Star Trek: Picard 1.01 Remembrance
It's been twenty years since we last saw Jean Luc Picard on screen. Star Trek: Nemesis was the final onscreen story in the Next Generation era of Star Trek; the subsequent films would reboot back into the time of Captain Kirk. However, the events of that 2009 film, namely the destruction of Romulus by a supernova, weighs heavily on this new series as we find a retired Admiral Picard living much quieter life in his Vineyard in France with his dog Number One for company.
Patrick Stewart agreed to return on two key conditions; there would be no uniforms and no Enterprise. Indeed, Star Trek: Picard is certainly not a carbon-copy continuation of Star Trek: The Next Generation, despite the clever nostalgia-driven opening dream sequence that see Picard playing cards with Data in Ten Forward on the Enterprise D. It's the dream motifs that really play off fans' love of the Star Trek: The Next Generation; I couldn't help but smile at the sight of Stewart and Brent Spiner in the show's classic red and yellow uniforms.
Reflection on the past is a strong theme running through the opening episode - the appropriately titled Remembrance. We learn, through a rather emotionally-wrought TV interview, that Admiral Picard abandoned the Enterprise E to lead a relief effort to save over 900 million Romulans from the supernova that kick-started Spock and Nero's trip back into the past - and created the alternative Kelvin timeline. A shocking attack that devastated Mars, destroying the lifeboat ships put an end to the relief effort, and with it Picard's resignation from Starfleet (the attack glimpsed briefly in Short Treks episode Children of Mars that sadly has not had a UK broadcast). There's a lot of emotional weight behind Picard as we pick up his life a decade after that shocking event; a sweepingly epic ten year journey beyond Data's death in Star Trek: Nemesis and Stewart conveys it all with passion, dignity and grace.
In fact Stewart is superb in the role, a frailer version of the Picard we once knew but still full of strength and wisdom, commanding every scene. Stewart evidently cares greatly for the role of Picard and doesn't simply retreat into the character's old mannerisms; instead he delivers a more nuanced role than perhaps we have seen from him as Picard, playing into the old man vibes of someone waiting to die while still feeling like the old Starfleet Captain we all know and love.
The rest of the cast are solid, though I suspect there's plenty more to come. Main cast member Alison Pill is full of enthusiasm in her role as Dastrom Institute Doctor Agnes Jurati. She shares one scene with Stewart, as Picard comes searching for answers about the mysterious Dahj, but they play well off each other. Isa Briones also has great chemistry with Stewart as her doomed character Dahj finds herself on the run from mysterious forces bent on killing her and discovering kick-ass abilities she never knew she had. Brent Spiner doesn't look quite as odd as he did in the trailers; playing Data to perfection but largely filling that nostalgic touch old fans are looking for. We get one brief scene with other main cast member Harry Treadaway, who plays a young, suprisingly endearing young Romulan Narek. Orla Brady and Jamie McShane round off the episode's cast as Picard's assistants Laris and Zhaban, who offer a very different side to the Romulans that we have seen before.
As for the various mysteries at play, this is where Remembrance really gets interesting - and a warning as I delve deeper into the plot of the episode...
The legacy of Data is as much prevalent as Picard, from the mystery behind the synthetics' attack on Mars ten year's early and the subsequent galactic ban by the Federation. Even more intriguing is the concept of Data's daughter - it seems Lal was only the first of his offspring and Dahj's connection to Data through Picard is the real hook of the story. Which of course, makes her death at the hands of her Romulan attackers all the more shocking. The reveal of her twin Soji, who is apparently living with relocated Romulans in a hollowed out Borg cube is a bold, fun twist too and I can't wait to see how that connection plays out. With a returning Seven of Nine and Hugh around the corner, just what the Borg (former or otherwise) plays into the fate of the Romulans post apocalyptic supernova is something I can't wait to see explored.
Remembrance has a lot to unpack and it does a sterling job, managing a few surprises and a dash of action amid the emotional drama and exposition-heavy world building. By the episode's end, Picard has 'woken up' and is ready to find Dahj's sister and perhaps learn what the reason was behind the deadly Mars attack a decade earlier. It also sets up what the Federation looks like twenty years on from Star Trek: Nemesis - and indeed the post-Dominion War. I suspect we're a far cry from the utopia of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but then this isn't a direct continuation of that. We're not even in the framework of a classic Star Trek TV series format. The exploration of new worlds, new civilizations is something left for another show as the franchise begins to grow its TV empire once more. Right now, this is Picard's journey and I cannot wait to see where it leads us.