a review by the Crow.
(A long-belated Happy New Year to all of you. Apologies for my recent absence.)
SPOILER LEVELS at RED ALERT
Captain‘s log, Stardate 97662.32: I have made no secret about my supreme disappointment in Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 (despite how I might have lauded the spirit the final episode showed). The series suffered from poor planning, a frantic need to add spectacle where it rarely made sense, and leaps of logic which raised questions the series had no capability to answer. In certain ways, Discovery felt like a Star Trek property desperately trying not to be Star Trek. But above all, it spoke of a writers’ room which was in utter disarray. And hence, I handled the initial announcement regarding Star Trek: Picard with great trepidation.
There had already been rumours surrounding a Picard-centric… something floating in the aether. While I was keen to see one of my childhood heroes back in the chair, I wasn’t so confident in how a series built around him would work out given the chaotic nature of Discovery‘s production. And yet, Jean-luc Picard remains the greatest captain in Star Trek history (although pre-space-Trump Lorca and Pike have had very good turns of late). With the exception of Sisko, Picard has had the best high:low ratio when it comes to Captain-centric episodes. In no galaxy could Star Trek: Picard be bad.
Or could it?
In this, our first review of 2020, let us put the kettle on, rejoin old friends, and look at:
SPOILER LEVELS at RED ALERT
Remembrance sets its tone right from the opening second. There are no jumped-up “this is dramatic” moments or vague monologues. There is a lovely, slow song which plays over vistas of nebulae, through which a gorgeous lady sails silently by.
On the USS Enterprise-D (NCC-1701-D), Captain Jean-luc Picard (Sir Patrick Stewart) and Lt Commander Data (Brent Spiner) are playing poker, much as we would have expected from the series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The most notable aspect of this sequence is how… comforting it feels. Within exactly two minutes, Star Trek: Picard takes its audience back to the later days of TNG. The conversation, the pacing, the very look of the scene — including how Data looks a little off — feels warmly familiar.
A few notes on this opening scene: While the make-up/digital de-ageing applied to Mr Spiner does look a little off, it’s still a rather decent job. Mr Spiner has always been somewhat of a magician with his voices, and he sounds just like the Soong-type lifeform we’ve known for so long. However, I notice that Captain Picard has milk and sugar in his Earl Grey. It’s not my forte, but who am I to argue with his choices?
It doesn’t take long for the previous scene to be revealed as a dream — or rather, a nightmare — and we are taken to the “present day”, to the Château Picard vineyard. Immediately cutting to Greater Boston, we are introduced to a young woman (Isa Briones) and her boyfriend (David Carzell). The show quickly scratches its first trope off the list as the Black Dude Dies First (as a bystander), and the woman is “activated” into avenging his death. Cue: the credits — which come loaded with coded messages for those who like to hypothesise. The music for the opening titles has a fair bit of Star Trek DNA in it, but sounds quite distinct from other iterations in the series. And I like it. I like the little departure it suggests.
We see a little more of Picard’s new life since retiring from Starfleet. in which he speaks French with his new Number One (Dinero the Dog) and is bossed around by his two housekeepers Laris (Orla Brady) and Zhaban (Jamie McShane). Picard has switched to decaf Earl Grey (much like the tea I drink these days), and has been talked into giving an interview which he has little interest in. The interviewer (Merrin Dungey) almost immediately pulls a Krishnan Guru-Murthy and is treated to our first “scolding” of the series. The interview is a hit, and Picard delivers a short, but sharp measure of ire to drive home the fact that the Picard we know and love is still here.
It is also here that we are given the astro-political backdrop for the show. Not only is the destruction of Romulus (first mentioned in 2009’s nu-Trek) now canon, laying to rest my sneaky logic of not keeping it within the larger story, but Nemesis is an ever-present fixture in this series. The events of that movie have left a dark stain upon Picard (via Data). While I despise Nemesis with a certain passion, the general plot-points are fair play to use, and they are here in strong form.
The astro-political backdrop is as follows:
Following the destruction of the Romulan (and Reman) star, Picard managed a rescue effort similar to what happened in “Dunkirk” — an incident somewhat forgotten in the 24th century. Shortly following the initial rescue missions, a number of “synthetics” attacked Mars and sparked a fire which continues to affect Mars well into the future. The synthetics were banned and Starfleet withdrew from the Romulan rescue effort, leading Picard to step away from Starfleet in
While all of the backstory is delivered through an expository scene, I have to admit that it’s a well-handled expository scene. I have long wanted a Star Trek where the lead character calls Starfleet out on their practices. That is what my take on Star Trek would have been. It makes me happy to see Jean-luc Picard be the captain who steps into that role. We’ve always known Starfleet (like any such organisation) is dodgy. It exhibits corruption. It exhibits malice and contempt for potential or supposed enemies. It exhibits much gung-ho-ing and yee-haw-ing to be as clean as they are presented to be.
The young woman Dahj (Isa Briones) transports to France to seek out Picard — drawn to him by forces she cannot explain. From this point onward, the episode begins to up the pace, and before long, we begin to arrive at the true nature of Dahj.
Dahj is special, as we can plainly see, and Star Trek: Picard ignores the now-so-popular need to dangle the mystery in front of us for too long. While there is a certain amount of wiggle-room for alternate hypotheses as to her true nature, the show establishes that like Lal before her, Dahj is almost certainly Data’s “daughter” (by proxy).
The wiggle room I mentioned is purely speculative, so for all intents and purposes we’ll fly with what is presented to us for now. There are many questions left unanswered (Her mother? Her speculative “father”? Why is she seemingly programmed to seek out Picard?), but what I doubt most people might see coming is what becomes of Dahj nearing the end of the episode. Again: there is a sliver of a chance that Dahj might have survived the explosion after being doused in acid, but what is important is a hidden theme which runs beneath the surface of each theme Dahj stars in. There are stories about orchids (not by accident, I argue), twins, and the nature of humankind. There is a distinctly Blade Runner 2049/Ghost in the Shell feeling to the entire affair, and as the story starts showing hands we might not have been able to suspect despite the very-spoilery promotional material.
Dr Bruce Maddox (originally played by Brian Brophy) comes into the picture following his last mention on The Next Generation, and Dr Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) quite-convincingly Treknobabbles — following a “cameo” by B-4 (replicated parts of Brent Spiner) — into the show the existence of a twin. This twin is revealed to be Soji Asher (Isa Briones as well, of course), working for the Romulans who we can safely assume were the ones sent to assassinate Dahj (yes, the villains are also Romulan), on board a “Reclamation Site” I instantly recognised. As Dr Asher fraternises with new-arrival Narek (Harry Treadaway) and they discuss their now-departed siblings, a chant was building in the back of my mind.
And as the music began to pick up, I realised that ʀᴇsɪsᴛᴀɴᴄᴇ ᴛᴏ ᴛʜᴇ ɪᴅᴇᴀ ᴡᴀs ғᴜᴛɪʟᴇ.
After some consideration, I think I’ve settled it. This is the best opening episode to a Star Trek series yet. And it is also the first in which I haven’t dolled myself up with my own captain’s badge (for Picard is present). I will keep myself from speculation, here. I can only hope that the show maintains this level going forward. It would be a shame if the makers of the show fell prey to the habits which ruined Star Trek: Discovery and started out with good ideas only to discard them an episode or two later.
Given the framework Remembrance lays out, there is much to deal with in this chapter of (the retired) Admiral Picard’s life. Questions abound, and we are fed just enough answers to keep us satisfied for now. We are treated to a Picard-scolding (those children aboard the Discovery would never stand a chance). We are given a capable, harangued secondary protagonist only to have her snatched away from us when we least expect it. There are no ludicrous leaps in technology or anachronisms (as far as they can go in Star Trek) to bother purists like myself with. The Treknobabble is very satisfactory. There are no flashy set pieces which exist to show off the CGI budget at the expense of a well-told story. Paris is still a horrible place. Given what we know about the actors being recalled for Season 2 of Picard, there is much debate about the nature of humanity to trudge through. Starfleet’s flaws are finally at the forefront, and we are told that racism (or species-ism, rather) is still alive and strong despite the leaps in society the Federation has brought. And to top it all: each and every one of the references to previous iterations of Star Trek are handled with respect and the gravitas they deserve — special shoutout to Mr Worf (Michael Dorn).
The cinematography is excellent, the pacing is lovely, and the music is a joy to the ears. But what stands out in this episode is the writing. This episode is a reversal of all the failures which plagued Discovery so much.
It isn’t just Jean-luc Picard who is back. Taking this episode — and only this episode, for fear the people behind the show might find a way to mess things up — Star Trek is back.
Hopefully, Picard leads us into a new era. All else I could ask for remains up to Q and The Emissary. LLAP, may the people behind this show make it so that we unite under the greatest captain (and henceforth retired admiral) to ever grace screens in this new chapter in the Star Trek franchise.
Until then, LLAP.
— Crow out.
THE CROW: 7.5/10
THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 9/10
THE SPOTTED NUTCRACKER: 8/10
- Star Trek: The Next Generation — S05E25: The Inner Light
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — S05E06: Trials and Tribble-ations
- Star Trek: Picard — S01E01: Remembrance
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E01: The Vulcan Hello & Battle at the Binary Stars
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E02: Context is For Kings
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E03: The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E04: Choose Your Pain
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E05: Lethe
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E06: Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E07: Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E08: Into the Forest I Go
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E09: Despite Yourself
- Star Trek: Discovery — S01E10: The Wolf Inside
- Star Trek: Discovery — Episodes 11 — 15 Round Up
- Star Trek: Discovery — Short Treks
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E01: Brother
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E02: New Eden
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E03: Point of Light
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E04: An Obol for Charon
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E05: Saints of Imperfection
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E06: The Sound of Thunder
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E07: Light and Shadows
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E08: If Memory Serves
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E09: Project Daedalus
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E10: The Red Angel
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E11: Perpetual Infinity
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E12: Through the Valley of Shadows
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E13: Such Sweet Sorrow Part One
- Star Trek: Discovery — S02E14: Such Sweet Sorrow Part Two
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
- Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
- Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
- Star Trek: Generations
- Star Trek: First Contact
- Star Trek: Insurrection
- Star Trek: Nemesis
- Star Trek (2009)
- Star Trek Into Darkness
- Star Trek Beyond