Star Trek #1491: Children of Mars

CAPTAIN'S LOG: Two school girls with parents on Mars are at odds on the most defining day of their lives.

WHY WE LIKE IT: Its minimalism. "Heroes". Tantalizing teases for Star Trek: Picard.

WHY WE DON'T: Still kind of wish we knew more about the characters' conflict.

REVIEW: This prequel to Star Trek: Picard needs to do one thing, and that's set up some new conflict that Starfleet is in or has been (depending on when it takes place, but the picture of Admiral Picard on the news seems more recent than the series Picard) and it does by showing it through the eyes of innocent bystanders. Whoever the "Rogue Synths" are, we only see their ships, destroying the Utopia Planitia ship yards and Earth's colonies on Mars. Has a synthetic race risen in power? Did someone crack how to make more Datas and they're in open rebellion? It's all very mysterious and should whet people's appetites for more.

These events are filtered, however, through the eyes of two 12-year-olds who have parents working on Mars and who won't be coming home for First Contact celebrations (which must be upcoming, not ON the day, cuz c'mon, shouldn't be a school day). That's enough to put Lil, the human girl, in a bad mood, which drives her to bully Kima, an alien girl, until violence erupts. It's troubling that, in the Star Trek universe, this behavior seems racially motivated (what has Kima done to deserve this except be different - she seems isolated from ALL the other kids, even though they aren't all human), but in true Trek fashion, there is always more that unites us than divides us, and the death of their parents makes them forget all about their differences and hold hands to comfort one another. There isn't a lot of dialog as Peter Gabriel's rendition of David Bowie's "Heroes" plays over most of the action, pointing them in the right direction ("We could be heroes"), but doing so with Gabriel's melancholy. It's effective.

Children of Mars' attempt at world-building is worthy, but not quite as effective. Short Treks just don't have the resources to create proper sets that can't be amortized financially - it's why so many take place aboard the Discovery or Enterprise - and the school here is clearly some building in Toronto. I don't really bat an eye at that until they show a library full of books. Yes, paper books exist in the 24th Century, but we've always sort of been told they are antiquated. From there, I started noticing other old-school (sorry) elements, like the padlocks on the lockers, or even the fact these kids have to take the bus every morning (why is the dorm so far from school?). What saves this half-world is the cinematography, which creates perfect compositions with the modern spaces and the people moving through them. It's quite a good-looking short, and rather heartfelt.

LESSON: Shared adversity breeds alliance.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-High:
I like its lyrical quality and it never hurts to show more of the Trek universe outside the confines of Starfleet, even if it's not necessarily convincing on that budget.

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