It’s no secret that, despite the fact that it gave Data a proper goodbye, the last season finale of Star Trek: Picard left me more than a little cold. The copy and paste Starfleet, Picard coming back in an android body, extra-dimensional synthetic octopus monsters — it was the literal definition of going in for a landing, missing the runway, and crashing into an elementary school.
This season, however, it seems like the series has learned from its mistakes, has a solid plan, an interesting execution, and even a healthy amount of unnecessary yet welcome fan service.
Ih “The Star Gazer,” we pick up about two years after the last season. It’s now 2401 and Picard has entered the 25th century as the chancellor of Starfleet Academy where he and Raffi, reinstated into Starfleet, keep a watchful eye on Elnor who has become the first Romulan cadet in Starfleet.
Picard seems happier, more content, and yet when the possibility of love enters his life, he finds himself haunted by an event in his past that keeps him from sealing the deal.
Meanwhile, Rios is shown as the captain of the USS Stargazer, ferrying Jurati and Soji around the galaxy on a synth goodwill tour. Seven of Nine, still working for the Fenris Rangers, is the new captain of the La Sirena and, when a space-time anomaly opens in the middle of space and starts broadcasting a plea for help from Admiral Picard himself, the old gang is reunited and find themselves not only facing a foe they thought was long defeated, but also the return of the troublesome entity known as Q.
The second season of Star Trek: Picard has learned a few lessons from last season. For one, Starfleet is a lot more present. Let’s face it… Star Trek is Starfleet, Starfleet is Star Trek. While it’s okay to go outside of the purview of the Federation every once in a while, it provides structure, stability, and a purpose. With Starfleet mostly absent last season, much of the show, in hindsight, was adrift. Now, it seems more purposeful… more Star Trek.
To that end, not only does the episode involve Starfleet, but the major setpiece is the beautiful bridge of the USS Stargazer, a new Federation ship that looks outstanding. Mostly gone are the annoying 3D holographic displays, gone is the oversized space-wasting bridge design… now, it feels more like old Star Trek. I like it when Trek innovates and goes foreword, but sometimes familiarity is like a comfy blanket.
More than that, we are shown a beautiful and diverse Starfleet with multiple starship designs from Akiras to Sovereigns to even new ships from Star Trek: Online which I am both excited and sick about because there are some ugly ships in that game.
I am endlessly fascinated that this season seems to be drawing from Patrick Stewart’s real life experiences with domestic abuse in his childhood home. It’s more than obvious that this is a subject that not only haunts Picard, but Stewart as well and the acting in those scenes is absolutely haunting.
“The Star Gazer” even makes the Borg mysterious and scary again with motivations that are almost all over the board. In a season that seems to be using trauma as a theme, Jeri Ryan’s white hot rage as Seven of Nine that Rios and Picard would even consider entertaining the Borg proposal is proof that Star Trek: Picard has supplied Seven of Nine with the best characterization she has ever had.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Star Trek without a little fan service and, despite Whoopi’s questionable word choices as of late, seeing Guinan again was so wonderful, though to be honest, the weird explanation for her aging could have been left out of the conversation and I wouldn’t have even cared.
But John De Lancie’s return as Q is the highlight of the episode and the perfect hook to guarantee that I will be back for more. Oh, Jean-Luc… How I’ve missed you. Forget that! Q, we’ve missed you!
Not only was this a strong premiere, I believe it to be one of Star Trek’s best premieres ever. It’s up there with “The Way of the Warrior” from Deep Space Nine as an episode that comes around and you curse the continuum itself that you have to wait for the next installment. “The Star Gazer” has taken my anticipation of this season of Star Trek Picard from tepid to overwhelming in one hour.
Let’s see what’s out there!