by C. Palmer
** 2 Stars
‘Unfortunately, the first episode of Picard proves that this pessimism was justified due to its formulaic plot, uninteresting new characters and general disregard for what Star Trek is to most of its fans.’
Actors: Patrick Stewart, Isa Briones
Director: Hanelle M. Culpepper
Synopsis – 14 years after his retirement from Starfleet, Jean-Luc Picard is living a quiet life on his vineyard. When he is sought out by a mysterious young woman, Dahj, in need of his help, he soon realizes she may have personal connections to his own past.
As a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, hearing about Patrick Stewart reprising his role as Admiral Picard was very exciting. However, with high expectations comes a great deal of fearful scepticism that it could never amount to the standards of the original TV show. Unfortunately, the first episode of Picard proves that this pessimism was justified due to its formulaic plot, uninteresting new characters and general disregard for what Star Trek is to most of its fans.
To give credit where it’s due, the showrunners clearly put effort into the visual department – the slightly retro-futuristic utopia that we are placed in is beautifully presented. Though there are lots of times where the flashy effects became slightly overbearing and cocky, they give a believable look into the technology of the 24th century. Furthermore, the costuming and make-up of characters allows for nostalgia (in the case of the TNG uniforms) and further investment into the world.
However, Star Trek: Picard’s introduction struggled to maintain my interest and focus because of the frankly boring and cliche plot. As we are introduced to Dahj, her character is immediately presented as the ‘chosen one’ archetype (much like Neo in The Matrix), giving the viewer very little incentive to care about her. We get no sense of who she is, making her forgettable. The reason we loved Picard so much is not just because he’s a good captain, but because of his complexity: his role as a leader is limited by his inability to show emotions to his officers, making it all the more satisfying when he does. Whilst it may be too early to say that Dahj is a boring plot device, I find it unlikely that she will be remembered in 10 years time.
I mentioned earlier about the writers’ disregard for what Star Trek is. This comes from more modern Trek works being too action-based, like the J.J. Abrams films or Discovery, compared to the more diplomatic and slow-paced style of TOS and TNG. Even after just 45 minutes of Picard, you can tell that they are trying to adapt the franchise to a wider market by adding excessively long fighting sequences to a show that tries to be a deeper study into the psyche of Jean-Luc. Additionally, the Fox News-esque sequence that shows Picard being interrogated and shamed for saving Romulans at the expense of Starfleet resources has caused anger among fans. Even after years of opposition between the Federation and the Romulans, suspension of disbelief is near impossible when Picard is publicly denounced for keeping an entire species alive. Trek has always had a sense of political commentary but it has never been at the risk of hijacking the show – in this case, it’s hard to argue that it hasn’t. Ultimately, I think this was an adequate first episode that did its job of introducing the narrative but nothing more.
Star Trek: Picard is available on Amazon Prime and was rated 12 by the BBFC.