As optimistic as I have been for a Jean-Luc Picard series I have also worried. Does one of my favorite TV characters really need another adventure? And is this show not just an attempt by CBS to make up for what fans consider to be a mild disappointment with regards to Discovery?
And yet, how could you not make a series with Jean-Luc Picard work? Throw in any of the other Next Generation characters and you have a smash hit. Well, that optimism made me very much look forward to Star Trek Picard starring Patrick Stewart as the now retired Starfleet Admiral (retired).
Picard is however a very different man from the one we last saw in Nemesis. Hence, Picard as a series is also very different from TNG. I went into this episode with open eyes in the hopes I would see something new. That at least I did.
However, this first episode takes a long time to get going. We see Jean-Luc Picard in his retirement on his vineyard estate. He suffers frequent nightmares that revolve around the same themes: the death of Commander Data, the destruction of Mars at the hands of Androids and the supernova that destroyed Romulus. Picard has since the destruction of Mars become a recluse, cared for by Romulan staff who were grateful for his intervention. On the tenth anniversary of the events at Mars and his retirement in protest to the ban on synthetics Picard holds an interview for the Federation News Network. This is about as cringeworthy as it gets when Picard is confronted by a reporter who manages to get under his skin. It becomes clear that those Romulans not grateful for their rescue turned on the Federation.
Meanwhile in the Greater Boston area a young woman named Dahj (played by Isa Briones) is celebrating her acceptance into the Daystrom Institute. That is until she is attacked in her own apartment and her boyfriend is killed. The attackers attempt to extract information directly from her mind and are none to subtle about it. Yet, Dahj uses powers previously unknown to her to defeat the attackers. She sees flashes of Picard and through his recent interview manages to track him down.
Picard, sulking from the rotten interview does his best to calm down the panicked young woman. He lets her stay at his vineyard and is resolved to figure out why she looks so familiar. Her story of being attacked makes little sense, but the mystery appears to involve commander Data. The next morning Dahj has disappeared. Picard visits the Starfleet Archives in San Francisco and uncovers a painting Commander Data made over 30 years back. It depicts a woman figure standing on a rocky shoreline. The face is that of Dahj. Somehow, Dahj is Data’s daughter.
Picard’s suspicion is further roused at the Daystrom Institute. There he meets a sullen Dr Agnes Jurati whose work on Androids has come to a complete standstill after the destruction of Mars. In fact, it appears synthetics created at the institute perpetrated the attack. Jurati declares it is unlikely that Dahj really is Data’s offspring as his memory failed to upload to B4. But she also posits that a procedure proposed by Bruce Maddox (who once tried to disassemble Data) could work. This fractal neuronic cloning would result in two offspring.
A new beginning for Picard
In San Francisco Dahj tracks down Jean-Luc. He tells her everything he knows before they are once again tracked down by the assassins / kidnappers. They are revealed to be Romulans before an explosion seemingly kills Dahj. The last scene of the episode takes place on what is entitled “Romulan Reclamation Center”. We see Romulan warships enter what appears to be a space station. On one of its levels a man named Narek who is presumably Romulan and not Vulcan meets Dahj’s twin Soji. In a strange conversation Narek relates the recent loss of his brother in appears to be a blatant attempt at emotional manipulation. As the camera pans out we see that the space station really is a converted Borg cube.
And so concludes the first episode of Picard. The title of the episode is “Remembrance” which is fitting considering the number of times Picard and others look back. However, this episode is also highly decisive. It was certainly not the easy going adventure we were promised by the trailers. It is more cerebral. That said, should we really be surprised the series starts of like this. Jean-Luc is retired living on Earth. Short of pulling a Kirk and stealing the Enterprise while it is in space dock this show was never going to get off to a quick start.
The question that needed answering was “What would compel Jean-Luc Picard to leave retirement, his vineyard and his dog Number One and go on an adventure?” In fact, it is ballsy that the creators took their time to fill in Picard’s backstory since the events of Nemesis. This ensures it is not just a continuation of The Next Generation. Now that that has been accomplished it feels there is a considerable amount of emotional heft to every one of Jean-Luc’s actions. And that is something I definitely want to see explored in the coming episodes.
Some things didn’t work well
That said, the episode was at times too slow. It lingered too long on events the viewer has little understanding of. Some of the drama bordered on the cringeworthy – deliberately so I think. I do hope the series will be able to reward viewers for this. This episode luckily remained light on fan service, which is just as I like it. The inclusion of Brent Spiner in what is an extended cameo did not feel out of place. Every aspect related to TNG felt balanced with the new setting and additional history the characters have. The next episode of Star Trek Picard is set for January 30th.