Star Trek: Picard 1.03 The End is the Beginning
I'm sure I wasn't the only one grinning from ear to ear as Picard delivered that immortal line and his newly assembled crew finally left Earth for their mission into deep space. It's been a long time coming, The End is the Beginning wrapping up what has essentially felt like a three-part pilot episode for Star Trek: Picard. With all the groundwork laid out, the mysteries in place and the final members of the crew introduced, the show is finally heading to the stars.
That wasn't to say there wasn't plenty to enjoy this week before that final scene. Once again, the mysteries of the Shat Vash - the secret Romulan group working with Starfleet Intelligence - continued to deepen. There was even a dash of superb action in the attack on Picard's home, which saw former Tal Shiar agents Zhaban and Laris get to kick ass. Even the lovely Doctor Agnes Jurati finding herself caught up in the attempt on Picard's life, while finding herself visited by the intimidating Commodore Oh, who might herself have ordered the attack on Admiral Picard himself.
There's a real sense of danger at every step and those who prefer their Starfleet pure and squeaky clean might balk at the idea of a Starfleet that would turn its back on millions and then become complicit in the murder of one of its most decorated officers. But this show is certainly not your standard Star Trek series; the slower pace and darker tone might put off some, but for many, there is a lot to enjoy with each episode. Richer characters, challenging ideas and characters like Picard who is on the wrong side of Starfleet. Both newly introduced Raffi Musiker and Cristobal 'Chris' Rios, are former Starfleet officers who find themselves living of the edges of the known Star Trek universe.
Michelle Hurd made a strong impression as Picard's former aide; the flashback sequence 14 years ago (aside from having some great new uniforms) really delved into her dedication to JL (I'm not sure I'm used to that yet), making the loss of her career following his resignation and his abandonment of her all the more believable when it came to the drug-taking broken woman we were introduced to in the present. Like Picard's other ally Agnes, she is utterly brilliant too, a master strategist they will likely serve useful as the series progresses - I find it unlikely she will actually leave him behind next week. She is a very different kind of main character to what we've seen in Star Trek before and contrasts nicely with the eager Agnes (Alison Pill).
Rounding up the crew is the pilot of the La Sirena (or Siren), Cristobal 'Chris' Rios. Santiago Cabrera brings plenty of swagger and charm; he has plenty of rough edges, but interestingly Picard is able to cut through his bravado and suss out his Starfleet training in a heartbeat. Rather surprisingly is Cabera's second character, the Emergency Navigation Hologram (ENH), who was is delightfully fan-boyish about having Picard on board. He might serve as the voice of the fan base for Star Trek Picard. I love the accent too. After Picard, I think I like the Irish characters (ENH and Laris) the best.
Of course, talking of nostalgia, we have the return of Hugh this week! This was a very different version of the former drone, played by Jonathan Del Arco so innocently in three episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Now the director of the Reclamation project and looking far more human (though he does carry several Seven of Nine-like implants), there is plenty of mystery surrounding him, most notably why he is working with the Romulans. I didn't quite get a sense of who he really is as a person now, though he is certainly wiser and more experienced in life than the boyish character we saw over two decades ago.
Through Hugh, Soji (Isa Briones) gained access to a group of former Romulan Borg drones and with it another fascinating thread to the overall mystery of the season. Apparently the only Romulans ever assimilated, the scout ship containing these former drones was the last to be taken by the Borg cube before it shut down. I'm intrigued to know why and suspect it may have something to do with the race's non-use - and hate - of synthetic life. Not only was the scene with the Romulans - a kind of psychiatric facility for former drones suffering with PTSD - an amazing concept in itself worthy of a season's worth of material but Soji's encounter with 'mythology-expert' Ramda (Rebecca Wisocky) was thrilling to watch. Star Trek: Picard is taking its time to reveal the clues to the mystery but there was some great little reveals here, not least Soji's potential role as the 'destroyer'. Coupled with the suspect Shat Vash / Tal Shiar plot with someone within Starfleet to orchestrate the attack on Mars 14 years ago, I am hooked.
The success of Star Trek: Picard season one will all be in the pay-off, but everything we have seen so far points to something very special indeed. Patrick Stewart is a delight in every scene and while I'm sad to say goodbye to Laris and Zhaban for now, the new crew Picard has assembled are all great in their one right, with Michelle Hurd a real highlight and both of Santiago Cabrera's roles a lot of fun to watch. Now that Picard has left Earth, I suspect this is where the real fun will really begin...