Picard is Star Trek, but it isn’t TNG
If you liked Star Trek: TNG, you’ll probably like Picard, but don’t expect any poetry readings or holodeck adventures.
I have to start by prefacing that I miss the generally laid-back storytelling of TNG. There are plenty of dark science fiction shows out there right now. And I’m generally not a fan of them. Unfortunately it seems to be the only type of science fiction that writers are able to write these days.
That being said, for some reason I didn’t mind the intensity in this show. Maybe it’s because Picard was there, or that he was older than he was in his more lighthearted “youth.” Thankfully the age factor really blocks the authors from making the show “edgy.”
Or maybe it’s because, as other reviewers have commented upon, with Star Trek: Picard, we are finally getting to see the continued evolution of the Star Trek universe, rather than yet another history lesson. Nostalgia is nice, but it gets old.
Honestly, I’m still not 100% sure why I’m so happy with this show, but what I can say is that I want to see more. I want to know what happens next. And I’m still curious about what happens next, that I am actually willing to subscribe to CBS All Access to watch it: an inclination that I never had after watching the first episode if “STD.”
If you haven’t watched the first episode yet, do so. I honestly think that anyone who likes Star Trek, as a whole, will be fairly happy with the first episode. Either way, spoilers are ahead, so too bad if you haven’t watched episode one yet.
A Different Picard
I suppose the first thing to mention is that Picard is not the same person he once was. And he shouldn’t be. It’s been 20 years. While Patrick Stewart seems largely immortal, he has still clearly aged, and so has his character. He’s no longer a battle ready captain who’s fit enough to easily climb from deck to deck when the turbo-lift malfunctions. He’s someone who, after little more than a brief run, is fully out of breath.
At least as important, of course, is that he’s no longer a part of Star Fleet. Picard was someone who always respected Star Fleet and what he believed it stood for. None of this is to say that he hasn’t come face to face with darker elements of the Federation, including battling various conspiracies by parasitic, mind controlling organisms, judges bent on destroying peoples’ lives through witch hunts, attacks on his android’ lieutenant's freedom, and more.
But throughout all of these conflicts, Picard never felt that Star Fleet itself lost its way. He never felt that they turned their backs on the very ideals that he had sworn and worked so hard to uphold. The attack on the rescue fleet, and on Mars, caused Star Fleet to not only turn their backs on a people in need, but also ban synthetics. This ban shows the Federation at its worst, controlled not by reason and compassion, but by fear.
I’m really glad that Brent Spiner decided to return for his guest appearance on the show. I don’t know if the first episode will be his last, but the anti-aging technology did wonders for him. Sure, Data seemed a little chubbier, but all in all, we saw the youthful Data that we saw throughout TNG.
But the reason why I’m glad that he appeared in no way ends with the fact that I loved his character. In many ways, Star Trek: Picard could be called “Star Trek: Data’s Legacy.” Or at least that’s the feeling I get when watching the first episode.
In the very first scene, we see Picard and Data, playing a game of poker. The scene begins in a very playful way, but soon we learn the truth. Picard does not want the game to end, and he does everything he can to stall. In this series, Data takes the role of Picard’s subconscious.
But the connection between Picard and Data in no way ends there. As we learn more about the mysterious Dajh, it comes to light that she is in fact Data’s daughter, at least in a sense. She is not his first. Many years ago, Data tried creating a daughter, who he named Lal. The episode followed her rapid development, as well as the ethical issues of an android choosing to have a child. Sadly, the episode ended with Lal’s death caused by a cascade failure in her positronic net.
How then could this girl have been created? How could she be Data’s daughter? It turns out that Dr. Maddox, a researcher with a close tie to Data, realized that with just a single positronic neuron, the entire positronic net could be reconstructed. Dahj, it would seem, was very much created from Data, and very much his daughter.
While I expect to see plenty of references and connections to other characters and themes, I really cannot see how the story connects to any character more than Data and Picard. And as much as the main character is Picard, in many ways, it is Data that is at the center of the plot, at least so far.
River Tam? Is That You?
Oh look. Fighting. Drama. More Fighting. More Drama. Yeah, we’ve seen it time and time again from modern science fiction writers. Like I said, I’m generally not a fan of dark Trek. But for some reason the fighting scenes and the drama didn’t bother me here. And I think it’s because these scenes reminded me of River Tam from Firefly, another show that I enjoyed quite a bit, that I didn’t mind them.
Additionally, this character, and her untimely death, “activated” Picard. For many years Picard had sat idle, ignoring who he really was. Seeing her die in front of her triggered a realization that he had to return to where he belonged. And knowing that she had a sister, that Data had another daughter, gave him a new mission. And as we know, you don’t mess with Picard when he’s on a mission.
I really hope that the show does well. I hope that it keeps the spirit of Star Trek alive, that it doesn’t try to be edgy like Discovery was. I just want good Star Trek, and so far, I’ve got it. Finally, after all these years, the Star Trek that I grew up watching is back. I’m really looking forward to the rest of this season, and I’m really curious to see how they move forward with season two.
Will the show remain as dramatic and intense as season one seems to be? Will Picard find some peace by the end of the first season? How will Guinan, one of Picard’s greatest mentors, come back? There’s a lot to learn about this new world, and I guess I’ll just have to wait and find out. I just wish I didn’t have to pay the damn subscription fee just to see it!
Disclaimer: I do not own any rights to Star Trek, Picard, and so on. The image used in this article comes from cbs.com and is a screen capture from episode one of Star Trek: Picard. You can watch the first episode on CBS All Access. You get the idea.