‘Star Trek: Picard‘ is a film that delves into nostalgia through one of the most beloved characters of the franchise, on a par with the legendary Kirk and Spock of the original series. The tone of the adventure, as well as the themes it deals with and even the autumnal and dull aesthetics it proposes, go in that line of memories of better times for this series.
‘Picard’, from its very approach (and its title), focuses for the first time on a character in the saga, leaving aside the importance of the crew. Why? because Picard symbolizes all that the ideas of the series that he headed, ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation‘, have in force.
This time it starts with a retired Picard (in a clear nod to the final season of the last ‘Next Generation’, where we saw an aging Picard living the last years of his life in the French countryside) after a series of terrible events that have distanced him from Starfleet.
A young girl comes to him to ask for help, and although he is not able to give it to her completely, he starts a plot in which Romulans, Borgs and synthetic beings, forbidden since a rebellion, are involved, which are briefly explained in the episode.
In fact, perhaps this is the worst part of the series’ opening as it tries to welcome non-amateurs into its midst, but at the same time to try to please life-long fans with hints of their immense past. Picard is over-explaining where we are in the Star Trek story, and he uses a rotten resource: the over-explained journalists who confront Picard with his past. A rather inelegant resource, but one that at least fulfills its function of placing the viewer in a complex cosmos, with races facing death and a protagonist who partially denies his past.
There is a background of certain complexity in the girl’s appearance, and no doubt this is what gives a special, twilight tone to the series: the destruction of the Romulan system and the constant refusal of the Federation to save its eternal enemies, which leads Picard to confront his old faction, as well as the rebellion of the Synthetics that leads to the banning of the androids. With this, Picard loses another of the franchise’s iconic characters, Data, who appears here in dreamy and pseudo-flashback, and who from the very first episode makes it clear that, even though he is dead and banned, he will play an important role in this last adventure of the ex-captain.
In other words, we are faced with a post-apocalyptic tone, something disenchanted, which reminds us more of J.J. Abrams‘ films than of the series and classic films, including ‘The Next Generation’. There’s nothing strange about this, because what ‘Picard’ grabs at is the alternative timeline that Abrams’ feature films inaugurated, set in Picard’s remote past (with a Captain Kirk taking his first steps in the academy), but throwing events at the spectator that affect events after ‘Nemesis‘, the underrated film from ‘The Next Generation’, for the first time. Still, its timeline is classic, considering the events of Abrams that divided it in two.
It will be necessary to go beyond the first episodes of ‘Picard’ to judge it fairly, especially considering the thematic shift that gave the amazing ‘Star Trek: Discovery‘. At the moment we have fan candies, some moments that may mislead the profane (like the nonsense of the Borg cube occupied by Romulans) and that calm, somewhat bitter tone that accompanies the retirement of Jean-Luc Picard himself.
‘Star Trek: Picard’: the humanism of the future
Part archaeologist, part philosopher, part politician and, of course, captain of the starship Enterprise, Picard is the purest representation of Star Trek. It is full of the solemn seriousness of so many characters in the series, but at the same time, the tremendous humanism and closeness that defines the best classic plots of the franchise. Despite his extraordinary intelligence, he believes in the value of his crew, and it is common to see him solving the problems that threaten the future of the ship and humanity. He is perfectly defined by that knowledge of everything and, even so, by being able to count on the help of those around him.
If we have to stay with any of all the enemies he has faced, is Q (usually played by John de Lancie), an omnipotent being who appeared in ‘The Next Generation’ in 1987, in its pilot episode, judging humanity as a whole and deciding whether it was worth continuing to conquer space. From there he would appear in other series such as ‘Deep Space: Nine‘ and ‘Voyager‘, but his confrontations with Picard will always be the most remembered.
For Picard, Starfleet is the core of his life, and he applies the Starfleet code of conduct rigidly, combined with his rigid sense of diplomacy and even honor in battle. The fact that such a seemingly “uptight” character has become one of the most memorable in the series is due to his humanity and closeness, without any of that devaluing his imposing values, which he received from the wonderful performance given by the famous actor Patrick Stewart.
Without fear of being mistaken, it can be said that these details of his personality remain intact in the new series of Amazon Prime Video, although nuanced and relativized: his fidelity to the values of Starfleet, responsibility, humanity, the vast culture, the vast knowledge of history and the application of all this in his daily life; and above all, Stewart’s interpretation injecting a closeness and empathy that puts the viewer on his side from the initial bars of the first chapter. The nuances of the story appear when we understand that Picard no longer belongs to the Fleet, but the reasons why he retired from it, are finally very close to the character.
It remains to be seen whether the series will be a worthy successor to ‘The Next Generation’, although its tone is much more modest. Stewart knows his physical limitations, and seems comfortable in a series where he will be more of a voice of experience than a steadfast captain in charge of a crew. Picard is aware that he cannot match the classic adventures of the Enterprise in The Next Generation, but he can make the nuances of time his own, which ultimately allow him to achieve his full potential.