Warp Factor Trek

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If the first season of Star Trek: Picard was a literary tale of the titular Enterprise captain regaining his purpose in the universe late in his life, then the second season is at the beginning of a very thrilling roller coaster and encourages everyone to, as Spock would say, “live a little.”

Almost two years to the day of airing its first season finale, this stellar season premiere, “The Star Gazer”, reintroduces us to all six of the main characters and establishes what they’ve been up to since we last saw them in March 2020. The episode welcomes us to an adrenaline-pumping experience that new showrunner Terry Matalas brings to the table as we saddle ourselves up for what promises to be an action-packed ten-episode thrill ride.

Admiral Picard, Chancellor of Starfleet Academy (Paramount)

In the nearly two years since we last saw these characters, a lot has changed. Picard has rejoined Starfleet as an admiral and is Chancellor of Starfleet Academy, a position first offered to him during the first season of TNG. He also tends his Chateau Picard vineyard and finds he can’t fully express his feelings for Laris (Orla Brady).

During this time, we discover that Laris’ partner Zhaban is no longer here. It is strongly implied that he has died, which I found upsetting. With no explanation as to how he died in this interim, his death seems rather senseless and empty. This kind of thing has been typical of Picard’s writers – killing off a seemingly important character either off-screen or gruesomely (see Icheb in “Stardust City Rag”).

As for Raffi (Michelle Hurd) and Elnor (Evan Evagora), a lot has changed with them, too. Raffi is now teaching at the Academy, and Elnor has become Raffi’s mentee and is the first full-blooded Romulan cadet at the Academy.

Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) is now captain of La Sirena, utilizing the ship as part of the Fenris Rangers. She has rejoined that group, helping those in need when nobody else will.

Cristobal Rios (Santiago Cabrera) has rejoined Starfleet himself. Fulfilling the “Starfleet to the core” quote Picard gave him in Season 1, he is now captaining the USS Stargazer.

Jurati and Soji (Paramount)

Elsewhere, we catch up with Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) and Soji Asha (Isa Briones). We learn that Jurati never stood trial for the murder of Bruce Maddox due to being under the influence of a Zhat Vash mind-meld with Commodore Oh when committing the deed. Soji has been on a tour promoting synthetic life in the Federation since the organization lifted the ban on synthetics.

We learn a bit more about Picard’s backstory through a series of flashbacks to his very painful childhood. His mother, Yvette Picard (played by Madeline Wise), was just as much a “star gazer” as Picard was. The two sought refuge from the (strongly implied) abuse of Maurice Picard in an attached gazebo on the Chateau Picard property.

Yvette Picard with her son Jean-Luc (Paramount)

The abuse Yvette experienced is clearly shown – but the real inspiration was probably Patrick Stewart’s difficult childhood and his involvement with Refuge, a UK-based non-profit charity that supports women and children experiencing domestic violence. We also get more context to the final line spoken way back in TNG: “Encounter at Farpoint” – “Let’s see what’s out there. Engage!” In this episode, Yvette says to the young Jean-Luc, “Look up, Jean-Luc, and let’s see what’s out there.

The catching-up with the characters complete, the roller coaster of this season premiere begins. The Stargazer is ordered to investigate a subspace anomaly, and a signal begins repeat broadcast: “Help us, Picard.”

The bridge of the Stargazer (Paramount)

The Stargazer bridge is just gorgeous. With Star Trek veterans such as Mike and Denise Okuda, John Eaves and Doug Drexler providing the ships’ interiors and exteriors, we’re in for ten weeks of excellent art direction from these veterans of Star Trek’s long and storied past.

Once Picard joins the Stargazer in response to the mysterious message from the anomaly, a massive Borg ship emerges, which prompts a fleet of Federation starships to respond. The fleet includes various ships – addressing a heavily criticized element in the Season 1 finale (the infamous “copy-and-paste fleet”).

The fleet (Paramount)

It’s glorious to see a varied fleet with starships galore! We see Sovereign-class starships, appearing for the first time in a Star Trek television series. Also included are four starship classes from Star Trek Online, making their first official canonical appearance outside of the popular MMORPG game. It’s also really cool to see the Luna-class in a live-action series, previously only seen in the first two seasons of Lower Decks.

Of course, the main story revolves around one of the main antagonists: the ever-omnipotent Q (John de Lancie). His appearance, near the end of the episode, comes after the supposed destruction of the Stargazer. His delivery of the line, “Welcome to the very end of the road not taken,” is chilling and sets up what promises to be an action-packed season.

Q visiting Picard (Paramount)
Rating: 5/5

“The Star Gazer” is a solid season premiere, right up there with excellent season premieres of Star Trek’s past. The episode is full of visual and verbal easter eggs, and the introduction of Q is simply chilling. While the episode has some subtle problems, it’s also visually stunning, the dialogue is excellent, and it definitely feels like Star Trek. What an amazing start to the season!

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