Review: elegiac Star Trek: Picard brings all the feels in bittersweet finale

No person 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 within the franchise. He offers yet one more elegant efficiency within the new CBS All Entry collection, 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 evaluation 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, Knowledge sacrificing his life to avoid wasting the remainder of the Enterprise crew. Actually, that loss drives the whole season, together with 2009’s Star Trek movie reboot of the franchise.

That movie arrange an alternate timeline, brought on by the Romulan star going supernova, by which Picard led an enormous humanitarian relocation effort for the roughly 900 million Romulan inhabitants. However then rogue synthetics mysteriously revolted and destroyed the Starfleet armada that had been evacuating the Romulans. In opposition to 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 collection 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 avoid wasting her: she is killed in entrance of him by Romulan assassins belonging to a radical sect often called the Zhat Vash. Picard discovers that Dahj was truly an artificial, technically Knowledge’s “daughter,” and he or she has a twin sister, Soji, who can also be in peril.

Resolved to avoid wasting Soji, Picard asks Starfleet for a ship, however he is been gone a very long time, and his entreaties are rebuffed. By no means 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 Capsule); and a Romulan refugee, Elnor (Evan Evagora).

In the meantime, Soji is working at a Romulan reclamation website 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 placement of her house planet, with the final word aim of destroying all of the synthetics there.

Waxing nostalgic

Showrunner (and longtime Star Trek fan) Michael Chabon is probably finest often called 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 truly is an official prequel novel, The Final Greatest Hope, by Una McCormack, depicting the occasions that drove Picard to resign from Starfleet after the destruction of Romulus. There’s additionally a six-minute “Quick Trek” prequel that particulars the Martian assault by synthetics.)

In different phrases, it is a very deliberate departure from previous Star Trek collection, together with Picard‘s streaming sibling, Star Trek: Discovery. Co-creator Alex Kurtzman has stated his aim was to create “a extra psychological present, a personality research about this man in his emeritus years.” That is what satisfied Patrick Stewart to signal on to reprise his iconic function.

Nevertheless it’s additionally what some hardcore Star Trek followers, accustomed to fast-moving, extra episodic plots, may discover irritating. It is a difficult narrative construction, with a number of plot threads and several other flashbacks. The tone is darker, and (at the least in earlier episodes) extra world-weary and cynical, in step 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 within the galaxy, at the moment are detached to the plight of Romulan refugees and brazenly hostile to synthetics. No surprise the idealistic Picard appears so damaged on the outset.

There’s additionally little or no in the best way of futuristic technobabble—a trademark of the franchise since TOS, and a significant component in its enduring reputation. Living proof, courtesy of Kate Cox: “They will invent a magic deus ex multitool simply to get crises solved and as a substitute go straight to the character reactions.” And several other followers have additionally famous the placing similarity of Picard‘s premise to Mass Impact 2.  Rios’ ship, La Sirena, “even has a really related inside structure because the Normandy [the Mass Impact] ship,” per Cox.

There’s a lot to love about Picard. I personally appreciated the way it stays tightly targeted on the characters and the ebb and stream of their inter-relationships. There are many welcome fan-service moments, together with cameos by Knowledge (Brent Spiner), William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), and his now-wife, Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis). Jeri Ryan’s Seven of 9 (from Star Trek: Voyager) is an particularly welcome addition to the solid. She’s now a vigilante with a bunch often called the Fenris Rangers serving to these in want—however not above finishing up a bit of non-public vengeance ought to the chance current itself.  

By far the most effective new character is Raffi, whose once-flourishing profession was lower quick 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 offers probably the most attention-grabbing character arcs of the collection. Additionally: I’m right here for the spinoff collection the place Raffi and Seven of 9 roam the universe, allotting vigilante justice to assist the helpless. The 2 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 avoid wasting a whole race, and people enormous stakes simply felt just a little at odds with the present’s character-driven psychological themes of loss and regretful nostalgia for a world passed by. Additionally, I might have most well-liked this to be a one-and-done standalone miniseries, however CBS All Entry 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 proper denouement for the season.

Star Trek: Picard is presently streaming on CBS All Entry. The streaming service has made the whole first season accessible to non-subscribers within the wake of continued “shelter at house” insurance policies through the coronavirus outbreak. So now everybody can binge-watch S1 as we watch for the curve to flatten—and immersing your self within the present with a binge session might be the easiest way to look at it.

Itemizing picture by CBS All Entry

About Jennifer Ouellette

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