“Star Trek: Picard” has arrived, and as a life-long “Star Trek” fan, I should be ecstatic with not one but two new “Star Trek” series to watch on CBS All Access.
Well, not exactly. But I do keep paying money to stream them. So, that says something right there.
I’m also not so annoyed that the producers keep messing with the original formula for “Star Trek.” I respect the need for “Star Trek” to evolve.
That said, since “Star Trek: Discovery” premiered, I think it’s also become clear to the producers when they have strayed too far from the source material. I feel the second “Star Trek: Discovery” season was more enjoyable than the first due to the ongoing presence of Captain Pike, played so well by Anson Mount. It was the perfect way to connect that series back to familiar territory.
The Picard Maneuver
The producers have clearly used the same tactic in creating their newest “Star Trek” series. What better way to anchor this one than center it around Jean-Luc Picard, played by the great Patrick Stewart?
The story follows Captain Picard fourteen years later, after his retirement from Starfleet under complicated circumstances. He’s down… but not out.
Of course, there’s an important reason why he feels compelled to leave his family’s vineyard and come out of retirement, and the Romulans seem to be at the center of the problem. There’s also a Borg cube. (Enough said.)
For me, the fact that the writers have picked up from the plots of 2002’s “Star Trek: Nemesis” and J.J. Abrams’ 2009 “Star Trek” is compelling, but I’m not sure if other more casual “Trek” viewers will find that same narrative pull.
Not “The Next Generation”
If there’s any doubt, you should know that “Picard” is absolutely not Season 8 of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” There’s an entirely different cast of characters in this series, although some legacy characters do show up from time to time.
(Data is in the first episode. Don’t worry about how. It’s explained.)
My favorite new character is Laris, played by Orla Brady, a Romulan former intelligence operative and current employee at Picard’s vineyard. In these early episodes, she’s essentially serving as Picard’s Number One. (His dog holds the official name.)
Even though the writers seem hell-bent on continuing to use four-letter words in their scripts including the f-bomb, Brady is the first Star Trek actor to actually pull it off with a sense of style.
Taking Time to Get to Warp Speed
So far, the producers of “Picard” have performed a successful narrative balancing act by giving Trekies what they want with plenty of Easter eggs, while not making the whole experience feel like you’re a nerd attending a “Star Trek” convention.
After watching the first two episodes, I do need to admit that the series is taking some time to set itself up. It’s not exactly slow, but I’d prefer that the plot move more quickly beyond what I already know from watching the promos for the series.
But in case there’s any doubt, I’m in. I do plan to watch the rest of the season. In fact, I’m already more invested in “Picard” than in the upcoming “Star Trek: Discovery” season 3, which is seemingly rebooting itself… again.
An Inclusive Viewing Universe?
With the current movie series sputtering to a halt, the future of “Star Trek” is currently in the hands of “Picard” and “Discovery.”
I do continue to wonder about the audience that CBS is trying to attract. Sure, there are still old-time Trekies out there who will pay CBS All Access to watch, but what about the next generation of viewers?
Sure, bringing Jean-Luc Picard back is a huge hook for “Star Trek: TNG” fans, but there’s been an eighteen-year gap here. That’s an eternity to recapture a viewer’s attention.
I think it’s also fair to say that “Star Trek” hasn’t maintained the same cultural gravity as the “Star Wars” universe.
Plus, kids can’t join this party due to the bad language that’s sprinkled into the scripts.
So, that might leave a relatively narrow segment of the viewing population who will rush to sign up for “Star Trek: Picard.”
We’re Just Getting Started
Still, for those who are already predisposed, I’m here to report that “Picard” is certainly ‘engaging’ enough to spend time with. (You thought I wouldn’t get to that pun?)
With the exception of the original 1966-1969 series, new “Star Trek” shows have often had uneven early episodes, including “The Next Generation.”
And when viewing “Picard” though that lens, I’m actually quite excited to see what comes next…
Let’s make it so!