Warning: Spoilers for the premiere of "Star Trek: Picard" follow.
“Star Trek: Picard” in a more abstract interpretation, is the Baby Yoda of the Star Trek Universe. It’s old but new. It’s unexpected. And Trekkies will die for it.
In this age of reboots and revivals, it is safe to say that it’s a hit or miss industry, especially with big franchises. Star Wars has “The Mandalorian,” Star Trek has “Star Trek: Discovery” and now the new, or should I say, old face of Star Trek returns for an all-new series. “Star Trek: Picard" has fans on the edge of their seats to witness the latest edition to the franchise.
Sir Patrick Stewart returns to the helm as Jean-Luc Picard, Captain of the USS Enterprise from the series “Star Trek: Next Generation” and several other “Star Trek” films. The first episode opens with a jarring scene of Picard and the late and former Lieutenant Commander of the USS Enterprise, Data (Brent Spiner). They play a game of poker and discuss how Data, an android, cannot bluff or lie. This is a nostalgic nod to “Star Trek: Next Generation,” for anyone interested in small details.
In the background of this scene we see a red planet which Picard observes as Mars, when suddenly it is destroyed, turning the scene into a blank white canvas. It is then that Picard awakens, rattled and afraid. Haunted by a past we, the audience, do not know, and haunted by dreams of Data.
I’m trying to highlight the more relevant parts, but as it is the first episode, set up is required. After the beginning dream sequence it is revealed Picard has left Starfleet and now lives in the French countryside, with two Romulans who look after his vineyard residence. This is followed by an interview with an unnamed anchor who mentions several points to pay attention to: (1) It’s the anniversary of the day a supernova turned Romulans into refugees and (2) Picard has left Starfleet and has never given an interview since then.
The anniversary in question creates an interesting plot point. If you’re wondering where this plot point came from, it comes from the J.J. Abrams “Star Trek” adaption/reboot where Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy, was trying to stop the supernova, the sun that Romulus revolves around, when he was thrown back in time. He failed, and the action created the alternate “Kelvin” timeline, aka the timeline with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. Picard takes place in the “Prime” timeline of the “Star Trek” television shows, the producers and creators chose to set the story during an event old and new fans would know canonically.
The interview is quick to turn almost confrontational when the anchor regales Picard on the events of the Supernova. We learn Romulus, sworn enemies of the Federation, reach out for help in evacuating the planet. The Federation provides aid, with Picard assisting the efforts. This is seen as a questionable move due to the stigma surrounding Romulans. The Romulans are then relocated to Mars to take refuge, however, a rogue group of Synthetic life forms (aka “synths”) attacked the Mars colony, the rescue ships and killed thousands of innocent lives. This lead to a ban on synthetic life forms (like Data) and the Federation recalling the rescue efforts on Romulus. Picard disagreed with these actions, thus resigned from Starfleet. For actions he claims are “downright criminal.” There is one point in their interview that has stuck with me, the interviewer questions Picard’s choice by trying to “save Romulan lives” despite being enemies. Picard corrects her, “saving lives,” and that is a beautiful and powerful statement that is applicable to issues in our present era.
Picard however is not the only character we viewers follow this episode. We are also following a young woman named Dhaj Asha (Isa Brioness), an expert in artificial intelligence who has just been accepted to the Daystrom Institute, in Okinawa, Japan. After being attacked by an unknown group where she manages to hold her own in combat despite having no prior knowledge/abilities to do this, she escapes and runs to the one person for help, Picard, without having ever met the famous Admiral.
Picard provides shelter for the young woman, who vanishes with the coming morning. Unable to place where he has seen this Dhaj before he heads to the Starfleet Archive Museum where he has a personal safe-like area which stores classic items from “Star Trek: Next Generation” including a painting done by Data called “Daughter” where Dhaj (or a woman like her) is the subject of the piece.
Dhaj follows Picard and is hunted and then killed by the group that had attacked her earlier that episode. Picard, escaping the scrubbed fray, heads to the Daystrom Institute to investigate the possibility of creating sentient organic-passing androids. There he meets Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) where she shows Picard disassembled pieces of what is theorized to be either Data or his brother B-4. The Doctor tells Picard that no one has come close to replicating the work that had created Data nor any sentient organic-passing android. Picard more or less confirms that Dhaj is Data’s daughter and that androids are often made in pairs, confirming there is another remnant of Data out in the universe.
We are then introduced to Dhaj’s identical twin sister, Soji, somehow working on a Romulan reclamation site in the remains of a Borg Cube.
The Borg are an infamous alien society throughout the “Star Trek” Franchise and are a race of cybernetic humanoids connected by a hive mind. They are recurring antagonists throughout the various installments, and there are also some riveting encounters with Picard which haunt me to this day.
20 years later, "Picard" has brought Trekkies old and new back into the franchise with a brilliant and engaging story. The more urban environment definitely helps set it apart from any of the previous “Star Trek” installments. There is a complete difference in action, tone and style where this show takes on more sci-fi elements and trends seen in the modern sci-fi related tv/film. Season 2 has already been ordered, so we can hope to count on a promising first season. “Star Trek: Picard” airs every Thursday on CBS All Access.