The year is 2399, and Jean-Luc Picard dreams of his old ship, destroyed three decades ago, and his dear friend, the android Data, dead 20 years now. Dreams turn to nightmare, and Picard awakens, old and defeated, in his French château.
Eighteen years after Patrick Stewart (79) last played his signature role, in Nemesis (2002), the former Captain of seven seasons of The Next Generation (1987-1994,) and four films, has retired to his vineyard, haunted by loss, and outraged that the Federation and Starfleet have abandoned their values.
Star Trek: Picard is the seventh Star Trek series (the eighth, if you count the 1973-1974 animated series,) and the first in the franchise devoted to one character. That pays off, given the character is played by the finest actor ever to command a starship. Stewart shines: warm, charismatic and thoughtful throughout.
Isa Briones makes mystery woman Dahj more than just a McGuffin, and Irish actress Orla Brady is Picard’s no-nonsense Romulan housekeeper.
The plot builds on past stories, not least the death of Data and the destruction of Romulus, but the casual viewer shouldn’t feel lost. On 24th century Earth, the pace is unhurried, as befits the age of series arcs, but there’s more than enough action to keep things moving.
From the opening shot of the Enterprise soaring through a nebula, with Bing Crosby singing ‘Blue Skies’, to the final (spoiled in trailers) reveal of a salvaged Borg cube hanging ominously in Romulan space, Picard is visually stunning.
It’s not flawless, and the central mystery which propels the hero back into action relies a little too heavily on what Terry Pratchett called ‘Narrativium’, while a de-aged Brent Spiner looks distractingly wrong as Data.
Unlike some of its predecessors, this show actually gets that Star Trek should be about optimism, and kindness, and hope.
Star Trek: Picard isn’t perfect, but it’s as close as the final frontier gets.