TL;DR – An episode that respects the past as well as diving full force into the future.
Disclosure – I paid for the Amazon Prime service that viewed this episode.
Star Trek: Picard Review –
When the first season of Star Trek Picard was announced, I was intrigued by how they would extend the story into the future. What we got was a show full of promise, but also one with a lot of rough edges. With this opening episode, we get a show that has had time to reflect on the past. Improve on what worked and upgrade the things that didn’t.
So to set the scene, it has been two years since we last checked in with the team. Picard (Patrick Stewart) now spends his time working on the château and being Commandant of Starfleet Academy. Elnor (Evan Evagora) has graduated as the first Romulan in Starfleet and is assigned to Raffi’s (Michelle Hurd) ship, the USS Excelsior. Seven (Jeri Ryan) is still fighting for the Fenris Rangers, while Soji (Isa Briones) and Anges (Alison Pill) have been on Diplomatic missions. However, things start to shift under their feet when a portal opens in space shouting for Picard. Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
The Star Gazer is one of those episodes where it is hard to start because there are so much to pull apart, and it is not entirely possible to work out what is real and what is not. But let us start with one of the significant improvements from the first season. When the Inquiry-class appeared in the season finale, it was stunning, and then 50-odd more appeared, and you could feel the collective sigh. There is almost a 180˚ shift, with deep care taken in both the long lingering shots over the USS Stargazer and with the fleet made up with both a Sovereign Class in its first appearance on TV (And no, a corridor wall in Voyager does not count) but also multiple ships that appeared first in Star Trek Online. If nothing else, the moments of wow throughout this episode made it a joy to watch.
Then there are the links to both the past and the future. You can see how the actions of the past impact people’s future. Picard’s inability to commit to Laris (Orla Brady) is impacted on some of the damage from the past, which is elevated when you realise that Picard has never had a long-term relationship. You also see this in how Seven acts when the Borg are incoming, shoot first and ask questions later. We also get links to past with Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) and Q (John de Lancie) making an appearance, though unfortunately not in the same scene. It feels fitting that when Picard was feeling a loss, he would go to Guinan and respond to Q with a less than pleasant tone.
One of my concerns this season is that it would be leaning on nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake. But what we got in this episode was links to the past and a set-up for the future. Nearly everyone comes to where the Borg emerges, and all their roads lead to the point where they would kill a ship rather than listen to what the Borg had to say. It also took the time to give Picard’s childhood an exploration that quietly explained why Jean-Luc speaks with a British accent and paints a very not good picture of his life. This is also an episode that leans into the notion of legacy, with the fact that Jean-Luc is the last of the Picards.
From a production standpoint, I am usually not a fan of in medias res starts in shows, but Picard makes it work. Part of that is helped because we knew Q was going to come, so the inevitable fake-out at the ending didn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth. As well as this, the opening was full of frantic energy that helped set the motion of the episode. A good combination of real locations, sets, and digital extensions makes everything flow. I also liked all the work showing what a future vineyard would look like.
In the end, do we recommend The Star Gazer? Yes, yes, we do. This might be one of the strongest opening episodes I have seen in a while, that does everything from catching us all up to where people are while also projecting the series forward at warp speed. One of those episodes where I can’t wait to see where they go next.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Star Trek: Picard
Directed by – Doug Aarniokoski
Written by – Akiva Goldsman & Terry Matalas
Created by – Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, Kirsten Beyer & Alex Kurtzman
Based on – Star Trek: The Next Generation created by Gene Roddenberry
Production/Distribution Companies – CBS Studios & Amazon Prime
Starring – Patrick Stewart, Alison Pill, Jeri Ryan, Michelle Hurd, Evan Evagora, Orla Brady, Isa Briones & Santiago Cabrera with Whoopi Goldberg, John de Lancie, Madeline Wise, Menik Gooneratne, April Grace, Rich Ceraulo Ko, Alex Diehl & Dylan Von Halle