The much anticipated first episode of Star Trek: Picard aired January 23rd 2020 on Amazon Prime, with Sir Patrick Stewart reprising his role as the beloved Jean-Luc Picard. Having first made his appearance as Captain of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) this was only the latest of his roles in the expansive franchise.
Set in the year 2364, the show follows a retired Admiral Picard, still mourning the death of his close friend, the android Data (Brent Spiner), who died in the same event that lead to the ban of all synthetic life. He is semi-content with his life in the French countryside, but this changes when a young woman claiming to be Data’s daughter (Isa Briones) and the last synthetic life form in the Federation shows up. Her request for help in the face of trained operatives out to destroy her reawakens the same discontent at how things changed that lead him to leave Starfleet. Joining him on his journey are Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd), a friend from his days in Starfleet; Cristóbal Rios (Santiago Cabrera), a reckless captain with a scarred past; Dr Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill), a synthetic researcher; and Elnor (Evan Evagora), a Romulan protégé of Picard’s.
Picard is part of the new era of Star Trek shows: more plot focused and less episodic in nature, it remains a continuous flow of action with a climactic arc at the end. While most of the shows in this era, such as the more recent Star Trek: Discovery, use the previously established Star Trek canon mainly as a base, Picard brings a blend of nostalgia and the new storytelling to the table. With a main cast of new characters but old favourites from across several parts of the expansive series, it tries so hard to pull everything together but loses some of what we could have seen of the new characters. There’s a great main cast, but they don’t quite get the backstory that the old favourite characters have that makes them so compelling.
While Picard did succeed at bridging the gap between old and new Trek, keeping new watchers engaged while providing enough for the older fans to enjoy, this came at the cost of the cohesiveness of the show’s arc. By jumping between the fast-paced, action packed overarching plot to the slower fan-service parts, it never quite achieves either of its goals to its full potential. I would also advise caution for those new to Star Trek who are interested, because it does jump back and forth to things that were part of previous versions of the show; it’s not the best starting point due to this.
At the centre of the show is a debate about artificial intelligence and how it fits in with our own humanity. Artificial intelligence and androids have always been present in Star Trek, from Data in The Next Generation to the Borg across multiple parts of the franchise. Picard tackles the presence of both of these, especially in the wake of the Federation banning androids after an android attack that resulted in the destruction of Mars. There are two extremes present: Jean-Luc Picard, who lost his dear android friend and left the Federation over arguments about the android ban, and shady anti-android Romulan forces hidden withing their secret police, the Tal Shiar, with the last know example of android life like Data hanging between them.
The ending of the show was divisive, even amongst casual viewers of the show. After ten episodes of build-up, it ended on a fairly anticlimactic note, with a final episode that left people confused and reeling. The writers tried to take too much and tie it up nicely, with a bittersweet reunion on top, and it just wasn’t quite as satisfying as it could have been. It was dark, in a way, but not quite completely dark. However, this was only the beginning of a larger arc to be continued, which leaves hope for the next part of Admiral Picard’s retirement adventures. They’ve dealt Picard quite a hand, and handled his character fairly well, but the rest remains to be seen.
Picard isn’t an outstandingly good show, but it’s also not a bad show. It’s a homage to The Next Generation and to the magnificent Captain Picard, with more storytelling potential to be unlocked in the future.
Star Trek: Picard has been renewed for a second season and is currently in production, although filming has been delayed.