Star Trek: Picard – That Familiar Feeling

I’ve just finished watching the first episode of Star Trek: Picard, Remembrance, and my initial reaction is ‘Now that’s Star Trek!’

Patrick Stewart returns to the role of Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: Picard © 2020 CBS All-Access
Patrick Stewart returns to the role of Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: Picard © 2020 CBS All-Access

I had been keeping my expectations very low about Star Trek: Picard because of how ultimately disappointed I was with Star Trek: Discovery. I only listened to developments with half an ear and no real hope of a good experience. I’m overjoyed to be proven so completely wrong. Star Trek: Picard brings back the feelings I had watching every series of Star Trek until the over-hyped Star Trek: Discovery and every Star Trek film until the risible ‘Bra Trek films.

First and foremost Sir Patrick Stewart is wonderful once again as Jean-Luc Picard. Very often when an actor reprises a role after a long time away from it, the character feels hollow and stilted. There is none of that. It’s as if the role of Picard was never far from the mind of Stewart and that he felt comfortable was if it were a pair of well loved slippers.

Brent Spiner’s reprisal of Commander Data is short but flawless. Data’s part is small but pivotal in setting up the story of Dahj, played by Isa Briones. There’s a level of commitment in these actors that I felt was lacking from the cast of Star Trek: Discovery. The cast of Star Trek: Picard know they’re doing a Star Trek series and don’t try to play it any other way.

Jean-Luc meets the mysterious Dahj, played by Isa Briones © 2020 CBS All-Access
Jean-Luc meets the mysterious Dahj, played by Isa Briones © 2020 CBS All-Access

The cast also clearly knows that this is a story about Picard, so Stewart is the lead without question. And Stewart doesn’t overpower the supporting cast. Instead he allows their characters to develop in with his support. Having Stewart takes much of the weight of the success of Star Trek: Picard off the shoulders of not only the supporting cast but the writers, producers, and directors.

This first episode Remembrance focuses on Jean-Luc’s past and why he split from Starfleet. It turns out that the Romulan home world was destroyed in a supernova and Jean-Luc heads a relief effort to save 900,000,000 lives. Paradoxically, the United Federation of Planets is reluctant to aid in the relief effort and a small group of synths (androids) attack Mars and kill 32,000 Federation citizens, seemingly justifying the Federation’s reticence. Admiral Picard is forced to resign in protest when Starfleet halts the aid to their long standing enemies, the Romulans.

Remembrance touches on many current topics of today including terrorism, refugee aid, and identity politics. Like all good science fiction the story is about the world around us filtered through the lens of future extrapolation. I felt the subject matters were handled with adroit care. The subject matter of Remembrance is all too familiar and in many ways shamefully so.

Perhaps the biggest surprise, for me at least, is the inclusion of a pet dog for Jean-Luc lovingly named ‘Number One’. There are several other moments included to recall our minds back to the Jean-Luc Picard of The Next Generation and the subsequent films. It’s too easy to dismiss these as mere fan servicing or base nostalgia but we have to remember that Star Trek has a vast history behind it and unlike Star Wars the past hasn’t been wiped out with a wave of the hand.

Star Trek has a tradition of solid science fiction story telling and Star Trek: Picard looks to be holding to that tradition. The visuals are certainly enthralling and the setting is, as always, captivating, but more so than that Star Trek: Picard has recaptured the core of what Star Trek was always meant to be. A mirror to ourselves with a reflection of what the best of us could be if we only allow ourselves to become that future.

Regardless of what the New York Times says, Star Trek: Picard is more than Peak TV. It has managed to restore quite a bit of what many people would consider Star Trek and I have a suspicion that this ten episode arc will go a long way to erasing the dreadful Kelvin timeline. That’s my hope at least.

I haven’t been this excited about a television programme in a long time. I’m so please that Star Trek: Picard seems to have reached into the past to restore my faith in the franchise. I look forward with earnest to see how Star Trek: Picard develops and for the first time in a long time the entire Star Trek universe.

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