Star Trek: PICARD - NO MAN'S LAND Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Star Trek: PICARD - NO MAN'S LAND Review

Matthew Kresal goes where no audio drama has gone before.
Given its longevity as a franchise, it's perhaps more than a little surprising that Star Trek audio dramas aren't more of a thing. Indeed, outside of three 1990s efforts with George Takei's Sulu and two Alien Voices: Spock vs Q live shows, Simon & Schuster Audio (longtime makers of Trek audiobooks) hasn't dabbled in them at all. With audio drama making something of a coming back here in the US, that seems to be changing. Taking place between the first and second seasons of Star Trek: Picard, No Man's Land is both the first Trek audio drama in decades and a chance to see two of that show's characters get up to away from the legendary Starfleet captain.

Written by longtime Trek writers Kirsten Beyer and Mike Johnson, No Man's Land focuses on Michelle Hurd's former Starfleet officer Raffi Musike and Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine (first introduced in Star Trek: Voyager). Picking up on the hints of a burgeoning romantic relationship in the first season finale, the two of them are enjoying some time together when Seven gets called into action by one of her contacts in the Fenris Rangers. With a would-be Romulan emperor named Rinan laying siege to a planet of refugees, including a professor who Seven once helped save years earlier, the two delve into action, dealing with threats and their own feelings along the way.

Running 99 minutes, Beyer and Johnson offer what is essentially is a Picard spin-off audio movie. No Man's Land neatly expands on the universe Picard is set in, with an emphasis on the Fenris Rangers and on the situation with Romulans, both things hinted at it in the series first season, with all of the action and even sound effects you'd expect. Indeed, the script plays off some familiar Trek tropes in a new way by virtue of its setting, along with Modern Trek's emphasis on characters and the odd "colorful metaphor." While the latter still occasionally jars for this Trek fan, who grew up in an era before that became the franchise norm, there is little doubt it suits the story being told here.

That's something even more true in light of the material it gives both Hurd and Ryan to play with as actresses. Both had time to shine in Picard's first season (and undoubtedly will in the upcoming season, as well), but there is something nice about hearing them on their own here. That's especially true of Ryan as Seven, getting a chance to learn more of what happened to her in the nearly two-decade gap between Voyager and Picard and who she is today. The two of them, with trust issues and masks of toughness to hide vulnerabilities, make for interesting would-be romantic partners, which makes listening to both the chemistry and sparring between makes for engaging listening in its own right. For fans of the two, it also makes No Man's Land worth a listen.

Rating it as a production, this reviewer might admit to being spoiled a bit by being an avid listener to Big Finish's Doctor Who audio dramas over the last 15 years. Listening to Simon & Schuster's No Man's Land was akin to revisiting one of the early Big Finish stories, as there's a sense that they're figuring out how to do Trek on audio. The script by Beyer and Johnson offers the odd moment of "let me tell you what I'm seeing," while the sound design ranges from subtle and borderline non-existent in some scenes to in one's face in others (or, rather, ears).

The presentation may be a tad rough around the edges, but these are merely teething problems. The strengths, especially in performances and writing, certainly outweigh the negatives. If No Man's Land is any indication, Trek might finally be finding an audio drama home at long last.

Matthew Kresal is a writer, critic, and podcaster with many and varying interests. His prose includes the non-fiction The Silver Archive: Dark Skies from Obverse Books, the Cold War alternate history spy thriller Our Man on the Hill, and the Sidewise Award winning short story Moonshot in Sea Lion Press' Alternate Australias anthology. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, or follow him on Twitter @KresalWritesHe was born, raised, and lives in North Alabama where he never developed a southern accent.

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