Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access)
Season 1, Episode 1 – “Remembrance”
Written by Akiva Goldsman & Michael Chabon & Alex Kurtzman and James Duff
Directed by Hanelle Culpepper
Fifteen years prior, in 2387, a disaster occurred. A star in the Romulan Empire went supernova wiping out Romulus and leaving billions stranded as refugees. During the aftermath of this event, Captain Jean-Luc Picard abandoned his post on the Enterprise to aid in the crisis. Since then, he has become a hero to a large faction of displaced Romulans but has cut ties with Starfleet. He growls at one point that Starfleet, as it exists now, is not the organization he once committed himself to. You could see this path unfold on The Next Generation as Picard would frequently move to follow his principles over the commands of his superiors.
Now he is stranded on Earth, tending to the Picard vineyard his deceased older brother once ran. He’s attended by two intensely loyal Romulans. Picard dreams of the old Enterprise-D and his fallen comrade Commander Data. These dreams are cryptic and point towards a higher purpose, with Data hinting that Picard’s time has not passed, and he has a role to play in important events. Picard is haunted by the move by the Federation to ban synthetics/androids after an armada of them went rogue and massacred the Martian colonies. The last remnant of Data, his brother B4 is disassembled, and his parts are locked away at the Daystrom Institute.
Everything changes when a young woman named Dahj comes into Picard’s life. She has seen him in her mind’s eye after a failed attack on her by masked assailants. The retired captain does some poking around and realizes who Dahj is and how she is connected to him. But how she came to be and why she is pursued by heavily armed assassins is unclear. What Picard does know is that answers lie off Earth, and he is the only person in the Federation who can uncover the truth.
I am so thrilled I did a watch through of the Best of The Next Generation and the films last year. Having those stories fresh in my mind did a lot to help contextualize and heighten the experience of watching this excellent first episode. I was most curious to know how things had changed in the Federation since the snippet we got in the Abrams’ reboot about Romulus’s destruction. I knew that an event like that was bound to have significant repercussions and was glad that it massively affected Picard’s life. There was an evident bond between Picard and the Romulan people, particularly those seeking peace with the Federation. While Picard has come to feel rejected by Starfleet, he is now welcomed as a comrade by Romulans.
Grounding the captain and setting this opening episode on Earth also helped with worldbuilding the future. Most Trek series are in deep space, so we only get glimpses of what life is like back on our homeworld. It was neat to see the French countryside, downtown Boston, and San Francisco in this distant future. The media interview with Picard added some interesting bits in how these sorts of pieces are conducted. The hint that holographic AI is used as a replacement for synthetics has me interested. I suspect the show will develop more of that Martian attack narrative as the cause is still unknown, well at least Starfleet claims it is.
Every time Patrick Stewart is on screen, I was utterly captivated. He is such a brilliant actor, and I am entirely in the camp of pro-Picard over Kirk. Picard is so beautifully complex, highly principled, and developing as a social being. I suspect Stewart brought some of his own personal emotional growth to the captain as he was physically abused as a child by his alcoholic father. That sort of treatment can often lead to withdrawals socially. When you go back to those early days of The Next Generation and see his visible discomfort with pressing the meat versus the more human warmth he exudes in his retirement, it feels like you’ve been watching a real person this whole time. I would argue that Picard will go down as one of the greatest characters in media of all-time.
However, when the show isn’t focusing on Picard, it starts to show some flaws. This is definitely not as cerebral as The Next Generation could be in its best moments, and you can see the influences of some of the producers. I am most worried about the effect Akiva Goldsman and Alex Kurtzmann will have on Picard longterm. Goldsman is the screenwriter behind the Schumacher Batman flicks, I Robot, I Am Legend, the Dan Brown films, and many more. Most films he’s written I absolutely revile, they are dumbed down, lacking any cleverness or subtlety. Alex Kurtzmann is an arguably worse person to have onboard having co-written many Transformers movies, the first two Abrams Star Trek films, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and many more duds. He did write Mission Impossible III, which still stands up, but that was fourteen years ago. Kurtzmann’s recent output is not good.
My only hope going forward in this series is Patrick Stewart wanting to do justice to Picard and the series showrunner Michael Chabon. Chabon is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who also wrote the story for Spider-Man 2, arguably the best superhero film ever made. He is the one shining beacon of hope that the series will maintain its course and deliver something thoughtful and intelligent. I have to believe that between these two creators, they understand that the character of Picard doesn’t mesh with shooty explosion oriented stories; instead, he should solve problems with his intelligence and only resort to force as a final means. I am looking forward to following Picard in this new chapter of his life and exploring the galaxy with him once again.