Can You Go Home Again?
Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows drycleans his old Starfleet uniform and beams down to check out Star Trek: Picard, out now on DVD and Blu-Ray…
Star Trek: Picard Season One
Created by: Kirsten Beyer, Michael Chabon, Akiva Goldsman,
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Alison Pill, Isa Briones, Michelle Hurd, Santiago Cabrera
The last time Patrick Stewart played Jean-Luc Picard was way back in 2002 in Star Trek: Nemesis. Since then he has become better known as Professor X in Marvel’s X-Men movies. So the question here is: almost twenty years on, can he satisfactorily return to the role that made his name?
The first episode opens intriguingly: Picard has retired from Starfleet in ignominy and is now living back in France in a house with a vineyard. The opening episode introduces us to a disaster that took place Mars many years earlier where synthetic life forms caused its destruction. We discover this via an interview that the former Starfleet Admiral agrees to take part in and later regrets. This pivotal event led to his downfall. In the same episode, we meet new character Dahj (Isa Briones), who has a mysterious connection to both Picard and his dear friend Commander Data.
So Dahj heads for Picard but she is tracked down by the Romulan secret police, the Tal Shiar, who dispatch her with relative ease. However we discover that Dahj is a twin with her sister Soji lurking somewhere else in the galaxy. So Picard has to gather a new crew to find Soji before the Romulans do. We get an old acquaintance, Rafi (Michelle Hurd) who lives in squalor, who Picard press gangs into helping him in his mission. Rafi also enlists Captain Cristobal Rios (Cabrera), a suave Spanish maverick with his own ship and Dr Agnes Jurati (Pill), a scientist specialising in artificial intelligence, and warrior monk Elnor (Evan Evagora) also join Picard’s motley crew.
Soji has a secret that connects her to Data and her origins are tied to a dark Romulan prophecy, which is why the secret police are so determined to destroy her. Enter enigmatic Romulan Narek (Harry Treadaway), who has been tasked by the Tal Shiar to dispatch her. Soji is working on a giant former Borg cube, the artifact, which is currently being investigated by the Romulans who are attempting to return the Borg on it to their former organic existence. On the cube is also former Star Trek: TNG crew member Hugh, now a Borg.
The idea of a Star Trek TV show has changed beyond recognition since the days of Stewart and Co on The Next Generation, which is fair enough. Discovery tried to find a new way to tap into Trek tales and Picard under its showrunner Pultizer prize winning author Michael Chabon also attempts to make a Star Trek show that works in the 21st century while offering a few nods to its various progenitors.
Unfortunately, Picard suffers under the weight of this ambition. For starters, Stewart, while still a great actor with screen presence, is just too old here and that strains the credibility of the audience. Also, the prophecy that Soji is tied to doesn’t sit comfortably with Star Trek as it feels far more at home in something like a Lovecraft story.
The new characters are a comfortable fit though with roguish ship’s captain Rios offering a decent counterpoint to Picard and scientist Jurati is suitably conflicted. Picard’s old compatriot Rafi works well here too. Soji, played by Briones, has a decent chemistry with the former Starfleet officer. We even get to revisit a number of characters from previous Trek shows. Picard’s former right hand man, Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and his now wife Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) and former Borg Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) make extended cameos here, which does work to tie the new series to the more familiar shows that have come before. However the pay-off feels a little contrived here and structurally the 10 episodes just seem to pack too much into a single season. The best episode here, the one that feels closest to classic Trek, is its fifth one, Stardust City Rag, which manages to capture that spirit of humour and adventure that the show used to do so well.
It does leave things open for the inevitable second season but it will have to be a lot tighter to work as a Star Trek show. The extras here are decent enough with a number of video logs featuring Chabon going behind the scenes on key scenes. Star Trek: Picard is watchable but it lacks cohesion and dramatic thrust.
Star Trek: Picard is out now on Blu Ray and DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment