Since the first episode of “Star Trek” aired on NBC in 1966, the tales of the United Federation of Planets, Starfleet and the numerous Starships Enterprise have captivated Trekkies like me with its strong social commentary, clever writing and endearing characters. Over the decades, the franchise has grown to incredible heights, with its social commentary getting better and better with each incarnation.
Whether it be the Cold War metaphor of the Federation and the Klingons in the Original Series, the dangers of cults through the Borg Collective and the rights of individuals who aren’t recognized as such through Lieutenant Commander Data in “The Next Generation,” the often-gray matter between religion and science in “Deep Space Nine” or the theme of cooperation and seeing past differences in “Voyager,” Star Trek has often tried and succeeded to push its boundaries, making each story compelling for Trek fans for half a century.
After the airing of “Star Trek: Discovery” on CBS All Access, however, it was going to take a lot more to bring the Trek fans back into the franchise. It would take a miracle. It would take a Captain. Or, more specifically, one Captain.
Enter Sir Patrick Stewart (now of “X-Men” fame) and Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation Starship Enterprise. After the events of the “Star Trek: Nemesis” film in 2001, many questions remained, with the future of the Federation hanging in the balance. Fans thought the answers to those questions would be presented in a future series. Of course, we ended up with disappointment known as “Star Trek: Enterprise,” which was a prequel to every television incarnation.
After two decades, no Trekkie ever thought we would get those answers, and even if we did, they would be more unsatisfying than any of the Abrams films or even “Star Trek: Discovery.” Can you say, “Trekkies are wrong?” Because I sure will.
“Star Trek: Picard,” currently airing on CBS All-Access, is not only a fantastic continuation of “The Next Generation,” but also, on its own, an amazing series with Easter eggs and nod to hardcore Trekkies. This is the first show since “Voyager” to go forward in the timeline (and keep in mind that series finale aired in 2001). It’s also a great way to introduce new fans into the fold, completely changing the dynamic of the characters in a way that is believable.
In its first three episodes, we already have established what happened to Jean-Luc Picard, who has been fired from Starfleet at the rank of Admiral and, still mourning the loss of Data during the events of “Nemesis,” now tends his vineyard in France.
However, in lieu of Starfleet being the ideal in humanity and the good guys, “Picard” successfully flips the script into making Starfleet the villain of the story, banning all synthetic life from being created after an attack on Mars’ Utopia Planitia spaceyard. If you replace synthetic life with Muslims and Utopia Planitia with a certain famous landmark that fell in 2001, you can see where this is going.
Picard, of course, fights for the lives of both Romulans, the Federation’s long-time enemy, and the re-creation of synthetic life due to his experiences with Data, but Starfleet is too afraid. This would be fine; however, a visit from a woman (who is later identified as the “daughter” of Data) ends in her murder by a secret Romulan force, later revealed to be working within Starfleet. So now, Picard is in a race against the clock to find the daughter’s twin, in an attempt to save her life, and, along with it, Data’s.
The first three episodes perfectly set up this new world and give you an idea that the Star Trek universe you once knew is now completely out the window, setting up new paradigms and keeping you on the edge of your seat. Each character, even the established ones, have new dimensions and unexpected development. The beautiful thing about the characters is that all of them are inherently flawed, and while they are able to function amazingly on their own, it requires them coming together to create results — the ultimate dynamic that made shows like “Next Generation” interesting to watch. The beautiful thing is being introduced to both the old and new characters, even if you’re a hardcore fan of the “Star Trek” series.
Jean-Luc Picard and Seven of Nine, played expertly by Jeri Ryan, seem to have made the greatest developments, both for the better. It’s not often that you see Jean-Luc Picard embrace children or even show displays of emotion, and, with Seven of Nine (who was formerly a member of the main cast of “Voyager” in its final three seasons) it is normally not expected for her to be so… human.
Plus, the phenomenal cast includes the likes of Sir Patrick Stewart, Allison Pill, Harry Treadway, Isa Briones and Michelle Hurd. The chemistry of the characters shows on the screen, and with confirmed upcoming appearances from the likes of Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis and Jeri Ryan, it’s safe to say that they are boldly going where no “Star Trek” series has gone before: at warp factor 10 toward an exciting conclusion for the first season.
So, keep this in mind for the next time someone asks you the question, “Kirk or Picard?” The answer should now be pretty clear cut.