Carl reflects on an emotional return for Jean-Luc Picard
I, like many Star Trek fans around the globe, have been waiting in anticipation for the new series, ‘Star Trek: Picard‘ to start on Amazon Prime (unless you live in the US where it is on CBS All Access) and had high hopes for the show. After watching the first episode several times over, I can settle back knowing that the show is exactly what I hoped it would be and at times, had me smiling in getting all the references and throwbacks to the TNG series. This is not going to be a review of the episode, more like a digest of what we see and hear during it. Of course, there will be spoilers for those who haven’t yet seen it so be warned.
Ok, let us start with the opening of the episode and the start of the show itself. Every Star Trek fan will understand how it feels to hear the song ‘Blue Skies’ as the series starts. It is, of course, the song Data sings during the wedding of Troi and Riker in the final Next Gen film, ‘Star Trek: Nemesis‘. It is also the song B-4 starts to sing at the end of the film and forms the start of the end credits music by Jerry Goldsmith that leads into the classic ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture‘ theme that fits so well. Its appearance here brought a smile to my face as the song was the perfect way to introduce the new series to us. Talk about appealing to the masses, the makers grabbed the fans by the lapels and got them onside instantly. While the song made me smile, the smile got even bigger when we get a look at the long lost but still classic Enterprise-D flying through the galaxy. She looked good in the show, she was even better in her one and only big-screen appearance in ‘Star Trek: Generations‘ but she has never looked as beautiful as this! The improvement over the years in visual effects have been seen in classic Trek before with the release of the original series with new effects in place of the classic shots and of course, the director’s edition of ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture‘ which makes the film so much better but nothing can top our reunion with the ‘D’. She looks completely beautiful, all her lights beaming out amongst the stars brightly, her Warp Nacelles all lit up like a Christmas tree and not a scratch on her. We all know she’s gone to the big graveyard of ships in the sky now but to see her one more time like this was a thrill.
The very first scene onboard the Enterprise comprises of a card game between Picard himself and Data. Ok, so the surprise was already spoilt in the trailers for the show but here was Brent Spiner once more in the makeup as possibly the most famous and most beloved of all androids. It was designed to get an emotional response from the fans and I can honestly say that despite the smile I had on my face at his return, it was tinged with sadness in the knowledge that the character was, in reality, dead and this was either a flashback or a dream. But to see these two back again, face to face and slipping into the old routine with such ease was a joy to behold. Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner immediately set a tone that many fans will embrace with both arms, a comforting similarity, a throwback to the seven seasons and four movies we were treated to, a kind of warming security blanket if you will. It could be argued that the scene was filmed deliberately to grab the Star Trek fans attention from the off. If so, then they succeeded. The scene is played magnificently, both actors bringing back the emotion we all love, the wit and banter between the two lighting up the screen as the scene before us plays out.
After the events of the show’s opening are played out, we are presented with the opening credits. Usually, the audience will not pay attention to them or will just look to see who the special guest star of the week is. Here, we watch them to see what they hold for us. The cast list appears before our eyes alongside the behind the scenes crew all the while a haunting theme plays over them. We wonder at what the pieces floating around the credits all mean. We follow them as they swirl around, slowly attaching themselves together until they form the picture they belong to. Of course, its Picard‘s face. We have been watching the pieces that will make up our beloved Captain’s features for around sixty seconds while the opening theme hints at what’s to come. We expect to hear the all too familiar Alexander Courage theme at the end of the credits as we do in ‘Star Trek: Discovery‘. And then, we are blown away. No, it’s not Courage’s theme that ends the credits. Its Goldsmith’s aforementioned ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture‘ theme that ends them. The piece of music that was written for the very first Star Trek film and was adapted for the main theme to ‘The Next Generation‘ has made its comeback after 18 years away! We last heard the theme way back in 2002 with the final blast at the end credits of ‘Star Trek: Nemesis‘. Now, it’s been brought back again and is a perfect fit for the new show. Again, the theme is like a security blanket, one that wraps us up in its warming layers and assures us that it’s here to look after us. It is more like the show and the main character himself in the sense that its an old friend that has returned to us after a long period away. And we welcome them back with great affection once again.
While the events of the episode are appealing and grab the viewer and draw it under its spell for its all too brief running time, it takes several viewings to see, hear and learn all the easter eggs contained within. Adding to this, we need to listen and learn all whats happened to Picard ever since the defeat of Shinzon and the death of Data at the climax of ‘Nemesis‘. The information and details provided to us are important to gauge exactly where Picard’s head is at during the events of the show. Facts are presented to us that will become vital over the weeks to come so attention to detail is necessary. A certain knowledge of TNG is required to fully get the maximum enjoyment from the show and that includes episodes and plotlines that we may have forgotten about over the years. But we get the sense that the show is just getting started with us and it’s going to put us through the wringer before this first season ends.
And let’s not miss a chance to speak of the ending to the episode. We knew going in that we would be reintroduced to classic characters, ships, races of aliens and the like. But we never expected this. I honestly thought that at the end of the episode that we were on board a space station, a Starbase out in the regions of the Federation somewhere. I never, EVER thought that we would end the episode onboard a space station that was, in reality, a Borg Cube. In the eighteen years since we last encountered this version of our future, the Borg have been conquered, defeated and tamed? I think not somehow! My belief is this could be a captured Borg cube, its crew either destroyed or reclaimed. Could this be a plotline that will see the reintroduction of Seven Of Nine? We all know that she is going to make an appearance in the show, is this a way for her to return? Either way, it’s an interesting plot development that is waiting to be explored in future episodes. Could we be seeing the Borg again during the course of the show? We can only hope that somewhere down the line, they make their reappearance without becoming the big bads they were originally. That time has passed and new human villains should take their place.
The first episode is a wonderful way to welcome back Jean Luc Picard. Patrick Stewart once again displays all his acting prowess as the ageing former Admiral of Starfleet and is wonderful in the role once again. We all feel his pain and despair throughout the episode and we follow his every move with great interest. The supporting cast all act their roles magnificently, each bringing their own soul to their respective parts and fitting in easily as parts of a larger jigsaw. But, of course, the episode belongs to Stewart and Spiner. Seeing these two together again is worth paying out for a subscription service by itself. They gel so easily, slip into the old routine without pause or difficulty and their scenes together are heartwarming and joyful to watch. I would have loved to have been on the set when these two were preparing to work together again, to watch these two masters of their craft sit down and film their scenes. Not only do they give the world a masterclass in emotive acting but they bring their off-screen friendship and warmth to the screen. We are lucky and privileged to see them together again and the writers must take credit for forging ahead and creating such a worthy and endearing show for us all to enjoy. My only problem with the show is…I have to wait a whole week for the next episode! That is SO not fair!!
Until next time…
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Carl Roberts is a Senior Staff Writer and Books and Literature Correspondent for Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter @CarlRoberts2 where he uses the force frequently!