Much like Star Wars, Star Trek is a series with a die-hard fan-base that’s had a hard time replicating what made the show so appealing and amazing all those years ago. The action-packed recent films have been a mixed bag and Star Trek: Discovery lost that quintessential Star Trek ingredient before devolving into feeling like another generic sci-fi space opera.
Star Trek: Picard then is a series that could go either way. Based on the first episode there’s certainly signs of the show moving in a bold direction forward whilst holding onto that politically charged, methodically paced momentum the early 90’s managed to conjure up so effortlessly. For now though, it’s a little too early to cast judgment but there’s certainly some promising signs here.
Episode 1 of Picard begins with Data and Jean-Luc Picard sitting together on the Enterprise playing cards. Only, this happens to be a dream and Picard wakes up at his house overlooking a vineyard. Meanwhile in Greater Boston, assassins arrive and begin attacking a lady until she “activates” and manages to knock them all out. As she does, she charges across the room to her partner who lies with a knife through his chest. She then suddenly has a vision of Picard and hurries out the room.
Our former Enterprise Captain enjoys his time on the vineyard after 10 years of solitude from Starfleet but gets dressed in a suit ready for his first interview in many years. He’s assured by his comrades they won’t mention the Starfleet but on-air is a very different story. As the interview gets underway, we learn about the Romulans and the humanitarian crisis they faced in the wake of a Supernova, along with synthetics going rogue and being banned from Earth.
The interviewer then steers the conversation onto Starfleet and Picard tells her he quit because Starfleet gave up their core ideals. He immediately elaborates, launching into a passionate plea about war and the cost of lives. As the interview ends, our rogue girl watches him on TV.
The girl arrives at the vineyard soon after and talks to Picard about what happened. Her name is Dahj and assassins are clearly after her for some unknown purpose. He takes the girl in and gives her a cup of tea (Earl Grey of course) and after talking together, they turn in for the night where Picard dreams of Data painting – the same painting that happens to be on his wall.
With Dahj gone in the morning, Picard heads to the Starfleet Archives and once there, finds the finished painting of the girl at his vineyard. Data happened to paint the drawing on the Enterprise many years ago and this was a set of two. The android tells him no one has been in the archives since he arrived and the name of the painting is “Daughter”.
Dahj arrives at the archives and tracks Picard down as he walks outside, where they talk about Data and her ancestry. Unfortunately the assassins suddenly appear, leading Dahj to use her skills to take them all out. As more teleport in, she flies through the air and manages to take out the rest of the guards until one of them spews acid at her, prompting her entire body to explode, as the inferno blasts Picard across the roof.
Picard awakens back in the vineyard and heads to the Daystrom Institute after bemoaning that he’s been sitting around waiting to die. Once there, he asks the woman in charge whether it’s possible to make a flesh and blood android. As they keep talking, it turns out Dahj may have had a twin, which would explain the necklace she wore too.
As Picard chews over his recent discovery, at the Romulan Reclaiming Site we find Dahj’s twin Soji working deep in the heart of their base. As we zoom out and pan across the sheer scale of this awe-inspiring structure, we see that it’s shaped as a cube. A Borg Cube perhaps?
There are a lot of nods toward The Next Generation here and whether it be Picard’s dog called Number 1 or the references to Starfleet and Earl Grey tea, there’s a deliberate effort to make this series as relatable and grounded as possible. The 45 minutes have a decent enough pacing too, with a controlled dose of action toward the end of the episode for good measure.
Times have changed since the 90’s and this style of methodical building suits the show far better than Discovery’s bombastic, action-packed episodes do. Patrick Stewart is excellent as always and his controlled delivery of the script helps add some gravity to the scenes he plays in. The interview early on is a particularly powerful example and it’s already clear the show is moving back into political waters but doing so in a very Star-Trekky way.
There’s still time for this one to change of course but right now there’s a lot of promising signs for the season ahead.