kong becomes aware of the artificial sky creating his prison. A MONARCH research team keeps an eye on him, and “Jia”, a mute little girl played by Kaylee Hottle, is the last living member of the indigenous people that used to inhabit the island; it’s stated the rest of the villagers were wiped out in a storm. Kong has formed a bond with the Jia, and acts as her protector.

This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Alexander Skarsgård in a scene from “Godzilla vs. Kong.”

The final piece of the plot is a disgraced scientist and proponent of the hollow Earth theory: Nathan Lind played by Alexander Skarsgård. Lind is recruited by the daughter of the company’s CEO to continue looking into his hollow Earth theory because there is evidence it may be true, and that an incredible source of power may exist there that could change mankind forever. The hollow Earth plotline becomes interconnected with Kong because they figure that is where the Titans come from and if Kong is taken there, then there would not be any danger of the two meeting and fighting. Oh how wrong they will turn out to be.
Kong is being transported to Antarctica via boat, and this is where we find out that Kong understands sign language. While Kong has been depicted as being intelligent in previous iterations, here he has full on comprehension of what is happening around him and can express his emotions very well, much to the surprise of everyone except Jia. She then acts as his interpreter for the rest of the movie. During the trip he is heavily sedated to keep him under control, and again the unexpected happens expectedly as Godzilla finds the boats and attacks Kong. Godzilla has the upper hand here as they are in his element and Kong struggles to put up a solid defense, but the military is able to send Godzilla away long enough for them to get Kong to the hollow Earth entry point in Antarctica.
Kong doesn’t want to go at first, but they pretty much force Jia to lie and tell Kong he may have family in there. Kong then bolts and they follow him into the pit, which results in a blatant copy of the hyperspace scene from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’.

This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment for “Godzilla vs. Kong.”

…complete with a throne and battle axes made from the dorsal spines of previous Godzillas!

Now we are in the center of the Earth and there is a crazy ecosystem with more giant monsters and what appears to be temple ruins for Kong’s ancestors, complete with a throne and battle axes made from the dorsal spines of previous Godzillas! The Kongs were smart enough to fashion weapons from their enemies which also have the added bonus of absorbing the nuclear energy and becoming supercharged. At this point, Godzilla somehow senses this is happening and breathes atomic fire so hard into the ground that it bores a hole all the way down to the center of the freaking planet. Kong has had enough of all the posturing and jumps up the hole and the epic fight begins in a beautiful neon-lit Hong Kong.
During this time, the “Stranger Things” team stumbles upon what’s really been causing Godzilla to act out: the company has been using the brain of one of Ghidorah’s severed heads to control a robotic version of Godzilla; a Mechagodzilla, if you will. The company’s CEO monologues that he single-handedly wants to save the world by creating the ultimate Titan killer, and all he needed to fully power it on was an energy sample (what?) from the center of the world to do so. But when Mechagodzilla is fully powered, it kills the pilot and wreaks havoc with a mind of it’s own.
Godzilla was just strutting because he seemingly defeated Kong, but Mechagodzilla proved to be more than he can handle and gets his ass handed to him by his robotic doppelganger. The Kong crew revive Kong with a well-timed explosion and together they bring down robozilla. Kong and Godzilla seem to come to a mutual understanding and respect for one another that wouldn’t seem out of place in a “Fast and Furious” movie, and they go their separate ways. The movie ends with Kong frolicking happily in his new home within the hollow Earth as the research team keeps an eye on him.

This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Eiza González in a scene from “Godzilla vs. Kong.”

This movie has lots for fans to love. For one, the last time these two mighty warriors exchanged blows was in the TOHO film ‘King Kong vs Godzilla’ (1962), and boy have special effects improved. Gone are the days of the man-in-suit on miniature sets, we now have CGI action in glorious 4K resolution and it looks beautiful. You can see all the individual hairs on Kong and the scaly texture of Godzilla’s face. All the action is great and the individual set pieces are creative. One nice surprise is that the cinematography went a little more experimental and showed off a lot of impressive camera angles. One particularly nice shot is from within the cockpit of a fighter jet taking off from a sinking aircraft carrier while the fight between Kong and Godzilla rages behind it. You just have to see it to understand. The lighting in the Hong Kong sequence is beautiful, it is almost like the director is calling out ‘Pacific Rim’ to say “there, that’s how it’s done.” There are lots of call backs to the history of the franchise as well; for instance, Mechagodzilla has several weapons built it like missile launchers and spinning hands, just like the original. The trope of the little girl who can communicate with a kaiju is also here, except this time it’s with Kong. One of the best things about this film is that it also seems to have learned from the previous entries and realized the movie does not need to be two and a half hours and focus on the human drama. No one watches a giant monster movie and actually cares about the family dynamic of the protagonist. Here everything is streamlined and we get to each following sequence somewhat logically, though logic does get stretched a bit, and that’s going to take us to our next bit.

This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Rebecca Hall in a scene from “Godzilla vs. Kong.”

If you have low tolerance for giant monster fights, characters who are only there to bridge the scenes between said fights, and some pretty substantial leaps in logic, then this is not going to be the movie for you. Again, if you weren’t already on board, there’s nothing here that will finally make you see the light. The human element has been reduced quite a bit since the studio has learned that no one actually cares about the motivations of the humans. Making the first film about a soldier who loses his father and later has to protect his wife and son from the subsequent attacks are just waste of valuable screen time. Here, the team trying to discover the conspiracy are probably the worst, as the conspiracy theorist is played as a parody and “Josh” is just plain annoying. The crew that rolls with Kong are mostly just in awe all the time and the villainous CEO and his daughter are so one-dimensionally evil that it’s not even really satisfying when they are killed. The movie also takes a hard right turn into some Jules Verne levels of science fiction with the whole hollow Earth plot point. Just like in the previous movies, there are hints of ancient advanced civilizations, and like those previous films, the hints of a greater mythology are destroyed and forgotten about rather unceremoniously. A few too many things happen purely for the sake of convenience, such as the way to get into the hollow Earth being so complicated and dangerous, but to get back out they just go through the convenient hole that Godzilla created, and the power source needed to run Mechagodzilla was just an analysis of the energy in the throne room for Kong, which they simply needed to scan and upload the data. To even get there, they needed state of the art experimental crafts and they had to fly through a gravity well that looked like they went through hyperspace, and yet they could still make phone calls and send data to the surface. OK.
The Godzilla franchise is no stranger to campy levels of science fiction, but these films had the pretense of being taken more seriously. Guess they can drop that now.
Truthfully, the whole point is just to get these two giants of classic monster cinema to duke it out with each other and you had already made up your mind whether you were going to love it or hate it as soon as that first trailer dropped.

This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Adam Wingard on set of “Godzilla vs. Kong.”

So there you have it. If you are a fan, there’s so much to enjoy about this gorgeous looking and entertaining spectacle. If you don’t like any of the tropes from Godzilla films, there’s nothing new for you here. For being available at the same time as the theatrical release however, it’s hard to argue that this is not worth a watch. Who knows, maybe this could be the one that finally sucks you in.

Overall rating: B+

You can find John on Twitter as @Magic Bollocks and hear him on
‘The Geeks’ Watch’ and ‘VHS Gems’ right here on this network

On The John: My Top 5 Unanswered Questions From WandaVision

By John Camarena

The ending of ‘WandaVision’ has left us with a huge void in our geek hearts. What started as a show most people didn’t understand the concept of turned into one of the most talked about projects to come out of Marvel. The fact that this show functions as not only an exploration of grief, but also as a breather in between the previous phase of the MCU toward the next in which we will be dealing with more magic, more dimensions, and more superpowered characters while still being able to be it’s own little story is an incredible feat of writing. Even those who were hard sold on the premise, that of Wanda Maximoff somehow twisting reality into different generations of sitcoms as a form of comfort in dealing with all the tragedy in her life, were by the end enthralled by the story and wondering what will happen next. Now the show has come to an end, and though it had a climax, there are more than a few unanswered questions hopefully meant to be answered in future films, or potentially lost in time, like tears in the rain (yes there was a reference to ‘Blade Runner’ in the theater marquee in the town, a quote about an android accepting its mortality!). Everything from here onward is going heavily into spoiler territory, so if you are not caught up and haven’t started watching it yet, why are you reading this? Go, scoot! Now without further ado, here are the top five dangling plot threads that still keep me up at night.

5. The Beekeeper

Agent Of SWORD/Beekeeper

The end of episode 2, we get our first big glimpse that something is very wrong in this world. After a strange encounter with essentially the HOA queen, we get the first hint that all is not as it seems and the real world is starting to encroach into this sitcom land. Wanda and Vision hear a noise outside, a call back to earlier in the episode, and when they go out to investigate, they see a man dressed in a beekeeper outfit climbing out of a manhole. We were all buzzing about with what this could mean, and puzzling over what the sword symbol on the uniform was in reference to. We knew about S.H.I.E.L.D., but now there’s a S.W.O.R.D.? The answer turned out to be yes; the Sentient Weapon Observation and Response Department (the W being change from World in the comics) sent in someone after Monica Rambeau disappeared inside, and not being sure if the environment was hazardous, went in a HAZMAT suit through the sewer line. As we come to find out, things that go in through the “Hex”, as it comes to be known, get changed into something comparable but appropriate for the time period, so in the case of the S.W.O.R.D. agent, his suit turned into the aforementioned beekeeper suit. When Wanda sees him, she uses her power to rewind time and make it like this never happens, but we never find out what happens to beekeeper guy. He may not have been an important character, in fact he has no lines and the actor who plays his is more known for stunts in other MCU properties than for acting, but he essentially disappears from the show. If we follow the logic of the “Hex”, he should have been assimilated into the town and taken up a role as a background character, but he is completely absent for the rest of the series. Who was the beekeeper and what happened to him? We will probably never know.

4. Captain Marvel

Monica Rambeau/Carol Danvers

Once Monica is kicked out of the “Hex” by Wanda, she returns to working with FBI Agent Jimmy Woo and Astrophysicist Dr. Darcy Lewis on the outside. While they are trying to figure out their next step, it is brought up to Monica that Wanda got her powers from an Infinity Stone just like Captain Marvel did. Monica dismisses the comment with a hint of scorn, indicating her thoughts on Captain Marvel may have soured since the last time they met. As the daughter of Captain Marvel’s good friend and fellow fighter pilot, Maria Rambeau, Monica got to meet Marvel as a child and the two seemed to have an almost familial bond, but a lot has happened since, including the death of her mother which she completely missed due to being one of the 50% of the population that disappeared after Thanos’ snap. Was she mad at Captain Marvel and somehow blamed her for the death of her mother? Whatever the animosity she seems to have is, it will most likely be carried over to a future appearance within the MCU, as we are certainly not done with Monica Rambeau.

3. The Vision

The Vision

Hayward, Monica Rambeau’s boss and the director of SWORD, was pulling some strings and not telling the truth about what really happened with Wanda when she went to the base. During the emotional flashback scene in episode 8, Wanda is upset but maintains her composure throughout the scene, even after Hayward is subtly suggesting that she could bring The Vision back with her power. We see that The Vision is dismembered and the lab technicians are taking the body apart with the delicacy of a chop shop. Hayward says that The Vision is a weapon that must be dismantled, but then things get interesting, because he later told everyone at the operating base outside the “Hex” that Wanda stole the body and somehow reanimated it. This is false, of course, since Wanda left SWORD base calmy and without any body.  Hayward’s contingency for dealing with Wanda, after he failed at firing a missile at her, was to release The Vision, now with a clean white coat and revived with residual energy they pulled from the drone they tried to kill her with. Using a method that is explained not at all, The Vision is rebuilt, reprogrammed and is set on “Terminator” mode after Wanda. How? The Vision’s body was in pieces Just a few days prior to the events, and in that time, they somehow got The Vision put back together perfectly, fixed the hole in his forehead and reprogrammed so all of his personal memories were suppressed. Hayward makes it a point to mention that The Vision’s body is worth 3 billion dollars in just the “vibranium”  in his body, and yet he was secretly trying to reactivate him all along in order to use him as a weapon, but at the same time they had no way to power him until they happened upon a sample of Wanda’s raw energy and somehow siphoned it off of an arbitrary object? Needless to say, there are some large plot holes here for how we all got to this point, but that’s nothing compared to where we leave it: After confronting Vision from the Hex, they engage in a battle of logic, but once realizing they are seemingly equally matched, coming to terms with his own identity, and finally recovering his memories with “Hex” Vision’s help, The Vision has a moment of self-awareness, and leaves. Where does he go? Why doesn’t he go help Wanda and the rest? Do we really need to wait for a future movie to address what happened? It seems like it. 

2. Agatha Harkness: Witch Supreme

Agnes/Agatha Harkness

Turns out, it was Agatha All Along! Admit it, you sang it in your head. Wouldn’t blame you; it’s catchy as hell and doing so well on iTunes and Spotify it may qualify for a Grammy. Agatha’s power level is so high, she can almost out-magic Wanda. Agatha is so powerful, we see in a flashback how she takes out her entire coven, including her own mother, who apparently was so powerful, a magical crown appears on her head. Agatha has the ability to absorb the magic of others and can do quite a bit with it, as she demonstrated to Wanda, such as illusions, transmutations, and possession. All this power pales in comparison to the raw and untrained ability to reshape reality like Wanda can do. All this begs the question: where is the “Sorcerer Supreme” Doctor Strange, or even Mordo? Doctor Strange’s entire purpose for existence is to protect the world from abuse of magic and other supernatural phenomena, and yet someone of Agatha and Wanda’s power seems to be going unnoticed. Even Mordo, who tracked down a magic user and killed him for only using magic to make himself walk again, doesn’t seem to give a flip about all the magical shenanigans going on in New Jersey. This seems like too big of an oversight, but we never hear any mention of even trying to reach out to Doctor Strange. At least ‘Spider-Man: Far from Home’ and ‘Ant-Man’ make reference to wanting to get help from other Avengers rather than just pretending they don’t exist. There are rumors that Doctor Strange will have a run-in with Wanda in the future, but that really should have been set up here.

1. Agent Jimmy Woo’s Missing Person

Agent Jimmy Woo

A big part of what set up the events of ‘WandaVision’ is FBI Agent Jimmy Woo losing someone in the Witness Protection Program who was living in the town. Since the last time we saw Agent Woo he was keeping tabs on Ant-Man, early assumptions were that Scott Lang had relocated into this small New Jersey town to stay out of trouble. This missing person is never mentioned again, much like the beekeeper, and we all just moved along. What is disappointing about this loose end is the possibilities that it carries. Could it be someone we know already in the MCU? Or someone completely new, like Wonder Man? Come to think of it, Wonder Man would be the most obvious choice, as he is pretty important to the comic book storyline involving the white Vision. Instead, we got nothing. Jimmy Woo having a previous connection in the MCU is pretty much just a coincidence at this point, and it seems unlikely that we will get an answer for this particular detail. 

The Falcon And The Winter Soldier on Disney+ 03/19/21

Clearly the show is setting up some big things in the next series of MCU films, but will we get a resolution to all of these danglers? I really hope so. The only thing worse than having a disappointing answer is leaving it open to fan theories, and as ‘Wandavision’ has shown, fan theories can be both awesome and unrealistic. ‘The Falcon And The Winter Soldier’ is coming up next and we will be dissecting every scene looking for clues about the future just like we did here. 

You can find John on Twitter as @Magic Bollocks and hear him on
‘The Geeks’ Watch’ and ‘VHS Gems’ right here on this network

On The John: Five Directors To Helm MCU’s ‘Blade’ Adaptation

By John Camarena

Full disclosure, this was originally an article about who would be my top 5 choices for directors for the upcoming “Fantastic 4” movie, but since I sat on this so long, Jon Watts, director of the MCU Spider-Man trilogy for Sony, has been tapped to direct that as well. So long story short, it would have been Brad Bird, the director of arguably the best superhero family movie: ‘The Incredibles’.

So what movie is next? Ah yes, the daywalker himself: Blade.

Now ‘Blade’, previously starring Wesley Snipes, is undisputedly the first real solid Marvel movie, and paved the way for the future of comic book films. Yes, before ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘X-Men’, Blade singlehandedly proved comic book movies (from Marvel) didn’t have to be low-budget trash, until the series pooped the bed with the third installment, but that’s neither here nor there. Now the character is coming to the MCU, and as such, will need to be stewarded by a capable director to both fit into the overall world, and be it’s own thing. For the sake of argument, we will assume the movie is still headed for an R-rating. The following would be my top choices for the “Blade” reboot:

5. Chad Stahelski

Chad Stahelski

Chad Stahelski is no stranger to comic book movies. He has actually worked as a second unit director on ‘Captain America: Civil War’ and ‘Birds Of Prey’ , and is the director of the ‘John Wick’ films. Stahelski has a strong foundation in action, having started his career in stunts, which is what gives him a unique eye for action and photographing realistic violence. The original ‘Blade’ movies utilized Wesley Snipes’ martial arts talent to great effect, so using a director that also comes from a physical background means the movie could have the visceral action that a “vampire slayer” would need to display. Seeing ‘Blade’ take legions of vampires down with a combination of swordplay, Jiu-jitsu, and firearms is something that should not be run of the mill. Stahelski can certainly bring that quality to the action that can help set it apart from both the original movies and the lighter MCU films and start exploring the darker, more sinister side of the world.

4. Ryan Coogler

Ryan Coogler

As mentioned with Chad Stahelski, Marvel is not shy about rehiring directors for multiple properties. Ryan Coogler took a character mostly unknown to the mainstream audience and crafted a spectacular film experience, with far reaching impact related to positive representation of actors of African descent. ‘Black Panther’ became the hero we didn’t know we needed and also presented a villain who was nuanced, tragic, and challenged the hero to confront his own morality. Coogler could bring that personal level of conflict that a movie about a vampire hunter who himself is part vampire: slicing and dicing his way through vampire thugs but also have a deep philosophical discussion about the nature of his existence and why he chooses to align himself with many of those who see him as just a much a monster as the villains, would be interesting.

3. Jordan Peele

Jordan Peele

Jordan Peele has a history in comedy, not unlike the Russo brothers. Something about comedic writer/directors mean that they understand character beats and timing, and are especially adept at incorporating humor into dark situations as well, sometimes relieving the tension in a scene in an unexpected way. Not only that, but Peele also has shown his chops in horror, having two films under his belt that function as both effective and original horror stories. Peele has an emerging voice and if combined with an intellectual property such as ‘Blade’, could make as big a tonal shift as ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ did. The second ‘Blade’ movie definitely upped the horror and gore aspect of the series, and although Peele’s forte seems to be psychological horror, his talent could greatly elevate what could otherwise just be a standard action film.

2. David Ayer

David Ayer

Ok, yeah, I know, but hear me out: David Ayer is a solid director, and he can do a different take on the style of the film.  Imagine a “Blade” story where we follow him around like he was Denzel Washington in ‘Training Day’. He would be an already established character with a larger-than-life reputation behind him, and the whole film could be just him kicking vampire ass and taking names. Ayer’s realistic and gritty aesthetic can make this a smaller and more personal story that really emphasis ‘Blade’ as the anti-hero of the MCU, at least until “The Punisher” comes around again. A good cop-bad cop dynamic between ‘Blade’ and another character, where you are introduced to the dark and supernatural underbelly of New York, and Marvel, with Blade appearing to be just as bad as the creatures he is fighting, can really play up the bad-ass factor. Sure, Ayer was recorded talking trash about Marvel during the Comic-Con panel for ‘Suicide Squad’, but in this business, money changes attitudes, and there is already at least one instance with a director switching sides in the camp. Plus with Warner Bros butchering his cut of that movie, Ayer might be more inclined to jump ship, so long as they let him tell the story the way he intends to.

1. Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo del Toro

Why not bring back arguably the most talented and visionary director who already made the best movie in the ‘Blade’ trilogy? If you want to go big with a “Blade” story, Guillermo Del Toro would be the most prepared to do so. Del Toro has a mind like clockwork, and loves intricate details in his films, plus he has the imagination to pull off grand scale set pieces and gothic styling for a climactic confrontation with the biggest bad of them all: “Dracula”. Del Toro could make a crazy action movie that looks like a live-action ‘Castlevania’ adventure, and I want to see that more than anything. Would he ever come back to the series? Probably not, especially after being kind of a big deal and winning an Oscar for the fish-man love story, ‘The Shape Of Water’, but maybe if they somehow sweetened the deal and promised to let him make one of his long-gestating passion projects like ‘At the Mountains of Madness’, I believe we would get the best version of “Blade” ever put to film and could have long-reaching repercussions in the MCU now that magic has been introduced, because the pantheon of dark and evil creatures that go bump in the night will be real, and you need an equally dark character to go up against them. Not only that, but “Dracula” also really needs a redemption from the awful portrayal in ‘Blade: Trinity’, which is without a doubt the worst of the bunch.

Mahershala Ali
Photo by Davide Maestri/WWD/Shutterstock (10311149c) Mahershala Ali in the front row Ermenegildo Zegna show, Front Row, Spring Summer 2020, Milan Fashion Week Men’s, Italy – 14 Jun 2019

In short, Mahershala Ali is poised to make an explosive impact when he fills the role of ‘Blade’, no matter what, the MCU will never be the same. Here’s hoping that the director that takes the reins will steer it into new and bold directions, giving us a proper horror adventure set within the world shared with “Spider-Man” and “Doctor Strange”.

On The John: Top 5 Romantic Interests Of Captain Jean-Luc Picard

An Editorial By John Camarena

After bingeing the whole Next Generation series, I was pleasantly and uncomfortably surprised by how much action Captain Picard got, and I don’t mean the “punching Ferengis in the face” kind.
While Riker had the more prominent masculine presence on the show, Picard was no slouch when it came to the ladies. They range the gamut from wild weekend fling to full on lifetime of marriage, and even risked his career as captain once, all for the love of a woman. And while it is possible that the most famous Star Fleet captain of them all, Captain James T. Kirk, may have had a higher conquest count, it is arguable that none were more passionate than that of Jean-Luc Picard.
Take a gander at my top five of Picard’s “love interests” and see what I mean.

5. Eline – Season 5, Ep. 25; The Inner Light

Eline
Season 5 Ep. 25 ‘The Inner Light’

The crew of the Enterprise find an ancient satellite in space one day, and it shoots a laser directly into Picard’s head, causing him to pass out. When he comes to, he’s on some unknown planet, a woman named Eline says she is his wife and tries to convince him that he is in fact just another resident in the village. All his memories aboard a starship were dismissed as the result of a fever dream. Eventually Picard gives in to their story and accepts living as one of them. He has children and grandchildren, and lives as an exemplary member of this civilization. In his spare time he learns to play the flute (which will be relevant in a later episode). Eline and Picard both grow old together and Eline dies. Shortly before a cataclysmic event wipes out all life on this planet, a rocket is shot into space, and Picard is greeted by his dead wife, looking as young as the first time he met her. Picard finally learns the truth: the satellite that the Enterprise encountered was launched by this dying civilization with the last memories of their collective experience, and Picard became the vessel to experience their lives so that they may live on through him.
Though it wasn’t a whirlwind romance, his relationship with Eline was as complete as one could be. What’s great about this experience is that deep down inside, Picard always wanted the peaceful family life. This is made evident in ‘Star Trek: Generations’ when he goes to a dimension of pure happiness, and what manifested for him was a Christmas morning straight out of a Charles Dickens book. Yet because of his focus and dedication to Star Fleet, he denied himself settling down.
So Picard had a full and happy lifetime in the span of about 25 minutes and had confirmation that he really wasn’t missing out on anything.

4. Vash – Season 3, Ep. 19; Captain’s Holiday

Vash
Season 3 Ep. 19 ‘Captain’s Holiday’

Picard is certainly a workaholic, so when the time comes for him to finally take some much deserved time off, he resisted. Still, after hesitantly accepting to go on vacation to the pleasure planet known as Risa, all Picard wanted to do was read his book and not be bothered. Destiny had other plans, and he was thrust in the middle of time-traveling doomsday weapon Indiana Jones-style adventure, complete with a love interest. A freelance archeologist named Vash first runs into Picard and uses him to hide from a Ferengi that’s looking for her. How does she use Picard? The ol’ “pretend we’re lovers who are passionately kissing while she plants some secret object on him” move. Once he finds out she’s looking for some ancient artifact, which is actually from the distant future (just go with it), he’s all in: Picard is a nut for archeology and can’t pass up the opportunity to get involved. He does, however, disapprove of her mercenary ways. Vash is not into archeology for academic purposes; she’s essentially an antique dealer and raids artifacts for profit.
At the end of the day, while Picard does not approve of her activities, he enjoys the excitement this little adventure brought him, and he still gets to have the moral superiority by preventing the artifact from ending up in the wrong hands. Picard is always on the straight and narrow, but Vash gave him a small taste of being on the wrong side of the tracks, and he didn’t exactly hate it.

3. Lt. Commander Nella Daren – Season 6, Ep. 19; Lessons

Lt. Commander Nella Daren
Season 6 Ep. 19 ‘Lessons’

In this episode, Picard is rather annoyed by the presence of a team performing stellar cartography under the command of Lieutenant Commander Nellar Daren. Picard actually has a lot of respect for this branch of science; here, however, Picard keeps butting heads with Daren and her demands that give priority to her project. Picard begins to see her in a different light when she performs at a recital and finds out she’s a talented musician. They bond over science and music, and share a few intimate moments in some hidden areas of the Enterprise; then the unthinkable happens: Picard actually opens up to her. He not only plays for her the music he learned during ‘The Inner Light’ episode, which up until now he kept completely private, but after a moment of apprehension, he even allowed her to play around with the song and they turned it into a duet. Symbolic much? Unfortunately, Picard’s duty is nearly compromised when Daren is put in a situation that almost costs her life, and Picard realizes he can’t focus on being the captain he needs to be if his emotions are involved. They end it amicably and leave it open for a rekindling someday, but the Picard spin-off would suggest that never happens.

2. Kamala – Season 5, Ep. 21; The Perfect Mate

Kamala
Season 5 Ep. 21 ‘The Perfect Mate’

This one was pretty rough. So two warring races are on the verge of an epic peace agreement that could end centuries of feuding; the Enterprise is to facilitate a trade and deliver a gift to one of these races; but this cargo turns out to be a humanoid woman named Kamala, who was trained from birth to be the perfect mate to whomever she bonds with. The intention from one of the aliens is to gift her to the other in essentially an arranged marriage. The biggest problem here though, is that she was released too early and now most males she comes into contact with are overwhelmingly attracted to her because of her increased levels of pheromones. The curious thing is that while every man pretty much wants her, she becomes interested in Picard. Picard then has to deal with the temptation of having a beautiful, intelligent, empathic lover that would exist solely for his pleasure, or deliver her like the bargaining chip she was intended to be and entrust her to a life of servitude to someone that would never appreciate her as anything more than an object. Once again, duty trumps his personal feelings and he accepts that they must go through with the mission as planned in order to help the two factions finally broker a peace. The unfortunate truth of the situation is that the ambassador whom she is betrothed to couldn’t care less about her and only sees her as means to an end as well. Kamala used the only agency she had and made the choice to bind herself to Picard after all, at least emotionally, and though she would be more than capable of feigning devotion to her new husband, she would always only ever love Picard.
Few times in the entire series do you ever see Picard actually struggle with his emotions and the sense of loss displayed from this situation.

1. Dr. Beverly Crusher – entire series minus season 2

Dr. Beverly Crusher

What has to be Picard’s greatest romantic interest is none other than the ship’s Chief Medical Officer: Dr. Beverly Crusher.
Picard was good friends with her husband Jack, who also served with Picard, and when Jack died under Picard’s command, Picard was the one who delivered the bad news. As fate would have it, Dr. Crusher would end up serving under Picard as the medical officer on the Enterprise as well, and during the 7 seasons of the show, you are shown a steady progression of their relationship.
Starting with regular dinners and tea sessions, several circumstances bring them closer together until they finally have an honest conversation about their feelings for each other, due to the obvious tension. They never truly start a relationship, but in the alternate future from the series finale, they end up divorced and Picard lives alone on Earth while Beverly has command of her own ship. Still, the whole “will they, wont they” lasted for several years unlike these other examples.

Picard
Pictured: Sir Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: James Dimmock/CBS ©2019 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Perhaps Picard was too great to be conquered by a single individual. Each of these experiences seems to have brought something out of him but there remained a vast unexplored chasm where his emotions lay. In the end, Picard’s true love may have been Star Fleet itself, and thus could never dedicate his full attention to just one person when there was a whole galaxy out there left to explore. Honorable mention goes to the lady from the film ‘Star Trek – Insurrection’ though; she almost got him to commit treason and risked a court martial. In the end, however, Picard remained unconquered by love.

On The John: My Top 5 Unanswered Questions In Star Trek: The Next Generation

An Editorial By John Camarena

Growing up, there were two types of geeks: those that liked Star Wars and those that liked Star Trek. Though there was certainly some overlap, you were usually relegated to one camp of the other. The original series of Star Trek premiered in 1966, a time that was rife with civil unrest, and made for a great vehicle to convey social commentary along with an optimistic view of a future where humanity has learned to work together for a common good. Then in 1977 Star Wars came along and blew that boring Trekkie nonsense out of the water with an epic space opera about good vs evil, with lightsabers and awesome space combat. The popularity of Star Wars reinvigorated interest in science fiction, so in 1979, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released, and it had to be one of the most boring movies ever made. It was slow, plodding, and dense. This is where the distinction between the franchises became the most contrasted; while Star Wars was entertaining popcorn fare, Star Trek became a philosophical and character driven venture with deep clinging to actual science. The lines were drawn and Star Trek became known as the franchise for the uber-nerds. For the rest of the decade, Star Wars would be over and Star Trek kept pumping out movies of debatable quality with the original cast. Then in 1987, Star Trek returned to the small screen with The Next Generation. Featuring an all new cast, a continuation of the story taking place about 80 years after the original series ended, and updated production value and special effects; this series would pump new life into the aging franchise, attracting fans old and new alike. I would catch episodes randomly when they first aired between 1987 and 1994, but didn’t care much for it. I was loyal to Star Wars and looked down upon trekkies as they were considered geeky even by geek standards. And yet, there was always a curiosity about the series, and a pandemic has a way of opening up opportunities to binge several seasons’ worth of shows. So I dove in head first to experience the entirety of Star Trek: The Next Generation and finally go where so many others have gone before.

Some preconceived notions before going: I had assumed that Captain Picard was a bad ass, Commander Riker was a ladies man, and there would be no overarching story line, mostly just a story of the week with the occasional call back to other episodes. I was very wrong. While Captain Picard was, in essence, fearless, he was also a skilled diplomat who only resorted to violence as a last resort. He was always composed and exhibited an air of class and sophistication. Also, it turned out that Picard is a consummate ladies’ man in his own right, having possibly the most chances at romance compared to Riker, or at least wasn’t exploited as much as Riker. While there is much to dive into, I’m going to start with the big unanswered questions left over in the show. These are some of the things that I thought had a good set up, but are never resolved within the show or direct films. Some of these plot points have been covered further in the companion books or spin-off series, but I don’t read so these will remain unsolved mysteries.

1.
The Dyson Sphere. Season 6, episode 4 titled “Relics”.  The Enterprise rolls up on a distress signal coming from a very old shuttle and find it crashed on the outside of a Dyson sphere. Inside the shuttle they find Montgomery “Scottie” Scott in an energy stasis he rigged up while waiting for rescue. The main plot is Scottie coming to terms with now living 75 years later, so the relic in the title is both the Dyson sphere and himself. Now, a Dyson sphere falls into a science fiction trope I’m actually quite fond of: the Big Dumb Object. Typically this is an impossibly huge and derelict alien structure. Part of their mystery comes from not knowing who built these objects, how they work or what their purpose may be, with technology that is far more advanced than what the protagonists usually can understand. Dyson spheres are structures designed to enclose entire planets, or in this case, a solar system, as there is a sun at the center of this sphere with what looks like a planetary surface complete with atmosphere along the inside of the sphere. Basically it’s a giant enclosed Halo ring. What is its purpose? Who built it? Where did they go, as it appears to be abandoned? Who knows. They have one throwaway line at the end of the episode about sending a research team to study it and that’s it, onto more important things I guess. This drove me nuts, as this is exactly the kind of thing that I would have loved to watch an entire episode about, but the fact that the main plot is actually quite good lets me forgive it, this time. Side note: they also completely brush off that Scotty basically created an alternative to cryogenics for preserving/extending life. Up until now, we’ve had characters from decades if not centuries prior being reanimated from cryogenic freezing, but Scotty’s improvised method would have been a major leap in the field of life extension.

2.
Klingon Jesus. Season 6, episode 23 titled “Rightful heir”. So Worf has a crisis of faith and goes to a sanctuary to pray for a while. That’s all fine and everything, but then he thinks he has a vision of the Klingon Jesus name Kahless. This is no vision at all, but rather a flesh and blood reincarnation of the messianic figure that founded the Klingon Empire. At first everything seems to check out; they ask him questions only the real Kahless could know the answer to and looks exactly like the depictions in the cave paintings; you know, the way you would authenticate any resurrected mythological hero. Worf jumps right in to accepting Kahless but soon the cracks start to show. Long story short, it’s revealed that this Kahless is not divine transubstantiation, but rather a clone created from genetic material from an ancient knife that belonged to him. Basically it would be like someone took the Shroud of Turin and Jurassic Parked a Jesus out of it. The cat is let out of the bag and rather than killing the clone, Worf helps convince the current Klingon Chancellor, whom Worf also helped get into power mind you, to accept Kahless as emperor in name only, serving as a figurehead with the chancellor still running the day to day side of things. Ok, so what happens to the Klingon political atmosphere next? Do all Klingons accept this as truth? Is there a mass shift within the factions that were constantly trying to obtain power in the empire? We never find out.

3.
“Thomas” Riker. Season 6, episode 24 titled “Second Chances”. In this episode, the Enterprise goes back to an abandoned Star Fleet base where Commander William Riker performed some heroic rescue operation a few years back. They are trying to retrieve some old data when they come across a survivor that has been living in isolation for 8 years, and this is no ordinary survivor, but an exact copy of Riker! How can this be? Well, the explanation is that there was a disturbance that was affecting the transporters at the time, and this caused a feedback loop that made an exact copy of Riker, and one got transported successfully while the other remained back on the base. So Riker now has an exact copy of himself with all the same memories up until the transporter accident, meaning they are essentially the same person up to a point. What kind of challenges does this pose? Well for one, Enterprise Riker is a higher rank, so copy Riker has to take orders from his other self. Second, this Riker never broke up with Deanna Troi, the ship’s counselor with whom he had a relationship prior to the beginning of the show. Enterprise Riker and Troi agreed to go their separate ways to further pursue careers in Star Fleet, and only coincidentally ended up together again on the Enterprise several years later. So when copy Riker sees Troi for the first time, it’s like nothing has changed and immediately wants to continue their relationship. The two Rikers have to learn to work together despite their differences and eventually come to an understanding. Copy Riker accepts that Troi moved on and decides to continue his own career in Star Fleet by taking an assignment on another ship and… that’s it. Copy Riker adopts their middle name of Thomas as his first name in order to more clearly distinguish himself from the other Riker, but aside from that, we never find out how Thomas Riker shakes out after the events of this show. Original Riker had a troubled history with his still-living father that received some resolution in a different episode, but Thomas would technically still have those paternal hang-ups, unless he off-screen decided to pay their father a visit in order to have the same catharsis. Did he struggle with living in the shadow of the other Riker? Did Star Fleet want to study him and see if the accident was repeatable and there was practical application to the copying? Though he does make another appearance Deep Space 9, his ultimate fate is unknown.

4.
The Seed Race. Season 6, episode 20 titled “The Chase”. Another episode similar to the Dyson sphere plot, this one has Picard’s former archeology professor on the verge of a huge discovery with galaxy-spanning implications. The professor is attacked and dies before he can complete his research, but other alien races are interested in his discovery also, particularly the Cardassians. After piecing together the clues using markers found in the DNA of several of the galaxy’s sentient races, the Enterprise converges on a distant planet along with some Klingons, Romulans and Cardassians. The other races believe they are being led to an ancient and powerful weapon or power source left behind by a long extinct alien race. Once they collect all the necessary DNA, a hologram of a humanoid alien appears and explains that they explored space millennia ago and found no other intelligent life, so they left samples of their DNA on different planets and let evolution takes its course. The other races were not impressed by this information, and the Cardassians were downright offended at the thought that their origins were tied to the other races. The episode ends with Picard and the Romulan captain sharing a moment where they imagine that perhaps someday, all the races could come together over their shared origin instead of quibbling over their present differences, but that’s it. This seed race, like a more benevolent version of the Engineers in Prometheus, is a fascinating concept and also helps to explain why the majority of the alien races in Star Trek all basically look the same. But who were they really? Besides their DNA, did any of their tech or structures survive? Did they build the afore-mentioned Dyson sphere? I would think that a scientific discovery of this nature would also have far-reaching consequences, both good and bad, but this episode makes it seem like the handful of people that saw this revelation are going to keep quiet about it, as it may not be worth the trouble it could cause. Very unsatisfying. Perhaps we are meant to infer that this microsample of reactions is indicative of how the rest of the galaxy would have handled the news.

5.
Wesley Crusher. Season 7, Episode 20 title “Journey’s End”. Regardless of how one may feel about the character in the early seasons, Wesley Crusher seemed to be poised for a promising future. Being a gifted student that got to serve on a star ship while still very young, it was pretty much a given that he was going to have a luminary career. He is also the son of two Star Fleet Officers; his father died while under Picard’s command on a different ship, and his mother was the chief medical officer aboard the Enterprise. Early on, a random episode introduced a character known only as the Traveler; an alien with the ability to travel to different dimensions and across vast stretches of space seemingly at-will. In Wesley’s last appearance on the show, he goes on a vision quest that basically convinces him to leave Star Fleet and follow the Traveler to begin learning how to expand his mind and explore the universe and other dimensions. I guess. While it’s not a bad thing that he was presented as some wunderkind meant for greater things, the real question here is why did he return to Star Fleet? At the beginning of the final Next Generation movie, Nemesis, Wesley is present at Riker and Troi’s wedding, in Star Fleet uniform. He very decisively abandoned Star Fleet in that TV episode, but then here he is, back at it apparently. There’s no explanation for this and there is a deleted scene where he says he’s working as an engineer on Riker’s ship. That’s fine, but what happened with the Traveler? Did he accomplish enlightenment and decide to come back to a more mundane existence? Did he fail in his endeavors? For what was seemingly a pretty epic and open ended story arc, it would surely be disappointing to end up exactly where he didn’t want to be after everything that happened. Perhaps he will appear in a future season of Star Trek Picard and have a throwaway line about how he realized he had some unfinished business, but I’m not holding out for a satisfactory resolution.

There are still plenty of other mini-mysteries to wonder about in this series, such as Worf’s time-traveling son, multiple paradoxes and time loops, and of course, the Q. Join me again next time as we wonder what the hell was the point of it all!

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