Star Trek: Picard – Season One (2020)
Created by: Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, Kirsten Beyer, Alex Kurtzman
Based On: Star Trek: The Next Generation – Created by Gene Roddenberry
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Alison Pill, Isa Briones, Evan Evagora, Michelle Hurd, Santiago Cabrera, Harry Treadaway
Jean-Luc Picard: The galaxy was mourning, burying its dead, and Starfleet slunk from its duties. The decision to call off the rescue and to abandon those people we had sworn to save was not just dishonorable, it was downright criminal! And I was not prepared to stand by and be a spectator!
On January 23, 2020, CBS All-Access, the subscription streaming division of CBS, aired Remembrance, the first of 10 episodes of Star Trek: Picard, the eighth series in the Star Trek franchise. Set in the year 2399 – and 20 years after the events of the feature film Star Trek: Nemesis, the show created by Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, Kirsten Beyer, and Alex Kurtzman stars Patrick Stewart as retired Admiral Jean-Luc Picard, the role he played in seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and its four spin-off feature films, along with Alison Pill, Isa Briones, Evan Evagora, Michelle Hurd, Santiago Cabrera, Harry Treadaway, Jonathan Del Arco, Jeri Ryan, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, and Brent Spiner.
In Remembrance, we first see Picard living in retirement at Chateau Picard, the family estate in his hometown of La Barre, France. Although it seems that he leads an idyllic post-Starfleet life tending to the vineyards and enjoying the company of two Romulan friends – Zhaban (Jamie McShane) and Laris (Orla Brady) – and his pit bull, Number One.
Alas, the good Admiral is still haunted by many traumas from his long career in Starfleet, especially the death of Commander Data (Brent Spiner) – seen in 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis – and the aftershocks of the destruction of the Romulan home world by a supernova – the disaster mentioned as the catalyst for the events of Star Trek (2009). Picard constantly dreams about his long-gone Ops and would-have-been First Officer, and he is still bitter about Starfleet’s handling of the evacuation of Romulus.
Still, Picard tries his best to play the role of a French landowner, a role he always felt was destined for his late brother Robert and his nephew Rene but took up after their deaths in a fire – an event mentioned in Star Trek: Generations. He diligently tends to the family manor and sticks to the long-established Picard family tradition of winemaking, waiting for his last days to come.
Of course, Picard’s predictable routine on Earth would not make for an interesting TV series, unless it aired on HGTV as Living in La Barre with a Living Legend. Something has to pull Jean-Luc out of his “golden years of retirement” – a period which he really is not enjoying himself – and return him to his role as star-farer, explorer, and diplomat.
14 years after Captain Jean-Luc Picard retired from Starfleet, Patrick Stewart is back to reprise his iconic role. After the destruction of the Planet Romulus, we follow Picard as he tracks down a series of mysteries about his past. From creators Alex Kurtzman, Pulitzer Prize winning author Michael Chabon, Academy Award winner Akiva Goldsman, (A Beautiful Mind), and renowned Star Trek novelist Kirsten Beyer, Star Trek: Picard sets out on a new adventure against a legion of dangerous foes, with the help from a few returning characters – Data, Riker, and Seven of Nine – and a whole new crew.
- Remembrance – originally aired: January 23, 2020
- Maps and Legends – originally aired: January 30, 2020
- The End is the Beginning – originally aired: February 6, 2020
- Absolute Candor – originally aired: February 13, 2020
- Stardust City Rag – originally aired: February 20, 2020
- The Impossible Box – originally aired: February 27, 2020
- Nepenthe – originally aired: March 5, 2020
- Broken Pieces – originally aired: March 12, 2020
- Et in Arcadia Ego: Part 1 – originally aired: March 19, 2020
- Et in Arcadia Ego: Part 2 – originally aired: March 26, 2020
I have been a fan of the Star Trek franchise since I watched Star Trek: The Motion Picture on Opening Day in December of 1979, when I was 16 years old and still in the throes of loving most space-set films as a result of seeing Star Wars in 1977.
As a child of the Television Age, of course I had watched – or tried to, anyway – reruns of Star Trek: The Original Series on and off, starting in the late Sixties when Jorge Baron TV imported dubbed-into-Spanish episodes of what audiences in Colombia knew as Viaje a las estrellas, but I couldn’t get into it. I think the cheap-looking sets and strong primary color palette of the 1960s show had a lot to do with my indifference toward Star Trek, as well as just plain immaturity and lack of appreciation for good television writing.
But even though I fell asleep watching Star Trek: The Motion Picture – it opened on Friday, December 7, 1979, and I was tired after a long day at Riviera Junior High School, and the film’s leisurely, almost ponderous pace didn’t help matters – there was something in the dynamic between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy that captured my attention, so, here I am.
I don’t subscribe to CBS All-Access, so I had to wait till Paramount Home Entertainment – the division of Paramount Pictures that makes and distributes Blu-ray and DVD releases of Star Trek content for CBS Television Studios and the feature film division of Paramount Pictures itself – releases home media editions of Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard.
Thus it wasn’t until late last week – Thursday through Saturday that I watched all 10 episodes of Star Trek: Picard. (The Blu-ray and DVD sets hit store shelves on Tuesday the 6th, but I got my Blu-ray set from Amazon on October 8.)
I don’t want to delve too much into the plot of Star Trek: Picard – which, by the way, is the first show in the series (since Star Trek: The Next Generation) to be named for a character and not its setting, as in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise – in case some readers don’t want spoilers. (The package blurb wasn’t exactly helpful in that regard since it already reveals that Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, and Jeri Ryan reprise their roles from TNG and Voyager.)
Here are some takeaways from my Star Trek: Picard viewing experience:
- Although it was co-created by Alex Kurtzman, the same guy who co-created Star Trek: Discovery with Bryan Fuller, the two shows have a different tone and storytelling structure. Compared to Discovery, Picard is more sedately paced and has a “real-world” feel. The “future” is not full of floating Art Deco cities or flying cars; rather, Earth at the end of the 24th Century is recognizable as Earth and not a Buck Rogers version of it
- Star Trek: Picard is the most contemplative Trek series I have seen so far. Maybe it’s because it centers on Patrick Stewart’s character’s “last best hope for redemption” in the wake of the events that led to Picard’s resignation from Starfleet. This is a man, who despite his status as a living legend in Federation history, is haunted by guilt, anger, and deep loss. Like all of the post-1969 Star Trek series, this is still an ensemble show with multiple subplots, but its focus is on the title character
- There are oodles of connections to other series in the Star Trek franchise. The main one, of course, is to the 1987-1994 syndicated series Star Trek: The Next Generation, but there are visual, thematic, and even musical links to other shows and films, including The Original Series, Voyager, and even the divisive Star Trek (2009) film, which Alex Kurtzman co-wrote for J.J. Abrams with his long-time writing partner Roberto Orci
- Star Trek: Picard manages to “bring back” Brent Spiner’s iconic android Data, although it isn’t accomplished in the way that many viewers who saw – or endured – Star Trek: Nemesis 18 years ago, i.e. Data’s download of his memory patterns into his “inferior” prototype brother, B-4, did not fully work, and B-4 remained being….B-4. I have only seen this series once – and under less-than-happy personal circumstances – so if that android’s fate is mentioned, I must have missed it. However, Bruce Maddox, the Starfleet cybernetics engineer who wanted to disassemble Data in the TNG episode Measure of a Man, is involved in this, although he is not played by Brian Brophy
I like the way that Star Trek: Picard manages to integrate a great deal of Star Trek lore – especially when it comes to the title character’s personal history – while telling a new story with a new set of supporting characters. I have to admit that I now have a serious crush on Canadian actor Alison Pill; she plays Bruce Maddox’s cybernetics scientist colleague (and lover), Dr. Agnes Jurati. Like Picard, she served in Starfleet, but left the service to study the creation of synthetic life. As Jurati, Pill is the perfect combination of idealism, intellect, and sexiness, somewhat reminiscent of Catherine Hicks’ Dr. Gillian Taylor in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
Another favorite new character of mine is Santiago Cabrera’s Cristobal “Chris” Rios: A former Starfleet officer and the pilot of La Sirena, the ship-for-hire that takes Picard and his new “crew” on his new trek across the stars. He is a mix of William Shatner’s James T. Kirk and Tom Cruise’s Maverick from Top Gun, with a dash of Rudolf Valentino added for good measure. Cabrera also appears as La Sirena’s emergency medical hologram, a reflection of Rio’s huge ego.
Well, I could go on and about Star Trek: Picard’s many selling points, but I won’t. I will say that it is well-written, has excellent visuals, and it is consistent to the values of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek: The Next Generation while still being somewhat more like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – a series that sometimes seemed to go against the grain of Roddenberry’s vision of a future in which humanity had evolved from its petty differences and embraced diversity in everything.
So if you don’t have a subscription to CBS: All-Access but want to watch Star Trek: Picard, you can get it on home media. I have the “standard” three-disc Blu-ray set – there is a pricier steelbook edition available, too – and it is a decent, if not perfect, physical disc release.
As I said earlier, Star Trek: Picard is an excellent new addition to the franchise that has taken viewers where no one has gone before for 54 years and counting. Fans of the 1987-1994 series will enjoy seeing some familiar faces, and new viewers might want to check out Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, and 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis to get the back story behind Star Trek: Picard.
 Though the destruction of Romulus – and Spock’s failure to save the planet – is the direct cause of the Kelvin timeline, Star Trek: Picard is set in the same “Prime” timeline as Star Trek: The Original Series and its TV/feature film spin-offs, including Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager.
 Now Riviera Middle School. I like the name Riviera Junior High School more, though.