I am a huge STAR TREK fan from way back. Even when I didn’t watch much television, I watched STAR TREK (admittedly, mostly the films and spin-offs; I was an 80s kid). I mourned it when it went away, and forced myself to be excited by the movie reboots of the last decade, even though I now admit that only one of the three is any good. (It’s Star Trek: Beyond, for the record, despite a few flaws.)
So when CBS All Access started bringing STAR TREK back, I was super excited. I mean, not about All Access, which is an overpriced gouging of Trek fans. But about the content. Star Trek: Discovery is amazing, a fitting evolution of the franchise that honors the legacy. The Short Treks series are more of a departure, sometimes experimental, but also very good on the whole.
And now, we have STAR TREK: PICARD. Jean-Luc Picard is one of my favorite characters, and Patrick Stewart is a fine actor inside and outside of Trek. It’s a tall order to continue his story, and the modernization of Star Trek as evidenced by Discovery and Short Treks, not to mention Stewart’s own standards, demanded it be more than just a continuation of The Next Generation.
Three episodes in, it is succeeding admirably by just about every measure. Stewart is delivering a mesmerizing performance that imagines a future very different for Jean-Luc than where we left him, but in line with The Next Generation series finale, “All Good Things,” and the Romulan and Starfleet developments we know about in the intervening years. It’s a slow burn mystery, perfect for Picard the Dixon Hill fan. It embraces the aging themes of the excellent Kirk-led motion pictures, and also tells us something completely new. It’s a character study of a man who has been disillusioned and dissatisfied, but is determined to restore himself to someone he can live with before he dies. Yet, desperation is not present, instead showing his core personality tempted by discovery.
If that were all STAR TREK: PICARD was, it would be enough. And yet, it’s not. It’s a truly interesting story of Romulan politics and lore, a feat because I never found the species all that intriguing. It brings in lots of hanging plot threads from The Next Generation that I wish had been explored in a more serial nature and now they get to be. Data (Brent Spiner) is dead, but his presence haunts Picard and informs the current story, with dream sequence cameos feeling meaningful and necessary, not gratuitous, especially that perfect opening of the show with the Enterprise-D rendered more beautiful than it ever has been before. We hear again about Dr. Maddox (he’s got to be coming back, right?), Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco), the Borg, and so much more. Thank goodness, they left B4 in a drawer, right where he deserves to be.
The new characters are as equally fascinating as the lead. Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd, Blindspot) and Chris Rios (Santiago Cabrera, Big Little Lies) are new versions of Starfleet officers, those no longer with the service for traumatic reasons, a character type hinted at in Deep Space 9 and echoing Picard’s current status. Soji (Isa Briones, Takers) is deliciously unpredictable and hard to define yet. Narek (Harry Treadaway, Penny Dreadful), Commodore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita, The Good Doctor), and Lt. Rizzo (Peyton List, Mad Men) are a cadre of magnetic villains. Dr. Jurati (Alison Pill, The Newsroom) is terrific heart and comic relief. I love Zhaban (Jamie McShane, Bloodline), and Laris (Orla Brady, Fringe) has quickly become one of my favorite Trek characters of all time. I will be heartbroken if we don’t check back in with those latter two in the vineyard as the season progresses. Also, Voyager’s Seven (Jeri Ryan) hasn’t even made her much-anticipated return yet, which will surely be great.
By finding the most promising bits of TNG to continue and letting the story and situations evolve as circumstances and modernity demand, STAR TREK: PICARD is a triumph and perfect example of how to do a continuation decades after the original. It has something new to say, but is very much rooted in the existing mythology. It makes us rethink the TNG episodes as we realize the idyllic future we all admired from that show existed on the Enterprise, but not everywhere else (as DS9 also pointed out). It’s truly an amazing series that I am totally hooked on because of strong writing, direction, acting, and perspective.
Like I said before, All Access sucks in its pricing and depth of offerings. But you can’t miss this show, so I recommend you do as I have done, suck it up, and just give CBS your money. STAR TREK: PICARD deserves to be seen.
New episodes currently release Thursdays on the streaming service.