Review: elegiac Star Trek: Picard brings all the feels in bittersweet finale
Nobody can ship strains with Shakespearean gravitas and comforting emotional resonance like Patrick Stewart, which is why the actor—and his well-known Star Trek character, Jean-Luc Picard—stay so beloved in the franchise. He offers yet one more elegant efficiency in the new CBS All Access sequence, Star Trek: Picard, anchoring the larger-than-life stakes of the broader narrative together with his intensely private portrayal of a grief-stricken, disillusioned retired Starfleet admiral who feels the world he as soon as dominated has handed him by.
(Some spoilers beneath, however no main reveals.)
As Ars’ Kate Cox famous in her overview of the pilot episode, the occasions of 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis “are the plot and emotional scaffolding over which the preliminary episode of Picard is draped”—most notably, Data sacrificing his life to save lots of the remainder of the Enterprise crew. Honestly, that loss drives the complete season, together with 2009’s Star Trek movie reboot of the franchise.
That movie arrange an alternate timeline, attributable to the Romulan star going supernova, in which Picard led a large humanitarian relocation effort for the roughly 900 million Romulan inhabitants. But then rogue synthetics mysteriously revolted and destroyed the Starfleet armada that had been evacuating the Romulans. Against Picard’s passionate pleas, Starfleet reneged on its humanitarian mission and banned all synthetics, prompting a disillusioned and heartbroken Picard to resign.
Set 20 years after the occasions of Star Trek: Nemesis, the sequence opens with Picard having retired to the household winery. His bucolic existence is interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious girl named Dahj (Isa Briones), who pleads for his assist. Alas, Picard fails to save lots of her: she is killed in entrance of him by Romulan assassins belonging to a radical sect often known as the Zhat Vash. Picard discovers that Dahj was really an artificial, technically Data’s “daughter,” and she or he has a twin sister, Soji, who can be in hazard.
Resolved to save lots of Soji, Picard asks Starfleet for a ship, however he is been gone a very long time, and his entreaties are rebuffed. Never one to confess defeat, Picard amasses his personal scrappy crew over the subsequent few episodes for his unauthorized rescue mission: Christobal (Santiago Cabrera), a talented thief and pilot of the ship La Sirena; Raffi (Michelle Hurd), a former Starfleet intelligence officer and recovering addict; Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill); and a Romulan refugee, Elnor (Evan Evagora).
Meanwhile, Soji is working at a Romulan reclamation web site inside a decommissioned Borg dice. She turns into romantically concerned with a Romulan named Narek (Harry Treadaway), who’s secretly a member of the Zhat Vash. His mission is to seduce Soji in an try to find the location of her residence planet, with the final purpose of destroying all the synthetics there.
Showrunner (and longtime Star Trek fan) Michael Chabon is maybe greatest often known as a gifted novelist. So it is not stunning that Picard has the slow-moving, contemplative really feel of a novel, serialized for the small display screen. (There really is an official prequel novel, The Last Best Hope, by Una McCormack, depicting the occasions that drove Picard to resign from Starfleet after the destruction of Romulus. There can be a six-minute “Short Trek” prequel that particulars the Martian assault by synthetics.)
In different phrases, it is a very deliberate departure from previous Star Trek sequence, together with Picard‘s streaming sibling, Star Trek: Discovery. Co-creator Alex Kurtzman has stated his purpose was to create “a more psychological show, a character study about this man in his emeritus years.” That’s what satisfied Patrick Stewart to signal on to reprise his iconic position.
But it is also what some hardcore Star Trek followers, accustomed to fast-moving, extra episodic plots, may discover irritating. It’s a sophisticated narrative construction, with a number of plot threads and several other flashbacks. The tone is darker, and (no less than in earlier episodes) extra world-weary and cynical, in preserving with the psychological journey of its grief-stricken titular character. Starfleet, and the Federation, which as soon as nobly embraced range and unity amongst species in the galaxy, are actually detached to the plight of Romulan refugees and overtly hostile to synthetics. No surprise the idealistic Picard appears so damaged at the outset.
There’s additionally little or no in the method of futuristic technobabble—an indicator of the franchise since TOS, and a significant component in its enduring recognition. Case in level, courtesy of Kate Cox: “They’ll invent a magic deus ex multitool simply to get crises solved and as an alternative go straight to the character reactions.” And a number of followers have additionally famous the putting similarity of Picard‘s premise to Mass Effect 2. Rios’ ship, La Sirena, “even has a really related inside format as the Normandy [the Mass Effect] ship,” per Cox.
There is far to love about Picard. I personally appreciated the way it stays tightly centered on the characters and the ebb and movement of their inter-relationships. There are loads of welcome fan-service moments, together with cameos by Data (Brent Spiner), William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), and his now-wife, Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis). Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine (from Star Trek: Voyager) is an particularly welcome addition to the solid. She’s now a vigilante with a bunch often known as the Fenris Rangers serving to these in want—however not above finishing up a bit of private vengeance ought to the alternative current itself.
By far the greatest new character is Raffi, whose once-flourishing profession was minimize brief when she backed Picard in his standoff with Starfleet over the plight of the Romulan refugees. He finds her, years later, drowning her sorrows in medication and booze. Watching Raffi dig herself out of that gap of despair and begin to rebuild her life gives considered one of the most attention-grabbing character arcs of the sequence. Also: I’m right here for the spinoff sequence the place Raffi and Seven of Nine roam the universe, allotting vigilante justice to assist the helpless. The two actors have terrific chemistry, and the characters are a pure pairing.
For all its strengths, I ended up liking Picard greater than loving it. Picard’s unique mission—to rescue Soji—turns right into a battle to save lots of a complete race, and people enormous stakes simply felt a bit at odds with the present’s character-driven psychological themes of loss and regretful nostalgia for a world passed by. Also, I might have most well-liked this to be a one-and-done standalone miniseries, however CBS All Access renewed Star Trek: Picard for a second ten-episode season earlier than the pilot episode had even aired. So naturally, the finale blinked with regard to the destiny of Picard himself; they want him for S2. Letting Picard have a becoming finish to his legendary life would have been the good denouement for the season.
Star Trek: Picard is at the moment streaming on CBS All Access. The streaming service has made the complete first season out there to non-subscribers in the wake of continued “shelter at home” insurance policies throughout the coronavirus outbreak. So now everybody can binge-watch S1 as we anticipate the curve to flatten—and immersing your self in the present with a binge session might be the greatest approach to watch it.
Listing picture by CBS All Access