Quick Thoughts on The Pilot for Star Trek: Picard

In the spirit of medium-form blogging, I wanted to share some of my initial reactions to the soaring pilot for Star Trek: Picard.

I thought it was just great, though choppy at times.

Not every rebooted series is going to work, but in the case of Star Trek: Picard, the showrunners’ impetus to revist the series couldn’t have been a better one: Patrick Stewart himself. By wisely forcing themselves to focus on the Next Generation’s lead character, the showrunners solved one of the Trek franchise’s biggest ongoing problems-to-be-solved:

How the hell can you play catch-up after twenty years? The answer is: you don’t, or at least not all at once.

I say “twenty years” because Picard doesn’t merely continue the narrative begun in TNG; with two notable exceptions, it’s the first Trek property to explore the future after the Star Trek: Voyager series finale. That meant the showrunners had twenty years of continuity to conisider, and while they didn’t have to fill in all that continuity at once, they at least had to answer some big questions:

  • What happened to Picard?
  • What became of the Romulan people, displaced after the destruction of their homeworlds as seen in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 movie?
  • What became of literally every other character from the TNG, DS9 and Voyager era of Trek?
  • What’s the state of the Federation in the aftermath of the Dominion War?

I don’t expect the showrunners to answer all of these questions, but I’m glad they (at least) engaged with some of them, and moreover, by keeping the focus narrowly on Picard’s life and story, they’ve structured the show in such a way to (hopefully) avoid narrative sprawl.

And as for Stewart himself, it’s hard to overstate my delight in seeing him as Picard again. I’m reminded of what I think is an apocryphal quote I attribute to Stewart, but of King Lear, he said that a great actor should get two chances to play the role: once when he’s strong enough and once when he’s old enough. Picard may not be his Lear, but goodness if he hasn’t always been an old soul. It’s a pleasure being able to drop in on him again in his elder days.

Moving on:

It’s a hoot ‘n’ a half to see such a venerable old series stood back up with the glossy finish of today’s prestige TV. I’ll admit, a teeny part of me wasn’t sure if TNG could weather the jump from 90s syndication to the latter days of TVs golden era, but it did in fine form.

Seeing Ten-Forward presented with today’s top-tier production values was a welcome jolt, and of course it brought tears to my eyes to see two of the Enterprise’s senior staff picking things up where they left off with a hand of poker. The sky’s the limit, indeed.

A friend of mine praised the show’s visual style, especially on earth, and I couldn’t agree more. As much as I love the TNG/DS9 era of Trek, those shows often lacked the budget for the kind of detailed location (or enhanced) shoots we saw here. For example, I always loved how Sisko’s from New Orleans and that he comes from a long line of culinary geniuses, but the NOLA scenes in DS9 just didn’t capture the magic — or the texture — of that town.

Moving on:

We’d sensed Starfleet’s decay during the Dominion War, and sure enough, it looks like imperial overreach and institutional atrophy left ‘em flatfooted during the greatest humanitarian crisis of their age — the destruction of the Roman homeworlds. It warms my heart that Picard’s reason to abandon his commission was so robustly chaotic good in nature. It’s fully righteous that his last command was as the head of a humanitarian armada. Never change, sir. Your fellow commanders, both real and imagined — from Hornblower to Kirk — would be proud.

I’m also delighted at them unearthing one of the series’ greatest early episodes, “Measure of a Man,” to serve as the story engine for this new season. Props to cruel old Commander Maddox for somehow cracking Singh’s code for synth life — I didn’t know that asshole had it in him!

On the downside, I’d give the pilot some mild demerits for narrative choppiness, but that’s a small price to pay to return to this world. Top marks.

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