After 178 episodes on television and four movies, Patrick Stewart was sure he was never returning to the world of ‘Star Trek’. Almost two decades later, the 79-year-old actor is back in the captain’s chair in ‘Star Trek: Picard’, streaming now on Amazon Prime Video, with new episodes dropping every Friday.
CBS All Access’ second foray into the franchise after the runaway success of the prequel series, ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ (now currently shooting its third season), ‘Picard’ will see the retired admiral kicking back at his family vineyard in France, but his thoughts are never too far away from Starfleet and the Federation.
Having watched the pilot released on January 23 in the UAE, we know that ‘Picard’ boldly sets out to carve itself a space in a future that may seem bleak to those who are used to the utopian setting of ‘The Next Generation’, which released in 1987.
At the time, only the second captain to wear the Starfleet uniform after William Shatner’s bold and boisterous James T Kirk, Stewart’s Picard was a revelation in his empathy, refinement and love for diplomacy over violence. He could spout Shakespeare at the drop of a hat, had a deep love for history, archaeology and culture and believed any dispute could be solved over a pot of steaming Earl Grey. At a time when our heroes were supposed to wear their masculinity on their sleeves, Picard was sensitive, poetic and so very bald.
He was also, however, a stickler for Starfleet regulations. Despite having flouted them on several occasions, Picard truly believed the Federation — a sturdy alliance between several races and planets — was created for the greater good. Diversity and inclusiveness were at the heart of Starfleet’s values, and in turn, also the franchise, first created by Gene Roddenberry, in 1966.
But utopia tends to feel old and annoyingly idealistic in the real world where extremism and bigotry make headlines on a daily basis. To bring back Picard now and make him relatable — to old viewers and new — the world of ‘Star Trek’ needs to keep pace with our reality.
“It was my absolute intention not only never to go back to that world, but to assume that everything that could be said had been said — that there was nothing more to say,” said Stewart in an interview with AFP.
Enter showrunner and creator Alex Kurtzman and screenwriter Michael Chabon.
“I found that they had ideas that were unexpected and that we were in a different world from the one that ‘The Next Generation’ created,” he added.
Kurtzman has executive produced all things ‘Star Trek’ since 2009, including the movies featuring Chris Pine as James T Kirk and the ‘Discovery’ series. Chabon, on the other hand, brings the X-factor to the show as a Pulitzer-prize winning author, who has been a diehard Trekkie since the age of 10.
“There is no way to make a television show of any kind that doesn’t reflect the time in which it was made. In most cases, that reflection is accidental or unintentional and just happens to be a by product of being made by people being alive at that time. What makes ‘Star Trek’ unique is that from the beginning it has always been a deliberate attempt to reflect, but not to be an allegory. It’s the issues that are weighing on people’s minds at the time, and the thing about ‘Star Trek’ is to open the door and let them into the storytelling and that’s what we did here,” said Chabon in interview with The Hollywood News.
‘Star Trek: Picard’ takes place 18 years after the events of ‘Star Trek: Nemesis’, the final film starring the crew of ‘The Next Generation’, and while we’re not expecting to see Picard walk the bridge of the Enterprise with all his familiar commanding officers anytime soon, he does helm a ship again, and more delightfully, we get to see the captain go rogue with a brand new ragtag crew.
The story kicks into gear when Picard is approached by Dajh, played by British actress of Filipino, Swedish and Irish descent, Isa Briones. A young woman in distress, Dahj’s plight galvanises a prickly Picard, battered by grief and regret, into action.
Joining him on his ‘mission’ is Dr Agnes Jurrati, played by Alison Pill (‘The Newsroom’, ‘Scott Pilgrim vs the World’), a former Starfleet officer who is now a scientist specialising in the field of robotics, even though “synths” are banned by the Federation in this new future.
Santiago Cabrera of ‘Salvation’, ‘Big Little Lies’ and ‘The Musketeers’, plays Cris Rios, a former Starfleet pilot who also has a criminal past. He joins Picard’s team as the trigger-happy flyboy — think Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron on steroids.
Another new cast member is Michelle Hurd’s (‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’, ‘Daredevil’) Raffi Musiker, who is Rios’ partner and a former Starfleet intelligence officer who is currently struggling with substance abuse. She shares a complicated past with Picard, and some of the lingering resentment will be addressed in the new series.
And finally, Narek, a Romulan agent played by Harry Treadaway (‘The Crown’, ‘Penny Dreadful’), and Elnor, a Romulan refugee portrayed by Evan Evagora (‘Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island’), also join Picard’s new crew.
The crew alone should give us a better idea of the path ‘Picard’ wants to chart for itself — one that is decidedly away from its ‘The Next Generation’ roots. The Federation is not the paradise it once was, and Starfleet, the jewel of its crown, is the paragon of peacekeeping only in name. And even more importantly, one of the Federation and Starfleet’s greatest defenders, Picard, is no longer a true believer.
But fans can expect familiar faces to ease the pain and shock of this broken world. Jonathan Frakes’ William T Riker, Picard’s former first officer, nicknamed Number One, will star in ‘Picard’, and he’s also directed a couple of the episodes. Marina Sirtis is also back, resuming her role as Deanna Troi, the Enterprise’s former ship counsellor. Brent Spiner is returning as well, despite his character, the much-loved android Data, dying at the end of the events in ‘Nemesis’.
Speaking to SYFY Wire, Spiner said of his return to the show: “There was Patrick [Stewart], which was a huge draw because I love Patrick and I love working with him ... It was strange and wonderful and just curious. I remember when we shot the first scene in the show, the very first shot, and we were sitting across from each other, going, ‘Can you believe this?’”
Don’t miss it!
Episode one of ‘Star Trek: Picard’ is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video. New episodes of the 10-episode season one drop every Friday. Watch the trailer below: