Nearly 20 years after his last appearance in Star Trek: Nemesis, Captain Jean-Luc Picard has returned… only he’s not the captain of the Enterprise, anymore and he’s not a captain anymore. Picard is now a retired admiral living out the waning days of his life on his vineyard in France after leaving Starfleet on principal following the organization’s disastrous response to an attack on Mars.
However, when a young woman named Dahj suddenly appears on his doorstep asking for help, Picard discovers a connection to her that he couldn’t possibly have predicted… and cannot, in principle and ethics, refuse.
I try not to use the word “perfect” too often unless I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, but for the pilot episode of a television series — particularly a Star Trek television series, the initial episode of Star Trek: Picard is… well, perfect.
For one thing, it has Patrick Stewart and Patrick Stewart is and always will be one of the greatest performers ever to appear on any Star Trek series. Stewart slides so comfortably back into the role of Picard that it’s almost uncanny…. sort of like reconnecting with an old friend that you haven’t seen in two decades, only to pick up with each other again as if only a few days have passed. More than that, Patrick Stewart turns in a multilayered performance that even surpasses his work on The Next Generation making Picard weary and defeated, but still keeping his sense of honor and idealism. This is a man who has been soundly punished by the universe for his stances and has been beaten into submission by isolationists… for a man who boldly went where no one had gone before, he’s on a vineyard waiting to die as a result and it’s melancholy and its sad.
Perhaps this is why Star Trek: Picard, in addition to being a mystery box story about a mysterious woman, is also a story of rekindling an inner passion. Throughout this episode, you see Picard go from being his beaten down old man to a man with determination and will, ready to fight for what needs to be done.
Beyond the reintroduction of Jean-Luc Picard, this new series has a great deal of fun and interesting elements in it. For one, I really enjoyed the scenes on Earth, particularly the scenes between Dahj and her boyfriend. So often in Star Trek, we are bombarded with stories (out of necessity, of course) of formal people in formal settings and, to see just a couple of ordinary people living life informally in the Star Trek universe was great.
I also liked how the writers chose to make the boyfriend Xahean as a connection to Star Trek: Discovery. It’s a little detail that will probably be lost on a lot of folks, but Star Trek: Picard takes such advantage of the connected tissue of Star Trek history that it seems to pay homage to almost every era.
I’m not a person who hates it when a series dips into nostalgia, but what I liked most about this episode’s nostalgia is that it was essential to the plot. The Data scenes, which were so great I was almost in tears seeing them, were so multi-layered that they practically beg for repeated viewing as every sentence… every word has a double meaning. Not to mention the fact that you can tell that the behind the scenes team did everything they could to make Data appear as he did during the TNG series and movies. Was it a perfect effect? No… but the love was there and, given that Brent Spiner is 70 now and was made to look like the unaged andriod was pretty amazing when you think about it.
There is so much to talk about, and so much to speculate about. This pilot episode, so different that what I was expecting, going in a different direction than I anticipated, deeper and more thoughtful than I could have imagined, is the best pilot episode that a Star Trek series has ever had and has set an insanely high bar for the rest of this series (whether this is a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen.) This episode was dramatic, exciting, beautifully shot, and so full of potential. I literally cannot wait for the next episode and will probably stay up late to watch it as soon as it drops.
Nothing but blue skies do I see.
Make it so.