Before I begin, my recommendation is to not read this post. Or any other reactions or reviews of this series for that matter. Go into watching Star Trek Picard with as little preconception about what you’re going to see.
That said, if you’re still here I will attempt to minimize what I see as spoilers as much as possible, but your mileage may vary.
I was privileged to be on hand for the premiere in Hollywood on Monday. It has been a surreal and unusual experience for me, as an avowed spoiler hound, to be on the other side of the glass for once, having gone in spoiler-free and then coming out and catching up with all the fan theories, suppositions, and frankly nonsense being spouted about this show by those that have clearly not see it.
Chief among those are the notion that Picard is somehow unusually political. It’s no more or less political than any other iteration of Roddenberry/Berman era Trek. The second misconception I widely see is that Picard is in a more dystopian Trek future where everything is dark and edgy. Much of this seems to stem from the Children of Mars Short Trek prequel that released recently. Again I’d say that’s by and large wrong. Think of Children of Mars as a moment in time piece set during a tragedy, the kind that befalls both us in the real world and those even in the utopian Federation of Star Trek. A Kirk at Tarsus IV moment, a Wolf 359 moment, or a Dominion War moment. However while the event in that short does inform the Picard narrative, it does not define Jean-Luc Picard or the Federation of this new era, set almost 15 years after Children of Mars.
I think what people will need to realize when watching the series is that Jean-Luc Picard is 94 years old in universe when this show premieres. Even by their future standards, he’s a very old man. He’s been retired over a decade, he’s been out of the world as many single retirees are, cut off from much of the power he used to possess as a Captain and later Admiral in the Federation’s Starfleet. It can be a little jarring to see a lead in a Star Trek show so situated, without that ready powerbase of a ship, space station, and crew to draw from. However, at no time does this not feel like the Jean-Luc Picard who helmed the USS Enterprise D and E. He’s the same man, only starting from a position we’re not used to seeing him in, trying to figure out his place in his post-Starfleet twilight. The spark of the man is still there. Indeed by the end of the first episode he’s been compelled to put aside that hard earned retirement and do what Jean-Luc Picard does best: Hopefully, righteously, and resolutely help those that cannot help themselves, and help the crew he’s always seen as family, even those he didn’t know existed. And in doing so we begin to see him putting together a new crew with much of the same mixture of luck, compassion and bravado we’ve always associated with the character.
Now I’m sure there will be some nitpicks about how the Federation and Starfleet are perceived by some Trekkies, as there is a confrontational overtone to Picard’s interactions with certain aspects of his former employer. That’s also nothing new to Trek, where the admiralty and leaders of the Federation have more than once been hindrances, obstacles, or downright evils in the way of our intrepid crews. I’m also sure some will take issue with the very rare use of expletives in the show, also forgetting that the occasional utterance was heard by heroes past. And I’m sure some will have an issue with the single very mild by modern standards bedroom scene in the show, seemingly forgetting Star Trek Enterprise ever existed. Even in the heyday of Star Trek, the utopian future wasn’t totally utopian and that sometimes is forgotten in hindsight. Even the classic Star Trek‘s utopia had some conflict, bad actors, and other problems.
That future has never looked better. While a modern return to the world of The Next Generation in overall tone and feel, Picard has all of the cinematic flair of Discovery and the more recent JJ-verse movies, almost entirely to its benefit. I for one can’t wait to see where our nonagenarian former Captain goes and where he ends up over the course of the rest of the first season and the already announced second season.
Photos and social media from the Monday, January 13, 2020 premiere:
— Star Trek (@StarTrek) January 14, 2020
Here’s a little bit of magic from last night’s #StarTrekPicard premiere party ✨
— CBS TV Studios (@CBSTVStudios) January 15, 2020