It’s been almost 26 years since the beloved science fiction series Star Trek: The Next Generation came to an end on our small screens. It’s been well documented that Sir Patrick Stewart has long turned down reprising the iconic role; so executive producer, Alex Kurtzman set out to pitch Stewart a fresh tale for Picard. So with the main man back on board, (with a little help from his friends), along with an intriguing premise of a deep character study – can fans look forward to a series that bridges the gap between new and classic Star Trek?
Its been 14 years since Jean-Luc Picard’s (Sir Patrick Stewart) retirement from Starfleet and the previous captain is still deeply affected by the loss of Lieutenant Commander Data (Brent Spiner) and the destruction of the rescue fleet intended to aid in the Romulan evacuation. But his all too quiet life at Chateau Picard with his dog, number one, is turned upside down by the arrival of a mysterious young women, Dahj (Isa Briones) who needs his help. The two quickly uncover an intriguing connection to Picard’s past which could change everything.
It’s safe to say the first three episodes easily surpassed my expectations; this is a fantastically cinematic and contemporary take on Star Trek that cleverly weaves a lot of classic Trek at its core, with Stewart once again proving the heart of the show. The over-arching, slow burn mystery is completely gripping, exploring the state of the future which is definitely not as rosy as expected! Starfleet is not the idealist organisation we once knew, there’s also Romulan assassins at large, a galaxy-wide ban on synthetics and the echoes of the Borg still linger. Collectively, the episodes are very well written coupled with great pacing, covering a lot of exposition in a cleverly economically way through interviews and flashbacks.
Picard still upholds the main Trek focus of mirroring current issues in society, particularly as Picard challenges the Federation’s moral authority. Starfleet appears in turmoil; where they once held a utopian and harmonic vision, bringing species together – the interstellar organisation appears to be in a bad way following the incident on Mars. “The galaxy was mourning, burying its dead, and Starfleet slunk from its duties,” exclaims Picard in a damning challenge. Here’s an older man who, thanks to an awakening from Dahj, still wants to fight for what’s right and redeem the name of synthetics and the Romulans. This underlying message of hope and optimism is a key foundation of Star Trek – which is a message I felt was missing in season one of Star Trek Discovery.
Picard features a very strong ensemble cast lead by Stewart who brings all of the hope, heart and soul you need for a Trek series. This is Picard at his lowest point, with Daj reminding him of why he did what he did and why he was part of Starfleet in the first place. With the current worrying state of Starfleet and the Romulans, he figures that there’s still work to do – and he needs a crew to help him. Enter Alison Pill’s naive Dr. Agnes Jurati (yes Kim from Scott Pilgrim!), Michelle Hurd’s brilliant rebel security analyst Raffi Musiker and Santiago Cabrera’s Han Solo-esque Cristóbal Rios. Most intriguing of all is Harry Treadaway’s Narek, but so far Hurd’s Raffi is definitely the standout of the series for me – proving the most compelling and hilarious as she bickers with the previous captain.
Equally impressive is the production value of the series; cleverly combining a classic Trek feel with the (slightly updated) costumes, technology and familiar species and characters with effects and cinematography that rival Star Trek Discovery. The episodes also features a number of standout action sequences boasting exciting choreography and surprising violence. Composer Jeff Russo cleverly intertwines the classic themes into the main score at key moments, and though the intro track took some getting used to, ultimately I found it to be fitting due to its hopeful tone.
So far Star Trek: Picard is a bold and exciting addition to the franchise, featuring a compelling central mystery that will undoubtedly keep you gripped each week. The opening episodes are however a bit of a slow burn, with Kurtzman and co. taking their time to assemble the key players on the board, whilst gradually revealing brief snippets here and there. If the quality of writing, production values and acting continues, we’re most certainly in for a treat and I can’t wait to continue. Make it so!