Picard Season 1: A Retrospective
“The past is written, but the future is left for us to write.” — Jean-Luc Picard, “Broken Pieces”
I’ve watched Season 1 of Picard several times and reflected upon it. While doing so, I’ve come to realize that, although it isn’t a continuation of TNG, the core values of that landmark series still shine through in the new series.
That Time of Year Thou May’est in Me Behold
I cherished the sensitive, tender, and poignant, but not maudlin, portrayal of old age. Whereas Star Trek historically has not dealt with the subject of aging as sensitively as it might, Picard echoes a sentiment that Commodore April, Sarek, and Scotty have all expressed through the years: I may be old, but I still have much to contribute. I still want to work and give my gifts to the Federation I’ve served for so many years. Look beyond my age, and see my experience and wisdom.
I was troubled by some instances of characters showing ageism toward Picard, but given that ageism is a very real issue in Western society, it’s good to see it portrayed onscreen so that we may see how ugly it is and guard against it.
A Motley Crew
My favorite part of Season 1 was the richly layered, complex, wounded cast of characters. Each one began in a place of desolation or despair, yet each made a journey to wholeness and healing.
Rios was presented as a person devastated by incalculable loss of both a captain and father figure, even losing a career because of his disillusionment. Yet, he managed to play a part in making amends and, along the way, discovered the truth about his past.
Raffi showed us a person wounded and devastated by events from her time in the service. However, she also demonstrated that even someone so flawed and imperfect can overcome an addiction, overcome anger and bitterness, and find love and a purpose in life.
Seven of Nine showed us that a person can regain her agency after violation, and although she used that agency to make choices she later regretted, she fought “every damn day” for her humanity.
Agnes Jurati demonstrated that a person can be so naive as to let herself be used and unduly influenced. Still, she found a way to trust herself again, make amends, and become a mother to the synths.
Soji endured the cruelest of betrayals but learned to trust again. Her tentative connection with Kestra, Will and Deanna’s daughter, helped her learn who she is, and to consider a loving, trusting relationship with Picard as a father figure. Touchingly like her father Data, she discovered a way to embrace her true synthetic self, thus discovering her own humanity.
Cookie Cutter Adversaries
I was disappointed in the antagonists. Commodore Oh, Bjayzl, the Romulan hipster Narek and his Zhat Vash sister Narissa were generic Bad Guys who could fit into any 21st century television show.
Star Trek has given us such complex and richly layered antagonists in the past: Gul Dukat and Kai Winn in DS9, the Romulan Commander and Khan in TOS. Compared to them, the villains of Picard‘s first season were neither convincing nor compelling.
I found Narissa’s incestuous behavior toward Narek to be most inappropriate in a Star Trek show. The writers used gratuitously graphic violence as well as the death of legacy characters, such as Hugh and Icheb, to convey the evil of the antagonists, using shock value rather than character development to evoke a reaction from the audience.
From Enemies to Allies
Where the show failed to create convincing Bad Guys, it most compellingly succeeded in deconstructing former adversaries. One of the most moving elements of the season for me was the moment Picard gazed into the faces of the xBs and saw, not his tormentors, but victims. He saw living beings, deeply scarred by the Borg, just like himself, and he was moved to compassion.
I very much appreciated that Season 1 showed us the faces of “the Federation’s oldest enemies,” the Romulans, and in so doing, fulfilled the long-ago prophecy that, one day, humans and Romulans could be friends. The development of the Qowat Milat sect of Romulan warrior nuns was some of the most beautiful and compelling world-building in all of Star Trek. Zani and Elnor showed us that, although they were members of a race that valued secrecy above all, they could embrace the way of absolute candor and could, even though they were great warriors, be nurturing and vulnerable.
To Love That Well
I was struck by how openly and beautifully the characters showed and spoke of their love for one another. The love was always there, in the TNG era, but it filled my heart to overflowing to see the reserve and emotional restraint of that era set aside. What a gift to a TNG kid to hear Soji tell Picard, “He [Data] loved you.” And to hear Data say to Picard, “You loved me.”
However, love isn’t only words and heartfelt embraces; it is action. Picard ultimately demonstrated love to the synth community, who had no-one to teach them the meaning of love and life. He laid down his own life in defense of them and used his second chance at life, in his new synth body, to advocate for them in a galaxy that had denied their personhood.
Our Revels Now Are Ended: Final Thoughts
“Nepenthe” gave us a rich glimpse into the life that the Riker-Trois shared together. The episode established that their beautiful wedding in Nemesis was only the beginning for their love journey.
The final episode of Picard‘s first season gave us closure on the death of Data. It provided us with a gentler, more poignant farewell to his character than Nemesis did.
Like every other iteration of Star Trek, this show is flawed and imperfect, and yet beautiful and inspirational. I give the first season of Picard three-and-a-half out of five flying orchids in space.
Ruth Anne Amsden has been a Trekkie since she was a ten-year-old reader voraciously devouring Star Trek novels (her family did not allow television in the home). She is working toward her first BA and aspiring to professionally write Star Trek novels as love letters to the novels she loved growing up.