Star Trek has been a constant in science fiction since Gene Roddenberry brought it into homes in the 1960s. For many, the many various series were their gateway into the genre. That continues with Star Trek: Picard, which picks up after Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) and continues the story of one of the franchise’s most beloved Captains. The CBS All Access original is airing weekly on the streaming platform and while some, like myself, have been skeptical of returning to an old story, episode one exceeds all expectations.
In its first episode, “Remembrance,” we reconnect with retired admiral Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), who is still deeply affected by the loss of Lieutenant Commander Data and the destruction of Romulus, as he steps into the next chapter of his life. But he is suddenly faced with the choice to leave his winery, Chateau Picard, and his history books to answer the call of justice one more time. Star Trek: Picard hits the ground running, plunging the viewer into Picard’s trauma and the tragedy of losing his dearest friend, caused by rogue synthetics. In response the Federation bans all synthetics and leaves Picard with a choice, stand by what the Federation has become or leave it behind.
There is something beautiful about Star Trek: Picard. It’s old, it’s new, and it finds a balance between telling a story in which existing fans of the series know and welcoming newer fans who may have come into the franchise during the J.J. Abrams years. This is done through two key parts: Picard’s emotional call to justice and the fast-paced fight choreography.
For the former, Picard is haunted by his grief. By choosing to open with his past, it’s clear that he is holding onto it, telling Data in the episode’s opening sequence “I don’t want the game to end.” And yet, throughout the rest of the episode, Picard pushes the past away, trying his hardest to hide from a ghost that won’t stop coming. Star Trek: Picard captures the admiral’s heart. A man moved to do good in the world, yet wounded by the world’s response. To him, a choice to save Romulans, the sworn enemy of the Federation was a duty. To him, they weren’t Romulan lives, they were just lives.
The call to justice is something that made Picard my captain, the one that I looked to as an inspiration. Stalwart, empathetic, and a reluctant hero, Jean-Luc Picard is a man who carries a quiet pain of every choice that has ended in death. As he explains in the episode, he knows the cost of war, death, and those left behind. Episode one uses this to get at the heart of what makes him a good leader, understanding the power he wields and the harm or good it can cause. When the time comes for him to leave his new home and to embrace the call he does, reluctant at first, he puts morality above what he sees as his wounded dignity. This is how Star Trek: Picard beautifully writes a character who has aged, who has been through trauma, and who is still dealing with his grief and yet not letting it keep him from his duty.
To balance a slow and emotional story for Picard, we see a young woman, Dahj (Isa Briones), chased by deadly agents. When she is on screen, she also carries emotional weight as her story unravels. That said, she shines in the physicality of the role. The action sequences are quickly-paced without relying on heavy editing; something most sequences featuring women sorely fails at. Instead of cutting right at points of impact, the fight choreography is seamless both when fighting one on one and two on one. This type of action is closely reminiscent of that featured in the Abrams films, fit for 2020, and yet they don’t detract from the slower story base which mirrors the pacing of traditional TNG episodes.
Picard is an orator and not a fighter in the way that we expect. Unlike Captain Kirk in his Star Trek series, Picard is methodical, exhausting all options before physical altercation. With Dahj, and the upcoming character hinted at in this episode, Star Trek: Picard easily pulls in an audience more accustomed to stylized action. It’s because of this that the series can stand on its own.
While Star Trek: Picard is packed to the brim with world-building, mentions, name-drops, and styling, prior knowledge isn’t necessary. By striking a balance between emotive story and erratic action, this series serves an entry point into one of the greatest leaders from Star Trek canon. There are things for the new fans, things for existing fans, and I couldn’t have asked for a more faithful and epic return for Admiral Jean-Luc Picard.
Star Trek: Picard airs weekly on Thursday exclusively on CBS All Access.
Star Trek: Picard, Episode 1 - Remembrance
WhileÂ Star Trek: Picard is packed to the brim with world-building, mentions, name-drops, and styling, prior knowledge isn’t necessary. By striking a balance between emotive story and erratic action, this series serves an entry point into one of the greatest leaders from Star TrekÂ canon.