"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Star Trek: Picard 3.4-3:10: Biological AI

Well, I stopped reviewing Picard Season 3 after the 3rd episode of that season in March.  Why?  A combination of work on the radio play of my alternate history story about The Beatles, "It's Real Life" ... and, truthfully, I wasn't finding this final season all too captivating.  But I've watched the rest of it in the past few days, and I thought the final four episodes were pure gold.

[Spoilers follow... ]

The dominant theme in those final four episodes was the interface between biology and AI, a fortunate coincidence, given all the attention Chat GPT has been getting these days.  In this final season of Picard, we have Picard himself, whose human mentality was infused into what we would today call an android that looked just like Picard.  That happened in an earlier season.  In the final episodes of this third season, we see Data, an android to begin with, finally achieving the full dimension of human intelligence and spirit he has been so desperately seeking, going way to back to the original Next Generation television series.

But the decisive example of the bio-AI in this streaming season on Paramount Plus is the Borg, in particular, their evolution from circuits to DNA as conduits of their totalitarian order, and in particular, the merger of bio and Borg that we learn close to the end of this season is embodied in Jack, Crusher and Picard's son.  This not only makes biological sense, given that Picard once and in some sense still is the Borg Locutus, but Jack as Borg makes for one of the most exciting life-and-death battles in the whole Star Trek universe of series, as the Borg take over almost all of Starfleet, and threaten the Earth itself.

By the time this fearsome battle in multi-facets is played out, we have the entire original major cast of TNG re-assembled, including Riker and Troi, Geordi, Data, Worf, and Beverly Crusher, who along with Riker had been aboard in the story from the first episode of this season.  The battles were not only breathtaking, but sparkling with humor, with Worf falling asleep and snoring after winning some hand-to-hand combat with some of the Borg in their cube.

And there were heartwarming scenes of the original crew around that poker table, and the depth of the retrieval of the original characters was excellent, going so far as Q in a coda (I had thought that Jack's affliction was caused either by Q or the Borg) and a descendant of Chekov from TOS (voiced by Walter Koenig).  I did regret not seeing Whoopi Goldberg again as the older Guinan, and I did miss Alison Pill as the Borg Queen.

But those are minor quibbles indeed, and having seen all three seasons of Picard, I'd now say it is a memorable success, and a jewel on the Starfleet of Star Trek series.

how AI has been written about through history -- Robots Through the Ages

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