TV REVIEW: Star Trek: Picard, Season 1

-minor spoilers-

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Alison Pill, Isa Briones, Michelle Hurd, Santiago Cabrera, Harry Treadaway, Evan Evagora, Peyton List, Jeri Ryan, Brent Spiner

Episodes: 10

Genre: Social SF, Space Opera

Broadcaster: Amazon Prime (UK)

First Aired: 23/01/2020

Verdict: 5/5

Star Trek: Picard set itself an almost impossible task right from the start. Take one of the most beloved characters in all of SF, and tell a new story in an established universe. How do you take a classic like Star Trek and make it appeal to modern viewers. Discovery proved controversial enough, but with picard there was always going to be more scrutiny. Now, it may not always be smooth sailing, but Picard is easily the best Star Trek since Enterprise. And for reference, I am not an Enterprise hater. I loves that show, and I love Picard.

Picard is simulatenously the least and most Star Trek of Star Treks in a long while. It deviates more from the established pattern even more than Deep Space Nine, and to great effect. I don’t think anyone expected Picard to still be commanding an exploration vessel at this stage in his life, and he isn’t. Even when he eventually musters together a ship and a crew, they’re not Starfleet personnel. It’s a rougher, scrappier side to trek, both in characterisation and aesthetic. people wear a lot of black leather. Fights have a real weight to them. There’s more blood than ever before. It is at times gory, but never overwhelmingly so. The violence can be shocking, but it’s never out of place. And anyone who says this is too violent for Star Trek clearly hasn’t seen Picard shooting a man in the face until his head explodes. yes. that ahppened. Next GenerationConspiracy. It’s an experience.

But while the looks may have changed, the heart is all Star Trek. Picard shows a Federation that has slipped in its ethics, turning inward, with paranoia rife and robotics banned. So when the retired Admiral picard learns of a young android in danger, he can’t help but try to save her. The galaxy may be a dark place, but Picard is a gleaming beacon of hope. Even with the violence and darkness, Picard remains optimistic, and that is exactly what Star Trek should be.

There is an argument that Picard relies too hevaily on nostalgia, and it’s a reasonable one. There are dozens of references and callbacks. Cameo appearances and full-blown reappearances. None of it gets in the way of the story, but you have to wonder what a viewer unfamiliar with Trek history would make of it all. At the end of the day though, this is a celebration of Star Trek, and even with it’s long history, it is very much looking to the future.

There are a few niggles here and there. The pacing is slow, even glacial in the opening episodes. the middle act is rather overburdened with side plots. No amount of CGI and dream-sequence lighting can make Brent Spiner look thirty yeras younger. But really, who cares? This is Star Trek as it should be. We’ve waited long enough for this day, so let’s enjoy it while it’s here. Picard shows that there is life in the franhcise yet, and that not every SF drama has to be unrelenting doom and gloom.

Star Trek is back, and it’s as bold and brave as ever. With an increasing number of series in development, let’s hope they follow Picard’s example.

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