Let me preface this review by simply stating the following about this episode of Short Treks: I didn’t hate it! I watched the whole thing, three times in a row, and with each repeat viewing, my opinion of it was still the same: I didn’t hate it at all.
Let me try something new and see if I can break this down for us to keep all of the thoughts and points organized. First, I’ll review the substance of the episode. Then, I’ll nitpick the visuals. Finally, I’ll give my overall thoughts about this latest outing in a series of epic disasters we’ve come to know as Short Treks.
Keep in mind, I will be spoiling this episode so consider this your only warning.
“Children of Mars” was released 9 January 2020 and featured Ilamaria Ebrahim and Sadie Munroe who played young girls Kima and Lil, respectively. The episode was very minimalist in dialog, and relied heavily on the actors’ abilities to perform saying very little to nothing at all.
The story of this episode centers around these two girls, one human one not, who bully each other over the course of this one day. Lil bumps into Kima on their way to the shuttle bus, making Kima drop her books and missing her assigned transport for school. Cut to a science class, Lil draws an offensive version of their teacher, sends it to Kima who gets caught with it and penalty points applied.
Later, Lil is studying in the school library and Kima trips her. This leads to a classic hallway brawl where the only dialog ever said between them takes place – Lil screaming “GET UP” after she pummels Kima to the ground, who starts seeping blue blood from her nose. The fight is separated by school staff, and the two girls are now sitting opposite each other, awaiting some sort of disciplinary action.
The Vulcan head master gets a news flash on his communicator. We see a look of concern and worry on the old Vulcan’s face, which he shares with another teacher. The teacher runs to two aids who display a vicious alien attack on Mars on the main screens, which our girls notice.
Both girls have a connection to Mars. Kima’s mother works as a civilian yard engineer at Utopia Planitia, while Lil’s father works on another orbital facility. As the attack unfolds, we get a short “statement” by none other than Jean-Luc Picard himself (though Patrick Stewart doesn’t appear in flesh or voice in this episode, it’s more like a CNN news ticker statement with a pic of him taken from one of the new Countdown comics from IDW). The girls join hands in sadness as they both realize their shared connection.
Cut to black and end of the episode.
Before going into this, I read a few comments regarding this very episode on Facebook. The use of STD technology when the story is supposed to take place post-Nemesis and post-ST2019’s 24th century sequence was a bit jarring to most, myself included. However, I can write these instances off as being a stark contrast between Starfleet versus civilian technological access.
The fact that I have to do any of this at all is mind boggling and a serious red flag when it comes to validating what the hell the writers’ room is pooping out. Nevertheless, this is what is required in order to watch this episode, alcohol free.
First and foremost, this type of story doesn’t have to be Star Trek. It could be anything with any type of setting at its core. What made this episode shine was the acting between the two stars, and how they were able to convey everything we needed to see and know with little to no dialog between them.
The use of STD-era tech rather than 24th/25th century tech is not so far fetched as it may seem. In the 1960s and 1970s, NASA was sending people to the moon with computer systems no more powerful than a TI-80 calculator. This was incredible technology at the time, which must’ve seemed like the NASA staff would be stepping back into the present, from the future, every time they went home at night. NASA employees had access to incredible computerized technology at the time, which wasn’t available in the home for another decade or so when Steve Wozniak made it happen with Steve Jobs.
This is the comparison I drew watching this episode. In its entirety, “Children of Mars” takes place on the civilian side, which we rarely get to see much of in Star Trek. Of course, we’ve seen it in TNG’s “Family,” DS9’s two-part episodes “Homefront” and “Paradise Lost” and STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS. Technology for non-Starfleet personnel is about a century behind what we see when we’re with the Starfleet crews on their ships or stations. Thus, for me anyway, seeing STD tech in the Post-Nemesis era wasn’t too far of a stretch.
While civilian sailors today don’t use ships built in the 1920s, they do use ships built within the last 50 years. It’s not unreasonable to assume that some barges and other cargo vessels at sea today could’ve been built in the 1950s, ’60s and so-on.
Taking that into account, seeing the STD-era shuttle craft being used as a school bus, or the three 23rd century era starships in the drydock at Utopia Planitia don’t seem so ridiculous. Those older ships could easily be civilian vessels. Who ever said that Starfleet had exclusive rights to use the UP yards?
The fact that one has to reason like this leaves me to question the entirety of what’s coming up for us in STAR TREK PICARD.
At long last, we’ve reached the end of the release schedule for Short Treks. Personally speaking, they finished off strong with “Children of Mars,” but the long list of damages has already taken its toll. Taking into account the overall character violations and visual gaffs that we have seen, this final outing for this batch of Short Treks seems like it’s the “Revenge of the Sith” of the whole bunch – “the good one.”
What I don’t understand is, why continue to confuse the audience? Why does it take a leap of logic to accept what we’re seeing? Hell, why do we have to in the first place?
From destroying the wrong Enterprise over Genesis in “Ephram and Dot” to creating confusion over which era this story takes place in with “Children of Mars,” the SFX team continues to poop out more and more fecal matter. Why do we have to discuss and think about things that should only be set pieces in the first place to establish what’s going on and when? Instead, we have to take leaps of logic in order to justify why the wrong era ships are in the Utopia Planitia drydock!
This episode gets a C.
It’s like a dead cat lying in the middle of a field. It’s just laying there, it’s not hurting anybody. It’s been out long enough to let the stink slide away and so other animals can enjoy its rotting flesh. It’s just there. It does nothing to advance any kind of story.
However, it is very well acted and there is a greater message in this that isn’t political in nature but human. And that’s why I don’t hate it.