Star Trek television has never looked so good as it does in Star Trek: Picard, which aired its first episode this Thursday. With big-budget movie cinematography, gorgeous film sets, and dazzling scenes of outer space, it’s hard to believe Star Trek Picard is a television show and not a feature film. But it isn’t quite everything that I had hoped.
I’ve been a long time fan of Star Trek, and even more so Star Trek: The Next Generation, which featured the title character, Jean-Luc Picard as its captain. I was bursting with excitement when Picard first appeared on screen. He’s playing poker with Data, and calling his bluff. Patrick Stewart shows off Picard’s wit and intelligence as he spars with Data. Brent Spiner does an excellent job revisiting his character and somehow manages to improve Data’s mannerisms to seem even more mechanical and android like. This is Data at his best.
Although Data is played perfectly, Jean-Luc feels somewhat different than I remember. He’s a lot older now. Softer, and more kind. You can feel his age slow him down. Although it’s the same Patrick Stewart at the helm, I feel it is portrayed slightly out of character. Some of his dialogue feels too basic. Like a geriatric old man who is having a hard time keeping up.
Toward the beginning of the show, we are presented with a fugitive of sorts who is being chased by unknown assailants. When she meets Picard at his vineyard and exchanges words outside, Picard’s exchanges feel too brief and rushed. We’re used to him presenting more dialogue and elaborating. I feel the scriptwriters haven’t quite nailed the character yet. We do see glimpses of good dialogue, such as when Picard is interviewed about a previous “synthetic battle” at his Vineyard. When the interviewer pushes on battle decisions, Picard rebuttals them and shows his signature moral and ethical debate prowess.
The biggest miss for me of the episode is when Picard fails a friend whom he vowed to protect. We’re used to Picard always coming out on top. With the exception of a few characters, such as Yar, he always finds a way to win. His failure in the episode makes him seem like a knife that has lost its edge, and combined with his somewhat feeble and less authoritative presence seems out of character. We do see glimpses of his intelligence as he visits a Starfleet archive to do research relating to newly introduced characters. You can see him planning ahead and covering his tracks.
Picard’s plot is interesting. I won’t spoil it, but it expands on Data and Picard’s friendship and history together. Star Trek: Picard is worth watching for the cinematography alone. The show definitely feels like Star Trek, but with a healthy dose of movie magic and depth which you rarely see in a television series. My only miss is that Jean-Luc has lost a little more edge than I thought he would.