It’s the highly anticipated return of Sir Patrick Stewart to the Star Trek universe. What is Jean-Luc Picard like in his retirement?
Sir Patrick Stewart steps into one of his most iconic roles once again in the series premiere of Star Trek: Picard. Despite being a slow burn of an episode, there is a surprising amount of action, intrigue and plenty of shocking revelations. The production values are outstanding, rivaling those of fellow Trek show Star Trek: Discovery. Picard himself is lost in the milieu, though we do glimpse the man that has captured fans’ imaginations for decades. So, where is Picard in his twilight years, and what’s the latest calamity that he must face?
Haunted by His Past
Star Trek: Picard begins with a dream sequence. Picard is playing poker with Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner), an activity that the crew aboard the Enterprise frequently indulged in. Picard teases Data about faking a tell to throw Picard off, thereby confusing Data. Then, when Picard goes all in, he ekes out the last moments of the game because he doesn’t want it to end. As we know, Data sacrificed himself to save Picard in Star Trek: Nemesis, and fans were given the hope that Data would live on in his android brother B-4. That was not the case, as will soon become apparent. Picard’s dream ends with the ship exploding above Mars, taking Data with it.
Waking up in Chateau Picard, Paris, Picard’s retirement seems blissful. He has a pet dog called Number One and two Romulan companions, Zhaban (Jamie McShane) and Laris (Orla Brady), who tend to him and his home. But Picard’s outward contentment is a mask for his inner turmoil. Waking up to reality is a greater nightmare than his dreams, especially on this particular day when Picard has to do an interview with the media.
The interview commemorates the anniversary of the Romulan supernova from decades ago. Picard isn’t doing the interview for glory; he is using the opportunity to bring awareness to the effects of the supernova aftermath. Picard led the Enterprise and convinced Starfleet to evacuate the Federation’s greatest enemy from their home and relocate them to as many planets as possible. This explains the existence of Zhaban and Laris, as well as their deferential attitude towards Picard. When the interviewer probes Picard about saving Romulan lives, he corrects her by saying that he and the Federation saved millions of lives. This statement is probably a dig at how some media people belittle the deaths of foreigners in their reports.
None of this really interests the interviewer – she wants to know about Picard’s separation from Starfleet. Despite Laris getting the interviewer’s assurance that this topic wouldn’t be touched on, the interviewer recounts the events that led to Picard quitting the establishment that he held so dear.
During the relocation, a group of rogue synthetics on Mars wiped out the armada that Picard was leading, along with the Utopia Planitia Shipyard. Nearly 100, 000 lives were lost and Mars remains uninhabitable. Those circumstances led to a ban on synthetics. Picard left Starfleet because of the ban and because they abandoned the very people they promised to rescue.
Picard becoming disillusioned with Starfleet was always an eventuality. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, it was apparent that Starfleet was governed by micro-managing bureaucrats who made decisions from the comfort of their admiral chairs. It’s no wonder they took the easy way out and turned their greatest champion against them.
Having vented his feelings about Starfleet, Picard ends the interview and leaves.
In Greater Boston, young Dahj (Isa Briones) is celebrating her fellowship at the Daystrom Institute with her boyfriend when they are attacked by three masked soldiers. The attackers kill the boyfriend and put a hood over Dahj. The attack ‘activates’ her and she kills all of them. Who is she? She doesn’t know anymore but she sees an image of Picard and finds him at the Chateau.
Dahj can’t explain how she killed her attackers or her connection to Picard, but Picard lets her stay overnight to get some rest. He’s intrigued by the necklace Dahj is wearing – two intertwined circles resembling an infinity loop. Dahj explains that her father made it for her.
Dahj disappears the next morning as Picard awakens from another dream about Data. This dream is about a painting that Data made for Picard, it was one of two paintings of a woman at the shore. Picard has one version in his home, while the other is locked in the Starfleet Archives. The painting is called ‘Daughter’. When Picard looks at the painting closely, he realizes the woman is Dahj.
Dahj, in the meantime, contacts her mother, explaining her situation. Her mother instinctively tells her to go to Picard, even though Dahj hasn’t mentioned him. Something is not right with this interaction, but Dahj is desperate to locate Picard again. She finds him at the archives and he explains that Dahj is probably Data’s daughter. Meaning, Dahj is a synth. Picard insists that Dahj’s memories of her family are fabricated, leaving the girl even more perturbed.
Before they can delve deeper into their conversation, more masked attackers pursue Picard and Dahj. Picard is feeble in his old age, but Dahj is a force to be reckoned with. The attackers turn out to be Romulans and one of them spits acid at Dahj and her phaser rifle. The attacker dies, but shockingly, so does Dahj.
Picard wakes up at home raging against the death of Dahj. He’s disgusted with himself for wasting his life writing books about history that no one wants to remember – he’s been biding his time waiting to die. But now he must fight to find the truth.
Picard goes to the Daystrom Institute to meet Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill), who heads the defunct Division of Advanced Synthetic Research. You’d think that an Institute based in Okinawa would have some Japanese people in it – but, no, in the 21st century we can’t seem to do representation right in any show! Picard wants to understand how Dahj was created, but Agnes doesn’t have the answers. When Picard shows Agnes Dahj’s necklace, Agnes recognizes it.
Her mentor Bruce Maddox hypothesized that it was possible to create a sentient human-looking android from a single positronic neuron from Data, but all of Data’s neurons died with him. Even B-4, who Data transferred his neural net to, was unable to process them. B-4 now lies disassembled at the Institute. Picard believes that Maddox was able to create Dahj using his theory. But that isn’t explained any further because Agnes informs Picard that the synths created in this way would come in pairs. Out there is Dahj’s twin.
The premiere of Star Trek: Picard ends on the Romulan Reclamation Site, where Harry Treadaway’s Narek (a Romulan) rendezvous with Dr. Soji Asha. She wears the same necklace was Dahj, and tells Narek about how it was a gift from her father – one necklace for her and one for her twin. Narek wistfully recounts the death of his own brother, whom he was very close to. For some reason Soji is very taken with this shifty-looking Romulan, but then again, can we trust either of these characters when they’re recreating the Romulan empire onboard a Borg cube?
The Borg are the bane of Picard’s existence and his experience as Locutus changed him forever. How much of his past will Picard have to contend with in this show? The Romulans are never up to any good, but it seems like they may have finger in the synthetic pie. How does Data fit into all this? There are plenty of storylines to explore in this first season, and they haven’t even introduced all the characters yet!