Well, here we are. Ever since it was first announced, Star Trek fans have been awaiting the arrival of the new Picard series, a TNG sequel that would catch up with everyone’s favourite captain long after his retirement from Starfleet. Being a cautious sort, my anticipation was tempered with a degree of trepidation. Would this be a cheap cash-in on a beloved franchise? Would the plot go off the rails into utter ridiculousness, like Discovery? Fortunately, one episode in, and although it’s not perfect, signs are looking good.
Taking place at the end of the 24th century, Star Trek Picard shows us our eponymous hero, now living a quiet life on his vineyard in France. We soon learn that his retirement from Starfleet was anything but straightforward – after the Romulan sun went supernova, Picard pressed for Starfleet to get involved in rescuing and relocating the Romulan people. All well and good, except that while the fleet was otherwise occupied, an uprising of synthetic life forms essentially made Mars uninhabitable.
Flash forward fourteen years, and Picard spends his days with the locals, his Romulan housekeeping staff, and his bulldog, Number One. He soon finds himself drawn into a new adventure, however, when a young woman named Dahj turns up at Chateau Picard. Whilst on the run from forces out to kill her, Dahj discovers that she is a synthetic life form, drawing Picard into the mystery of how she came to exist in an era where synthetics are now forbidden.
There’s a lot going on in this opening episode, with twists and turns packed in right up until the final scene. We have to cover both how Picard got to this point in this life, and introduce the beginnings of his latest adventure, not to mention pack in character introductions, fight scenes, dream sequences, and Picard chilling out with his dog. We can tell already that the series is going to be leaning on some sci-fi tropes – we’ve got the standard robot uprising, the protagonist with a troubled past, and the Firefly-esque girl with mysterious fighting prowess. That being said, it’s a solid and enjoyable opening episode, with plenty of nods to past Star Trek events.
We haven’t really had a chance to get a feel for the new characters yet, but as it’s the first episode I will write a few lines about them anyway. Unlike past Star Trek series, where it was pretty clear from the pilot who was going to be a series regular, it’s harder to get a feel for that here from the events of the episode alone. Then again, most of those series got feature length opening episodes.
- Jean-Luc Picard: Having left Starfleet over the whole Romulan/synthetic/Mars debacle, Picard hangs out at the family vineyards with his dog and his Romulan staff. Patrick Stewart brings his usual class to the role here, and I was oddly touched by his “I don’t want the game to end” line in the opening dream sequence.
- Dr Agnes Jurati is a former Starfleet officer now working at the Daystrom Institute. Her role in this episode is mainly exposition, but we know from promotional material that she’ll be an important member of Picard’s crew.
- Dahj and Soji are synthetic life forms, presumed to have been created by fractal neuronic cloning (yay, technobabble). Unfortunately, Dahj appears not to survive the episode, but Soji is seen in the final scene, working at the Romulan Reclamation Site. The site in question is the wreckage of a Borg cube, which of course only raises further questions about the direction the story will take.
- Narek: he only appears briefly at the end of the episode, and we have no idea yet about his background or whether anything he said then was true. Watch this space.
- The Romulan sun going supernova was of course the event that caused Spock and Nero to go back in time and create the Kelvin timeline seen in Star Trek (2009) and its sequels.
- Dahj and Soji appear to be the work of Commander Bruce Maddox, the robotics expert who wanted to disassemble Data in The Measure of A Man.
- The Utopia Planitia shipyards, where Starfleet ships were constructed and overhauled, was destroyed during the synthetic uprising.
- Although not directly referenced, I can’t help wondering if all those abandoned EMH Mark-I’s who got a copy of Photons Be Free in Voyager’s Author, Author, didn’t somehow contribute to the synthetic uprising.
- B4’s body parts are being stored in a drawer at the Daystrom Institute. At the end of Nemesis, it was implied that Data’s memories had been successfully transferred into B4 – here we learn that the transfer didn’t really work properly as B4’s positronic brain wasn’t sophisticated enough.
- Picard mentions Data always wanting a daughter – as we know, he briefly had one in the form of Lal.
- At the end of All Good Things, Picard finally joined the senior crew’s poker game. In his dream with Data, he plays poker (albeit with both string betting and an impossible deck).
- Picard has an archive of items from his life as a Starfleet captain, including the “Captain Picard Day” banner.
Questions and Observations
- Was the Romulan supernova only included to keep continuity with the Kelvin timeline, or will it have deeper significance? It feels like the synthetic uprising storyline could have been enough on its own. Yes, some of Picard’s allies in this series are Romulans, but for all we know so far they could have easily been other species.
- The “fractal neuronic cloning always creates twins” twist feels a lot like the “Rynax always come in pairs” aspect of the sci-fi anime Kurau Phantom Memory. Other than plot convenience, why does it always create twins?
- The Federation, bastion of tolerance and openness, seemed to begrudge helping save the lives of the Romulans. Yes, the Romulans were once enemies, but let’s not forget that the Federation has frequently helped out its adversaries on numerous occasions. Even the Romulans themselves were allies during the Dominion War, plus Spock was doing all that undercover reunification work.
- Apart from the profusion of EMH holograms, the Federation didn’t seem to be doing that much work on creating artificial life forms – and yet somehow in the years between TNG/DS9/Voyager and Picard, there was time to create loads of artificial life forms, and for them to rise up against their biological creators. It’s specifically mentioned that these weren’t Soong-type androids, so what even were they? Self-driving runabouts? Roombas?
- Who knew a Romulan could have an Irish accent?
Summary – Remembrance: Picard and Romulans and synthetics, oh my.