Warp Factor Trek

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When to the sessions of sweet silent thought I summon up remembrance of things past.” — William Shakespeare, Sonnet 30

My first impression of what we could expect to see in the new Picard show came from an interview with showrunner Akiva Goldsman, in which he said, “We pointedly wanted to not make a sequel to Next Gen. I think that, tonally, it’s a little bit of a hybrid. Obviously, it’s – you will see, I hope – slower, more gentle, more lyrical. It is certainly more character-based.[1] That description resonated strongly with me, and I decided to watch the new show with an open heart.

Blue Skies and Poker Games

The premiere of Star Trek: Picard began on a richly sentimental note, with the velvety crooning voice of Bing Crosby singing Data’s theme song, “Blue Skies”, the song he had sung at the Riker-Troi wedding in Star Trek Nemesis. We caught a glimpse of the Enterprise-D, just as we had seen her last, in Generations. And finally, we saw Jean-Luc Picard himself, playing poker with Data.

Data and Picard playing poker (Paramount)

You were always welcome,” Deanna Troi had told him, at the end of “All Good Things…”. But the captain had, until then, remained aloof from the crew’s regular poker game. This lent much poignancy to Picard’s wistful words to Data in the opening scene of this premiere episode: “I don’t want the game to end.

Later, we will learn that it has been twenty years since the events of Nemesis, and that Picard has been mourning Data’s death for all that time. For now, though, all we know is that all is not as it seems. The poker game was only a dream.

A New Theme Song

The theme wasn’t the uplifting theme of TNG, which had thrilled me as a child. Instead, as befit the tone of the new show, it was sweet and lyrical, wistful yet full of hope.

The montage of vineyards was a callback to “All Good Things…” and memories of Picard visiting his brother Robert in “Family”. I had to laugh at the contrast between Sir Patrick Stewart at age seventy-nine (which is how old he was when this episode was first released) and the portrayal in “All Good Things…” of an aged Picard, and at the contrast between Picard’s handsome erstwhile first officer and the sweetheart-of-a-dog companion who bore the name “Number One”.

The elderly Picard with his dog, Number One (Paramount)

It was poignant – remembering such episodes as “Face of the Enemy”, “The Defector”, and the “Unification” two-parter – to see two Romulans, Laris and Zhaban, living and working on such an intimate footing at Picard’s chateau. They are obviously devoted helpers, very solicitous and very caring without infantilizing Picard. They know his little quirks and show great affection for him, their employer and their friend.

A Day of Mourning

“It is possible to commit no mistakes, and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.” — Captain Picard, TNG: “Peak Performance”

And finally, with the arrival of the reporters, we get some backstory as to why Picard is back on Earth. It is the anniversary of the Romulan supernova, a day of mourning and remembrance.

Laris and Zhaban readying Picard (Paramount)

Our first inkling that Picard separated from Starfleet on unhappy terms came from Zhaban assuring him that the reporter wouldn’t ask him about those circumstances, Laris passionately adding, “After so long, sometimes I worry you’ve forgotten what you did, who you are. We… have not.” Zhaban’s final admonition before Picard went to meet the reporter was, “Be the captain they remember.

From “Conspiracy” to Insurrection, we have had stories that show a darker, more corrupt side of Starfleet, yet it has always been able to uproot that corruption and hold fast to the ideals upon which it was founded. Our first hint that Starfleet is no longer what it was is loud and clear in the reporter’s words as she makes the distinction, “Romulan lives.” It hardly seems possible that Starfleet has become so embittered, so callous, by the unprecedented loss of life in the synth attack on Mars that it has forsaken the very cornerstone upon which it was built: life is sacred – all life.

Picard’s interview (Paramount)

Picard, who believes that the Starfleet officer’s highest duty is to seek the truth, then speaks the awful truth out loud, before a watching galaxy. He had lost faith in a Starfleet that was no longer the Starfleet he had served faithfully for so many years. Picard left the service in protest of the decision to abandon the Romulans. He had committed no mistakes, but had still lost.

From Oil on Canvas to Flesh and Blood

After so many undone years (years of loneliness and defeat), on that day of memories, a mysterious, weeping, bloodied young woman named Dahj walks up his garden path and into his heart.

Picard meets Dahj (Paramount)

Everything inside of me says that I’m safe with you,” Dahj tells him, and in those words – and in a sweet handclasp and a cup of Earl Gray – a whole new purpose in life is born in Picard.

The answer to the mysterious tea-drinking companion’s identity comes to Picard in another dream: Data, in the vineyard, in an old-style Starfleet uniform, painting an unfinished picture. The answer is found in the Starfleet Archives: an oil on canvas titled “Daughter. The face is Dahj’s.

The painting named Daughter (Paramount)

Beautiful as this painting is, and much as I love the concept of Dahj as “something lovingly and deliberately created,” I felt sad that we didn’t get a direct acknowledgment of Lal, Data’s first daughter.

The Quest

Had Picard not lost Data, would Dahj have become so inexplicably dear to him? Would he have devoted himself to her? The discovery of her existence and her origin, “the daughter of a man who was all meaning, all courage,” gives Picard hope that he can repay the debt he owes Data, who sacrificed his life for Picard.

Dahj in her final moments (Paramount)

And when she is killed before his eyes, Picard swears he will find out who killed her, and why. No longer content to pass his days nursing his offended dignity and writing books of history and waiting for death, Picard sets out on an adventure.

His quest brings us important closure to B-4. In a sad moment, we see him dismantled, in a drawer at the Daystrom Institute. Although we initially had hope (after Nemesis) that B-4 could be another Data, that scene showed us he couldn’t be and concludes with Picard discovering, via an infinity necklace, that some essence of Data nonetheless does still live on, in Dahj’s twin sister.

A Borg cube at a Romulan reclamation site (Paramount)

When I saw that she was aboard a deactivated Borg cube in Romulan space, the reveal of the cube was both shocking and a bit disturbing! The Borg cube conveyed a sense that Picard’s past trauma with the Borg was very much present with him and would be in the season. I felt grateful that this subject would be addressed as the season continued, the long term effects of the trauma acknowledged and seen. However, it was too sorrowful a topic to be excited about, too heavy a topic for joyful feelings.

Final Thoughts and Ratings

Rating: 4/5

Although for the most part this episode is indeed slower, gentler and more lyrical, I found the violence of the attacks on Dahj to be a discordant note. For that reason, I give the episode four out of five infinity necklaces.

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