by Alan Yudman
Imagine your career is not just a career, it is a calling. You have always served a higher purpose. You weigh moral consequences with every decision and those calls can mean life or death for large populations. Now image your moral compass has forced you to give that all up. You step away because the world has changed around you and you are unwilling to change who you are. Former Enterprise Captain Jean-Luc Picard finds himself at that point of his life in the excellent STAR TREK PICARD.
The first episode in the CBS ALL ACCESS and AMAZON series titled REMEMBERANCE, sets the scene for where Picard is in his life. That is retired on his family vineyard. There are hints at how unsettled he may be. That seems to be the theme of the entire episode. Picard and a young woman named Dahj are both at sea in their lives. Picard seems to be enjoying retirement, but the death of Data (killed saving Picard in STAR TREK: NEMESIS) haunts his dreams.
Dahj seems fine. She has a nice apartment in Boston. A boyfriend. An appointment to the Daystrom Institute. That is until three helmeted Romulans break in, kill her boyfriend and try to abduct her. She is “activated” during the struggle and kills them all. The life she knows, or believes she knows, is thrown into chaos.
Picard and Dahj meet. She runs. They meet again, something shocking happens and there are hints about her origin and possible ties to Data and Bruce Maddox (check out MEASURE OF A MAN from Season 2 of THE NEXT GENERATION). Oh, and she might be a twin.
Producers Alex Kurtzman, Akiva Goldsman, Kirsten Beyer and Michael Chabon use the first episode to establish the time and circumstances that will push Picard on this journey. And even these first slow steps feel earned and of a piece with the entire TNG universe. The nods to Picard’s history are all over the place and feel perfectly integrated into the story. Data and Picard play poker in Ten Forward on the Enterprise D. Picard visits the Starfleet Archive and we see nuggets from TNG… items from his Ready Room and the “Captain Picard Day” banner are just two examples. But these are not just fan service, there are real threads pulled that are tied to Picard’s time as Captain of the Enterprise.
The story draws you right in and really feels like Star Trek. What elevates this from “good for fans” to excellent television is Patrick Stewart. Apologies to William Shatner, Kate Mulgrew, Avery Brooks, Scott Bakula and Chris Pine… but Stewart is one of the greatest actors of his generation and the greatest captain in the franchise’s long history. He brings heart and weight to the role. That’s probably why Kurtzman and Goldsman tried to bring him back to Picard several times before he said yes to this project. This would not be as compelling without him.
Where STAR TREK: PICARD goes from here is hinted at in the trailers. Jean-Luc feels Starfleet is no longer the Starfleet he knew and served. That is made painfully obvious in a scene where he is interviewed on the anniversary of the destruction of Romulus and the interviewer ambushes him with questions about why he left Starfleet. He needs answers to his questions about Dahj and the destruction of Mars (sorry… spoiler alert). He abandons his ties to the Federation to find the answers he and the universe need. And I am completely along for this ride.
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