- Warning: This review contains Mild spoilers for the first episode of Star Trek: Picard
Official Series Synopsis
Star Trek: Picard features Sir Patrick Stewart reprising his iconic role as Jean-Luc Picard, which he played for seven seasons on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The new series will follow this iconic character into the next chapter of his life.
Official Episode Synopsis
At the end of the 24th Century, and 14 years after his retirement from Starfleet, Jean-Luc Picard (Sir Patrick Stewart) is living a quiet life on his vineyard, Chateau Picard. When he is sought out by a mysterious young woman, Dahj (Isa Briones), in need of his help, he soon realizes she may have personal connections to his own past.
You’ve got to hand it to the creative foursome who created Amazon’s new Star Trek: Picard; it’s a brave thing to decide to gamble a whole high end series on. The Next Generation didn’t just continue the Star Trek legacy, it rekindled it, bringing us spin off series, more movies, and games including a well-liked MMO game, tabletop roleplaying & miniatures games and single player shooters.
The modern day Star Trek fan is a different breed too, less willing to be told the same old stories. Instead they are more interested in how the next sensational story will challenge world perceptions, just as the original series did in 1968 when Uhura and Kirk shared a kiss that shook many to their core. The modern world is a different beast as well, with interracial liaisons less of a stigma, and modern science now making the once fantastical into the everyday.
Then throw into the mix one of the most beloved characters in the series history. The pinnacle of Star Fleet breeding, an intrepid adventurer who looked past the small vineyard on which he lived to the stars and thought “I must see those”. Along the way he became a respected tactician, diplomat, leader and mentor to many. A man who felt personal loss as intensely as he felt his victories and who could win the respect of most anyone he met, and he even had a couple of catchphrases too. Jean-Luc Picard was the expertly written character, brought to life brilliantly by Patrick Stewart, that the world fell in love with.
So that’s why it’s a leap of faith for a group of four writers to decide they will take this character, and the future of the story he helped create, and turn it into a new kind of Star Trek show (feel free to insert your own “Where no man has gone before” joke). If the first episode is anything to go by, it’s a leap that they have landed.
Fast forward some 20 years from the events of Star Trek Nemesis and we are greeted with Picard, now at home on his family vineyard and importantly, not a courageous explorer, instead on old man in his twilight years. Picard has gone from a crew of over a thousand to two helpers and his faithful dog, Number One. Plagued with haunting dreams and having turned his back on Star Fleet, the estranged Picard is a far cry from the glory of his career in his apparently self imposed exile. That is until the enigmatic Dahj appears asking for his help.
I won’t give a full breakdown of the entire episode here, because the joy of this series premiere is in absorbing the new world it creates. We see the hallmark technologies of the show, transporters and food replicators all updated with new visuals. There are just enough nods to the previous era to bring a smile without it seeming to rely on reminding you of it every few minutes. Even the setup of the scenes has a different feel, with dramatic angles and vast landscapes largely taking backseat to the closer, intimate frames that highlight the emotion of a moment.
Possibly my favourite part of this episode was the grey area in which Starfleet and The Federation of Planets finds itself parked. During the TNG era of shows, The Federation was positioned largely as the great beacon of hope, in place to guide the races of the Alpha Quadrant toward a prosperous future. In Discovery, the Federation was given a darker edge, with wartime lending an excuse for the more sinister motives to come to the fore. Now the Federation is presented without a clear right or wrong placement. A choice concerning the Romulans, and a ban on the creation of synths gives us a clear idea of a standpoint from the Federation. The viewer is left to mull over if these suggest the Federation has become a darker entity, or if it has just chosen to protect it’s own.
All of this leads up to a dramatic closing scene that leaves the viewer exactly where they should at the end of the first episode of a series. Completely absorbed, and clawing for a Play Next Episode button that they won’t have for up to a week, which gives us time to enjoy the greatest past time of any avid series watcher. The ability to sit with a buddy and gush about how awesome it was.
Episode 1 of Star Trek: Picard sets a great tone for the series and gives hope that the brave choices of the writers were good ones. See for your self on Amazon Prime now.