*Minor Episode 1 Spoilers Ahead*
On the evening of January 15th, we headed off to Leicester Square for the European Premiere of Amazon Prime Video’s Star Trek: Picard, the highly anticipated new series which sees the return of everyone’s favourite captain, Jean-Luc Picard, played by the legendary Sir Patrick Stewart. To say we were excited is a clichéd understatement, somehow it’s been 18 years since we last saw him and whilst – of course – older, he’s still my Captain or, as he is now, Admiral Picard.
First things and in that order, it’s immediately clear this isn’t your usual Star Trek series from the off and, intriguingly, this is also the first-time the name of a character is part of the title. The writing team and creators have flipped the genre for a new generation, with an even more expansive, mysterious ethos and if this first episode is anything to go by, in terms of judging of what happens next, then we’re in for something sensational.
As a little oversight, one of the things Stewart has spoken about in the build-up to the release of Picard is how he felt he never really ‘needed’ to return to Picard because he believed the character had run to its final resting place and (in a Star Trek sense), he couldn’t see where Picard could go beyond where he already had. However, as discussed during the Q&A on the night, the new writing team of Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, Kirsten Beyer and Alex Kurtzman eventually sold it to him and not just because it’s impeccably written but also because his vision of a future Picard and theirs connected.
The truth is, this isn’t the same world as it used to be in The Next Generation-era, much has changed in reflection to both the world that existed then (fictionally and literally I’d say), plus the deep, painful memories for Picard in the actions he had to take. He’s also questioning the role of the Federation itself, alongside those decisions made along the way. Stewart also thought about his iconic character and what had to happen next, saying:
“In a sense I feel like I’ve been preparing to shoot Star Trek: Picard for the last 30 years. He has a quality about him unlike any acting experience I’ve ever had. The last thing I wanted or needed was to return…Two days later 35 pages turned up [of the new script] and I was [sighs] hooked…They were talking about a vision of Star Trek I had never imagined before.”
And here’s the fun part, what an outstanding vision and realisation Star Trek: Picard is. This isn’t just waxing lyrical for the hell of it, not only is the cinematography breath-taking (see it on the biggest screen you have) but the character development and story, even from the first episode, has genuine depth and intrigue. They manage to introduce new characters, backstories and huge surprises in such a short space of time but it’s worth every moment and, woah, it features some outstanding cinematic sequences.
Of course, Patrick Stewart is key to everything. As well as being a massive coop, he’s a vital element and this isn’t just because of his history with the franchise but also because he’s emotive actor who brings you into the story. Starting off with an opening sequence of Picard and Data (Brent Spiner) playing Poker in the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D, we’re witness to a wonderful discussion between the pair but, of course, something doesn’t feel quite right about it all. While Picard proclaims to Data that he’s learnt about his ‘tell’ (i.e. Data trying to bluff), Picard explains that he’s also stalling because he ‘doesn’t want the game to end’ and also in that moment, he realises they’re closer to Mars than he expected but it starts to self-destruct…then we cut to him waking from a dream/nightmare of sorts.
This scene plays on Picard’s deep guilt over losing Data and a reminder of the sacrifice the latter made for everyone at the end of Star Trek: Nemesis. The opening episode has an undoubted underlying story of his conscience and the impact its had on his mental health as he grows older. He has reoccurring visions of things that couldn’t have happened yet but, do they mean something else? Are they lingering memories or clues to what’s about to happen? It’s smartly achieved and will involved new cast members and Data. In an odd sense, Picard’s place in the world reminded me of Logan and that unique moment in Professor X’s world alongside Wolverine’s but this, of course, is very much its own universe and Picard, particularly, has a huge history with all those choices he made along the way, many he may still regret.
We’re also witness to Picard’s future, he’s a different man but has Chateau Picard with Romulan’s to help him and look after him, his dog is called No. 1 (of course) and you feel that with each scene, that there’s another level to the story that we haven’t quite delved into yet, including a genuine OH MY GOD finale scene. If you’re reading this, I just can’t spoil it, I really can’t. There’s also the question of ‘where’ we are in terms of the time-frame of Trek because with everything we’re given, it’s pretty clear we’re post J.J. Abrams Star Trek (2009), after the destruction of Romulus, so we know we’re in the 24th century but it also seemed like we’re in The Next Gen world and the reboot – I’m hopeful this will even out in due course over the alternative Kelvin/Prime timeline/universe(s).
Episode 1 also gives us the introduction of Isa Briones character Dahj which, in itself an intriguing rabbit hole of discovery. Her opening scene is both sweet and then quite sublime, with kick-ass fight sequences and the unknown lurking around every corner. Whilst some people like their stories explained out-loud, I’ve always been a fan of a gradual, unravelling mystery and I promise you, Isa has some massive moments in this opener and definitely another role to play, the full extent of which we don’t know – yet.
Overall, this is one of the finest opening episodes of Star Trek I’ve seen and it does not disappoint. The sheer scale, depth and expansive nature of the entire setup is actually a little bit awe-inspiring and you can see why Stewart was enticed back. We also got to see a little series ‘teaser’ with more of the upcoming roles for Santiago Cabrera, Alison Pill, Michelle Hurd, Harry Treadaway (who I nearly hit with the toilet door – sorry Harry), Evan Evagora and Jonathan Del Arco plus there’s the return of Jonathan Frakes and Seven of Nine herself – Jeri Ryan, who commented during the Q&A:
“I thought I had said goodbye to her 20 years ago. It never occurred to me that it would happen, and I’m thrilled that it did”
Obviously, there was the sheer excitement of being at the European Premiere but I’ve always believed that if something can exceed expectation, then it’s got to be pretty special. While this may obviously bring in the Star Trek fans to begin with, I honestly think that even if you’re a newcomer, there’s something unique about Picard and you could head towards this massive world and enjoy it – I just can’t wait for everyone to see it!