Warning: this post may contain spoilers for Star Trek: Picard, as well as minor spoilers of other aspects of the Star Trek franchise.
I know, I know. I only do one review a week, and Tuesdays are reserved for other thoughts and writings and musings, so that you don’t get bored of reading my reviews. Reviews are supposed to come out on Thursdays. Well, don’t worry: you’ll have your book review on Thursday. I think I deserve a pass, though, since this isn’t a book review. Now, I don’t review a lot of shows or movies, mostly because I don’t watch a lot of shows and movies, but also because this is supposed to be a writing website, not a video production website, and therefore book reviews seem more appropriate. Shows and movies are still story-telling, though, and exceptions can be made.
In this case, I fully admit that I’m making an exception because I’m a bit of a Trekkie, and when I heard that they were doing a series that would bring Picard back, I knew that I was going to watch it. It almost didn’t matter what it was about, if it had Picard in it. I mean, I basically chose my career because I wanted to have Picard’s job, and I must say I’ve gotten closer than I ever thought I would. But enough rambling: let’s get to the review.
Star Trek has a certain feel to it, an optimism that you don’t see in much else, especially in science fiction. It’s at its core a story about a future humanity where we have solved most of our internal problems, and are able to turn out attentions outwards to the stars. The idea of a Federation of Planets, with different sentient species all united in the idea of mutually beneficial exchange, scientific development, and peaceful exploration of space, is an extremely attractive one. There is perhaps no character in the whole franchise that as totally captures this ideal as Captain Picard (sorry, Kirk), and The Next Generation is arguably what really made good on the promises made in The Original Series. Deep Space 9, Voyager, and Enterprise all had their struggles and flaws, but they did fundamentally seem to capture that optimistic view of the future. Then the reboot movies happened, and I would really prefer if the Kelvin timeline simply didn’t exist. They’re not bad movies, they’re just not good Star Trek.
So I was hopeful when Star Trek: Discovery came out, set in the prime timeline, and was disappointed. Coming off of that, I had some concerns about Star Trek: Picard, and what it would look like. My hope, though, was that Patrick Steward had always said that he wouldn’t reprise the role of Picard unless he thought that justice would be done to the character and what the character represents to so many people. When I watched the first episode, I was encouraged. It had a different look, certainly, but it was set in the future, not the past, so that was easier to digest. And Picard was Picard.
That, I think, is the strongest thing the series has going for it. There are some forced cameos for Next Generation crew members, and the plot is not entirely plausible, and I’m not entirely comfortable with the direction they took the world of Star Trek, but the direction they took Picard, I think, is spot on. He’s still idealistic, he still believes in the Federation’s ideals, and he still stands up for what he thinks is right. He’s still more likely to give a speech than pick of a phaser, although the same cannot be said for all of the characters around him. This very much had the feel of a story that was relying on Picard to carry it through, without a lot of development in the other characters. The second most interesting character is killed almost as soon as we meet her, her “sister” is not nearly as fascinating, and the brooding, existentialist pilot, who could have been a really unique character, is just sort of along for the ride. Plus, Picard’s two Romulan companions at home are left at home. They did try to make some of the other characters have arcs, but we never get know Dr. Jurati, Elnor, or Raffi well enough for them to be impactful.
There is definitely a darker edge to this show than to most iterations of Star Trek. It’s quite graphic in parts, which seemed more unnecessary than the cursing, which while also not so much a part of traditional Star Trek, made a certain amount of sense within the context of the series.
To take all of that, and boil it down to a few words, I would say that the title says it all. This is a show you watch to see Picard being Picard, and everything that entails. Little else about it is truly compelling, but for me that’s enough to make it worth watching.