Having retired from Starfleet, Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is drawn into another mystery by the appearance of Dahj (Isa Briones) who arrives at his vineyard asking for help.
Star Trek, the science fiction behemoth, is an often-misunderstood beast. Regularly compared to Star Wars, Trek has always been slower, more philosophical and allegorical; The Next Generation, for example, dedicated entire episodes to ideas – such as whether the android Data should have rights as a person or whether he could be considered property (Measure of a Man), or how quickly mistrust and fear can be weaponised (The Drumhead). At the centre of each of these was Captain Picard – intelligent, fair, and dedicated to truth and justice, he was the moral heart of the show; often serving as the voice of reason. Bringing him back thirty years later, in what is arguably a new heyday of television, seems a wise choice.
With Star Trek: Picard, one of the key issues the writers were going to be facing was how to balance the need to please the über-nerds with the need to make the show accessible to an entirely new audience – honouring The Next Generation without requiring an intimate knowledge of anything that has (boldly) gone before.
It’s difficult to say whether the series will achieve this based only on the first episode; but if it continues as well as it started, it has pulled it off magnificently. Picard himself has been updated in a way that felt believable but stayed true to the character written thirty years ago – which owes a debt to the exceptional performances given both then and now by Stewart. The backstory was explained in a way which didn’t feel heavy-handed and didn’t throw a huge volume of information at the audience; while the premise of the series was introduced carefully throughout the episode to ensure that the pace kept up well.
There were enough references and hints to the previous series to keep the super-fans happy, but done in such a way that it didn’t feel forced, and there were not so many that it was necessary to recognise any of them to know what was going on. A failing of many adaptations and reboots is giving in to the temptation to cram nods to the source material at the expense of plot, which Picard deftly sidesteps by choosing its nods carefully and allowing them to provide background detail.
It is also a credit to the show that one of the main things I took away was the quality of both the storyline and the new characters. Newcomer Isa Briones was compelling, and I was particularly pleased to discover that we will be seeing more of Alison Pill as Dr Jurati after her one scene in the episode. Direction from Hanelle Culpepper was also a highlight, with the use of light and colour being especially refreshing.
New episodes are released every Friday on Amazon Prime.
Tierney Green is a screen contributor at Forge Press.
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