Okay, hold your horses – this is Star Trek but we’re not in space… yet. Episode 1 of the Amazon Prime series starts with Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Sir Patrick Stewart) playing chess with Commander Data (Brent Spiner), which takes us back to 2002 movie Star Trek: Nemesis (Trekkie fans will love the flashbacks that incorporate the show’s TV and movie history).
The events of Nemesis have followed through into this series, which is set 18 years after that fateful mission into space. And that’s where Star Trek: Picard picks up, with Jean-Luc waking from his dream to a world where he has found peace and a life on terra firma. The captain of the USS starship Enterprise is retired, living out his days at his French chateau with his dog One. (Remember that name because it’s going to have significance later in the episode.)
The best thing about Star Trek: Picard is that you can fall straight back into the world of Starfleet and feel at home, or you can discover Picard and his Star Trek world for the first time and be at ease.
For the first time ever, Jean-Luc has agreed to a televised interview about not only his career, but also the changes that have taken place since his retirement. Before starting the new series, Patrick told variety.com that he felt somewhat the same as his character: reluctant.
“This is just stupid, doing something like this. It’s so insane. I could have found other things to do that were not so enormous as this. But I chose it. Sixteen years have passed, and the world is a different place from when I last did it. F**k, it’s different.”
“The same truths apply about discovering what’s best about humanity.” – Alison Pill, who plays Dr Agnes Jurati
The show is revisiting the synthetic human project as its core arc for the first season. It’s something etched in Star Trek lore and is – perhaps worryingly – something the modern world is edging closer to.
Data was a sentient android, Picard’s right-hand man and a walking, talking encyclopaedia until his destruction in Nemesis. But before dying, Data was also the test bed for development of artificial intelligence that is self-aware and sapient.
Did you know?
Patrick Stewart specifically wanted Picard’s dog One to be played by a pitbull to symbolise that Picard, One and mankind are being rehabilitated.
His spare parts are kept at a research facility, safely locked in the Daystrom Institute’s lab where Dr Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) is still developing AI within the restrictions placed upon the industry following a not-so-little accident where synthetics got out of control and tried to kill everything in space.
Alison reveals that her character is going through the same process she did when she was cast, telling decider.com that the new series is “a much more novelistic approach. It’s a longer narrative structure. The same truths apply about discovering what’s best about humanity, whether through humans themselves or through other races, creatures, aliens, whatever they may be.”
The more Captain Picard asks questions, the more worried he becomes after meeting a young woman named Dahj (Isa Briones). She is linked to Data and there’s a reason she has found Picard after all this time.
Is it the real deal?
It looks as glorious as a big-screen movie with all the flashy lights, doodads and spaceships.
Now to the actual nitty gritty: will Star Trek fans love it? Like everything else, there are those who will and those who won’t. It’s human nature, especially when you’re so invested in a TV show or film. Someone will hate the twist at the end. Someone will love the intro sequence music. And there will be people who disagree with both.
What is undeniable is that Sir Patrick is a stabilising factor. He is central to the show (duh), but his voice rings out through the darkness of space. He calms his co-stars with that understanding-yet-powerful decisive tone. He is a foundation that gives them space to find their footing while telling this story.
Of course no expense has been spared with the sets and CGI. It looks as glorious as a big-screen movie with all the flashy lights, doodads and spaceships. The alien make-up is so realistic you’d swear they hired little green men to play the roles rather than cover human actors with latex casts.
The best thing about Star Trek: Picard, though, is that you can fall straight back into the world of Starfleet and feel at home, or you can discover Picard and his Star Trek world for the first time and be at ease. And the fact that 99% of episode 1 is set on Earth gives you some loamy, rich, fertile soil between your toes to start this mission into space.